Winter in July

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These are the very last days of July, 2013.  If we don’t stop and capture the sunshine and the gentle trade winds, the scented leaves and the birdsong, it will be over in a matter of hours and we will be neck-deep in the warm beach sands of August.  But that is true only until it is no longer true.  In fact, the clock is ticking towards that day when the warmth of July will be a thing of the past.

In fact, if we fast forward 11,000 years, it will be winter in July.  And it won’t happen because of anything anyone has ever done or will ever do.  It will happen because of something called General Precession.

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Ah, the sound of sleigh bells jingling in the bright cold air of a summer that has come once again to the denizens of a beautiful Earth, celebrating yet another summer vacation indoors while the snow plows work mercilessly, clearing away the streets so that folks can go out and visit with friends while enjoying their favorite things, such as crisp apple strudels and warm woolen mittens.

So what is this general precession thing that causes winter to occur in July?  Well, it’s not really a thing but rather, more like an action.  Wikipedia describes it as the change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotational body (the Earth) in which the second Euloer angle is constant. ~ Wikipedia [1]

Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s just nonsensical blathering to me.  However, since it is rather important to me to understand why my favorite time of the year is going to eventually become cold and unappealing, I am going to try to figure this out using my less-than-stellar Taobabe brains.  So let’s break it down into its components.

This is the WHAT and the HOW:

Gyroscope_precession

So what the heck is a Euloer angle?  How do you even pronounce that?  Is it someone who delivers eulogies?

No?

I didn’t think it was that simple—but in this case, it really is simple.  Notice that this spinning top has one point (at the bottom) that does not move.  It’s dead stuck in one spot.  This is the Euloer angle, and it is constant because it never moves.

Now, take a look at its opposite end (at the top).  That one is moving all over the place.  The movement is so wide that it causes a serious wobble to the sphere.  That is what is meant by a change in the orientation of the rotational axis.

Now let’s get into the WHY:

If it was just the Earth, spinning by its lonesome, with only its gravitational weight to make it bulge here and there (see my previous post Lumpy Bumpy Humpty Dumpty), the effect of its planetary precession would be so small, we would barely notice it.  In truth, the Earth is part of a whole system of other bodies, weighing in and contributing to that gravitational pull, and this pull is ridiculously strong.

Consider that our very own Moon (aka Luna), is just about one of the biggest moons to be found in our solar system, and then consider that Earth is a rather small potato when compared to all the other giants orbiting the Sun, and we have a strange anomalous relationship between a rather small planet and a rather large satellite.

That lunar pull is so strong that it actually causes Earth to bulge out around its midsection.  Add the gravitational pull of the mighty Sun to this equation and the Earth’s equatorial region is completely squashed out of shape.

With both the Moon’s and the Sun’s combined gravities exerting their influence on the Earth, they collectively yank her chains, so to speak, and Earth’s spin becomes noticeably wobbled and teetered.

The action of Sun and Moon on poor Earth is what is known as the lunisolar precession and it is about 500 times greater than planetary precession alone.  And before you even have to ask, yes all the other planets exert their pull as well, but their influence is slight compared to the lunisolar precession’s pull so I have decided to leave them out of the mathematical equation.

Mathematical equation?  Did I just say that dreaded ‘M’ word?

Why, yes—yes I did, but only because I don’t have to do the hard work of calculating this horrid thing out to its bitter end.  I am simply going to let smarter people do the math and then point to it and say, “See?  That’s how it works.”

precessionequation

Gm = standard gravitational parameter of the perturbing body
r = geocentric distance to the perturbing body
C = moment of inertia around Earth’s axis of rotation
A = moment of inertia around any equatorial diameter of Earth
C − A = moment of inertia of Earth’s equatorial bulge (C > A)
δ = declination of the perturbing body (north or south of equator)
α = right ascension of the perturbing body (east from vernal equinox).

No need to look at the equation closely.  I swear, the numbers work out correctly. [1]  (I stole it from Wikipedia so it must be correct.  N’est ce pas?).  Anyhoo, onto bigger and better things.

This is the WHEN:

The Earth’s precession is very, very, slow.  How slow?  From start to finish, it is a 26,000 year cycle.  We have already passed the half-way point of this latest precession cycle, which happened two-thousand years ago (give or take a few years).  In other words, right around the time Jesus was born, we hit mid-cycle.

We are now moving into the second phase of the cycle, which means our summers will eventually get colder and colder until it becomes winter in July, 11,000 years from now.

Yes, this will happen.

No, this has nothing to do with CO2 or human-created global warming.  It does not matter what we do or don’t do, and it doesn’t matter if we’re even around to watch it happen.  It will simply happen when the time comes for it to happen because it is a natural and rhythmic cycle which exists outside of and beyond our sphere of influence.  It has been in existence since the world began and it will not end until Earth is subsumed by the Sun (or is otherwise destroyed due to some cataclysmic event beyond our imagination).

Of course, we’ll all be safely dead by then, so this won’t really have much of an impact on us—-except for a couple of OTHER things about Earth’s movement, which I am a bit more concerned with.  You see, general precession is just one of three Earth cycles that a gentleman by the name of Milutin Milankovitch has so very kindly mapped out for us back in 1920. [2]  Even though we won’t be around to witness the next precessional winter in July, the other two cycles will be interesting to live through, as they are coming ’round the bend in short order.

(…to be continued)

1.  General Precession

2.  Milankovitch cycles

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The Moon Does Not Lie

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In a previous post, I talked about Something Very Dark Out There.  In this post, I will detail the reasons for the existence of that very dark entity, as whispered to us all by the Moon—and as we all know, the moon may wax and wane, but she does not lie.

I am a happy-go-lucky Taobabe.  I go prancing through the seasons, joyful when spring and summer arrive and slightly melancholic when autumn and winter descend upon my reality.  My emotions are fleeting, as are the seasons, because I am aware that they are cyclical and will return upon the completion of the cycle of their movements.  I move with a rhythm all my own, but one that ties with the tides and the winds.  Since the tides are affected by the Moon and the winds are affected by the Sun; it follows then that I dance to the rhythm of the Sun and the Moon.

The Sun and the Moon are but two small cycles within our galaxy.  They dance and twirl with their own individual rhythm, spinning and cavorting with their various partners, bowing and whirling, hurtling through space.  The Moon’s partner is the Earth.  The Earth’s partner is the Sun.  The Sun’s partner is an as-yet-unnamed celestial entity.  The only thing we know for certain is that this entity must also obey the laws of the universe.  This means that as long as we take the laws of the universe into accordance, we will be able to understand and pinpoint the location of the sun’s dance partner.

There are a few things we do know:
1.  The Moon’s speed as it races around the Earth is 1.022 km/sec.[1]
2.  The Earth’s speed as it circles around the Sun is 29.8 km/sec.[2]
3.  The Sun’s speed as it twirls around its partner is 430 km/sec, as susggested by astrophysicist Reg Cahill.[3]

The only speed we have not yet calculated is the Sun’s parther’s speed because we still have not yet identified the Sun’s partner.  This mysterious partner is somewhere in the distance still, but the dance step is taking the partner back to the Sun, as dance steps must.  It won’t be long before we will know for certain what this partner looks like.

To understand the peculiarities of this mysterious Solar partner, we have to look at our own Moon.  The moon is an ancient being with peculiarities of its own.  It shines above us at night, stirring the ebb and flow of the tides that are necessary to renew life cycles.  It dances to the rhythm that the Earth dances to, but since the Earth also dances to the Sun’s rhythm, it also shows the Sun’s rhythm.  In this manner, it acts as a silent witness to an eternal love affair that the sun has with its counterpart.

Being a silent witness however, does not mean it cannot give testimony.  It only means we have to figure out how to read its silent message.  Here is what it has been saying throughout the ages.

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…the Moon does not lie. Its movement is exact and acts like a witness to the Earth’s motion. The only way the Sun can appear to move around the Earth, and be confirmed by lunar data, is because the Earth is spinning on its axis. Likewise, the only way the Earth’s axis can appear to precess or wobble relative to inertial space, and not wobble relative to the Sun as confirmed by lunar data, is if the solar system (the reference frame that contains the Sun and Earth) is curving through space. Furthermore, the only way the solar system can be curving through space at a rate of 50 arc seconds per year, is if it were gravitationally affected by another very large mass: a companion star. ~ Binary Research Institute[3]

To determine the probability of fact however, we need more than one point of reference.  As solid an indicator as the Moon is, we still need more corroborative points of references.  In comes a Serbian geophysicist and astronomer named Milutin Milanković who gave us the Milankovitch Cycles back in 1934 which was detailed in his book Celestial Mechanics[4] as well as a further detailed analysis of the cycles in his paper New Results of the Astronomic Theory of Climate Changes in 1938.[5]

The Milankovitch Cycles have been mathematically determined by studying past global climate changes over millions of years. One of the causes in climate change is precession of the equinoxes, which has a period of approximately 25,772 years, over millions of years.[6]  If we use Milankovitch Cycles and combine it with the binary cycle, we have a consistent match of records.  This means that our global climate change is directly tied to the dance pattern of our Sun and its partner, the heretofore mysterious entity which waltzes in and out of the Sun’s reach once every 22,772 years.

We are still technically within an ice age since we still have ice sheets which cover the north and south poles of our planet, but from all indications, we are rapidly moving out of this ice age and entering an Interglacial Age, that period which falls in between two ice ages.  These cycles go round and round, without fail.  When we take all this into account, we can delve back into the past to ascertain what has occurred and why it occurred.  We can also take this into the future and predict what will happen next.

I love mysteries, don’t you?

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1.  Moon

2.  Earth

3.  Binary Research Institute

4.  Celestial Mechanics.  Milutin Milankovic.  1934.

5.  New Results of the Astronomic Theory of Climate Changes.  Milutin Milankovic.  1938.

6.  Precession of the Equinoxes