The Skies Are Alive

A pair of stories caught my eye today and both concern the skies above.

Europe is in limbo right now, hovering in the delicate time between a major Icelandic volcanic eruption and the inevitably troublesome "fallout" of that event. According to the news, the eruption spewed forth towering billows of ash and steam from its source deep beneath an Icelandic glacier, one of those retreating, climatic barometers for our troublesome environmental times.

Although I come from a family dominated by scientists, I can't confidently say that this amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere will have a cooling effect on the Earth's atmosphere, at least on a temporary basis, but I have read about "cloud seeding" and "geo-engineering" and this diffusion of the sun's energy is the main goal of those still controversial methods.

photo courtesy of CSMonitor.com

So, while European asthma sufferers will probably suffer more in the coming months, in essence the atmosphere, in its search for equilibrium, may react favorably to the injection of these shadow-inducing particles. If this all sounds too neat and tidy to follow a natural disaster, then I'm going to have to get a volcanologist (or vulcanologist, whichever seems logical) to explain further -- in fact, I know a guy, so check the comments below soon!

The other story I came across reminded me of an event from my childhood in Michigan. There were several reports of a meteor careening through the atmosphere over the state of Wisconsin on the evening of April, 14th. Witnesses describe a glowing orb moving quickly and steadily, flickering toward the horizon accompanied by a sonic boom; shucks, you might as well see this video:

These stories come up once in a while, followed by a deluge of bizarre, sometimes conspiratorial commentary thanks to freeing anonymity of the Internet, but the fact is as we go hurling through the galaxy, we do cross paths with asteroid fields such as the Virginid complex which may have been the cause for this most recent "fireball" (and, yes, that's the official term used by astronomers!).

When I was just about middle-school age, one of these "fireballs" came streaking down my street, literally! The flash and glow I recall was an electric green color and other kids reported seeing it, too. My street ran East-West and so the green "fireball" of my memory seemed to glow more and more intensely, seemingly hovering at the West end of the street. It didn't really move, as such, but rather just produced a lingering green luminescence (no sonic boom though) lasting no more than five seconds or so. I remember telling a kid who'd been visiting family in Chicago at the time, and he described the same green flash!

The skies above are indeed alive, and all one has to do is look up once in a while to be reminded.

"When I look down, I miss all the good stuff. When I look up, I trip over things." ~ lyric by Ani DiFranco

1 comment:

  1. Nice posts Alex. As an expat living in Norway, I have been living directly in the path of the Icelandic volcano cloud...

    It all started on Thursday when the director of my school sent out an email to all staff. At first glance, I thought it was some sort of joke..... - A volcano in Iceland cancels all flights in Europe?! Of course it became the topic of conversation rather quickly and everyone began to grow a little bit uneasy about it. Were fireballs going to be raining down out of the sky? Was the sun going to be blotted out in which case we would be living in complete darkness? (The Norwegians are used to this by the way....its called winter)

    So far, the sun has been shining everyday with beautiful blue skies. The air is as clean and fresh as any other typical day in Fjord-land Norway. Apparently the debris is up around 55,000 feet and therefore is not affecting life here on the ground.

    The only difference is the absence of the hourly screaming jumbo jet flying over my house.

    This past weekend, I had planned a trip to Amsterdam to see the Jon Butler Trio in concert. Needless to say, my flights were canceled and it was a bummer to miss the show.

    I really only had two choices though.
    1. Stuck in Norway and bitter.
    2. Stuck in Norway and enjoying another beautiful weekend here.

    I'm just happy I'm stuck in the place I live and not stuck in an airport somewhere. For now, life in Norway is "business as usual." But being up here on this thin, northerly, and glacier carved country sans air travel does make one feel a little bit more isolated. I hope they figure something out before my return to the states this summer. Or maybe I'll be sailing across the Atlantic the good ol' fashion way!

    Check out the following link for a satellite image of the cloud from a Norwegian weather site.



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