Seasons and Biomes

SIMB news November 2017

Seasons In My Biome


author: Markus Eugster




0 New front page picture

1 Seasonality

2 Phenology

3 Atmosphere

4 Climate

5 Earth as a system

6 Life on Earth

7 Questions and good news

8 Gallery

9 School / GLOBE

10 Development






Dear colleagues

We are on the way to the solstice where we’ll arrive in about a month: The sun’s declination is -19.6° now which is only 3.8° from the minimum of -23.4° on the day of solstice. This means that our days won’t get much shorter anymore / that the days on the southern hemisphere have almost reached the maximum and will start to get shorter in a month already...

But this newsletter is rather a flashback on October which is closer to the equinox than to the solstice and therefore still shows a lot of light and colors!






New front page picture


It was (still is...) interesting to trace the autumnal turning of our trees. This beech for example had still green leaves in mid-October:

Then, within ten days, the color changed:

I would be glad to get some feedback to my comment to the front page picture








I could join a fascinating excursion to the Morteratsch glacier in the Engadine. At first we took the cable car to Diavolezza from where you have an overwhelming view on the Pers and Morteratsch Glacier. We heard that the small Diavolezza glacier almost melted in the nineties but that it was saved by covering it with sheets. Later it was covered with artificial snow which made the glacier grow! Then the idea came up do the same with the big Morteratsch glacier: A study showed that about 1km2 must be covered with artificial snow to make it grow again. They said they would take the water from a new glacial lake that will form 200m higher up in the Pers glacier. This gives the water a high pressure that is needed for the new generation of snow gun that works without additional energy. Here are some pictures: (click on “next”)


In the second part of the excursion we visited an ice stupa test site in Morteratsch. There they plan to build ice stupas this winter. They take the water from a nearby mountain stream without using additional energy. Water supply for the ice stupas:

The project should help developing a safe and simple technique to build up ice stupas in mountainous regions all over the world where water will become rare soon when glaciers will have disappeared. Some pictures: (click on “next”)

More about this excursion:

More about ice stupas:

Ice stupa in Ladakh, India:

How an ice stupa is used for irrigation:

Ice stupa in the Roseg valley, Switzerland, in January 2017:


SIMB pictures: I have updated this series


Four seasonal sounds:

Come with me for a walk along the Vernela river (with snow on the banks):

Around the lake the snow was still frozen at the surface as you can hear:

Except some disturbing noise I made at the beginning and at the end of the record you can “hear the silence” in this wonderful valley. Just turn the volume to the maximum and you won’t hear any technical noise: only the sound of the waters in this valley and some insects:

This is still snow of a last winter’s avalanche with quite a lot of meltwater coming out of it:


Polar sea ice:

View last month’s changes by clicking on “next” / “previous”:

Arctic: the sea ice closed up towards Siberia but not yet towards Alaska

Antarctic: the existing polynya has grown and two additional have opened:

After the September 15th maximum there was a second maximum this year on October 11th/12th that was slightly higher than the first. Thereby the uncertainty concerning the date of the maximum is solved.

For further details read

Snow cover: much more snow in Siberia and North America:


More snow, ice and permafrost links:

Company seeks to build island off Alaska for Arctic drilling:

Larsen C:

Shifting permafrost threatens Alaska village's new airport:


Map Provides High-Resolution Look at Nearly Entire Arctic Region


Ten years ago it was just winter in interior Alaska at the end of October. Today’s news (October 29th):

Freeze-thaw cycle makes travel tricky in Interior Alaska

FAIRBANKS — The National Weather Service canceled its winter weather advisory Saturday, but a Fairbanks police sergeant said some roads remain…

Geophysical Institute creates traveling permafrost exhibit:

Scientists have long been tracking the retreat of Pine Island Glacier, one of the main outlets where ice from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet flows into the ocean. Attention recently turned once again to the glacier when it calved a large new iceberg, named B-44. Just weeks later, the berg has broken apart:








Although we are in late autumn now we can still observe different phenological stages, even some blossoms as this gentian:

this thistle:

or this cow parsley:

General autumn coloring of the leaves:

Many trees got wonderful colors in the calm October weather as this hornbeam tree:

...or this oak tree:

Some birch trees were still partly green towards the end of October:

For any reason the larches didn’t turn to a bright yellow as they normally do. Some trees rather turned brown and dropped their needles. This tree showed green, yellow and brown needles at the same time:

I rarely saw “traditional” yellow larches in my region this autumn.

Although it was much drier than in September we still had many different mushrooms:

and one week later:

and one week later:

On the yew trees you can easily observe the blossom buds for next year:

...but also yew berries:

Here are some other fruits: of the spindle tree:

or of the bitter nightshade:

In my garden some tomatoes turned red towards the end of October only!

Even our corn turned yellow in October (but most of it is chopped and ensiled here):


23 Gorgeous Spots To See Fall Foliage That Will Show You Alaska Like Never Before:

Vegetation Map for Northern, Western, and Interior Alaska:








After a wet beginning...:

(again water poured out of meadows on slopes which was good because we have a lack of precipitation since 2016) ...


October brought golden autumn weather for almost two weeks and finally a cold end with the first frost after summer:


After a September mean temperature of 13°C, October 2017 was only slightly cooler with 10.8°C:


Hurricane Ophelia: In the latest twist from an unusually potent Atlantic hurricane season, a tropical storm is now headed for the shores of Ireland. Hurricane Ophelia probably won’t make it to the island as a true hurricane; it is more likely to evolve into an extratropical cyclone as it passes over cooler North Atlantic water. But either way, strong winds and heavy rain are expected to blow into the southwest coast of Ireland and over parts of the United Kingdom on October 16, 2017:








Some views of disappearing glaciers in the Swiss alps I visited this autumn:





Glatt Firn:





Alaska's Climate and Weather: by Martha Shulski and H. Michael Mogil: This is the second article in a series focusing on the climate and weather of the 50 states:






Earth as a system



We witnessed a heavy rock fall just at the opposite slope:

This image shows huge rocks hurtling through the air – you wouldn’t have survived this event if you had been on the other side of the valley...:


Impressive karst formations in the region southwest of the Engelberger Rotstock:


Here we are close to the Rot Grätli (= red ridge) in the Engelberg region – no further explanation needed...:


Explosive Fires in Northern California

Lava Beds National Monument

White River, South Dakota

A Blaze of Color in Alaska

Sea Sawdust off Gladstone

Reshaping the Xingu River

An Unlikely Corner of New York

Space Archaeology: In the Realm of Resolution

Autumn Colors in North America:

Burn Scars on California’s Wine Country:

Typhoon Lan on October 20th, 2017:

A Regional Look at Arctic Sea Ice

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of Lagoa dos Barros and crescent-shaped barchan dunes on the Atlantic coastline of southern Brazil:

Southern Lights near the Great Australian Bight on October 2, 2017:

Australian Winter Was Unusually Warm and Dry:

Pinpointing Where the Lights Went Out in Puerto Rico:

The Global Spread of Bare Ground:

Dust Blankets the Middle East:


Gives you always an overview of events that influence the state of our planet:






Life on Earth


A lot of wood was harvested in a nearby forest. I was surprised about the amount of wood they took out of this little area. One part was rather a monoculture and therefore ok to bring in more light:

The other part was a mixed forest with many species and a healthy undergrowth:


Algae’s athletic role in glacier melt:


Penguin catastrophe leaves thousands of chicks dead with only two survivors:

Penguin disaster as only two chicks survive from colony of 40,000:


Protect ANWR






Questions and good news


This gall disappeared before the leaf fell off, others remain on the leaves even when it turns brown – I wonder whether the insect inside trigger the process:


We enjoyed so much hiking and discovering the endless beauty of the Vernela valley – I’m really thankful that we still have such oases (click “next” seven times):


This was another unforgettable hike in a remote alpine valley:

This adventurous cable car brought us back to the civilization:












School / GLOBE


At school we have a new weather station!

After several efforts I succeeded in bringing the data online:

Today’s weather data:

At the moment we run the old and the new system in parallel to compare the results – this will be very interesting as the two stations are located within 2m distance!

Find our station on the map (and more weather stations all over the world):


I continue to take pictures for the European phenology campaign:


The long darkness is ideal to participate in Globe at night:

Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations. It's easy to get involved - all you need is computer or smart phone & follow these 5 Simple Steps!


University of Alaska Fairbanks wilderness program carries on tradition of empowering girls: Meghan Murphy and Nate Bauer, Special to the News-Miner:


Dorian sent me this invitation: I am reaching out to invite you to consider filling out the Google form below to learn more about- via a monthly short email- the GPM Applications Disease Initiative that I am coordinating. This is an effort to work with researchers, educators, and operational end-users (health officers, etc…) to share information on how NASA Earth-observing satellites are being used to help monitor, predict, and respond to water-related and vector-borne disease. If you think you might like to learn more and receive updates, please complete the form at the link below. Share this link with anyone who might be interested!

Google form to sign up:








If your country’s teachers’ association doesn’t offer courses that meet your wishes you might make a find here:








As we – nature included – often slide into this time of the year arriving sometime after the solstice it might be worth a try to become aware of how conditions change now and how we and nature (phenology, seasonality) respond – wittingly or unwittingly – to these changes.

Stay healthy and upbeat!



Best wishes

Markus Eugster




May each day bring you bright, happy hours.

Old Irish Blessing



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