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Monday, February 28, 2011

Icelandic Volcanoes and SoCal cold weather

I really got myself into trouble with this topic. How can volcanoes in the Atlantic Ocean cause ash fall that affects the weather along the Pacific Coast?

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland - April 2010. This is the one that tied Europe in knots for two weeks.

Ocean gyres

Map of the major gyres that affect the weather by their temperature, and here’s the map of earth from the N. pole
Earth from N. Pole
Here are the ocean currents . Notice the California current. The five major coastal currents are parts of the global ocean gyre system and" as such, these currents are driven by wind and deflected by landmass"(W)


Here’s a picture of the ash pattern from the volcano which brought Europe to a standstill last April. This is the smaller of two volcanoes which have a pattern of erupting about every 300 years causing very cold weather. The larger volcano is expected to erupt anytime….
“Eruptions continue at Kirishima volcano, Japan. Since the eruption began in January, an estimated 80 million tons of ash have fallen over a wide area..” (2/5/2011) .. Ash emissions reached a height of 25,000 ft…” from another Japanese volcano in January 2011.  John Seach. (source) Eruptions from Krakatau volcano, Indonesia forced the evacuation of tens of thousands residents on 11th January 2011. “
 By now it may be beginning to occur to you, as it did to me, that our grey, cold (10 degrees officially) summer might have something to do with volcanic ash…. Since the Pacific is ringed with volcanoes, many of them in eruption in January and February of 2011.
. (According to John Search- at least 6 have erupted in the Pacific. This isn’t even counting  Mt. Etna which is erupting in Italy.

Last but perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is Maunder minimum which is a pattern of sunspots associated with cold weather. It is a periodic phenomenon that has been tracked since 1645. 
 The Maunder minimum is the name given to a period of extreme solar inactivity that occurred between 1645 and 1710. Of particular interest is that this period of inactivity corresponds closely to one of the coldest periods of the so-called "Little Ice Age" in Europe, a time of long, cold winters that caused severe hardships in the pre-industrial revolution world….”(W) ..In 1991, a pair of Danish meteorologists published a paper in which they pointed out a remarkably strong correlation between the length of the solar activity cycle and the global mean temperature in the northern hemisphere. …"
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….. its getting colder along our Central Coast helped along by something besides ash blocking the sunlight and sunspots. It is called Artic Ocsillation. “When the AO index is negative there tends to be high pressure in the polar region, weaker zonal winds, and greater movement of frigid polar air into middle latitudes." (W) Translation, all those Alaskan cold fronts that having been dumping unusual amounts of rain and low temperatures on SoCal are caused by AO . The Kurile current, a cold subarctic ocean current isn’t helping either.
The good news is all of our stone fruits will be happy campers. Just planted two cherry trees!

 The lime tree lost his leaves, as usual, but has grown them back again. The ground has warmed up despite the rain and cold—planted out starts of scarlet runner beans today that were clamoring to get in the ground. The ground was much warmer in the raised beds than I would have expected. We are still getting bell peppers from last summer’s pepper plants. Go figure!

Note: I'm indebted to Tench Tilghman, president of More Competency, for research suggestions. Mistakes are my own!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dekopon (Sumo) citrus --- huh?

Dekopan growing  in California

Who knew we had been breathlessly awaiting the Dekopon citrus in SoCal? Who, in fact, even knew it existed? And what is it?

 It is a "new" citrus cross--an orange, of sorts-- of the “kiyomi with the ponkan, a seedy citrus originally from India” with a thick skin, and measurably more sweetness (Brix scale) than any other orange.

 In 1972 when the Dekopon was created,the Japanese felt particular urgency in this project. "At the time, Japan was under significant pressure from the United States to open its market to imports of fresh oranges….. "The general feeling was that our humble mikan (Satsuma tangerine) would never be able to compete with the big, sweet oranges from California. Unless we could find something new to grow, the entire domestic citrus industry was doomed…” (from the Japan Times Follow the link for the full story of the Dekopon’s unpromising beginnings in Japan, beginning with the theft of budwood from a government facility.
photo from the Japanese Times  
20 years later the ugly duckling has turned into a ---Sumo (US name for the Dekopan) ... is the best new fruit to come to market in years," proclaimed Toshio Joutoh, …a wholesaler in the massive Ota produce market in Tokyo. "It's perfect for sharing, so it brings people together, and the membranes are so delicate that the sections just melt in your mouth."
Chapter 2- Sumo wrestles rivals to the ground (kind of). Sumo's  story in the U.S. is just as dramatic as its' beginnings in Japan (Who knew citrus farming was such a clandestine operation?)   You can read the blow by blow account (,0,4901497.story) in David Karp’s article, complete with more stolen budwood, last minute saves from deadly Japanese virus which would have destroyed our citrus industry,and cloak and dagger security by the growers. Now –dah-dah –                    Sumo has arrived. (Whole Foods has it, for one.)
photo from LA Times
Even though doesn't look as good as Natalie Portman  in a tutu, Sumo is on my list of "try this at home. "

The Victorian Kitchen Garden mini-series has made its extremely leisurely way from England (6 weeks by Royal Mail)--- so more about it as soon as the  necessary PAL DVD player arrives. (And you thought all this time I'd forgotten ) Next:
Icelandic volcanoes and SoCal weather