Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Sankey diagram* of the Albedo Effect

It’s complicated
Watercolour, crayon and marker
©2022 Charlene Brown

Albedo, or degree of whiteness, determines the fraction of light that is reflected by a body or surface, and the complementary fraction that is absorbed. Albedo is a simple concept that plays a complicated role in climate change, especially in the Arctic.

Sea ice covered with snow reflects as much as 85% of the sunlight that strikes it, absorbing only 15% of the heat. Whereas deep blue open water can absorb as much as 90% of the sun’s light and heat. The heating effect of climate change is compounded over the years as melting results in more open water and longer ice-free periods.  Melted ice is replaced with thinner ice, resulting in an earlier thaw the following year.

A similar compounded effect has been observed on land in the Arctic, where the length of the snow-free period each year will have an effect on the amount of time that the land is absorbing and holding heat, and subsequent speeding up of the spring thaw.  In addition to this, the lower albedo of bare land varies with the darkness of the vegetation.  Generally lighter deciduous vegetation will reflect more sunlight and absorb less than evergreen trees and shrubs.

An unexpected phenomenon, a shift in vegetation from conifer to deciduous ground cover, has been observed in the taiga of northern Canada by measuring the albedo of the area over a period of years. Last September, I wrote about the possibility that this increased reflectivity of the land surface will exert a negative radiative effect, or cooling, on the climate. 

 * Sankey flow diagrams feature directed flow lines the widths of which are proportional to the size or intensity of whatever is being measured, in this case incident and reflected sunlight.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

The hybrid electric ferries have all been delivered

Heading to the Upper Harbour to be prepped for service
Watercolour and marker
©2022 Charlene Brown

I talked about the new hybrid-electric ferries being built in Romania in a blog post written just before the pandemic hit.

Despite all the disruption, these ferries have continued to arrive. 

But they have continued to operate on diesel power because the small Gulf Island ports they serve are not yet set up with on-shore power sources for charging their batteries.  So, still Step 1 in transitioning to zero-emission by 2050 that I mentioned two years ago.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Creative Archaeology in Arizona

Montezuma Castle
Watercolour and crayon
©2022 Charlene Brown

Some of the pictures my daughter sent reminded me of similar pictures I’d taken when we visited Arizona in 2006.  There seemed to be a lot more very paintable-looking trees in our pictures so I’ve added them. I was told at the time that the trees were ‘ghost gums,’ but have since wondered if that was a little creative forest taxonomy to accompany the following creative archeology that led to the subject of this painting being called Montezuma Castle.  

About 150 years ago, European settlers, under the impression that all the really impressive archaeological sites in the southern part of North America were engineered by the Aztecs, named the structure after Montezuma II, the ruler during the Aztec Empire’s greatest expansion.  The name stuck even after it was determined that the place was abandoned in 1425 CE, about 40 years before Montezuma was born.  A Western National Parks publication, ‘A Past Preserved in Stone: A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument,’ states the ingeniously-located structure functioned more like a “prehistoric high-rise apartment complex.”


Sunday, April 24, 2022

More Virtual Hiking in Arizona

Beginning the Ascent
Watercolour and crayon
© 2022 Charlene Brown

Visitors to the Superstition Mountains don’t generally go looking seriously for the Lost Gold Mine anymore – most of the fatalities I mentioned last week were in the twenty years immediately after Jacob Waltz told one person how to find it – but most of today’s visitors make a token attempt at looking for gold among the nasty cliffs for which the area is famous.  

And they soon find the whole thing even more challenging than it looks.  And it gets hotter sooner in the morning than they expected…

But what eventually defeated my daughter was the California Brittlebush that carpeted the increasingly steep slopes leading up to the cliffs – the yellow brittlebush flowers were having a pollen extravaganza. She retreated as quickly as possible, barely able to see or breathe. A drugstore nearby had just the thing for victims of attacks by the local vegetation, and she had recovered almost completely by the next day.

Another advantage of participating only virtually I didn’t even hear about this adventure until they were back in Canada.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

More Virtual Camping in Arizona

Superstition Mountains
Watercolour and crayon
©2022 Charlene Brown

Unlike Sabino Canyon, the location of my virtual camping and hiking last week (really just a picturesque ravine in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson), this week’s setting is infamously connected to the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

According to this legend, Jacob Waltz, who was actually a German immigrant employed at the Vulture Mine, claimed to have found the mother lode of gold in the Superstition Mountains.  He revealed its location to only one person as he lay dying in 1891. And he didn’t reveal it very clearly. Many lives have been lost since then as searchers climbing into every obscure corner in the extremely rugged terrain. There is now a widespread suspicion that Jacob was systematically stealing gold from the Vulture Mine, and came up with the story of the lost mine to explain the bags of gold under his deathbed.

Next I’ll paint my virtual hike up one of the precipitous paths among the crags of these mountains.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Time for more of my favourite kind of camping

Sabino Canyon
Watercolour and crayon
©2022 Charlene Brown

During the summers of 2020 and 2021, travel between provinces was discouraged, especially for “vulnerable elderly” people like me.  So I haven’t been back to my mountains (the part of the Rockies in Alberta) since 2019.  I was able to do lots of virtual hiking and camping in Alberta because my daughter supplied me with lots of reference pictures.

And this year I can get an early start on my favourite kind of camping (virtual) as she and her husband were camping and taking pictures in Arizona in March.  This was well ahead of the Alberta camping season, with warm (enough) nights, and nice cool mornings for hiking.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Banff from a brand new angle

The View from the Mt. Norquay via ferrata
watercolour and crayon
©2022 Charlene Brown

A couple of weeks ago I said I’d never climbed the Mt. Norquay via ferrata, and probably never would.  I’m more convinced than ever of that now, having had another look at my granddaughter’s pictures of it when I used them for reference in painting this.

The via ferrata (iron path) is a relatively new concept in North America, but actually originated over a hundred years ago in Italy during World War I.  (Must admit, whenever I hear a phrase including the words “a hundred years ago” I think ‘right, mid-nineteenth century’ and quickly lose track of the point being made.)

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Banff from all angles IV

Looking South
Watercolour, ink and computer
©2022 Charlene Brown

This unusual view of Banff is a computer-altered version of a painting my daughter used for a poster back in 2009.  Her reason for selecting this particular painting is mentioned in a blog post I wrote at the time

I’m pretty sure it’s the only picture of Goat Mountain I’ve ever painted.