LOCAL VIEW –SEA BREEZE–

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The weather continues bone dry here in southern New Hampshire. Ana has formed off South Carolina, but seems bound to stay south. Our first chance of rain seems to be Sunday night, when the front to our west finally nudges past with showers.

Our day began nice and warm, which I don’t mind, especially as a hot day sends the black flies to the shade. Also it loosens up old joints and stiff muscles. At noon it was pushing 80° here, even as Boston climbed to 71° and then fell back to 59° as winds came in from the chilly waters to the east. I’m not sure at what point a sea-breeze graduates to a back-door-cold-front, but we weren’t there yet.

I’m getting fed up with our five chickens. This week I planted roughly 40 feet of onion bulbs the size of marbles, (10 feet purple, 10 feet white, and 20 feet yellow), and they seem determined to scratch them all up. The onions don’t seem to mind, as the soil is so dry they aren’t even thinking of sending out roots. I replant them, giving the chickens dirty looks. I think there free-range days may end for a while. Not only do they mess up my planting, but they no longer lay their eggs in the proper place, and have a hidden nest somewhere I haven’t been able to locate.

I got 100 feet of potatoes in (25 feet pink, 25 feet Kahtadin, and 50 feet Burbank Russet).  I did give the kids a demonstration of how you cut them up, making sure to have 2 eyes per piece, but once that was done for a few potatoes I switched to my lazy-man approach.

Over the years I’ve run into various problems with cut pieces of potatoes, and decided to skip problems, and the bother of cutting them, by planting whole ones. At the feed store they have barrels of potatoes, and I rummage through them and select the smallest ones, around the size of golf balls. When you plant a whole potato it seems to skip the trauma of recovering from a wound and to throw all its effort into growing. Also the fact the initial potato is small doesn’t produce small potatoes, but rather you can get ten large potatoes from a surprisingly small beginning, provided you feed them and keep them watered but not too wet. I hill them several times, and just before I do I sprinkle rotted manure and wood ashes down the row.

Also I transplanted 40 lettuce seedlings  (20 black Simpson and 20 butter-crunch).  My lazy-man approach there is just to dump the tiny seeds into pitting soil, skipping the problem of weeding and thinning in the garden, or individual pots indoors. Before the seedlings are too large I dump them into a bucket of water, turning the roots into threads amidst mud, and carefully seperate the tangle and plant them individually in soil which is weed free, because it is recently tilled. I water a lot after transplanting, especially when the soil is like this year’s: basically dust.

I planted my spinich the old fashioned way. Even though the soil is tilled and weed free when you plant, by the time the seedlings appear the seedlings of what seems like thousands of weeds also appear, and you have a job on your hands.

As I worked in the hot sun I abruptly felt a cool breeze waft by. For around an hour the cool wafts alternated with warmer wafts, but then it suddenly was downright chilly. The back door front had passed. The amazing thing is that it can drop 20 degrees in half an hour, and the sky doesn’t even hold a cloud as the front passes.

In the hot garden a cool breeze wafts by
And I immediately smell the sea,
Or so it always seems in my mind’s eye.
My old nose can’t smell shit, in reality,
But so evocative is the cool touch
Of wind that I hear gulls just down the road,
Though the shore’s sixty miles off. Then how much
Do I want to be a boy. What a load
Of chores my garden becomes. I just want
To escape school and be utterly free
of spelling, typing, and choosing what font
Will turn my dreary prose into poetry.
As a boy I fled dryness for what wets.
The more a man learns the more he forgets.

LOCAL VIEW —Boston Sets Snowfall Record—“An Inconvenient Winter”

We got around an inch of snow up here yesterday. The first half inch was glop, a sort of wet layer that melted as fast as it fell, and then nearly as fast as it fell, as the vibrant March sun dropped lower, and stopped the amazing job it does of melting snow even when it is behind clouds. Then the sun got to the horizon and we had a flash freeze, so the second half inch was powder drifting over a layer of frozen crust.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I heard my wife heading out for her predawn-twilight power-walk. Her footsteps crunched a certain way on the drive, and I swung out of bed in a sort of angry thrash, as I knew I had to start work an hour earlier, heading to the “Town Garage” to shovel sand into the back of my pickup, and then heading to my Farm-Childcare to cast that sand around the entrance of the parking lot, and the area where parents disembark with their children, and the front walk, and lastly the rise where cars exit and young mothers tend to spin wheels and get stuck. Who needs Monday to start an hour earlier?

All was redeemed, however, when I learned Boston got 2.9 inches of snow where we only got an inch. That bumps their winter’s total past the most snow ever recorded (in recent times) of 107 inches in 1993, to 108 inches. This is all the more amazing because Boston was below the normal snowfall of January 10 on January 10.

It makes me look rather good, for I was talking about this being “the worst winter ever” back in November.  Not that there haven’t been worse winter’s up here in these hills, or even in Boston. Back in in the 1600’s, when the Back Bay neighborhood was actually a bay, the bay was frozen over for six weeks, and there were 26 “snowfalls.”  However nothing matches 1717, when the snows were so deep that some houses were buried and could only be located by holes in the snow,  with smoke coming out, melted by the chimney and the constant fire that heated the home.

http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/oral/cram/blizzard1717.htm

It does seem sort of anticlimactic to beat the record with only 2.9 inches of snow. Not that it isn’t too late to have a final massive storm. The blizzard of 1888 began on March 11 and ended on March 15, and we got four feet in these hills, (as Boston got two inches of slush.) The “April Fools Storm” a few years back gave us two feet.

The good thing about setting a record is that it justifies a sensation many around here have that they have been through a mugging. People not all that far to the south roll their eyes and act as New Englanders are sissies, fussing about a minor inconvenience. Not that people did fuss all that much.  Come to think of it, the tougher New Englanders don’t even fuss when they get mugged.

I remember an old man who ran a tiny four-lane-bowling-alley in Portland, Maine, back in around 1975. You got to it by descending a stair in a dark alley, and it was a subterranean affair, with everything a bit mildewed, and the balls old and slightly bumpy as they rolled, but the old man was a genius when it came to candle-pin bowling, and also he had the cheapest rates in Maine. I was interested in the sport back then, and picked his brains, and besides learning how to curve the balls around the fallen “wood”, I got bits of his philosophy, such as, “Never bowl without a sponsor and never sponsor a bowler.” Often I was the only person bowling, and I doubt he even could pay his electricity bill with his gross take, and concluded he only ran the place because he loved bowling, but one time I went in to discover he’d been mugged for the small amount of money he had. He had two black eyes, and a scab on his forehead. When I expressed my concern he dismissed it, muttering, “Arrh, it was just kids. An inconvenience.”

In any case, I guess we can call it an Inconvenient Winter. It is especially inconvenient to Al Gore, who through “Inconvenient Truth” and lecture tours assured us snow would become rare and our ski areas would need to close down.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when Al Gore used his political power to start up the Global Warming fraud, cutting off funding to Bill Gray (whose predictions based on the cycles of the AMO have proven wonderfully accurate) and pouring money onto James Hansen, (whose forecasts have proven to be balderdash), you actually could graph the snowfall in Boston and create a “trend line” that demonstrated that snowfall was decreasing. If you look at the graph below as far as 1992, the “trend” is definitely down.

Of course 1993 changed all that. In fact, in terms of snowfall since 1890, six of the nine greatest yearly totals have occurred since Al Gore opened his big mouth and stated we’d have to shut down our ski areas.

Inconvenient Winter Screen_shot_2015_03_15_at_8_13_11_PM

(Graph from Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog at the Weatherbell site.”)

If anyone has been mugged by this winter, it the Alarmists who are attempting to sell Global Warming. However they are not stoic about being mugged, like a tough New Englander. Rather they become increasingly shrill, shrieking the heavy snow proves it is warmer.

Mann Tweet screenhunter_7071-feb-11-22-19

People in New England tend to be suckers for liberal causes. Freeing slaves seemed like an altruistic deed, and every town in New England has a monument in its graveyard commemorating the astounding number of young men who died for that cause. However the Global Warming cause is starting to be harder and harder to swallow, even for New Englanders, because right after Michael Mann spoke of waters off Cape Cod being 21 degrees above normal (utterly false) they saw waters looking like this:

Cape Cod iceberg2

Maybe even in New England it will turn out that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. After all, Abraham Lincoln stated that, and people voted for him in New England. Perhaps the political winter we are finding inconvenient will give way to a spring.

In the mean time, we have to endure a bit more winter. Today we saw the bright March sun melt away the crust of snow, but later tomorrow the cold will fight back, and the rains advancing from the west likely will change to more snows as they move over us.

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE MAXIMUM —WHY SO LOW?—

I have been urged to put aside my novel for a day, and comment on the sea-ice maximum. I only do so out of fondness for old friends, for I have personally become more interested in what I discovered while studying sea-ice than the sea-ice itself.

What I discovered was that both the science involved in the so-called “Arctic Death Spiral”, and the media’s efforts involved in reporting the “Arctic Death Spiral”, were shoddy at best and highly suspect at worst. Truth did not seem to matter as much as selling a particular political view, and, because I feel that any political view that disregards Truth is doomed to disaster, this behavior seemed like that of lemmings rushing towards a cliff.

Therefore my mind is more interested in contemplating the apparent madness of my generation, than it is in studying sea-ice. My novel looks back to when my generation was just stepping out into the world, and it contemplates how my generation’s sweet and naive hope for “Peace, Truth and Understanding” could, in some cases, be amazingly corrupted.

However I still do watch the sea-ice, as it ignores all politics and reflects the Truth of the Creator, and its motions can rest the mind with the same sort of serenity one derives from laying on ones back and watching clouds.

I’ll pick up from where I last left off reporting after Christmas, with the post:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/arctic-sea-ice-recovery-sneak-attack-onto-europe/

At that point a surge of mild air up towards the pole ahead of several North Atlantic Gales had relapsed or sagged back south in the north flow behind the gales, as the storm track of those gales slumped down into western Siberia. The flood of cold air built an elongated east-west ridge of high pressure over Europe. To the south of the ridge cold winds from Siberia flowed west, and there was snow even on the north coast of Africa. But our polar-view maps see only the milder west winds bringing Atlantic air east over the top of the elongated high. This mild air is clashing with cold air over the Pole, and brewing a storm over Svalbard. Across the Pole Pacific air has been pulled through the Bering strait and generated a nifty storm north of Alaska.

This was one of the few times all winter the Pole’s temperatures were below normal, but the pool of cold was being eroded from both sides.  .

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By Dec 31 the gale over Svalbard had grown, while the Pacific storm faded south and strong high pressure built. Mild air was dawn up into Barents Sea, as cold air flowed south through Fram Strait down the east coast of Greenland. More cold air is being exported south to Hudson Bay. Less usual is the reverse cross-polar-flow, from Alaska back to Siberia, north of Bering Strait.

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By January 2 that reverse-flow has vanished, replaced by Pacific air pouring north through Bering Strait as Atlantic air pours north over Svalbard. These influxes warm the Arctic Sea’s surface temperatures, but only south of Bering Strait and south of Svalbard is the warmth enough to melt sea-ice.

I think these influxes represent cooling, for the planet as a whole, for this is occurring during the darkest days, and much heat is lost to outer space. The sea-ice may be split and tortured by the shifting winds, but it is largely pushed towards the Pole, and compressing. Less than normal amounts are being flushed south through Fram Strait, as is shown by less ice moving down the east coast of Greenland, but that flow has increased at this point, as the North Atlantic gale is in a sort of “normal” position, bringing gales down Greenland’s east coast..

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By January 3 the amount of very cold air over the Pole has decreased, due to the Pacific and Atlantic invasions. This is an indication we are not seeing a “Zonal” flow, where winds go around and around the Pole, and the cold is contained up there. The invations of warming-than-usual air we are seeing up towards the Pole are matched by exports that cause arctic outbreaks further south.

In terms of sea-ice, there is a great deal of movement. The ice is split apart, forming “leads” which swiftly freeze over (but lose a lot of oceanic heat in doing so) and then are slammed together again, forming “pressure ridges” which are like mini-mountain ranges of sea-ice, ranging from only knee high to over fifteen feet. Not only do they extend upwards, but have roots extending downwards (because 9/10th of an iceberg is under water.)

During the summer stormy conditions can reduce sea-ice, especially if the water is stratified and a layer of warmer water lies below. During the winter stormy conditions likely increase sea-ice by exposing more water to temperatures well below the freezing point of salt water. Also the wider leads allow water to be to some degree churned, which prevents stratification, and allows the water to be more efficiently chilled.

The invasions of oceanic air likely increase snowfall, which actually may decrease the amount of sea-ice by insulating the ice, and by slowing the growth of ice on the underside of flat areas of ice. On the other hand, as soon as the sun rises at the Pole on the spring solstice, that same snow-cover protects the sea-ice, by reflecting the sun’s rays.

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On January 5 the invasions of oceanic mildness had generated a genuine arctic gale. These storms stress the sea-ice a lot. I’ve also noticed that, while they represent updrafts of mild air, they are often followed by increasing cold. They may lose a lot of heat, but how this might be done generates a lot of debate.

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By January 7 the gale has faded down towards the Kara Sea, but high pressure is bulging north from Alaska, and the pressure gradient between that high and the weakening gale is quite strong, and pulling Siberian air across to Canada.

When a strong flow like this gets going the cold air screams off the Siberian coast with such power that the ice is pushed away from the shores of the Laptev sea. There can be open water when the Siberian winds are down near seventy below. Of course this open water freezes swiftly, but even as a new skim of ice forms it too is pushed out to sea. During these situations the Laptev Sea creates and exports amazing amounts of ice. This winter this ice-creation also occurred along the coast of the Kara Sea.

This process of ice-creation actually can make it look like there is less ice, on the “ice extent graph.” The graph shows less ice along the Siberian coast, as the ice has been pushed towards Canada. The thinner ice along the Siberian coast is easier to melt away in August. However what is difficult to measure, in terms of “extent”, is all the ice crushed up against Canada by the Transpolar Drift.

A very strong gale off southeast Greenland is creating a wrong-way flow up in Fram Strait, halting the export of sea-ice.

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By January 10 the cross-polar-flow is being interrupted by new invasions of Pacific and Atlantic air. The wrong-way flow in Fram Strait is weaker, but continues, and there are even weak impulses of low pressure heading that way, rather than taking the more normal route between Svalbard and Norway.

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By January 12 a final, weak wrong-way low has moved to the northwest of Greenland, as a more conventional gale is moving up between Iceland and Norway.

What is interesting to note is what has become of all the oceanic air imported to the Pole. It has chilled down. This is the fate of all air, in 24-hour darkness.

Also the Siberia-to-Canada cross-polar flow has reappeared.

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By January 14 the Atlantic Gale is weakening, and the cold keeps building over the Pole.

What is interesting about these gales is how different they are from last winter’s. Last winter’s tended to stall further south, and I said they should be dubbed “Britannic Lows” rather than “Icelandic Lows.” Because they were positioned further south they tapped into the Azores High and brought up mild southwest winds, giving even Finland a milder winter. This winter it is as if the Azores High is walled off. Instead the big gales tap air from either side of Greenland and from Labrador, and even after crossing thousands of miles of water warmed by the Gulf Stream they make a far colder southwest wind, when they get to Europe.

The cross-polar-flow is starting to break down. Watch how it collapses towards Iceland.

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By January 16 the old gale has drifted off to the Kara Sea and weakened, and has been replaced by a new gale, as the cross-polar-flow has swung down to Iceland.   Watch how that flow continues to collapse down towards England. (This is a lot like what happened around Christmas.)

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By January 17 the flow is down the coast of Norway towards England, and the new gale is weakening and sagging south. In essence, the storm track has swung clear across the Atlantic, from aiming the wrong way up Fram Strait over Greenland to crashing into Europe. As this dramatic sway has occurred, the Pole has been left alone, and cooled to normal.

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DMI2 0120B meanT_2015

At this point something else dramatic was occurring that doesn’t show on the maps. It was of great interest to me, because I wondered if it might occur over a year ago. (I’m not sure where I wrote the thoughts down; it may have been while chatting with someone in the comments section.)

Last winter, when the Atlantic Gales stalled-out so far south and east that I dubbed them the “Britannic Low”, it may have brought benign mildness to the east of the centers, but to the west north winds rushed south over Iceland and vast stretches of the Atlantic, including the Gulf Stream. It may have seemed like the arctic air was spent harmlessly over waters where no one resides,  but I wondered what effect all that cold air, which rushed south week after week even as Europe enjoyed week after week of low-heating-bills, might have upon the sea water’s temperatures. It seemed the north winds must chill the Atlantic waters, and do so to considerable depth, because some of the gales were enormous and the seas must have been gigantic, and stirred the waters deeply.

Although the water was cooled thousands of miles from Europe’s coast, all that water is on the move. True, it moves less than a mile per hour, but a layman like me can do a back-of-an-envelope calculation, and I figured the cold water would arrive off Europe in around a year. There was nothing very scientific about my calculations. It was more of a wondering than any sort of theory.

Then, around a year later, the sea-surface temperatures cooled surprisingly swiftly towards Europe , compared to normal. You can bet my eyebrows mooned, when I noticed this. It effected the calculations used to determine the AMO (Atlantic Decadal Oscillation). Although that oscillation was not expected to switch over to its “Cold” phase for several more years, this January saw it plunge to levels on the “Cold” side not seen in decades.

All bets are off. This is a big shift, and the last time it happened was before we had satellites. We are entering Terra Incognito.

Not that the maps got all that dramatic. January 19 showed things seeming to swing back to another wrong-way flow up through Fram Strait, and, even as cold east winds afflicted areas of Europe and the Mideast south of these maps, new invasions of milder air were gathering to attack the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific side.

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January 21 shows the invasive process continuing.  The cross-polar-flow is less obvious, for rather than a stream of isobars it is shown by blobs of cold high pressure moving from Siberia to Canada.

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At this point large gaps appear in my notes. I apologize, but we were getting clobbered by blizzards in New Hampshire. Survival, at least in a business sense, focused on snow-removal, and if I was going to stagger indoors and record anything for posterity, recording how a New Hampshire town battled a severe winter seemed more newsworthy than arctic sea-ice far away. However I did note a few things.

On January 26 another big Gale was crossing the Atlantic, as a very cold high pressure sat atop the Pole. Between the two they created a strong wrong-way flow through Fram Strait.

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On February 1 the gale is cetered south of the Baltic and the high pressure has shifted towards Svalbard, Franz Joseph Land and Barents Sea, but the flow is still the wrong way through Fram Strait.

This stuff matters, if you are accounting for sea-ice. The ice that doesn’t come down through Fram Strait does two things. One, it makes the “ice extent” graph look lower, because there is less ice drifting down the east coast of Greenland. Second, because that ice only heads south to be melted, it means there is more ice left behind up in the arctic, which may mean the “ice extent” graph will show more ice in the summer, many months away.

For only the third time all winter, temperatures neared normal in the arctic.

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DMI2 0201B meanT_2015

By February 3 the wrong-way flow was bringing mild air up west of Svalbard to nudge against very cold air, which always seems a recepie for storm to me, but I didn’t expect the storm that developed.

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February 6 shows the Noodle Storm, pulling very mild air right past the pole, driving a cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada, and also a “correct” flow, for a change, down through Fram Strait, and then down to Scandinavia.

It would have been fun to study this in greater depth, but at this point winter was using the people of New England as a punching bag.

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By February 8 the Noodle Storm was sagging south into Europe, and the cross-polar-flow was pronounced, and winds were dropping to a calm in Fram Strait. The Pole is doing a good job of cooling all the mild air brought north.

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(There is quite a gap here, as I figured I didn’t have enough to do, and should also write a novel.) The February 15 map shows what I think is left of the Noodle Storm has drifted to central Siberia, bringing its milder air with it. Cross-polar-flow continues, now bringing arctic highs across Bering Strait. A powerful gale is hitting Iceland, but will you look up in Fram Strait? Everything is going the wrong way again.

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By February 18 the gale has passed well north of Scandinavia, and the flow is the right way in Fram Strait. Mild air is pouring towards the Pole from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, but blobs of cold high pressure continue to march from Siberia to Canada.

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On February 23 a micro-gale caught my eye, as it approached the Pole. Not that I had time to study it, though they are an interesting Polar phenomenon,  and may be like hurricanes. As you can see, I couldn’t get my act together enough to save a temperature map.

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I did remember to get a temperature map twelve hours later. I didn’t like the looks of that blob of Siberian high pressure being squeezed across to Canada. I likely should have paid more attention to the powerful gale southeast of Iceland. However mostly I wondered what the mirco gale was doing to the sea-ice at the Pole. The isobars are packed and the winds must have been strong.

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Twelve hours later I forgot the surface-pressure map, and only got the temperature map. (By this point most of the population of New England was approaching delirium, as snow depths passed six feet in places.) It does show how that mirco low sucked milder air right up over the Pole. It also shows mild air coming through Bering Strait from the Pacific, and the cold cross-polar-flow bringing more air from Siberia to Canada, and then down to New England. This was starting to annoy me. I mean, enough is enough.

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By February 26 the first Gale has weakened, taking the route north of Norway, as the mild Pacific air has generated a storm of its own. Between the two the cross-polar-flow looks to be weakening. A powerful gale approaches Iceland from the west.

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Four days later it looks like the Pole has stopped exporting cold, and is gathering its resources. A final glob of cold is passing into Alaska, but sucking Pacific air north in its wake. North Atlantic low pressures extend all the way to central Siberia, and have pulled some milder air up the entire eastern side of the North Atlantic.

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On March 3 the Pacific invasion has started again, and the Atlantic invasion continues despite the swiftly weakening low and the building high pressure north of the Kara Sea.

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By March 6 the Atlantic surge has become impressive as the Pacific surge retreated. Once again cross-polar-flow is developing.

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March 9 shows the Atlantic invasion at its high point (I think.) A sprawling gale is over Svalbard, wheeling mild air up over the Pole itself. However it is still dark over the Pole for another eleven days, and that mild air can only chill.

A meandering cross-polar-flow persists.

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The invasion of Atlantic air spikes the arctic temperatures.

DMI2 0308B meanT_2015

And now, at long last, we look at the ice extent graph:

DMI2 0309 icecover_current_new

Hopefully by subjecting you to all these maps I’ve shown that edge of the sea-ice has been eroded north a lot this winter by influxes of Pacific and Atlantic air. Also, because the bitter Siberian air headed across the Pole towards Canada, there was less bitter cold air left behind to create sea-ice off the Pacific coast north of Japan, (where there is much less ice than normal.) However the fact remains: There is less ice at the maximum.

The question immediately asked is: Does the lowness of this graph indicate the world is warming?

No. It means the cold air was distributed differently this winter. If the flow was “zonal”, the cold air generated by sunless winter days in the arctic would have stayed up north, and frozen northern waters. However the flow was radically “meridinal”, which means the cold headed south. As a consequence warm air has repetitively flooded up into the arctic, on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, and frayed the outer edges of the sea ice, on those sides. Meanwhile there was significantly more ice on waters that are not used in the calculations for the sea ice extent graph. For example, take the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

Or take the saltwater bays off the east coast of the USA.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The freezing of these waters, which ordinarily are not ice-covered to such an extent, could be used to argue the world is in fact colder, if one wanted to go that route.

The exact same “albedo” equations used up at the Pole can be used on the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA, and could demonstrate a huge amount of sunlight is being reflected back into space. After all, there is no sunshine at all at the Pole right now, but the sun is high in the sky further south. By the time the southern ice is melted it will have reflected a sizable amount of heat, but don’t ask me to fool around with the numbers. It would take a lot of “absorbing” for northern ice-free waters to counter that “reflected” deficit.

And that doesn’t even consider the surplus ice in the waters around the South Pole. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to compare the areas of ice, and the latitudes the ice is at, and determine the “albedo” arguments simply don’t add up.

In order for the “albedo” argument to work, there must be less solar radiation reflected and more absorbed, resulting in increasing temperatures. The problem is, the idea doesn’t work even if you utterly ignore the Great Lakes and the East Coast of the USA and the Antarctic. In order for it to work, the ice must decrease at the North Pole.

Even after a winter like this, where the arctic was robbed of a lot of its cold, there are some signs that the ice is increasing. Less ice seemed to be flushed south through Fram Strait, and more ice seemed to be packed together at the Pole. However in order to see these signs you have to do your homework, and become acquainted with individual chunks of ice.

For example, consider the buoy 2012G, which is tracked by the purple line in the map below.

Army Map Active_track

For over three years I’ve watched this buoy as it has wandered the Arctic Ocean, part of a mass of ice that has more than doubled its thickness, from less than six feet to more than twelve. Watching it does not give one the sense ice is getting thinner and weaker.

Another buoy, “Obuoy 9”, past roughly the same area by the Pole two years later, but took a radically different course, and is now north of the Greenland coast. ( See map at  http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#overview/gpstracks  )

If you do your homework and follow such buoys, (many of which have anemometers, thermometers, barometers, and cameras attached), you swiftly learn how mobile the sea-ice is. One buoy I followed began close to the Pole in April and grounded on the north coast of Iceland 8 months later. Most of the ice on the Arctic Sea has a life expectancy of less than two years, and the ice at the edges seldom lasts longer than a few months.

More than half of the ice melts every year, and one year it was three quarters. Then it grows back. You can write both the screaming headline “67% Of Arctic Sea-Ice Melts!” and the headline “Arctic Sea-Ice Triples!” on the same year, and not be a liar.

Considering these amounts are so huge, it is a bit ridiculous to obsess about small seasonal variations in the maximum and minimum extent. They have nothing to do with either a coming “Ice Age” or a coming “Death Spiral”. They have everything to do with the planet’s futile but constant effort to achieve balance, when it it is constantly knocked out of balance by sunspot cycles, and also the simple fact Earth is tilted, and we have seasons.

As the planet attempts to arrive at equipoise it manifests various actions and reactions, and the PDO and AMO are such actions and reactions. Those who want to understand why the ice comes and goes the way it does would do well to study those cycles, and what causes them.

Two major things are likely to influence the melting and reformation of sea-ice over the next few years. The first is the switch of the AMO to its “cold” phase this past January:

AMO January amo(2)

The second is that the sunspot cycle is reduced, and we are seeing a “Quiet Sun.”

DMI2 0224 sunspots latest

My private wondering is about how the “Quiet Sun” may alter the PDO and AMO. They may not behave as we’d expect them to, if they were following a stable 60-year-cycle, because the sun was far from “quiet” 60 years ago.

However if things behave as they behaved in the past, I would expect the shift of the AMO to “Cold” to result in a swift increase of sea-ice on the Atlantic side, over the next year. There is no sign of this yet.

THINGS TO WATCH FOR

As more than half the ice melts away this summer one can measure whether the melt is above-normal or below-normal by visiting a Cryosphere Today page that graphs the melt of all the various Seas, and whether the melt is above or below normal. For example, Hudson Bay can be viewed here:  http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/recent365.anom.region.13.html

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Hudson Bay screen you can see a handy map that allows you to swiftly click to the graphs for other areas.

I chose Hudson Bay because it will be interesting to watch. Usually it is entirely ice-covered by now and entirely ice-free by August, however on rare years not all the ice melts away. Last year the ice barely melted away, but the water was quite cold to begin the winter, and froze swiftly. Now the ice is thick and has piled up deeply against the south and east coasts. The refreeze of Hudson Bay means a lot for the east of the USA, for until it freezes its open water moderates the temperatures of arctic air coming south, and it serves as a buffer. It would not bode well for the northeast coast of the USA if a winter began with ice already in Hudson Bay.

Another place to watch will be Barents Sea north of Scandinavia. Last year, with the AMO only briefly dipping to the “cold” side, the ice actually increased in Barents Sea even as it retreated everywhere else. I am not sure how this is even possible, with the temperatures rising all over the arctic to above the freezing point of salt water. It must be that the ice that already exists drifts south. In any case, it may happen again. If it does happen, it may explain the surprising increases of ice hinted at, in that area, by old, Danish maps showing where the edge of the ice was as the AMO turned “cold”, back in the days before we had Satellites to watch with.

Happy ice-watching!

LOCAL VIEW —SLUSH—

Nothing like a morning of slush to sour a mood.

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Yesterday turned into a mad rush to get things done before the snow ended our lovely open winter. My youngest son loaded up a U haul to head back to his first apartment down in the big city, as he enters his last full year of college. He has odd taste, when it comes to interior decoration, and took some junk from the farm, including an old coca cola cooler that dates from around 1960 and must weigh 200 pounds, even with the refrigeration unit removed. Believe it or not, he’s turned it into a bedroom bureau. I don’t ask questions, as the first four kids have trained me well.

When I got home I discovered the two cord of wood I had ordered had been delivered. Unfortunately the young fellow who operates the dump truck is not too deft, when it comes to dumping wood, and he had only managed to get half of the wood where I wanted it. (He was nowhere to be seen. It was a dump-and-run delivery.)  A lot of the firewood spilled out into a driveway I share with a neighbor, effectively blocking it. So I faced a change in plans, and spent an hour chucking logs off the driveway.

By then the sky was purple and lowering, and the first flakes were wandering about. I headed off to Peterborough to grab some feed for the goats and chickens, some “cubed” hay (because the goats are utterly wasting the ordinary hay, playfully tossing it into the air, poking around for a stray raspberry leaf, and trampling the rest). I also grabbed three sacks of coal.  (150 pounds—$27.00.)  I figure we’ll be needing it next week, when its below zero.

Then I rushed to the farm to unload it all before the snow got heavy. It was still at the point where it swirls around the surface of the highway, but the tar is dry.  Ar the farm the goats were agitated in the growing gloom of the early evening. They know when bad weather is coming.

Then at last I could head home to unload the final three sacks of coal and hurl some wood in the cellar, for the third wood-stove down there that I only light when it gets bitterly cold, and the floors need warming.  I was in a wry sense of humor about all the physical work I’d done. It seems to be a sort of rule that, whenever I get most pathetic and pitiful about being old and decrepit and unable to hoist and haul and grunt the way I used to, reality conspires to prove I am a liar, because I’m forced to do it.

As dark descended it got snowy out and we got a swift two inches. I sat down in front of the computer to work on my novel, but my eyelids got in the way. I decided I’d lay down for an after dinner nap before amazing the world with great art.

The next thing I knew it was five in the morning, and I could hear water trickling off the roof. It sounded like a good day to stay inside and work on a great novel, so I headed down for the aspirin, which comes before coffee after a day like yesterday, and as I passed by the computer I noticed by feet were abruptly cold and wet.

The roof was leaking. It is something that seems to happen on a regular basis when you have a 250-year-old house, even after putting on a new set of shingles. The irony was not lost on me that this particular leak (from an surprisingly tiny ice-dam by a dormer) dripped right beside my computer.

My first response was to simply place a pot on the floor, but the incessant “ploink, ploink, ploink” sound makes even the most dedicated artist stray from inspiration to creative cursing. So, once I was sure I wouldn’t awake my wife, I headed up to the attic to track down the leak. I stuck a couple of pots up there, and will clamber out onto the slushy roof once the rain stops.

Great art will have to wait a while. As I look out the window I can see that, even though the three inches of snow has settled down to around an inch of heavy glop, with battleship gray patches showing where the puddles are,  the plows have raised a barrier at the end of the drive that looks to be a foot tall. That has to be about the most miserable stuff on earth to shovel.

The exercise will be good for me, I suppose, but my creativity will be limited to cursing. “Slush,” seems a good curse, right now. “Slushing shushity slush!”

 

LOCAL VIEW—SHIPPING PIGS

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(Click to enlarge and clarify)

It actually was a pretty nice day, considering all the hoopla about a possible nor’easter. After Wednesday’s cold, showery front and yesterday’s upper-air trough with it’s deep purple and angry-looking clouds,  the wind swung around from the cold north, backing to the west and even a little south of west.  The sun flirted with the clouds, only rarely breaking through, but the day was milder and drier, and I decided I might as well enjoy it.

People are always saying that there once was a man who, on his deathbed, stated he spent most of his life worrying about things that  never happened.  That seems foolish. I spent my time worrying about things that actually did happen, but what I then discovered was that the dreaded events weren’t so bad as I had imagined.  That takes a lot of the anxiety out of worry. Worry has less sting, and becomes more like simply observing.

I spent a lot of the day looking up at the clouds. The sky did not look ugly, or filled with foreboding, but rather it seemed confused.

A weak ridge of high pressure was trying to swing the north wind to a south wind, but a lot of “junk” was mixed in. The above map is enormously simplified. If one drew in all the fading traces of old fronts and occlusions and upper air troughs,  (the meteorological Halloween ghosts and the ghosts of ghosts,) the map would be a veritable jungle of lines.

To be truly scientific you would have to keep track of every action-and-reaction, and every cause-and-effect, from the vast macrocosm down to the minute microcosm, and your brains would simply fry. I think that is what worry is:  Frying brains. At some point you have to give it up, and simply deal in generalities.

If you look at the above map you can see the clouds from the building storm off shore, and the clouds from the digging trough to our west, and a partly cloudy area between them, over New England. That partly-to-mostly-cloudy patch was the generality passing over today. It was the brief “better” between two “bads.” Not much to write home about, but not without beauty, either. Sometimes a single sunbeam is all I need.

This brings me around to the brief life of pigs. They are often alive less than a year, going from little piglets to 200 pounds, and then to a frying pan as bacon. Compared to them we are like redwood trees, tall and seemingly eternal.

And boy, can pigs ever worry! If they run up against the slightest problem in their lives, their screaming squeals would convince a judge and jury they were dying. Five seconds later, they are happy as clams.

Pigs  (photo credit: http://www.betawired.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Pigs.jpg )

I like to have a few pigs around our farm-childcare, as it seems important to me that children know, as our grandparents knew, where their bacon comes from. Too many people nowadays are completely disconnected from that reality. They lack the understanding that life involves the devouring of other life, and even seem to feel our Creator was wrong to construct Creation the way He has.

I think pigs are a valuable addition to a farm, for they make use of food that would otherwise be wasted as garbage. To those who say the garbage could be composted, I simply say pig manure is a better compost. What’s more, pigs tend to churn their manure into the soil, creating an area so rich that, if you move the pigs to a different spot, the old pen can become a lush pumpkin patch, even if was sterile soil before the pigs moved in.

Vegetarians are always reciting a bit of algebra to me,  involving the fact it takes ten energy-units of grain to produce one energy-unit of meat, as if farmers are dunderheads and don’t know what is practical.  The thing of it is that pigs can take zero energy-units of garbage, and produce one energy-unit of meat, in the same manner that goats can live on stony land that would grow zero energy-units of grain, and produce one energy-unit of milk. (And this doesn’t even mention the use we can make of hair and hides.) The old-time farmers knew what they were doing, when they allotted their time and their lands.

However there is no getting around the fact children like pigs, and find them fascinating. Perhaps pigs remind us of ourselves, in a way. One of my favorite things to do is to feed the pigs with small children watching, and then, when the beasts have their usual bad table manners, snouting each other aside, and slobbering and grunting and smacking lips as they eat, I turn to the children and pretend disgust, and exclaim, “What horrid manners! Disgusting! They eat like pigs!” The children always look up to me with laughing eyes and explain, “That’s because they are pigs, Mr. Shaw!”

I have to take care the children don’t make pets of them. When I first opened our childcare they did get too attached to a pig named “Brick”, and I felt terrible when the time for Brick’s slaughter approached.  I said I was merely going to move Brick to a different farm, but a know-it-all nine-year-old informed the younger children of what would happen at “the other farm.”

I knew I was in trouble when I noticed a group of small girls glaring balefully, as I left for lunch one day. When I arrived back at the farm after a lunch I discovered my staff had nearly called the police.after the girls hatched a plot,  and had secretly crept off while the littler children were being pacified and bedded down for “quiet time.”  After a brief panic the older girls were discovered around Brick’s pen. When an explanation was demanded, they stated they were holding a prayer meeting. They were raining tears down upon Brick, who happily looked up at them, delighted at the attention.   (To avoid a re-occurrence of this sort of Charlotte’s-Web-heartache, I now tend to limit contact with the pigs when they are tiny and adorable, and to give pigs names like “Bacon” and “Pork Chop”.)

I myself have gotten too fond of pigs in the past, though it is usually for material and selfish reasons. Such was the case involving two sows named Za-za and Eva, who were wonderful mothers and could raise 14 piglets because each had 14 working teats, (rather than the usual 12.)

Usually a sow is slaughtered after a litter or two, mostly because they get very big with time, and then can be harder to handle. Also I suppose the meat gets tougher. However I also discovered that having a pig die a “natural” death is not always a serene event.

It happened one night after midnight. Eve began screaming and crashing about in her pen. After ten minutes she was staggering, and ten minutes later she was on her side peddling her legs, and then it abruptly ended. The entire twenty minutes she was screaming in a deafening way, apparently in pain and in panic. (The vet later said ulcers are relatively common in older pigs, and Eva had one that ruptured.)

The next morning all I had to show for my affection and care was well over 300 pounds of dead meat that was nearly impossible to budge and was rapidly bloating. In the old days I suppose I could have hired some guy to come pick her up and haul her off to be turned into dog food and fertilizer, but in these modern times she was good for nothing but burial, using a backhoe. I had taken both an emotional and financial hit. I decided, as I remembered  Eva screaming for 20 minutes, that dying in a half second, due to a bullet to the back of the head, was far preferable for the pig, and also for me.

Another danger, besides getting too attached to the pigs, is that children rapidly grow smaller than the little piglets they play with. Once a pig gets larger than the child it is important to keep in mind that pigs are not entirely civilized. Lurking within a cute, pink farm-pig is a wild boar, and when a pig gets over 150 pounds I watch even myself, even when scratching the beast’s backs and hearing them grunt in pleasure. (Often a pig will flop onto their sides in complete bliss, if you give their back a good scratching.) Despite their benign moods, one should never forget pigs become incredibly strong, much stronger than a man, and they do lose their tempers, often wounding each other over a nothing, a battle over a banana peel. They can do a man damage in a brief fit of temper. It’s not that they don’t like you; its just the way they are.

Pig feral images (Photo credit:   http://www.thebraiser.com/new-york-resorts-to-shooting-feral-pigs-from-helicopters/ )

My general rule is to do my best to give a pig a good and happy life.  When the end comes, the pig does not see it coming. They have no worry. All in all it isn’t a bad deal: I have fed them, and then they feed me.

I do worry, when it comes time bring the pigs to the slaughterhouse, because loading pigs into the box I construct in the back of my truck can be, (and has been),  a complete fiasco.

I remember one 350 pound sow decided she didn’t like the looks of the ramp that led up into the truck, and started to back away. I had three strong friends helping me, and we were attempting to herd her with four-by-eight foot sheets of plywood. She was quite able to shrug us aside like we were flyweights.  Various walls and fences were rapidly being smashed and crashed, and it was looking like the huge sow might bust loose and head off to some neighbor’s rose garden, when I remembered something I’d read about, and thrust a five gallon pail over her head.  She tried to back away, and by steering her as I kept jamming the pail against her face, I backed her up the ramp and into the truck.

Today I put my worry to good use, and used every trick I could think of.  I constructed  a sort of alley from the pen to the truck, and limited distraction,  including covering the ramp into the truck with a thick bed of straw, so it felt more stall-like and usual underfoot, than a metal ramp usually does. I underfed them beforehand, and then mixed a little blue cheese in with their grain, and let them have some good sniffs at the pail without giving them any, before opening the gate of their pen.

It is always more difficult to load two pigs than one, as the first tends to bolt before you can get the second one up the ramp and into the truck, but today they were more like lambs than pigs. I’ve never had such an easy loading, and the unloading them was the same, 20 miles away.

I think one reason the event was nothing like the worries I imagined it would be was because I didn’t have any sense I was harming the pigs. I reminded myself that, if I let them stay in their pen, they would suffer in the howling snow and wind, forecast for Sunday morning. Pigs have an animal instinct that smells your mood when you are scared or angry, or feeling guilty, but I felt no guilt, and they knew it.

And soon they’ll know if pigs can fly.

Pig flying Look-flying-pigs-51794-e1315601783379

(Photo credit: http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2014/02/see-similarity-between-lincoln-and-obama.html )

BARKING MAD

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(Nigel Hawthorne playing King George the Third.  Photo credit: Rex Features)

BARKING MAD

(A rave, prompted by facing insane heating costs)

It is a painful thing to confront someone whom one is accustomed to respecting, and to tell that person they are barking mad. Usually one avoids it, or dismisses the other’s strange behavior as “a difference of opinion,” and speaks platitudes about “the importance of diversity,” however when a person is going, “Arf! Arf!” right in your face, there is no way around it. This includes governments, when they become barking mad.

Thomas Jefferson knew this, when he quilled the Declaration of Independence, listing King George’s barking mad behaviors, however there has been a recent, revisionist effort to show that King George the Third wasn’t all that bad, and his blue urine wasn’t due to porphuria, and his spells of foaming at the mouth were but minor episodes, especially when he was young and was busily losing the American colonies. (I think this may in part be due to the fact that porphuria is hereditary, and certain people don’t want the rabble giving Prince Charles appraising looks.)

The argument states that, if you could get an audience at his glittering palace, King George was quite lucid, and even charming, and that the points he raised, about the government’s right to tax, are valid to this day. There is even some reproach towards America and Jefferson for failing to understand King George’s points.

However taxation was not the issue. Taxation without representation was the issue. When one looks back with twenty-twenty hindsight, the solution to the problem seems simple: Simply give the thirteen colony’s thirteen elected representatives in Parliament. It seems like such an obvious thing, to give Englishmen abroad the same rights as Englishmen at home, and seems so conducive to unity and the expansion of an unified kingdom, that to switch the subject to the-right-of-the-government-to-tax seems a sleight of hand bound to stub thumbs, to lead to schism, and to create discord out of harmony. It was, in fact, a barking mad thing for King George to do.

As soon as one treats ones own family as the enemy; one fosters a house divided, which must fall. Perhaps the greatest example of this madness occurred in 1914 when three of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren occupied thrones that governed roughly half the planet, as King of England, Kaiser of Germany, and the wife of the Czar of Russia. Unless these relatives considered their own family to be the enemy, there could have been no World War One, which was a calamity and slaughter so mind-boggling, and so shattering to people’s structures of belief, that it’s declaration was in many senses the beginning of a war that hasn’t ended.

The way to avoid all this madness is simply to understand there is one sort of behavior that leads to marriage, and another that leads to divorce. Assuming one can concede unity is better than division, and harmony is better than discord, (and there are some scoffers who refuse to concede this,) then heeding others (or their elected representatives) is wisdom, and any alternative deafness is ignorance. It is hugely important for those in positions of privilege and power to never lose touch with the so-called “common man.”

Unfortunately this is exactly what appears to have happened in Washington, where the leadership has seemingly forgotten, if they ever knew, how hard it is for less privileged people to scrape by. They have lost touch with humble lives that can be quite happy, provided a certain criteria involving basic necessities are met, and instead are making decisions that cause the poor to experience hardships which the leaders themselves are seemingly oblivious to. Enamored by their own eloquence, charmed by their own intellectual gyrations, they fail to see some of their concepts are barking mad.

“Cash for Clunkers” was an example of such madness. It was basically an ill-thought-out and erroneous solution to a fictitious problem based on a fraud, however it sounded elegant and efficient to the privileged at glittering parties inside the Beltway. In one fell swoop they imagined Cash for Clunkers would increase the gas mileage of American vehicles, reduce Carbon Emissions and therefore halt Global Warming, increase car sales and therefore stimulate the economy, replace low tech vehicles with high tech vehicles and therefore benefit more advanced technologies and technicians, and do all this for a paltry three billion dollars the nation didn’t have, but that could be printed. In short order Cash for Clunkers then destroyed 690,114 perfectly viable vehicles, which were traded in for 690,114 new vehicles.

It was barking mad to destroy all those perfectly good cars, and to get nothing in return for it but three billion dollars of debt. What person in their right mind does such a thing?

It didn’t even reduce Carbon Emissions, because building and shipping a new car requires three to eight tons of carbon, while driving the same old clunker required zero. It would take over five years to make up the difference with a new car, and eight years with a new truck, if the increased gas mileage was as good as promised, (which it wasn’t, due to computer glitches, faulty sensors turning on the check-engine-lights, and people driving with the check-engine-lights on, and also the natural aging of new cars.) Furthermore, the foreseen reduction of carbon would have had only an infinitesimal effect on world temperatures, even if Global Warming were proven true.

However none of a economist’s or climatologist’s pseudoscience meant much to the poor. The poor do not buy new cars; they drive the clunkers that better-off people trade in. What Cash For Clunkers meant for them was that 690,114 poor people were without a car. As the price for second-hand cars soared, many were plunked into the catch-22 position of young men who can’t get a car because they don’t have a job, and can’t get a job because they don’t have a car. But what does Washington know of such unhappy lives? They say, “Let them buy a new car” in the manner of Marie Antoinette saying, “Let them eat cake.”

In their ignorance Washington glibly stated that Cash for Clunkers would be a boon for scrap yards, blissfully unaware that much of the profit at such yards comes from taking apart engines for parts, and that, with engines destroyed, profits would sharply decline. But what does Washington know or care about greasy hands and bruised knuckles?

At least 300,000 and as many as 500,000 of the 690,114 new cars would have been sold anyway, because people need new cars even without incentives, so the government was paying-for and destroying between 300,000 and 500,000 used vehicles for absolutely no reason.

During the brief surge in car sales Cash-for-Clunkers brought about, sales of American cars actually decreased as Asian sales increased, for people were concerned about soaring gas prices at that time, and desired the better gas mileage of Asian cars. This means much of the slight increase in the national-average-gas-mileage (noted with great satisfaction by government Cash-for-Clunker statisticians) would have occurred without the program. It also means Cash for Clunkers didn’t increase the sales of of American cars, and in fact hurt the American car industry more than it helped it. The government would have done better to focus on reducing fuel prices, but actually aimed to increase those fuel prices, to lower the nation’s “Carbon Footprint.”

Some stated that if the poor couldn’t afford cars, their immobility would increase the use of public transportation. Again, it is not the wealthy that have to stand waiting in blazing sun or in winter blasts, or are uprooted because they do not live where such transit is available.

The unintended consequences go on and on. The mechanics skilled in repairing clunkers were hurt; the newer cars were far more expensive to maintain, due to computer glitches, and, when faced with the fact that plugging into a dealer’s computer to diagnose a problem could cost a hundred dollars, people simply chose to drive with the check-engine-lights on. (So you can throw the manufacturer’s estimated-gas-mileage out the window.) People do what they must to get by, and there even was an increase in uninspected and unregistered cars.

It is not that the poor want to be scofflaws or to enact some sort of political rebellion. They simply want to survive, but survival is something the barking mad in Washington has forgotten all about.

This brings me to the current madness of increasing the cost of heating a home, on purpose, to fight some theoretical warming of the planet in the future. This is another display of being barking mad, for the coming winter is no environmentalist’s theory; it is a grim reality that can kill.

What do the privileged elite in Washington know about cold homes in January, or of needing to chose between freezing and food? At their glittering, January parties the only ice they know is in their drinks, as they pontificate the politically correct arfing they call profundity. They know how to frown at the words, “strip mine,” while waving away the subject of unemployed miners, who they never face eye-to-eye. They know the correct disapproval to show for the rural poor’s smoking wood-stoves, and the right way to clasp hands and smile as wind turbines kill eagles. They rumple brows over a tenth of a degree rise in world temperatures they can’t feel, enacting legislation that chills the homes of the poor they never meet ten to twenty degrees.

The fact such legislated “energy poverty” is barking mad was already proven, by an increase in the death rate of the elderly in England by 30,000 in the winter of 2012-2013. The elderly of England could not afford both food and fuel, and didn’t get enough of either. Because the old can’t withstand cold, especially when hungry, and because a common cold can swiftly turn to pneumonia, turning down the heat meant death for 30,000.

What sort of savage society of primitive cannibals allows its elderly to be treated in such a vile manner? It was to avoid such barbaric treatment that FDR created Social Security in the first place. His grave must rumble with a rolling sound, now. To have intentionally brought such misery down upon the general population is the behavior of the certifiably insane. The English leaders were barking mad, and now Washington wants to copy them.

The oncoming hardship, bad enough in an ordinary winter, may be worsened by an especially brutal winter. In theory an El Nino might warm the planet, as a whole, by a tenth of a degree, but in fact an El Nino Modoki, (which is expected,) may warm other areas but brings exceptional cold to one particular part of the planet: The eastern and central United States. Some runs of some models foresee a winter as bad as 1976-1977, which was so vicious it prompted people back then to talk of “a coming ice age.” It is to be hoped these model runs are wrong (as they often are) but what if they are not? Assume the attitude of an Alarmist, and imagine that the models are right. We are then facing a crisis.

Our government seems exceptionally incapable of dealing with such a crisis, for it lives in a landscape of delusion. It does not care for the elderly; it cares about being re-elected. The oncoming winter could loom like the black shroud of the Grim Reaper, and still a politician’s primary concern would be suppressing voter turnout in unfavorable districts. The best that can be hoped for is a national awakening, and a voter backlash in November, and a completely changed congress next January, but by then it will be too late.

It is conceivable, even likely, that in the face of a winter like 1976-1977, fuel prices would skyrocket, and there would be shortages, brown-outs, and even shutdowns. For many there would be no money left over, after paying for heat. There would be no so-called “disposable income.” For the poor, it would not be a matter of staying warm; it would be a matter of staying alive. Immediate action would be required, but by the time the bumbling bureaucrats came wandering back from their Christmas recess, not even a potentially vibrant new Congress would be able to kick their inertia into action before March, at which point the damage would be already done.

In the face of such a future it is high time for the American people to enact a rebellion, but not like any rebellion the powerful expect. It should be a rebellion outside the expectations of economic experts, and completely beyond the comprehension of Washington insiders and the wealthy elite. It would be beyond their comprehension because it would do what they fail to do. It would care for the elderly, and care for neighbors.

Considering all too many Americans don’t even talk to their neighbors, such a rebellion might seem impossible, however Hitler did not think it was possible Londoners could withstand his Blitz, yet they slept in subways, and those of Hitler’s advisers who guaranteed London’s despair, due to people sleeping in subways, were flabbergasted by an increase in high spirits, as the English people rebelled against the barking mad oppressor raining bombs from their skies.

The rebellion I envision doesn’t involve raining bombs or sleeping in subways. It merely involves sleeping at a neighbor’s, or having several elderly neighbors sleep at your house. It involves the simplest economics, which is that if you turn off the heat and electricity and drain the water pipes, and move in with your neighbor, the two of you will together only need to pay half as much for heat, if you share the costs. In cases where three households can fit into a single house, you would only pay a third the cost. Nor would such an arrangement be permanent. To be most effective, it should last only sixty days, from just after Christmas to before the first of March. These sixty days involve the cruel heart of winter, when heating bills are most likely to ruin a budget. If you could put up with your neighbor only that long, think of the money you’d save!

Of course, getting along with neighbors is no easy task. If the younger adults question the old-timers, they might learn about neighbors called “hippies” who lived with neighbors in places called “communes,” and learn about lots of things you should avoid doing. However likely they wouldn’t learn what to do to make the situation work, for most communes were abysmal failures. Getting along with neighbors is no easy thing, even for only sixty days.

However the Londoners, sleeping in subways during the Blitz, were sustained and derived relish from the simple fact they were defying Hitler. Perhaps the same relish might make neighbors more able to tolerate neighbors in modern times, for surely such behavior on the part of the American people would shock the socks off the barking mad in Washington. It is beyond the limits of their feeble minds, for they prove they are incapable of comprehending neighbors caring for neighbors, when they fail to care for constituents.

Just imagine what the effect would be, if my idea caught on. When the oil delivery man came down a street with ten houses, he would not deliver oil to all ten, but to only five, or even only four.   Because he delivered less, rather than the oil price going up, it would go down, due to the laws of supply and demand.

Even better is to imagine the consternation in Washington. They depend, in part, on a tax collected with each gallon of oil and propane delivered. If only half as much oil and propane is delivered, they collect only half as much tax.   It is tantamount to them opening their pay envelope on payday, and seeing their paycheck is only half as large as they expected.

They will deem this a serious problem. Fortunately, they are such dunderheads they will never see it coming, and by the time they wake up the sixty days will be past, and everyone will be back in their own houses, innocently whistling.

I imagine that at this point the elite will be absolutely furious. How dare the American people behave as if they are independent and free! How dare they be so ungrateful as to pay fewer taxes!   Laws must be passed to prevent this rebellious behavior! If the new congress does not pass the laws, the EPA will do it! Laws against the cohabitation of neighbors must be written in stone! Climate scientists must be hired to prove cohabitation causes Global Warming! (This may seem like an irrational response, but you need to remember these people are barking mad to begin with.)

They may even say it is better for people to freeze alone than to cohabit in a warm, shared, happy household. At their glittering parties they will nod in agreement about how cohabitation stresses leech fields and septic systems, and must be banned. Others will state cohabitation spreads infectious diseases, and must be banned. Whatever they say will seem sublimely logical, to them. However whatever they say will increasingly look like bunkum, to an American people who neither died of infectious diseases nor destroyed their leech fields, during their sixty-day, Gandhi-like, nonviolent rebellion.

However, just to be on the safe side, those with legal inclinations should perhaps prepare some legal briefs beforehand, arguing that religious freedom is involved. It doesn’t matter if they are atheists, they can point out Christianity makes a big deal about loving neighbors, and that “loving your neighbor as yourself” is right up there with worshiping the Creator, among Christians.

Not that we Americans care all that much about our neighbors. What we care for is our own independence and individuality. However, through the wisdom of our forefathers, we also know that we had better care for the independence and individuality of our neighbors, and stand united, or we will fall divided, for if our neighbors lose their independence and individuality, so will we.

So important is this concept that those with legal inclinations should likely figure out a way to file a lawsuit even before the EPA bans cohabitation. The best defense is a good offence, after all. The rest of us, who are not so legally inclined, should likely have some talks with the neighbors we never wanted to bother, and have never before gotten to know, during these Halcyon days of summer.

Scoffers will say my proposal will never work. (Likely their neighbor has halitosis and seldom changes his or her socks.) However when dealing with the barking mad you need to bark back. (Though you might like to allow your neighbor to live as he chooses, you need to tell him that for sixty days he should brush his teeth and change his socks.) However I think my idea just might work, due to something I noticed in my study of the London Blitz.

While the history of the English People, from the death of Queen Victoria to the eventual death of Queen Elisabeth II, largely looks like a free fall from huge responsibility to irresponsibility, from power to powerlessness, from grandeur to meaningless obscurity, they did have one moment when they, and no one else, stood utterly alone and took on an evil we cannot imagine. It truly was their “finest hour.”

Next time you are filled with self-pity about high heating bills, or about being stuck in a traffic jam, or about having a neighbor with halitosis, pause and imagine London during the Blitz. Every day bombs rained from the skies. Every day people you knew died. However rather than self-pity a defiance grew. Their motto was, “We can take it,” but what possessed those people to make up such a motto? The best description I ever heard, of what possessed London, simply called it “A White Heat.”

It was a moment in history when it was not America who stood up for Freedom, the English did. That class-ridden, moribund, down-falling society stood for Liberty when America didn’t. And why? Because of “A White Heat.”

As a poet, I love that description, “A White Heat,” but as a scientist I am appalled, for no thermometer can measure it. Even as a pseudo scientist and psychologist I am made nervous, for psychology seldom talks of a goodly power that can take on Hitler and shame him to suicide.

Christians would likely assert “A White Heat” is a gift from God given to those who take on evil, but because I don’t want to alienate goodly atheists, I’ll just state that if you stand by Truth, Truth stands by you. It is the strangest thing, for I am a pragmatist who prefers a large woodpile to standing by a cold stove expecting “White Heat”, but I’ve seen this over and over in my life: If you tell a lie, it haunts you and tracks you down, but if you tell the truth, though you may get sneered at and jeered at and even fired, in the long run you get “A White Heat.”  Scoffers can doubt, and point out 30,000 elderly in England felt no “White Heat” this side of Glory, but it is also true people do not take kindly to politicians telling them to freeze, and it it does not take much for a smoldering public to blaze into Light.

I confess I am counting on this unscientific “White Heat” to help out, when I make my proposal that neighbors love neighbors to the degree where they can abide together for sixty days. I know what can go wrong, for I am an old man who remembers the debacles of hippie communes. I furthermore know anyone who had to live with me for sixty days would be sorely tested. However the redeeming thing is that the sixty days would annoy the heck out of the elite in Washington. The sublime satisfaction of annoying such extremely annoying people would make even putting up with me worth it. In fact, it might turn the living situation into a sort of party, quite enjoyable due to the presence of “White Heat.”

In conclusion, that is my proposal. We need to condescend to love our neighbors for sixty days. If others have other ways we might respond to leaders who are barking mad, I am eager to hear their proposals. However I hope we can agree on this: The leadership is barking mad, and it is time to bark back.

MARATHON

Marathon

MARATHON

One odd aspect of writing is that you spend long periods of time just staring.  In the old days it was time spent staring at ink on paper, and now it is time spent staring at type on a computer screen, but in both cases it might as well be tea leaves.

Years ago I was a friend with a Navajo who did not learn to write until rather late in life, and he told me that when he was young print reminded him of chicken tracks and scratchings, and confessed that when young he had wondered why people spent so much time looking at such illegible things.  I confessed I had been reading since age three, and still I wondered the same thing.

After all, writing doesn’t involve your senses.  Music you can hear, and painting you can see, but writing?  You are just staring at senselessness.

People make a big deal of the fact Beethoven made supurb music when he couldn’t even hear, but, for writers, a sort of Helen Keller deafness and blindness is their every day fare.  Why on earth do writers do it?  They could be elsewhere, seeing the green beauty of summer and hearing the symphonies of birdsong, but prefer to basically stare at a blank wall, called paper.

For me paper is a sort of crystal ball.  I am never sure what I will see when I look into the whiteness.  However I do see things, just as Beethoven heard things.  It is a glimpse into a world beyond the physical word, involving a heaven far above my head.  It is a world that is engrossing, absorbing, enchanting, and yet you cannot scientifically prove it even exists.

So engrossing is the enchantment that I can forget to eat, and walk about disheveled and distracted, and long periods of time can pass without my noticing it, and I want to ask odd questions, such as, “Did the apples bloom this year?”

In many ways the enchantment resembles the addiction of an addict, however there is no real physical basis for it. In fact, writing often can result in ruined relationships, lost jobs, genuine poverty and all sorts of physical suffering.  Therefore you get all the problems of drug addiction without even the satisfaction of a physical buzz.

In conclusion, writers are basically airheads, but that definition always bothered me. I didn’t want to be some sort of pathetic beggar with a tin cup, whining for help, and early on, as a young writer, I became determined that I would never beg.  Mooch maybe, but always mooch in a manner where I mowed lawns and did dishes enough to feel I was paying my way, even if I had no money.  And now forty years have passed, and I have run the race and the finish line is not so far ahead, and I’ll be darned if I haven’t gone and done what I set out to do.  I have proven that just because one is an artist doesn’t mean one is incapable of hard work, and being an airhead doesn’t mean you can’t be a pragmatic airhead.

In fact, to brag a bit, I’d say honest labor makes you a better writer, and being a writer makes the job a lot more fun for the people you are working with, even if you yourself do get fired more often than most, (especially when you are young,) for being a blasted airhead.  All in all, I’d recommend pragmatic airheads to bosses, stressing that a pragmatic airhead’s a good thing to have about, because the little you lose, in terms of efficiency, you make up for, in terms of workplace morale.

I assume my wife agrees with me.  After all, she did marry a pragmatic airhead, and has stood by me, and seen me work very hard to bring home the bacon. However she does worry, from time to time, that I am missing the green of summer, and the symphony of birdsongs, because I’m off in my clouds of enchantment.  (She also worries I might forget to pay the electricity bill.) Therefore she does very nice things, so I won’t miss life, lost in my enchantment.

I can’t say I have always appreciated her concern.  After twelve-hour shifts in a nail factory, all I wanted to do was slump and contemplate the crystal ball of a blank sheet of paper.  I was not all that interested in the fact the baby had learned to say “goo.”  However she insisted I come and see, and the pragmatic side of being a pragmatic airhead forces you to go see. However sometimes the artist in me would stand up and rave, “Woman!  Why do you bother me with these pettifogging details!”  Usually I’d wind up apologizing, for the pettifogging detail would turn out to be something I had forgotten that was important, like Christmas.

To be frank, if our paths hadn’t crossed I think I would have died young.  Lots of my fellow artists did exactly that.  I can hardly blame them, for the best things this world has to offer pale in comparison to the other-worldly music physical ears can’t hear, but Beethoven heard clearly. However my wife made this world worth staying in.

Recently she disturbed my idea of a perfect weekend, (sitting around looking at a blank sheet of paper,) by informing me I had agreed to do something I never agreed to.  She’s always doing this to me.  I say something like “maybe,” or “might be interesting,” or, most often, “ugh,” and it is like I have signed some contract with my blood.  No use protesting.  Before I know it, I’m heading off to do something other than look at a blank sheet of paper.

This time I had agreed to something absolutely absurd.  After a long and hard workweek I had agreed to drive for an hour and a half on a Friday night, to watch people run a marathon, and then drive an hour and a half home.  Can you believe it?  I mean, running might be fun for the runner, but when it comes to boring sports, anyone who gets excited watching runners should be kept away from watching cricket or baseball, for they would likely have a heart attack.

However it was my daughter-in-law running the marathon, which was amazing, as she only started running four months ago.  What could I say?  I had to go.

As usually happens when my wife talks me into incredibly boring events, I wasn’t bored.  Sometimes it is my fault the event isn’t boring, but it wasn’t my fault this time. I didn’t have to lift a finger to make things interesting.

First, a strange weather pattern has tropical proto-hurricane blobs zooming up the east coast, even as cold air sets records in Ohio.  Therefore as we drove we moved from a sunny late afternoon towards a looming purple wall of coastal clouds.  Just before we arrived at the site of the marathon, by Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Massachusetts,  fat raindrops came plunking down.  As I got out of the vehicle, and my eldest son greeted me, I told him the end of the rain was near, as roads were dry two miles away.  He told me the roads had been dry two miles away all day, but the clearing only tantalized and never inched any closer, and the rain kept falling.  Then he handed me an umbrella. I thought to myself, “I could be dry and warm at home, looking at a most enchanting blank sheet of paper,” but instead I bit my tongue, and attended to my son as he explained his plan.

The route of the Marathon was eight circuits of Lake Quannapowitt, a circuit being roughly 3.2 miles.  My son’s plan was that, each time my daughter-in-law passed, a different and larger crowd would cheer her on.  What a good guy!  However this happened to mean I had to hide, at first.  Rather than cheering her, (or staying warm at home, looking at a blank sheet of paper, plotting the Great American Novel,) I had to hide from my own daughter-in-law, under an umbrella in platting rain, by a huge pond with the bizarre name of Quannapowitt.  I shot my wife an accusatory glance, as this was not my idea of whooping-it-up on a Friday night.

But I got over it.  It occurred to me that people who run marathons are doing something that makes little sense, much like writers staring at the white wall of a sheet of paper.  Perhaps they make even less sense, for a writer at least has a slight chance of producing a decent ditty, but all a marathon runner gets is: A way of walking funny, for a week afterwards. As incredible as it sounds, they make even less sense than writers do!

They are cousins to writers because, as they run by, they are looking at a wall others cannot see.

As the runners finished the first 3 miles the sun sank in the west, and peeked out from under the skirts of the purple cloud, sending amber beams into the silver rain, and slowly a majestic rainbow arose against the deep purple cloud bank to the east. Because the sun was so low, the rainbow towered, and then a second, dimmer rainbow appeared above the first, and grew as bright than the first had been, as the first grew amazingly brilliant.

The runners heading away from the rainbow looked over their shoulders from time to time, but the others looked giddy and euphoric, for either they ran with a rainbow moving stride for stride beside them, or they ran towards it, as if they could run under a most beautiful arch.

The rainbow shone brilliantly in the east for an amazing hour, as the sun slowly set and created a spectacular sunset to the west. I’ve never seen a rainbow last so long. It stood like a monument to the east, only lifting and fading as the sun set.  You hardly knew which way to look, unless, like me, you were most interested in the beauty of the idiots running a marathon.

It is seldom a writer can observe anyone more impractical and airheaded than the face he faces in the mirror each morning, and therefore I found solace in the spectacle of marathon runners. Furthermore, because the circuit took them around and around the lake, I did not see them pass once, but over and over.

I was, of course, most interested in my daughter-in-law, and was somewhat startled by how changed she was, each time she passed.  Each time she was a different daughter.  At first she was awed,  fearful of the twenty-three miles that still lay ahead.  Then she was hopeful.  Then she was cramped yet determined. Then she was manic and euphoric.  Then she was grim and so focused on the road ahead she could hardly be bothered recognize anyone.

Then it was late, and I left.  It was dark, and the rainbow seemed a mere dream. My wife and I had a 90 minute drive, even to lie down at midnight.  So I left the final nine miles for my good son to oversee, in the deep dark of night.

My wife was glancing around with an odd look, as we walked beneath the streetlights to the car, trying to avoid the runners coming the other way.  When a train passed, and the gate came down on a side street, with red lights flashing and the ding-ding-ding sound, it was a very evocative experience, for she had spent her earliest childhood in a house only five blocks away.  In a way Lake Quannapowitt was where she began the marathon called life.

My daughter-in-law kept going. Even after my wife and I had driven home and collapsed into bed, our daughter was fighting her way ahead to the finish.

She finished so weary she was walking, around 1:00 AM.

I haven’t finished my own marathon, as a writer, yet.  In my own way, I likely will be walking, in the dark after midnight, when I see the finish line of mine. However I will hopefully have the class of those who finish more worldly marathons.

Strangely, I think all people know life itself is a sort of marathon, even if they don’t write. And even if they don’t run.  It is something we all know from the starting line. How else could I have written this couplet, back when I was only nineteen?

“The last mile is hardest,” said the delta to the sea.                                                                 “The last mile is hardest,” said the marathon to me.

If heaven existed on earth, we might have it easier as we get older, however as things stand, Bette Davis was right, and “Old Age ain’t no place for sissies.”

And Yogi Berra was right, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”