Tuesday, June 05, 2012

On Songs For Watermelon Snows

Atmospheric scientist Eric Kort was flying over the Arctic Ocean three years ago, monitoring readouts as onboard sensors sniffed the air. Suddenly, as the plane dipped low over some breaks in the sea’s ice cover, those instruments detected the unmistakable whiff of methane, the second most important climate-warming gas associated with human activities.

“This was unexpected,” says Kort, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. On four more excursions north of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas through April 2010 — always in winter or early spring — the plane’s sensors detected the same taint of methane in very-low-altitude air over broken patches of ice, Kort and collaborators report online April 22 in Nature Geoscience.

The prime suspects are methane-spewing bacteria that live in Arctic surface waters.

... Some studies have pointed to the melting of massive subsea deposits, known as gas hydrates, as possible sources of atmospheric methane. But those sources are too close to coastal regions to easily explain the new aerial data, Kort says. In contrast, his group’s findings are consistent with measurements of methane in water from the central Arctic made by Ellen Damm at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, and colleagues.

For now, Damm says, there are no confirmed explanations for the mysterious methane releases from Arctic waters seen by Kort’s group during dark months. But she says those data suggest that a seasonal nutrient disruption in the western Arctic Ocean “exerts pressure on the microbial food web” — creating conditions unusually favorable for methane-exhaling bacteria.

Arctic sea emits methane
by Janet Raloff
writing in Science News

“I think,” Rhonda said, “that kind of music is extinct.

“I am still here,” I said. Then I played Molly Malone
on an electronic keyboard that generated
real-time accompaniment at whatever tempo
the fingers of my left hand shifted from chord to chord.

The digital signal processors kept time with me.

In Chicago it is almost summer
but I’m wondering if next winter’s snows
will be colorful watermelon snows.

I like slow songs. I can play slow music
on guitar. And once I work out a song
on guitar I can struggle through the song
on keyboard. That gives me many choices
for creating arrangements. My keyboard
even can synthesize an orchestra
playing the appropriate instruments
for whatever octave I’m playing in
and if I watch how low my left hand goes
the keyboard even will add tampani
playing percussion keeping time with me,
a whole orchestra playing in real time
keeping time with my fingers on the keys.

If the snows in Chicago next winter
are watermelon snows, beautiful snows,
living methane snows, messages of love
from the deep hot biosphere,
will they care
if people write songs for them? Will they care
if the arrangements are orchestrated
or simple folksongs for voice and guitar?

I have more fun holding just my guitar
playing chords, arpeggios, melodies,
and singing along with an arrangement
than I do with my hands on my keyboard
where the arrangement can be much more rich
but I have to record the music first
and sing along later with sound-on-sound
because I have almost no keyboard skills.

But the digital signal processors
in my keyboard are modern instruments.

Watermelon snows will be modern snows.

Maybe it’s the thought that counts. I don’t know.

If the snows in Chicago next winter
are watermelon snows, beautiful snows,
living methane snows, they’ll be doing more
than just thinking about us. Harmony
is when two or more things fit together
and they fit together in such a way
that the combination is a new thing.

Songs for watermelon snows should be songs
that harmonize with watermelon snows.

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