Nothing But Blue Sky
Posted on March 25, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 38 Comments
So, here’s a thing I never expected to see again in my lifetime: A sky entirely devoid of contrails, and the planes that make them. This is a 360-degree “photosphere” panorama from my yard, so the entire sky is here, and not altered from the photo that came out of my camera (I did photoshop the yard, since Athena was in it and she didn’t want to be in the final photo). Minus the curving streaks from the sun that are an artifact of the camera lens, there’s nothing but blue sky.
There’s only one other time in my life I’ve seen a sky like this, and it was in similarly extraordinary circumstances. And just like that time, I am amazed to see the sky of my ancestors. I genuinely never thought it would come around again.
We had that blue sky over here in Middle-Northern Europe back in 2010, during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Mid-April.
We have that sky almost every day in New Zealand because no one flies over us to get somewhere else. We are literally in the middle of nowhere.
Planes come here and land and take off. But none fly over us.
In 1978, I lived in Boston during the nor’easter/blizzard that hit in February. Talk about your shelter in place. As it hit, I sent my then-husband out for the necessities, a gallon of milk and a 25 lb bag of cat litter. (hey, we had 9 cats at the time) After 5 days of “stay home, nothing but emergency vehicles allowed on the roads” we were able to walk to the store. On many streets, cars were nothing but small mounds showing above the snow. Instead of plowing snow, the city brought in front end loaders to physically pick it up and remove it. When it came to our own place, we walked down the long staircase to the sidewalk and started shoveling the top layer at about shoulder height. The sky after 5 days of no traffic, no industry, was indeed that deep sapphire blue.
There were still a lot of planes flying in the SF Bay Area a week ago, though probably fewer than normal and mostly empty. Here in Delaware it’s been typically cloudy except the day it was 75 degrees and windy before the next storm arrived, so I can’t tell if there are planes. Very little car traffic on the main road.
The days it hasn’t been raining, more of the neighbors than usual have been out on the street, either on their lawn chairs by themselves (or with their spouses or dogs), or standing 6′ apart talking or their couple walking their kid in a stroller around the loop a few times. I did meet a little dog who wasn’t sure whether to social-distance or see if I’d pet her (the latter happened briefly and then she backed off.)
Here in Norfolk in the UK it is the same. So beautiful and also quiet!
There are still aircraft flying over here. But I live in Reston, in the pattern for Dulles. Traffic is lighter though.
Looks like a giant luminous spider is about to attack the homestead.
Run John. Run.
Before it’s too late.
No contrails… haven’t seen that since 9/11.
Back on Sep. 12, I was below the flight plan into the Pittsburgh airport. It was so strange that there were no airplanes in the sky then.
In looking at this post and the 9/12 one it’s obvious that you’re a better writer now. Fewer adjectives and adverbs, less flowery over all.
DC’s Dulles is as quiet today as Boston’s Logan Airport was on September 12, 2001. Overcast, so haven’t seen the sky today.
Yes, haven’t seen that since the events of 9/11
LYM! I was conceived during that blizzard!
Good times. :)
London is eerie/beautiful as well, in a different way. I work(ed) near St Paul’s and it being completely empty of people Is equally fascinating and unnerving.
As someone who works in Product Support in the aviation industry (Boeing), I can comment from first hand knowledge that commercial aircraft are still flying. Almost all passenger aircraft are sitting on the ground, but the freighters are still operational.
Plus – some passenger operators are loading freight in the passenger cabin and operating with no passengers. FWIW, there are some non-trivial issues to be addressed in doing that without creating potential safety issues,
– Tom –
I remember standing on my parents’ front porch on the evening of 9/11 and hearing a plane in the distance. “Well, that’s military,” I thought.
The sky near JFK airport in NYC was nearly silent for a day. That was unique.
In spite of the circumstances bringing us a sky nearly fee of aircraft I’m just going to enjoy the sky and contemplate the quiet wonder of spring tomorrow.
Fantasy & Star Trek (better known by its initials– F&ST) has been the most popular genre magazine for over five decades. It’s not at all surprising it would pop into your head.
pax / Ctein
And it hasn’t even been 20 years since 9/11. I suppose in the long run, extraordinary events tend to happen a bit more often than we realize. Maybe you’ll even get a third opportunity to see the speckless sky.
Nice shot. The house is what I pictured when I read the Last Colony. Missing the sorghum fields.
I’ll second the Eyjafjallajökull reference. I was working in England at the time, and was “trapped” there while the planes were all grounded. The situation was similar to this in that we didn’t know how long it was going to last.
There was one other time for me – in the deep South we had a major snow storm in 1993. I lived in Chattanooga at the time, and no planes went into or out of that airport or Hartsfield (no Jackson yet then) in Atlanta for several days. There were no planes or contrails, and the sky was the amazing crystalline blue that you only see in the winter. It was lovely, so at least I have one memory of this at a time when the world wasn’t changing. And we’re having absolutely lovely spring this year, so – small pleasures, small comforts.
I run an ADS-B plane tracker and this got me to check my stats. I am now seeing half as many planes (about an hour south of San Francisco) than I was a month ago. At the end of Feb I was reporting around 1800 aircraft a day, today I saw 799. I am assuming I only see that many because I am getting the combined traffic from SJC, SFO, and OAK; as well as a bit of westbound international traffic and flights up an down the west coast.
I think it’s wonderful how your daughter was with you both times. Tell us, did she have a basketball in her hand this time as well?
Darn, I thought this would be John’s thoughts on the Tom McGuane masterpiece…
Same here (E.France) a few days ago. Even with flights heading this way from Paris and planes landing in other international airports, it’s been eerily quiet. Sadly, it’s starting back up as helicopters and military jets move people to regions where there are sufficient amounts of beds and respirators. Stay inside kids and stay healthy!
I’ve seen stories in recent days about satellites monitoring pollution showing drastic falls in pollution levels over the industrialised world. Makes you think what we could do about our environment if we buckled down and learned a few lessons.
You should see the sky over Manhattan today, particularly, as it is sunny, not overcast (rain for much of the last two days). This morning at 6:30 AM I hardly knew where I was, and this is my neighborhood for all my adult life. Also, I’m in the 9/11 zone, in which smoke from the Towers kept coming down for nearly year, and official, police and military vehicles were constantly coming and going. This Jim Jones catastrophe is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been through some disasters here
You should the sky over Manhattan. I’ve never seen anything like this here; I live in the 9/11 Zone, with smoke and ash and military and police and medical and official traffic going for nearly a year. Not to mention the tourists. There’s never been anything like this Jim Jones Death Cult catastrophe here.
John, John! Next time you come to ABQ (Bubonicon, dare we hope?) get out of town for a quick visit in almost any direction. We have those skies rather frequently.
Besides which, you might also get a chance to pop up to Magdalena Ridge. We have some new research stations up there in addition to the Langmuir Lightning Lab. Besides the 2.4 m fast tracker, the new interferometer is … well, you can join a tour. Just ask.
In Hawaii, most passenger traffic is via airplane. Barges and cargo ships are still coming in and out, but since dawn, I haven’t heard a single plane pass overhead, and we are on the downwind leg for our airport. Except for essential personnel, most businesses are closed (I’m ‘essential’, and I’m working a half day MWF.) We have also asked all tourists to consider visiting the islands some other time; as it is, if you come to Hawaii now, you can expect to see the resort where you are staying, and little else, because of a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all incoming people, tourists and residents alike..
Our sky traffic here (Louisville) is much reduced, but still running pretty steadily. Most likely because we are both a major UPS hub, and have a large Amazon fulfillment center.
Ever since this lot took power again, I wondered what their 9/11 would be. As I look up at the immaculate sky over Los Angeles for cryin’ out loud, I’m faintly grateful it’s this. You can’t create a vaccine against fallout.
Have been thinking the same thing. I just hope the weather in Seattle clears up soon enough to truly appreciate it (and, of course, I live close to an airport, so I’m seeing *some* activity; I’m just not getting buzzed anywhere near the way I used to.
This is the sky of my childhood. Not the night sky though. Far to much light polution.
I live directly under the approach to a major international airport, and I had to wait a whole lot longer than I expected to see a plane.
It was a bit disconcerting.
We’re still getting the occasional plane (under a flight path from a major international to a small regional) but I’m sure it’s predominantly commercial. Much lower volume than normal.
Blue Skies, as heard on the Star Trek: Picard finale. Sung by Isa Briones.