Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Weather and Weather Forecasting

The constantly changing weather, a favorite topic of daily personal discussions, has since ancient times been very important to our lives.  Weather forecasts assist us in making decisions about when we travel, how we dress, and how to be prepared for changes, such as winter weather, poor road conditions, flooding, or tornadoes. Weather forecasts are very important to farmers, since weather affects farmers’ crops significantly which ultimately affects all of us.  One of the most significant uses of weather forecasts is that of the protection of life and property by warning us of impending weather. 

Although meteorology, including recording weather observations, explaining the action of the atmosphere, and predicting wind and rain, are ancient practices, modern day meteorology has become very sophisticated and provides more accurate predictions.  Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time.  Although weather forecasting was at one time calculated by hand based mainly on changes in barometric pressure, current weather conditions, and sky condition, it now relies on computer-based models that take many atmospheric factors into consideration.  

If you would like to understand more about the weather, please come by and take a look at one of the many books on the weather display at the Al Harris Library.  They are all available for checkout!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Can You Hear Me Now?

Three generations of Mars rovers: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A three-month tour has stretched to 15 years for the hardy Martian rover Opportunity.  January 25, 2019, will be the 15th anniversary of the NASA rover Opportunity’s arrival on Mars, but the rover is on an extended quiet leave, thanks to a “global dust storm.”  that has blocked Opportunity’s transmission since June 10, 2018. 

Opportunity was the second of two rovers launched during 2003 to explore Mars.1  The first rover, Spirit, worked until 2010.  Following are scientific findings made by the rovers as described in the NASA report The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity:
  • Life could have existed on Mars because rock samples showed signs of persistent soaking in water.
  • Other analyses by the rovers found soils and rocks had extremely high concentrations of materials that typically form in either hot springs or volcanic steam vents. These conditions may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. On Earth, microbes known as “extremophiles” thrive in similar environments.
  • Chemically neutral, “drinkable” water once persisted on Mars before an acidic period in the ancient past, thus creating more favorable conditions for microbial life.
  • Following the trail of past water on Mars, the rovers successfully allowed scientists to characterize much of what the red planet was like when liquid water flowed there.2
Both rovers have been successful missions and provided Earth with pictures and data that have contributed to our scientific knowledge of the Martian planet.  The global dust storm is expected to continue for several months to come, keeping Opportunity incommunicado for that time.

For updates on the status of communication with Opportunity see the Mission Status page for Opportunity at:
For more about space exploration see the book display inspired by the 15th Anniversary of the Rovers on Mars at the Al Harris Library.  The books in the display can be checked out.

1.    Brueck, Hilary.  “NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover is celebrating its 15th birthday with a nap because of a giant dust storm.  Look back at its unlikely journey”.  Business Insider,

2.    “The Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity”.  NASA Mission Pages,

3.    “Opportunity Updates”.  Mars Exploration Rovers,

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

World War I and Veterans' Day

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria led to the outbreak of a war that involved many nations of the world.  Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Central Powers making up the Ottoman Empire were in conflict with the Allied Powers that included Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan.  The United States joined the Allies in 1917 in a conflict that became known as World War I or the Great War.  

Based upon events that occurred in 1915 and 1916 which involved violations of international law and warnings that were made by German authorities, U.S. President Wilson went to Congress and asked for permission to go to war.  War was officially declared by Congress on April 6, 1917, but American soldiers were not deployed to France until 1918.  The two million soldiers who were sent to France played a vital role in the final six months of the war.  By the end of the war, approximately eighty-five million soldiers had been killed while twenty-one more were wounded.  During the six months that American soldiers fought, fifty-three thousand died on the battlefield.  Around half of that number of troops died in the concluding battle of the war, Meuse-Argonne.  The fighting ended on November 11, 1918, the day which became Armistice Day and has been Veterans’ Day since 1954.  Veterans’ Day is now an official United States public holiday observed annually on November 11, honoring all military veterans.

This "war to end all wars" ended with the sigining of the Treaty of Versailles.  This event began another chapter in world history because the wounds that brough on war were not healed, and another conflict would begin within the next twenty years.  

To learn more about the Great War, the battles, the locations, and the involvement of the United States and other nations, take a look at the books on display at the Al Harris Library, as well as many others in the collection.  All are available for you to check out and enjoy!