Tag Archives: Sun

Change, Cycles, Balance and Paradoxes in Nature

Mother Nature is about constants. The speed of light, conservation of energy, gravity, these are all constants of Nature. Change is a constant of Nature! Some of these, the speed of light for example, are constant in value. Others are constant because they apply anywhere in the Universe in accordance with laws of physics for example. Change is a constant because it is the permanent state of Nature, in other words change is happening all the time: constantly!

Mother Nature is about cycles. Rooted on the Greek word kyklos = wheel, circle, cycle means a recurring series of events or the interval of time is takes for a sequence  of recurring events to complete. Day and night, the seasons, the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the rotation of electrons around the nucleus of an atom, the oscillation of a crystal,  an alternating electrical current, the tilting of the axis of the Earth, changes in the eccentricity of the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the water cycle of precipitation, evaporation and precipitation etc. these are just a few examples of naturally occurring cycles.

What is important about natural cycles is that because of them the Earth has oscillated between cold (glacial) and warm (interglacial) ages. It is because of these cycles that climate changes; these cycles cause the annual Atlantic hurricane season. These are natural processes that will continue to occur, but which are not immune from the effects of human activity. In this regard there is overwhelming evidence that urban development is capable of changing the water cycle and  local climate through the effect of what is known as the urban heat island. Human activity has also affected  natural cycles through deforestation and industrial pollution. Current scientific consensus is that human activity has altered the rate of global warming, which in turn has accelerated the rate at which global sea level is rising. In this regard the most important questions, for which there is no definitive answer yet, is: is human activity capable of totally disrupting some of these natural cycles?

Mother Nature is about balance. I am talking about searching for balance, a point of equilibrium if you will,  between extremes. Such constant search for balance is evident in the movement of the tectonic plates. When adjacent plates moving past or against one another lock along fault lines,  strain builds up reaching extremes, until Nature uses a break generating earthquakes, allowing the accumulated  strain to dissipate as shock waves that shake the ground as they propagate radially away from the epicenter. The atmosphere is also a good example of how Nature seeks balance between extremes. Storms and hurricanes are generated when extremes of heat and pressure create contrasting extremes between regions, and Nature seeks a balance by the transfer of heat from the tropics to the cooler latitudes.

Mother Nature is about paradoxes. Consider the following: what could be more essential to human life than air and water? In the case of air we do not even see it, but without it we die. We can say the same thing about water, for our organism consist mainly of water and while human beings may go lengthy periods of time without solid food, they do not survive for very long when deprived of water. In contrast with this absolutely critical and essential human need for air and water, consider that air and water are the two most damaging components of hurricanes. Wind, which is air in movement, rushes and extreme speeds generating wind-velocity pressure that is applied to buildings and other objects in its path. The forces applied to buildings as hurricane winds apply pressure can cause catastrophic damage that may result in structural failure of a building. Storm surge generated by hurricanes causes water to rush overland, while the wind generates waves above the rushing water, impacting buildings and objects in its path. Hydrodynamic pressure applied by the rushing waters of storm surge and breaking wave impacts are powerful enough to  cause catastrophic structural damage to buildings in coastal locations. What a paradox this is, that two elements that are so delicate and so essentially needed can be so damaging to human life and human activity. Perhaps this is a case of too much of a good thing can be bad?

Behold the Earth’s atmosphere, such a tenuous veil of gases surrounding our planet. If it weren’t for the clouds and the colors of sunsets and sunrises, we wouldn’t even know it is there all around us. But it is within this atmosphere that, that an even thinner band of gases and water, the biosphere,  exists allowing human life to exist unassisted. Consider that while Nitrogen and Oxygen make up more than 99% of the atmosphere other components of the atmosphere, including greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, which add-up to barely 3/100 of 1% of the total volume are the ones that create the conditions of temperature and protection from harmful solar radiation, that allows human life to exist. We are talking about such an infinitesimal portion of such a flimsy veil of gases that makes all the difference in the world as far as human life is concerned. What is more remarkable. speaking of paradoxes is that human activity and its byproducts of greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution are causing severe, perhaps irreversible, adverse consequences on the very atmosphere that protects us nourishes us.

Food for thought. Let us respect and strive to understand Nature, let us live in harmony with Nature. Let us mitigate the human impact on Nature’s cycles. Let us not interfere with natural processes lest humankind becomes one of those extremes that Nature tries to quell.

The Eastern North Pacific: It is boiling out there!

The Sun above will soon reach the limit of the northern tropics marking the advent of summer 2012 in the northern hemisphere, and the ocean-atmosphere below are already showing the results of all the additional solar energy being absorbed by way of large areas of disturbed weather, storms, increased rain, warmer sea surface waters, and other signs that the heat exchange process is actively underway.

Three ocean basins in particular, have been showing increased signs of weather instability as we approach the change in seasons, the central/northeastern Indian Ocean, the Northwestern Pacific, and of more interest to us in Florida because of its proximity: the Easter North Pacific basin.

In a pattern that has become prevalent over the past 2-3 years, the region ranging from northern South America, mainly Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador to Panama, Central America, Southern Mexico and a vast expanse of the eastern Pacific Ocean adjacent to these coastlines, has seen a nearly continuous transit of tropical waves coming in from the Atlantic, and the generation of tropical waves and cells of disturbed weather over Pacific Ocean waters offshore Central America and southern Mexico. In 2012 this pattern of tropical activity became noticeable toward the end of March and even more so in April and May, and it has already generated tropical storm Aletta that was active from 14 May through the 19th, and major hurricane Cat. 3 Bud from 21 May through the 26th of the  same month.

Satellite image of 26 May 2012 showing some of the tropical activity that has been prevalent in the Eastern North Pacific sub-basin over the past couple of months and for the last 3+ years around this time of the year
Another satellite image of the same region shown on the image to the left except 17 days later on 11 June 2012 showing a couple of tropical waves with potential for further development

So far during the month of June 2012 the Eastern North Pacific basin appears to have entered a new phase of even higher activity. Sea surface waters in some areas of the basin have been above 30 degrees Celsius, tropical wave generation has been abundant leading to numerous instances of extreme rain and thunderstorms events in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Southern Mexico, with some flash flooding events as well. As of 11 June there were two areas of disturbed weather to the west of Nicaragua and Guatemala that exhibited some potentially cyclonic characteristics warranting close monitoring.

Map of sea surface temperatures based on satellite observations on 5 June 2012 showing a large region of waters at or above 30 Celsius off the coast Sea surface temperature,Typhoon Guchol, Philippines,Taiwan,Asia monsoon,Tropical storm Alberto, Tropical storm Beryl,Caribbean,Tropical wave assembly line,Hurricane alley,CAPE of southern Mexico and Central America

Elsewhere in the northern tropics, tropical storm GUCHOL in the northwestern Pacific is moving west by northwest in the general direction of the Philippines and Taiwan, and the Indian ocean, the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia have been experiencing large amounts of rain as the onset of the Asia Monsoon takes hold of that vast region.

Satellite image of 12 June 2012 showing the Eastern Atlantic sub-basin and the western part of Equatorial Africa where some minor disturbances and tropical waves are active

The Atlantic basin has been a different story in 2012. On the one hand the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season got an early start when trow tropical storm Alberto and Beryl developed to the west of central Florida and southeast of Georgia, with Beryl actually moving westward and coming over land before veering northward and eventually making a full 180 degree turn toward the northeast. Since then the overall basin has been rather quiet with respect to tropical cyclone activity, although the Gulf and the northern Caribbean have seen plenty of disturbed, stormy weather over the course of several weeks. Looking farther east toward the eastern Atlantic and equatorial Africa the combined tropical wave assembly line – hurricane alley have remain mostly quiet despite sporadic flare-ups of storm cells overland and along the ‘alley’.  It should be noted that the northern Atlantic’s surface waters remain much cooler than in previous years at this time, with a rather large region extending well south of the Cape Verde Islands where sea surface temperatures are in the low to mid 20 Celsius; this can be observed in the image below:

Satellite image based map of sea surface temperatures for the north Atlantic on 11 June 2012 showing much cooler temperatures than in previous years around the same dates


13 June 2012: Latest News

GOES satellite image for the aviation industry in the morning of 14 June 2012 showing Tropical Storm CARLOTA near the coast of Southern Mexico

Quite interesting! Just as I was about to publish this brief post the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory for this sub-basin indicating tropical storm CARLOTTA, the 3rd named storm of the eastern Pacific 2012 hurricane season, has developed near the coast of southern Mexico. There are now two active tropical cyclones in the larger Pacific Ocean basin!

Mosaic of satellite images showing the North Pacific Ocean basin on 14 June 2012 where two tropical cyclones GUCHOL and CARLOTA are currently active

Also in the Eastern North Pacific sub-basin, there is an area of low pressure to the west of Tropical Storm CARLOTTA’s current location that may warrant close monitoring as it exhibits some characteristics that might lead to further development.

15 June 2012: Latest News

GOES satellite image of tropical storm CARLOTTA as it neared hurricane strength in the early morning hours of 15 June 2012 off the Pacific coast of southern Mexico

CARLOTTA is now a category 1 hurricane moving northwest with maximum sustained winds of 130 kph near the Pacific coast of Mexico. Per the latest discussion emanating from the National Hurricane Center a Hurricane Hunter airplane was in route to get a fix on the latest intensity and tracking data, but based on previous advisories CARLOTTA appears to be continuing to intensify, while its track has shifted closer to the Mexican coast where it might make landfall some time in the morning of Saturday 16 June. Various atmospheric features are at play to the north and west of the system’s current location, which may alter its course over the next 24-36 hours. This is definitely one to monitor closely by all communities along the Mexican Pacific coastal region.