Friday, October 30, 2009

It's The Atmosphere, People!

I came across this section of an ebook about the composition of the atmosphere which is much more important than Ayn Rand, her foolish scribblings, and her lack of or size of sexual organ.

Here is an excerpt about our atmosphere, which, we breathe:

"The average concentration of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide is now increasing at a rate of 0.2 to 0.3% per year. Its part in the enhancement of the greenhouse effect is minor relative to the other greenhouse gases already mentioned. However, it does have an important role in the artificial fertilization of ecosystems. In extreme cases, this fertilization can lead to the death of forests, eutrophication of aquatic habitats, and species exclusion. Sources for the increase of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere include: land-use conversion; fossil fuel combustion; biomass burning; and soil fertilization."

Somebody needs to figure out what is killing trees and plants, and soon, so we can stop it! Maybe it's because the nitrogen cycle is disrupted? Aaauughhh. I don't know, and it seems neither does anyone else!

Below are some pictures I found online, of trees and leaves from mid to late October, 2008, most of them from eastern PA. The trees and leaves even up close and on the ground are so lovely, the way autumn colors should be. Below them for comparison are pictures which I took yesterday, October 31.

Here's a link to the newspaper article where they were submitted by various photographers.


at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia




This is over the Delaware River this time, last year. Lots of leaves on trees still! Following are the pictures from yesterday, Halloween. It was very overcast, with intermittent rain, mist and fog. Look how barren is the landscape.

That there are still bright green leaves in isolated spots only goes to prove that the crowns of so many large trees shouldn't be bare.

Below is some sort of exotic maple, with scorched leaves.
Those on the ground are damaged.
And not by frosty conditions, as this ornamental flower can testify.

The ground was carpeted by fallen leaves. The new color of nature? Eery spectral grey/green/blue lichen is the new black, when it comes to natural fashion.
It's the jellyfish of terrestrial ecosystems. Anyone following the demise of coral reefs and life in the oceans will understand the allusion.

These mushrooms bloomed in the wet weather. They are just ever so cute...and lethal if ingested.
These bushes are commonly used in landscaping, and they are re-blooming, idiotically.
Whereas, the roses haven't stopped blooming yet.
I can recall the first time I noticed a rose blooming well past the time it should be. I'm not sure of the month, but I remember the shock I felt to find it, and exactly where I saw it - in the garden of one of my daughter's friend's home, about eight years ago.
Below is a Japanese Andromeda that is already setting buds, that shouldn't be there until next spring.
It will have a rude shock when we get a solid freeze.
And here is what as known as burning bush, because it turns an almost impossibly bright red in the fall, and persists until frost.
Except, this specimen and most others are lacking the vibrancy, and dropping leaves well before frost.
They are droopy, and literally bleached. Look how they are actually turning white and falling to the ground! It's astonishing.
At the end of the day, I passed a downed power line.
The sound of it, a threatening buzz, and the crackle of the fire, and the putrid smell, were overwhelming. Next time when this happens and it hasn't been raining for 24 hours, we could have a nasty, spreading wildfire.

And now (!) for some humor, Messages that epitomize the perennial dispute between Significant Other, an unrepentant free-marketer and nationalist, to Moi, a pacifist and citizen of the globe:

S.O. to Moi:

Moral hypocrisy masquerading as intellectual irrelevancy:

Atlas Hugged

Moi to S.O.:

You don't have to go any further than the first sentence to see what a joke the article will be:

"In my experience, people who've read Ayn Rand's books either love them or hate them. I'm one of the few who fall somewhere in between."

because in his experience, he has apparently never met anyone clever enough to NOT read that bullshit at all, but rather realize, a page or two in, that it is utter trash.

Next, no doubt out of abject contrition

And for anyone who is hanging in, I did write to Dr. Pidwerny but my query was rejected. I think he is no longer affiliated with the University of British Columbia. I'm going to copy below my letter to him, for the record, and I'll be trying to locate his new address so I can forward it:

update! I had misspelled his name (It's Pidwirny) - resent the message Monday:

Dear Dr. Pidwirny,

I have been reading about the composition of the atmosphere from your ebook here.

I hope you will not regard my inquiry as an annoyance, even though I am woefully ignorant about science. I know enough to respect scientists who do know science, however.

I live New Jersey and in the summer of 2008 I became concerned and then alarmed about the condition of the trees. Every species began to exhibit signs of irreversible decline.

This past growing season their condition has dramatically worsened. Leaves have fallen off a month early, and the coniferous trees also are dropping needles. Because these symptoms have now appeared on not just long-lived species that might suffer cumulative damage, but also annual and even aquatic plants, I have come to the conclusion that only something in the atmosphere could inflict such widespread, actually universal impact. In fact I am quite convinced of it - the question is, what exactly is the mechanism?

Ozone is well-known to be toxic to vegetation, but it has been present for decades. I have speculated that perhaps it is the more recently mandated addition of ethanol that is the primary cause, but it is quite difficult to find authoritative corroboration or even many academic studies on the topic. Government agencies appear to be so committed to producing biofuels that it is impossible to even get them to consider the possible consequences to health for plants or humans.

Looking at your chapter caused me to consider that perhaps the nitrogen cycle has been widely disrupted, because you do state that elevated levels of nitrous oxide will artificially fertilize the ecosystem and that "In extreme cases, this fertilization can lead to the death of forests." although you then add that it is not ubiquitous. Can you guide me to the source of information that you refer to in the "death of forests?"

Given that SOMETHING in the atmosphere is killing vegetation at a wildly rapid velocity, do you have any thoughts on what agent is most likely to blame?

I would very much appreciate your thoughts. I'm not requesting a definitive answer - just a general direction. I have been posting photographs and links to whatever research I can locate at if you are interested.


Gail Zawacki
Oldwick, NJ

How Quickly We Forget

The links at the bottom of this post, below the pictures, are the most important so far.

These photos were mostly taken Thursday, October 29. I wanted to try to capture the last glimpses of foliage before it is gone for the season.

We still haven't had frost, or enough of one to impact the delicate cosmos. It looks a bit tattered, but a frost would have made it disappear.

The same is true for nasturtium, and the tomato, which is actually still flowering.

Here is a lichen that looks like a bit like a flower. There will be much more on this, because they are spreading at mind-boggling velocity.

They are creeping onto the inner branches of evergreens.

But while we have them, the rest of this post will be about leaves.

It's possible to find some that are breathtakingly beautiful.

But with most, it is a terrible beauty.

Leaves of all varieties show the characteristic speckling of stomata damage.

And there are myriad samples of this odd upside-down coloration, that goes along with a late, lanky growth spurt. I think, it's because the earlier, lower foliage has been exposed for longer and to more intense atmospheric toxins, as in the rose leaves.

The colors of redbud leaves range from strange to dreadful.

Even the decorative annuals show the upside down effect.

Oak leaves always turn russet, or brown.

But falling in clumps to the ground with this mottled aspect is something I've never seen before.

The maple leaves have a range of colors.

Some are still green, but singed and spotted.

While others are more dramatic.

Frankly I don't see how anyone can reconcile the leaves that are still green with those that are changing color, while all of them have brown edges and spots. Why? They should be green turning to yellow, or red, or orange. I guess most people just don't LOOK.

The lilac leaves are delicately hued, simultaneously lovely and scary.

Below is my katsura tree as it appeared 10 days ago, on October 20.

The leaves were still basically green

In ten days they all turned yellow and fell off.

Just a few remain.

This hydrangea is another example of the upside down effect. Many species of shrub and tree have similar growth and coloration patterns.

The deep pigmentation of this hydrangea is just bizarre.

Below are hickory leaves in varying degrees of brown.

The leaves above and below fill me with nostalgia.

The clematis above also has the upside down effect.

I took a picture of this catalpa because it is small enough that I could get a closeup of the leaf. But its condition is typical of catalpas everywhere now. They uniformly look disgustingly decayed, with morbid coloring.

Here's the upside down boxwood. Fresh new growth above yellowing older leaves that should be evergreen.

The barberry leaves are stippled - but its an invasive, so who cares? Actually, the berries made a nice condiment.

Here's the upside down pattern as interpreted by an azalea.

Wild blackberry leaves appear to be quite susceptible to poisonous emissions, as are all fruiting trees - but then, nothing I can find is immune.

Following are beech leaves and trees.

At the end of the day, in sunset, these leaves glowed in the most gorgeous fashion. This long row of venerable maples must have been planted long ago. There isn't a one that hasn't lost large branches and they all have gaping holes in their trunks.

One obtuse professional forester once told me the trees are dying because they are old. Aside from the fact that young trees are dying at the same clip, trees like these are genetically programed to live for centuries.

I have been putting off looking for pictures of foliage from years past, for fear of what I would find. Finally today I had some time, and I forced myself to search for albums on the internet. I'm going to link to the very first two that I found that are geographically close to Wit's End, I cannot bear to look for anymore right now. It is an excruciating exercise.

I have contacted both photographers in the hopes they will give me permission to use their work, because I would like to visit the same sites where they took their pictures and do a side by side comparison. I think that should constitute pretty compelling evidence of serious decline.

But in the meanwhile, it is worth looking at them just for general reference. The difference between past years and now is no less than stunning.

This album is from 2004, in Philadelphia. It was uploaded November 30, but I have to find out when the shots were actually taken.

Whereas this album clearly states the pictures were taken the day before Thanksgiving, in 2007, in New Jersey.

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