Head in the clouds

  It’s summer, and I’m looking up at the brilliantly blue sky, marvelling at the huge billowy white clouds forming this afternoon. The last few days we’ve some spectacular storms with violent winds, a small tornado and too is-sized hail in some places here in Ontario.

 How can one not spend at least part of a day (or even a few moments) looking up at the clouds? They have been written about (Shelley’s The Cloud: “I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers…”) and sung about ( Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides, Now: “Rows and flows of angel hair, And ice cream castles in the air…”), and photographed (take a look at Ansel Adam’s work!) Often, we’re trying to figure out how soon we’ll need to run for cover. Or perhaps you’re out canoeing on a lake wondering if you’ll make it to shore before the tempest begins.

  Or maybe you’re with an eight-year-old, lying down on a grassy knoll looking for shapes in the cottony white clouds above. What a great way to spend an afternoon! But where do you start. Inevitably, the questions arise: “But, how do clouds form?” and “what kind of cloud is that?” While there just might be an app for that, I’ve found another, very comprehensive source for all your cloud knowledge at the UK’s Met Office simply called Clouds, or, more specifically, National Meteorological Library and Archive Fact sheet 1 – an Introduction to clouds. It’s a 59-page PDF with a full description and explanation of cloud formation, complete with graphs and illustrations, and, more importantly, pages devoted to pictures and descriptions of each of the dozens of cloud types. It’s the kind of source one can easily get lost in for a few hours.

Clouds is also an ideal background document for the student who wants to extend their learning further. Have a look!

On Hiatus

I’ll be on hiatus from regularly adding articles to the GeoKnow.net blog for at least the next few weeks. In addition to my regular teaching and co-curricular requirements, I have two “projects” that will occupy extra chunks of time.

A week from today, I (along with my wife and a teaching colleague) will be taking 23 SJK students to the Galápagos Islands for 12 days on a conservation service trip. Aside from experiencing the unique wildlife of Galápagos close-up, we will be working with National Park officials to survey bird species within and outside the park to compare species and numbers. As well, we will be involved with the more mundane task of clearing invasive plant species to expand the habitable area for the Galápagos Tortoise population. The service work will be balanced with boating, snorkelling, biking and hiking excursions. After all, when travelling with primarily Gr 8s and 9s, those 5:30am wake up calls for birding need to be offset with some fun-based learning! For me, the trip will be the fulfillment of work I did all those years ago in university whilst in the BSc programme studying zoology, biogeography, evolution and world ecosystems.

The second project requiring more of my time is a little more mundane: I am the Faculty Advisor for our Yearbook crew and much has to be done to meet looming deadlines!

I will do my best to post, but it will be rather sporadic. However, I will take the time to add a trip report and photos from the Galápagos.

Thanks for reading.

World’s Biggest Fracking Quake?

An excellent article on fracking, providing clarity of an issue mired in politics, innuendo and misinformation.

The Mountain Mystery

“Did Alberta Just Break a Fracking Earthquake World Record?” This is the headline in The Tyee, an online independent magazine focused on western Canada, and it seems the paper thinks so. The Tyee’s coverage of a big fracking earthquake in northern Alberta is mostly accurate, although a larger quake was reported in Oklahoma in September 2014. The Canadian shake measured 4.4 while the Sooner State’s quake was 4.5. An even larger one is alleged and implicated in an injury lawsuit in Oklahoma. I’ll have more about that in a moment.

Readers of this blog are aware of fracking. Hydraulic fracturing forces reluctant oil and gas out of the ground. The technology was invented half a century ago (1947, actually) but grew out of much earlier fracturing schemes, dating back to at least 1865 when nitroglycerin torpedoes were dropped into shallow Pennsylvania wells to “loosen up” the rocks, encouraging oil…

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