I’ve been talking a lot about media in this column lately. We’re seeing a lot of fast change in the amount of media available, the way we consume that media, and also in what that media says. One of the new media books I’ve been reading is Al Gore’s iPad app version of “Our Choice” about Climate Change. As I write this, it’s pouring rain and hail outside my window and ten degrees colder than normal. The city of Joplin has been almost leveled by a tornado, and at this very moment there is a tornado warning in effect in Northern California (which is not historically a place where many tornadoes touch down). So I decided to write about climate change. Continue reading Staying with the big things that matter most: Climate
Tag Archives: weather
Lightning strikes upward into space, too
Here’s lightning flowing 40 miles up from the top of a storm, to touch the ionosphere. The photos of this phenomenon, called gigantic jets, were taken by Duke University engineer Steve Cummer.
“Gigantic jets are literally lightning that comes out of the thunderclouds, but instead of going down, like most lightning strokes do, these apparently find their way out the tops of thunderclouds, and then keep going and keep going and keep going until they run into something that stops them,” Cummer explained.
“…What struck us was the size of this event.”
It appears from the measurements that the amount of electricity discharged by conventional lightning and gigantic jets is comparable, Cummer said.
But the gigantic jets travel farther and faster than conventional lightning because thinner air between the clouds and ionosphere provides less resistance.
The team was actually looking for sprites, “electrical discharges that occur above storm clouds and are colored red or blue, with jellyfish-like tendrils hanging down.”
Spectacle aside, studying the jets could lead to new ways to predict storms. And if nothing else, it’s something for writers to think about when they design their alien atmospheres.
Domed cities and super-squellettes
Here’s another classic science fiction trope being upgraded to serious proposition: the domed city. The Discovery Channel has apparently been doing a program about mega-engineering, and one of the subjects was a proposal to hide Houston beneath a dome to protect it from the effects of an increasingly erratic climate.
Sadly there’s not much detail about the hows and whys (they want you to watch the program, natch), and the sheer overload of Flash content on the DC site keeps crashing my browser. But the dome sure looks pretty – from the outside, at least. [via Technovelgy]
Meanwhile, if you want a more gritty and realistic look at the city landscapes of the near-future you should be tagging along with Bruce Sterling, who’s currently obsessed with emergent, repurposed and interstitial urban spaces and is producing a quality stream of links as a result. One of the latest nuggets is about the favelas of Caracas, Venezuela – built in and around a failed Modernist tower-block project and almost entirely maintained by its residents without government support or funding.
Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennals – check out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.
[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]
Exhaust fumes are lightning magnets
Chalk another item up on the list of environmental effects caused by car exhaust fumes – they increase the likelihood of lightning strikes.
“In the south-eastern states [of the US], lightning strikes increased with pollution by as much as 25 per cent during the working week. The moist, muggy air in this region creates low-lying clouds with plenty of space to rise and generate the charge needed for an afternoon thunderstorm.
Surprisingly, the effect was not strongest within big cities with high pollution, but in the suburbs and rural areas surrounding them… “
Now there’s a tenuous techno-thriller plot device just waiting to be used… I wonder if a big enough car-generated lightning storm could deflect an incoming NEO? Call Bruce Willis! [story via BLDGBLOG; image by M0i et c’est tout]