Monday, February 25, 2013

Global warming = less clear nights?

Last week I received an email from Allison who was working on an infographic on the problem of global warming.  I looked it over and it looks pretty good, so I'm sharing it on my blog at her request.
(Click to see infographic)
I often get emails to our club site from people asking "when is your next star party?" I never have a really good answer for them other than nicely saying something like "we don't even try anymore since we'll end up with more cancelled events rather than viewings."  If scheduling a public viewing would cause skies to clear, we would do it a couple times a month!  But again, even during the summers over the last several years, we hardly get reliable weather to do this.  A couple summers ago, I worked for about a month to do a star party for a school group in Maple Valley - in early summer even - and after 4 tries had to give up due to weather.
I think I like to call this a "global climate shift" which I think describes the problem clearer than "global warming".  With all the harsh winters on the East coast over the last years (this winter is another bad one), and here in Seattle the last few years our summers haven't really started on the usual July 5th date when summer usually starts (no, I'm not joking about July 5th either - ask any native here!). I've also noticed with great disgust and frustration that the number of clear skies at night has decreased noticeably over the last 4 years or so.  Just a few years ago, we would have many clear winter nights (very cold of course, but very clear and stable atmosphere) with many chances to observe the winter skies visually or through astrophotography.  This winter is no exception, I've had our observatory open twice over the last 3 months - and even then conditions were not ideal, but it's all I've had.  Could it simply be the "new toy curse" that seems to plaque astronomers whenever they buy a nice piece of gear to try out?

Anyway, read the infographic link below to see the full size view and see if you agree also.  I think I would add a line to that says "less clear nights for Northwest Astronomers" to that graphic!

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