13 May, 2015

2015-16 El Niño Officially Declared By Three Major Pacific Rim Agencies: Examining the Evidence... and the Feedback

UPDATE 5/14/2015: Damaging winds, hail, severe TSTM affecting NorCal. Meanwhile, the monstrous +6°C (at depth) oceanic Kelvin wave in the tropical Pacific now has an atmospheric companion just as powerful:

FYI, those are upper-level wind anomalies on that map; easterly upper-level anomalies indicate an inverted Walker circulation and, thus, westerly surface anomalies of the same speed. Inverted Walker circulation Kelvin waves coupled with downwelling oceanic Kelvin waves in the Pacific, on top of the presence of the Southern Hemisphere Booster (see below) to keep everything in check, are fully indicative that an El Niño ocean-atmosphere feedback loop is in full effect.

Original post continues below.

After a rather hellishly dry winter for the 4th year in a row, this spring sure has been an exciting one to say the least. Last month, a deep Gulf of Alaska trough brought a brief but substantial set of unusual spring downpours, and here we are, on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. There was an inside slider (ugh!) last week that did manage to bring at least some measurable precipitation... ah, but now there's yet another deep Gulf of Alaska trough approaching. This one is set to hit tomorrow night into Friday, bringing a maelstrom of thunderstorms (including ones capable of producing [!] more hail ― possibly much bigger, say, the size of golf balls this time around since spring cloud tops are much higher than winter ones) and heavy downpours, not to mention extreme snowfall amounts in the range of two feet or more above 5000 feet in elevation. All this in what is normally the first month of California's dry season, and the result is a May that could end up being, just with these two storms alone, more than three times the average.

Meanwhile in the tropical Pacific, it's really getting hot out there. High temperatures, in what should be fall into winter in the southern hemisphere, are now soaring into the 80's in Peru and northern Chile, and the water off their coast (normally the Humboldt Current is cold indeed) is now also in the low 80's. In Australia, however, it's getting rather cold: temps are now in the 40's in southern and eastern Australia, in what really is their fall, not winter, thanks to a powerful storm (the Southern Hemisphere Booster) that actually sent high surf all the way here last week, and since this is cold dry air coming from the desert that is Antarctica (and moving over the desert that is Australia's Outback) we're talking about, it's also drying out Indonesia, creating an atmospheric pachyderm (tropical blocking high) that's forcing all the tropical convection to move east, creating an army of powerful westerly wind bursts ― three of which (and counting) have made it all the way across the tropical Pacific from one end to the other, so far ― that are pushing warm water anomalously from west to east along the Pacific equator and Ekman-pumping it into Kelvin waves at the same instant. Sound familiar?

19th century Peruvian fishermen coined a name for this phenomenon, satirizing over its tendency to peak around Christmas time: El Niño. That's right, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, Japan's JAMSTEC, and NOAA all agree: we're talking about a whopper of an El Niño developing in the Pacific right now, and we all know what that means: consider these recent anomalous May deluges a foretaste of the drought-buster to come. The most recent moderate El Niño ― 2009-10 ― completely wiped out a drought that began in 2006-07, dumping rainfall totals that amounted in not inches, but *feet* that winter, with two of those feet of rain (and tens of feet of snow) falling with just one storm (technically a vaguely Sandy-like hybrid of a super-typhoon, Pineapple Express, and Aleutian low that actually predates Sandy by three years). The most recent El Niño comparable to this one, however, in 1997-98, managed to dump rainfall totals of 44 inches in San Francisco (a record) and 33 or so inches in Los Angeles (second only to 1883-84, by a hair). To put this in perspective, those extreme anomalies off South America (averaging 3°C above normal) are actually unprecedented this early in the developing stages of an El Niño event: Even 1997-98 barely reached +1°C in Niño1+2 (that region right off South America) back in May 1997. Moreover, once that Southern Hemisphere Booster is locked into position and keeps dumping Antarctic air across Australia, keeping the Indonesian atmospheric pachyderm locked into position, it upwells anomalously cold water off northern Australia, creating a west-to-east tropical Pacific MSLP gradient, and thus, more westerly wind bursts. Notice the feedback loop?

Since the southern hemisphere is now approaching its winter with an El Niño now rapidly intensifying, there's only one way the El Niño can go from here: into total overdrive. Expect to see that booster keep sending more and more Antarctic air through the back door, into the tropical Pacific, and set into motion a favorable environment for rapid El Niño intensification throughout the Northern Hemisphere summer and fall, sending the eastern Pacific hurricane season into overdrive (again) while shearing Atlantic storms apart at the same instant. Finally, as next winter comes into play, what fuels the EPAC hurricanes also fuels atmospheric rivers. Convection in the Pacific remains east of the date line. This tropical convection ― which is in turn a result of the El Niño induced westerly wind bursts ― is what atmospheric rivers depend on for fuel, and since those storms then go on to drag the tropical convection eastward, they also drag the westerly wind bursts east with them, strengthening the El Niño even more throughout the winter. Finally, as the spring comes around, it quiets down... but by then the drought will have been completely erased thanks to rainfall totals on par with 1997-98 (or more extreme still) that could easily top three, four, even five feet of rain and as much as 60 feet of Sierra snow in the same instant. Consider yourself warned, drought: you may have only left us with one year of water, but with this El Niño feedback loop now taking off, you also only have one year left to taunt us.

26 March, 2015

The Rise of the Catalina Anti-Eddy

At 12AM yesterday, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, I was watching several episodes of Why Planes Crash, one of my favorite Weather Channel series. You know how, at the bottom of every TWC screen, there's this changing strip that shows the conditons in the local cities? Anyhow, the wind directions shown in Laguna Beach and San Clemente were quite extraordinary to say the least. What were they exactly? San Clemente was showing due-easterly winds at 11mph. Water is transported toward the north in response to winds blowing from a direction like that. Meanwhile, in Laguna Beach, the winds were from the SSW at 6mph. That is a wind pattern that tends to favor anticyclonic gyrogenesis through Ekman transport, as the below diagram demonstrates:

Fast-forward to last night, and the pattern changed. Instead of blowing out of different directions, both were showing due-easterly winds of 11mph and 15mph, respectively, while winds in Irvine were blowing from the WNW. Using Weather Underground's awesome app, I decided to check to see if there was any boundary separating the differing wind directions (usually marked by a dashed line on the map). Sure enough, there was, and it was retreating westward while continuing to intensify.

Then, I checked the sea surface temperature map this morning. Sure enough, the wind vector boundary, combined with the gyre in question, ended up retreating to that region just south of Catalina Island that tends to favor the formation of gyres:

Whereas cyclonic gyres — which is what the famous Catalina gyre typically is — tend to upwell in the middle and downwell around the edges, anticyclonic gyres do the opposite. They downwell in the middle, and this sea surface temperature profile reflects that.

What makes this so peculiar is that when it comes to gyres, whether cyclonic or anticyclonic, it doesn't matter what direction winds come from, they intensify regardless. If the winds blow from the east or southeast, they induce rear-flank downwelling, which speeds up the subsurface rotation, intensifying the gyre, which in this case warms up the ocean through gyre downwelling. If they blow out of the west or northwest, the water is transported past the eastern side of the gyre, speeding up the rotation on the surface, intensifying the gyre, again causing ocean warming. If they blow out of the southwest, the water is transported past the northeast side of the gyre, again speeding up the rotation, intensifying the gyre and causing more ocean warming. And finally, if the winds blow out of the northeast, like they do ever so often during Santa Ana season, the water passes the gyre on the western flank, once again intensifying the gyre's rotation, AND, since those winds are typically dry, they induce more evaporation of the water in the middle of the gyre, resulting in anomalously high gyre salinity, and thus, an ocean warming double whammy.

So now we've got a runaway feedback on our hands. Combine this with a potentially highly active El Niño hurricane season in the eastern Pacific once again, and, yeah, this could get interesting.

07 March, 2015

Experiment and Result: How Salinity Affects Sea Surface Temperature

When you know you're in a devastating drought, what's the last type of weather forecast you'd ever want to hear when watching TV? If that drought is in the Midwest, it would be Chinook winds, would it not? In California, of course, which is already in its worst drought in 1200 years, that worst possible forecast would of course be the hellish Santa Ana winds. Yet those winds were exactly what were forecasted yesterday. Despite the fact that the subtropical jet is intensifying again and EPO is going positive, California was still not getting in on the action. So, I decided it was time to investigate, figure out what was going on, and take action to counter that myself.

For starters, I have seen some rather interesting photos of people floating on the surface of the Dead Sea without any flotation devices due to how dense that water is, and with explanations that the density is in turn due to the salinity. Also, I am fully aware that a combination of temperature and salinity, with salinity being by far on top, is what drives the thermohaline circulation, since warm water with dry air on top of it (which can be either hot/dry or cold/dry and still have the same effect) tends to evaporate faster, and since evaporation leaves all the salt behind, the water that is left behind becomes saltier, denser, and thus, more prone to downwelling.

Therefore, I thought of a rather ingenious hypothesis the night before (worship/post-worship fun night): What would happen to the sea surface temperatures off SoCal if the salinity of the local waters were to suddenly increase during a critical time when hot, dry air is blowing over those waters in the form of Santa Ana winds?

Early the following morning, the day those dry Santa Ana winds were forecast, I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to test that hypothesis. I biked to the beach (specifically Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point) to beat the heat, of course, but I also made a little pit stop on the way there. In Laguna Niguel, practically right on my route there, is a Walmart. I stopped there to see how expensive those one-liter cans of salt were. Sure enough, they cost only 78¢ per can. So, I got four of them, totaling 1 full gallon of pure salt, enough to double the salinity of 33.3 gallons of seawater. Then, I slipped that salt in my backpack, headed down to the beach, spotted a rip current, and dumped all that salt in the water at about 9AM, which is by far the perfect time on a day like that since it gives that increased salt time to force some of the local waters to downwell (and evaporate) prior to those hellish Santa Ana conditions.

From there, I rode back up to Laguna Niguel to have lunch, then went back to the beach, this time to Aliso Beach. When I got there, I got in the water, and noticed that its temperature had indeed risen. And when those (weak) Santa Ana winds then began blowing, the water didn't cool as it normally would have. No, because of the increased local salinity, it actually warmed due to the resulting feedback effect. Remember, when air is dry, water evaporates VERY rapidly. And when salt water evaporates, the vapor becomes fresh water, leaving the salt behind, making the water saltier and denser still. Since water that is dense becomes heavy and wants to downwell, that downwelling pulls heat down with it, making the water even warmer.

I then checked the sea surface temperature map this morning. When I had last checked it prior to that intervention ― sure enough, just before heading down to the beach ― it was indeed anomalously warm, but only in about the low 60's. This morning, however, this tongue of warm water in the upper 60's to low 70's (!) that didn't exist before suddenly stretched from Baja up the coast almost to Los Angeles. Then, as I zoomed out even further, I noticed an almost dead Kuroshio Current with exceptionally cold water choking it out, and also noticed more anomalous equatorial downwelling east of the Date Line, not to mention eastward movement of Asian water against the will of the Trade Winds (the calling card of El Niño).

I was stunned. How could I have known that busting this devastating drought would be that easy? Remember, water that comes in to replace that resulting anomalous downwelling naturally wants to curve to the right due to the Coriolis effect. That means from Mexico, around the tip of Baja, and ultimately northward. Consequently, warm water must also then flow eastward along the equator (which already has a level that is rather imbalanced) to replace THAT water, and so on and so forth. The results I spotted on that map matched perfectly with my hypothesis.

SST anomalies of that scale right off California may result in dry winters, to be fair, but when it comes to summer (read: hurricane season), they couldn't be more beneficial, to say the least. They not only enhance the hurricane season in the eastern Pacific but also the monsoon, which tends to cause a normally dry season to become a season of pop-up convective thunderstorms and dew points in the 70's. What's more, if the resulting SSTs reach a certain threshold (like they did in 2006, when a buoy stationed near Newport Beach reported 80-degree waters and another one further offshore in San Diego County reported SSTs near 83°F) ― 82.8°F ― they end up becoming fuel for tropical cyclones.

Last summer, Hurricane Marie was a storm for the record books, to say the least. It was the first tropical cyclone to reach Category 5 status in the Pacific east of the International Date Line (the dividing line between typhoons and hurricanes) since 2010's Hurricane Celia. Despite not even coming close to California shores and weakening to a tropical storm at the same latitude as Ensenada due to the exceptionally cold waters that normally serve to shield us Californians from hurricanes (that's exactly why you don't usually hear of hurricanes hitting California: cold water), Marie's 160mph sustained winds with 195mph gusts extending a whopping 400 miles out from the eye were enough to send 25-foot waves careening into the California coast from more than 1000 miles away. Surfers, of course, were absolutely loving it, but they were the only ones who were. Those who lived near the coast, especially low-lying regions such as Seal Beach, woke up to find several feet of salt water in their homes, and a lifeguard station up in Malibu was completely washed away into the ocean.

Should a storm like Marie actually take advantage of anomalous sea surface temperatures and make landfall in California at the perfect time, however, it would definitely be the ultimate drought-buster, to be sure. Then again, it's kind of a two-edged sword due to the amount of wind and (especially) flood damage that hurricanes cause, but it would definitely be a sure way to get those reservoirs full and our groundwater up to par. Then again, that's a topic for another post that won't be published until it actually occurs...

05 March, 2015

Evil is Not a "Problem", It's Hard Evidence Supporting Christianity

Ever wonder what the number 1 reason why some people are atheists? Science? Nope, far from it. Intelligence? Again, no. It's actually something far more trivial. It's something that exists (to be sure), but also something whose existence is taken out of context by those who try to argue against us. That something is the evil in the world. They often throw some rather exaggerated claims out there. After all, their arguments do seem valid to some: If evil does exist, why doesn't God do something about it? Why hasn't He? At least, why hasn't He yet? What they don't realize is that without God, evil itself would be good.

That's how you know they're hypocrites. Can you have rust if you don't first have iron/steel for air and/or water to oxidize? Can you have death without first having life? Can you have disease without a host? Pollution without air or water to pollute? No, no, no, and no. Just as rust corrupts metal, just as death corrupts life, disease health, and pollution clean air and water, so too does evil corrupt good. What makes this rather peculiar, however, is that people who go through evil themselves are often the ones to believe those atheist myths.

Atheists love to taunt us in response to that argument by claiming that morals were invented by mankind. Wait, what? Aren't there societies in the present and in the past that actually believe evil to be good? In fact, there are and were. The most prominent example of this is the most evil of evil societies that was Nazi Germany. It was a society in which Hitler made all the rules, and the resulting consequences were catastrophic. Not only did this society lead the world into a war that would dwarf Woodrow Wilson's "war to end all wars" by a factor of 10, but it also would carry out a hellish attempt to systematically exterminate entire races of people, which of course failed since the people that the Nazis tried to exterminate still exist today.

When that war ended and Americans and Brits once again came out on top, a series of criminal tribunals for the heinous acts committed by the Nazi officials began. These became known as the Nuremberg Trials. One by one, the Nazi officials were sent to court and charges were pressed against them. However, these trials couldn't have been more difficult. Why? Why didn't they just surrender? Because the Nazis' moral compass wasn't of God, it was of Hitler.

That's where the refutation to Euthypro's dilemma comes in. Atheists will often claim that the morality of an act is determined by A, the intent, and B, the effect of that act. But guess what? Having been brainwashed by Hitler, these puppet murderers actually believed that their heinous crimes weren't crimes at all. Nowadays, we actually have an international set of laws against crimes against humanity, such as genocide, along with a UN to enforce them. Back then, however, neither the UN nor the international laws that it legislates/executes existed. Therefore, if it weren't for a divine set of standards to hold those evil people accountable to, the Nuremberg Trials would have been futile. In order to get the Nazis to stop believing that the intent to exterminate Jews and the effect of that intent were good and imbue a sense of guilt into them for their wrongdoings, the argument of a "higher" set of laws at those trials had to be brought up, and at the time, no such code existed except for the one in the Bible.

So, wait, if evil corrupts good as I said above, then why doesn't God constantly work to keep restoring the good in this world? In Revelation 22, He will ultimately "stop" evil. For now, however, He's given us, the church, that job (Matthew 28:16-20). Whether or not that commission is fulfilled depends on how we as Christians act in front of other people. Although we are all human (Romans 3:23), and were saved not by what we do but what Jesus did (Ephesians 2:8-10), the only way we are ever able to save others is by practicing what we preach and not being hypocrites. Otherwise, if we say one thing and do another, we end up setting a bad example to the newbies. Bottom line: Until evil is stopped, it's our job as believers to be the light in the world that the world may see who God is through the example that we as believers set.

01 March, 2015

Bardarbunga: The Perfect AMO-Killer, PDO-Booster, ENSO-Booster, and African Easterly Jet killer

There's no doubt that explosive volcanic eruptions are capable of causing some wild climatic effects. Eruptions such as those of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, Krakatoa in 1883, and Tambora in 1816 wreaked havoc across the planet, beginning with ENSO, of course, and ending with winters for the record books. But so far, one eruption that caused climate change, particularly cooling, came not out of a big cone, or a caldera, or anything capable of triggering an explosive eruption, but rather out of a fissure, one that greatly resembles the eruption of the similar Holuhraun fissure system near the Bardarbunga volcano that began erupting in August of last year and didn't stop until yesterday.

KirkjubæjarklausturIceland. June 8, 1783. A temperate Icelandic summer day soon turns rather... hazy, as the nearby Laki fissure system begins oozing lava and pumping a lethal cocktail of toxic gases, including sulfur dioxide and hydrogen fluoride, into the atmosphere. No ash fell, nor were any loud sounds heard for miles. Nope, this thing was just gently oozing toxic gas into the atmosphere over a period of eight months that didn't end until February 7, 1784. This emission of these acidic gases, however, was all that was needed to cause mass disruption of climate across the globe, a disruption that starkly resembles ENSO to an exceptional degree.

One of the first effects was actually quite bizarre: summer heat. Surprisingly, the weather got unspeakably hot across most of Europe from June to August during the first phase of the eruption. This may, of course, be attributed to the fact that not only SO2 and HF but also CO2 are released during such eruptions, but the true culprit remains a mystery. Of course, that heat wave also resulted in the formation of severe thunderstorms large enough to produce hail. In Europe specifically, this hail, which would have been similar to the hail that we modern people would see as being the size of baseballs, resulted in widespread crop damage during what should be the growing season. Then, of course, it skipped fall (which the summer was in the US) and went straight into winter.

That winter was especially harsh. According to reports from both Europe and the newly independent United States, it was one that not even this record 2014-15 winter, which is clearly one for the record books thus far, could even come close to topping. Temperatures were, like they are now, below zero in the eastern US for a good chunk of the winter. In fact, temperatures got so unspeakably cold that even the Gulf of Mexico froze! Crops failed as late as May, and in Europe, famine was widespread. Across the globe, it's estimated that more than 6 million people perished from the climatic impact of this seemingly gentle eruption.

Meanwhile, in the tropics, the Laki SO2 had other, far different (albeit familiar) effects. Thanks to the unusually extreme European cold, dry air began sweeping over Africa, over the Sahara, cutting off the African Easterly Jet and weakening the trade winds. Over Asia, that cold, dirty air made the high pressure over Tibet persist, causing the Indian Monsoon to also fail. In the Pacific, however, the effect was the opposite. Because the Atlantic was cold and so was the East Indian Ocean, the Pacific warmed up like wildfire. A super-strong multi-year El Niño began a few years after the eruption (presumably because there were a whole lot of factors that had to change prior to the El Niño, unlike in the case of today where we've got an El Niño that's already three years overdue), in 1789, and didn't end until 1793, causing flooding in California (then a Spanish colony; I would love to see if I could find some Spanish records of the storms, especially given that I learned almost 3 years of Spanish as a second language in high school) and South America that would be for the record books, for sure.

See, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen fluoride are acid gases. The mechanism of their toxicity is far different from the mechanism of action of gases like carbon monoxide that just put you to sleep for good. No, these gases will simply burn your lungs into oblivion if you try to breathe them. That's because when they contact water (which our lungs are full of), they turn that water into, respectively, sulfuric acid and hydrofluoric acid. Those strong, highly corrosive acids, then, are what do most of the damage. They can cause everything from wheezing and coughing all the way to pulmonary edema, which makes it excruciatingly painful to breathe, leading to death. That same property ― turning water into acid ― however, is also what makes these gases hard on the climate, potentially even more so than the ash. Why? When that acid happens to be acid high up in the atmosphere ― that is, in the clouds ― it's going to take a whole lot more than just a little sunlight to remove it. The reason? Its high albedo. Compared to water droplets, acid droplets are far more reflective and can persist far longer at the upper levels. They can take on rather bizarre yellowish or greenish colors, acting like a smokescreen that can drift to very high, even stratospheric levels. This has the effect of reflecting sunlight that would otherwise reach the surface and warm us up right back out into space.

Of course, that albedo-increasing property bring us right back to Bardarbunga. Although the eruption at Holuhraun was only 6 months long compared to 8 months for Laki, it's still probably at least one of several reasons why this current winter simply doesn't want to end. That is due, of course, to the extreme quantities of sulfur dioxide that it managed to release into the atmosphere, which was estimated to have peaked at a whopping 35,000 metric tons per day for 184 days, totaling 6.44 million metric tons of SO2. People have smelled Bardarbunga sulfur as far away as Norway, and SO2 concentrations in Austria have been in some cases higher than they were in the 1980's as a result of this eruption, believed to be emitting twice the amount of sulfur dioxide of all of Europe's power plant and oil refinery smokestacks combined.

That's a tremendous amount of reflective SO2 aerosols, if you ask me. And, of course, with now sulfur-coated Europe being so close to North Africa, the African Easterly Jet is now also likely to be affected. Yeah, that in turn allows for strong wind shear in the Atlantic, and from there, well, I think we all know what that means. Less hurricanes in the Atlantic but more in the eastern Pacific, which is of course abnormally warm... and if the effect on the Indian Monsoon is also one inducing a failure, it's likely that the resulting SST imbalance between the Indian and Pacific Oceans should also be enough to cause westerly wind bursts to ramp up like wildfire, which of course they're already trying to, and there's also already a Kelvin wave in progress as icing on the cake. Then again, we'll never really know until we actually see the activity...

24 February, 2015

What Sea Level Rise Models Fail to Take Into Account: Thermohaline Circulation Disruption

Ever wonder why sea level rise is one of the key "doom-mongering" points being used regarding climate science? Won't a gradual rise in sea level give us plenty of time ― hundreds of years ― to get out of harm's way? Actually, no, because it's a known scientific fact that sea level rise isn't linear. Sometimes it is. Other times, however, entire ice sheets collapse, sending sea levels rising abruptly ― I watched a video about this very phenomenon a couple of days ago ― of course, it's a video that dwells on sea level rise with absolutely no regard for any other impacts, but given that it is an alarmist video, that's not surprising. Anyhow, over the past 10,000 years, several so-called "meltwater pulses" triggered by sudden collapses of large masses such as the Laurentide Ice Sheet made sea levels rise at astounding rates ― in one such case, it is believed to have risen as much as 32.5 times faster than today. That being said, there is one key detail that the models regarding MWPs don't take into account: what happens to the ocean currents when abrupt sea level rises occur.

See, there's this global circuit called the thermohaline circulation. It acts like a global heater, transporting warm equatorial water northward. This, in turn, is exactly why some high-latitude places such as Europe and the Pacific Northwest are (usually) as warm as they are during the winter compared to other places, such as Canada and New York, at the same latitude: because of the warm water being transported northward by the thermohaline circulation, which warms the air above through the release of water vapor (a greenhouse gas that, molecule for molecule, is more than 2,000 times as potent as carbon dioxide, but has an atmospheric half-life of only a week compared to hundreds or thousands of years in the case of gases such as methane and CO2). This system, however, has a weakness: the delicate balance of warm, cold, salt, and fresh water that it depends on.

One needs to realize that in order to understand how fragile the thermohaline circulation is, one must first take into account how it works: When warm water moves north from the equator in response to constriction against continents by the normal (not anomalous) east-west flow of the trade winds, it moves into regions of colder, drier air. As a consequence, it evaporates more and more rapidly the further north it gets. That excess evaporation, in turn, results in an increase in salinity, density, and, thus, weight, so it sinks. Then, at the subsurface, the water moves back toward the equator from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, heating up again. This self-perpetuating cycle normally makes places like the eastern US and Europe relatively temperate as far as climate is concerned. Normally.

Dumping large amounts of fresh water into the ocean from the north (or south) ― yes, even in the form of meltwater pulses ― however, puts this pattern in jeopardy. Remember that water gets denser the more saline it gets. Being less dense, fresh water tends to float on top of the salt water below. This, in turn, forces the warm ocean currents to downwell closer to the equator. Meanwhile, despite being less dense than salt water, fresh water still has a freezing point 4 °F higher (32°F) than salt water (28°F) does. The result? More sea ice. Sea ice which, in turn, increases the albedo of the oceans further north and south. Albedo increases, in turn, reflect more sunlight right back out into space, hampering the Sun's ability to warm the northern and southern regions, resulting in more ice, more snow, more albedo, and more cooling. This runaway process has in fact been responsible for several abrupt climate shifts in the past, including both the Younger Dryas ― likely the result of a meltwater pulse triggered by the late-Pleistocene thermal maximum ― and the Big Chill of 6200 BC, which may in fact have been triggered by none other than the aforementioned Pulse 1A.

So, in regards to sea level rise, therein lies the problem. Although meltwater pulses do indeed raise sea level, they also disrupt the very ocean currents that sustain them. This, in turn, leads to periods of cooling and advancing glaciers, and in some cases, even new Ice Ages. Although, I must admit, those then present a myriad of problems of their own... but that's a topic for another post.

11 January, 2015

The ARkStorm's Secret Ingredient: Indonesia's Makian Volcano

I must admit, it's been somewhat of a mystery with regards to exactly what kind of recipe we would need with regards to a potential 1861-62 repeat. After all, it wasn't ENSO, it wasn't just ++PDO (evidenced by a prolonged drought that began in 1854 and never ended in NorCal until 1861, but was interrupted in SoCal by the 1858 San Diego hurricane which is only possible with severely anomalous SSTs off CA ― go figure), it wasn't even -AMO... it would have to have been a combination of multiple different factors, to be sure. No satellite data from 1861-62 has ever been obtained. Nor has any SST data been directly obtained from that time. All meteorologists had at that time were pieces of elementary equipment such as thermometers and barometers, with all other characteristics of the storms of the time, including their recipes, remaining a mystery.

Then, I began to research the final variable: volcanism. After all, volcanoes do a profound job of influencing meteorological patterns, yes, including ENSO ― all one needs to do is look at the devastating 1815-17 and 1883-84 El Niño events, in which volcanism has caused not just extreme El Niño, but a combination of El Niño and a big chill. In the 1815-17 case, the weather in Europe and the US East Coast got so unbelievably cold that it snowed even in May/June in cold areas, while in places like CA (then a Spanish colony), El Niño conditions caused the exact opposite ― storm after storm after storm after storm, for a full year and a half. The Los Angeles floods of 1883-84 ― also a result of a volcanism-induced ENSO shift, this time from Krakatoa ― were exceptionally devastating as well.

In modern times, there were also cases of volcanic eruptions followed very closely by ENSO shifts that we have in fact seen first-hand. In April 1982, as the poster child for volcanism-induced ENSO activity, Galunggung began erupting. When did it cease? Not until December 1983, and by that time, it had triggered an El Niño that was second only to 1997-98 in terms of its intensity. In February 1990, as another example, Kelud sent out a VEI-4 blast... and right afterward, an El Niño began to ensue, beginning as exceptionally strong, then constantly fluctuating between weak, strong (in 1991-92), and moderate. What this El Niño lacked in intensity, however, it made up for in duration. It lasted 5 years. 5 years of back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back El Niño. Fast forward, to, sure enough, February 2014, and, guess what? Kelud erupts again with the same intensity, resulting in similarly erratic ENSO activity. I began to wonder: Could a similar Indonesian volcanic event have triggered the ARkStorm?

Sure enough, there was just such an eruption at just the right time.

The culprit? Makian. On December 28, 1861 ― almost exactly when the most recent ARkStorm began deluging California ― this volcanic island, just north of the equator in the Indian Ocean, began to blow. The VEI reading was a 4 ― not particularly powerful (the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull was the same intensity), but unlike Eyjafjallajökull, this eruption kept coming. It began in December 1861 and lasted until long after the ARkStorm was over, pumping ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere until October of 1862. Ten months of volcanic terror. And for the first three months, California was just as devastated as eastern Indonesia was.

See, what makes Indonesian volcanoes have the impact on ENSO and PDO that they have so particularly strong is location, location, location: A, almost smackdab on the equator, and B, perfectly nestled between the Pacific and Indian oceans. See, the trade winds not only (normally) blow from east to west along the equator, but they also converge. Any volcanic material that ends up caught in them has only one way to go: toward the equator. There, it's forced to collect. It's forced to increase the albedo of the tropical atmosphere. Any sunlight that would normally warm that specific region gets reflected right back into space. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the sun still has all the free reign in the world to shine on the equator. What does that imbalance of solar input do? Allow high pressure to build in the Indian Ocean, forcing the trade winds to reverse. Then when the trade winds do reverse, the volcanic material can also force high pressure to build in the Western Pacific and make those reversed trade winds even more powerful, which, in turn, forces the water in the Eastern Pacific to warm up even more.

When that happens to occur while an atmospheric river is already in the process of deluging California, the natural result is a recipe for disaster, to be sure. The atmospheric river becomes locked in place. It becomes stronger with each passing Kelvin wave, and Ekman transport doesn't help either, since when water curves right of an atmospheric river, it has only one way to go: toward the equator, where it is forced to downwell, adding to the already anomalous sea surface temperatures. It's a runaway feedback. If the drought is caused by a "ridiculously resilient ridge" (RRR), then there's an even more appropriate term for the ARkStorm: "ridiculously resilient atmospheric river" (RRAR). It is a monster storm that won't end for months.

Now that it's 2015, we're in a similar drought to what we were in way back in the late 1850's, that's for sure. In 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, of course, massive floods occurred on the Sacramento river system. Starting in 1854, however, guess what? Nothing. Nothing in northern California until 1861. Meanwhile, it was southern California, particularly in unseasonable times, that felt the first sighs of relief. Increased monsoon activity and tropical cyclone remnants, not to mention those notorious Baja lows like the one we had today, were also commonplace back then. Smackdab in the middle of that 8-year drought (just like this drought that began in 2011 ― that puts 2015 in prime position to become a possible repeat of 1858), moreover, was that Category 1 October monster that impacted a swath stretching from San Diego to Los Angeles with 85mph sustained winds (and gusts near 100mph), 15-foot storm surge, and rainfall totals in feet. It was welcome relief (if you don't count wind and storm surge damage as having spoiled it), but not until 1861 did it finally get busted across the entire state. Then again, the fact that it got busted with an exceptionally extreme precipitation event that was enough to turn the entire Central Valley into an inland sea, especially if drought-induced ground subsidence is taken into account, should be enough to send any Californian reeling.

03 January, 2015

More Evidence for the 2014-1x El Niño: The "Devil Weed" Invasion

When people think of the (normally) cold waters off California, specifically the subsurface, what usually comes to mind in regards to the habitat? Usually, it's kelp forest, is it not? I mean, after all, giant kelp is some of the fastest-growing seaweed in the world, and it thrives not in warm but in cold water. In 2014, however, the abnormally warm California waters have put this habitat in jeopardy. Last summer, I have been somewhat of an eyewitness to this kelpmageddon during my hurricane surf documentation trips to Aliso, Strands, and Doheny State Beaches: powerful longshore currents kicked up by Hurricanes Lowell, Marie, Norbert, Odile, and Simon have managed to uproot countless kelp forests, ball them up into wads, and then send them careening onto and up the coast, in some cases at speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour. This, naturally, devastated large swaths of kelp forest. Now that it's 2015, however, another kelp killer has moved in, and it happens to be another competing seaweed of Japanese origin. Unlike kelp, this invader can only get a maximum of 10 feet tall, leaving hundreds of feet of ocean subsurface exposed to the intense California sun. The weed in question is Sargassum horneri, commonly known as "devil weed" due to its notoriously competitive behavior.

Note the origin of this invasive species: Japan. That's a region where warm water, in the form of the Kuroshio Current ― the Pacific's analog of the Gulf Stream ― is normal, not anomalous. The reason why this particular invader does so well there is because, unlike kelp, it does not grow hundreds of feet toward the surface to reach the sun. Rather, it is able to make use of what little sunlight reaches the depths that it grows at to sustain itself, and as a result, waves from typhoons, winter storms, and (now) East Pacific hurricanes (there's a fine line that separates typhoons and hurricanes for those who are confused: the International Date Line. Only if it forms west of the International Date Line is a tropical cyclone ever called a typhoon; otherwise, it's still a hurricane, although some date line crossers, such as Genevieve, can in fact bear both monikers) do not affect it the way they do kelp, which, thanks to its height and relatively shallow root system, can be easily uprooted by wave action. Also, the more anomalous the sea surface temperatures are, the faster Sargassum is able to grow; thus, in this exceptionally warm ENSO/PDO/climate change anomaly, while kelp is suffering, Sargassum is flourishing.

There's a side effect to this invasive species, however: Unlike in Japan, where (if I'm not mistaken) fish such as blowfish and lionfish regularly keep it in check, in California, no natural predators exist to keep this devilish weed, which some could call "sea crabgrass" due to the stringy mats, similar to wheat fields, that it forms on the ocean floor, from, in the worst case, preventing the kelp forests from ever recovering. Fish that depend on those kelp forests are also vulnerable as a result, and since Sargassum doesn't produce nearly as much oxygen through photosynthesis as kelp does due to it simply not being as tall nor their leaflike structures having as much surface area (Sargassum leaves are grasslike, not broad like kelp leaves), local ocean anoxia is also a potentially serious problem. Even so, that's not the worst impact that this invasion could have.

Part of the reason why the waters off California are usually cold is because of the kelp. It extends hundreds of feet up from the bottom, then spreads out along the surface by as much as 200 feet, intensely shading the subsurface and, thus, magnifying the effect that the California Current upwelling normally causes. By contrast, Sargassum forms low-lying grasslike mats on the ocean floor that only get about 10 feet tall. As a result, Sargassum leaves a whole lot more of the sea subsurface exposed to the intense California sunlight than kelp does. When more sunlight is able to penetrate deeper into the water, the result is more ocean warming, which, in the Southern California Bight (which is mostly shielded from the California Current by Point Arguello), could potentially get to critical levels if this invasion continues. What's more, with less photosynthesis (and more anoxia) going on, there's the potential for a buildup of dissolved greenhouse gases. Whether those greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere or dissolved in seawater, they still trap heat regardless. This would then magnify the effect that Sargassum already has on subsurface exposure, and Sargassum, being a thermophile of a weed, would be able to reproduce even faster than it already is due to the sea surface warming that the weed itself induces. Notice the feedback loop?

Surely this runaway feedback potential isn't good for California, an area where the SST's already peaked at only 2°F short of the tropical cyclogenesis threshold last year, that's for sure. What's more, you've got the Davidson Current, which, due to the upwelling, does still exist during the summer months; it's just hidden 200 feet below the surface, again, mostly shaded by kelp. Allowing more sunlight to reach the layer that the Davidson Current happens to be buried beneath, thus allowing the cold water at the surface to get sandwiched between the Davidson Current and solar input (a double whammy: warming from the top, warming from the bottom), is also a recipe for disaster, since more evaporation due to solar input makes the surface water more saline, and, thus, forces it to downwell, dragging solar input with it, and water that downwells due to the increase in solar input has only one way to go once it gets that far down: into the Davidson Current.

To be honest, I am wondering where to buy sea surface thermometers and, if available, how much they are. Because, in all honesty, the potential consequences of this, if the SSTs reach a +20°F anomaly, are certainly far beyond the scope of anything we've dealt with thus far. From Davidson Current feedback (mountain-gap winds rushing to replace offshore convergence would have one way to blow: out of the southeast; thus intensifying the Davidson Current off-season) to Catalina Eddy tropical cyclogenesis (the Catalina Eddy is literally the perfect size ― 400 miles across, give or take ― that, if it forms over 80-degree-plus water, it is easily capable of becoming, quite literally, a mountain-gap tropical cyclone source), the potential consequences of this change could be something we certainly haven't seen in the past. Although, I must admit, if you're looking for the ultimate drought-buster, you can't get anything better than a tropical cyclone... but still, the side effects are something that my fellow Californians certainly aren't prepared for.

31 December, 2014

The Real SoCal Quake (and Tsunami) Threat: Pico-Style Offshore Blind Thrust Faults

Everyone knows the story of California's rather serious seismic threat. The disaster movies department in Hollywood has even exaggerated it time and time again, with (absolutely unrealistic, scientifically speaking) movies such as "Escape from Los Angeles", "10.5", and, now, one of the biggest movies to come out in the new year effective midnight tonight, "San Andreas" (which is the most realistic of the three, for the most part ― then again, there are some aspects of the trailer, such as A, the scientific impossibility of a quake on the real San Andreas Fault being felt on the East Coast, and B, the depiction of a gaping hole where in reality there's pulverized rock instead, that certainly are criticism points among seismologists as, among other things, unnecessary scaremongering), and of course, time and time again, people actually believe what is supposed to be fiction. Unfortunately, what they don't realize is that the San Andreas isn't California's worst seismic threat, at least from the standpoint of proximity to populated areas. There are other faults, of far more dangerous types besides, that lie not way out in the Mojave Desert and/or Coachella Valley but, instead, either directly underneath densely populated areas, or, worse yet, offshore.

First, for those who are wondering why films such as 10.5 are scientifically improbable: The Moment Magnitude Scale is a base-30 logarithmic one. That is, a magnitude-9 quake is 30 times more powerful than an 8, which is in turn 30 times more powerful than a 7, which is, likewise, 30 times more powerful than a 6, and so on. Based on that scale, even a fault that completely circled Earth would only produce a 10.4 quake. What's more, seismic waves are a result of friction, NOT of mere splitting. Friction does NOT create islands. Rifting, or spreading, does, and rifting, like what is seen in Africa's Great Rift Valley, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Iceland), the Mediterranean Ridge (Sicily), and the Red Sea, creates volcanoes, not quakes. That's because continental drift occurs on magma, not water... so, when continents spread apart, that magma becomes tempted to rise up and gush out, where it then cools and adds more rock to the tectonic plate(s) in question. Instead of water in the San Andreas Fault, there, once again, is fault gouge... and whenever it slips, more rock is ground up into that flour-like consistency to replace it, and the crack itself continues to remain a hairline while the visible scar on the surface is only visible from either A, the air, or B, space.

Also, the San Andreas is, should I say it again, a strike-slip fault. A strike-slip fault is a kind of fault that slips horizontally, one in which one plate slides one horizontal direction and the other plate slides in the exact opposite horizontal direction relative to it. In the case of the San Andreas, what that means is that the Pacific Plate is sliding northwest and the North American Plate is blindsiding it, drifting toward the southwest. So, in the event of the real "ShakeOut" scenario, Los Angeles would find itself 20 feet to the northwest of where it was prior to the quake in question. Even in the portions where it dives below the sea surface (such as north of San Francisco), it only displaces the sea floor horizontally, never vertically. Therefore, there's only one way the San Andreas can possibly displace even a small portion of the ocean column: by first inducing landslides. That has happened before, in 1906, when the quake that was most notorious for inducing firestorms that, quite literally, burned San Francisco to the ground, also sent Mussel Rock tumbling into the Pacific... but by the time the resulting wave got to San Francisco, it was so small ― I'm talking only a few inches high ― that only tide gauges could detect it. Even then, however, that's an anomaly, not the norm. Most quake-induced landslides happen inland, not on the coast.

Secondary faults, however, are a completely different story. Unlike the San Andreas, most of these auxiliary faults ― those that actually underlie heavily populated areas and are responsible for seismic events of the likes of the Chino Hills, Whittier Narrows, and Northridge quakes ― are buried fault structures with vertical, not horizontal, movement. Such faults are called blind thrust faults by seismologists, and some of them, such as the Puente Hills Fault that the Whittier Narrows quake is now seen by seismologists as having been a partial rupture of, are capable of rivaling the San Andreas in terms of magnitude (7.5 vs. 7.8), and, according to seismologists, some of them can be a whopping 15 times more dangerous than the San Andreas itself, should they rupture in their entirety. The Pico Fault, which set off the Northridge quake, as another example, also only partially ruptured back in 1994 (a full rupture would have put the Northridge quake in the range of 7.2 or higher), and it too is capable of, naturally, causing a great deal of damage. However, that's missing the bottom line: where there's thrust faulting, there's vertical movement. While vertical movement on land is, indeed, bad enough (any buildings, highways, or other structures that happen to lie directly on top of a blind thrust fault, regardless of how well they're built, will find their ground floors, and, by extension, entire structural support dangerously twisted out of proportion), it becomes even worse if that vertical movement happens to occur underwater.

That's because vertical ocean floor displacement happens to result in vertical ocean column displacement, and, ultimately, vertical sea surface displacement. Initially, in the deep ocean, this displacement is far more pronounced on the ocean floor than at the surface. While surface displacement may only initially be a few feet, it spreads out over hundreds of miles in length, because it actually has room to spread out. Because of its length, it can travel at, quite literally, jet speeds: between 400 and 600 miles per hour, capable of traversing the entire Pacific in less than a day. As this hundred-plus-mile-long wave approaches enters shallow water, however, it no longer has the room to spread out that it once had. Consequently, the landmass forces this once fast-moving wave to slow down and grow taller. Ultimately, it ends up manifesting itself as a 100-foot bore wave with a 50-mile-long, seemingly permanent plateau of water on its tail, capable of knocking over every structure in its path and, perhaps most significantly, inundating even 10-mile-inland structures with seawater. Or, to put it in layman terms, the exact same phenomenon that ravaged Indonesia in 2004 and Japan's Sanriku Coast in 2011: a tsunami.

Japanese for "harbor wave", this term was, to be fair, one that, with the exception of some sporadic communities that have used it to describe this wall of water having hit them before, pretty much unused outside of the scientific community, to say the least, for the longest time. That is, until 2004. When people learned that it was the tsunami, not the Indonesian quake itself, that was responsible for the majority of those 220,000 deaths, suddenly more and more of the public began to take notice, and suddenly "tsunami" became a far more popular buzzword than it was before. That public lexicon was repeated in 2011, when Japan's Sanriku coast, including the Tohoku province that includes the major port cities of Sendai and Kessennuma, was also rattled by a 9.0 quake and, only 20 minutes later, bashed by a 130-foot tsunami. What's more, it also has become a point of discussion among Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and Pacific Northwest coast residents after American geologist Brian Atwater, Japanese geologist and historian Kenji Satake, and dendrochronologist David Yamaguchi all worked together to uncover evidence that a massive quake and tsunami (possibly one that ruptured the entire Cascadia megathrust from one end to the other) had struck the region at 9PM Japanese time (4AM Pacific time) on January 26, 1700. The fact that there are blind thrust faults right here in California, however, pose an even more ominous question: Could an offshore blind thrust fault displace the ocean floor enough off SoCal enough to unleash a killer tsunami within minutes of home?

In fact, that very offshore blind thrust scenario has happened before. The date was the winter solstice, December 21, 1812. At the time, Spanish missionaries were busy building a colony in California, while on the east coast, conflict between the US, Britain, and France was, merely 40 years after the American Revolution, brewing once again. It was business as usual for those Franciscan friars working in La Misión de la Señora Barbara, Virgen y Martír, better known as the twin-steepled Mission Santa Barbara, when, suddenly, the ground began to rumble. The source of the shaking was the Santa Monica Mountains-Santa Cruz Island segment of the Channel Islands blind thrust system, which, until fairly recently, was mostly unknown to seismologists. After the quake, which in itself did a lot of damage to several Spanish missions and presidios, the Native Americans that were being "missioned" out to ― the Chumash ― knew better than to stay put. They gave the Spaniards word that they would drown if they remained in low-lying land, and since the Chumash were there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years longer than the Spaniards, the Spanish missionaries agreed to climb uphill with them to get out of the way.

Then, according to military general and Franciscan friar Luis Gil Taboada, who was commander of the Santa Barbara Presidio at the time, "the sea receded and rose like a high mountain," and then remained that way for several minutes before receding again. Hundreds of miles to the west, boats floated a mile and a half up Gaviota Canyon (that's almost exactly how far inland the No. 18 Kyotoku Maru tuna fishing vessel floated in 2011 ― go figure). Even as far north as San Francisco, Spanish accounts of this killer wave were ominous, where according to presidio commanders up there, several galleons capsized and sank in a harbor where they were supposed to be protected. To the south, in San Diego, damage to galleons and other ships was, likewise, just as severe, and according to reports, ships down there also found themselves beached.

That isn't the only segment of the Channel Islands thrust system either. The Santa Rosa segment hasn't ruptured in almost 250 years, if carbon dating is any guide, and the San Miguel segment, according to seismologists, has gone almost 300 years without a rupture. This, of course, makes those segments, thanks to stress build-up, even more overdue than the Santa Cruz segment. Then, as if that's not enough, there's also the Palos Verdes-Catalina segment of the Compton blind thrust system, which also has gone hundreds of years without a rupture, and perhaps most alarming, the Thirtymile Bank blind thrust fault, which is capable of causing a magnitude-7.6 quake offshore and setting off a tsunami that could threaten downtown San Diego. All of those are easily capable of causing a repeat of the 1812 disaster, at the very least.

So, now we have done an almost complete 180 from Hollywood's depiction. Although the notion of California falling into the ocean is definitely the work of fiction, to the utmost degree, this new evidence builds the case for these auxilary faults being capable of causing the exact opposite problem: the Pacific invading California in the form of a tsunami. In modern times, especially in California, however, "tsunami hazard zone" signs are indeed posted all over the beaches, unlike in 1812, complete with the caption "In case of earthquake, go to high ground or inland," as a stern warning to those who may be tempted to get back in the water after they feel the ground shake. What's more, there are also lifeguards and harbor police that will actually escort people out of harm's way and barricade off the hazard zone until "all clear" is given. Combine that with California's rugged coastline, unlike the coastlines in Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand, where there are a boatload of hills right up next to the coastline that people can easily run to, and loss of life should be minimal.

However, while loss of life shouldn't be too big of a problem, the same cannot be said when it comes to loss of property. The real estate along the coast of California, in places like Newport Beach, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Ventura, and, yes, Santa Barbara is certainly some of the most expensive real estate in the entire country. Santa Barbara County is the #1 most expensive county ― that's in nationwide terms ― to live in, and Orange County comes in a close second place, with, again, the bulk of the wealth concentrated right on the coast and in the tsunami hazard zone. Add up all those pieces of expensive real estate and send a tsunami into them to wipe that real estate out, and you're looking at, easily, damages in the tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars ― in fact, I wouldn't be too surprised if the damage caused by an event like this ends up totalling higher than the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, which has since eclipsed the Northridge quake as the costliest natural disaster in US history. Here's hoping people actually heed the warnings so that, at the very least, loss of life can be prevented in an event like this...

30 December, 2014

Mythicists: As Perfectionistic as Robots, as Uneducated as Gangsters

There's an interesting little tenet going around among atheists recently. While the historicity of Jesus is pretty ubiquitous among everything from archaeologists to history textbooks (!) as being real, from a historian's standpoint, there are still those who just don't get it. Instead of resorting to some other form of doubt, such as the claims of Jesus, as a historical figure, being an ordinary human being and not divine (and throwing up several conspiracy theories that all have Christian counter-arguments), they go to an even bigger extreme: science denial. That is, the denial of all the New Testament historians' work that makes the case for, at the very least, Jesus as a real historical figure, and perfectionistically demanding "contemporary" writing about Jesus with absolutely zero regard for variables such as lifespans that can easily build the case for people seeing such events and living long after to tell about them. To be fair, those doubts they have certainly aren't intelligent ones, that's for sure. No, they're the same type of "doubts" as the ones that Mammon-backed climate change deniers have: extremist, militant ones that serve no place in intelligent discussion. There are at least 2 behaviors associated with this denialism that really set examples of this militant stupidity. Starting with the obvious, of course.

The word "contemporary" taken to a perfectionist extreme

Little more can be said about this form of denialism. Those people who use it have an extremely narrow, almost robotic definition of "contemporary" based on the notion that members of some ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome, had very short average lifespans due to rampant disease, unhealthy eating practices, and poor sanitation. Those traits however, couldn't be more inaccurate when talking about ancient Israel. Unlike the former societies, Israel actually had a very strict sanitation code, one that is even reflected in the Old Testament. They wouldn't do a thing without first washing their hands, then proceeding to wash them again after accomplishing such tasks. They disposed of sewage in the utmost faraway of places, either outside Israel's borders, in the Mediterranean (during the sporadic times that they had access to it), or buried in the Negev Desert (a hostile environment for pathogens, to say the least, and one that few, if any, bacteria or viruses can survive in), just to make sure disease did not have even the slightest opportunity to spread. Members of neighboring empires, I'm sure, probably would have the nerve to call the Israelites mysophobes!

As a result of this militant emphasis on sanitation and cleanliness that was unmatched by any other major civilization of the ancient world, it's conceivable that lifespans in Israel, as, once again, reflected in the Old Testament (with people living, according to the Bible's claims, 130 years on average), were far longer than they were in any other ancient civilization. The reason? Many of those other, shorter average lifespans were primarily due to either A, disease, or B, war, with disease, by far, coming out on top. Plagues ravaged many parts of the ancient world, and in places that had loose family morals (unlike Israel, the island of monogamy in a sea of polygamous empires that believed sex was a religion), it's likely STDs such as syphilis, hepatitis B/C, meningococcal disease, gonorrhea, and chlamydia also spread much more rampantly. What's more, there's the poor eating habits of Israel's neighbors, who often lived sedentary lifestyles while eating large, fat-rich meals (I'm looking at you, Rome); thus, while it wasn't widespread in Israel, it's likely that obesity was far more widespread in Israel's neighboring civilizations. If you've ever seen how a Jewish chef cooks his meat, he first drains all the blood possible out of the meat in question. With good reason, of course: blood spreads bloodborne pathogens. Then, as if that's not enough, he also washes any remaining blood out. Then, when it comes time to cook, he cooks it thoroughly for hours while draining all the fat out as it cooks. What's more, they ate small, modest portions, unlike the Romans who threw large, lavish, all-you-can-eat buffets, and their bread, unlike that of their neighboring civilizations, was (and still is) unleavened and made with whole grains. As we all know, if bread is flat, it's not going to fill someone up to the extreme that a leavened piece of bread will; thus, those who eat unleavened bread don't take in as much carbs.

These dietary factors that contributed to the Israelites' long lifespans compared to their surroundings bring us straight to the point: Because Israelites lived longer due to their eating and sanitation habits, the probability of at least some of them having lived long enough to still write about Jesus 30 or 40 years after seeing Him is much greater. Thus, this variable ― lifespan ― is a variable that builds the case for these demands for "contemporary" evidence being extremely outlandish ones. Alright, moving on...

Using uneducated language in what is supposed to be educated discussion

I have written a long critique of this practice before, but they still don't get it. It's the old adage: actions speak louder than words. Or, in this case, it's the adage of "language speaks louder than claims of intelligence": If you claim to be an intelligent person, act like it! I've seen several examples of atheist mythicists ― at least 5 of them, and counting ― claiming to be intelligent skeptics while at the same time throwing S- and F-bombs at Christians every chance they get, as if they're just trying to make themselves look uneducated. Instead of responding to our intelligent arguments with equally intelligent counter-arguments (as a scientist would do), they respond with a simple "F*** you" or "That's B******t" in a blatant attempt at (or demonstration of) street-grade immaturity that is much more typical of uneducated thugs who spend their lives looking for rival gangster blood than of scientists or professors. It certainly is enough to make anyone who sees that behavior want to question its users' acclaimed intelligence, to say the least.

Not only is this behavior uneducated-looking, but it's also immature-looking. It's the language that middle-schoolers use. It's something that people use just to bully people, to make themselves look macho instead of making themselves look intelligent. Yet their claims are the exact opposite: "F*** you, you fool!" "B******t! I'm far more intelligent than you!" and on and on they go, with those same immature attitudes that they have in common with fighting teenagers. Just like a bully, an atheist like this is just trying to get a reaction out of us, in the most immature of fashions. What atheists like these don't realize is that we Christians, by judging their actions, certainly know who the real fool is. The real fool is the one who acts in a manner inconsistent with his claims about himself. What part of "Hypocrite!" do these atheists not understand? Yeah, exactly.


Bottom line, this atheist tirade against Christianity has gone from civil discussion to an immature man's punchline. They won't quit. No, as if atheism is itself a religion, they take this discussion to new lows, deliberately trying to make themselves look like fools. Until they can learn to act civil, well, blog posts like this one that point out their hypocrisy must continue to get posted...

06 December, 2014

Runaway Davidson Current: What could happen if the SSTs off SoCal get pushed past 80°F by El Niño

UPDATE 4/30/2015: It seems the very scenario of offshore convection/sea breeze frontogenesis that simply reinforces the warming of local waters is now becoming reality:

Original post continues below.

Back in 1997, the El Niño we had was certainly a big one, to say the least. It caused massive drought in Australia and Indonesia, where wildfires raged through what were supposed to be tropical rainforests. At the same time, however, flooding and mudslides were rampant throughout Colombia and Peru, where countless people lost their lives. And here, in California, flooding and mudslides were likewise also widespread. In the Los Angeles basin, a constant pattern of one Pineapple Express storm after another, for months on end, caused normally dry concrete flood control channels to get so high that even they, as slick and flood-controlling as they normally are, were no match for the torrential rains that came down in buckets, locally in excess of a half of an inch to, in some foothill and mountain locations, over an inch per hour. In the north, in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, even more disastrous consequences resulted. Levee breaches (!) wreaked havoc in regions downstream of Sacramento, resulting in scenes that almost resemble those created by the mega-disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. Tornadoes as powerful as F2, not to mention (gasp!) anticyclonic ones, tore through Silicon Valley, with devastating results in some San Francisco suburbs such as Sunnyvale. Sea surface temperatures off SoCal also reached into the low-to-mid-70's during the summer of 1997 as well, and the monstrosity that was Hurricane Linda came dangerously close to creating an additional 20-inch head start to what was already the wettest season on record.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the patterns are looking eerily similar. Back in August, of course, the monstrosity that was Hurricane Marie managed to, even from thousands of miles away, pound SoCal with waves between 15 and 25 feet tall, coinciding with astronomical high tide. The resulting coastal flood event was our worst in years, and damages reached into the tens of millions of dollars. One month later, Hurricane Odile managed to regenerate as a strong tropical storm over the Gulf of California and sling moisture around its circulation at us. Thunderstorms embedded in those rainbands created damaging winds in excess of 60 to as much as 70mph in some areas, pounding them with torrential rains and even (in some cases) dime- and nickel-sized hail. 6000 San Diegans were left without power, and damages also reached as high as $50 million. Around that time, sea surface temperatures, even from what is supposed to be a weak to moderate El Niño, managed to break that 1997 record, reaching the upper-70's (as high as 77°F-78°F in some areas) and, perhaps most alarmingly, resulting in tropical fish such as yellowfin tuna and (gasp!) wahoos swimming up the coast. And finally, just a couple of days ago, the first Pineapple Express storm of what could very well be another entire season of nothing but Pineapple Express events managed to dump more rain on California than the entire 2013 season. Rainfall totals from just that one storm alone managed to reach as much as a foot of rain in some areas to the north. Mudslides in places such as Camarillo, Glendora, and Silverado Canyon resulted in mandatory evacuations of people's homes. Flood waters washing down the Los Angeles and Santa Ana Rivers resulted in countless swift water rescues. Even now, in December 2014, however, it's only the beginning.

If this El Niño persists into the 2015 and even 2016 hurricane seasons ― which some similar El Niños that coincided with PDO shifts, like the 1992-95 El Niño and the 1939-42 El Niño, managed to do in similar cases ― then there's a chief worry in place here. Because not only El Niño but also anthropogenic climate change is at work here, the combination of those two phenomena could, if the El Niño gets strong enough two or three years down the road, push the sea surface temperatures past the tropical convective threshold of 80°F. That's good because you can more easily swim in it, you say? Not so fast: Where there's tropical convection, there's also tropical cyclogenesis. Tropical cyclogenesis off SoCal, of course, wouldn't be a good thing at all... and according to my research of the current system off SoCal, once it gets to that point, a positive feedback loop ensues, making it a point of no return.

It starts with a lesser-known countercurrent to the California Current. Called the Davidson Current, it's normally buried beneath the cold California waters during the summer months, when prevailing northwesterly winds push water from Alaska toward California, where the Ekman Effect makes it want to curve to the right and flow down the coast. Once the patterns shift in the winter, however, and the winds start blowing out of the southeast, the warm Davidson Current surfaces. That's because the Ekman Effect acts on those southeasterlies to actually pull water up the coast. Because the Ekman Effect also constricts the current by forcing it to hug the coast, it also creates a funnel effect that makes the Davidson Current more powerful than the relatively weak CC. Should 80-degree waters infiltrate this pattern, the results could be disastrous.

Why, you say? Because air needs to flow in to replace that convection. On the western side is a vast expanse of ocean, so the winds on that side are relatively light. On the eastern side of this hypothetical convective band, however, are mountains and hills, dotted with passes and canyons. Those act like inflow funnels, forcing the wind that rushes in to replace that convection to accelerate. As a result of the Ekman Effect's atmospheric counterpart ― the Coriolis Effect ― that mountain-gap inflow wants to curve, where? To the right, which means, from what direction? Out of the southeast! The result is that the inflow only pushes more warm water into California. Hello, feedback!

Talk about a recipe for disaster. Should the Davidson Current enter this runaway state, there would be no more California Current, that's for sure. Say goodbye to salmon and steelhead and hello to yellowfins, wahoos, and tilapia. And, yes, say hello to a West Coast hurricane threat, from the same general region that brought us Guillermo, Linda, Rick, Nora, Marie, and Odile. If you think this mountain gap inflow would keep hurricanes away, think again: The trade winds blow in that same general relative direction, that is, northeast to southwest, but guess what? Hurricanes seem to have enough power to almost cross them, like an X, and track from southeast to northwest. In this case, that would mean hooking directly toward SoCal, with devastating results.

At the rate we're burning fossil fuels and inducing Arctic methane leaks, it's not a question of if this happens. It's a question of when. All I can say is, when it does happen, I hope we're prepared... because if not, and those Category 5 monsters start getting that Davidson Current induced free reign to blast their way up the coast, the results wouldn't just be disastrous. They would be catastrophic.

25 November, 2014

Coachella Valley: The Next Black Sea?

I was once skeptical of the possibility of a major hurricane directly impacting Southern California. After all, the waters off the coast are indeed simply too cold to sustain hurricanes... and the only ones that manage to veer north usually move too slowly over those cold waters and fizzle... with a few rare exceptions, of course, and by the time those rare exceptions manage to reach SoCal, they're only tropical storms to category 1 hurricanes at best. Likewise, if they manage to take the trek up the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez, which is indeed some of the warmest water in the entire Eastern Pacific basin, with summertime SSTs reaching as high as 90°F on a regular basis, they'd still make landfall in northern Mexico, and have to cross a lot of land to reach SoCal. Or so I thought.

The first clue that I managed to dig up suggesting that the Gulf could pose a hurricane threat, at least to the Inland Empire, came from looking up the elevation of the surface of the Salton Sea. The reading? 237 feet below sea level. That alone raises a bright red flag: Even New Orleans was only about 10 feet below sea level when Katrina hit. What's more, the entire Coachella Valley, more or less, is a bowl, and it's the site of an ancient lake bed that once filled the entire region... the ancient lake, if I'm not mistaken, stretched from what is now Mexicali all the way to what is now Palm Springs. That's one massive lake... and the fact that its floor is now the site of a major population center should be enough to freak out anyone.

Then, I managed to Google " 'sea level rise' 'Coachella Valley' " (inside quotes included, as double quotes). I noticed a KCET article that was rather disturbing, depicting what would happen if climate change raised the level of the Gulf by only a few feet. Then, I switched over to the images tab. That's when I noticed something very disturbing, in regards to the Coachella Valley's only lifeline:

As you can see, the only high ground between the Salton Sea and the Gulf of California is, at most, only about 7 or 8 feet above sea level. What's more, the 20-foot line ― the height of a typical major hurricane storm surge, especially in a warm, shallow environment like the Gulf of California ― is almost the entire width of the Gulf itself. A storm surge of that size eroding a path into a depression like the Salton Sink? Yeah, it's almost impossible to fathom such a catastrophe. You're looking at a region from Mexicali all the way to Palm Springs being completely submerged.

What's more, as previously mentioned, SSTs in the upper-80's to near 90 degrees are well within rapid deepening territory. When Odile managed to traverse the northern Gulf as a tropical storm back in September 2014, guess what happened? The storm grew from a weak to a strong one, with, at their peak, about 60mph winds, before making a second landfall on the northeastern shore of the Gulf. Thankfully, however, Odile had weakened to a tropical storm from, at the first landfall, a Category 4 hurricane, prior to even entering the Gulf... and what's more, this storm could have been much worse.

Remember, what was steering Odile away was an area of high pressure, whose western edge (and clockwise rotation) was already at its easternmost point and began to move westward, keeping Odile over Baja. Had Odile gotten sucked into that high only a day... or two... or three earlier, so that Odile made its first clipper landfall in Puerto Vallarta before moving up the Gulf, I guarantee you Hurricane Odile would have been a 5 by the time it reached the northern Gulf... and then, as the high began to build again, it would have pushed Odile northwestward, resulting in Odile hooking to the west instead of the east. That makes Odile our closest call so far to this.

In fact, those warm Gulf of Mexico waters in the notorious Loop Current that intensified Katrina were also around the same temperature: near 90°F. The difference, however, is that those extreme SSTs, while incredibly anomalous in the Gulf of Mexico, are commonplace in the Gulf of California. So then why haven't there been rapidly intensifying hurricanes in the Gulf of California before? There's a simple explanation for that: it's got a lot more land in the way. Most of the storms that have managed to go up the Gulf have first run into either the Baja Peninsula (mountainous terrain) or mainland Mexico (more mountainous terrain). You need the steering patterns to be near-perfect for this to happen: a strong, blocking high over the western Gulf of Mexico to the east, and, most importantly, a clockwise flow around the high that pushes moisture directly over the Mojave Desert, where the thermal low then grabs it, intensifies due to convection, and rotates, locking that blocking high in place. Then, you need a hurricane that takes a near-perfect path, so that it could get caught up in that, clipping the headland near Puerto Vallarta, entering the Gulf of California, rapidly intensifying, and making its second landfall just to the west of the Colorado River Delta. Yeah, it's not a question of if, it's a question of when... and when it does happen, the results would be disastrous indeed.

Not only would such a storm be disastrous for the Coachella Valley, but, if it is caught by that thermal low and takes that left turn as an intense hurricane, it could also remain a category 3 or higher monster even as it exits the region, provided it misses the San Jacinto and/or San Bernardino mountains, and enters the Los Angeles Basin. The resulting wind (and even tornado) damage, not to mention torrential rainfall, could pose even more problems. Remember, if that basin fills, that water is going to come in contact with not only the hot Salton Sea but also the hot ground. That will in turn add more heat to the incoming storm surge water, moving over a region that is, mind you, 237 feet below sea level, and that heat could then continue to sustain the hurricane as it passes through that inland sea that it creates. So, it would end up continuing to rapidly intensify as it makes that westward hook. Yeah, you can see where this is going: a recipe for disaster indeed.

29 October, 2014

10th of Av, 26th of December: Divine Retribution As Hard Evidence Against Atheism

One of the key questions atheists use, and I've clearly noticed this myself, is something kind of ridiculous: they use the category error of asking for geological and/or historical evidence of a God whose kingdom is clearly "not of this world". They go and claim that in order to believe, God must be a physical, tangible being and not the invisible Holy Spirit that He really is. What they don't realize, however, is what happens in areas where persecution occurs: catastrophes line up so closely with Jewish and Christian holidays that mere coincidence becomes all the more improbable compared to just believing.

Av 9, A.D. 70. Roman authorities get word of a massive revolt involving thousands of Israelites, some Jewish, some newly Christian, wanting to get even with the empire that longs so much to want to rule them. In response, they send a massive new army to crush the rebellion, and the army marches on the very temple that they worship in. Under the command of General Titus, who would become another Roman emperor a few years later, this army burns the Temple, crucifies rebelling men by the hundreds of thousands, and kidnaps over 30,000 Israelite women and children for use as slaves, forced to either work themselves to death or, worse, offer sexual services and serve as baby factories for the Roman elite. Since Pompeii and Herculaneum were both resort towns that the emperor and his wealthy servants loved to hang out in, as wicked as they were, most of this slavery and forced servitude also happened in the Pompeii region. Throughout that very region, of course, there have also been countless graffiti findings that warn their Roman captors of utter destruction ("poinium", "cherem") to come, including graffiti that manages to analogize Pompeii and Herculaneum with Sodom and Gomorrah. That destruction wouldn't be too long in coming.

Av 10, A.D. 79. It seems like just another day in the elite Roman playground that is the Pompeii region, and the slavery and sexual exploitation of Jews and Christians is as prevalent as ever. Then, suddenly, the ground begins to rumble. The mountain above them ― Vesuvius ― begins to blow off some steam... but by this time, it's too late. The volcano blows its top. A huge eruption column blows ash 20 miles into the sky. Day suddenly turns to night. Ash begins to rain down on this elite Roman playground for hours, and the Roman elite start to wonder what the heck is going on... ah, but the Christian and Jewish captives knew all along that this was payback for what the Romans did to them in Jerusalem nine years earlier. Then, it happens. The volcano becomes exhausted of all its magma reserves, and the eruption column becomes too heavy. It then collapses as a series of massive pyroclastic flows. Herculaneum, upwind of the column, is the first to go. Pompeii follows. Over 16,000 of the Roman elite are killed, while the slaves, shielded from the ash by thick underground bunkers, manage to make it out alive the way the prisoners in Saint-Pierre did when Mount Pelee erupted. After completely burying Pompeii in ash, the pyroclastic flow proceeds to blast its way into the Bay of Naples, where it displaces water. The resulting tsunami devastates the port city of Stabiae, which is probably the most important port city in the entire Roman Empire, since it's the closest port city to Rome. Without it, Rome's residents are helplessly marooned off from the rest of the empire. A year later, in A.D. 80, and certainly not within enough time for Stabiae to be rebuilt, an urban conflagration breaks out in Rome. With no port of Stabiae to get supplies and people in and out of the city, the city burns to the ground, taking tends of thousands more Romans with it. The destruction of Stabiae also bears a stark resemblance to another, more modern act of divine retribution.

It begins in a country where Islam is the official religion and Christianity is brutally repressed under dictator Suharto's regime for over 20 years, and continues long afterward as the radicalized Muslims that Suharto forms an alliance with suddenly roam free. That country is Indonesia. It's a nation where an uncle of mine is in fact a missionary, managing to overcome countless acts of violence to save people. In Indonesia, most Christians happen to live in the islands surrounding Western New Guinea and Timor, which is basically cut in half between Indonesia and the young independent Christian nation of Timor-Leste. Most of the radical, Christian-killing Muslims, in groups such as Jemmah Islamiyah and the notoriously ISIS-like, caliphate-wannabe Free Aceh Movement, are concentrated in the main islands of Java and Sumatra. It's here that radical Muslim groups go on a rampage against Christians. They ransack churches. They attack Christians in the most horrific means imaginable, mostly through either beheading or burning alive. People celebrating Christian holidays, like Christmas, are especially easy targets for their brutal oppression. Then came the day that the Judeo-Christian God would once again have His payback: December 26, 2004.

It was on this day that a killer subduction zone, the Sunda Megathrust, began to slip, epicentered approximately 50 miles off the Acehnese coast. The fault then continues to rupture north and south along a good chunk of its length, finally stopping as a 600-mile-long rupture. Seismic waves radiate out from this rupture in all directions, lasting as long as 6 minutes in duration. The moment magnitude of the quake is registered by seismologists as 9.1. During this hellishly long shaking, numerous unreinforced masonry structures ― including most mosques, which are notoriously URM ― are extensively damaged or destroyed, and falling objects cause numerous injuries, becoming strewn all over the place. Minutes later, the Indian Ocean suddenly retreats from the coast of extreme northwestern Indonesia, where the most Islamic extremism is concentrated.

Then, an ominous white crest appears on the horizon. It's a tsunami. The ground that Banda Aceh is on is almost perfectly flat, and there's no high ground for several miles. The tsunami uses these fallen unreinforced masonry objects as weapons, smashing countless buildings already damaged by the quake and using the resulting debris to then smash more buildings, ultimately flattening the entire city. Buildings that survived the quake soon become moved, displaced, flattened ruins. Most importantly, however, these people had absolutely no clue what a tsunami was or how to survive it. The result? Of the 220,000+ casualties in this dreaded 2004 disaster, over 150,000 were in the region where the Jemmah Islamiyah and GAM insurgencies were most active, in the proposed capital city of the separatist caliphate, Banda Aceh, and of those 150,000, a good 30,000 or so were indeed members of those radical Muslim groups who always loved persecuting the Christians that they thought were a nuisance. Most Christians, however, were in eastern Indonesia, shielded from the tsunami by the main islands of Sumatra and Java, and were almost all completely unscathed.

There's clearly an interesting pattern here. Geology can only involve guesswork as to when events like these might occur, even today. Even with all the modern technology we have at our disposal, no one in their right mind would ever come close to saying that "this quake will happen on precisely this day" or "this volcano will certainly erupt on such and such a day". There's just no way. For the timing of these events to suddenly tweak itself so perfectly as to, in both cases, occur exactly one day after a Jewish or Christian holiday in both cases, that certainly can't happen blindly. Some outside force, like, oh, I don't know, the Holy Spirit, must be at work, manipulating the timing, either delaying an eruption so it builds up a boatload of pressure and goes off as a much bigger eruption on precisely the date it's predestined to, or delaying an earthquake so that it becomes much bigger and also goes off at a predestined date. If these events could happen on a whim, that's exactly what they would do: occur on a whim, which would mean frequently and subtly. The fact that these events are happening in such perfect alignment with brutally suppressed Judeo-Christian holidays certainly can't be mere coincidence.

19 October, 2014

"Is The Nexus 7 a Phone or a Tablet? I'm confused," says the customer...

October 19, 2014. I must admit, this post is a few days late... but this past Wednesday, Google unveiled not just the two rumored Nexus devices (the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9), but three — if you count the Nexus Player, that is. Since I've got a Chromecast and a cable box, along with only two HDMI ports, well, they're all in use... but the fact that the Nexus Player is Google Cast Ready AND supports Android TV apps as well should be a good selling point. Anyhow, in 2012, we had the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10. In 2013, the Nexus 5 replaced the Nexus 4... ah, but the Nexus 7 was simply replaced with another Nexus 7, and the Nexus 5 came on board, replacing the Nexus 4. Now, in 2014, the Nexus line-up got a total makeover, with the Nexus 6 replacing the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 9 replacing both the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10, respectively.

For 2015, however, this poses a bit of a dilemma. If Google decides to simply replace the Nexus 6 with another Nexus 6 the way they did with the Nexus 7, then there won't be any problems... but if they decide to actually increment the number once again, they would end up reusing the Nexus 7 name... for a phone!

This presents a myriad of problems. For starters, just like the title states, it would confuse customers a whole lot... and confused customers hurt business. Beyond that, however, there's also the size factor: sure, a tablet with a 7-inch screen is fine, but a phone with a 7-inch screen?!?! Talk about something that just can't be handled. You couldn't put a phone that big in your front pockets at all (only your back ones), and what's more, you can't pick up a phone that big to make phone calls without using two hands either, which means, nope, if you're in a dire emergency and need to make a phone call quickly with one hand, good luck.

Even something like a Nexus 6.5 would be problematic. Why? Because the names in the line are often rounded down or up to the nearest whole number... which in that case is also 7. That leaves Google with only two options: Either go Apple-style and treat the generations of Nexus 6 like the generations of iPod Touch, releasing three, four, even 5 generations of phones with the same name (which is a good one IMHO) or simply replace the Nexus line altogether with a turnkey solution for OEMs and carriers in the US the way they already did with Android One in India — or, in other words, Project Silver redux, which would seriously increase the adoption rates of new Android releases on a prompt basis, which is the holy grail of fragmentation reduction.

Let's hope this worst case scenario doesn't happen, shall we? Of the two above options, however, I personally would love to see Project Silver manifest itself much more so than I would multiple generations of Nexus 6. Why? Because of the crushing impact it would have on Android fragmentation: by forcing all the phones on the market to stay on the latest version of Android and get updated on a prompt basis, version fragmentation would be, for the most part, a thing of the past. Then again, I need more opinions here. Would you rather want multiple versions of Nexus 6, or would you be fine with every Android phone on the market being updated on a prompt Nexus-like basis?