Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Friday: 17 October 2014

Orange Season  -  @ 10:26:16
Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the first day of regular firearms deer hunting season. It will last through January 1 in our area. Neither Glenn nor I hunt, but we don't have particular problems with the practice. Deer are simplifiers of ecosystems, and we have way too many, so good riddance.

I'll be wearing my (decreasingly bright, after so many washings) fluorescent orange vest when I venture out. I think it's actually illegal in some odd sense around here to fail to do so. Fortunately the weather has become cooler after so many days of unusually warm temperatures. I may need to invest in something lighter weight.

Those who have followed this blog know that we don't begrudge responsible hunters. We actually vacate twenty acres of our property to allow a hunting club to use it for those 2.5 months. It's a practical thing - the previous owner allowed it; it's a relatively narrow strip along Goulding Creek that I would feel reluctant to wander in anyway during hunting season; and it serves as a buffer to the larger portion of our property. Several years of cooperation have long since convinced us that the hunting club does a good job of keeping marauders out. As many years of policing trash after hunting season convinces me that there is none left behind.

Sunday: 12 October 2014

The Month of September  -  @ 09:37:12
It's The Month of September, Number 104 in a series. For us, the high humidity and temperatures beginning mid August were sustained through much of September. Thankfully, they seem to be winding down now. How about you?

Nationally:

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed are the mean temperature anomalies, not the absolute temperatures.

Click on the image for the high and low anomaly graphic on a new page:



Most of the West took a turn for the warmer, in September, so August's inland cooler temperatures didn't last long. The northeastern states, as well as much of the Southeast also warmed up a bit. At the same time, slightly cooler than normal temperatures prevailed in the northern 2/3 of the central US.

The minimum (nighttime) temperature anomalies were quite a bit warmer than the high daytime temperatures. This was nearly uniform across the country.

Precipitation: the closest I can find to the old familiar anomaly map is accessible from here. It's still much less flexible but at least looks a little more like a precipitation map should.



Precipitation anomalies took on two patterns: Much of the West, except for the southern half of California west, saw wetter weather, or at least not much drier than normal. Drier than normal weather extended in a broad swath from the South through New England, with eastern NC, SC, south GA and FL receiving slightly higher than normal amounts of rainfall.

For the Athens, GA area: it was hot and dry during most of September (and that is continuing into October). Again, rainfall was very scattered, delivering normal or higher than normal amounts some places, and much lower than normal amounts for locations just a few miles away.

Below is my usual daily rain/temperature plot visualizing the changes in temperatures and precipitation. The spiky lines are temperatures recorded roughly ten times a day, and the lighter blue columns are Wolfskin rainfall measurements. The black line is the 30-year average daily temperature, which is steadily moving upward as expected.



We went above 90F quite a few times in September, much more than last year. Only in the last quarter of the month did temperatures come close to normal. Still, overall, our high average of 83.8 was just a tiny bit lower than the normal high average of 84.0 degF. It was the average lows, about 3.6 degF higher than normal lows, that gave us a warmer than usual September.

We had 7 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (just a bit above the average of 4.7 such days). We had no nights with more than 1 SD below normal - warm days and warmer nights!

Precipitation out here in Wolfskin was extremely scattered, with our 30 square mile area receiving much less rain on several occasions than surrounding areas.

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from September 1948 on. The error bars are just plus/minus one standard deviation, which I arbitrarily set as the limits outside of which are "significantly" anomalous.



Only three brackets approached significance. For the high temperatures, we had a few extra days above 90, which seem to have been borrowed from the 80-89 degF bracket. Similarly, we had a few extra nights above 60, and these came out of the 50-60F range.

Below is the monthly accumulation of rain in Athens, GA. The river of peach is the long term standard deviation of all the daily black dots in the last 15 years, and the red line is the daily cumulative average. We're the green line this year, and for almost half the month it cradled that surplus of blue above the one standard deviation mark.



For the third month in a row, there was a peculiar disparity in rainfall between my location here in Wolfskin, and Athens, 15 miles away. We got substantially less rainfall out here than in Athens.

The differences in rainfall usually average out, but here in Wolfskin, with 1.18", we received much less than half the 4.82" of rain Athens did in September. Athens had two periods of rainfall that we did not receive, and ended up above the average 3.94" for September.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of October 11)?

As was predicted in early September,temperatures are going to remain hot in the West, especially for the next couple of weeks, then continuing warmer than usual over the next 3 months. The Pacific northwest even as far south as northern California will be wetter than usual over the next month, and then dry out, while points south in California have about a 50% chance of normal levels over the region, for that time period.

Much of the rest of the country is predicted to be much drier than normal over the next month, with equal chances of normal precipitation after that. Temperatures have a greater chance of being higher than normal in November and December over much of this area.

For us in the Southeast, we have somewhat higher chance of above normal rainfall in the next two weeks, with even chances through December.


ENSO stuff:

The folks at CPC have a version of PDF or HTML that is much different from their previous presentations, but at least it's there and the link isn't broken.

As of October 6, ENSO neutral conditions continue, but with above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The chances of an El Niño developing remain at 60-65% by the fall and winter. The planet has remained ENSO neutral now for 28 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must at this point have been in the 1990s.

You might recall that earlier there were thoughts that this might have been an unusual strong El Niño, but developments have continued to be sluggish.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for August is available.

Summarizing from what I see on the August (and Summer 2014) summary map: Record warmth continued in California, with drought impacting the entire state. Temperatures continued cool and wet in the Central US from the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest south. And Georgia had its 10th driest summer, overall.

Here is the final annual State of the Climate report for 2013 regionally, nationally, and globally. It's pretty US-centric, but there are comments for climate globally too.



Tuesday: 9 September 2014

The Month of August  -  @ 09:23:40
It's The Month of August, Number 103 in a series. For us, August marked the beginning of summer, sort of, after a June and July of milder temperatures. For the last five weeks (since I'm writing this in September) the temperatures have been hot, there hasn't been any rain, and the humidity has been high and gross. Misery!

Nationally:

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed are the mean temperature anomalies, not the absolute temperatures.

Click on the image for the high and low anomaly graphic on a new page:



The extremes of July gave way to some moderation for many regions in the US. The much colder than usual temperatures in the eastern 2/3 of the US only held for the northeast and north Great Lakes areas. Much of the South and Central US were somewhat warmer or at least neutral. Similarly, the Western states at least moderated from the scorching temperatures of July and in more inland states were actually cooler than normal.

Precipitation: the closest I can find to the old familiar anomaly map is accessible from here. It's still much less flexible but at least looks a little more like a precipitation map should.



Dry weather continued in the extreme West, covering much of California, and crept up the Oregon coast. There was considerable relief farther inland into the middle and upper West and Central US - ID, NV, MT, CO, UT, ND and SD all saw higher than normal amounts of rainfall.

Little of the South and Southeast could claim normal rainfall, with a large proportion of area receiving considerably less rainfall than normal in August.

For the Athens, GA area: it was hot and dry during most of August (and that is continuing into September). But it was also extremely variable for rainfall, with locations even a few miles apart recieving differences in rain of 1-2 inches.

Below is my usual daily rain/temperature plot visualizing the changes in temperatures and precipitation. The spiky lines are temperatures recorded roughly ten times a day, and the lighter blue columns are Wolfskin rainfall measurements. The black line is the 30-year average daily temperature, which is steadily moving upward as expected.



We went above 90F many times in August, much more than last year. We never broke 100F, though, so it was just a relentless, moderately high heat. Our high average was 1.3 degF above the normal average of 90.0F.

Still, here in the Athens area, we were somewhat below normal for the average temperature in August. The Athens area mean temperature during August was 1.4 degF below the average 80.7F. Athens matched a record low from 2012 on August 15, 62F, while out here we actually went below that by one degree. And those lower nighttime lows is why we ended up with slightly less than mean average temperatures for the month. Transparent nighttime atmosphere often comes with dry weather!

We had 7 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (just a bit above the average of 4.7 such days). We had 11 nights with temperatures more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows, well above the average of 4.2 nights.

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from August 1948 on. The error bars are just plus/minus one standard deviation, which I arbitrarily set as the limits outside of which are "significantly" anomalous.



Except for one slot in the ranges, none of our individual brackets were significantly different from the average, although two came close. The high temperature ranges show 21 days in August reaching 90F or above, compared to the normal 13 such days. Those extra days came largely from depleting the 80-89F range.

Below is the monthly accumulation of rain in Athens, GA. The river of peach is the long term standard deviation of all the daily black dots in the last 15 years, and the red line is the daily cumulative average. We're the green line this year, and for almost half the month it cradled that surplus of blue above the one standard deviation mark.



For the third month in a row, there was a peculiar disparity in rainfall between my location here in Wolfskin, and Athens, 15 miles away. In both cases we got substantially less rainfall out here than in Athens. It's substantial enough that even the natives are noticing it.

The differences in rainfall usually average out, but here in Wolfskin, with 0.78", we received only less than half the 1.89" of rain Athens did in August. And even Athens was just slightly above the lower one standard deviation mark from 3.53", the usual average for August.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of September 8 )?

Unfortunately temperatures are going to remain hot in the West, especially for the next couple of weeks, then continuing warmer than usual over the next 3 months. The Pacific Northwest will be drier than usual over the next three months, while points south in California have about a 50% chance of normal levels over the region, for that time period.

The Northern third of the country will be much below normal in rainfall over the next two weeks, except for New England. Much of the South will have a good chance of above normal rainfall.

Very roughly, for the next 6-10 days the chances of much cooler than normal temperatures are going to prevail for much of the Eastern US, beginning to moderate 2 weeks from now, and then run average to above average.

For us in the Southeast, we have somewhat higher chance of above normal rainfall in the next two weeks, with even chances through November.

One caveat I've noted with this prognostication - it seems to use historical trends, as well as an ENSO expectation, to predict. That may well be the reason for normal rainfall in California, as well as in our area, so if an El Niño doesn't develop, or isn't as strong, those predictions may fail.

ENSO stuff:

The folks at CPC have a version of PDF or HTML that is much different from their previous presentations, but at least it's there and the link isn't broken.

As of September 8, ENSO neutral conditions continue, but with above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The chances of an El Niño developing have now dropped to 60-65% by the fall and winter. The planet has remained ENSO neutral now for 27 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must at this point have been in the 1990s.

Earlier there were thoughts that this might have been an unusual strong El Niño, but developments have been sluggish. One thought is that the very warm sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic may have kept the trade winds going, rather than slowing or reversing as they do during a strong El Niño. At any rate, the warming central Pacific has not apparently communicated itself to the atmosphere yet, and that's a big part of the global weather changes.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for July is available.

Summarizing from what I see on the July summary map: Record warmth continued in the Pacific West, with now more than half of California in exceptional drought. Temperatures were cool in the Central US from the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest south. Minnesota and surroundings had large amounts of rain in July.

Here is the final annual State of the Climate report for 2013 regionally, nationally, and globally. It's pretty US-centric, but there are comments for climate globally too.

Monday: 25 August 2014

The Little Ones  -  @ 10:32:36
Almost all the box turtles I see are adults nearing or at the maximum adult size. Immature box turtles, say under five years old, are very secretive and difficult to find - you can imagine why this is: everything will eat a baby box turtle. But once a year or so I will find a very young adult that has become a little more confident of exposure.

Yesterday I found this little female just outside of the house area, burrowing into the litter next to a log. She was very active and not at all inclined to retreat into her shell.

It was quite a trial to get her measurements. She kept trying to climb out of the sock that I use to hold the turtles to get their weight on the hanging scale. She weighed 245 grams, just a little more than half the adult size. Looks to me like she has nine or ten well defined annular scute rings. This gets pretty close to the practical limit for estimating age by that simple method.



Perhaps one of the most interesting finds so far this season has been the much smaller male below. He weighs just 170 grams, but he's also the first immature that I've found twice. Last year, just two days shy of exactly one year ago, I found him industriously digging his way under litter in the fairy ring. He weighed 140 grams then, so he's gained about 20% body weight since. This year I found him 140 feet farther south, across a small gully and making his way atop the pine litter.

As is the tradition on the first rediscovery, I've named him.

Meet Biltmore. On the left is last year August 8; August 6 this year is on the right. He was disinclined to make merry.



I'll have more to say about Biltmore in a day or so.

(Long time readers will remember the very youngest turtles I found, in mid September 2009, after spending the summer guarding their nesting site. Here they are a day or so after hatching, and upon release, a few days later. And one more, exploring possibilities for identification. They averaged about 6.5 grams in weight.)

Saturday: 16 August 2014

Good News on Katherine  -  @ 08:14:49
Last Friday, August 8, I found Katherine the box turtle again, very close to her mapped centroid. This was the first time I'd seen her since June 14, when I noted what was thought in comments to be a large aural abscess on the left side of her head. It was large enough that she couldn't close up in her shell.



Below, the photo on left shows that her head looks fairly normal now - if there's still some swelling, it's barely apparent. She's now able to completely close up in her shell, right. Or at least as much as she can with the heavily damaged carapace.



Here is the turtle observation property map* with previous observations of Katherine. The lower arrow shows my June 14 discovery.



The upper arrow shows the northernmost corner of our property on Goulding Creek. It memorializes a July 6 discovery by next door neighbor Tom. The actual red dot should be about 300 feet farther up Goulding Creek, off the map here. Tom said her abscess was still obvious at that time.

So it's good to see that she seems to have recovered. Moreover, sometime in the three weeks since my original observation, she made a journey of at least 1100 feet from usual haunts down to Goulding Creek and upstream from our property. And then, of course, another 1100 feet back home sometime in the last 4-5 weeks. I didn't run across her in transit during those eight weeks, though I traversed the area in between many times.

I don't have many weight measurements on Katherine, but she weighed 460 grams last year, and the same when I found her with the abscess. Last Friday she weighed 420g, so she had lost about 10% of her weight in the last eight weeks. Those measurements are probably reliable, but the significance isn't clear. I noted July 27 that Sylvia had also lost the same amount of weight after I found her returned from her long journey, and she was apparently healthy. So Katherine's weight loss can't necessarily be attributed to her abscess.

*Here is the property map description originally posted at the first link, if things aren't clear:
I've been using Excel to construct simple maps that show some of the particulars of my box turtle encounters. The lines and points are derived from GPS readings. The map does not contain many geographical features, but does show the boundaries of the property, and particularly Goulding and SBS Creeks, as well as the "dry creek" that runs across the western 20 acres. You can fill in the rise of hills if you imagine a floodplain of variable width on either side of Goulding Creek, and hills rising with variable steepness on either side of all three creeks. The scale is approximate; each gridded box is roughly 6 acres, if you prefer.

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