Archive for October, 2006

The Thalianization of Chichen Itza

October 12th, 2006 by ejalbright

Will this madness never end?

As you may recall, the end of the world, predicted by the Maya for 2012, came early when last spring the pop singer Thalia (married to Mariah Carey’s former husband and manager) posed for pictures among Chichen Itza monuments closed to the general public. These photographs, taken by Thalia’s mother, were published in a tee-vee magazine out of Mexico City this past summer. Three months later, the takin hit the fan when the head of the union of employees at Chichen made Thalia’s transgression public.

Now the poor guards of Chichen Itza are bearing the brunt of Thalia’s indiscretion. Diario de Yucatan reporter Hernán Casares Camera today writes that due to Thalia, the guards report they are being attacked verbally by her fans. They want to sit on the Chac Mool at the top of the Temple of Warriors, just like Thalia; they want to pose at the top of El Castillo, just like Thalia.

The guards have a name for the phenomenon, the “Thalinización de las ruinas.”

So this is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but with a Thalia? …

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If the Air Quality is Poor, Blame the Maya

October 11th, 2006 by ejalbright

More bad press for the Yucatan. NASA has proved that burning of milpas (Maya cornfields, which are cleared by setting the brush afire) in Yucatan during the spring is contributing to bad air quality in Texas. Here’s the press release:

Central American fires impact US air quality and climate

Scientists using NASA satellites and computer models have shown that pollutants from Central American biomass burning can influence air quality and climate in the United States.

A NASA-funded study published in the July 26, 2006 Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres found that during April-May 2003, large amounts of smoke, which include aerosols — tiny particles suspended in the air — from biomass burning in the Yucatan Peninsula and southern Mexico reached Texas, Oklahoma, and other areas in the southeastern United States.

The smoke plumes degraded visibility and air quality in coastal regions along the Gulf of Mexico and resulted in the greatest concentration of small particulate matter in southern Texas since 1998. By blocking incoming sunlight, the smoke plumes also cooled surface air temperatures over land. But higher in the atmosphere the smoke absorbed solar radiation and warmed temperatures. This created a circulation pattern that trapped smoke aerosols in the lower atmosphere, worsening air quality.

The researchers used a newly developed computer model to simulate the transport and effects of smoke in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface. The model couples aerosol properties with meteorology and uses hourly smoke emission data from the NASA-led Fire Locating and Monitoring of Burning Emissions (FLAMBE) project. FLAMBE is a joint effort by NASA, the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and university partners to develop smoke aerosol forecasting models for the benefit for the global weather community.

“Although this computer model is not currently used in air-quality and weather forecasting, it is superior to other models for this purpose because it explicitly accounts for the diurnal variation of smoke emission from biomass burning fires and the radiative impacts of aerosols so that their impact on meteorology can be studied,” said study co-author Sundar Christopher of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, Ala.

Comparisons with ground-based observations and imagery from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua Earth Observing System satellites showed that the model accurately simulated the impact of smoke on air temperature and the amount of sunlight absorbed and scattered through the atmosphere.

MODIS data was particularly useful in determining how aerosols from the Central American fires affected the amount of sunlight passing through the atmosphere, which can impact surface and atmospheric temperatures. “MODIS data allows us to capture the meteorological impacts of smoke and aerosols, especially important during the tropical dry season each spring when biomass burning peaks and pollutants are transported to the United States,” said Christopher.

Smoke particles and aerosols scatter incoming sunlight while black carbon aerosols absorb solar radiation, affecting the atmospheric temperature profile. In turn, this alters evaporation and cloud formation. Smoke particles also often act as cloud condensation nuclei — small particles on which water vapor condenses and forms clouds — influencing the formation and distribution of rainfall. When combined with certain weather patterns, these aerosols can also have a significant impact on local and regional air quality according to the study.

This work demonstrated a new capability to improve air quality and climate forecasts, but researchers need to learn more about how smoke and aerosols impact clouds. “New satellite data, including that from the joint NASA and French Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite, should help us better understand cloud microphysical processes and how aerosols impact cloud formation,” said Christopher. Combining this information with improved computer models will help scientists better understand the role of smoke and aerosols on the climate to improve forecasts, even when the pollutant source is thousands of miles away.

Go here for a cool satellite photo.

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Atlantis: Is It Real?

October 4th, 2006 by ejalbright

This Saturday the National Geographic Channel will throw all of its hard-hitting journalistic expertise behind whether there is any truth to the legend of Atlantis.

There are those, like George Erikson of Arizona, who believe that the civilization in Yucatan is evidence of the lost continent of Atlantis. The program interviews Erikson, co-author of “Atlantis in America.”

Erikson’s writings on the subject, in particular his discussions of the role of Chichen Itza in the Atlantis mystery, are nonsensical and inaccurate. Below are three quotes from George’s essay on Chichen. Can you find the incorrect fact(s) in each?:

1) “The Classic Period (300AD – 1000AD) site of Chichen Itza has a central pyramid (Temple of Kukulkan) with 91 steps on each of its four sides.”

2) “From its side the nine levels (reflecting the nine levels of existence in Mayan myth) describe a feathered serpent (Quetzalcoatl) that descends on March 21, and ascends on September 21, each year with the setting of the sun.”

3) “The ancient cenote, one of the crucial sources of water, has been repeatedly described as a sacrificial center. Yet why would you hurl bodies into your drinking supply?”

(Answers: 1. Chichen Itza’s El Castillo was not built during the “Classical Period.” 2. Kukulcan, not Quetzcoatl, but admittedly that’s splitting hairs as they are believed to be the same. 3. Because there is a fresh water supply nearby, the Xtoloc cenote.)

George aside, there should be some wonderful shots of Chichen in the documentary, which airs at 6 p.m. on most cable and satellite system. Check local listings.

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Chichen Itza Airport Not at Chichen

October 3rd, 2006 by ejalbright

A caveat: I’m reporting this, even though I don’t understand it. There is an airport called Chichen Itza, but it is not at Chichen Itza. There is an airport at Chichen Itza, but it is not called Chichen Itza Airport, nor, for that matter, is it in operation.

A story appeared in today’s Diario de Yucatan about the airport named after Chichen, which has yet to really get off the ground. The article defies my ability to translate, but here goes:

Kaua will serve as base for airfleet
New project to reactivate the terminal

VALLADOLID. – Eduardo Alfaro, administrator of the airport at Kaua, said it would begin to operate tourist and commercial air traffic this year, if the Director of Civil Aeronautics of the SCT authorizes a new fleet of airplanes that would have its base in that terminal.

“Mexican industralists invested 10 million dollars to purchase six airplanes of 98 seats each to operate out of the airport”, he said.

The terminal, officially known as the airport of Chichén Itzá, has had little use since its construction six years ago. It recently was declared an economic center for that part of the state of Yucatan. Nevertheless, it has not been able to take off. There have been several attempts to rescue the infrastructure, but no has been able to put a deal together.

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Who Watches the Watchmen?

October 2nd, 2006 by ejalbright

The regional director of INAH (and sister of pop star Thalia), Federica Sodi Miranda, is under attack again by her subordinates. The rank and file of INAH is not happy with how the director plans to spend next year’s budget appropriation of $8 million Mexican.

According to Diario de Yucatan, $7 million of the budget will go to Chichén Itzá; the remaining million to Uxmal. The rest of the sites in Yucatan will receive nothing of that appropriation. What has put the workers of INAH in a particular snit is that Sodi Miranda wants to spend $3.5 million on a closed circuit television system for the City of the Sacred Well.

The article does not state what the closed circuit system is for. Security, perhaps? Watching employees?

The budget for Chichén would be divided as follows, the Diario reports: $3.5 million for closed circuit television; $1.2 million for maintenance of the sacbe to the Sacred Cenote; $364,000 for surveying the property and other ground studies; $405,000 for ceramic studies; $1 million for “rescue of the Xtoloc cenote,” the former drinking water supply of Chichén Itzá that has become polluted; $85,000 for studies on environment, $1 million for routine maintenance of the archaeological zone, and $350,000 for other expenses.

According to the employees, Sodi Miranda requested an additional $800,000 for her budget to pay for her weekly flights to Mexico City. The request was denied, the Diario reports, but employees claim the director is making the flights anyway.

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