48 Hours

February 11, 2019

Bw photograph of Main Street in Lexington, VA.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This has been a remarkable winter in terms of temperature swings.

BW photograph of the Virginia mountains looking out from Lexington, Va.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The above photographs were made on a day that started out at 25 degrees and eventually reached the low forties-the sun was bright and shining.  Quite warm given the recent polar vortex.  The clouds, though, are a clue as to the weather on the way.

 

BW photograph of trees as seen through an active snowfall.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A couple of days later, another storm system moved in and produced the infamous “wintry mix”-snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  When the above photograph was made, the precipitation was of the variety first on that list.  It was relatively light and characterized by large, gently falling, flakes.  It was a beautiful snow.  The kind that makes winter enjoyable.  After a bit, though, it warmed to just above freezing and turned to sleet-not so much to look at and much less fun to in which to be.

Take care.

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Climate Addendum

February 6, 2019

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is an addendum to the previous post.

Tuesday night, the president made no mention of climate change in the State of the Union Address-here is a transcript.  (This version has also been fact-checked by the reporters at NPR.)  There certainly has been talk about declaring a “national emergency” (although that also was not in the speech) in order to fund border security.  That term, “national emergency”, which does trigger some presidential power, has not been used for climate change by the president.  One should also not expect that to happen.

In light of that, this headline (and article) would certainly make a different argument.  One issue, and I am not a legal scholar, is that climate change is not an unforeseen problem:  it is a well-known entity, but one that is denied or minimized in a variety of ways or flat-out ignored.  Therefore, the term “emergency” may not apply as per the National Emergencies Act-this report provides an overview of the Act and the political ramifications involved with its invocation-specifically as the president has threatened its use.

BW photograph of the Hurricane Jose's flooding of Bethany Beach.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the link to Mr. Balog’s interview about the new documentary The Human Element, which was mentioned in the previous post.  It is well worth a listen as there is much to be said about the political conflicts that arise with climate change.  Mr. Balog describes the movie as operating of the premise that humans are as elemental as the Earth, fire, water, and wind.  As Mr. Balog states, “We are in nature.”  I think he also very nicely sums up this issue when he says “Climate protection equals people protection.”  To further that point, please read this report.  Himalayan glaciers are theorized  to be responding in much than same manner as arctic ice as a result of climate change.

BW photograph of Detour with Double Pipe Creek flooding its banks onto a road.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It must be understood that climate change does not respect borders or boundaries-there are no walls to build, unless one talks about adaptation efforts to control rising seas.  (Importantly, Mr. Balog does provide an example of that type of wall in the interview.)  From a climate standpoint, what the United States does or doesn’t do impacts the Maldives.  What China does or doesn’t do impacts Tangier Island.  This is truly a global issue wherein some already are paying a terrible price.  For others, that time is yet to come.  Some may have the resources to insulate themselves.  For a little while longer.

Make no mistake-climate change does not disappear simply by ignoring it.

Take care.

P.S.  I know there are a lot of links in this post.  I suppose the entirety of what is written and linked here is very much summarized in the first and last sentences.  The evidence, though, is important-particularly for the political context in which this is written.

Climate

February 5, 2019

BW photograph of a neuron-shaped break in an ice-covered creek.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was 73 degrees in Washington, D.C. today.  That set a record.

Tomorrow (February 6) on NPR’s Fresh Air, Mr. James Balog is to be interviewed regarding his new documentary, which is entitled The Human Element.  Along with Chasing Ice, Mr. Balog has used his prodigious photographic skills to create images of the environmental consequences of climate change-he remains a voice critical to the need for intervention in the processes that are driving the heating of the planet.

Congressional Democrats are “holding two climate-related hearings” tomorrow as well.  It is helpful to listen to that NPR report for its summary of the political perspective by which the U.S. has addressed this issue recently, and for how the political climate regarding climate change looks going forward.

While politicians talk, NOAA has published the data, and it is not pretty.  It does, however, continue to demand attention.  I usually say “time will tell” as to the outcome of issues.  The key here, though, is that time is running out.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see if climate change is mentioned in the State of the Union speech tonight.  The degree to which that happens will give a sense as to the priority this issue has received.

Take care.

 

Powder

February 2, 2019

BW photograph of a twig poking through newly fallen snow.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is 14 degrees and quite sunny as this is being written.  One advantage to this deep cold is that the snow, which fell yesterday, is a beautifully dry, crystalline, powder that is light and airy.  Not at all like the usual Mid-Atlantic moisture-laden concrete that fell earlier this winter.  No, this is the type of snow for which folks flock to the western states’ ski resorts and refer to as “pow”.  I do not ski, but this type of snow is much easier to remove from one’s driveway as it can be literally brushed away.  From a photographer’s standpoint, the highlight/shadow contrast created by side light works well to emphasize the texture of the crystals.

BW photograph of a sycamore tree's roots covered in snow.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The temperature rose through the later morning and by the afternoon it had warmed all the way up to freezing.  The snow in the direct sun began to melt just a bit, and as the temperature drops overnight, it will freeze.  This will then create the harder, crunchy, type of snow often referred to as “corn” snow.  This is the stuff that will act like ball bearings and create avalanches when it is covered with a new layer of snow.

Those are the three terms to which I have become accustomed to characterizing snow: powder, cement, and corn.  I am much more familiar with the latter two.

The Inuit and Yupik dialects have dozens of terms for snow in order to differentiate the various qualities.  Given that the nature of this post is fundamentally about language, and that language is the essence of culture, it would be important to also read this report.

Take care.

Volatility

February 1, 2019

BW photograph of the winter sun while it was snowing.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

We are in the middle of record-breaking temperatures due to the recent polar vortex.  However, by the weekend and into the beginning of next week, temperatures are forecast to rise through the 50s into the low 60s.  That is quite a swing-it was 9 degrees and sunny as these opening sentences were being written, which was yesterday afternoon.  The photograph above was made earlier today as a light snow was falling.  It was 12 degrees at that time.

And so goes the stock market as well.  This article explains the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, while this article includes graphs to illustrate the application to the markets back in October.

Polar vortexes are a periodic occurrence, and scientists have difficulty pinning these extreme temperatures completely on climate change.   However, it does appear that the loss of polar ice (scroll down that link) has played a part and so the human contribution cannot be completely discounted as yet.  Likewise,  the stock market will rise and fall.  Here, the human element is much more clear:  the recently ended partial shut-down (and its potential reinstatement) and various tariffs, as current examples, have rattled investors leading to the peaks and valleys with investments.

As one who is closing in on retirement, the stock market’s rapid violation and adherence to the principles of gravity is attention-getting and disconcerting.  As an outdoors-oriented individual, the inability to go outside due to the profound cold is disheartening.  At least we did not have much snow to move…and the weekend is coming.

Take care.

 

 

Another Dose

January 30, 2019

BW photograph of wet snow clinging to trees while it is still snowing.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about the concept of relativity.  Right now, we are experiencing another strong dose of that.

The weather in this area calls for a temperature of 0 degrees tonight-add in the wind chill and it becomes -17 degrees.  That is cold, frigid, arctic-like, whatever descriptor would appear to be appropriate.  Not at all comfortable to be outside-downright dangerous, in fact.

However, it is not quite the same as this.  These weather patterns are from the same system, but the Upper Midwest has been brutalized by the recent polar vortex.  This is another example of the importance of relativity.  It also points out that no matter how anything is, there is always something bigger, faster, stronger, and yes, colder.  This summer I am sure we will switch to discussing what is hotter.  (As an aside, check out the weather is Australia.)

According to that linked report, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, considered closing all of the schools in the state.  He did not, however, do this because “…one of the things that I’m concerned about is, is when you close a school sometimes, that is the place of warmth and food that is not available elsewhere.”

That summarizes the state of the human condition for far too many.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The Appalachian Mountain Club has these recommendations for dressing for extremely cold weather-this report on NPR brought that link to my attention.  It is quite clear why such temperatures and wind chill present issues for those without the resources to be safe.

 

 

 

 

Furlough or Not

January 26, 2019

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The partial government shutdown ended, at least temporarily, after having reached 35 days in length-it was by far the longest in U.S. history to date.  According to Vox, “Approximately 380,000 federal employees are currently furloughed and 420,000 are expected to work without pay…”

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That quote came from this article, which provides graphics and details to summarize the effect-this is a “big picture” (macro) view.  A micro analysis of the shutdown would examine the individual stories of deprivation due worker’s lost wages and the shock waves extending outward to those who also depend on government employees for their livelihood-some of those are described here and here.

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The members of Congress were being paid during the shutdown.

Beyond the financial impact, though, is the psychological toll being exacted on those furloughed workers, their dependents, and those who rely on federal employees for their well-being-this includes anyone flying via U.S. airports.  Earlier this month, the president said that the shutdown could last for “months or even years“.  Such language does nothing but exacerbate the stress and worry of all involved.  More on this point later.

Yesterday, the president announced an agreement to re-open the government until February 15, which is, indeed, important.  The president gave an address explaining his position on the agreement, which included his current description of the alternatives for border security and the need for such.  Should an agreement not be reached, the president stated the government would be again shut down and he would use executive power by declaring a national emergency to address the funding for the wall.  It is worth listening to the speech and then fact-checking the information for validity.  For example, the president repeatedly refers to the heroin being smuggled into the country from Mexico as one reason for the wall-the evidence, including the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Drug Threat Assessment report, does not support that claim.  The definition of “wall” also changes.

The measures taken by Congress yesterday and last evening do not address the funding for border security.  As is usual, more will be revealed as this process continues.  For all affected by the shutdown, there is a temporary respite for many-federal contractors appear to not be getting lost pay.  In addition, the spectre of another shutdown hovers as work continues to find, and fund, a politically agreeable solution to address border security.  Should that not occur in the next three weeks, and the president declares a national emergency, more political and legal wrangling may be the result.  Federal workers and their associates may again be in the middle.  For them, this could be an intense three weeks.

What is also clear is that the appeal of working for the government, doing civil service, has taken a hit.  That may, in fact, turn out to be the longer term casualty for which there are higher consequences.

Take care.