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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Dust Devil Days


Dust devil lines in the sands of Mars, as seen by Mars High Resolution Imaging Experiment at Active Curve Gully: photo by NASA Marshall Space Center, 12 July 2012

That hugest of clumps of soil loads me with a body, has me toiling through life, eases me with old age, rests me with death; therefore that I find it good to live is the very reason why I find it good to die.
-- Angus Graham: Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters, 1981

To feel, then not
to feel
the swirl

Here, there, everywhere

Life in the lithosphere

Dust devil days
at the derelict oasis
Wind kicks up
A blur off in the distance
animation imperfect
wandering late
who? awaits what

 Dust devil on the northern edge of the Sahara, Ouarzazate, Morocco: photo by Lee Smethurst, 18 April 2007

Dust Devil, Western Plains. This is straight out of the camera. In this area you can usually look along the horizon and see dust devils at any given time, but this one was close enough to photograph, and was huge!: photo by Jenn Harrington (retroimage), 5 September 2010

A dust devil approaching fast on the road to Casa Grande, Arizona: photo by Hoksilata Witko, 16 March 2008

Dust Devil, Afghanistan: photo by Michael Smith (rybolov), 12 August 2004

Dust devils. Originally one large vortex this dust devil separated into two versions, both made of reddish dirt from the fields north of Bingham, New Mexico. About 35 degrees centigrade, 95 degrees fahrenheit: photo by zf9045103, 20 July 2012

Dust devil at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, Ol Tukai, Rift Valley, Kenya: photo by Seskahound, 12 July 2011

Dust devils, Utah. I have never seen so many dust devils whirling about... they almost seemed to dance: photo by .anderson, 29 May 2010

The interface between the lithosphere and the atmosphere -- a dust devil in the Mojave Desert: photo by thomasina, 24 May 2004

Extreme Dust Devil, Douglas, Arizona. This beast lasted at least 5 minutes: photo by Paul Maguire (The Eye of the Storm Photography), 24 June 2010

Dust Devils Dance, Black Rock Desert, Nevada: photo by Steve Jurvetson, 21 July 2007

Dust Devil! Fresno County, California. Yes, there were some bugs on the window But check out the size of the buildings beside the toad. That will give you a sense of scale. That thing was big!: photo by Endlisnis, 5 October 2004

Dust devil... A sudden dust devil (or mini tornado) developing at a hillside market, Chencha, Ethiopia
: photo by Siegfried Ehrmann (documundo), 10 January 2009

Dust devil... A sudden dust devil (or mini tornado) developing at a hillside market, Chencha, Ethiopia
: photo by Siegfried Ehrmann (documundo), 10 January 2009

Dust devil... A sudden dust devil (or mini tornado) developing at a hillside market, Chencha, Ethiopia:
photo by Siegfried Ehrmann (documundo), 10 January 2009

A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scene is a late-spring afternoon in the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars. The view covers an area about four-tenths of a mile (644 meters) across. North is toward the top. The length of the dusty whirlwind's shadow indicates that the dust plume reaches more than half a mile (800 meters) in height. The plume is about 30 yards or meters in diameter. A westerly breeze partway up the height of the dust devil produced a delicate arc in the plume. The image was taken during the time of Martian year when the planet is farthest from the sun. Just as on Earth, winds on Mars are powered by solar heating. Exposure to the sun's rays declines during this season, yet even now, dust devils act relentlessly to clean the surface of freshly deposited dust, a little at a time: image by NASA, 7 March 2012 (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Dust Devils make their marks in Gusev Crater. Gusev Crater is decorated by tracks made by dust devils that have been observed by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), and HiRISE images. Dust devils are of interest because they may clean the solar panels that provide power to Spirit, and are partially responsible for dust transportation on the surface of Mars. Dust devils are actually giant convective vortices that form as a result of atmospheric vertical instability. Solar radiation warms the surface, forcing air to rise to an atmospheric convective boundary, where it then cools. The denser, cold air parcel descends and generates a circulation that creates a suction effect. As the dust devil picks up material from the bright dust-mantled surface, it exposes the darker basaltic substrate. These scribble marks will follow the prevailing winds and tend to cluster together as the lower albedo surface heats up more quickly. Scientists are trying to understand the relationship between dust devils and craters and other topographic features that generate multiple wind directions: image by leerannals, 16 September 2008 (NASA)

File:Martian Dust Devil Trails.jpg

Dust devil tracks on Mars. This portion of a recent high-resolution picture from the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows twisting dark trails criss-crossing light coloured terrain on the Martian surface. Newly formed trails like these had presented researchers with a tantalizing Martian mystery but are now known to be the work of miniature wind vortices known to occur on the red planet -- Martian dust devils. Such spinning columns of rising air heated by the warm surface are also common in dry and desert areas on planet Earth. Typically lasting only a few minutes, dust devils becoming visible as they pick up loose red-coloured dust leaving the darker and heavier sand beneath intact. On Mars, dust devils can be up to 8 kilometres high. Dust devils have been credited with unexpected cleanings of Mars rover solar panels: image by High Resolution Imagery Experiment (HiRISE), University of Arizona, 21 October 2009 (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)


mistah charley, ph.d. said...

a striking collection of images and words about the atmosphere/lithosphere interface

"the sands of mars" was arthur c. clarke's first published novel, by the way - spoilers at wikipedia

TC said...

A bookdealer has a first edition of the Clarke novel up for sale.

"Inscribed by Arthur C. Clarke to his protege, one-time secretary and longtime friend Ian Macauley [...]: 'To Ian, looking forward to our next meeting. Arthur C. Clarke, Indian Lake, May 1952.' Additionally, on the rear free endpaper Clarke has penned a limerick: 'There was a young girl of Devizes / Who was hauled up before the assizes / For teaching young boys / Matrimonial joys / and offering French letters as prizes. -- Written under protest because Ian wouldn't pay for the book otherwise. Art.'"

What's the adage? Women are from Venus, men are from Mars?

Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

Wonderful!!! Dust devils: forgotten and/or neglected pieces of ourselves leaving the bed of consciousness... at-whirl.

Red Shuttleworth

TC said...

Many thanks, Red, and still thinking about your note of yesterday: "The Comanche, not a local tribe at all, believed that dust devils were ghosts."

Some dust devil folklore:

In the southwestern United States, a dust devil is sometimes called a "dancing devil". In Death Valley, California, it may be called a "sand auger" or a "dust whirl".

The Navajo refer to them as chiindii, ghosts or spirits of dead Navajos. If a chindi spins clockwise, it is said to be a good spirit; if it spins counterclockwise, it is said to be a bad spirit.

The Australian English term "willy-willy" or "whirly-whirly" is thought to derive from Yindjibarndi or a neighbouring language. In Aboriginal myths, willy willies represent spirit forms. They are often quite scary spirits, and parents may warn their children that if they misbehave, a spirit will emerge from the spinning vortex of dirt and chastise them. There is a story of the origin of the brolga in which a bad spirit descends from the sky and captures the young being and abducts her by taking the form of a willy-willy.

In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, and Jordan, they often reach hundreds of metres in height and are referred to as djin ("genies" or "devils").

Egypt has its fasset el 'afreet, or "ghost's wind". In Iran, this kind of wind is usually called "Gerd Baad", or "round wind".

Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, the dust devil is known as ngoma cia aka, meaning "women's devil/demon".

In Brazil, a dust devil is called redemoinho after moinho de vento ("windmill"). In some traditions, it contains a dancing Saci. Also in Portugal known locally as remoinho (translated to continuous rotation).

In the US, when they occur in cities or urban scenes, they are typically called "Nevada tornadoes" or "Chicago tornadoes" because of Chicago's reputation for wind, despite dust devils being rare in Chicago.

TC said...

In 2022 four people will be sent off on a one-way trip to the red planet, courtesy of private enterprise. The idea isn't so much to take one small step for mankind as to stand still in a small space for show business. The Mars invaders/colonists will star in a reality (oops -- mis-typed "realty", there) show, co-produced by the marketing genius who brought you Big Brother.

The Mars One Mission

These colonists won't be able to bring along any of their favourite Earth stuff, the poor dears. One applicant says the thing he's going to miss most is his semi-acoustic ukulele named Amanda. Another applicant says she might miss her hubby a bit. Never seeing each other again and all. But no worries.

A cautionary note has meanwhile been sounded re. the psychological implications of all that Martian isolation.

"While the colonists go about their business, Earth will be watching them 24-7. We already know that surveillance can cause stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety, which will add even more weight to an already extreme mental health burden. The Mars One team has made no public comment on the effects of combining the risk factors of social isolation and confinement with surveillance, but we do know that the programme depends on the money raised by reality TV contracts. So presumably the show must go on.

"What happens when the colonists get fed up with the interplanetary Truman Show and turn the cameras off? Will Mars One be forced to abandon them?"

Has anyone warned them about the dust devils?

A number of the wildfires sweeping the West in recent years have been kicked off by dust devils. That was the case with a serious blaze a year ago in Washoe County, Nevada, a Happy Valley of dust deviltry.

As it happens... there is smoke in the air. What on earth or Mars can it be?

Mt Diablo fire



who? awaits what

the devil is in the dust, somewhere between lithosphere and atmosphere above the Mojave Desert

leaving the bed of consciousness... at-whirl.

Dalriada said...

Whatever next in the diabolical world of media spin?

Universal Studios and all that . . .

Hazen said...

Some real beauties, Tom. Your poem, those images of Mars—and Chuang-Tse too: a great triple play. As to the Mars One mission, I repeat: Human beings? Ha ha ha! Barking mad, the whole lot. Do The Applicants for this interplanetary folly not understand what it means (as it meant to Chuan-Tse) to be alive precisely Here? Their motto: "Never for science. Always for entertainment."

Wooden Boy said...

The subject in question; there's a fearful uncertainty here.

"...hugest clumps of soil..."

"For He knows of what we are made;
He remembers that we are but dust."

TC said...

As to the Graham bit, that's a fearful uncertainty indeed, for me as well, as is probably apparent.

Put in mind somewhat of this:

William Empson: Chinese Ballad

About the future on Mars, well, at least the beach will never be far away... even if there's no ocean.

(But wait -- have we landed already? I want my ukulele!)

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

"What happens when the colonists get fed up with the interplanetary Truman Show and turn the cameras off? Will Mars One be forced to abandon them?"

They will become authentic interstellar whirling dervishes!

TC said...

The coefficient of the updraft under those spinning skirts multiplied by the centrifugal momentum created by the whirling has got to add up to something uplifting, I reckon.

Air conditioning!

ACravan said...

This is magnificent. It really is.

"wandering late
who? awaits what

pretty much sums it up for me, along with

"resolution vagrant"


TC said...

Thanks, Curtis.

My wandering vagrancy must be headed somewhere, I hope to know where that is when I arrive.