Tag: Lack of Environment

Keep shouting it out!

The force of public opinion has never been more important; critically so!

As you all know this world of blogging: authors; followers; readers, is a great number of wonderful communities right across the planet. It is nothing like the traditional media, now owned and controlled by just a handful of large corporations, because the vast majority of blogging participants are free to say what they want, when they want.

Here’s an example.

Martin Lack is an Englishman who is the author of the blog Lack of Environment. As his home page quietly states:

Although scientificly trained (with degrees in Geology and Hydrogeology – see my About page), this blog arises from my having also got an MA in Environmental Politics and, as such, as the tagline indicates, is a blog on “the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems”… I hope you will take this on board; and enjoy the discussion.

“There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation” – Herman E. Daly (former World Bank economist).

The science about the chemistry of climate change especially the new danger of methane is clear. The commitment of our political leaders is less clear. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep shouting out loud.

As Martin Lack did recently.

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Open Letter to David Cameron

29 March 2016

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP

The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,

Whatever happened to the greenest government ever?

Given my experience of working in environmental consultancy or regulation, I understand the importance of making pragmatic, risk-based decisions (as opposed to dogmatic, opinion-based ones).  I therefore believe that government policy should be formulated this way.  Unfortunately, however, this does not always seem to be the case.

As a pragmatic scientist, I am not ideologically opposed to nuclear power.  However, I do question the logic of pursuing ‘Hinkley Point C’ when equivalent investment in distributed renewable technologies – from domestic solar PV to submarine tidal stream – could probably generate more electricity faster.  Indeed, as Greenpeace has recently pointed out, the UK could meet nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030.[1]

With regard to risk, the scientific consensus is that, in order to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the World must now embark upon the fastest-possible transition to a zero carbon economy.  Therefore, I also question the logic of simultaneously promoting investment in shale gas; discouraging investment in renewables; and cancelling investment in Carbon Capture and Storage research.

It is now over 50 years since scientists started warning of the climatic implications of continuing to burn fossil fuels;[2] and 50 years since fossil fuel company executives started spending huge sums of money on being “Merchants of Doubt”.[3]  As such, along with their counterparts in the tobacco industry, they have clearly not acted in the long-term interest of humanity as a whole.

However, as with the individual health benefit of ceasing to smoke tobacco, the sooner we stop burning fossil fuels the greater the collective environmental benefit will be. Therefore, I am pragmatically opposed to shale gas exploration because burning it is not consistent with the need to transition away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.

I am certain that you would like to secure an enduring political legacy; and would therefore like to ask just one question:

What could be better than being remembered as the Prime Minister that committed the UK to meeting nearly all its electricity generation needs from renewable energy sources by 2030?

Yours sincerely,

Martin C. Lack

————
[1] See: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/uk-can-be-almost-entirely-powered-renewable-energy-2030-new-study-shows-20150921.

[2] Nuccitelli, D. (2015), ‘Scientists warned the US president about global warming 50 years ago today’, Guardian newspaper, 5 November 2015: London.

[3] Oreskes, N. & Conway E. (2010), Merchants of Doubt,  New York: Bloomsbury. See: http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

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Let me finish today’s post by republishing an exchange between Patrice Ayme and Martin over on a recent PA essay, that I republished in full in this place: Runaway Antarctica.

Martin:

I know I am wasting my time writing letters to David Cameron; and I know my opinions are irrelevant. However, the facts of history are not; nor will they be in the future.

Patrice:

I know you are doing the right thing. Writing to Cameron is entirely correct. But of course, he is a guy with just a salary and a few “savings”, a few tens of millions dollars of savings, maybe, or maybe not, and knew nothing about his recently deceased father having a fund of around 50 million dollars sheltered by shell companies, out there, somewhere related to Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, or the Bahamas, or Bermuda, whatever…

OK, David’s wife, officially, has a fund of more than twenty million pounds….

Martin:

For the record: I am socially-conservative (i.e. as opposed to liberal) but under no illusion as to the folly of what has been called ‘money fetishism’ (Karl Marx); and ‘growthmania’ (Herman E. Daly).

Patrice:

Hi Martin, thanks for the comment. I spent a whole hour reading the hard cover version of the paper the electronic version of which I criticized above. It’s quite a bit different. They use RCPs (Reasonable Carbon Projections, or the like in meaning). Yet, they don’t explain what they consist of exactly. All I know is that we are around 500 ppmv, and they work with 400 ppmv, in the 130 K-115 K years BP, when orbital conditions were cooler than now.

Plus we are going to be at 550 ppmv within ten years, at the present rate. The earliest date they have for the failure of Larsen C in their worst RCP 8.5 is 2055 CE. I would be surprised if it did not fail within ten years.

However, the paper version is more insistent on the danger of AIR warming, not just subsurface.

Also the Hansen paper has a scenario, which is suitably apocalyptic, but not apocalyptic enough in my book. Temperatures over the Arctic were strikingly high this winter, of the order of 4 to 5 degrees Centigrade higher than normal, and sometimes more. Nobody expected this sort of jumps. Except for yours truly!😉

Martin:

Thanks for the explanation, Patrice. This is all very reminiscent of the position of (Arizona) Professor Guy McPherson, who believes most scientists are in denial about the consequences of multiple positive feedback mechanisms we can already see operating:
http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/what-on-earth-are-we-doing/

You all have a wonderful weekend and keep hugging those dogs of yours!

And human wisdom?

No other planet to move to!

The title of today’s post picks up the theme of yesterday’s post Dog Wisdom, that incorporated a wonderful essay from Mark Rostenko about the wisdom of dogs.

The words in the sub-heading came to me because, unlike wild dog packs, we do not have the luxury of our ‘alpha female’ deciding her pack’s territory is no longer viable and they needed to move on.

All of which serves as an introduction to a recent essay from Martin Lack over on the blog Lack of Environment. Martin is well qualified to write on such matters as climate as he has been a Fellow of the Geological Society (FGS) since 1992 and a Chartered Geologist (CGeol) since 1998.  His essay was published on the 15th March and is called Merchants of Doubt need to do the math.

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A feature-length documentary, based on the content of the Merchants of Doubt book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, went on general release at movie theatres in the USA this weekend.

As Desmogbog.com points out, it has already attracted the attention of an odd mixture of ideologically-motivated deniers of the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption.

I say “odd” because, as per the above link, those who prefer to see climate science as a conspiracy to raise taxes (and install worldwide Communist government via the United Nations, etc.) include both longstanding disputers of inconvenient science like Fred Singer (who questions whether the movie is defamatory) and self-confessed non-experts like James Delingpole.

Both of the above would have done well to watch a recent BBC Four (television) programme – Climate Change by Numbers. In contrast to just about every other programme about climate change that you might have seen, this one is presented by three mathematicians. A 30-second trailer is inserted below but, if you have not seen the full 74-minute programme (opens in a new window), I really would recommend it.

The programme focuses on three numbers:
— 0.85 Celsius – the rise in average global surface temperatures since the 1880s.
— 95% – the certainty of the scientific community that this is primarily human-caused.
— 1 trillion tonnes – humanity’s carbon budget to avoid 0.85 increasing to 2 Celsius.

Along the way, the programme highlights the early work of Svante Arrhenius – who determined that a halving of atmospheric CO2 could cause a 4 Celsius drop in temperature (and therefore that a doubling of CO2 will cause a 4 Celsius rise).

With regard to the accuracy of computer models, the programme highlights the way in which this has been proven by their ability to predict the cooling effects of large volcanic eruptions.

With regard to our carbon budget, the programme highlights the fact that humanity has already burnt 0.5 trillion tonnes and, unless radical changes are made to global trends, will burn the remaining 0.5 trillion tonnes within 30 years. It also points out that, as ongoing events might well suggest, even 2 Celsius could have severe and pervasive impacts (as the IPCC described them last year).

All very inconvenient for libertarians everywhere, I guess.

See also:

https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/greedy-lying-bar-stewards-guilty-of-crimes-against-humanity/

https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/a-summary-of-the-climate-departure-research-of-mora-et-al/

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NB: The link that Martin offers to the full programme is a version on YouTube that is chock-full of adverts; seemingly inserted every ten minutes or so.  Unfortunately, other YouTube videos of the same BBC programme also seem to have too many adverts.

Please don’t let that put you off watching a critically important message. Plus, as you watch the video, do stick under your hat the following note from Martin.

Thanks, Paul. There is one thing you might care to add (which I forgot to mention), which is this:

The final third of the programme includes a discussion of ‘extreme value analysis’ (EVA), which Wikipedia helpfully describes as “a branch of statistics… [that] seeks to assess… the probability of events that are more extreme than any previously observed“. Flood defences like the Woolwich Barrier on the Thames estuary were designed using EVA. However, crucially, EVA assumes that average parameter values do not change over time. Therefore, given that climate change invalidates this assumption, it is now accepted that London will need greater protection from flooding in the future. Athough not explicit in my original post, this was why I included a link to the ‘Climate Departure’ reseach of Mora et al., which estimates the regional variation in the date by which future climates will have departed from what has hitherto been considered normal.

So here is that full BBC Documentary.

Now where’s that spare planet!

Future uncertainties!

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr

I love this saying from Mr. Bohr and often repeat it, albeit at times with my own twist to it.  I was reminded of this uncertainty of the future from some comments to a recent post over at Lack of Environment.  The particular post was called Can technology save us? and was a reflection of Martin Lack, the blog’s author, watching a recent BBC Horizon special called Tomorrow’s World.  (There’s the YouTube of the broadcast at the end of this post.) Martin opened his post by saying:

I happened to stumble across a BBC TV Horizon special, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ last Thursday.  It begins with a fascinating review of humankind’s history of – and propensity for – invention. It also explains some truly fascinating – and inspiring – developments in the spheres of space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and power generation.

In the introduction, the programme presenter and narrator Liz Bronnin explains how, after 100’s of thousands of years of technological stagnation, the fast-moving world of technological innovation is very definitely a modern invention.

Then a little later Martin goes on to say:

After about 32 minutes, Bronnin introduces the power of the Internet to promote innovation – crowd-sourcing research funding and the concept of open-source technology – the complete abrogation of intellectual copyright… It is a fundamental challenge to globalised Capitalism; but it may well be the solution to many of our problems…

However, to me, the final third of the programme is by far the most fascinating… It looks at the challenges of finding a replacement for fossil fuels. It provides a very clear message that this is a technological challenge driven by the reality of physics – not by ideology.

But, overall, Martin lets us know his perspective with his final paragraphs:

Re-engineering nature for our benefit will, without doubt, be very very useful. However, I still think the optimism of the comment at the very end of the programme “…I never worry about the future of the human race, because I think we are totally capable of solving problems…” is very unwise. This is because anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that is getting harder to solve the longer we fail to address it effectively.

Bronnin concludes by saying that, “it is an exciting time to be alive…” However, I remain very nervous. This is because, as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University – a strong supporter of the hydraulic fracturing industry – recently acknowledged, it will be impossible for carbon capture and storage to remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent very significant changes to our climate. This is because of the collective hypnosis that deludes most people into seeing perpetual economic growth as the solution to all our problems.

In short, I am certain that technology alone cannot save us. In order to avoid the ecological catastrophe that all but the most ideologically-prejudiced and wilfully-blind can see developing all around us… we need to modify our behaviour: This primarily means that we need to acknowledge the injustice of a “use it up and wear it out” mentality and, as individuals, all learn to use an awful lot less energy.

Climate change “sceptics” have picked a fight with history and science – primarily with the concept of Entropy – and they will lose. The only question that remains is this: Are we going to let them put us all in (what xraymike79 recently called) ‘the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments’.

Now Jean and I also watched the Horizon special and, to be perfectly frank, found it both uplifting and inspiring.  It seemed a great counter to the overwhelming volume of commentary these days along the lines of ‘The end of the world is nigh!‘ some of that coming from yours truly! That’s not to make light of the huge hurdles ahead.

But it was a couple of comments on Martin’s post from Patrice Ayme that got me thinking.  Here’s the exchange that went between Patrice and Martin following on from a comment from Thomas Foster.

Considering that it is technology which has enabled us to “conquer” nature and thus the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of that it seems most unlikely to this writer that the cause will also bring about a cure. Thomas Foster

—–

The genus Homo has been technological for 5 million years. Give or take two million. Homo is the cure for life. Patrice Ayme

—-

If we Homo Sapiens have been technological for 5 million years, we have spent most of that time being very unsuccessful; and have spent the rest being far too successful. Is there no scope for just living in harmony with our environment (as opposed to being at war with it)? Martin Lack

—-

Hominids have been masters of the environment for at least three million years. By a million years ago, only Homo was left (but for places like Flores). Dozens of megafauna species got annihilated. Homo’s technology has extended to the entire Earth for at least a million years. The Earth itself was turned into a tool. A tool we are not at war with, but that we use. Patrice Ayme

—-

A utilitarian attitude to Nature is one that does not recognise its inherent value (i.e. which it would have even if we did not exist). Seeing ourselves as superior to Nature rather than as part of it has resulted in our not living in harmony with it. This is, by definition, equivalent to being at war with Nature. QED. Refer: Nature is not your enemyMartin Lack

—-

Call it what you want, Martin. Man manipulates nature, and that nature one calls nature has not been “natural” for more than a million years. Except if one views man as part of nature! Patrice Ayme

Patrice is a very clear thinker even if, at times, pretty hard-hitting.  But this exchange confirmed in my mind that clearly looking out to the future must always be hard.  Most certainly in this period of mankind’s evolution predicting the future is especially difficult.  Hence my contribution to Martin’s post:

Jean and I watched the Horizon special a couple of evenings ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my overall thoughts are in response to your post, Martin. What does come to mind is that old saying, “Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

So it may be that we are at a particular point in time, or more likely an era, where seeing clearly into the future is challenging.

The one aspect of modern life that is a game-changer is what we are doing now. Sharing ideas and thoughts across a far-flung net. Not only as the Horizon programme illustrated but as ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.

These are incredibly uncertain times.  Undoubtedly not the first in man’s long history as an historian will explain (cue to Alex!).   But to all of us alive today, these are the most uncertain times we have ever experienced!

No wonder so many of us feel lost at times in today’s world.

Here’s that BBC Horizon, courtesy of YouTube.

I will close with this thought from one masterly ‘wordsmith’, William Wordsworth.

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”

Arizona to Oregon

A challenging couple of weeks ahead of us.

On the 23rd, next Tuesday, Jean and I plus our eleven dogs and five cats together with the contents of our Arizonan house move the 1,200 miles to SW Oregon!  Moving to a beautiful home with 13 fabulous acres just outside the small community of Merlin, near Grants Pass.

The view from the rear deck!
The lily pool gets checked out by Pharaoh!

But managing Learning from Dogs for the next couple of weeks or so is going to be a challenge.

So I shall be re-running posts from time to time concentrating on posts that were published during the early months of Learning from Dogs on the assumption that many of today’s readers will not have seen them.

It’s likely that internet access won’t be available to me until the early days of November, so, between now and then Martin Lack of Lack of Environment has very kindly offered to monitor goings on and respond to comments.  Thank you, Martin!

As British Rail have been known to say, ‘Normal service will be resumed just as soon as possible!

Are you negligent, incompetent or complicit?

A guest post from Martin Lack points to the crux of the issue of denying man-caused climate change.

Introduction

I saw this post on Martin’s Blog Lack of Environment the day after I wrote a piece called In praise of fairness.  In my piece I mentioned the sad case of Mr. Bob Diamond and Martin continued with the theme in such a manner that I wanted to republish his article in full.  Here it is.

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Are you negligent, incompetent or complicit?

This was a question posed to former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond this week, when he appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee of MPs on Wednesday. It is a question that I would like to ask Dr Richard Lindzen… In fact, I have asked the question and – just as Bob Diamond did – he has refused to answer it… Here is the evidence on which you should decide for yourself:

Many readers will recall that, following my visit to London to hear Lindzen speak to a room full of fake sceptics in the Palace of Westminster on 22 February this year, I attempted to get some answers to questions. Unfortunately, I failed. I have been particularly frustrated by one thing; possibly the most misleading aspect of Lindzen’s entire presentation – a combination of graphs of recent atmospheric CO2 and temperature data that was mysteriously omitted from the PDF of the presentation that was initially posted on the Internet.  Although Lindzen never answered any of my questions, he did insert this slide into the PDF of his presentation despite my pointing out to him – MIT and the AGU – that it was essentially meaningless (as the y-axes could be stretched to show either correlation or no correlation as preferred by the speaker).

Here is a screenshot of the misleading graph from the video of the presentation:

Misrepresentation of data?
Steeply inclined Keeling curve versus apparently non-correlating temperature – if you stretched the temperature axis enough it would appear to correlate quite well. Therefore slide neither proves not disproves anything.

This bears more than a passing resemblance to the World Climate Widget – a very similar-looking combination of graphs (i.e. manipulated to suggest that there is no correlation between recent atmospheric CO2 and temperature data) – that can be downloaded as a widget from Anthony Watts’ Watts Up With That? (WUWT) misinformation blog.

If you go to the WUWT widget page, you will find the two graphs in both of these images (above and right) are there presented separately. However, to prove my point – that anyone using these graphs to try and prove there is no correlation between long-term CO2 and temperature changes – just look at what happens when you take the graph of University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) global lower atmosphere data as used by WUWT (i.e. cooler than surface temperature data) and stretch it:

Clearing the fog of data misrepresentation created by Lindzen et al. - Note the clear upward trend in the temperature graph on the left (it was there all the time).
Clearing the fog of data misrepresentation created by Lindzen et al. – Note the clear upward trend in the temperature graph on the left (it was there all the time).

Therefore, for anyone – including Lindzen – to try and use the original combination of graphs to suggest there is no correlation between CO2 and temperature, this suggests that they are either negligent, incompetent, or deliberately trying to mislead people. For many people who are not scientists to be fooled by this is understandable but, for a prominent scientist like Lindzen to make this mistake – and not apologise for doing so – is unforgivable. Furthermore, it would seem that, no matter how many times he is criticised, he just keeps repeating the same old mistakes: Skeptical Science: Lindzen and Choi 2011 – Party Like It’s 2009

It would appear that, despite the best efforts of the majority of prominent climate scientists, Lindzen’s London Illusions are still fooling a lot of people. If you follow that last link, it will take you to the website of what I prefer to call The Global Wonky Policy Foundation, where it is reported that only 43% of the British adult population felt able to agree with the following statement: “Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities”.

It has been suggested to me that this question is carefully phrased to deter people from saying “yes” (i.e. they might agree that warming is occurring and/or that humans are the primary cause; but they might not agree that vehicles and factories are the primary source of emissions). However, this is ‘clutching at straws’ in my opinion; and leaves me wondering what percentage of the population would feel able to agree with this statement:

“The sunrise is a fact and is mostly caused by the Earth not being flat and spinning once a day whilst orbiting the Sun”…?

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I’m very grateful to Martin for allowing me to republish this.

This is rocket science!

A timely video from the International Space Station (ISS)

Little did I realise when I posted yesterday’s item that a couple of subsequent actions would make today’s article easy to write (trust me it isn’t always this easy!).

Mike T., a flying buddy from my old days in England, sent me this link to a 5-minute video made up of a series of films shot from the ISS.  DO WATCH THE VIDEO IN FULL SCREEN MODE!

The details of how the film was taken and much more interesting information is at the very end of this article.

Then Martin Lack who writes the blog, Lack of Environment, submitted a comment with a link to a piece that he had written on the 19th August that I would like to re-publish in full.

Why are we still waiting for the EU to act?

What can we learn from the fact that the EU has still not stopped buying over 90% of Syria’s oil exports? If nothing else, it tells me that we need fossil fuel too much!

But I think the problem of wrong priorities goes much deeper than that… This is because the Limits to Growth argument (which underlies my concern over AGW) is, even though the protestor-in-the-street may not realise it, the root cause of all the problems we are now seeing in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cairo, Damascus etc., etc… right through to Zimbabwe: Treating the symptoms of food shortages or corruption (or whatever they may be) will not succeed unless we address the root cause, which is the inevitable consequences of perpetual growth in consumption of resources and/or waste production on a finite planet [see E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful (1973)].

This 5 minute video makes sobering viewing, but it also perfectly summarises everything I have learnt in the last 12 months; and all I have posted on my oldMyTelegraph blog in the last 5 months!

It may not be rocket science, but can we reach Escape Velocity?

This stuff is not rocket science, but it is very unwelcome news to people with a vested interest in the continuance of “business as usual”. Unfortunately, we literally cannot go on the way we are; something has got to change…

The fact that AGW may suffer from issue fatigue, and the fact that I sometimes feel like an old-style street preacher being completely ignored by passers-by, does not change the fact that, on well above the balance of probability, we face an environmental catastrophe if we fail to take significant action within the next 5 years. Furthermore, every year we fail to act, makes taking effective action much, much harder. This is because it is the total (i.e. cumulative) amount of fossilised carbon that we (have and will) put into the atmosphere that will determine the temperature change we will see over the next 50 years or so.

Extract of paper presented by Dr Myles Allen at 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference (2009)

So a big thank you to Mike T. and Martin Lack for a number of lessons:

  • how clever man is in terms of space technology besides much more
  • the beauty of our planet – it’s all we have to live on
  • the amount of electric light that shines into outer space, as seen by the ISS.
  • how much of that lighting might be generated by coal and oil!
  • if we don’t learn to live in harmony, as in sustainably, with this planet of ours, the implications are going to be very serious.

Finally, as mentioned earlier the details of that video on Vimeo.

Time lapse sequences of photographs taken with a 4K-camera by Ron Garan fragileoasis.org/​bloggernauts/​Astro_Ron and the crew of expedition 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011. All credit goes to them, who to my  knowledge shot these pictures at an altitude of around 350 km.  I intend to upload a FullHD-version presently.

HD, refurbished, smoothed, retimed, denoised, deflickered, cut, etc.  All in all I tried to keep the looks of the material as original as possible, avoided adjusting the colors and the like, since in my opinion the original footage itself already has an almost surreal and aestethical visual nature.

Music: Jan Jelinek | Do Dekor, faitiche back2001 w+p by Jan Jelinek, published by Betke Edition janjelinek.com | faitiche.de

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth eol.jsc.nasa.gov

Editing: Michael König | koenigm.com

Shooting locations in order of appearance:

1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night