The West Coast is on Fire

Pandemic Diary #61

San Francisco Red Sky from the Fires
San Francisco Red Sky from the Fires
mithrilmaker/Twitter

September 14, 2020

The outrageous orange sky that San Franciscan’s woke up to on September 9th evoked comments and headlines of “Blade Runner 2020” or “Have we Landed on Mars?” The references to Nuclear Winter went on and on.

I kept thinking of J.M.W. Turner, Edvard Munch and William Ascroft.

The art of these men was influenced by a single ecological event.

The red skies in their paintings reflected what they saw, the dust thrown up into the atmosphere from the violent eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora volcano.

The Tambora eruption thought to be the largest in recorded history, killed around 10,000 people directly and more than 60,000 others due to starvation and disease during the ‘volcanic winter’ that followed.

Ascroft painted over five hundred pastels showing the changing skies of London, from his position on the banks of the Thames at Chelsea. They were exhibited in the galleries of the Science Museum, which today is rarely known of or seen.

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Munch was taking an evening stroll with friends in Oslo when he said of the sun going down in the haze “I was walking along the road with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”

All of those colors were expressed in his famous painting The Scream.

Turner painted incandescent sunsets that caught the glowing ethereal quality of the dust laden sky.

Turner’s paintings were not only famous for their influence on the art world, but their aid to scientists.

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They say landscapes by artists such as Turner accurately recorded the chemicals in the air.

The key, according to the atmospheric physicists, is in the color of the sunsets they depicted.

Supervisor of the Research Center for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology in Athens, Dr Christos Zerefos explains: ‘We found that red-to-green ratios measured in the sunsets of paintings by great masters correlate well with the amount of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere, regardless of the painters and of the school of painting.’

Skies more polluted by volcanic ash scatter sunlight more, so they appear redder and similar effects are seen with mineral or man-made aerosols.

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Photo by author

I am not ignoring the fire horror on the west coast, I just find that sometimes focusing my mind on other things is the only way I can cope.

California is suffering its most severe wildfire season on record as measured by the amount of land burned, at present 2.3 million acres across the state have burned. That is 20 times what burned last year.

California is not alone, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that wildfires have burned over 4.5 million acres across 12 states.

The Governor of Oregon has said that this season will see the greatest loss of human life and property in Oregon’s history.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said on September 9th, “The grass is so dry, the temperatures are so hot, and the winds are so heavy … and these conditions are exacerbated by the changing climate.”

I wish we had swept our forest’s floors.

Bless our firefighters, my heart bleeds for those in the fire zone.

Trivial Things

My Horoscope for today: Realizing you have more on the ball means not waiting on others as much. Continue this way and self-esteem issues are a thing of the past.

San Francisco weather: 62 degrees and muggy

AQI: 150–175 across San Francisco

NYSE DOW opened at: 27718

NYSE DOW one year ago: 27146

Foreign word of the day: tile

Spanish: azulejo
Italian: mattonella

OED word of the day: gypit — Silly, foolish, idiotic.

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 188

Reading: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

My Black and White Picture of the Day

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Something Silly From the Internet:

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My travel blog www.PassportandBaggage.com and my www.ArtandArchitecture-sf.com blog are quiet due to the Pandemic. I need to write, so here I go.

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