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

Friday: 16 January 2015

Passing On the Sacred Clipboard  -  @ 10:45:02
It's been quite a while since I've mentioned Glenn's and my long time association with Wolfskin Volunteer Fire Department. For those who don't know, Glenn and I have been volunteer firefighters since 1992, with some time out in the 1990's.

In December 2009, I was elected Assistant Chief, after having already unofficially performed the duties for the previous nearly two years, and have had that position since. On December 4, we had our annual elections, and for the first time in six years there was a major change - I stepped down as Assistant Chief, in favor of Charleen Foott, who has been an active force for the last four years.

A bit of background: Our fire department, unlike most of the other thirteen VFDs in the county, is a 501(c)(3) organization. There are some rules, and so we have an organizational structure that reflects those. There are eight Board members - the president (chief) and vice president (assistant chief), Secretary, and Treasurer; and there are two Firefighter Representatives and two Community Representatives. Election night on the first Thursday in December is always a blast - three meetings to open and adjourn before we are done.

The first record of WVFD is from 1978, when a group of Wolfskin residents identified a need. Some residents lived 10-15 miles away from the nearest fire department. Somewhere between then and 1982 they built much of our station, although I've not been able to locate records of those years. From 1982, when minutes commence, until 2007, there was one training session a month, which means there were usually less than twelve a year. In December 2006, we elected a Chief who decided that we needed more training (duh!), and for the first time we had training every Thursday night, totaling three dozen or more training opportunities a year.

Last year we had 38 training meetings, and 32 fire calls, the most ever. You might think we should have fewer training meetings! But it's that sustained six years of training that I'm most proud of. Prior to 2007, people thought one training meeting a month was too much, and I was there during that time. We didn't know what the eff we were doing, much of the time.

I would never have been able to have sustained 30-40 training meetings a year without all those loyal firefighters who continued to come to training, week after week, rain or shine, very cold or sweltering hot, over the last six years.



The Assistant Chief has an odd position. In our department, he or she conducts the weekly training sessions, and keeps those records. Fire calls have to be recorded, and entered into the national registry NFIRS. Behind the scenes there can be the need to goad the Chief into action. Getting back equipment from usually newer firefighters who stopped coming to training or fire calls, for instance, is a particularly odious example.

But the Asst Chief is often the innovator of the new, so among other things I also set up the Wolfskin VFD Blog. After a time it wasn't so much of a blog as a homemade calendar of events combined with important current documents, but we'd never had such a thing before. I also added much current and historical information that I kept and dug up from records.

And the Asst Chief can also end up as a shaker in addition to a mover. I'd been thinking about stepping down for much of 2014, and so I did after some private conferences with our Chief and the candidate. The Chief was reluctant only because he didn't think we should change when things were going so well. I thought that was exactly the time to make a change. I seem to have prevailed here; I'm a strong Keynesian who who sees expenditures in bad years that are fortified by savings in good years as a no brainer.

And then at last November's business meeting I made the announcement and nominated another who I felt deserved the opportunity that I had enjoyed. Charleen Foott was elected unanimously, and I think she'll have as much fun (and frustration) as I did growing into the job.

I also nominated Glenn to take Charleen's place as one of the two Firefighter reps on the Board. Although others don't necessarily agree, it's long been Glenn's feeling that the Board should not have two members of a household on it, and I do agree with him on that.

For the first time since 2008 I'm just a grunt, with no vote as a member of the Board!

It's easy for a volunteer fire department, or volunteer anything, maybe just anything at all, to fall into a dozing state, carrying on conservatively day by day and year by year. Sure, we get the fire calls, and we always respond - that's not the lassitude I'm thinking of. But when you've accumulated a few excellent newer members and they don't have much new to do, then that's not right.

So it was that at our first 2015 business meeting last week, with great ceremony, I handed over to Charleen the Sacred Clipboard (the one with the Holy Pen Compartment, no pencils, it doesn't count if it's in pencil). I noted that as a progressive fire dept it was up to us to ignore the silver sharpie adjurement to not remove the Sacred Clipboard from the station, and therefore to remove it at all times. I think everyone had a good time.

Tuesday: 13 January 2015

The Month of December  -  @ 09:18:51
It's The Month of December, Number 107 in a series. For almost all of us in the US, it was quite warm for December.

It's also the end of The Year 2014, and Nature reports that 2014 was globally the hottest year on record. Unfortunately, the US as a whole experienced somewhat cooler than normal temperatures. I guess you know what this means, even while the US West and Alaska and the rest of the planet may fervently disagree.

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:



Another flip in December, from widespread cold in November. The vast majority of the country was warmer than usual for December, as much as 8F in the west. Not much more to say about that, except that the bulk of the anomaly is because of warmer low temperatures, rather than highs. That would usually suggest cloudy conditions predominate.

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.



It's hard to describe the precipitation patterns, with little in the way of widespread extremes. December rainfall was fairly normal in the West and Central US, as well as the Southeast and Northeast. A swath of somewhat drier conditions than normal extended from southwest Texas to the Great Lakes states, as well as south Florida. North Dakota showed probably the most extreme December dry anomaly.

For the Athens, GA area:

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 did have a period of a few days when temperatures were decidedly below average, and then another with cold temperatures at night coupled with warmer than usual temperatures during the day. A wet period during the last third of the month ended our semi-drought of the last six months.

So higher than normal temperatures prevailed in December. Our mean temperature for the month was 48.5 degF, about half a degree warmer than cold November, and 3 degF above the normal 45.4F. No records were broken.

We had 8 days that were more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (5.6 such days is normal for December). We had only 3 nights significantly below normal lows, well below the usual 4.3 such nights. All of this in balance supports the notion of a moderately warmer December for us.

As does the monthly histogram below, which shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from December 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.



Two temperature ranges of significance are shown for the highs - more days above 50F than usual, fed by fewer days below 50F. The lows in the right half don't show such an overwhelmingly significant deviation in any particular range, but the trend is definitely toward warmer lows.

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 25 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.



Normal rainfall for December in Athens is 3.73". This December Athens ended up with 4.69", and we in Wolfskin had a bit more rainfall at 5.09". We followed just at the low rainfall level for significant deficit, but in the last 10 days made up for that, pushing us above average.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of early January)?

Its temperature predictions for December were strikingly on target: it predicted much warmer than usual weather for almost all the US, with about equal chances of average temperatures for us in most of the Southeast. and that's pretty much what happened.

We in the south are supposed to get much warmer in January, but at nearly the midpoint that hasn't happened yet. For us it suggests a cooler than normal late winter and early spring, Feb-Mar. The West will continue warmer than usual for the next three months.

It did fairly well for precipitation predictions in December, and for us at least continues to suggest normal to wetter than normal conditions for Jan-Mar. This has certainly been true in January. It's been cold and wet for much of the first two weeks.


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 January 12, ENSO neutral conditions continue, and the probability of an El Niño developing have now dropped to 50-60% in the next two months, with ENSO-neutral conditions afterward. The planet has remained ENSO neutral now for 31 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must at this point have been the 50-month normal period of 1978-1981. And remember that the 1982-3 El Niño was one of the strongest on record.

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

It also notes that higher than normal temperatures prevailed for every state in the contiguous US. For the most part, snow cover has been very, although there were severe winter storms along the West coast. The drought footprint has now fallen to less than a third of the US. Alaska has had its second warmest December on record, and I saw yesterday that in 2014 temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska never dropped below 0 degF, an unprecedented record.

Here is the preliminary annual State of the Climate report for 2014 regionally, nationally, and globally. It's pretty US-centric, but there are comments for climate globally too.



Saturday: 6 December 2014

The Month of November  -  @ 17:06:24
It's The Month of November, Number 106 in a series. For many of us, it was quite chilly for November.

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:



Easy enough to describe: all but the southwest twenty percent of the country was colder than usual in November, with about half of that 5-7 degF colder. In many locations in the southwest, temperatures were above normal by nearly the same margin.

As has become quite common, the minimum (nighttime) temperature anomalies were quite a bit warmer than the high daytime anomalies.

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 patterns were similar in October and November, with a large swath from the Southwest to the middle North extending northeastward into Maine. Drier conditions increased somewhat in parts of the Southeast, but so did wetter conditions, in places. To a lesser extent, a similar trend was seen in the Eastern US, excepting the southern Appalachians.

For the Athens, GA area:

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 spent much of the month with high daily temperatures barely reaching just at or below the historical daily mean. We had only two periods of rain. The first occurred Nov 17, but that was after more than a month with no rain whatsoever. Unlike in September and October, these preciptiation events were much more evenly distributed over the region.

Higher than normal temperatures reversed in November. Our mean temperature for the month was 48.1 degF, more than 7 degF below the normal 55.3. This was the fourth lowest mean temperature since at least 1920 - only 1950, 1951, and 1976 showed a colder November mean.

We had only 1 day that was more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (5.1 such days is normal for November). That one day was 11/24, which matched the high record of 77F set in 1958.

In contrast, we had 10 nights with more than 1 SD below normal, compared to a normal 4.8 such nights. One of those nights, 11/19, matched the record low of 20F set in 2008 (out here it was actually 19F).

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from November 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.



None of the high temperature brackets reached into significance individually, but as a group they did show a decline in warmer days that showed up as an increase in cooler days of less than 60F.

The right half of the graphic shows a much greater significance in cooler nights, with warmer nights amounting to only 1/3 of the usual number. We had 21 nights showing cooler than normal temperatures below 40F.

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 25 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.



Normal rainfall for November in Athens is 3.82". This November Athens ended up with 3.04", and we in Wolfskin were just slightly greater at 3.11". Notice the two months with rainfall at 8" or more. Those were 1992 and 2004. High rainfalls like this are often the result of tropical storms, but an examination of hurricane data at Unisys says not for these two events.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of November 12)?

To start with, it did a fair job last month, predicting temperatures over November, in most of the country. For the Central US it was good with its prediction of drier than normal in November, but its prediction of wetter than normal for the Southeast did not come to pass.

Its temperature predictions for December are striking: it predicts much warmer than usual weather for almost all the US, with about equal chances of average temperatures for us in most of the Southeast. After that, Jan/Feb should be below normal for a lot of the South, Central, and Southeastern US. The West continues above normal over the next three months.

Precipitation predictions for December are for continued dry in the east and north, from MT eastward. The South and Southwest, though, will have much higher chances of above normal rainfall. This will continue through Jan/Feb, with equal to somewhat above normal rainfall chances appearing in the Southeast.

A cautionary note is that these predictions seem to weigh heavily on the thought that there will be an El Niño event this winter, however weakly it affects us.


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 December 1, ENSO neutral conditions continue, but with above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The chances of an El Niño developing have dropped to 58% during the winter. The planet has remained ENSO neutral now for 30 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must at this point have been the 50-month normal period of 1978-1981. And remember that the 1982-3 El Niño was one of the strongest on record.

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. I notice though, in the last couple of weeks, that there have been an increasing number of opinions that El Niño is finally making its effects known in the atmosphere (hence, California's recent rains).

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

Higher than normal temperatures over most of the US (and nearly worldwide, for that matter) are noted for October, as is an outbreak of 10 tornadoes in the Ohio Valley on Oct 7.

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.

Thursday: 13 November 2014

The Month of October  -  @ 10:06:18
It's The Month of October, Number 105 in a series. For us, it's been dry, dry, since mid July, with one blatant exception. 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 western half of the US intensified in the warm anomaly. Many locations were 5-8 degF above normal. While the Southeast maintained its slightly warmer than usual temperatures, other locations in the Midwest reversed the cooling trend, and the Northeast grew warmer than in September.

The minimum (nighttime) temperature anomalies were quite a bit warmer than the high daytime temperatures in the West, somewhat more so in the North and Northeast, and not much at all in the Southeast.

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.



A near reversal of precipitation fortunes occurred in many places in October. A large swath from the Southwest to the middle North turned from normal/surplus in September to much drier than usual in October. To a lesser extent, a similar trend was seen in the Eastern US, excepting the southern Appalachians.

For the Athens, GA area: it was warm and dry during most of October (and that is continuing into November). As in September, 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 had one good 2.10 inches rain in October - without that we'd have had only 0.45 inches. We've had no rain since, as I write here on Nov 13. We might get some rain on Sun/Mon, but long range forecasts indicate no more rain for at least a week after that.



We went above 80F quite a few times in October, with only a few days below normal temperatures. Only in the last few days of the month did temperatures come close to normal. Our high average of 77.3F was nearly 3 degrees higher than the normal high average of 74.4.

We had 11 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (considerably above the average of 4.5 such days). We had 4 nights with more than 1 SD below normal, hardly different from the normal 5.4 usually experienced in October. On balance, quite a few warmer days than usual.

Precipitation out here in Wolfskin was extremely scattered, with our 30 square mile area receiving much less rain on several occasions than surrounding areas. Except for that 2 inches of rain which was fairly uniform over a large area, our smaller area has been parched since mid July. It's been boring!

The monthly histogram below shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from October 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.



Two major brackets were above significance. We had quite a few days more than usual in the 80-89F range. These came out of the cooler days below 70F. In contrast, we didn't have any low temperature ranges outside of significance. Hot days and normal nights.

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 fourth month in a row, there was a peculiar disparity in rainfall between my location here in Wolfskin, and Athens, 15 miles away. While Athens got nearly normal rainfall, we had only 2.45 inches, and most of that came in one rainfall.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us (as of November 12)?

Much of the East is going to be much colder over the next two weeks, a prediction not made last September. For the next 2-3 months there are equal chances of normal temperatures in most of the eastern 2/3 of the country; in September warmer than normal temperatures were suggested for the remainder of the 3 month prediction.

The West looks like warmer than normal temperatures for the three month period, spreading into the northern tier of states after the first month.

The prognosticator is a little more consistent with its previous September predictions for precipitation. It looks like we in the Southeast, as well as those in the West north of central California, have a better than even chance of higher than normal precipitation. If so, it will be a welcome change for us. The Central US will continue dry for the next month or so.

A cautionary note is that these predictions seem to weigh heavily on the thought that there will be an El Niño event this winter, however weakly it affects us.


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 November 10, ENSO neutral conditions continue, but with above average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The chances of an El Niño developing have dropped to 58% by the fall and winter. The planet has remained ENSO neutral now for 29 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 September is available.

Persisting drought in the West, as well as abnormally dry in the Northeast and Southeast are noted. On the other hand, wet conditions in the Great Lakes region have been experienced, and an unusually early winter storm in the Northern Plains and Rockies occurred in September.

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.



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.

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