(NOTE: On March 15, a beachfront remembrance will be held for Ric O Brien. It will take place at 1 p.m. at the pavilion at the ocean end of 5th Street in Beach Haven. Afterwards, light refreshments will be served at the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club.)
Monday, March 03, 2008:
YOU SHOULDA BEEN HERE THEN: As we blame Global Warming for everything from a passing shower to the decline in reliable elasticity in men’s briefs, a recent scholarly report published in the “Natural Hazards Review” add some proper historic perspective to the likes of hurricanes, which loads of folks allege was the worst ever, due to, what else, Global Warming. Via this research, a case can be made that we’ve seen worse – and over a half century back.
Yes, it’s catastrophically clear that the decade from1996 to 2005 opened a can of weatherly whoop-ass upon the U.S. and Mexico – and further fueled the planetary change theorists. However, the scientists doing this report chose to level the playing field by inserting today’s population and economics into the time frame from 1900 to 2005, 11 decades in all.
In an abstract of the Review article, the field-leveling process, called normalization, is detailed. “Normalization provides an estimate of the damage that would occur if storms from the past made landfall under another year's societal conditions. Our methods use changes in inflation and wealth at the national level and changes in population and housing units at the coastal county level.”
All things being equal, the decidedly dynamic decade of 1996 to 2005 is fairly handily blown away by the same time span between 1926 and 1935. Not that our recent decade was a slough. The Katrina/Andrew/et al era was a healthy second when graphed with the other 11 decades. Still, that second-place ranking deflates –albeit monetarily – and dedication to the concept that a warming planet is taking meteorological things to all-time (modern) highs. Of course, there’s the now-decade to contend with -- and that graph line is still in the making.
PORTAL TO ALL THING GREAT AND SMALL: As we sharpen our hooks for the fats-approaching spring striper run – home of the 60-pounder – I spent days on end calling different countries around the world to ask how they say, in their own tongues, the name striped bass. Africa wasn’t home.
These are the actual words, with a few silent vowels thrown in:
Juovabassi (Finnish), Bar d'Amérique (French), Bar rayè (French), Persico spigola (Italian), Skalnik prazkowany (Polish), Robalo-muge (Portuguese), Polosatyi lavrak (Russian – which claims to have invented the striped bass), Lobina or Lubino striada (Spanish), Strimmig Havsabborre (Swedish) and 带纹白鲈 (Mandarin Chinese – I hope I got the spelling right).
Actually, I didn’t call around the world. I cheated by going to the new and utterly amazing web portal called Encyclopedia of Life, found ay www.eol.org. It’s the rage of the WWW.
EOL is a mid-boggling effort to document every living thing on the planet and resent to, well, every living human on the planet. It is one stop shopping for species data. When used to the max, it also links to appropriate source material for the most exacting research.
In the words of site’s homepage, “Welcome to the first release of the Encyclopedia of Life portal. This is the very beginning of our exciting journey to document all species of life on Earth.
“Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.”
The best way to see the potential of this portal is to go to its exemplar pages. These highlights pages (listed on the lower right side of the opening page) cover species that are quickly becoming maximally indicative of the data load EOL will offer for each and every species around the planet, from the microscopically small to the absurdly large.
Of the exemplar pages, the website reads, “(The exemplar pages) show the kind of rich environment, with extensive information, to which all the species pages will eventually grow. The information on the exemplar pages has been authenticated (endorsed) by the scientists whose names are listed on these pages.”
Nothing even remotely like this portal has ever been undertaken. And it sure looks like it’s taking off to parts unknown. In its initial launch period, the scientific cooperation from every corner of the globe has been so overwhelming that the site has occasionally been unable to handle the load of incoming data – not to mention incoming hits from users, myself obviously included.
Put down any fish name and you’ll open to the reader’s digest version of info. By clicking around the page, you’ll get deeper and deeper into data – most likely to far beyond what you’ll need to know. I went with a EOL surfing with a frog and ended up on the very first account of the species, written in old English by its discoverer.
MUSSELING IN ON SALMON: On NPR – National Public Radio – I was listening to a salmon report from Lake Ontario. Unlike the steadt flow of gloom-and-doom tales of the zebra mussels ruining salmon fishing, a Cornell scientist found that the salmon are growing huge in the lake’s water, primarily due to the greater visibility caused by the astounding filtering capacity of the invasive mussel species. The scientist found that the clearer water allowed the lake prime forage fish, alewife, to better see its prime foodstuff, shrimp. The shrimp had been thriving in the murky, essentially polluted waters that had mucked over all the Great Lakes. In the manmade murkiness, the shrimp easily evaded the sight-feeding alewife. Enter the zebra mussels and, in ten shorts years of invasive inhabitation, away goes the turbidity. The shrimp suddenly found themselves sitting pretty on the bottom – pretty in the eyes of the harp-eyed alewife. Up goes the average size of alewife, which are now sitting pretty in the eyes of sight-feeding salmon. Seeing the hefty alewife clearer, the salmon scarf them down. The bigger and better scarfing leads to girthier salmon, as the scientific studies clearly indicate. Fascinating news – but not to be consumed with good news.
The next step seems kinda sophomoric. The alewife see/scarf so many shrimp that the tiny crustaceans can’t keep up with the demand. That leads to the seedier side of alewife. They are highly cannibalistic. Even when things are eco-correct, they’ll dine on their own sons, daughters and assorted family members. Now that water clarity come down hard on the alewife stocks. Good by salmon girth – and, eventually, good-bye salmon. Of course, that’s the sophomoric view and that’s exactly why they don’t graduate sophs. Still, the zebra mussels have to be considered a long-term really bad thing, even though they’ve cleaned up all the Great lakes to a point that old-timers up there say they’ve never seen so deeply down.