Science

Monday, March 9, 2020

Up in the Sky: A 'Super' Moon with Something to Crow About

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2020 at 7:27 PM

There’s a celestial show going on up in the sky through this week as a full moon with a bunch of fancy names makes an appearance.

According to NASA, this is a “Supermoon” — a full moon that occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth. As the first one in March and the last of winter, this full moon is called “the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon or Worm Moon."
Supermoon over the launchpad. - NASA
  • NASA
  • Supermoon over the launchpad.

The NASA website states that this moon will appear full for three days, with the countdown starting yesterday. This year boasts four full moons — including this one and another last month — that meet the Supermoon designation threshold based on the orb’s position in its orbit around the Earth.
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Thursday, January 9, 2020

NWS is Looking for Snow Reports

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 3:46 PM

New snow accumulations ranged from 2 to 4 inches. - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • New snow accumulations ranged from 2 to 4 inches.
The county of Humboldt is reminding travelers that there’s snow up in the mountains, including 4 inches of new snow on Titlow Hill Road — which is open to the towers — and 2 inches of new snow on Bald Hills Road.

Drivers are being advised to carry chains.

Meanwhile, the Eureka office of the National Weather Service is asking those up in the higher elevations that experienced flurries last night and into this morning to send in snow reports and pictures.
snow_report.jpg
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10 Years Later: The Earthquake of 2010 (With Video)

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 1:16 PM

A house on California Street slipped off its foundation. - FILE
  • File
  • A house on California Street slipped off its foundation.
Ten years ago, at 4:27 p.m., the earth let loose a magnitude-6.5 earthquake — with much of the force directed at the city of Eureka — with a powerful ferocity that shook the ground and people’s nerves.

Thousands in Humboldt County lost power after the temblor hit and nearly 500 structures, including the historic Old Town Bar and Grill building, the Bayshore Mall and many Victorian home suffered various levels of damage in the most powerful quake to hit since the Cape Mendocino series rattled the region over two days in April of 1992.

Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would declare a state of emergency for Humboldt County and pay a personal visit to Eureka to assess the damage, which measured in the millions of dollars.

Here’s a look back at the North Coast Journal’s staff coverage of that Saturday a decade ago:
On Saturday afternoon at 4:27 and 39 seconds, 18 miles beneath the surface of the ocean and 23 miles west of Ferndale, a vast slab of the earth's crust known as the Gorda plate slipped laterally along a vertical faultline, releasing years of accumulated pressure in the form of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake. For a fraction of a moment, no one knew.

Then customers standing in line at Staples in the Eureka Mall looked up in unison, suddenly curious, like they were trying to recognize a tune on the radio. And then the floor made a sudden lateral lurch beneath their feet, as if the whole building had been perched on a flatbed truck when the driver popped the clutch. Instinctively, everyone's knees bent for balance and their bodies went rigid, heads swiveling madly like startled animals. The ground quivered and rumbled briefly, but before anyone could move, the second jolt hit. "Angry" is how many would later describe it, like being rear-ended. It slammed the building violently, sending everything into cacophonous motion — lights popping, shelves sliding, office supplies crashing to the floor.

The young checker's eyes went wide, and she sprinted for the door, followed closely by the throng. A panicked man face-planted just shy of the automatic door, then popped up immediately and kept running. Crowds poured from Blockbuster, Rite-Aid, Michael's and Winco, flooding into the parking lot where streetlights swayed like ships' masts. Some people screamed; others, the seasoned earthquake veterans, walked calmly over the speed bumps or casually pulled out their cell phones. Some turned and stared back at the buildings, perhaps expecting them to fall. Others jumped into their cars and filed into the eastbound procession on Harris Street.

Inside the Henderson Street branch of Papa Murphy's Pizza, some smiled at the first few shock waves. They had all the characteristics of an average 3 or 4 quake. The windows rattled, the adrenaline level rose a touch. There was a split-second pause when it seemed like it was over, and then everything was chaos — the walls moved back and forth, and the building roared with sound. "Up" and "down" became variable for a few seconds, and people splayed their legs wide to keep their footing.

Fear was still visible as the quake subsided. The cashier, a young woman, paced directionlessly behind the counter, her hands clutched at her chest. "I'm scared. I'm scared," she repeated to herself.
Earthquake damage in Old Town, Eureka - FILE
  • File
  • Earthquake damage in Old Town, Eureka


All over Eureka, residents emerged from their homes and stood dazed on the sidewalks. They called out to neighbors, "You OK?" "That was a big one!"

The sky glowed peach and gray, and then dimmed. A group of neighbors chattered excitedly outside their homes on a K Street block not far from downtown Eureka. A woman came out of her house with a small dog clutched in her arms and walked up the street calling out worriedly for another pet.

From a nearby alley came the crash-clink of falling glass. A woman was throwing out the remains of her blown-glass collection, which had shattered in the quake. Lights came on in the houses; this block hadn't lost power. But farther up and down the street the other blocks were dark. And the other streets, dark — except for the occasional orange flicker of candlelight in windows, revealing drunken walls where pictures clung at cockeyed angles.
People came out of their dark houses. They stood on the sidewalk talking to their neighbors. Some talked on cell phones, standing on the sidewalk looking around, or hunched on their porches. On K Street, near the corner of 14th, a woman stood on the sidewalk and said loudly into her phone, "I lost all my dishes. All the cupboards flew open and everything flew out. All my dishes are broken." Her next-door neighbor pulled up to the curb and got out of his car. "Is everything OK at your house?" she called to him. He said he didn't know yet, and went up his walkway.

On I Street, a woman walked quickly up and down, talking nervously to other people doing the same thing. A man came around the corner. "What's the news?" he asked. "I don't have power. I don't have radio or TV. What's the news?" He said he didn't have earthquake insurance.

Other people sat in vehicles, talking on their cell phones.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

The Biggest Wave and Bomb Cyclone: A Record-Breaking Year of Wild Weather

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2020 at 3:57 PM

Looking back at 2019 from a weather standpoint, things were a bit on the wild side at times. So, the Journal reached out to climate specialist Matthew Kidwell in the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, who compiled what he saw as the most notable weather incidents to take place last year.

Along with those events, 2019 hit a record for breaking records, with 18 total set, according to Kidwell, that included 11 high temps and seven minimum temps.

The closest other years were 2004 and 2014, which saw 10 and nine record highs, respectively. But 2013 edged out 2019 to stay in the lead for most minimum records at 10.

Damaging Waves in Shelter Cove: On Jan. 17, waves upward of 30 feet crashed into eight homes on Lower Pacific Drive in Shelter Cove causing extensive damage, included flooding, mud covered floors, broken windows and ruined furniture.

Cheryl Antony, spokesperson for Shelter Cove Fire, told Redheaded Blackbelt at the time that one of the homes had approximately 10 broken windows and some had up to 4 inches of water inside.
A member of Shelter Cove Fire inspects the damage including water on the floor of this custom-built home. - CHERYL ANTONY OF SHELTER COVE FIRE
  • Cheryl Antony of Shelter Cove Fire
  • A member of Shelter Cove Fire inspects the damage including water on the floor of this custom-built home.
“We had to put life jackets on to walk around [to assess damage],” Antony said. “We have never seen waves like this before. One came over the whole deck we were standing on. We had to run.”


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Monday, December 30, 2019

High Surf Warning This Week

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2019 at 3:08 PM

Starting today and building up in height through Thursday, the Eureka office of the National Weather Service is warning that “large, steep” waves will be washing up local beaches and over jetties this week.

According to NWS, the waves will begin building 17 to 20 feet today and should reach up to 25 feet by Wednesday, heights which are expected to continue for another day.
large_surf_two.png
The NWS warns folks to “stay back from the surf and off of jetties and rocks.”
For weather information visit www.weather.gov/eka/marine. For buoy observations check www.ndbc.noaa.gov/.
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Yurok Tribe Celebrates Solar Power System

Posted By and on Thu, Dec 26, 2019 at 11:38 AM

Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James, accompanied by Yurok Tribal Council, Yurok Planning & Community Development Department and Schatz Energy Research Center celebrate the installation of a 28 Kw photovoltaic (solar panel system).
  • Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James, accompanied by Yurok Tribal Council, Yurok Planning & Community Development Department and Schatz Energy Research Center celebrate the installation of a 28 Kw photovoltaic (solar panel system).
The Yurok Tribe is celebrating the installation of a solar power system and has announced that another is being planned in an effort to bring electricity to the roughly 40 percent of families in the Weitchpec and Pecwan areas who do not have access to the grid.

According to a press release, the 28 kW photovoltaic system was grant funded and is a “first step” in fulfilling the Tribe’s energy vision, which seeks to ensure all members in Yurok Ancestral Territory “have access to reliable, affordable, modern, cost-effective energy services” and “promotes energy self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, use of local renewable resources, job creation and economic opportunity.”

“To date, roughly 40 percent of the families living within the Weitchpec and Pecwan districts do not have access to grid electricity,” the release states. “Most of these residents get their electricity from gas or diesel-powered generators, which pose health risks for residents, pollute the environment and cost up to four times more than conventional grid electricity.”

The Yurok Tribe is also planning on installing a 24 kW photovoltaic system on the Tulley Creek Firehouse, the release states, and both projects were done in partnership with the Schatz Energy Research Center of Humboldt State University.

Likewise, the microgrid system of the Blue Lake Rancheria was build in collaboration with the Schatz center and proved to be an island of refuge during the Public Safety Power Shutdowns that darkened the region in October. With its grid keeping the power running, the Rancheria was not only able to keep its hotel open through the blackout, it also gassed up thousands of vehicles, distributed thousands of bags of ice and opened a community respite center that allowed people to charge their phones and medical devices.

Chris Marnay, a senior scientific fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who wrote the definition of microgrid that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy, told CalMatters that these systems are going to be more and more important to California in the future. “California is a bit behind the curve,” Marnay said in the CalMatters article.

“The fires are going to be our Superstorm Sandy. They are going to bring about change.” Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast in 2012, leaving millions of customers in 21 states without power for days and weeks. The superstorm’s aftermath brought about policy changes in several states in the Northeast. Connecticut became the first in the country to create a statewide system of microgrids to provide emergency power.

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Five Things to Know About Microgrids

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2019 at 10:46 AM

The Blue Lake Rancheria gas station, which used microgrid technology, including the solar panels above the pumps, to keep operating through the blackout. - FILE
  • File
  • The Blue Lake Rancheria gas station, which used microgrid technology, including the solar panels above the pumps, to keep operating through the blackout.
More than 1 million Californians were left in the dark for days recently as their big utility companies shut off power for fear of sparking wildfires. Frustrated by those outages, some homeowners say they’d like to turn their backs on the companies in favor of smaller providers who might do a better job of keeping the lights on. The mayors of San Francisco and San Jose say they want to sever ties with Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves much of Northern California, and create separate utilities for their cities.

Grasping for solutions, people toss around ideas like joining “microgrids” or setting up banks of generators to keep the electricity flowing during widespread power cutoffs. Would that really help?

What, exactly, is a microgrid?

A microgrid can be as simple as a single home operating on its own solar power, or a complex series of connections between a power source and distribution lines to end users. It can run a business, a neighborhood or even a city. It can be any size and may be fueled by renewable energy stored in batteries, or by generators run on a conventional fuel such as diesel.

Here’s Chris Marnay, a senior scientific fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who wrote the definition of microgrid that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy: “There are two characteristics: It is a locally controlled system, and it can function either connected to the grid or as an electrical island.”

How many microgrids are in California?

It’s difficult to say how many have sprouted across the state and are now dotting the landscape, producing and sharing their own energy. Such systems include small neighborhood operations and one that runs the desert town of Borrego Springs.

That town, and others like it, are known as end-of-the-line communities, lying just beyond the reach of power companies’ distribution lines. For those small locales, and for residents in many rural parts of California, a microgrid is the only choice if they want power.
Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James, accompanied by Yurok Tribal Council, Yurok Planning & Community Development Department and Schatz Energy Research Center celebrate the installation of a 28 Kw photovoltaic (solar panel system).
  • Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James, accompanied by Yurok Tribal Council, Yurok Planning & Community Development Department and Schatz Energy Research Center celebrate the installation of a 28 Kw photovoltaic (solar panel system).
Many state universities have training-wheels versions that use small solar arrays to power a building or a section of the campus. UC San Diego runs a much larger system that provides up to 90% of campus electricity.

If some California lawmakers have their way, there will be many more such systems. A bill in the Legislature would require utility companies to identify the best areas of the state for employing microgrids and then build them.

A 2018 law sets a deadline of Dec. 1, 2020, for creation of a program for how they might operate, especially during times of emergency. The state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates California’s power companies, the California Energy Commission and the Independent System Operator—which runs most of the state’s electrical grid—are developing the plan.

Not surprisingly, former Gov. Jerry Brown is an enthusiastic supporter of microgrids. He said in his 2015 inaugural address that they should be greatly expanded. His rural retirement compound, Rancho Venada, at the end of a dusty road in Colusa County, is powered by a microgrid system.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

No Local Crab Before the New Year

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 4:52 PM

Another crab season, another delay. - C. JUHASZ/CDFW WEBSITE
  • C. Juhasz/CDFW website
  • Another crab season, another delay.
The commercial Dungeness crab season off of Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties has been delayed again at least until Dec. 31 due quality tests that “continue to show crab are below the minimum testing guidelines.”

According to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife release, another round of testing will take place around Dec. 20 to determine whether the New Year’s Eve opening is a go or another delay until Jan. 15 is in order.

“No vessel may take or land crab in an area closed for a meat quality delay (i.e., Fish and Game districts 6, 7, 8 and 9),” the release states. “In addition, any vessel that takes, possesses onboard or lands crab from ocean waters outside of a delayed area is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in the delayed area for 30 days following the opening of that area.”

In other news, CDFW reports a warning on sports caught crab in the Shelter Cove to Point Arena zone was lifted after new tests show the level of domoic acid at low to undetectable levels in the area.

“Although there are currently no areas under an active health advisory for Dungeness crab in the state, CDPH recommends consumers follow best practices to avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be sporadically found in the crab viscera,” the release states.

The Sonoma County and south commercial fishery, which had been delayed due to concerns about marine life entanglements, will open Dec. 15.

Read the CDFW update below:


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Monday, December 2, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Looking for a Monocerotid Unicorn

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2019 at 10:13 AM

Reflections at Moonstone Beach. While we waited for meteors, a pair of helicopters skimmed the horizon as blinking dots sliding toward Trinidad’s glow. The rest of the galaxy hanging overhead didn’t notice us. Humboldt County, California., November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Reflections at Moonstone Beach. While we waited for meteors, a pair of helicopters skimmed the horizon as blinking dots sliding toward Trinidad’s glow. The rest of the galaxy hanging overhead didn’t notice us. Humboldt County, California., November 21, 2019.
The other week I was finally made aware of the existence of an elusive annual celestial phenomenon nicknamed the Unicorn meteor shower, or Alpha Monocerotids. So dubbed in part no doubt for its mercurial habits, the name is also eponymous for the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn, from which the meteors appear to radiate. The constellation itself is faint and difficult to see, and the shifty meteor shower can vary widely in its intensity from one year to the next.

The Alpha Monocerotid shower occurs when Earth’s orbit takes it through the trail of debris left by an unknown comet at some point time in the past. It’s a narrow trail by cosmic standards, and we don’t always intersect with it perfectly as we ride our planet around the sun. This year Earth was predicted to hit the thick of it, but because the trail is so thin we would pass through it quickly and enjoy only a short window of possibly intense meteor action.
Hoping with family members to see the edge of the Monocerotid meteor shower from Moonstone Beach, instead we came back with the makings of our next album cover. (Not really.) We saw a couple meteors, maybe, but we missed the shower. Humboldt County, California. November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Hoping with family members to see the edge of the Monocerotid meteor shower from Moonstone Beach, instead we came back with the makings of our next album cover. (Not really.) We saw a couple meteors, maybe, but we missed the shower. Humboldt County, California. November 21, 2019.
I’m not an astronomer, just an observer with an imagination. I imagine a comet’s trail of particles to be similar to a stream of water from a hose, except that it is fairly straight rather than bending down to the ground, and it’s not flowing because it was left behind by a comet rather than forced out of a hose. The debris trail is not absolutely straight, of course, as the comet is orbiting the sun, but still it is a path of particles that Earth passes through. Also, although water comes out of your hose in a solid column, the path of cometary particles is far less dense.

Now imagine passing a globe of Earth through the stream from your hose. As the stream of water splashes down onto the globe, so, too, does the stream of debris left by a comet. From the point of view of someone standing on Earth’s surface, this “stream” of particles will radiate from the point in the sky where the path is entering the atmosphere, which is called the radiant. What we see as meteors are the particles from the comet’s trail of flotsam burning up in our atmosphere. The radiant moves across the sky with the rest of the stars as the Earth revolves on its axis.
A few annotations to help you find your way. Trinidad glows to the north. November 21, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • A few annotations to help you find your way. Trinidad glows to the north. November 21, 2019.
This year, the Monocerotid meteor shower was predicted to be fairly intense, but our part of the globe wasn’t predicted to see the best of the action. The radiant would be far out over the Atlantic during the shower, and the show would be over before it would rise here on the west coast of North America. The shower would begin around 8:15 p.m. for us and only last about an hour as Earth intersected the debris trail. The radiant, located in the constellation Monoceros beneath and a little to the north of Orion, wouldn’t rise in the east until around 9:30 p.m., after the shower’s peak. I knew we wouldn’t get a view of the radiant itself, but I had hopes that some outlying “earthgrazer” meteors would still be visible for us as they streaked a glancing arc through the atmosphere.

But in the end, my own tale of the meteor shower would reflect only the chase of a unicorn’s tail.


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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

'Bomb Cylone' May Have Set a Low Pressure Record; Good News, Bad News in the Forecast (With Video)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2019 at 1:39 PM

Surf Operations Training off the coast yesterday. - U.S. COAST GUARD
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Surf Operations Training off the coast yesterday.
High wind speeds hit most of the North Coast region yesterday, according to meteorologist Scott Carroll at the National Weather Service in Eureka, with speeds hitting 69 mph at the Crescent City Airport.

Carroll also said that gusts up to 80 mph hit at 1,700 feet south of Ferndale, 70 mph at 2,900 feet southwest of Scotia, 45 mph at the NWS office on Woodley Island and 54 mph at the Arcata/Eureka Airport in McKinleyville.

Carroll also said that the storm — a so-called "bomb cyclone" — reached an “unconfirmed” record low of atmospheric pressure, which is what meteorologists use to determine the storm system’s location. The low pressure played a major factor in the wind speeds yesterday.
“It’s the lowest pressure system ever reported in California since records began,” he said. “The center of the low pressure system hit 28.64 inches near Crescent City yesterday which was pretty close to center of the storm, which was near the California-Oregon border.”

The term “bomb-cyclone” is not often used by meteorologists, Carroll added, but it is a reference to a rapidly intensifying low pressure system, with pressure falling within 24 hours.

The weather should improve on Thursday and Friday, with Humboldt County seeing low temperatures near or below freezing in the next couple of nights. But, rain, mountain snow and some winds will arrive this weekend.

“It’ll be a warmer system than the one we saw yesterday,” Carroll said on Wednesday.
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