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Autumn equinox, cycles of nature and Chinese philosophy

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In the Chinese tradition, the autumn season is associated with the color white, the sound of weeping, the emotions of both courage and sadness, the lung organ, the metal element, and a white tiger. Autumn is also connected in Chinese thought with the direction west, considered to be the direction of dreams and visions.

To the Chinese, nature means more than just the cycling of the seasons. Nature is within us and around us, in all things. The basic cycles of nature, as understood by the ancient Chinese, are easily comprehensible by Western students of nature. They ring true. After all, Chinese civilization flourished for 15 centuries before the Roman Empire came to be. Today we know it’s part of Chinese culture to maintain and add to ancient wisdom. In contrast, we in the Western world tend to replace old ideas with new ideas. So – although our Western way of thinking encourages advances in things like technology and economics – the Chinese understanding of natural cycles remains far deeper than ours.

June through August 2014 hottest ever recorded globally

Image Credit: NOAA/NCDC

August 2014 temperature departures across the globe. It was the warmest August since record keeping began in 1880. Image via NOAA/NCDC

The results are in for NOAA, and they show that the combined average temperature for global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was a record high, beating out the old record set back in 1998. The June through August global land and ocean surface temperatures were 0.71°C (1.28°F) higher than the 20th century average, making it the warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880. Have you heard the argument that the past 15 years haven’t seen much warming? Those using that argument are – knowingly or unknowingly – dating it back to the extremely warm year of 1998, when an unusually strong El Niño formed. While we haven’t seen as big of a spike in heating as in 1998, the globe continues to warm and records continue to be broken.

Top 10 things you might not know about stars

The sun in extreme ultraviolet, false color green

The sun in extreme ultraviolet, false color green

Here’s a collection of 10 unexpected, intriguing facts about the stars of our universe – including our sun – that you probably didn’t know!

Kilauea volcano lava continues to advance

The lava from Kilauea volcano burns through vegetation in its path.  Photo via USGS

The lava from Kilauea volcano burns through vegetation in its path. Officials say residents will be given adequate notice to evacuate should that be necessary. Photo via USGS

Officials from the U.S. Geological Survey and Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency flew over the new lava flow at Kilauea – Hawaii’s largest volcano – on September 15 and 16, 2014 to get a close up view of the eruption. Their observations have confirmed that the lava flow from Kilauea, which began on June 27, 2014, is continuing to advance in the northeast direction across the Big Island of Hawaii and has now entered a vacant portion of the Kahoe Homesteads.

Racing toward Pluto, spacecraft spies tiny moon Hydra

Detection of tiny Pluto moon Hydra in July 2014 by New Horizons spacecraft.  Image via NASA / JHU / APL / SRI. New Horizons spacecraft.

Detection of tiny Pluto moon Hydra in July 2014 by New Horizons spacecraft. Image via NASA / JHU / APL / SRI. New Horizons spacecraft.

Pluto’s moon Hydra was detected twice by the New Horizons spacecraft LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaisance Imager) camera. The detections were made on July 18, 2014 and a few days later on July 20, from a distance of 430 million kilometers / 267 million miles.

Merging galaxies can produce disk galaxies

View larger. | Distributions of gas in merging galaxies observed by radio telescopes. Contours indicate the radio intensity emitted from CO gas. The color shows the motion of gas. The red color indicates gas is moving away from us while the blue color is coming closer to us. The gradation from red to blue means that gas is rotating in a disk-like manner around the center of the galaxy.      Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/SMA/CARMA/IRAM/J. Ueda et al.

Distributions of gas in merging galaxies observed by radio telescopes. The gradation from red to blue means that gas is rotating in a disk-like manner around the center of the galaxy. Image via ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/SMA/CARMA/IRAM/J. Ueda et al.

It’s been part of the conventional wisdom of modern astronomy that mergers between galaxies – which are common throughout the history of the universe – lead to the formation of massive elliptical galaxies. That idea is based on computer simulations performed in the 1970s, which have held sway ever since. Now, however, astronomers have the first evidence that merging galaxies can create disk galaxies.

A push for climbing reform after Sherpa deaths on Everest

The Khumbu Icefall is a notoriously dangerous part of Mount Everest. Sixteen Nepalese guides died here on April 18 in one of the worst accidents in the mountain’s history. Photo credit: Mahatma4711

The Khumbu Icefall is a notoriously dangerous part of Mount Everest. Sixteen Nepalese guides died here on April 18, 2014 in one of the worst accidents in the mountain’s history. Photo credit: Mahatma4711

A major workshop in late August 2014 represents a significant change in the debates about climbing expeditions on Mount Everest, with significance across the Himalayas and beyond. The Participatory Workshop on Roles, Responsibilities & Rights of Mountaineering Workers, held on August 29 and 30 in Kathmandu, emerged from the unsettled outcome of the tragic accident of April 18, when 16 Nepalese guides were killed at the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest.

Major Hurricane Odile slams Baja Peninsula in Mexico

Extensive damage in the Cabo San Lucas Airport. Image via Twitter via @MexicanadeModa

Extensive damage in the Cabo San Lucas Airport. Image via Twitter via @MexicanadeModa

The active Eastern Pacific hurricane season continues to churn up powerful storms. On September 15, 2014 at 12:45 a.m. EDT (445 UTC), major Hurricane Odile slammed into Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. It made landfall in Cabo San Lucas, a popular tourist destination, with a population of roughly 70,000 people. The storm made landfall as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour (mph) or 110 knots. Odile was the first known storm to hit Cabo San Lucas as such a strong intensity. Photos of the damage and firsthand reports, here.

New report detects substantial rise in greenhouse gases

Emissions from a coal fired power plant. Image Credit: Robert S. Donovan.

Emissions from a coal fired power plant. Image Credit: Robert S. Donovan.

A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released on September 9, 2014 has detected a substantial rise in the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. From 2012 to 2013, carbon dioxide concentrations increased by 2.9 parts per million and now total 396 parts per million, according to the report. The most recent rise in carbon dioxide is the largest annual change seen for this gas since 1984.

ESA announces landing site on Rosetta’s comet

ESA has announced the Philae lander's touch down point.  It's Site J!

ESA has announced the Philae lander’s touch down point. It’s Site J!

Just announced.

Landing Site for Rosetta’s Philae Lander has been decided. It is Site J the one next to the crater on the top of the head of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.