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Introducing Glory Zone

The momentum builds to a breathtaking climax in Gordon’s new novel Glory Zone, a spellbinding story about a future world of body-part clone banks, gene cures, flying prying eyes, perpetual war fought by the old, courageous resistance to oppressive power, and love found late in life.

Gordon’s Blog

Global Warming Info For Doubters

For those who still doubt or deny the existence of global warming, or who are not convinced that burning of fossil fuels is contributing to the heating of the planet, here are a few facts and figures* to consider:

Land Temperatures: 2016 marks the 40th consecutive year that the average global temperature has been above the 20th century average. The January-July 2016 global land surface temperature was 1.66°C (2.99°F) above the 20th century average. 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000.

Sea Surface Temperatures worldwide have mirrored the year-to-year increases in land temperatures. The January-July 2016 ocean surface temperatures were 0.79°C (1.42°F) above average, the warmest in the last 137 years.

Sea Level Rise has been slow but steady, having risen 7 inches (17.78cm) since 1900. The UN estimates an additional 2.5 to 6.0 foot sea level increase by 2100, depending on how rapidly the ice caps and glaciers melt. Some of the Marshall Islands and other low-lying atolls already have been vacated due to sea level rise. Miami has been flooding at high tide.

Ice Caps & Glaciers are melting and shrinking fast. The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ice at the rate of 270 billion tons a year, and glaciers around the world lose another 400 billion tons each year. 

Ocean Acidification: The world’s oceans absorb a quarter of all CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning. When CO2 mixes with seawater, a chemical reaction increases the acid content of the water. Ocean acidity has increased 30% in the past 200 years, softening the shells of oysters, clams, and other calcifying species, threatening the world’s food chain, and eroding coral reefs. 

Increase of the CO2 Level in the atmosphere caused by the burning of oil, gas, and coal has increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) preindustrial, to over 400 ppm, creating a greenhouse effect that radiates heat back to earth.

Storms, Floods, & Droughts get more robust and last longer as the planet’s oceans, land, and air get hotter.

Snowpack Levels in mountain ranges throughout the world, including the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas are getting thinner and melting faster, providing less water to populations relying on the runoff.

Carbon Emissions into the atmosphere from the burning of oil, coal, and gas exceed 9.7 billion tons per year. 97% of publishing climate scientists around the world concur that the rapid increase in global warming is due, at least in part, to human activity, namely the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels. 200 worldwide scientific organizations hold that climate change has been caused by human action. Unfortunately, the heating of earth over the past 100 years indicates the planet will keep getting hotter until the burning of fossil fuels to run our cars and factories can be replaced by non-polluting alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar.

 *Data as reported by NASA, NOAA, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and as published in scientific journals.

A Tale of Two Earthquakes

On August 24, 2016, at 3:36 a.m. local time, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck Central Italy, taking 296 lives. On the same day, a few hours later at 5:06 p.m. local time, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake rattled the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma. While the magnitude was much stronger, only 4 people died in that quake even though many buildings were damaged and a priceless cultural heritage site destroyed.

The big differences? Geographical location, depth of the epicenter, and type of building construction.

The Central Italy quake hit near a densely populated area at a shallow depth of only 10km (6 mi.) under villages that still had very old stone and brick buildings never retrofitted to earthquake safe standards. The shallow quake, rated IX, or violent, on the intensity scale, shook the older buildings apart, burying almost 300 people in rubble as they slept. The town of Amatrice and surrounding villages were filled with tourists who had come for a festival that was to start that same day.

The Central Italy earthquake zone in the Apeninne Mountains, where three tectonic plates meet, is a complex area geologically. The Africa Plate is still converging (shoving into) the Eurasian Plate, while the Adriatic Plate is pulling away from the Eurasian Plate, creating a spreading zone down the Po Valley. When the pulling apart released long-stored fault line tension, one side of the fault line dropped suddenly, creating the shockwave.

The Myanmar quake epicenter was located in a thinly populated area of Central Burma, at a depth of 84km (52 mi). The maximum intensity of the quake was rated VI, or strong, but not severe or violent. As a result, a few buildings near the epicenter collapsed and others were damaged, but loss of life and major damage were held to a minimum.

This earthquake was located on a strike-slip fault line marking the convergence of the India Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The India Plate is moving briskly north in geological terms, against the Eurasian Plate moving slowly south. As the two plates bump together and try to slide past each other, horizontal stress builds up until some weaker point in the fault line gives way. The sudden release of tension causes sideways slippage triggering the shaking motion. This fault line is similar in structure to the San Andreas Fault that runs the length of California.

Whether an earthquake is caused by Normal Faulting as in Central Italy, or a strike-slip fault, or a megathrust that occurs in ocean trenches and can reach magnitude 9.0 and higher, the amount of resulting damage depends on what a real estate agent would call location location location.

 

 

Floods, Fires, & Global Warming

From August 12 to 17, 2016, thirty parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were hit by a massive rainstorm that resulted in the worst flood in the history of the area. In a 24-hour period, more than 2½ ft. (31.39 in.) (80cms) of rain inundated the town of Watson, a few miles north of Baton Rouge. The rain pounded the area for days, creating deep lakes where houses once stood. People had to be rescued off rooftops by boat and helicopter. 60,000 to 100,000 homes were reported to be lost or badly damaged. 13 people died. 20,000 were evacuated, and 3,000 are still living in public shelters. Recovery will take many months and cost billions of dollars for repair and reconstruction.

According to NOAA, the atmosphere in the area was supersaturated with near-record amounts of moisture sucked up from the warmer than normal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. When a low- pressure system moved in creating a storm system, the “highly precipitated” air came down in the form of torrential rain, resulting in what was termed a 500-year flood.

The National Academy of Science states, “Heavy rainfall is influenced by a moister atmosphere, a direct consequence of human-induced warming. As the atmosphere warms, its ability to retain water vapor increases.” A climatologist at Texas Tech explains, “Louisiana is always at risk of flood naturally, but climate change is exacerbating that risk, weighting the dice against us.”

2,000 miles west, at the same time the Southeastern US was dealing with too much water, California was in its sixth year of drought and dealing with its worst wildfire season in many years. Through the middle of August, wildfires had burned 200,000 acres (809km²) of forest and brush land, destroying over 1,000 structures and costing 7 lives. And the wildfire season extends for another 3 months and beyond.

In California, the problem is too little moisture instead of too much. A research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute said, “Climate change has exacerbated naturally occurring droughts, and therefore fuel conditions. The worse the drought, the more of a tinderbox forests become.”

As the planet continues to warm, events such as these will occur more often and become more extreme. Catastrophic floods are occurring every 5 or 10 years now instead of every 500 or 1,000 years. The wildfire season in California has increased by 78 days since the 1970s. Something has changed, and at least part of that change can be attributed to global warming.

Unless we can put the brakes on carbon emissions by quickly phasing to non-polluting power sources such as wind and solar, earth will continue to heat and set us up for more and more climate-related disasters.

Quiet US Hurricane Season — So Far

Four named tropical storms have developed so far during the 2016 hurricane season, but none have done major damage to US coastal cities.

On May 29, Tropical Storm Bonnie weakened to a tropical depression before making landfall near Charleston, South Carolina. Heavy rains associated with Bonnie caused local flooding and treacherous rip currents along the Southeast US coastline. One person drowned in North Carolina and another in Florida.

Tropical Storm Colin came ashore in the Big Bend area of Florida on June 7, triggering heavy rain and flash floods. 4 people drowned due to rip currents along the beaches of the Florida Panhandle.

On June 21, Tropical Storm Danielle with wind speeds of 45mph (75km/h} hit Veracruz, Mexico, closing the port and flooding areas, requiring the evacuation of 1,200 families.

Hurricane Earl struck Belize in Central America on August 4. Earl, with wind speeds of 80mph (130km/h), regenerated and hit Veracruz on August 6, where a landslide killed 3 people.

Colorado State University and NOAA both forecast an average hurricane year in 2016, made up of 12 to 15 named storms including 6 hurricanes. The two main factors leading this forecast of a near average season are the development of a weak La Niña and cooler than normal North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

When and where the storms will make landfall is not part of the forecast. According to NOAA, historically 1 to 2 hurricanes come ashore in the US each season, although the number making US landfall has been below average for the last decade.

The hurricane season traditionally runs from June through November. However tropical storms can and have occurred in other months, some bringing heavy property damage and loss of life. As of this writing, there are still many weeks left in the 2016 hurricane season. Whether all or none of the remaining predicted storms will occur is up to Mother Nature. But just in case, those living on or near the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast should be prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

Record Heat & Renewable Energy

It should come as no surprise that the first half of 2016 has gone down as earth’s hottest 6 months on record.

According to a July, 2016, NOAA report on global temperatures, “Six record warm monthly global temperatures during the first half of 2016 resulted in the highest global land and ocean average temperature for January-June at 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the twentieth century average, besting the previous record set in 2015 by 0.20°C (0.36°F).” Arctic sea ice extent and thickness were the lowest on record in June, 2016.

Scientists agree that emissions into the atmosphere from the continued burning of coal, oil, and gasoline are main contributors to the dramatic increase in global temperatures. The question remains, is anyone doing anything about it?

The answer is yes. Renewable energy production in the US and EU keeps gaining in percentage of all energy produced year after year, but progress is slow. It takes time and major financial investment to build enough wind farms and solar arrays to replace the energy produced by billions of tons of coal and oil every year.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reports that renewable energy sources at the end of 2015 accounted for 17.83% of total installed operating generating capacity in the United States, compared to 13.71% in 2010. During that 5-year period, coal’s share of US generating capacity dropped from 30.37% to 26.16%. FERC’s renewable energy sources are made up of hydro, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal.

Many European countries are doing even better than the US in converting to renewable energy. Here are some examples of renewable energy’s percentage of total energy production: Denmark 66%, Portugal 30%, Germany 27%, Spain 24%, and Italy and the UK 23%. China has invested heavily in renewable energy, but still relies mainly on coal for energy production.

In the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, 196 nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel emissions and aim for totally eliminating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050. Island nations threatened by sea level rise led the fight to reach this goal by 2050 instead of the originally agreed timetable of “the second half of the 21 century.” We hope the participating nations keep their word and accomplish the changeover from a fossil fuel world to a renewable energy world of clean air by century’s midpoint.

Earth’s Less Cloudy Future

Two recent scientific papers – one an analysis by NASA in May, 2016, the other a study by Scripps Institute of Oceanography in July, 2016, – confirm that earth’s cloud cover is gradually moving toward the north and south poles, cloud tops are rising higher into the atmosphere, and boundaries of the tropical zone are expanding.

 Clouds play a key role in heating and cooling the planet. When they are present, they reflect solar energy back into space, and shade the earth below. Without clouds, when skies are clear, solar energy beats down directly onto earth’s surface.

 The tropical zone currently runs from 30° south latitude to 30° north latitude. Cities on the 30° north latitude line are Cairo, Egypt, and Jacksonville Florida. As cloud cover moves toward the North Pole in the northern hemisphere, and the South Pole in the southern hemisphere, more and more of earth’s surface will fall within the tropical zone. Cities and farmland now in moderate climate zones will gradually be exposed to more sun, and become hotter and dryer.

The NASA analysis, led by scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, attribute the poleward shift of the clouds to major changes in air circulation relating to the expansion of the tropical zone.

 According to the Scripps study, “these findings confirm predictions from computer climate models that changes that took place during the last several decades were consequences of accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere generated by human populations.” The NASA study concurs.

 Fossil fuel emissions pump over 100 billions of tons of CO2 and other pollutants into our atmosphere every year, heating our planet, acidifying our oceans, and stripping away our cloud cover. All are good reasons to accelerate the change over from the carbon energy to renewable energy.