Thursday, May 31, 2012

2nd Warmest Day Ever Recorded In Greenland

On Tuesday this week, May 29, 2012, the 2nd warmest temperature ever measured on the island of Greenland was recorded. The thermometer hit 76.6 degrees F at Narsarsuaq, located on the southern coast. The warmest day ever recorded on the island occurred 0n June 22, 1957 and was a scorching 77.9 degrees F, only 1.3 degrees F warmer than this 2nd highest temperature. Tuesday's recording smashed the previous warmest May temperature by 4.3 degrees F! That was 72.3 degrees F and was set on May 31, 1991.

To read a more complete report of this and the state of the Greenland ice sheet, see Jeff Masters' latest posting on WunderBlog here.

Map showing the total number of melt days in Greenland in 2011, compared with the average number of melt days for the years 1979-2010. Note that many areas of Greenland experienced more than 20 extra melt days in 2011.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Transit of Venus - June 5, 2012

With the excitement of the  annular solar eclipse now receding into the past, we are getting ready for the transit of Venus on June 5, an event that only happens twice every 120 years. I first heard of these events while traveling down in Patagonia since many historic voyages were made in the 18th and 19th centuries to observe the rare event. My good friend Jack S. made me aware of this NASA site that explains  a transit of Venus:

Global map showing that the transit of Venus in North America begins at 3 PM and is visible until  sunset

Watch here in the coming week for my pictures and descriptions from northern Arizona.

PS - If you missed my posting on my personal blog of Dr. Tyler Norgren's posters of celestial events, please click here to view them. They are spectacular.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rare Annular Eclipse Seen from the Grand Canyon!

This past weekend was Member's Gathering for the Grand Canyon Association and 142 members from around the country showed up to show their support for our favorite national park non-profit. I gave two lectures to 70 members and took another 25 members on a guided walk along the Trail of Time.

But Earth's biggest star, the Sun, was the headliner this weekend. It was eclipsed by the the moon, far enough away from the earth this week to create an annular or ring eclipse. I've been aware of this eclipse for at least two years and jokingly advised people that the center line of the eclipse (where the eclipse lasts the longest) would pass directly through the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant in Page, Arizona. See the map below and note that the entire southern half of the Colorado Plateau got to experience this event.

When Member's Gathering was over, Helen and I went to a viewpoint on the rim of Grand Canyon that did not have any paved road or trail to it. Only one other person was there with us. I took some photo's during the late afternoon, using a solar filter on my camera lens. You'll see the pictures of the eclipse at the end of this posting, the first photo's are of us and the canyon taken from our perch.

Here's Helen sitting on the Rim at the spot we selected to view the eclipse

Those who know the Grand Canyon landscape will see that we decided to view the eclipse from the East Rim portion of the canyon. This is a view towards the "Big Bend" of the Colorado River beneath Desert View.

We had a great view of Hance Rapid from our perch and the roar of the rapid was easily heard by us as the eclipse proceeded. Interestingly, Helen and I were supposed to be on a private river trip during the eclipse and might possibly have been near here on this date. A shaft of sunlight was still beaming down on the white sand dune near the rapid as the eclipse went full. Then, it disappeared soon thereafter.

Helen using an eclipse viewer

What a scene for such a celestial event

We noticed that the light became duller and slightly metallic as full occlusion came about. We both wondered if we would have noticed anything strange about the light had we not known about the eclipse. We agreed that we would have noticed the light becoming dimmer (and the air becoming cooler) but when we glanced in the direction of the sun at the height of the eclipse, the sun looked as bright an full as ever! Truly unbelievable considering that 88 to 94% of the disk was covered.

Here is a look at the walls of the canyon during full occlusion at about 6: 35 PM

Our rocky perch looking west with the moon still covering about half of the sun's disk

A bench mark nearby showed that the elevation was 7284 ft. above sea level. No date was on the marker.

Recent fires in Arizona gave an eerily orange glow to the canyon just before sunset

The final light falls on the walls of the Palisades of the Desert near Desert View

The eclipse began at 5:28. This is what it looked like at 5:46 PM. (Note that all times given are very close but approximate, and based solely on the timer in my camera on this date).

6:00 PM

6:05 PM

6:28 PM - just 6 minutes away from the beginning of the annular phase

6:30:19 PM

6:32:22 PM

6:33:22 PM

And here it is 6:34 PM

6:34:32 PM

6:34:36 PM

6:35:19 PM

6:35:22 PM

6:37 PM

6:46 PM

7:13 PM.

Sunset on this date at Grand Canyon was 7:32 and a fraction of the eclipse was still happening as the sun set. Here is the final picture taken at 7:29:36 as the sun was setting behind Havasupai Pt. (to the right). You can still see in the upper left the last part of the eclipse. What a spectacle we experienced.

The happy couple enjoying a celestial phenomenon in our favorite landscape! Below is a graph showing the timing of the eclipse through northern Arizona.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Three Day Geology Class at Grand Canyon!

How often have you been out and about in the great Southwest and wished you could understand geology just a little bit better? The deep time thing is too monstrous to get your head around or the names of the many formations are confusing right? Well, now there is an opportunity for you to go to the next step with geology.

This coming August 3 to 5, I will be offering a three-day intensive course on how to better grasp geology. The topics covered will be the enormity of deep time, the rock record at Grand Canyon, and the various theories in which the canyon was formed. The class is called "Geology on the Edge" and will be offered through the Grand Canyon Field Institute. It will take place at Grand Canyon's South Rim.

Here are the details and I hope to see you at the canyon in August!

 A short hike down the Bright Angel Trail will take us to this outcrop of the Bright Angel Fault.

We will discuss and learn about all of the canyon's rock formations, including the enigmatic Grand Canyon Supergroup, shown here as the the tilted block of rocks above the right hand side of the river.

There are many theories on how the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon and certainly boulders like these did much of the cutting. You will never again be a beginning geologist after this class!

There are only a few spots remaining for this years class. Come  join us and get over the "hump" with geology at the Grand Canyon and the Southwest.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Utah - Land of Dinosaurs

Jim Kirkland is Utah's state paleontologist. He and I attended Northern Arizona University together in the 1980's and we occasionally see each other at professional gatherings. Recently, he sent along this interesting piece about all of the places you can see and learn about dinosaurs in the state. With many exposures of Mesozoic-age rocks, the state is a paradise for those who like their fossils big!

Click on this link to download the pdf of the flyer. If your summer travel plans are anywhere in Utah, check out these localities.