Yesterday more than three inches of wet snow fell across Pittsburgh. Sometimes it changed to rain. Overnight it froze.
Expecting dangerous footing, I put on my ice cleats and went out to see.
Under light snow on the sidewalk … Viola, a glacier!
That’s not all. Last night I noticed that my car, parked on the street, was standing in three inches of water because ice dams prevented the water from draining. In the dark I heaved snow and water to the storm drain, hoping to prevent my tires from being locked in ice this morning. What do you think? Am I stuck?
I spread salt and came indoors, feeling a little smug that my ice cleats worked so well.
But the ice has one more trick up its sleeve.
(all photos by Kate St. John, except the ice warning sign in Montreal is by Paul Joseph via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the sign to see its original)
In western Pennsylvania, flood warnings have been issued for Armstrong and Clarion counties due to an ice jam that is blocking the Allegheny River, creating a backflow of water into Parker, according to an AP report. The warning is in effect until 7 a.m. Thursday. State Route 268 has been flooded and at least two people have been rescued from the floodwaters in Parker.
In February 2009 I was hiking at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve when the ice broke and jammed in front of me. Click here or on the gray-brown ice photo for my in-person (Throw Back Thursday) report.
(photos by Kate St. John: Ice and gulls on the Monongahela River at Duck Hollow, 25 Feb 2015. Ice on Raccoon Creek, 8 Feb 2009)
We were lucky. In an uncanny space-time coincidence a very big meteor whooshed over Russia two years and two days before the Kittanning event. It weighed 10,000 tons(*) and injured over 1,000 people. February 15, 2013 in Russia. February 17, 2015 in Pittsburgh.
…What is it about February?
I wish I had seen it. I was awake but I wasn’t paying attention.
(YouTube video of the February 17 fireball from NASA’s Marshall Center)
(*) that’s 40,000 times heavier than the meteor at Kittanning.
Yo! Did you know that Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system?
Io is the size of our Moon but a very inhospitable place. It’s covered in sulfur which makes pretty shades of yellow but unbreathable air.
To make matters worse, Io is so small and Jupiter is so large that Jupiter’s gravity causes 100 meter land-tides on Io’s surface. Yes, the land rises and falls 330 feet as Io orbits Jupiter. No wonder Io has more than 400 active volcanoes!
In 2007 NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took photos of a plume coming off the top of Io. What was it? A volcanic eruption rising 300 miles above Io’s surface!
Click on the screenshot above (or click here) to see a video of Io in action.
Even after the coldest winter the east-central U.S. can remember, the average U.S. temperature was 0.5 degrees above normal. (Ask Westerners how hot they were!) Here’s a month-to-month video that shows that even the East was hot in December.
Climate scientists agree(*) that the warming is caused by humans and there will be sobering results. We’ve caused it. We record it. We report on it. But will the news change anything?
On a political and media level in the U.S. this news has generated interest and talk but no real action. On the natural level — among the air, water, birds, plants, and animals that I care about — it is big news and they’re doing something about it. The air is hotter, the ice is melting, the sea is rising, and the plants, animals and birds are moving north or uphill.
Humans are doing something too, even here in the U.S. where our society has not taken up the cause.
When the sky is clear on cold January nights, the planet Jupiter shines brighter than the stars. Step outside with binoculars and you can see up to four of its moons.
These are the Galilean moons, named for Galileo because he was the first to report them in 1610. He used an improved 20-power telescope that wasn’t even as good as today’s birding scopes. When the moons are in the right position you can see what Galileo saw — something like this.
However on the night of Friday January 23 you’ll need a real telescope to view them because three of the moons — Europa, Callisto and Io — will transit (pass across) the disk of Jupiter and cause eclipses on the planet.
Above, the Hubble Space Telescope captured Io playing “Me and My Shadow.” At one point on January 23-24 all three moons will play this tune.
Astronomy.com calls it a triple shadow transit. Click here for their drawing of what you’ll see in the telescope at 1:40am EST on January 24.
This is your last chance to witness Jupiter’s triple shadow transit until 2032, but it’ll take some preparation and luck to see it. You’ll need a telescope and the sky has to be clear.
In Pittsburgh we’ll have to cross our fingers. Our sky is usually overcast in winter.