Pagan Community Notes: Wild weather in U.S., ancient structures in Saudi Arabia, tiny mammal rediscovered, and more!

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Image credit: Pixabay

TWH – The past few weeks have seen a number of weather impacts that are reflective of climate change predictions made by scientists. The word “unprecedented” has been used so much lately that it is in peril of becoming meaningless.

On August 10, Iowa and parts of the midwest were hit by a weather pattern known as a “derecho.” The term “derecho” comes from the Spanish language and means “straight” or “right,” and was first coined in 1888 by University of Iowa physics professor, Dr. Gustavus Hinrich. In terms of weather, derecho refers to a fast-moving storm that travels in a straight line, comprises more than a 240-mile swath of damage, and has wind gusts that exceed 58 miles per hour. This type of storm is also sometimes referred to as a “land hurricane.”

Derecho that swept through the midwest this month had straight-line winds that ranged between 80 and 140 miles per hour reported in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The average duration for wind in a storm like this is anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The derecho on August 10 had wind that was ongoing for 40 to 50 minutes.

CBS reported the damage the storm caused encompassed over 770 miles across five states, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, affecting 36 counties, and 6 million acres of corn and soybeans. Damage to buildings and crops are estimated to be in billions of dollars, to say nothing of the impact to communities with widespread power outages and prospects for recovery forecast to be slow.

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Woolsey fire of 2018 Image credit: Peter Buschmann, USFS, USDA. Some additional editing by W.carter. –  Public Domain,

California is seeing possibly its worst fire season on record with over a million acres burning and entire old-growth forests threatened like Big Basin State Park, as well as protected bird species like the California condor. Colorado is also seeing its second-largest fire in the state’s history, along with three other major fires, which cover a combined area of over 200,000 acres that are on fire.

Fire scientists attribute much of the fire potential to the extreme temperatures that have affected much of the west, and amount of dry, lightning storms that have ignited many of the fires currently burning in northern California. Death Valley recorded a high of 130° earlier this month, it’s third-highest on record.

The U.S. Fire Service tracks all active fires within the United States, and updates regularly with progress and levels of containment or spread.

TWH will have full-coverage later this week on the wildfires.

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This year is forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to be one of the more active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, with an initial estimate of 13-19 named storms that was updated on August 3 to 19-25 named storms. So far 2020 has had a record-breaking nine named tropical storms formed prior to August, and thirteen before September. An average year sees a dozen named storms, with about half actually developing into hurricanes.

This week another unusual if not unique weather situation presents itself in the Gulf of Mexico, the potential for not one, but two hurricanes occurring at roughly the same time and place. Thankfully, tropical storm Marco appears to be fizzling out as it nears the Louisiana coast and will not turn into a hurricane. Even so, weather along the gulf can change rapidly, and the impact of heavy rain could cause serious flooding.

Dorothy Morrison, author of Utterly Wicked, and owner of Wicked Witch Studios lives just outside of New Orleans said, “My biggest concern is that folks will refuse to obey evacuation orders, especially if they’re given when the weather appears to be non-threatening.”

Earlier in her life, Morrison was part of Missouri’s FEMA Disaster relief program and had this advice for anyone who might be in the path of the storm.

“The weather here can change in the blink of an eye. So if you’re told to evacuate, please don’t tarry. Grab your family and pets and leave immediately. Waiting could very well be the difference between life and death,” Morrison said.

Tropical storm Laura as of 2 pm (EDT) is right on the verge of becoming a hurricane and is expected to impact the Louisiana-Texas coast. While neither storm is expected to produce record-breaking winds, they both will drop a serious amount of rain, and there is the potential for the same coastal areas to be impacted by both storms. How much rain falls depends on how Laura develops as it tracks across the Gulf and how much it strengthens.

Laura is forecast to develop into a hurricane by early Tuesday and to possibly become a category 2 storm with winds reaching 105 mph before making landfall.

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In other news:

  • A new article in the journal The Holocene examines the hundreds of large stone structures that were found across Saudi Arabia and first reported on in 2017. Researchers now place the age of these monuments as possibly some of the oldest in the world, at around 7,000 years old. Using radiocarbon dating on charcoal found within one of the structures dated to about 5,000 years ago. When initially discovered, the structures composed of low walls were referred to as “gates” since they resembled a fence gate when viewed from above. Researchers have since changed the reference for the structures to the Arabic word “mustatils,” which means rectangle. The size of mustatils varies ranging anywhere from 49 feet to over 2,000 feet. The study shows that researchers believe platforms were constructed on each end of the structure. One platform was discovered to have painted geometric designs that are unlike any other known rock art or drawings. The lack of artifacts could point to the structures being used seasonally and not in constant occupation. What purpose the mustatils served is unclear. If the structures had a ritual purpose, which has been suggested, there are no clear indications of what nature of the practice that might have been. While the regions they are found in are now arid, desolate, and many amidst past volcanic flows, when they were originally constructed, the areas would’ve have been greener and less harsh environments.
  • The findings of a discovery in 2016 by a visiting professor from Norway, Allan Krill, were published last week. Krill while on a hike with students in the Grand Canyon observed a boulder with interesting impressions in it. The boulder had come to rest near the trail due to a cliff collapsing. Krill took photos of the rock and sent it to the University of Nevada Las Vegas paleontologist, Stephen Rowland. The boulder contains one of the oldest known fossil animal footprints, some 313 million years old, to ever be found in the Grand Canyon. In an interview with NPR about the discovery, Rowland said, “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.” The fossil tracks are of two separate animals that passed through the area at different times.
  • In a year that has had wildfires of epic proportions in Australia, the discovery of murder hornets in the U.S., a relentless pandemic that shut down countries around the globe, CNN reported yesterday that an asteroid will pass close to the earth on November 3, the date of the U.S. presidential election. According to NASA, it poses no threat, “Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size.” In fact, it has only 0.41% chance of even doing that.
  • After a 50 year absence of no official scientific sightings, researchers were excited to report they had caught an elephant shrew (Elephantulus revoilii) in one of their live traps in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific expedition. The elephant shrew, or Somali sengi which is its proper name, belongs to the same animal group that includes elephants, aardvarks, and manatees. Houssein Rayaleh, a Djiboutian research ecologist and conservationist pointed out the impact for his country, “For Djibouti, this is an important story that highlights the great biodiversity of the country and the region and shows that there are opportunities for new science and research here.”
  • Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were found scrawled on fences and light posts in an East Cobb neighborhood over the weekend. East Cobb has three synagogues, and Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth told his congregation about the incident. In a comment to the East Cobb News Sernovitz said, “The swastika has come to be known as a symbol of Nazism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. This act and this symbol is not representative of the Cobb County that we know and love and has no place in our community.” East Cobb is north of Atlanta and east of Marietta, Georgia.
  • The City of Gainesville, Florida has put out a call for artists for the Gainesville Social Justice Mural Project. The 352walls Community Artist Program is looking for a dozen artists or artist crews to create a total of 12 works with social justice themes. The murals will be eight feet by eight feet and done on plywood panels for a temporary art installation in Gainesville parks and public spaces.

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Murder of Crows Tarot artwork by Corrado Roi, text by Charles Harrington, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Card: Six (6) Cups

This week may offer up opportunities for reflection and introspection that are tinged with nostalgia. It is important to be kind to ourselves when revisiting and reevaluating the past. The path forward frequently requires an understanding of both past actions taken, and how one’s identity may have shifted.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.