Monday, November 5, 2012

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The last post at Wit's End featured photos of trees that fell across my driveway, and around first daughter's farm, and many in between.  Since then we've been clearing the debris.  Following are a few photos taken by my daughter's husband with his cellphone, and then, numerous pictures gleaned from news stories.  The first was the Jersey shore on Monday a week ago, as Sandy was approaching.
This is the backyard at Bramblefields, which is almost as far west as you can go and still be in New Jersey.  What is left is only a tiny fraction of what was hauled away.
The machine was stuck, after prying a stump from the earth.  The ground sank - where there should have been roots was an empty cavity.
 Here first daughter is dragging logs into the woods.
At the end of a long day we felt so lucky to have heat and lights.  But we are worried about the next storm brewing, which will bring down even more trees.
 Moxie is in her favorite spot.
My son-in-law didn't send me any pictures of himself, other than one from the hospital after his altercation with a chainsaw...(grossout alert!)
It was alas too easy to find photos of trees that fell over revealing rotted interiors.  Even when rot isn't obvious, they all have the green lichen spreading on their bark.
Unless captioned with other sources, these photos come from a very useful blog, A Walk in the Park NYC, which announced that overall the city has lost tens of thousands of trees.
Note that both very large old trees, like the one above, and young trees, like the one below, often have rotted trunks.  Trees of all ages, in all locations are dying from pollution and that fact, not what one commenter described as the "almost sedate" winds of Sandy, is the reason they are falling over...and the reason so many people far from coastal areas that received the brunt of the storm are left without power, for so long...a week and counting at Wit's End!
The US Forest Service lists signs of decay (all of which are now everywhere) and advises:  "Dead wood is often dry and brittle and cannot bend in the wind like a living tree or branch."  Which is a backwards way of saying, "Living trees and branches bend in the wind - they do not break!"
Excerpts from the aforementioned New York Parks blog:

*  Central Park.  The current estimate is that approximately 300 trees were destroyed and over 250 were damaged by the storm. 

*  Prospect Park.  Over 300 hundred trees are down or so badly damaged that they will be taken down for safety. There were over 100 hanging limbs and , almost 1, 000 large branches and limbs are down or damaged.  

*   Fort Tryon Park - Manhattan. Over 100 trees have been damaged or destroyed.
Total Tree Calls: The total storm-related service requests is 15,837; of these requests, 10,326 were for Trees Down according to the Parks Department.

According to the Prospect Park Alliance the damage to Prospect Park from Hurricane Sandy far exceeds what any storm has done to the Park in the 25 year history of the  Alliance. Over 300 hundred trees are down or so badly damaged that they will be taken down for safety. There were over 100 hanging limbs and  almost 1,000 large branches and limbs are down or damaged.


Multiple Tree Deaths As Huricane Sandy's Toll Rises

"Neighbors and relatives said that his family had pleaded with the city to remove the tree that wound up killing him — but that officials told them it was healthy enough to stay."
Brooklyn sweethearts Jacob Vogelman, 23 and Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, were killed by a fallen tree while walking their dog near E. 18th Street and Ditmas Avenue. In Flushing Queens a man was killed when a tree - that neighbors asked the Parks Department to remove last month - crashed through his bedroom.


Woman Struck By Fallen Tree Limb In Prospect Park Perimeter


A 30-year-old woman was struck by a large tree limb while jogging this morning around the perimeter of Prospect Park, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The incident happened at approx. 9:43 am this morning near 297 Ocean Avenue. 
Notice, this woman was hit by a falling branch, on Monday morning well before Sandy arrived, which was Monday NIGHT.  Well, for that matter, a tourist from New Zealand was killed by a falling branch in Kew Gardens in September! when wind was gusting up to, uh, 30 mph.
I couldn't find what sort of tree it was, but the anticipation that a lethal fungus which has already swept Europe is expected to spread to all 90 million ash trees in Britain is creating a furor there, and articles are pouring out of their newspapers papers like this one (linked to in comments by Michele, thank you!) titled:  Most UK ash trees will be diseased within 10 years, ministers told...Dieback disease may spread 20 miles a year, crisis meeting hears as calls grow for quarantines, bans and plant passports.

Here are a couple of revealing excerpts from the responses of "experts" - which is to blame invasives and call for quarantines and bans:

"'There is a tidal wave of pathogens coming in. It is terrifying.' said Martin Ward, chief plant health officer at Defra's Food and Environment Research Agency."
"Joan Webber, principal pathologist at Forest Research, the research agency of the UK Forestry Commission, said: 'There have been more outbreaks of diseases in the past 10 years than we had in the whole of the last century. These organisms reinvent themselves when they move into an unknown habitat. Plants have little or no resistance to them. It can happen very quickly.' She urged anyone going into woods to clean their boots and to ask nurseries to be more vigilant for diseases."
It's important that even though the story is ostensibly about ash dieback, they are not just talking about one species but rather "a tidal wave of pathogens."  These pronouncements are INSANE.  England had colonies all around the globe and has maintained a brisk trade with them for centuries.  Charles Darwin, for god's sake, brought all sorts of samples of plants back; the New World supplied Europe with shipload after shipload of lumber - they essentially denuded the great forests of the East Coast and much of it wound up in Europe; all sorts of agricultural crops have been exchanged; the extensive arboretums that are the pride of the English Isles have been abundantly planted with exotic specimens due to their mild hospitable climate from ALL OVER THE WORLD and NOW, SUDDENLY - in the "last ten years" - all hell is breaking loose because of invasive species????
British nurserymen don't have the emerald borer to blame like US foresters do, even in areas where there are no borers, so they blame a fungus, which is what is blamed for the dying kauri trees in New Zealand.  This is all so stupid!  Fungus is colonizing trees everywhere, because that's what fungus does when trees are dying.
There was a comparison between Sandy and Katrina using various metrics which made for some interesting comments.  In response to this analysis, one person notes correctly that the wind strength was not particularly strong...but then blames falling trees on rain even though it didn't rain that much inland, certainly not an unprecedented amount:
"The storm system was huge in diameter, over a 1000 miles, but that was all that made this "epic", as the winds were almost sedate compared to other typhoons/hurricanes/cyclones. The Northeast was unprepared and had grown complacent, forgetting that every place in the world experiences a "100 Year" weather event, as evidenced with that amusement park (with a rollercoaster) sitting on a pier that jutted out into the ocean."
He continues rather callously..."You would never find such a thing on the southern US coastlines. Basically the damage all came from water. Water flooded their streets and subway system because they hadn't prepared for such an event as wind pushing water, oh my. The leaders there simply didn't think it could or would happen. Water weakened the soil which caused the trees to fall and kill people and tear down utility lines and cause fires but the winds, the mark of a truely powerfully ferocious storm, simply wasn't that bad. Quit giving those people more reasons to feel sorry for themselves"
Mike , Marshall, 04/11/2012 04:14
note- the center of the section on the ground is rotted
The original version had this comment:

"Living just north of NYC, I was amazed at the level of destruction Sandy brought considering it was a Category 1. For those of us who aren't interested in politicizing everything, this was very educational."  It certainly was an amazing amount of destruction, especially considering it wasn't even a Cat1!

People often report that fallen trees, like the one pictured above, are dead - but they almost never seem to wonder why they're ALL dying.  The main trunk of the beech below, which accompanies the USA article beneath it, is black with rot where it split apart.
Trees one of Storms Biggest Killers
USA Today reports that for deaths associated with Sandy, most were from trees.  That story follows, illustrated with photos uploaded by readers of, some of which show how, for several years now, the pines have been getting thinner, their needles turning brown.
Hurricanes kill most often with storm surge, Vaccaro said. In 2011's Hurricane Irene, most people died in freshwater floods, he said.
In Sandy's assault, trees became its lethal weapon.
Trees caused five of the six confirmed deaths attributed to Sandy in New Jersey, said Lt. Stephen Jones, spokesman for New Jersey State Police. In Connecticut, trees killed a volunteer firefighter and an elderly woman.
Two boys, 11 and 13, died in North Salem, N.Y., when a tree crashed through the living room where they sat. A West Virginia political candidate became the third person to die in that state when he was struck by a tree limb.
Lt. Russell Neary, a volunteer firefighter for the Easton, Conn., fire department was returning from a fire call at 6:45 p.m. Monday when the squad came upon a tree blocking the road, firefighter Alfred Doty said. As Neary helped move it, a tree fell on him and killed him, Doty said.
At 7:50 p.m. Monday, as Sandy kicked into full gear, Richard Everett, 54, and his wife, Elizabeth, 48, were killed when a tree fell on their pickup, Mendham Township, N.J., Police Chief Steve Crawford said.
The couple and their two children were driving in a development when the tree toppled onto the front passenger seat. The two children, ages 11 and 14, escaped through a rear window, he said.
Note the lifeless tree still standing
Olga Raymond, 90, died Monday evening in Mansfield, Conn., when she and two friends sought shelter at a neighbor's home, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said. As the trio walked to the home, a large tree with a power line entwined in its limbs fell on them, killing Raymond and seriously inuring the others, Vance said. The power company and a tree service had to extricate Raymond, he said.
Some of the gravest danger may come after the rain and the wind has passed, says Ernest DelBuono, a retired Coast Guard commander and a senior vice president at Levick, a crisis communications firm in Washington.
People want to get out of their homes and survey the damage, DelBuono said.
"It's still an extremely dangerous time," he said. "Power lines and trees falling down are still hazards that can happen even after the hurricane has passed."

More on deaths in New Jersey:

A Nicole Court man was killed when a tree fell into his house Tuesday morning, in the hours after Hurricane Sandy passed New Jersey, Capt. Eric Wilsusen said.
Bruce Latteri, 51, had been sitting in a chair when the tree crashed through his roof, Wilsusen said. He was home alone.
Wilsusen said a neighbor called police around 7:15 a.m., after hearing the tree crack and fall.
"Unfortunately, when we found him, he was dead," Wilsusen said.
The deadly incident is at least the second in Morris county connected to Hurricane Sandy. 
Hurricane Sandy was to blame for death of a man and woman when a tree fell on their pickup truck, Jeff Paul, director of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, said. People were killed by falling trees in Hawthorne and in Princeton as well.
Wilsusen said Jefferson, like most communities, was still struggling Tuesday night with Sandy's aftermath. Virtually all of the township was without power, and trees and power lines blocked many roads.
He said one other person was hurt in Jefferson — a man who went out to start his generator during the storm's heavy winds, and was struck by a tree limb that broke his neck.
The interior of the tree above appears suspiciously spongey, but look at what the owner of the house it crushed had to say in a newspaper article:

Raniere said he and his neighbor had discussions weeks earlier about trimming down the trees, but nothing came about prior to the storm.
Following for the benefit of any new visitors to Wit's End is the latest iteration of my usual sort of (rejected) letter to the editor about ozone (if you want references to the science, download the free book or write me at witsendnj@yahoo), so for regular readers, scroll down for the video with Dave Roberts about climate, if you haven't already seen it.  Not enough people have.

It seems obvious that the sea-level rise and the size of the storm are related to the energy humans are adding to the system by burning fuel and releasing millions of tons of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases into the atmosphere. That’s high school science and as obvious as plate tectonics. Remember when that was a controversy? Or that seat belts in cars, or helmets for bikes save lives? Asking if climate change has something to do with Sandy is like asking if smoking has something to do with lung cancer. Remember when people could say with a straight face that it didn’t?
Having said that, there is a very large story that isn't being reported which has little to do with climate change although it derives from the same processes.
What is being ignored in this storm (and Irene as well) is the real source of the massive power outages that are so disruptive - which is all the trees that are falling on the lines. Trees didn't used to fall with regularity on power lines - or people, cars and houses. The winds in both those storms were not extraordinary, nothing that a healthy tree shouldn't be able to withstand.
Why are they falling now?

The answer is pretty obvious if you trouble to actually LOOK at them. They are all dying. Every species, every age, every location. They have obvious symptoms - broken branches, cankers, splitting bark, holes, thin crowns, early leaf drop, lack of autumn color, yellowing needles, bark covered with lichens and fungus. You can't find a healthy tree anymore.
So the question becomes, why are they dying? Most foresters and scientists will say, climate change and/or invasive pests. But those explanations don't fit the empirical evidence which is that even native pests and diseases have run amuck, and even young trees grown and watered and fertilized in nurseries exhibit the identical symptoms of decline. Even annual, tropical ornamentals in enriched soil in pots that like heat, and aquatic plants in ponds have injured foliage and stunted growth.
What do all of these plants have in common? 

The answer is, the composition of the atmosphere. Most people don't realize it, because it's invisible, but the background level of tropospheric ozone is inexorably increasing. Precursors from Asia travel across oceans and continents, and the persistent concentration has reached a threshold that is intolerable to the plants that absorb it when they photosynthesize. Agricultural yield and quality are reduced, and especially trees that are exposed to cumulative damage season after season are universally - around the world - in decline.
This process has been well known to foresters and agronomists for decades, and demonstrated in field observations and controlled fumigation experiments. They just don't want to publicize it, or even admit it, because the source is the emissions from industrial civilization itself. They would rather point to drought, insects, fungus and disease EVEN THOUGH it is well known that ozone debilitates plants causing their root systems to shrink as they allocate more energy to repairing damaged foliage, rendering them more vulnerable to drought and wind...AND impinges on their natural immunity to attacks from insects, disease and fungus, which exist precisely to break down dying trees, not destroy healthy trees.
Most of the trees that fell during Sandy were rotted inside.  New Jersey looks like the ecopocalypse has arrived.
And now here is very well done version of Dave Roberts explaining, with a sort of pained and bewildered exasperation, how completely screwed we are even if we do stop spewing ozone into the atmosphere, killing trees.  Now, Dave is one of those climate activists who has faith that, if only we wanted to, we could replace fossil fuels with clean energy and party on.  Or at least, he doesn't make a habit of saying that notion is a fantastical sham, which is thoroughly discredited here.  So of course he ends with the implausibly hopey admonition that we have "only" 5 to 10 years left before we must drastically reduce emissions in order to avoid 2C+ (climate alarmists ALWAYS say there's still time, but just barely) and finishes with a flourish, by urging us all to "...turn the impossible into the possible" - an oxymoron, which by definition, can't be done!


  1. Do you know if the trees in the southern hemisphere are fairing better? I remember reading once that pollution/fallout would mostly stay in the hemisphere where it originated. If this is true I would expect trees in the southern part of the world would be in better shape because there is less industry there but I have no way to verify this.

  2. I don't really know Dave, I have never been south of the equator. I'm not sure how much mixing there is.

    However, there are many, many reports of trees dying in the southern hemisphere. There's a video that I linked to and discuss here:

    also, you can just google dying trees with any country and come up with plenty of results.

  3. Dave and Gail,
    There are some ways to evaluate pollution in N. America - EPA and NOAA.

    There is some research in comparing hemispheres in 2005 IPCC...

  4. I would say that your conclusion that trees are dying from ozone is one of the most frightening things I have read in years.

    This is coming from a repressed doomer.

  5. Thanks for the pix.


  6. Dear Gail.
    In a previous entry you say: " more people do wake up and see what is so obviously before them, they will simply go insane....". Well I do hope the rest of what you write will never happen to the "Cassandras" nowadays.

    But this "will simply go insane" has me fascinated. About ten years ago I gave up to try to educate fellow members of this planets most disastrous species. The then last conclusion was - this species is insane, all of us.
    So having the: insane going insane about finally seeing the obvious - this will be something. Lately tend to join the choir of a few - we are living in interesting times indeed.
    Southern hemisphere -trees. 30 years ago on a train journey along Australia's east coast. Trees dying or dead already, back then. Far too many for being anything like natural. This stretch of land has been "developed" since even further. Guess hardly any people there remember what the country looked like, even only 30 years ago.

    Well, thank you. Wish you all the best. The last refuge for sanity - the internet.

  7. It really is terrifying, isn't it? No wonder so few people will even consider it yet alone believe it. Yet it is very simple. Earth is like a closed garage. We are running the engines, and the toxins are building up.

  8. I'm glad you like them, Gaianne. It takes a long time to grab, convert & upload!

    Bernhard, this is what I mean when I talk about people going crazy - think Salem witch hunts:

  9. Sandy was a government weather event. So was Irene.

    See how below:

  10. Epic of Gilgamesh, part deux: This Time, by Tailpipe.

    One day too, here in North America, our ancestors will have mythology about a once great forest.

    Lord, Mr. Ford, what have you done?

  11. From the Gilgamesh link:

    I will pull down the Gates of Hell itself,
    Crush the doorposts and flatten the door,
    And I will let the dead leave
    And let the dead roam the earth
    And they shall eat the living.
    The dead will overwhelm all the living!

    Heh, I knew it! Zombie Apocalypse!

  12. Regarding the question about the S Hemisphere - yes, in general there is a lot of decoupling of the atmosphere between hemispheres.
    Much less aerosols, NOx & SO2 etc in S hemisphere. I don't know about background ozone although the max ozone values will be lower in general.
    Here in NZ much less obvious damage to trees than described in US, but I have increasingly noticed light green lichens on many tree trunks.
    Death of giant kauri in Northern NZ from fungi seems to me likely to result from pollution. Indigenous Maori elders of the area commented recently on TV "the forest seems tired" which I suppose sums it up.

  13. Not too long ago if I said anything about trees being unhealthy, almost everyone would look surprised, and then disagree. Now, most people nod their heads reluctantly and then shrug their shoulders. Nothing we can do about, so why even think about it?


    interesting article co-authored by Naomi Oreskes about the divide between conservatism and science, but I'm putting it here in the context of the question of north/south hemispheric exchange, this quote:

    Less well remembered but equally important was the work of Clair Patterson, a geochemist at the California Institute of Technology, who showed that lead pollution from cars had reached Antarctica.

  15. I am struggling these days between my human need to talk and the fact that I have nobody to talk to. And realizing that all the talking I did in my life was pretty useless. But how do I bring silence in my soul? How to live my death?

    One big storm here(like the ice storm of the 1990) and we are in for a never ending nightmare. So many BIG trees just waiting to fall. It would/will almost certainly jail us in darkness and cold. Cars and planes still running in the billions with their mindless loads, day and night. This is insane.

  16. Michele, I heard an excerpt of Richard Burton's diary read out loud on NPR. Did you know he was a doomer? But I don't know yet exactly why. If I ever get any money in my shuttered bank account, I'm going to get a copy. He was a very good writer.

  17. from Collapse of Industial Civilization:
    Without a doubt, we’ve become an arrogant species who thinks of itself as a force of nature to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for us, the real world of biophysical sciences says that we are not above the laws of the natural world and we’ll be dealt with accordingly. When organisms cannot adapt to their environments, they go extinct. When the activities of man alter the favorable atmospheric conditions for his existence, then he suffers the same fate of every life form that has disappeared from the face of the Earth. Intelligence served man well in his primitive state, offering flexibility against changing conditions, but on today’s technological scale that encompasses the entire planet, it’s cumulative effect has been to destroy.


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