Earth analysis from data collected by the deep space probe, Xertox

As fires continue to rage in the west, aggravated by people’s environmental impact, they release ever more carbon into the atmosphere and oceans. I thought this a good time to revisit the alien Xertox probe.

Stephen Fielding Images

The Xertox deep space probe from the planet Outlandia entered a polar Earth orbit and collected data from every surface area for a period of twelve months. These data included photos of the planet’s surface, along with atmospheric, oceanic, and continental compositions and temperatures (collected by deployed robotic labs).

Analysis (based on data received by Outlandia, 200 years later) reveals that the planet’s atmosphere contains high levels of greenhouse gases contributing to an average surface temperature of 65.4° F. The oceans appeared to have risen significantly over the past 150 years before major evaporation.  The planet has no glaciers, with very little ice during the winter at the southern pole. The northern pole has almost no ice during winter.

There is no life on the planet beyond the bacterial, algae, and fungi groups. Given soil analyses and the planet-wide remains of buildings and large structures, it appears the planet had…

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“Climate change” added to my blog’s subtitle

We are truly entering Orwell’s age of doublespeak ( i.e., language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth). One such example is the Trump Administration’s  deletion of the term climate change from government websites (and funding agencies are suggesting that applicants do the same in their federal grant proposals), so it is up to the rest of us to keep this term in the public’s eye. Yes, the vast majority of us believe that climate change is occurring as we witness extreme weather events and fires in the west.

 

The Allegheny River

The weather during my trip to the Allegheny was excellent, providing highs of only 80 degrees, fog and mist in the morning, and wonderful cumulus clouds during the afternoon.

Most of the river in the Allegheny National Forest area in Pennsylvania is part of the reservoir created by the Kinzua Dam. Both the river below the dam and the reservoir provide grand recreational areas. For instance, just below the dam there is a small boat launch where I happened upon a woman putting a kayak on the water and paddling downstream, seen in the above photograph.

Further downstream I caught the river early one morning as the fog rolled through. Using a long exposure, I captured a silky effect created as the river flowed.

Fog
Allegheny River

The dam created a large lake, straddling New York and Pennsylvania. Here’s where you’ll find most of the powerboats. However, come winter when the reservoir freezes over, no snowmobiles or ice boats are allowed.

Allegheny reservoir
Allegheny Reservoir

I also captured the lower reservoir early one morning before the fog burned off.

From Dunkle Corners boat launch

I spent substantial time scoping out the best shots. While returning from Jake’s Rocks I found a long view of the Kinzua Bridge. Setting up my tripod, I took the following shot.

From the road to Jake’s Rocks

The water and the forest provide people with escape and relaxation. We would not likely have these areas today if it were not for the federal and state governments early in the twentieth century putting lands off-limits to development and making them available to the public.

You can see the full collection of photographs from this trip at my online gallery, including film shots. If you have spent time in the Allegheny National Forest I would like to hear about your experience!

Floral Foray on the North Country Trail

I spent a few hours hiking the North Country Trail as it passed through the Allegheny National Forest to show some of the area’s plants. During that foray, I noticed many relatively thinly forested areas where ferns

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

were growing, not thinking too much about them. Later, while reading one of the Forest Service brochures, there was a discussion about ferns. The ferns are the result of an over population of deer. Deer eat just about any kind of plant, including seedling trees. However, they do not like ferns. Old trees die over time and with few seedling trees to replace those, ferns begin to proliferate. Ferns then

Tigger: North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

shade the ground, thus blocking the growth of other plants, including seedling trees. To offset this negative process, the Forest Service has installed fencing in critical areas to keep deer out, as well as managing the deer population with hunting. You can see one of these thinly forested areas in my impressionist photo of the forest, above.

Although my purpose on this day was to photograph plants, I made a rare

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

fauna sighting–Tigger  (that’s T-I-double grr; I didn’t put him there,

honest). I utilized slices of sunlight coming through the canopy, along with fill-in flash to darken backgrounds and light only the plants so they would better stand out.

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

 

 

 

 

 

You might wonder why I included a dead stump. I had discussed in an earlier post how dead trees and other plants

North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

return carbon from the atmosphere to the earth and so are an important part of the ecological cycle. Sometimes deadwood also produces some interesting photos. Here, I liked the way the light bounced off this one.

Even though every map and brochure produced by the National Park and Forest

Services mention specific steps to protect the

Human Trace: North Country National Trail, Allegheny National Forest

environment, including “pack in and pack out”, I still found traces of humanity, as shown in the photo on the left.

 

My final post of the Allegheny will show a number of waterscapes.

 

Allegheny Petroleum

Long before producing hydro-electric power, the Allegheny was one of our original producers of petroleum.  The Bradford oil field was founded in 1875. By  1881 it was the world leader in oil supply, producing over 90% of U. S. oil (26 million barrels per year); oil production

The first well

continues to this day (750,000 barrels per year, compared with 24 billion barrels worldwide). As I hiked along the North Country National Trail, I came upon an oil well. At first, I thought it was an abandoned relic until I noticed a modern electrical panel and motor. You could smell crude oil around the area. As I continued hiking I came across yet another, also with the smell of crude.

The second well

Today, a large refinery sits on Route 6 in Warren with large tankers coming and going. Given that the river wraps around two sides of the refinery, and busy Route 6 on the third side, the only vantage point for a photograph was at the west end. Unfortunately, with employees coming and going, and the security related to refineries, I felt pretty uncomfortable taking photos (I’ve previously been approached by security people photographing other facilities). The Kinzua Dam was an exception since it accommodated visitors and photos outside its gates.

Even if we had known early on how burning fossil fuels would change the planet, given that evolution has wired us to pursue short-term benefits for survival, and our transition to an industrialized economy enabling a higher standard of living for some, I suspect that we would have continued down this road, just as we have done over the past 40 years.

Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, 1980, p. 103)

I will show some photos of the flora I encountered along the North Country trail in my next post.