Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Chris Cooper on Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Michael Jennings on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Brian Micklethwait on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Brian Micklethwait on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
Patrick Crozier on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
kenforthewin on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
6000 on Guess what this is
Most recent entries
- And in Other creatures news …
- Cat proximity awareness
- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
- Today’s plan
- Photoing the faces of strangers (or in my case: not)
- England crush Scotland in the 6N – plus the hugeness of home advantage
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Here Comes Everybody
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Category archive: Environment
It’s always sad when a bridge collapses, and there is a special poignancy about the recent collapse, in Malta, of this one:
That picture comes from the best report (courtesy the BBC) that I could find of this sad circumstance, the best because it had both a before and an after picture, of the bridge, and then of the same place, but without the bridge.
Malta’s famous Azure Window rock arch has collapsed into the sea after heavy storms.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the news was “heartbreaking”.
The Azure Window rock arch didn’t collapse because the top of the arch failed. Rather did the pillar in the sea succumb to erosion.
Here’s wishing Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Dorsetshire …:
… happiness and long life.
The chapter of Tim Marshall’s book Prisoners of Geography (see also these earlier excerpts: Africa is (still) big. And Africa’s rivers don’t help, Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East) that I found the most informative was the one on The Arctic, because this is the part of the world that he writes about concerning which I know the least. How catastrophic - if catastrophic at all - global warming will eventually become, and whose fault it will be if it ever does become catastrophic and what to do about it , are all matters of fierce dispute. But the fact of global warming is not in doubt, as Marshall explains (pp. 267-271):
That the ice is receding is not in question - satellite imaging over the past decade clearly shows that the ice has shrunk - only the cause is in doubt. Most scientists are convinced that man is responsible, not merely natural climate cycles, and that the coming exploitation of what is unveiled will quicken the pace.
Already villages along the Bering and Chukchi coasts have been relocated as coastlines are eroded and hunting grounds lost. A biological reshuffle is under way. Polar bears and Arctic foxes are on the move, walruses find themselves competing for space, and fish, unaware of territorial boundaries, are moving northward, depleting stocks for some countries but populating others. Mackerel and Atlantic cod are now being found in Arctic trawler nets.
The effects of the melting ice won’t just be felt in the Arctic: countries as far away as the Maldives, Bangladesh and the Netherlands are at risk of increased flooding as the ice melts and sea levels rise. These knock-on effects are why the Arctic is a global, not just a regional, issue.
As the ice melts and the tundra is exposed, two things are likely to happen to accelerate the process of the greying of the ice cap. Residue from the industrial work destined to take place will land on the snow and ice, further reducing the amount of heat-reflecting territory. The darker-coloured land and open water will then absorb more heat than the ice and snow they replace, thus increasing the size of the darker territory. This is known as the Albedo effect, and although there are negative aspects to it there are also positive ones: the warming tundra will allow significantly more natural plant growth and agricultural crops to flourish, helping local populations as they seek new food sources.
There is, though, no getting away from the prospect that one of the world’s last great unspoiled regions is about to change. Some climate-prediction models say the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by the end of the century; there are a few which predict it could happen much sooner. What is certain is that, however quickly it happens and dramatic the reduction will be, it has begun.
The melting of the ice cap already allows cargo ships to make the journey through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian archipelago for several summer weeks a year, thus cutting at least a week from the transit time from Europe to China. The first cargo ship not to be escorted by an icebreaker went through in 2014. The Nunavik carried 23,000 tons of nickel ore from Canada to China. The polar route was 40 per cent shorter and used deeper waters than if it had gone through the Panama Canal. This allowed the ship to carry more cargo, saved tens of thousands of dollars in fuel costs and reduced the ship’s greenhouse emissions by 1,300 metric tons. By 2040 the route is expected to be open for up to two months each year, transforming trade links across the ‘High North’ and causing knock -on effects as far away as Egypt and Panama in terms of the revenues they enjoy from the Suez and Panama canals.
The north-east route, or Northern Sea Route as the Russians call it, which hugs the Siberian coastline, is also now open for several months a year and is becoming an increasingly popular sea highway.
The melting ice reveals other potential riches. It is thought that vast quantities of undiscovered natural gas and oil reserves may lie in the Arctic region in areas which can now be accessed. In 2008 the United States Geological Survey estimated that 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 90 billion barrels of oil are in the Arctic, with the vast majority of it offshore. As more territory becomes accessible, extra reserves of the gold, zinc, nickel and iron already found in part of the Arctic may be discovered.
ExxonMobil, Shell and Rosneft are among the energy giants that are applying for licences and beginning exploratory drilling. Countries and companies prepared to make the effort to get at the riches will have to brave a climate where for much of the year the days are endless night, where for the majority of the year the sea freezes to a depth of more than six feet and where, in open water, the waves can reach forty feet high.
It is going to be dirty, hard and dangerous work, especially for anyone hoping to run an all-year-round operation. It will also require massive investment. Running gas pipelines will not be possible in many places, and building a complex liquefaction infrastructure at sea, especially in tough conditions, is very expensive. However, the financial and strategic gains to be made mean that the big players will try to stake a claim to the territories and begin drilling, and that the potential environmental consequences are unlikely to stop them.
Today I visited Tottenham, and I intend to return tomorrow, both expeditions having been prompted by these two weather forecasts:
That I have already decided this evening where I will be going tomorrow, and that I already knew last night what I was going to do today, is typical of how I now do these expeditions. Trying to work out, in the morning, where I’ll go that day, given that the day is turning out nice, tends not to work so well. Being old and tired and physically lazy, I have to have an interesting and attractive destination in mind as soon as the day starts, in order to force me out the front door soon enough for the expedition to amount to something.
In this respect, I am turning into my Dad. When I was a kid I used to tease my Dad about all the planning that would go into family expeditions, and he used to justify this with questions starting with the words “What if?” What if, we get into an accident? What if, one of us gets sick? What if, the trains are disrupted? We need a plan capable of taking care of everything. I used to think he was being over-cautious, and that we ought to just get started and deal with problems as and when they happened, which they mostly wouldn’t.
Well, as I get older, I become less good at adapting, by which I mean that I can change a plan in mid plan, but that it takes longer and is more stressful.
But more fundamentally, I now suspect that my Dad may have needed his plan just to get him going at all. Without a plan to drive the expedition forward, with artificially created deadlines and reasonably enticing objectives, maybe he just wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy he needed to lead us forth into the world at all. Like me, he knew that he would be happier if he did get stuck into an expedition, and would be depressed if all he did was sit at home doing this or that amusing but trivial thing. So, he would devise plans to make himself do what he wanted to do. My Dad’s plans were not as he sold them to me, mere precautions. His plans were energisers.
But maybe that’s just me.
When cute wildlife kills other cute wildlife, it has to be handled delicately:
‘We ask that members of the public exercise patience during this time. The City hopes to trap the caracal, collar the animal with a radio tracking device and to move it away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range. …’
Wouldn’t get that in the Kruger National Park, now would you?
I’m guessing: not.
Until today, I had no idea what a caracal was. Blog and learn. You mean you still don’t know? Here you go. Basically, it’s a big cat (or a small lion-coloured leopard) with big pointy ears.
Latin name of caracal: caracal caracal.
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
The weather in Thuir and surrounding parts yesterday and today has been grim, in sharp contrast to the weather at the end of last week.
Here is that sharp (as in sharp and then not at all sharp) contrast:
On the left, the weather last week, as viewed from the top of the house I am staying in. On the right, the weather viewed from the same spot this afternoon. The weather on the left was the sort that decreased the apparent force of gravity. The weather now is the sort that you describe yourself as being under.
Note that it is not only the far away Pyrenees that have disappeared in the right hand picture. The further away bit of the much nearer, green bit of the landscape has also vanished under cloud.
These two pictures (click on either to get it bigger) both involved a lot of cropping, and fiddling about to get the cropping exactly (or approximately exactly) so. Without Photocat, I could never have done it.
I am looking forward to maybe (I promise nothing) doing similar before-and-after snaps involving recently constructed buildings in London.
Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick. As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.
Quota photo time:
There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something. So I know what you are thinking. It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that. And you are not wrong:
If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge. But I am sick. I can do what I like.
Actually, it’s already getting better. But wish me well anyway.
I like trees without leaves for many reasons. One is that you can put them in front of Big Things and still see the Big Things.
And another is that without leaves in the way, I get to enjoy the peculiar sculptural effects contrived in and on trees by the pruning process.
Consider this photo, which I took this February, looking across Vincent Square towards Parliament and the river:
Ignore the wheel with the bobbles on it. Forget the pointy tower on the left. Consider those trees, and the strange shapes of their branches, caused by pruning.
A particular effect that such pruning causes is when a quite thick branch is lopped off, and the result is like a fist, holding lots more much thinner branches.
Here is another photo, taken down by the river in 2010, which shows that effect:
Again, forget about the spiky footbridge in the middle of the picture and that crane behind it, which is obviously what I thought I was photoing at the time, with the trees as a mere frame. Look at the trees, with their big thick branches, that suddenly stop (because of pruning) and then burst out in all directions with lots of much smaller branches.
The photo I’ve been able to track down in my archives that best illustrates this effect is of some trees at the junction between Rochester Row and Vauxhall Bridge Road:
I seem to recall that Rochester Row has lots of trees thus truncated, which I also seem to recall photoing, several times. But I was unable to find any such photos.
What this particular snap shows very well is how the tree, once pruned, sometimes sort of blows the end of itself up into a balloon, before the new branches finally manage to burst out, hence the fist effect. I’m thinking especially of what happened on the right in the above picture.
The reason I went rootling through my archives for snaps of this sort was that when walking along beside the somewhat distant-from-London reaches of the New River, in the vicinity of Enfield, with GodDaughter One last Saturday, we encountered the most extreme example I have ever seen of a tree that has been pruned into a different shape to the one it would naturally have adopted.
Feast your eyes on this:
Is that not one of the weirdest things you have ever seen? It looks more like something for swimming in the sea than like a tree.
This snap was snapped at one of the entrances to Enfield Town Park, or Town Park as they call it in Enfield. You can see the New River in the background. Had we succeeded in sticking closer to the New River at that particular point in our wanderings, we would have missed this.
What was the pruner thinking, I wonder? Did he think that he had ended this tree’s growth? If so, shouldn’t he or someone have painted over the top, to stop it growing some more? Or, was he actually going for this effect? Was this some kind of experiment? Who can say? Whatever the explanation, I’m glad that this was done and that I got to photo, and to bring it to the attention of the world, this remarkable effect.
A rubbish lorry posting
Memo to self: photo-destination required for tomorrow
Out and about with GD1 (8): Non-human creature vans
The Beckton Sewage Works
Some reindeer-based Christmas cheer from last year
Modernist sand castles at Amusing Planet (and at Mick Hartley’s)
Nearly invisible Walkie Talkie
Very local fog in London
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
The weather is too good
Tim Worstall on “reserves”
“The image was taken at long range and therefore is deceptive …”
The wrong kind of cranes
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Bright buildings in front of dark sky
Out from under the weather
The localness of London’s weather
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
How much does it cost to power up a mobile phone?
Spot the owl
A global temperature graph that seems to fit the recent facts
Vladivostock from above
Photoing the A380 from above – from the ground
Big Thing news from New York and London - and a picture of climate alarmism losing
I’m not the only one who suffers from rightward lean
Dezeen continues to delight
Early start tomorrow
Two favourite photos from September 5th
A free man
Bad and good in bad weather
Why I admire short term weather forecasts but why cricket people don’t
Bridges for animals
BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
Remembering a warmer day
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Domestic cats are destroying the planet
The strange state of the enviro-argument
Why I do not share Johnathan Pearce’s admiration for Bjorn Lomborg
BMdotCOM Headline of the week
Snaps (in Paris and London - and of the Millennium Footbridge)
Hockey Stick art
Today I’m in a “How very odd!” mood
Matt Ridley’s demolition of CAGW
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
On the rise of Bishop Hill
The Green alliance
Yet more redirection
Wagga Wagga has been flooded by the Murrumbidgee River
“There is electricity and water, but there’s no phone line …”
Greenies make a video saying: “We’re a bunch of vile greenie-nazis!”
Why not just sell them?
Nuking the Oil Spill is probably a rather bad idea
Three Gorges Dam picture
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Everyone who shows this picture needs to add that it is not Photoshopped
Brightly lit buildings against a dark sky
Climategate and a blurry and artificially lit roundabout
Nasa and Gordon Brown both have their uses
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom modified cliche insult of the day
Will I ever tire of writing about the relationship between the new media and the old?
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
Towers under the weather - and a steam engine steams to the rescue
Stepping forward into the abyss!
I EAT RUBBISH!
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
The angst of team blogging about stories like the CRU hack
What’s up with this?
Link to a list of peer-reviewed papers supporting skepticism of “man-made” global warming
Saying what we aren’t meant to say
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Two Samizdata pieces
Why I vote against AGW
Bike made entirely of wood
Actually quite a big cat
Metaphor muddle alert
Might Gordon Brown pull an EU referendum rabbit out of the hat?
Monster buildings and monster people
Towers above the Dubai fog
Smog returns to Beijing
Blue sky in Beijing
“The air is apparently not getting better …”
Everything changes today
More Beijing smog-blogging
Bird’s Nest in smog
What’s this for?
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
A blogger mutates towards being a journalist
Has global warming stopped?
Millau Viaduct with goats
Weather to go out
Operation Cat Drop and some Hello Kitty Bags
Thames Barrier photo first shown here - then used by UNESCO
Lots of links
City Cat runs on air
Assorted London quota photos
Robot birds to scare away the real birds
Mobile phones are killing the bees!
Just making conversation
Cats cause mice
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
The daffodils of doom
Svensmark – for and against
Dirty vapour trail over London
What are the world’s biggest problems?
On the ideology of the “climate change” debate
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
ASI blog post deleted under fire
Brian and Antoine democracy mp3 number twelve
Presumably the noise is not a problem
Another permanent link
Was that you or a tree?