Recent: 05/16 Random
- The Grand Ice Age
- Energy, Oil, Gas and Shale
- Where to Live, if Not Earth?
- Uranus – The Seventh Planet
- Santa Claus and Superman
- Out of the Shoe Box
One, Two, Three, Etc. is an arts and craft company that offers Peruvian jewelry, ornaments and accessories at local Craft Shows and Farmers’ Markets.
Proprietor Maria is also a Dream Vacations travel agent. Saturday, May 19 will find the company at the Farmers’ Market at Church of the Holy Apostles 1225 W Grand Pkwy S, Katy, TX 77494 Drop by and have a look, before noon.
Not long ago, one of my Road Trip Interest Group members (you know who you are) asked this question:
“When was the last Ice Age?”
The term “Ice Age” is somewhat ambiguous. Fluctuations in the Earth’s climate are extreme and take place over many periods of time. There have been eras when the Earth was completely devoid of ice. There have been other times when all the Earth’s oceans had completely turned to ice. So, when was the last “Ice Age”?
The most recent time that has been referred to that name was the “Little Ice Age”(LIA). When exactly that was depends on who you ask. The chart below defines the LIA as being between the years 1400 and 1800 AD. This was a time that saw mountain villages in Europe consumed by glaciers. The “Frost Fairs” on the frozen River Thames in London happened at these times and the story of Hans Brinker, likewise. There is ample evidence of the LIA in art, literature and history. Below is a graph of results for last two millenia of proxy derived temperature differences. You see the Little Ice Age as well as what came before.
Timespan: 2000 Years
These are differences in temperatures derived from examination of cylinders of ice drilled out of an ice sheet. Where that zero axis falls depends on how much time is included in the graph. So, these data do not tell us what a thermometer would have said then. But, the historical record tells us that during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) Greenland was occupied by an agricultural civilization where none at that level of technology would be possible in today’s climate. In Alaska there are glaciers that have retreated from the Little Ice Age and uncovered immense tree-stumps still rooted in the ground. There are no such climax forests there today.
They date to about one thousand years ago. So, we know for a fact that the temperatures were warmer then than now. There are some who imagine that this was only the case for the North Atlantic. But, Alaska is not on the Atlantic, is it? And ice cores from Antarctica tell pretty much the same story.
The time before the LIA was much warmer than the climate today. The MWP was, itself just another in a series of warm periods, starting with the Minoan Warm Period and occurring roughly every 1000 years. Below is a graph of oxygen-Isotope proxy temperature anomalies.
Timespan: 11,000 years.
The last “Ice Age” (without the “Little” modifier) is to be seen at the extreme left of the Holocene graph in figure 2. It is more accurately referred to as a “Glaciation” and is a part of a (roughly) one-hundred thousand-year oscillation of extreme cold followed by short periods (10,000 years or less) of warm weather. This cycle is revealed, among other places – in the Vostok and EPICA Ice Core Projects in Antarctica.
Timespan 450,000 years
You see that our current situation is an “Interglacial” age called the Holocene Climate Optimum that comes after the “Ice Age” (Glaciation). The Eemian which came before that Glaciation is another Interglacial in a long series of same, stretching back half a million years – at least. The Holocene appears to be significantly cooler than the previous Interglacials – all of them. (Put that in your “Global Warming” pipe and smoke it! 😉 )
While the future is not yet determined, it looks very much like the Holocene is about over and the next Glaciation is soon to be expected.
But, in all of this, there is still ice at the poles and on mountaintops. The Glaciations seem to be the rule and the “Interglacials”, the exceptions. Could we not say that the entire timespan above was a part of a larger “Grand Ice Age” with only the interglacial times interrupting?
What happens if we widen the time span? Below is a graph of ocean sediment-derived temperatures.
Timespan: Five Million Years.
The fact that those hundred-thousand-year cycles of the previous graph are seen lends credibility to this “proxy” of temperature. Notice those thousand-century cycles are a recent phenomenon (relatively speaking) and followed a period of 41,000 year cycles. Before that was a much warmer time. There is fossil evidence that those were times when there was little or no ice on Earth at all.
Be warned that they will bring up “Global Warming” even though they can’t point to five-million-year-old Ford Explorers or make any reasonable defense of “Man-made Global Warming”. -Steve
Quote from Antarctica:
“She recalled: “We were high up on glaciated peaks when we found a sedimentary layer packed full of fragile leaves and twigs.”
“These fossils proved to be remains of stunted bushes of beech. At only three to five million years old, they were some of the last plants to have lived on the continent before the deep freeze set in.”
The “deep freeze” referred to is when we live now!
WELCOME TO THE GRAND ICE AGE!
It may surprise you to learn that you have been here all along.
I have driven this route a couple of times, but I wish I had seen this video before, just so I could have appreciated the Geology I was passing through.
Your Humble Narrator is not on his normal literary “turf” and hastens to get back to more light-hearted prose. He hopes his loyal readers will excuse this short tour past the “dark side”. The story may be found at AmericanThinker.com. Click the link below the next paragraph.
This story has haunted me since I was a student at UT Austin. The “incident” happened some years before I arrived, but it still hung over the campus like the shadow of a certain Clock Tower. It was brought to the forefront of my conscience in 2006 in a Texas Monthly article on the 40th anniversary. From that and what I already knew, there seemed to be some lessons that we had not taken to heart. The idea incubated in my scatter-brain mind for the next 12 years…
Over The Road
[In 2002, I was back working in Houston, but I was still sent to South America, occasionally. But, this particular post has to do with a private trip we made first to Peru where my wife’s family lives. It was a convenient place to let the the two young sons visit their aunt, uncle and grandmother while the wife and I sneaked off to Argentina for a week. the prices I quote seem ridiculously cheap and not all of that is inflation from then to now – as explained in the text. I was writing “Ten Things You Should Know When Visiting (Blank)” articles, in those days and I just hit a big vein of them in a long-untouched directory copied faithfully from computer to computer over the years.
I can’t find any pictures of this particular trip and I think we were in a video camera phase at that time. We still have the videotapes somewhere, but we never look at them. Someday we will transfer those to digital media and look at the young strangers who took that trip so long ago. Meanwhile I have scarfed a couple of “file photos” just to break up the text. I have put in a few modern remarks which are set off from the 16-year-ago prose with brackets [like this].
Ten Thing You Should Know When Visiting Buenos Aires
*[That’s it in the picture above. If you see 10 pictures of Buenos Aires at random, five of those have this street in them]
[I remember this fountain, which we saw on a bus tour. That must be the Capitol Dome behind it. Another bus tour took us to a Dude Ranch where Gauchos did horse-riding tricks and there was a period house with clothes and furniture of the Early 20th Century. It was there I met the only black man in Argentina (a tourist from Nigeria, it turns out). He asked me to take a picture of him with one of the hats in the exhibit. When he put it on, the “spittin’ image” of Nat King Cole looked back at me. It was quite a vivid impression, like having seen a ghost. You can tell, because I remember it to this day in 2018. The picture below is the real Nat, of course. That man could sing circles around most vocalists of today. He was also an accomplished piano and banjo player. If you can find it on Netflix or at the Redbox, watch the movie “Cat Ballou”]
Buenos Aires is in the midst of a short window of opportunity for affordable travel. Argentina was well-known as an expensive place before and I expect it will return to that status when the economy recovers. I reckon I’ll check the news for the latest country to declare bankruptcy before I plan my next vacation.
Steven B. Campbell Return to Cover Letter
Some time ago, I took an assignment in Venezuela. The position involved on-site data processing at the field location – a leading-edge innovation at the time. From the start, I was involved in marketing, promoting and convincing clients that they wanted data processing in the field. This had the side effect of a higher level of quality control which promoted our position in acquisition contracts. The software was called MicroMAX. I demonstrated and promoted its use in the field on the several crew in Venezuela and trained client personnel (Maraven) along with Western operators who went on to successful contracts for field processing on many crews in South America.
Much of the training and marketing was carried out in Spanish, as one might expect. The projects were on the northern slope of the Andean mountain range as it passes to the South of Lake Maracaibo. After a year there, we were transferred to Eastern Venezuela near Maturin. There, we participated in one of the first 3D Projects in South America. We developed 3D quality control procedures that positioned us for more and better 3D contracts. Later, we continued with the same sort of marketing and promotion in Bolivia.
At Grant Geophysical, we promoted the use of MicroMAX and other QC and field processing software. Myself and my colleagues there were instrumental in the development of MESA and OMNI survey design packages. We also promoted and marketed products like ProMAX, EDS Verify and Census, in the US, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
At Petroleum Geo Services, as a part of the Geophysical Support Group, I marketed their seismic source modeling package MASOMO which is unparalleled in accurate modeling and backed up by exhaustive field testing. In later years, I was the “go-to” expert on MASMO and marketed the package and instructed operators of other contractors (CGG for example) and major oil companies (ExxonMobil,e.g.). I was also frequently called upon to demonstrate data to clients (Anadarko, for example) using the PGS 3D visualization package called holoSeis. We also marketed and executed feasibility and design studies to major clients (PEMEX, Woodside, e.g.).
While others might have ”closed the deals”, my work in promotion, marketing and instruction was crucial in making the sales of software and services, for well over twenty years.
Steve Campbell Return to Cover Letter
Life is in fact a very rare phenomenon, despite the fact that it surrounds most of us (in no small part with the “rest of us”). You might think it to be common, but that is because you are a part of the commonality of it all. Life is not common – outside of our planet, where it is common.
Some points about the rarity:
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
When I was young (that was back in the Cretaceous Era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth), very little was known of what lay beyond that same Earth, even within our own Solar System. It was thought that conditions for Life probably existed on Venus and almost certainly on Mars.
Seasonal changes on Mars that we now know to be dust patterns were taken as sure signs of life. We are now accustomed to sharp clear images of the planets thanks to space probes and extensive image processing of telescope photos. What was available in the early Sixties was not much more than grainy, very low-resolution pictures. As far as Mars was concerned, the expectation of life there was still active right up until the first fly-by images came from Mariner 4 on July 14, 1964.
Those images showed a moon-like, crater-covered surface and the atmosphere was confirmed to be a vanishingly thin layer of carbon dioxide. Those who had held out hope for life on Mars were bitterly disappointed. I know because I was there and this was not at all what I had been led to expect. I am not pointing fingers, you understand. Virtually everybody – scientists included – expected to see something like the early images of desert areas of Earth from space – with, maybe, some cactus plants (roadrunners and coyotes optional). But, these Doses of Reality really were indistinguishable from the airless, lifeless moon and a bitter disillusionment to all. It happened that Mariner 4 did not see the more interesting parts of Mars that later restored some (diminished) hope for life when Mariner 9 images began to arrive.
Probes to Venus sent back even worse news. Cloud-covered Venus had been expected to be a very warm, rainy, damp or perhaps ocean-covered place. All of those scenarios were explored in stories and novels, back in the Golden Age of Science Fiction. If that “Golden Age” phrase puzzles you, go and read these authors: Heinlein, Azimov, Clarke and Bradbury.
Earth observations had already begun to indicate harsh conditions. Measurements from probes revealed that planet to be a quite literal “Hell-hole” with a hot, thick, dry and “crushing” atmosphere that could melt lead. Liquid water – long thought to be a Life “prerequisite” is just a busted myth on Venus.
While Jupiter does possess a magnetic field, it is also surrounded by intense belts of radiation that are trapped in that field. In this regard, I have found some quotes that throw doubt on the chances of hospitable environments on Jupiter’s moon Europa – long thought (after the Voyager probes, that is) to be a good candidate for life.
Some of those doubts:
A Probe called Pioneer 10 was actually the first to encounter Jupiter and there was some concern about radiation levels:
“The level of radiation at Jupiter was ten times more powerful than Pioneer’s designers had predicted, leading to fears that the probe would not survive; however, with a few minor glitches, it managed to pass through the radiation belts, saved in large part by the fact that Jupiter’s magnetosphere had “wobbled” slightly upward at that point, moving away from the spacecraft. However, Pioneer 11 did lose most images of Io, as the radiation had caused its imaging photo polarimeter to receive a number of spurious commands. The subsequent and far more technologically advanced Voyager spacecraft had to be redesigned to cope with the massive radiation levels.” (Magnetosphere of Jupiter, n.d.)
And then there was this, which hammered fifteen more nails into the Europa/Life Coffin::
“The radiation level at the surface of Europa is equivalent to a dose of about 5400 mSv (540 rem) per day, an amount of radiation that would cause severe illness or death in human beings exposed for a single day.:
You might argue that there is a “Goldilocks” Zone deep under Europa’s Ice in a Salty Sea of liquid water. Probably more liquid water than on all of the Earth. The miles of ice and water might well protect from radiation. The idea that life could exist there is reasonable, but completely unproven. But is that someplace you want to spend your retirement?
There was also a very thorough work on the radiation dose expected for Apollo astronauts while passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belts (VABR) on the way to moon landings. It concluded that the dose of radiation was relatively tolerable – mostly because the men did not spend much time there.
So far, places where Earth-like conditions exist are: Earth.
And Then We Get to Titan
Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the third largest moon in the Solar System and larger than planets Mercury and Pluto. And it is just lousy with Earth-like qualities. It has a very dense atmosphere that exceeds the Earth’s sea-level pressure by about 50%.
This first image is pretty much what Voyager 1 saw during its pass by Saturn, arranged especially to look at Titan. It has been known that Titan has an atmosphere since that fact was discovered by Gerald Kuiper (rhymes with “hyper”) in 1944. It became obvious then that to see under this veil of clouds would require more than the cameras aboard the twin Voyager spacecraft. Mostly for that reason was Voyager 2 was cleared (after the successful encounter of Voyager 1 with the satellite) to ignore Titan and continue on a trajectory that would take it to Uranus and Neptune. Had Voyager 1 failed at Titan, Voyager 2 would have followed its brother out of the plane of the Solar System, never having had the opportunity to see the last two Giant planets Uranus and Neptune. Titan got such priority because of its atmosphere which is unique for satellites of any planet.
This second image is from the later Cassini probe that was sent to orbit Saturn and (knowing what Voyager could not see) included an infrared camera which – with some filtering -could see down to the Titanian surface.
While there have been many learned speculations that an exotic form of life might exist that “breathes” hydrogen and exhales methane and “eats” acetylene, none has as yet been detected. “Conventional” Life-as-we-know-it (LAWKI) does these things with oxygen, carbon dioxide and glucose, respectively.
There are indeed Methanogens (i.e., Life that makes methane) on Earth but all of them use liquid water as their “solvent” and none use hydrocarbon liquids as would be the case for the imagined Titanian lifeforms.
I have found no references that indicate the radiation environment is a problem at Titan. This large moon of Saturn is expected to have a subsurface ocean as Europa is thought to have, with the same speculations of “conventional” lifeforms and the same problems to be expected.
Titan is covered with hydrocarbons. These are compounds of hydrogen and carbon that would be called “petroleum” here on Earth. Methane rains down out of the atmosphere and heavier hydrocarbons – solids at that temperature – cover much of the surface resembling sand dunes. These “organic” compounds that have that name because they are -on Earth at least – generally made by lifeforms. I have not read any speculations that Titan’s organics are life-generated.
Titan by virtue of its distance from the sun to Saturn (being 10X that for Earth) receives sunlight arriving there at one percent of what the Earth enjoys. The cloud cover that Titan is notorious for reduces that to one tenth of one percent. Photosynthesis would seem very unlikely. That contributes to a big problem with the idea of Life on Titan. Namely, the temperature, which is so very cold (call it -200 F) that liquid water is decidedly out of the question.
There are, in fact “Great-Lake-size” bodies of liquid on the surface, but they are composed of mostly methane (CH4) – which on Earth is the main component of what’s called Natural Gas. As mentioned earlier, methane is a minor component of Titan’s atmosphere, just as water vapor is in our own Earthly atmosphere and it precipitates to the surface like same.
That would seem to wrap it up for extra-terrestrial life. Several possibilities for environments which show a potential for life, but no evidence that such life exists.
Whatever lifeforms we see fit to deposit…
(from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, in reference to the “Genesis Project”)
Titan’s atmosphere is composed of mostly nitrogen with about 5% methane near ground level with a trace of free hydrogen. While Earth’s atmosphere is similar, being 80% Nitrogen – the remainder consisting mostly of oxygen with a few trace gasses – that of Titan has no free oxygen.
Again, the ground-level air pressure on Titan exceeds that which you are currently experiencing – even as you read. This makes Titan is the only place where walking around outdoors without a space suit might be possible.
There are a few problems with that idea, though.
Indigenous Life in the Solar System – once thought so likely – has been shown to be non-existent as far as we know. This is despite decades of intense research toward finding such life.
There is not much to offer for Human occupation “off-Earth” , either. Unless you want to live life completely indoors, surrounded by radiation shielding or in a space suit (much like being “indoors”) Titan is pretty much it.
Having found this one special second place in the Solar System where some semblance of normal human activity is indeed possible, the list of activities is rather short. You won’t be farming. Astronomy is out, but if you happen to be on the side of Titan that faces Saturn, that ringed planet might be barely visible through the haze. Hiking is good and there might be some spectacular landscapes (not at the Huygens landing zone, I’ll admit). Night-vision goggles might be appropriate.
There is one aspect might make it all worthwhile. Titan’s gravity is a bit less than that of our Moon. About 1/6th of Earth. That combined with the thick atmosphere should make human-powered flight possible. Not just possible, but easy! Even if all your cold-weather clothes, SCUBA gear and “wings” weigh as much as you do, you would still have only one third of your weight on Earth.
There is a sub-culture of misinformed people who think that Humanity’s only salvation will be to move to “another planet”. These folks tend to be against things like fossil fuels and nuclear power. Ironically, if Titan (about the best you can find) is your “other planet”, you will be surrounded by petroleum and using nukes for electricity – in bitter cold and perpetual (more-or-less) darkness.
But you could fly!
Ex Scientia, Veritas,
Star Trek II quote: “Instead of a dead moon, a living, breathing planet, capable of sustaining whatever lifeforms we see fit to deposit on it.” – Dr. Carol Marcus
Van Allen Belt Radiation: http://www.braeunig.us/apollo/VABraddose.htm
Mars Axis instability: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia15095.html#.WmOspainHIU
Venus (Venera): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus
Radioisotope generator: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/fact_sheets/radioisotope-power-systems.pdf