Saturday, May 18, 2024

In the Wake of Natural Disasters

Media reports stress harmful outcomes of natural weather events and other powerful physical phenomena in our dynamic planetary environment. Many are related to the four fundamental forces by which our universe is governed and shaped. 


“The four fundamental forces act upon us every day, whether we realize it or not. From playing basketball, to launching a rocket into space, to sticking a magnet on your refrigerator - all the forces that all of us experience every day can be whittled down to a critical quartet: Gravity, the weak force, electromagnetism, and the strong force. These forces govern everything that happens in the universe.” (Ben Biggs and Jeremy Rehm…”The Four Fundamental Forces of Nature,” space.com, 12/23/21)


Modern news commentators report on disastrous forces of tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzards, thunderstorms, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, and forest fires. The public desires news concerning unusual and spectacular incidents, as well as destructive and tragic events. Reports about serene and pleasant physical events often do not inspire the same degree of public attention. A physical scientist may be fascinated by information about fundamental forces, but laypeople are more concerned about tragic effects triggered by those forces. However, there is a side effect to many so-called weather and natural disasters—a beneficial side effect.


As this post is being composed Planet Earth is in the throes of a solar storm event. We are being affected by solar flares—magnetic storms on our life-giving sun. They are called coronal mass ejections (CME) of hot magnetic gas. Such storms are not physically harmful to Earth residents because our planet’s atmosphere shields us from harmful effects but our GPS technology and other modes of communication may be adversely affected. The benefit of this solar magnetic storm may be our ability to see aurora borealis—northern lights. We are able to see the beauty of divine creation in a unique manner.


Returning to other commonly observed weather events mentioned earlier, we do not minimize the possibility of tragedy from a natural event. The OT Book of Job records a poignant example of environmental hazards on Planet Earth. Job Ch. 1 describes a great wind, probably a tornado, which took the lives of his ten children. Christians must acknowledge the existence of suffering, not only from environmental hazards, but also for the undeserved suffering of Jesus Christ as He gave His life to redeem humanity.


There are several side effects to consider concerning undesirable physical events.        

Hurricanes redistribute heat and moisture, sometimes providing relief from drought. Some storms move sediment from bays to marshes, revitalizing nutrients. Periodic wet/dry cycles may be more beneficial than changeless, pleasant weather. Blizzards with heavy snow cover may prevent deep freezing of soil and provide insulation from severe cold damage to roots and bulbs. Soil moisture even in winter must be conserved. 


Thunderstorms, however frightening, provide beneficial moisture and provide nitrogen fixation in the atmosphere. Nitrogen is a diatomic element consisting of two atoms chemically bonded. In this state, atmospheric nitrogen is not useful to plants. Lightning in thunderstorms breaks diatomic nitrogen apart so it may join with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides (N2O). Nitrates (NO3) form when nitrogen oxide dissolves in water droplets. This process is known as atmospheric nitrogen fixation. Plants need nitrogen as a nutrient for healthy growth. Veggies, fruits, and meats are proteins rich in nitrogen. We encourage readers to thank God for lightning which ultimately helps fertilize life-sustaining plants. We also caution residents to stay safe during the storm! Eight million lightning bolts strike our planet each day producing 13,000 tons of nitrate fertilizer. 


Volcanoes may result in tragedy, but volcanoes give warnings of future eruptions. Geologically, volcanic material on Earth’s surface provide rich soil nutrients. Eighty percent of Earth’s surface originated in volcanic events. Hawaii’s rich volcanic soil is geologically very recent.


Earthquakes may cause horrific damage but government mandated building codes minimize earthquake damage to a significant degree. A study of earthquakes in terms of their long-term causes and effects, convection currents and mineral recycling, may highlight the truth of divinely created fine-tuning and intelligent design.


We have endeavored to highlight positive effects of several dynamic planetary events most often perceived as tragic. When God created all things (the heavens and the earth) in the beginning (Genesis 1:1), he also created an “operating system” for our habitable planet. Scientists have recognized laws of nature, physical laws which govern how our Earth’s physical system operates. The physical laws obey a suite of physical constants such as  the law of gravitation, the constant speed of light, and the mass of subatomic particles. Many other physical constants have been identified. The subject of physical constants is esoteric—understandable by only a few advanced scientists. 


As we examine Planet Earth’s weather, climate, and geological phenomena, we are struck with awe and wonder at the divine genius of our Creator. He is the Divine Author of our predictable laws of nature. We link this past post for those who wish to study the topic of divine creativity in more depth: 


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2013/11/naturalism-and-supernaturalism.html

   


            


 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Earthquake Experience

 Earth is a dynamic planet. The term dynamic means powerful and energetic. Physical processes have molded our planet for eons. On April 5, 2024 a 4.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in New Jersey a few miles from our former residence. This was the strongest earthquake to occur in New Jersey since 1783. This geographic area is not prone to earthquakes as are some other locations around the planet. This earthquake generated considerable anxiety for local residents. Authorities stated that no significant damage had resulted, but aftershocks, minor “readjustments” in the rock layers, did occur.

The recent northern New Jersey earthquake was an unusual phenomenon in that geographic region. By coincidence, the earth trembled just three days before the April 8 total eclipse of the sun provided totality in New York State barely 200 miles north of the earthquake locale. Earthquakes cannot be predicted in advance, but solar eclipse events are predictable with incredible accuracy many years in advance. Some residents assigned mystical significance to the conflation of two highly unusual natural events within three days of each other. 


Seismologists, scientists who specialize in the study of earthquakes, have explained detailed causes and effects of earthquakes. These earth scientists have identified forces present in Earth’s lithosphere—the outer layers of crust and upper mantle of our planet. When an earthquake occurs, reporters on television networks frequently refer to faults—breaks or cracks in the rock layers at the Earth’s surface. In the paragraphs below we offer a short primer on several types of faults and how rock breakage along faults results in earthquakes.


Earthquakes are ultimately related to heat from the interior of Planet Earth. Most planetary heat comes from the decay of radioactive elements. Unequal heating in the crust and mantle causes cyclical convection currents even in mostly solid rock layers. Over the long term, less dense material rises above more dense material. Convection currents form and cause the earth’s surface crust to break into sections called plates. 


Seismologists have enriched our knowledge of earthquakes, especially in the last century. Until the 1960s, the Continental Drift theory described the startling proposal that Earth’s continents appear to be slowly moving with respect to each other. German scientist Alfred Wegener popularized the theory. He presented evidence that continents slowly moved, but could not explain why the movements occurred.


A new theory about moving continents developed in the 1960s called Plate Tectonics theory. Great sections of Earth’s crust broke into slabs, or plates, and joined together with other plates like pieces of a giant jig-saw puzzle. Faults occurred where giant pieces of Earth’s crust met each other.


Forces in the Earth’s crust result in several types of faults. The NJ earthquake was related to the Ramapo fault, an ancient fault stretching across northern New Jersey. It is no longer an active fault zone but strong earthquakes sometimes occur in ancient fault regions. Three types of faults have been identified: (1) divergent, where plates are moving apart (2) transform, where plates are horizontally sliding past one another, and (3) convergent, where plates are moving toward each other. Faults at the boundaries of plates are more common.The edges of plates are rough. They get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. Finally, when the plate has moved far enough, the edges break apart and an earthquake results. A stretched rubber band can break—an illustration of the action of divergent forces. Matter can become deformed and broken by either twisting or convergent forces. 


Earthquakes are capable of producing damage and destruction. These quakes are ultimately caused by cyclical convection currents in the lithosphere of Planet Earth. Convection currents work for the greater benefit of humanity. A website from the American Museum of Natural History states: “The processes that shape the Earth and its environment constantly cycle elements through the planet. This cycling sustains life and leads to the formation of the mineral and energy resources that are the foundation of modern technological society.”


Many natural phenomena cause destruction and damage to our planetary environment. Damage caused by earthquakes is only one example. When we research this issue, we discover that many underlying physical laws and processes governing our world ultimately work to our benefit rather than to our detriment. God has provided mandates for humanity to exercise dominion over the natural world. For example, government authorities obey these mandates when they legislate building codes to prevent damage during natural events such as earthquakes.


The divine Creator is the author of all scientific laws in our physical world. God has intricately fine-tuned our dynamic planet during the eons-long process of creation. The Plate Tectonics theory is virtually universally accepted to account for earthquakes and continental plates moving on our planetary surface. This describes a divine transformational miracle.


For supporting information on miracles…..


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2017/11/our-miracle-immersed-planet.html

       

  















 






   

    


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Post-eclipse Reverie

 Our country’s residents have experienced the highly anticipated 2024 total solar eclipse. Many observers of the long awaited event exuberantly pronounced it “life changing.” 31.6 million US residents live in the path of totality and millions more journeyed into the path. This was the second total solar eclipse to occur in the lower 48 in less than seven years. We must wait until 2044 for a similar astronomical spectacular when three astronomical bodies, Sun Moon, and Earth, are aligned with similar precision in relation to the North American continent.

Network television coverage often referred to the 2017 total solar eclipse and compared it with 2024. Both eclipses were mesmerizing, but there were a few more superlatives in 2024. Observers at the Earth’s surface were treated to totality which lasted about twice as long. Our lunar companion possesses a slightly elliptical orbit, resulting in increased apparent lunar size when the moon’s orbit is closer to Earth. In 2024 the moon was 4000 miles closer to Earth than in 2017. This slight difference in apparent lunar size provides for greater solar coverage and a longer time of totality. 


It is possible that the sky was darker in 2024 for a number of reasons. In 2017 we journeyed to totality in Carbondale, IL, and were somewhat surprised that totality produced deep twilight but not total darkness. In the days since 4/8/24 we discovered that people at the center of the path of totality experienced deeper darkness than people at the outer edge of the shadow. Dozens of YouTube posts recorded the thrill of the total eclipse experience for hundreds of people who experienced “an awesome few minutes” in person.


Other differences were well worth noting. The Sun’s corona, the glowing hot gas disc surrounding the Sun, is visible only during a total solar eclipse. Observers stated this corona was brighter and more beautiful than the 2017 event. This eclipse corresponded to the approach of a solar maximum when sunspots increase and the sun’s magnetic polarity reverses. This results in “dramatically more” intense auroras (northern lights) in the northern hemisphere.


Many television networks covered eclipse events as the umbral shadow raced southwest to northeast across our land. We found these broadcasts to be helpful in visualizing what we were unable to see in person. Included in the network programs were live shots of the progress of the moon as it gradually obscured the sun. When the sun was completely covered, we saw the beautiful corona and several bright spots around the circumference—solar flares we could not see in 2017. The diamond ring and Bailey’s beads phenomena were visible, however. Many observers noted a drop in temperature and changes in the behavior of animals.


Many personal reactions were offered in the dozens of YouTubes posted following the actual event. They reported how members of the public reacted to the spectacle:….an out-of-this-world experience….incredible….a surprising sense of zen….a visceral feeling….amazing….a spiritual experience….jaw-dropping….coolest thing I’ve ever seen….phenomenal….felt closer to God….my heart and soul were full….mother nature is beautiful….celestial event for the ages….we hit the jackpot….we’re still in awe.


Our personal reactions to the 2017 total eclipse we eyewitnessed in Carbondale IL and the reactions of 2024 eclipse watchers who viewed the event on a television screen at home were similar. Total eclipse events, especially those witnessed in person, inspire deep personal emotions. From our post of 8/23/2017 we gleaned the following phrases and terms:…an “Everest” experience…an incredibly ordered world…electric with excitement…reverential awe of cosmic orderliness…provided reverent wonder…experience of patient anticipation…profound and powerful personal emotions…nature displays God’s glory in meaningful ways…superlative event…we give glory and praise to God… gave glory to the God of Creation.


David, the author of Psalm 8:1 states “…You have set your glory above the heavens.” The same author declares in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Readers of scripture and observers of the heavens may now affirm the truth of these verses in a uniquely powerful way.    


  


 


 


  


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Eagle Tales

 One of our past posts (5-14-21) dealt with many facts about eagles. Bald eagles are native only to the USA. The bald eagle has acquired a reputation of strength, persistence, and skill. For that reason, this bird was granted the title of our “national bird” in 1782. Below we link our previous detailed post on eagles:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2021/05/eagle-symbolism.html


We relate several startling facts about a bald eagle family nesting in our personal neighborhood. In 2021 an eagle pair successfully fledged two eaglets. The nest was apparently repurposed last summer (2023) by the same eagle parents. During a violent thunderstorm, the tree toppled taking the eagle’s nest with it. We believed our neighborhood eagle saga had concluded in failure when a mature eagle was struck by a vehicle on a nearby interstate highway. The eagle was transported to the local raptor resource center and later released by state authorities in the vicinity of its former nest.


To our surprise, since 2024 began, an eagle’s nest has been built in another tree a few feet away from the original eagle nest site. It was probably constructed by the original nesting pair. Our son observed nest building activities over the winter and noted when egg incubation began. Eagle eggs hatch about 35 days after incubation begins. As of this writing at least one baby eagle is visible through a scope. We have recent videos of one eagle parent repeatedly feeding its tiny hatchling small pieces of food; now the strong baby eagle observes the outside world from inside its nest. We observe this young eagle receiving food from one of its parents. Young eagles are known to gain up to a pound of weight per week.


In our midwest region nest building by bald eagles commences from November to January. By reconstructing our timeline, we calculate that our eagle pair was involved in nest building and raising their family shortly after a severe blizzard struck our area in mid-January. These facts testify to the natural ability of living things to survive and  thrive under difficult circumstances. Eagles are opportunistic concerning their food supply. Our neighborhood eagle parents were observed feeding fragments of a turtle to their young in 2021.


Do animals of prey such as eagles live a challenging existence? Eagles are equipped with superior vision, strength, and ability to adapt. What about other animals? The Creator of All Things has equipped living creatures with diverse adaptive ability. Isaiah  speaks of the strength of eagles: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) 


Consider the experience of humanity. Scripture is filled with exhortations to be morally strong. Our success in life depends upon not only our physical strength, but also our moral strength. How carefully do we walk according to the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23) and shun the works of the flesh? (Galations 5:19-21) We see that the eagle’s physical strength is a metaphor for other desirable types of strength—moral strength, for example. Our family has enjoyed the eagle family in our neighborhood for almost four years. Lessons on the science of animal behavior have transitioned to lessons on faith.     


  


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Atmospheric Rivers and Climate Change

 The recent floods in California resulted from atmospheric rivers. Readers may review this method of planetary water distribution in our recent post:  

https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2024/02/appearing-and-disappearing-lakes.html 


Atmospheric rivers have become a popular meteorological topic du jour. It is unusual that such an important topic has not achieved more notoriety in the current lexicon of meteorology and climatology. The term atmospheric river was first used in 1994. The phenomenon has currently achieved a high level of awareness.  


Climate change is referenced many times in our current weather and climate conversation. Many ordinary phenomena are linked to or credited to climate change. The term is used repeatedly. The existence of atmospheric rivers is commonly linked to climate change. A variable scale of impact—AR 1 to AR 5 (dependent on amount of water vapor contained and duration of the phenomenon) reminds us of the scale of hurricane strength (Saffir-Simpson wind scale: category 1 to 5), or tornado intensity (Fujita scale: F1 to F4) also based on wind speeds. The scale of atmospheric rivers from 1-5 was first proposed in 2019.  


Because Earth’s climate has been in a state of ongoing change over many millennia, many analysts have insisted that climate change is mostly a natural occurrence. Fossil fuel consumption by humans has generated increased production of carbon dioxide emissions from the late 19th century to our current 21st century society. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas (GHG) capable of generating more atmospheric warming than natural events. Climate change (1) is caused by natural factors, and (2) climate change is also caused by the collective impact of humanity whose population has increased eight-fold since the beginning of the 19th century. It is difficult to deny the importance of fossil fuel consumption. 


The recent publicity concerning atmospheric rivers has called attention to current serious flooding in California. The flooding has impacted agriculture in the Golden State, especially in the last several years since the atmospheric river phenomenon has intensified. The flooding has been a mixed blessing for California. Many reservoirs are currently refilling from previous drought conditions. Serious flooding in California impacts food prices across America. The Central California Valley contains only 1% of our nation’s farmland, but this region produces one-third of US vegetables and two-thirds of our nation’s fruits and nuts. The annual value of California’s agricultural products exceeds $50 billion; over $20 billion in agricultural products is exported to other countries. The valley produces more than 250 different agricultural products. It is also home to 6.5 million residents, many of whom are employed in farming.


Floods in the state of California are cyclical as are droughts. Long before old world explorers arrived in the new world, atmospheric rivers were pounding the North American west coast. Native Americans resided in the Central California Valley long before European explorers arrived. No doubt those Native Americans experienced mega-floods from atmospheric rivers in the years 212, 440, 603, 1029, c. 1300, 1418, 1605, 1750, 1810, and most recently—1861-62. Fertile sediments washing downstream from mountain ranges to the east supplied layer upon layer of fertile silt in the Santa Barbara Basin.  (USGS sediment research…..Wikipedia article.)  Several of these mega-floods were more intense than the 1861-62 series of atmospheric rivers which killed many Native American people and farm animals and devastated the Golden State economy.


The greatest historical west coast floods have occurred roughly every 200 years in the past two millennia. It is clear to modern researchers that atmospheric rivers have been a component of our climate system for thousands of years—long before climate change was given credit for amplifying them. We may be due for another mega-flooding event. California is due for “The Big One—“ a reference to a possible great earthquake such as occurred in 1906. But If we were to apply this term to an onslaught of atmospheric rivers, we may predict a flood of monumental proportions. Damage to California’s agriculture would be devastating.


The Creator has authored a planetary environment in which the entire climate system works for the ultimate benefit of human life. In the Book of Genesis God mandates humans to “have dominion.” Humanity must apply knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom in order to “have dominion.” (Genesis 1:28)  


       


  




 


 


 


     

  

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Dominion Wisdom

 In the first chapter of Genesis the concept of God granting dominion to humanity in terms of creation care is an important topic. Genesis 1 is a narrative of divine creation activity. It deals with science—the geologic history of Planet Earth and the history of life, including human life—the pinnacle of God’s creative activity. The chapter also deals with theology. God had redemption of humanity in mind before the creation event: I Corinthians 2:7—before time began; 2 Timothy 1:9—before the beginning of time; Titus 1:2—before the beginning of time; and Ephesians 1:4—before the creation of the world (All quotes from the NIV). Even human salvation is an act of divine creation.

In Genesis 1, humanity was granted dominion (authority, influence, jurisdiction, or control) over many types of living things. In verses 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10, water was the focus of attention. Light energy had been created at the first instant of the creation event. However, light did not appear at Earth’s surface until “darkness…over the face of the deep” was dispelled. God established a permanent water cycle. Verses 6-7 describe accurately, but without much detail, the conditions necessary for a stable water cycle.


In just a few verses we are informed of the appearance of light on our planet’s surface, the reality of a stable water cycle, the appearance of swarms of living creatures on creation days five and six, and the creation of humans on day six. The Creator of All Things ultimately gives instructions to mankind to “have dominion” over the broad variety of creatures mentioned in the initial chapter.


Based on the importance of our “water world” planet, we might better understand the Creator’s mandate for human dominion. All life depends on water. Agricultural success depends on an adequate supply of water. Psalm 8:6-8 states “You have given him (man) dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” (ESV) These verses in the Book of Job 38:25-27 mirror the Genesis mandates for humanity to exercise dominion over Earth’s water resources: “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?”


Humanity has fallen far short of wise dominion governing the water resources of Planet Earth. Many national jurisdictions are dismantling dams along streams and rivers. In the USA, there are 91,804 dams impounding water along national streams. Many dams are being dismantled because they generated significant environmental problems. Dams have been built ranging from a few feet to hundreds of feet in height. Dams were built for various beneficial purposes—flood control, irrigation, hydroelectric power, and recreation to name a few.


Knowledge of water control infrastructure reveals serious downsides to the presence of dams all over the world. There are over 800,000 dams on Earth, including 60,000 large dams, according to ResearchGate. Dams (1) change the course of rivers (2) block  spawning fish migration (3) trap sediments and waste (4) alter the habitat within impounded reservoirs (5) cause loss of water by evaporation (6) disrupt ecological networks such as food webs (7) impound large quantities of water, the source of some greenhouse gases such as methane and (8) reduce fertile silt on river flood plains.


In the early 19th century very few dams had been constructed across the US. Public works projects consisted mainly of canals. Projects involving dams were unusual or rare. Problems involving dams mentioned in the preceding paragraph were virtually non-existent. The pure waters of the Great Lakes and our historic water resources across the country were not plagued by building of thousands of dams which have frequently produced more problems than benefits.


The Great Lakes are symbols of ancient transformational miracles. Another transformational miracle is described in Genesis 1:7-8—the establishment of Earth’s water cycle. The last glacial episode on Earth ended about 12,000 years ago. The ice sheet bulldozed the basins of the Great Lakes before ir melted away. Present day precipitation accounts for current Great Lakes water fueled by Earth’s well-established water cycle. 

 

Ice Ages are transformational miracles from our Divine Creator. A well-established water cycle is a good example of a transformational miracle. Before the European settlers arrived, Native Americans had occupied the North American continent for thousands of years. Pollution of our water resources was not an issue. But with the rapid world population explosion from one billion souls to eight billion from 1800 to the present day, mankind struggles with water resources. In that light we may better understand the human dilemma concerning the building and removal of dams.


Modern societies must avoid going beyond the divine provisions of transformational miracles to modify the environment in a damaging manner. God’s mandate to exercise dominion wisdom is more clearly understood.


We link this 11-21-2017 post on transformational miracles:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2017/11/transformational-creation-miracles.htm