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Florida Clouds

Everyday sky scenes come alive when time is compressed using time lapse imagery. Clearly visible are the low cumulus clouds racing westward during a typical Florida day while you can see upper level clouds moving in almost an opposite direction to the northeast. Filmed at Jessica’s mom’s home in south Florida on April 27, 2013. A bonus are the brief but beautiful pink and orange tinged clouds that end the day. View to the south over the Deerfield Country Club.


March Snow Leaves Quickly

A fast moving snowstorm comes & goes quickly. The following day brings warm temperatures & strong winds to dissipate the snow from my front lawn.


Third Rock Gratitude

Mimas, moon of Saturn

Mimas, moon of Saturn

We recently learned about the specatular encounter between us, Earth, and an object from deep space. In our lifetime, this is indeed a remarkable event. Yet, all we need to do is gaze up at the Earth’s moon (or look at photos of other moons in our own solar system) and its surface is pocked with the evidence of innumerable such encounters. In fact, science has overwhelming evidence that a similar but vastly more violent encounter occurred on Earth 65 million years ago. This is referred to as the Chicxulub Crater in an area straddling the present day Gulf of Mexico shoreline north of Mérida. Unlike the reported SUV-sized object that exploded above the Russian Urals on February 15, 2013, this ancient collision was thought to have been the size of Manhattan Island. Scientists believe its devastating effect on global climate caused mass extinctions including those of the dinosaurs. Asteroids and meteoroids are common place in the space environment but we are thankfully protected from most of them by our gas-rich atmosphere. We also are grateful for the astronomers who keep a watchful eye on large objects, say larger than a football field, whose impact with a populated area on Earth would be disastrous. Next time you wish upon a ‘shooting star’, or gaze at our cratered moon, know we are lucky to be living on this protected third rock from the Sun!


From Donna to Sandy- A Precautionary Tale

Superstorm Sandy leaves a foot of wet sand at 141 St in Belle Harbor. Photo courtesy of Peter Thomas Senese, 2012

Fifty two years and 7 weeks later, my hometown of Rockaway Beach is ravaged by the ‘storm of the century’. Technically that would be this century. The hurricane-turned superstorm “Sandy” struck this part of coastal New York as did Hurricane Donna a half century ago on September 12, 1960. But this 21st century storm was far more powerful. This was due to the aggregation of massive storm systems coupled with a high tide that doomed the barrier islands along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Hurricane Donna’s floodwaters lap onto the front steps of my childhood home

Is this the realization of global warming? Is this truly emblematic of the intensity of weather events now being predicted? Between the scientific analyses and the political maneuvers to affirm or deny what we are or aren’t doing to affect climate change, one thing is clear to me. Nature, eventually will win over our attempts to control it and we must accommodate this fact of life. Is this a 50 year storm or a 100 year storm? Left to human memory, we are woefully disadvantaged to see the real time scale that affects climate in hundreds or thousands of years.

Brother Sandy (no relation to the 2012 storm) wades through the flood waters brought on by Hurrican Donna on September 12, 1960.

Instead of the, “is it climate change, or not argument” I like to invoke the precautionary principle which subscribes to the idea that it makes sense to mitigate our impact on our earth’s atmosphere despite the “truth” of global climate change. So, given we are warming from an Ice Age, if sea level rises less quickly (and it will) and if global temperatures rise more slowly (and they will) than predicted, why not take steps anyway to invest in better seawalls, levees, and smarter zoning along areas where we are most vulnerable. When we buy insurance for our home, vehicle, and our family, aren’t we also also subscribing to the adage “better be safe than sorry”? Floods, fires and quakes are natural processes on our planet, so why not improve our relationship with nature by reducing our carbon footprint, and moving toward more sustainable forms of energy use. Although I may live 2,000 miles away from my childhood home, the recent images of destruction and loss remind me how connected we all are.


Geologic Walk October 14, 2012

A fun day in the field is second to none. Thanks to all participants for being so curious and allowing me to guide your time travel spanning no less than 18 million centuries. Gives new meaning to the word ‘event’.

A 300 million year old version of the Poudre River


Learning about geologic maps


Say it carefully…Garnet Mica Schist


And you believe this guy?


Inside the Bellevue Dome


And it was a beautiful fall Colorado morning.



Breaking Records (Weather, that is)

Its fun to watch each month’s weather and water patterns emerge into a story. This Spring in Fort Collins, its been warm and dry and we’ve coaxed (and coached) elementary students to report on these topics as they observe and report daily precip (or lack thereof) measurements to CoCORahs. When we post these on Poudre School District’s website, we usually get a handful of views. March’s report apparently struck a chord. Watch Seattle meteorologist Sc0tt Sistek’s post to see what I mean.  My guess? I think it was the missing teeth, cookies, and overall cuteness of these wonderful second graders.  Thanks to Dunn Elementary teachers Lori Ellendorff and Deborah Taylor for supplying the talent, and Matt Gohl (as usual) for great editing and graphics.  Eva Jane and Charlotte have a future career in TV meteorology!


The Great Unconformity

Angular unconformity between 300 million-year old Fountain Formation and underlying  1700 million year-old  Precambrian schist & granite

What is the “Great Unconformity”?

Thanks to Dr. John Ridley of CSU Geology and our intrepid Northern Colorado Geology Group, we braved cool temperatures and rain to learn more about our local geology.  So, what exactly is the Great Unconformity?  Not-fitting-in is partly the answer. In geology-speak, an unconformity represents a break in the geologic record of earth history.  Here in the Front Range of Colorado, we live minutes away from this amazing geologic feature- namely the contact between 300 million year old Fountain Formation (red, horizontal strata) and the underlying nearly vertically tilted 1.7 billion year old Precambrian schists and granites.  Although sporadically visible in places along the Front Range, the Great Unconformity is beautifully exposed west of Loveland near Pinewood Reservoir.

Fountain Formation

Fountain Formation at Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, Colorado

What always amazes me about this is the story it tells about a very ancient mountain range (1. 7 billion year old schists and granite) whose surface was reworked by 300 million year old rivers -now red sandstone).  Although the time interval between these 2 events is still over 1400 million years, we can unravel what happened with astonishing clarity right here!  Geology is as much about what is left behind as is what is missing. In this case– a lot!   That’s what unconformities are all about- missing pages of earth history.  So, next time you’re hiking in the foothills see if you can predict where this contact occurs. Or if you’re attending a show at Red Rocks- come early and take a few minutes to visit the Precambrian-Fountain contact which is marked by a plaque behind the amphitheater.  Unconformities rule!


Water Report: January 2012

Water Report: January 2012.


Aurora Borealis from above

Amazing perspective from space

We are running out of rocks