Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ghost malls for ghost cities

Construction is proceeding on large apartment blocks all over Zhengzhou.

Here is a brand new mall that opened a few months ago in the airport city region of Zhengzhou, a few km away from the development featured a couple of months ago.

They call it Joy City. But maybe another name would be more appropriate.

Only a small portion of the mall is active, on the main floor. The upper levels seem to be empty, as are most of the outlying areas in the mall, which I called the 'sacrifice zone'. Within the inhabited zone, there are several high-end jewellery places and a snack shop.

The suicide net here may be for the anchor tenant, whoever that is.

You are probably thinking that the entire mall is closed. No, it has been open for awhile. It's just that the level of occupancy is pretty low.

Happier days

Transformers out back, along with dancing realtors

And it isn't that the entire neighbourhood is empty. Next door was a strip mall that had a lot more customers. But then, it was a real place. Also, just down the street was an older, quite busy neighbourhood. So there are people around. But maybe not enough of them.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Huge development in Zhengzhou

The second subway line for Zhengzhou, running from the north end of the city to the airport was completed last year. I took it out to airport city a couple of weeks ago.

Along the way, there is an enormous new real estate development--it must have run about 2 km along the track, almost entirely filling in what used to be a forested area between Zhengzhou and what used to be a separate town (Hua'nancheng). Unfortunately, the subway is enclosed in tube with these horizontal lines, obscuring the imagery.

And here's some video to give you a sense of scale.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Loess in west Zhengzhou

I decided to go somewhere a little different in the city, so on Golden Week, I took the subway out to the civic centre.

Correction: I took the subway to the station that was called Civic Centre. It seemed reasonable at the time to assume the civic centre was there. Since it was a national holiday, I thought it possible that there would be some kind of public event in the space.

The subway system was built very rapidly over the past few years, and is in the midst of an enormous expansion. The subway appears to be built to support the growth model designed by the local urban planners, so that there are portions of it built through areas that are as yet undeveloped.

Such as the 'Civic Centre' station.

Inside the station was a map of the surrounding area. There were three exits, and the third exit appeared (from the map) to be near an amphitheatre, with a winding path through a forest leading to the main road. This was the exit I chose. But when I reached the surface, all that was there was a chewed up field, with a couple of collapsing buildings with a farming family squatting inside. Nearby, a dirt track led to a dilapidated village.

In the distance were several high-rise apartments under construction. So my conclusion is that this area will host the civic centre one day. But not quite yet.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
South and a little east of the civic centre is a broad ravine with steep sides. Near the subway line there is no easy access, but as one approaches Zhongyuan Road, the ravine becomes a park, and there are a number of easy access points. This park is called Xiliuhugongyuan, or West Six Lake Park (it isn't clear to me if this means there are six lakes, or it refers to lake number six).


Zhongyuan Bridge crossing the ravine

Given the density of population and commerce, Zhongyuan Rd. looks like a better choice for the subway than where it actually is. But then it would have to cross this bridge, which isn't strong enough.

What struck me is the thick accumulations of loess that are exposed at the sides of the park.

The cliffs range from about 5-10 m high, and consist of nearly vertical, fractured faces of silt. Presumably, they resulted from fracturing and successive block failures from the loess faces

When the loess faces collapse, they break into blocks, which themselves 
may further break down over time.

Henan province mainly lies within the great loess plain of China, where loess covers over 630 000 sq km of central China. Loess is composed of windblown silt particles in central China, but is coarser in the west, where it consists of windblown sand. In places along Huang He, the loess terraces rise above the river terrace level by up to 100 m. So the terraces in western Zhengzhou are not spectacular, but they are the only place within the city where I have seen them.


Fractures in the unconsolidated loess in Xiliuhugongyuan. 

Loess tends to be occur in dry climates, as moisture encourages plant growth which will bind the sediment together and prevent it from being transported by wind. Central China is fairly dry most of the year, with annual evaporation exceeding precipitation (Derbyshire, 1998). The majority of rain falls from July to September (it lasted well into October this year), and up to 40% of annual rainfall can happen in one day (which I can attest to, having experienced such days twice). 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ancient gold in Henan

This post revisits some of the artifacts on display at the Henan Provincial museum; which is presently a shadow of itself, with the main building having been under renovations for at least the last two years.

Only one out-building is open, with displays of a fraction of the museum's artifacts, primarily showing cultural development in area influenced by Huang He. This is the oldest part of China.

Gold belt from the western Zhou dynasty, ca. 1000 BCE

First model of an Imperial Star Destroyer, for the movie, The Emperor rises in Guo State.

Gold and jewellery of the Ming dynasty

Of course, this is only a small fraction of what used to be on display.

Monday, September 25, 2017

After the recent Arctic sea ice minimum . . .

. . . we have a new reconstructed state space diagram.

This year's minimum is 4.64 million sq km, which is a nice improvement from last year, and keeps the chart well within the lower area of Lyapunov stability proposed here about four years ago. With each passing year, my confidence that we have really entered an area of stability grows.

It is still unclear when the system will break out of its current area of stability, and what it's most likely behaviour will be (the two main contenders being a return toward the earlier area of stability at upper right, or a continuation towards the ice-free conditions forecast by so many. .

Sunday, September 24, 2017


A few days ago, air raid sirens went off all over China. I asked one of the locals if we should report to a shelter; he told me not to worry about it. The sirens were not for any foolishness emanating from North Korea, or even the United States, but were commemorating the invasion of China by Japan in 1931.

In Nanjing, the invasion culminated in a massacre that killed an  estimated 300,000 people in late 1937 (but this number is still a matter of some controversy)..This event is commemorated in a large memorial in Nanjing. In fact, it is a very large memorial. Too large to find a good vantage point to photograph the whole thing, except maybe by air.

Also, I have to say it is an ugly monument. Perhaps this was the intent, as it commemorates an ugly event. One of the first areas you pass consists of statues showing varioius outrages committed by Japanese troops.

One thing I found disturbing was the display of the contents of one of the mass graves, over which the monument was built. The remains of approximately 10,000 people were found in this one mass grave, and the display consists of a large number of bones from it. The disturbing part was the number of pictures people took of the scattered bones, although to be fair, at least none of them appeared to be selfies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Those rich monks at Baoen temple

The Bao'en temple in Nanjing once boasted a pagoda 80 m tall that was entirely clad in decorative porcelain. Built during the fifteenth century, it was described by the first European explorers who viewed it as one of the seven wonders of the world. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a series of unfortunate events during the 19th century, beginning with a lightning strike, and culminating in the chaos of the Taiping Rebellion.

The pagoda is being rebuilt, and it is presently made of glass, rather than porcelain. But the tower's base is porcelain.

The tower must have been quite a spectacle when built. Apart from the glittering white porcelain, the Chinese had many techniques for colouring porcelain, which were still unknown in the west, and had used these to cover the tower with Buddhist imagery.

Original tower arch (on display at provincial museum)

The tower today

Climbing it is a bit like climbing up a staircase in a greenhouse, especially near the top. But most of the lower layers are open and give clear views of the surrounding terrain.

Looking past the city wall into the old city.

Within the rebuilt temple is a display of the artifacts of the old temple, as well as some newer displays. I will gloss over most of these and focus on one thing--precious metals. These monks were rich. They have a lot of gold and silver items on display, although most of these are small..

Gold crown with cloud motif.

Gilded silver boxes (for incense)?

Gilded silver incense burner

A gold coffin, which may have contained holy relics of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism

Probably the most significant piece was discovered in the ruins of the old temple a little less than ten years ago. It was a tall (1.1 m) pagoda-shaped shrine, called an Asoka Pagoda. It contained the coffin depicted above, and, according to an accompanying stele, part of the skull of Sakyamuni, in a separate metal case

The King Asoka pagoda that bore the relics

Gilded silver king Asoka pagoda

A gilded stamp

Various bits of jewellry

A gilded silver spoon

Glass bowl with a silver rim

Silver and glass bottles, with gilding


Updated Sept. 22. I've had some labels translated, and it seems that at least some of the jewellery above came from rich people's tombs, so they aren't all artifacts from the temple.