About Caleb

I run a Childcare with my wife on a small farm in New Hampshire. Click "About" if interested in my life story.

HEADING HOME

Slanting and slowing down the exit ramp
From the insane freeway, I am submerged
In the quiet past midnight, a lone lamp
In dark eyes of passing cottages; streets purged
Of traffic; summer leaves nesting streetlights;
The only sound my own tires on tar.

Suddenly I’m recalling other nights,
When children slept in the back of my car
Sandy and sunburned after a long day’s joy.

My window’s open, but the silent night warms.
Time itself now rolls as God’s rounded toy.
A stray cat stretches streetlight shadow-forms
Heading out, as I head home through monotones,
Surprised to see me in lanes that it owns.

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NOT LOCAL –The Witless Grin–

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I determined I’d count and contemplate
The silver spangles on the cobalt sea,
Fathom silence between surf, sagely rate
Each seagull’s song, gauge with tong each skipping flea
Upon strewn seaweeds in the drifting sand
Whose grains I’d number. But, instead, I dozed
With open eyes, and all the things I planned
Proved not to be so smart as I supposed.
Some things are best seen without thought, and some
Thoughts spring from things unseen. So speaks the hush
Of waves along the shore, as breezes strum
A steady huff in heeding ears, and the blush
Of sunburn spreads massaging warmth on skin,
And the thoughtful frown as the witless grin.

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Summer Thaw Delayed–

Just a quick update while I’m on vacation.

Temperatures over roughly half the Arctic Sea are now above freezing, which is quite normal and natural under the 24-hours-a-day sunshine. It comes as a surprise to some, but temperatures at the Pole average above-freezing 24 hours a day (because the sun never sets) for a period of roughly sixty days. Not that there are not some pockets of cold, especially where it snows, but when you average things out temperatures register at a degree or two above freezing. However this year the pockets of cold out-number the areas of thaw, and temperatures are late getting above the “blue line”, which indicates when the mean temperature exceeds freezing.

DMI5 0611 meanT_2018

This comes as something of a surprise to me, as a large storm just moved up and across the Pole from the Kara Sea. The west side of the storm brought north winds and record cold temperatures to western Russia,  (robbing the arctic of its cold), while the east side of the storm brought south winds and record high temperatures to the coast of the Laptev sea. I paid attention to this warm air as it moved out over the Arctic Sea. I fully expected an upward spike in the DMI temperature graph. Much to my surprise there was a tiny downward spike.

How is this possible? Did the storm have a cooling effect, in some ways like a thunderstorm on a hot summer day? Was the warm air hoisted high, and cold rain and snow dropped to the surface to replace it?

The storm is now filling and fading, stalled north of the Mackenzie River Delta and west of the Canadian Archipelago. A storm like that usually puts a good dent in sea-ice totals, but the only real change I can see is that last week’s roaring south winds, over the Laptev Sea, pushed the sea-ice north, and expanded the polynya around the mouth of the flooding Lena River.  Over all the sea-ice continues thicker than last year, with “volume” (according to DMI) at the highest levels in five years.

DMI5 0611 FullSize_CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20180611 Stay tuned.

NOT LOCAL –Over The Dune–

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Over the dune a blue ocean awaits
As it once awaited when, as a boy,
My eager eyes yearned east, past the grim gates
Of schoolboy disciplines, past duty to joy.

Crammed in the back of a packed station wagon,
Across baking traffic-jamming highways
I yearned east over miraging macadam
To the first cool breeze, to spoken dismays
At the first whiffed stench of the fallen tide,
To the first cries of the crazed gulls soaring
As my mood soared. Something laughing inside
My heart could hear the surf’s thump and snoring,
And now I find that laughter never abates
For just over the dune a blue ocean awaits.

 

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NOT LOCAL –LOCUSTS–

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My wife and I felt we needed a break from our routine, and wound up at a beautiful farmhouse in a small town, inland and away from all the traffic and hubbub of the coast of Maine.  The house was surrounded by tall black locust trees at the height of their bloom, and the perfume in the air was enchanting.  I felt we had escaped pettiness.

In the evening twilight I did a bit of lazy research about black locusts, as it is one of the most valuable types of lumber, if only you can find wood that hasn’t been drilled into Swiss cheese by a annoying beetle.  Not only is the wood one of the hardest, it also burns hotter than all other firewoods, nearly matching the BTU power of coal.  Americans felt the tree was so valuable they transplanted it beyond its natural range, perhaps greedily gloating over the future supply of excellent lumber they’d harvest,  but then around the year 1900 the beetles spread like a plague, and rather than prime lumber people had wormy and worthless wood, and trees that tended to snap off in strong winds and then send up thorny shoots from roots and stumps.  The tree became more of a weed than anything else.

On the bright side, black locust does stabilize unstable hillsides prone to erosion, and does fertilize the soil with nitrogen, but….there is also a not-so-bright side: Black locust is invasive, in landscapes that are naturally prairies.

Black locust seems one of those “if only” plants, a tree with great expectations, but a disillusioning  reality.  The blooms are so profuse and sweet they are a bee-keeper’s delight, and result in a rare and delicious honey, but…..(and there is that word “but” again)…it only blooms for ten days.

If only. If only you could line up all the positives without all the negatives you could have tall trees producing honey in the spring and firewood in the fall, excellent lumber, and even the tree’s pods can produce food if the poison is removed…..but….the negative is part of life, on this sad planet, and you wind up with a thorny, runty invasive species with wormy wood. The only way to get any good involves lots of hard work….but….I’m on vacation.  Who needs hard work on a vacation?

It is very nice that I get to see black locust at their best, as tall trees untroubled by beetles, because the beetles don’t like the extreme cold of Maine’s winters (or the high mountains of Black Locust’s original range.)  I can breathe deeply of the perfume filling the twilight, because I lucked into the brief period when they are in full bloom. And lastly, I can just lazily browse my way through the internet, rambling without ever working (because research is not work, but rather is fun, for me).

Because this tall, beautiful tree can become a scrubby invasive species out on the prairie, it occurred to me that locusts can be like locusts of the grasshopper sort. If you want to raise wheat on the treeless prairie, you want neither sort of locust, and have to go through all the work of using insecticides or herbicides,  and facing all the environmental hazards of using chemicals,  and who wants to contemplate a problem as complicated as that, when goofing off on vacation?

Instead I decided to wander off into the topic of what sort of locust John the Baptist ate, when he was out in the wilderness, subsisting on “locusts and honey”.  Was he eating the pods of a locust tree? Or was he eating grasshoppers?  Surely, when you go back to the original Greek the two words are not the same.

Somewhat amazingly, it turns out the two words are similar even in the original Greek. The Greek word “akris” means “grasshopper” and the Greek word “enkris” means “honey cake”. And wouldn’t you just know it? This similarity got a fuss going between vegans and non-vegans, way back in the early days of Christianity.

Apparently Saint James was vegan, and at some point a certain sect insisted that all Christians had to be vegan, which created a hubbub, because other Christians stated Christians were freed from dietary restrictions and could even eat pork.

Well, well, well!  The more things change the more they stay the same.  But I will say this: One thing I am not about to do, when on vacation, is enter the squabble between vegans and non-vegans. That sounds too much like work, to me.

In running a Childcare I spend far too much time breaking up fights. Small children can rage and declare war over absurd things, such as the ownership of a certain stick, in a forest holding hundreds and hundreds of sticks.  And to be quite honest, adults aren’t all that  different, with their devious power-struggles involving elaborately crafted and silly schisms. (It is not merely in “Gulliver’s Travels” that people war over whether to open boiled eggs at the pointed side or the rounded side.)

Such nonsense is tiresome to the mortal soul.  Sometimes we need to take a break, to just walk away from all the silliness, and just fill our eyes with the vision of white blossoms billowing against a blue, blue sky, and fill our lungs with the ambrosia of black locust perfume.

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Like a soul walking up and out of hell
I once waltzed away, last day of school,
From ostracism, from a principle
Who was mindless, from teachers who were cruel,
From wicked classmates prone to snickering
At my tears, and entered into landscapes
That knew mercy, with night skies flickering
With God’s lightning, and sunrises all escapes
From bullying routine. My barefooted skin
Felt dew between toes rather than hot shoes,
And rather than a sergeant’s discipline
My orders were to rest. I’d paid my dues
And wandered through green landscapes of healing,
Astounded at what Kindness is revealing.

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Spring Floods–

Above is a NASA loop showing the flood waters pouring out from the Gusinaya River over the five day period of June 4-8.  (The problem is figuring out which Gusinaya River. I don’t think it is the one out on Wrangle Island, but rather one in East Siberia).

The thing to be aware if is that this is happening all around the Arctic Sea, as huge north-flowing rivers turn from winter trickles to summer floods. For example,  the Lena River is nearly frozen to the bottom in February, with only 3% of its yearly flow occurring that month, but then rises over sixty feet by summer. The influx of all this fresh water along the arctic coasts greatly changes the nature of the sea-ice along the shores, tending to swiftly make it more slushy. At first the fresh water is very cold, as it is from melting snow, but later in the summer it can create relatively mild areas of open water by the deltas. The fresh water tends to form a “lens” over the more saline waters.

There can be relatively rapid melts close to the deltas, but the water’s heat is quickly used up by the transformation into latent heat which occurs during the melting process. There tends to be a lot of arguing about what happens next, as the water sometimes stratifies and can be identified over time and distance, and sometimes gets churned and mixed by storms.

In any case I thought the picture of the flood was interesting. I used to be baffled by how quickly coastal ice could vanish in places, such as the Mackenzie River delta in Northern Canada, before I became aware of the colossal yearly floods. What is fascinating me now is how the floods vary, due to droughts to the south, and how this can effect sea-ice. Also I ponder the differences in the timing of floods; some years they are earlier and some years they are later.

Currently there is a very meredional  flow, with a stream of unusually mild air streaming north from the middle of Asia all the way to “Ralph” up at the Pole. Alarmist are quite excited, as there are records being set for warmth on the coast of the Laptev Sea.

Arctic Floods 2 FullSizeRender

Of course, on the other side of that cold front, cold air is streaming south into western Russia, where records are being set for cold temperatures.

https://www.iceagenow.info/record-cold-mornings-if-the-center-of-russia/

Stay Tuned.

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Ralph’s Return–

The storm I’ve been watching looks like it is heading north and will cross right over the Pole, continuing on to Canada.  “Ralph” (anomalous low pressure at the Pole) is back!

You can’t get much less “zonal” than to have storms crossing over the Pole. So my forecast is shredded. Time to go back to the old drawing board. Arno Crawing Board 2a5c1bb996b52b84daf9c5c70d02864a

My theory was that what made the flow zonal was the atmosphere getting things back in balance, and what made the flow loopy (meridional) was things being put out of balance, which would require a greater exchange of heat from the equator with cold from the Pole. Therefore an El Nino’s warming should require greater looping of the jet, while a La Nina’s cooling should flatten the jet and make things more zonal.

This definitely isn’t happening. Perhaps it is the “Quiet Sun” making the Pole cooler, and keeping things out of balance even when the La Nina cools the tropic a little. For the Pole is cooler than normal.

DMI5 0607 meanT_2018

The storm hasn’t yet made the sea-ice “extent” graph plunge all that swiftly. It continues below normal.

DMI5 0606 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

The storm hasn’t yet caused the “volume” graph to crash either.  It continues unexpectedly higher for this date than at any other year of the past five.

DMI5 0607 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20180607

Watching the Nullschool “winds” map, it looks like the storm is pushing the sea-ice across the top of Fram Strait, west to east, rather than flushing it south through the Strait. A polynya should form in the Kara Sea, with strong winds pushing the sea-ice north.

Null 1 FullSizeRender

But one thing fascinates me. Looking at the Nullschool sea-currents map, it looks like an eddy has formed just south of Fram Strait. For the time being this diverts a milder current, which usually heads up the east side of Fram Strait, hugging the west coast of Svalbard, and wheels it about to the south. If less mild water enters the Arctic Sea this could slow the melt.

Null 2 FullSizeRender

 

I’m not sure how accurate the Nullschool maps are, but they are something to keep an eye on. I’m also not sure why it took nearly to June for NOAA to update its AMO graph for April. Perhaps they don’t like the fact the AMO is trending colder.

AMO April 2018 amo_short

We will have to keep a sharp eye on the currents in the North Atlantic to see if a shifting AMO changes them. In the past there have been large changes, with fishing grounds shifting hundreds of miles further south. However the main thing that fascinates me is the loopiness of the jet stream. It has brought storms crashing into Greenland later in the spring than normal, and though some thaw has started at the edges of the ice-cap, that decrease is countered by snows at higher altitudes towards the center.

Greenland MB 20180607 todaysmb

For a while the increase in total mass resembled years where the increase fell off sharply, but now it has separated on the graph from those years, as it just keeps rising.

Greenland MB 20180607 accumulatedsmb

Last but not least, a cold AMO would tend to make it colder in eastern Canada, so we should keep an eye on Hudson Bay. Currently the melt at the edges is keeping pace with last year, but the ice in the center of the Bay is far thicker. (2017 left and 2018 right.)

All in all it is looking like it could be a fascinating summer, even without cameras. It would be indicative of a “Quiet Sun” effect, I imagine, if “Ralph” continues to reappear before the El Nino.

All we need is a volcano to blow up there to really get things crazy.

Stay tuned.