Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is going on!? Early snow melt in Rexburg, Idaho

I live in Rexburg, Idaho.  For anyone who has lived here, gone to school here, or maybe even just visited, the word Rexburg often elicits a bodily chill.  OK, it can be a very cold place.  For example, the record cold temperature for Rexburg for the month of February is -36oF.  The average monthly high temp is 33oF and the average low is 16oF (for the month of February).

So what?

This is the sight that greeted me as I walked home from work yesterday around 5pm.  This is a full-blown snow melt.  The gutter was completely full.  OK, this in and of itself is no big deal.

Rexburg, Idaho, 5:15pm on February 12, 2014

We can have occasional warm days, even warm enough to cause a melt like this, but the thing that really blew me away was what I saw this morning...

...around 7:30am I reversed my path and headed back to work, and this is what I saw (see below).  My phone showed a temperature of 36oF and the gutter was STILL full of snow run off.  This is very, very, very strange.  To have a warm day and melt some snow during the day in Rexburg is no big deal, but to have overnight temperatures that do not drop below freezing and to see snow melt all night long in mid-Feb is strange, strange, strange.  Did I mention that this is strange?

Rexburg, Idaho, 7:30am on February 13, 2014

Was this one-day event caused by global climate change?  No, it's virtually impossible to link a specific one-day weather event like this one directly to climate change.  But, what you can say with a high degree of confidence is that the current global trend of warming makes weather events like this one more likely to happen.

Stay tuned, life is interesting.

It's a bit early for the Arctic sea ice melt, but...

It's been a while since I posted anything about the state of the Arctic, but when I checked the National Snow and Ice Database website this morning I thought it was worth a few words.

The graph below shows the Arctic sea ice extent between Nov 2013 and Feb 12, 2014.  There are a couple of notable things here.  First, the ice extent has been between 250,000 and 500,000 square kilometers below the 1981-2010 average the entire time.  This doesn't come as a shock to anyone who follows the Arctic, but it's just an ongoing confirmation of a warming Arctic.

BTW, did you know that according to the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the last time that an annual global average temperature was cooler than the 20th century average was in 1976?  Yep, that's 37 years ago (  I shared this with one of my classes of university students yesterday and realized as I said it that all of them were born well after 1976, so they have known only a warming world.  That's a sobering thought.

The second thing the graph shows that's interesting, though not yet significant is what happened over the last week or two.  If you notice the average sea ice extent usually reaches its maximum coverage around the end of February or early March.  The extent does show some ups and downs, as clearly shown in the 2011-2012 (dotted) line.  This year's data are shown on the blue line.  Anyway, so what?  Data of the last week or two show a leveling off and then decline in sea ice cover.  If this continues, and I'd be extremely surprised if it did this early in the season, we could really be in for a doozie of a sea ice loss year in the Arctic.  It's much more likely that this is just a temporary blip.  

Stay tuned.  Life is interesting.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ken Ham and Bill Nye to Debate Each Other on Creationism vs. Evolution TONIGHT February 4th

UPDATE:  Their (long) debate is now over, but you can stream it from the following site:

Bill Nye and Ken Ham Debate Evolution vs Creation Science -

Bill Nye - a well known television personality, proponent for science and science education, and CEO of "The Planetary Society" - and Ken Ham, CEO of the ministry "Answers in Genesis" and "The Creation Museum", will debate each other on Creationism vs. Evolution this evening.

For more information click the link below.

Ken Ham and Bill Nye to debate Creationism vs. Evolution TONIGHT (2/4)

It'll be interesting and entertaining to hear what these two have to say.

This debate fascinates me because so many people in the world contend that someone cannot be a person of faith AND a person of science.  I disagree.

I am a person of faith, an active, devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), I'm a person of science, a university professor with a PhD in Biology (University of California, Santa Cruz, 1992), and I'm an evolutionist.

You may wonder how I pull this both without living in perpetual inner conflict.  Simple.  I believe that this life is, among other things, a quest for truth and understanding.  Science provides useful and powerful explanations about how our bodies, the world, and the universe work.  Religion is at the same time a complementary not competitive approach to obtaining truth through inspiration and revelation.  Science is good at explaining the what, how, and when, and religion is good at explaining the why of things.

My bottom line?

Evolution is a true theory that explains many things and is a central unifying theory of the field of biology.  Religion is a means to coming to a deeper understanding who I am, who God is, and about our relationship.  Science and religion expand my view and understanding of the universe and of my place in it. They both have the earmarks of truth.  And, if they truly are both truths, they cannot inherently be in conflict with each other.  There may be apparent conflicts, but when this happens I have found/believe that it's almost certainly because we lack sufficient scientific information or revealed truth on the subject to allow us to see through the apparent conflict.

Truth is truth, and it cannot contradict itself.

That's my 2 cents' worth.

Best wishes.