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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Pull of the Moon during Perigee and Syzygy on January 30, 2010

The coastal flooding during the first week of January along the Northumberland shore was unusually severe because it coincided with an astronomical event called the perigean syzygy. A tidal effect will get stronger when syzygy and perigee occur close together. Maximal tide raising forces occur only when the Sun and Moon are in direct mutual alignment. This occurs at syzygy (either full Moon or new Moon). This usually occurs when the moon is at the closest approach to the Earth or at perigee.

During the full and new Moon, the greatest difference between high and low tide water levels occurs. If the Moon is at perigee, the closest it approaches Earth in its orbit, the tides are especially high and low.

The changing distance of the Moon from the Earth also affects tide heights. When the Moon is at perigee the range is increased, and when it is at apogee the range is reduced. Perigee coincides with either a new or full moon causing perigean tides with the largest tidal range. If a storm happens to be moving onshore at this time, the consequences (in the form of property damage, etc.) can be especially severe.

Remember the Saxby Gale occurred during a perigean Spring Tide: Named not for the season of Spring, but from the German springen (to leap up). This tide that is of increased range occurs at the two times of syzygy each month during the full or new Moon.

According to letter to the editor written by Ivan Smith from Canning, Nova Scotia which appeared in the Chronicle Herald,

The near future is interesting. A more powerful perigean syzygy will occur during the wee hours on Jan. 30, 2010, when syzygy and perigee will be less than three hours apart. If an intense (low barometric pressure) storm should happen to form during the last weekend of this month, coastal communities can expect serious flooding to occur at the time of high tide.

The Farmer’s Almanac says that we are in for snow and stormy weather for the last weekend in January. The moon, which has a strange but real pull on the Earth, its oceans and the human psyche, will possibly show its real force on the ocean’s tides at the end of the month of January when its tug will be a tad stronger than usual. Can we expect another severe storm and tidal surge? That is the question.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Climate Change and the Earthquake in Haiti

Climate change is one of the most crucial global problems of our century and when we discuss about the climate, we're most likely to touch on wider implications such as natural disasters.

Two scientists from Purdue University took seismic readings in Haiti along the Enriquillo Fault and warned Haitian officials back in 2008 that the island was vulnerable to a major earthquake of 7.2 magnitude. Pressure was building along the fault line. The problem is the warning didn’t come with a timeline and even if it did, a country like Haiti was highly unlikely to be able to move and coordinate fast enough to shore up important buildings like government, hospitals, and schools. So… nothing was done.

Tuesday’s earthquake is actually the fifteenth natural disaster to hit the island nation since 2001. Other equally devastating events in Haiti include major floods due to the deforestation, and killer tropical storms and hurricanes. Although all of these events are due to natural causes the events that cause Haiti to be in a constant state of catastrophe are the poor building standards, poverty, unstable government and environmental degradation.

This latest devastating event is a wake-up call to us to pay attention to our environment from the smallest to the most significant of ways. It may not stop other natural disasters from occurring completely but it may lessen the rate and magnitude of disasters. Haiti is one of the many Islands that does not have adequate necessities needed to defend themselves during extreme weather events and disasters such as the earthquake that hit last Tuesday.

Actor, Danny Glover was quoted as saying, “I hope we seize this particular moment because the threat of what happened to Haiti is the threat that could happen anywhere in the Caribbean to these island nations, you know. They're all in peril because of global warming, they're all in peril because of climate change. An interesting viewpoint until he went on to say that the devestation was caused in Haiti because the world’s governments did not finish what they needed to in Copenhagen during the Climate Confernce in December. That is where he lost me.

There really has not been a link established between climate change and Tuesday’s earthquake. One thing that we do know is that the burning of fossil fuels is altering the climate, which in turn, increases the likelihood that more natural disasters will occur, and may lead to reconstruction or relocation of entire cities if the climate change predictions from scientists are to be believed.

Hopefully we will begin to listen to the majority of scientists worldwide that for climate change is real and we need to address it now. Haitian officials were concerned about the possibility of an earthquake but with so many other problems the warnings of even more disastrous events that may or may not happen soon were put on the back burner. Sound familiar?

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her column. You can contact Lisa at: or view her blog at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peigean Syzygy and Storm Surge

The coastal flooding along the Northumberland Shore during the first week of January was the worst flooding ever seen in the area. Scientist have been warning us for a long time that this could happen and it has; however, I am sure that we have not seen the worst of climate change yet.

This coastal flooding was unusually severe because it coincided with an astronomical event called the perigean syzygy. A tidal effect will get stronger when syzygy and perigee occur close together. Maximal tide raising forces occur only when the Sun and Moon are in direct mutual alignment. This occurs at syzygy (either full Moon or new Moon), provided also that the Moon or Sun be in eclipse with the Earth. This usually occurs when the moon is at the closest approach to the Earth or at perigee. Remember the Saxby Gale occurred during a perigean Spring tide.

Climate change is causing the see level to rise everywhere along our coast. The sea level is rising for a combination of reasons. These include a general rise in average sea level since the last ice age, regional subsidence, or sinking of land relative to the sea, and global warming associated with climate change.

We can expect this rise in sea level to have many effects, both on the biological and physical environments, as well as an effect on the human environment. Research shows that much of Nova Scotia’s coast will feel the effects of sea level rise, with the Atlantic-facing shoreline being particularly sensitive.

The phenomenon of storm surge is particularly important, because it causes waves to pile water or in the case of last week, ice to pile onshore, creating a higher possibility of damage. Storm surges occur when seawater is driven onshore by a storm’s high winds and low pressure. The highest storm surges tend to occur along the province’s Northumberland Shore, along western Cape Breton, and at the head of the Bay of Fundy.

Projections by researchers show that because of climate change, tropical storms in the Northern Hemisphere will get more intense and track farther north than before. This result, combined with the rise in sea level, means that a storm’s consequences to the coast will be much greater than before.

The areas at greatest risk include
• areas that are low lying, such as Acadian dykelands including the Tantramar marsh
• areas with frequent storm conditions and high storm-surge potential
• areas with coastal infrastructure and property
• areas of sensitive ecology
• areas of rapid coastal erosion

To read more about the state of the province’s coast, visit the website at

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her column. You can contact Lisa at: or view her blog at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Biomass - You have got to be kidding me!!

Happy New Year everyone! Did you see the full moon on New Year’s Eve? That was the second full moon of the month of December and therefore is called the blue moon. That was just an interesting tidbit of information for you.

At the end of my last column for the year (2009) I mentioned our forests being used for biomass – You have got to be kidding me.

Nova Scotia is not ready to add an increase in harvesting trees for biomass to our already stressed forests. Our forests have already been degraded by the abundance of harvesting and clearcutting. Also, the diversity and of both trees and wildlife is at risk in many areas including the Chignecto Game Sanctuary and other wooded areas here in Cumberland County.

Burning wood to produce energy is not inherently detrimental, and can in fact provide environmental benefits over the use of fossil fuels. The available science is clear that stand-wide whole-tree harvesting and removal of deadwood has significant detrimental impacts on soil nutrients, wildlife habitat and forest carbon storage.

In the Maritimes, fossil fuels may be replaced as existing companies introduce biomass energy into their power supply, as home owners switch to wood-based heating, and as new companies emerge to create wood pellets and other products to supply the growing demand for biofuels.

However, the aggressive harvesting of trees for biomass from forests poses a fundamental threat to the health and productivity of forest ecosystems. In terms of sustainable forest management, leaving tree tops, branches and foliage, left after logging, in the forest, along with maintaining standing and fallen dead trees, are two of the easiest and most effective actions forest managers can take to promote biodiversity and sustain a healthy, resilient and productive forest.

Forestry officials use forest fires as a reason to clear out deadwood and other logging waste left behind. Forest fires are actually a natural part of a healthy forest. Forest fires get a bad rap. Too often, with all the focus on the damage they could cause, we forget that they're actually necessary to keep the forest healthy and growing. The build-up of vegetation in the forest can prevent seeds from germinating and stop the growth of new trees.

No forest has ever existed without having to cope with periodic fires. The most common natural cause of forest fires is probably lightning, though globally most fires are started by people. Fires are a natural way of clearing old growth, causing organic matter to decompose rapidly into mineral components which fuel rapid plant growth, and recycling essential nutrients, especially nitrogen.

Allowing and encouraging a market for forest biomass will accelerate the degradation of our forest, reducing both the economic and ecological value of our forests for the next generation.

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her column. You can contact Lisa at: or view her blog at

Monday, January 4, 2010

Upset Mother Earth??

Well, we certainly managed to do something or not do something to upset Mother Earth. In Cumberland County and in the Town of Amherst we had up to two feet of snow, rain, freezing rain, howling winds and a storm surge that caused a disaster area in some of the Northumberland Shore area. (Shades of the Saxby Gale).

I know it is hard too think Global Warming when you are up to your butt in snow; however, strange weather conditions that will eventually form patterns are all part of this concept - That is why people now refer to it as Climate Change.

We need to keep people educated and try to keep the government on top of all discussions regarding climate change. The Canadians were made a mockery of at the Copenhagen Conference because of our governments lax efforts to combat climate change and just following the lead of the United States.

There needs to be a development of our own policies that control carbon output for our country. Stay on top of your governmental leaders. Any suggestions regarding policy development for this country will always be helpful. Remember our children will inherit this earth after we are finished messing it up.