“The vast space above us – so near, and yet in many respects so far beyond our reach, so familiar, and yet so strange … the moving shapes and shifting hues of that vault which is like the floor of heaven trodden by angels … which, in indifference to its glory and beauty, we so frequently forget to look at, except with a careless reference to the state of the weather.”
~Sarah Tytler, “Footprints:Nature Seen on its Human Side,” 1881
Speaking of the weather, last Sunday night just before midnight I checked the outside temperature. With strong Santa Ana winds blowing, it was a very warm 81 degrees! So much for the down comforter and electric blanket! Valentine’s Day was one hot and unusual day. Even the birds were joining in the day’s unique character! We were first awakened by unrelenting hammering. Assuming the source to be an overly eager neighbor getting an early start to the day, the actual culprit was a woodpecker. While in the yard, a large flock of migrating robins made landing in the trees. Hmmm … it’s beginning to look a lot like spring!
While the east freezes, out west air conditioning is needed. What’s up with the weather? It seems like a little fine tuning is needed and definitely more rain. But before we ponder the weather, what about the “vast space above us … so far beyond our reach?” Last week there was a remarkable discovery in the world of astrophysics by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). Gravitational waves, produced by two merging black holes, were detected and actually heard. LIGO, funded by the National Science Foundation, was able to “listen in” on the chirping sound as it occurred around 1.3 billion years ago. Truly mind boggling to think about. With this recent find, our place in the universe has changed profoundly and its impact is as transformative as the discovery of radio waves and knowledge of an expanding universe.
Trying to explain and understand gravitational waves is as complex perhaps as the equations that describe them. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitation waves 100 years ago and Stephen Hawking’s more recent theories substantiated them. Einstein’s theories of gravity and relativity were once again proven true. Interestingly, the project’s executive director is a physicist at Caltech in Pasadena. Both Einstein and Hawking were familiar faces on that campus.
Up the road from Caltech at JPL, we shift back to the here and now, back to the real world and our weather. World-renowned oceanographer and meteorologist Bill Patzert is the go-to man for all things El Niño. His knowledge of climate and weather is nicely blended with a touch of wit, making him very quotable. The following are excerpts from NASA’s sealevel.nasa.gov site:
“No matter where I go, whether it’s JPL or Whole Foods or talking with reporters, everybody has a simple [statement]: Show me the rain!” According to Dr. Patzert the current El Niño remains formidable and looks more menacing than the ’97/’98 one. From the Jason 2 satellite, Patzert said the 2016 El Niño looks like a crocodile, with an eye and a snout. His message: “Don’t mock the croc. It’s still a big deal.” Also, “El Niño has put on a show in February and March.” Until then …
As I finish writing, a storm is brewing with predicted rain totals of one to two inches. As the pattern has been, strong winds and temperatures in the 90s will resume and continue into next week.
As Bill Patzert said, “Show me the rain!”
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.