Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Smoke on the Water

I was going to write about real scientific stuff but had to make it interesting, like the lyrics to the famous Deep Purple song. Really, I thought the only words were "Smoke on the water ... fire in the sky." Quite complicated.

So instead of talking about your marine aerosol boundary layer, which sounds like you're kinda perverted, check your windshield in the morning. Ah, the remnants of a night's worth of particulate deposition. On those dewy nights you'll see more because the dew forms on the particles and gets heavy and falls ... onto your windshield where it will dry for your maximum viewing pleasure.

First I want to say that we're blessed with really clean air here on SPI, not like the hell-hole of Houston or even the slightly tainted monitoring done in Brownsville. The picture I got courtesy of the TCEQ is the Brownsville air monitoring station somewhere in ... Brownsville.

But when the wind blows you get sand and salt pretty big time. And when the plants are in bloom you notice if you're allergic, right? And if the red tide comes in you know about it if you get get close to the beach. It's all aerosol, particulate, or as us redneck hippies say, "crud."

Red tide is actually interesting because it is unlike the typical sea salt or blowing sand with silica, as it is a bio-aerosol. Yep, little droplets of a neurotoxin from dying dinoflagellates that cause you to cough and sneeze. It's full of water and is so heavy it falls to the ground within a few hundred feet of the beach - unless it's blowing really hard. Remember September of 2005?

Here's where I get to sound like that famous column, 'Walt's Salt.' There are all kinds of particulate such as Saharan, Mexico crop burning smoke, the trade winds, galactic dust, and my favorite, bugs. I said bugs because researchers found that the first form of life found after Mount St. Helens blew its top, rendering everything sterile and buried, spiders and little bugs started dropping out of the sky in HUGE numbers. Microscopic bugs and little blown up pieces of them too.

It's so dry this year I don't think your windshield will turn a nice shade of golden-green with all the pollen this spring - at least I could use the break. White/brown is more like it.

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