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

Sunday: 28 February 2010

Disruption of the Week  -  @ 07:08:10
Funny about those flies of yesterday.

After stealthily pursuing a couple of them on Friday, successfully, they were *everywhere* on Saturday. They seem to have exploded in population - they were alighting on me, on clothes hanging out to dry, on every surface.

It was a lot like love bugs in Florida. What are they eating? Or are they just mating and dying?

It's early yet, and we're certainly in the Crux Belt where winter weather changes at the drop of a hat, inspiring excitement and panic just like you see here! But at the moment snow is predicted to fall much of the day on Tuesday. The weather analysts come out in an effort to predict how area employers respond - particularly UGA. With snow starting later in the morning on Tuesday, I'd tentatively predict a late close. Then with mixed precipitation in the afternoon and freezing temperatures Tuesday night, I'd predict a Wednesday closure, with the caveat of the possibility of a rare late opening.

How all that affects those of us who start work in the late afternoons and finish up after 10pm I don't know!

Saturday: 27 February 2010

New Fly  -  @ 06:44:49
Cold weather is back, although it is ameliorating somewhat now. NOAA's prognosticator tells us that March runs a good chance of being both colder and wetter than normal here. Our rain this month stands at 4.48", which is just about normal (4.39"). That's the first month since September that we have not run ridiculously higher than normal.

I can walk two miles and not see anything, and then sit down on the back stoop reading. A fly comes along, a charismatic bold fly.

That's what happened, yesterday. Actually I've noticed these flies over the past week, and even made some bad early photos, so I had my eye out for another opportunity.

Visually and structurally the fly matches up with the dance flies of the genus Empis and may be E. spectabilis. The dates for a lot of the images at that Bugguide link are also for early to mid spring. Members of the genus are found just about everywhere in North America, but there are surprisingly few photos at Bugguide.

The hemispheric eyes, the hump on the back, and the long proboscis are features that point to this group. The striping on the hump matches, and so does the robust, full abdomen. Apparently they're predators, and sometimes mistaken for robber flies.

I'm quite taken with the unusual "turtleneck" feature that wraps up about a third of the back of the eyes. It adds a sinister aura. The long proboscis is visible in the photo below. The white bulbs under the wings are the halteres, the remnants of the other pair of wings that flies lack.

Thursday: 25 February 2010

On Tap for Today  -  @ 06:11:16
We have a Class 5 day today, in more than one sense. In the literal sense, that means a high risk of wildland fire today, tomorrow, and Saturday, at least. The important parameters are dry surface litter, relative humidities lower than 25%, and strong gusty winds. Temperatures, which today won't rise above 50 degF, aren't all that important.

It might be surprising that winter would be our season for fire weather. But we can have a rain one day, and with a front moving through, things can dry up very quickly. In the spring and summer, actively transpiring plants full of water are hard to burn, impose a formidable buffer that slows down wind, and create a high humidity microenvironment that makes fire sluggish. In the winter everything gets dry, the wind blows unimpeded right down to the ground, and there isn't any way for local humidity to build up.

So I'll probably stick close to the house, rather than take a long walk. A long walk takes me up to half a mile away from the house if I go all the way to the west end, and that means a fifteen or twenty minute fast walk back if there's a call. Over a couple of steep rises and falls. I mentioned yesterday that I felt like a walking communications center - cell phone, pager, and radio stuffed into pockets and clipped onto various pieces of clothing. The pager is the initial alert from Central/911, plus any further updates. The handheld radio is tuned to our local Wolfskin Ch3 whereby we set up operations immediately with any close enough to hear, and the cell phone is in case I get treed by coyotes or raccoons somewhere ; - )  .

However, it's a good day to stick around the house. I think I'm going to warm up C-SPAN at 9:45am EST and celebrate my freedom from the vagaries of the commercial networks by witnessing live coverage of the health care summit. If last month's President's Question Period in the den of lions is any indication, it could be a very interesting six hours' visit to Blair House.

As a progressive I expect to be disappointed by whatever results, but I'm fine with sunshine when it beams in on the reasons for why I'm going to be disappointed. Maybe I'll even try a little live blogging, fire weather permitting.

Wednesday: 24 February 2010

Twenty Months Later  -  @ 07:00:34
Although our nighttime temperatures are plummeting quickly into the mid twenties, the daytime temperatures have been warming up into the fifties. Shedding of various coverings as morning progresses, and donning as the sun sets, is the rule in the last few days. Today we'll get rain, which is always nice, and cooler temperatures, but the warming is inevitable.

My usual daily efforts at a brisk walk to the west end and back mean that I either close up the house with the cats inside, or I distract them with their 2pm lunch while I sneak out. There's only one reason to do that, and that's Gene. If he's outside, he'll follow me, and that short circuits any two-mile walk. Those who have been following things over the last five years or so know that I have quite an obsession about Gene, though I don't promote it very often.

Yesterday I got ready, with cell phone in pocket, pager at hip and radio in the back, camera in front. My accessories require a vest with lots of pockets now - I have to have my reading glasses too. I feel like I'm a walking communications center.

As usual, I put the food in the bowls. I left Gene eating inside, quietly shut the front door, and quickly took off. I got down to Goulding Creek and was looking at the washed up gravel when I heard the first plaintive calls. Yes, there he is, really, in the smack center of the floodplain, though you have to look really close. How does he do it? Why does he do it? He's been doing this for years now, if I don't Take Steps. He had to make a decision to abandon lunch, something he's normally very unlikely to do, run back through the house and out the cat door, circle back around and then over a considerable distance up and over a large hill, and then down to the floodplain. This isn't the first time - the first time he did this was when he was a six month old kitten. I've evolved this routine specifically to thwart these results.

Well, ok, I didn't have firm plans to go very far from the house anyway, for several reasons. Gene's willing to walk an impressive distance, but not the distance I will normally travel. And he was so delighted to have tracked me down that it was hard not to feel pleased at his prowess.

We had a good time - we always do once I bow to the inevitable. With the constant chatter, and he's always talking, there is no real possibility of sneaking up on anything dramatic, no matter how quietly I move about, not with Gene around. It's a completely different atmosphere.

It was early summer, in 2008 that I reported the final demise of our only shagbark hickory, a large and handsome tree that grew among an impressive rock outcrop that jutted out of the bank of SBS Creek. The tree had been suffering a fungal infection that was evident during warm moist periods and though it continued to put out a healthy growth of leaves right up to the end, its inevitable future was just a matter of time.

At that time, well into the warm season, the extent of the treefall wasn't so obvious.

Now, in winter, it's much clearer. Or not, perhaps, since in the twenty months the tips are largely recycled, and even a lot of the larger branches are broken off and on the ground. Unlike with other treefalls that involve otherwise healthy trees, the process of fungal processing had begun long before the actual treefall. This one will still be around in some form for awhile, but not for the decades that other treefalls have.

You'll note the cat. Anyone who has cats knows that the most favored route from point A to point B involves touching the ground as seldom as possible.

Tuesday: 23 February 2010

Procyonids at Play  -  @ 07:02:47

Yesterday was cloudy and of neutral temperature after the brief but exciting first thunderstorm, when I took a long walk. I was standing on the bank of Goulding Creek when I was startled by the motion of two raccoons chasing each other down the creek toward me.

They were pretty oblivious until they had nearly reached me. Then the one in front saw me first, came to a halt, and the less observant one behind ran into and knocked the first one into the water.

Good swimmers! The second one hid under the bank, but the first one swam a ways downstream, then crossed to the other side and scampered off into the woods.

Raccoons are quite common around here. Their tracks litter the sandy areas of the banks around both creeks, and we occasionally see one skulking up at the house. I happened upon two sleeping in a tree one morning last March, which itself was rather unusual. And the wildlife cam occasionally catches one. But this was a little different.

Monday: 22 February 2010

Early Spring Signatures  -  @ 05:58:46
Most immediately, like right now at 6AM, we're having our first thunderstorm of the year - El Niño driven, I say. We can expect a lot more of these intense storms during the next couple of months. This one wasn't all that intense but it is definitely significant.

I've kept a sloppy sort of track of this clump of what I guess would be called mongrel heritage daffodils. Someone planted them a long time ago - probably in the 1920-1940 period. In 2005 they were flowering enthusiastically on Feb 10. In 2006, Mar 2, and on Jan 12 2007. They're just getting started now, Feb 21, which is a sort of testament to the cold winter we've had.

Last year was the first year I noted these hazel (or smooth) alders (Alnus serrulata) in flower along Goulding Creek West on Feb 17 2009. At that time they were somewhat further along than these yesterday, judging by the length of the catkins.

Still, that's not much of a difference in flowering time - certainly not the month-plus difference seen in last year's and this year's model daffodils. Perhaps the alders are primarily motivated by day length changes and relatively unmoved by temperatures, whereas the reverse is true for daffodils.

I noted these little mounds on the muddy bed of SBS Creek, just above the big northern oak treefall of several years ago. They are under about three inches of slow surface flow here. I suppose they're some kind of wormy larvally thing that have spewed out the differently colored sub surface onto the redder fines that are lining the creek bed right now.

And I continue to see beaver sign. Across Goulding, just downstream from the area I indicated as having the highest activity in early January was evidence of their greatest engineering feat so far. Perhaps something interrupted someone's efforts on this fairly large sweetgum.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking along the creek and there was another *person* walking through the woods on the other side. I was pretty sure who it was and hailed him with a good morning, and indeed it was our wildlife biologist Jeff from Black Snake Road. We had a neighborly twenty minute chat about beavers across the creek - he on one side and me on the other. That is, in fact, the first time I've ever run into someone else puttering along Goulding Creek.

As our other neighbors had indicated, there have always been beavers somewhere along Goulding Creek. But he has noticed a decline in the incidence of detecting them. He noted that hunting and expelling beavers is not really much of an impediment anymore and speculated on the bacterium that causes tularemia as a possible disease explanation. If you know of tularemia, it's probably as rabbit fever, and it does affect rodents, which beavers are. But it has a pretty wide host range and is also dangerous to humans. I see that ticks and deer flies are vectors for the bacterium, and we certainly have those too.

From the above Wikipedia link (ugh, forget Lyme disease!):The incubation period for tularemia is 1 to 14 days; most human infections become apparent after 3 to 5 days.[12] In most susceptible mammals, the clinical signs include fever, lethargy, anorexia, signs of septicemia, and possibly death. Animals rarely develop the skin lesions seen in people. Subclinical infections are common and animals often develop specific antibodies to the organism. Fever is moderate or very high and tularemia bacillus can be isolated from blood cultures at this stage. Face and eyes redden and become inflamed. Inflammation spreads to the lymph nodes, which enlarge and may suppurate (mimicking bubonic plague). Lymph node involvement is accompanied by a high fever. Death occurs in less than 1% if therapy is initiated promptly.


The course of disease involves spread of the organism to multiple organ systems, including the lungs, liver, spleen, and lymphatic system. The course of disease is similar regardless of the route of exposure. Mortality in untreated (pre-antibiotic-era) patients has been as high as 50% in the pneumoniac and typhoidal forms of the disease, which however account for less than 10% of cases.[13] Overall mortality was 7% for untreated cases, and the disease responds well to antibiotics with a fatality rate of about 1%. The exact cause of death is unclear, but it is thought to be a combination of multiple organ system failures.

Suppurating lymph nodes that resemble bubonic plague are definitely not my thing.

Thursday: 18 February 2010

A Few Wrapups  -  @ 08:56:17
It's been cold and windy the last few days, with mean temperatures in the 30s, so I've generally been an indoors person. A couple of wrapups:

Back when it was warm, I did get a considerably better photo of the "cute flies," aka skipper fly, Prochyliza xanthostoma. It could still be one other species, but if so would have to be a male - the females don't have the boldly jutting antennae. You'll recall that these flies were common on warm days around the deer carcass.

Second up, the orange blob revealed. Heather, in comments here, provided a link to an entry at MushroomObserver. The discussion took place a week or so after my original orange blog observation last March.

One mycologist refers to it as "deer vomit fungus." Not ever having seen such, I can't comment on the resemblance, but the actual fungus is Fusarium merismoides. No one has mentioned the white structures evident at the top of the photos at MushroomObserver, or that I commented on as being "stinkhorn-like" last March.

However, the family for this Fusarium is Tuberculariaceae. While I imagine the "tubercule" aspect refers to microscopic structures, it's certain evocative of those tubular white structures.

Finally, Tuesday night was the monthly Oglethorpe County Firefighters Association meeting, and awards were given out to the firefighters of the year.

It's a very cool plaque. I particularly like our logo, which has accompanied us everywhere we go. It was almost exactly two years ago that we considered a range of alternatives. I'm glad we continued with the old one, broken back leg and all.

Monday: 15 February 2010

Tiny Tragedy  -  @ 06:46:10

One of those times when I should have done a little more work with a little discovery. I looked down in the litter at the top of the ridge and there it was.

I'm assuming it's a shrew, which I would normally recognize without difficulty. At this odd angle, someone more familiar with mammals than I will have to make that identification!

I didn't notice until I looked at the photo, but there appear to be four wounds in the fur. Accidently dropped by a raptor?

Sunday: 14 February 2010

Once a Year  -  @ 09:19:24
This is my once a year indulgence, very photo heavy but individually they're not too big, and I use size attributes so my charming prattle entertains you while you wait. Friday's snowfall has melted in southerly exposed places now, but it appears that another system is on its way. This time the moisture is coming from the northwest instead of from the south - a completely different thing. Looks like it will arrive in the wee hours Monday morning, which will cancel Monday here.

The good news is that we've had our snowfall for the year and so even if it happens, we won't have to endure this kind of extravagant indulgence for at least another year. That's what I say now.

Each photo links to a stereo image - how could I resist when shadows and depth has been so enhanced by snowfall? Click photo for crossed eyes stereo images (opens in new page). (Instructions for Viewing).

My walk on Saturday morning took me up the ridge first, instead of along Goulding Creek. On the other side of the ridge we have the road to Grandmother's house. The road actually deposits us at its far end onto the first deck area.

And here at the top of that first deck we see the road from the first photo. I watched for tracks, and actually saw some, but the snow really wasn't right for that. I did see a lot of rabbit, which is a new piece of information - we seldom see rabbits but there must be a good many of them.

Walking downwards to the right, you have to climb a very steep (35 degree) hill a coupla hundred feet to reach the second deck, here.

I descended on the other side to Occasional Puddle, which is still there! No chorus frogs though.

A little farther west and we're at Goulding Creek. The next three photos catalog that walk along just about a half mile of creek.

Here's another Occasional Puddle - a little more Infrequent than the other one. The thin stalks would be the remnants of crownbeard from last summer.

The last two photos here are walking back up to the house along SBS Creek. It undergoes several tortuous turns along this section, and they looked full of three dimensionality.

Saturday: 13 February 2010

Curious  -  @ 12:34:03
Macon is south of here, by about 80 miles. There was this odd record report, the only record given, which persists since last night:

... Record daily maximum snowfall set at Macon...

A record snowfall of trace was set at Macon today. This breaks the
old record of 0 set in 2002.

I wonder what happened in 2003-2009? Not to neglect, of course, that everywhere else got four to eight inches?

Snow Sifts  -  @ 11:37:35
The ground snow cover may not show the best indicators of the depth of the snow - I was under quite a canopy so the ground didn't show the cover that more exposed places showed. That's because a lot of the snow was all up in the canopy. And it's ready to come down.

The temperature was still below freezing during my long walk to the west end and back along Goulding Creek, and there was the occasional breeze. Here's what a nice, fine dry snow can do for you!

You might think these photos were taken in the fog, but except on occasion the air was perfectly clear. The occasions were when the snow dropped from the trees, and I managed to get a few memories.

Now, an hour after returning, the temperature and direct sunlight have caused a degree of melting that the snow is dropping from the branches in ungainly clumps. But during the walk earlier, it was still in the 20s, and granular enough to sift down in huge clouds, especially from the pines.

First Results  -  @ 08:00:23

Here's an initial report on the snowfall yesterday afternoon and evening. I'll be going out to see how things look, in a little while.

The snow began around 2:30pm, and ended just before midnight. We had an hour with 2 inches delivered, but otherwise it was fairly light.

Our total snow depth was 4.0 inches, which melted to 0.35 inches liquid water.

This is in contrast to the snowfall of last March 1, which gave us a depth of 3.2 inches snow, and 1.05 inches melted liquid water. That snowfall was more than three times as dense as this one, and much wetter, although last year's appeared to be less in depth.

This snowfall also coated the branches of the trees much more thickly, although it's so lightly packed that it doesn't add a huge amount of weight. There was very little wind this time around, so perhaps that's the explanation. Temperatures during the two events? Not so much difference. It's now 24 degF, but sunny and will rise to around 40 today.

Overnight, there were at least a half dozen vehicle accidents to which first responders, rescue, and various fire departments were called, beginning in the early evening. Poor Beaverdam had to go out at least twice to rescue the foolish. Wolfskinians seem to be much more sensible and did not go out driving, consequently we could enjoy the snow and drink wine.

Friday: 12 February 2010

The Snow It Goes  -  @ 15:59:39

Started around 2:20pm and coming down nicely. Looks like on into the night, too.

Back of the Envelope  -  @ 06:17:04
The word "cipher" has a number of meanings, stemming from the an old English word for zero. One now rare meaning is to solve arithmetic problems, as in "I'm purty good at cipherin'." This used to be an admired skill; now it's something that doesn't show up on most radar screens unless it's to be held in contempt. I've always gotten a kick out of it, and where it might lead me, and I engage in it frequently. Most of the time I do it shamedly at night, in secret, but not today!

Pity the poor American students, as well as the international students at American universities, who must take a physics or chemistry course and, in the early introductory weeks, grapple with English (or imperial) and metric units. The Americans at least have an advantage knowing the bizarre English to English conversions - 4 quarts per gallon, 5280 feet per mile, 2 pints per quart, while the international students have to learn that as well. Actually, I've run into American students who do not know just the conversions I cited. Pity more, then, the instructor who has to shepherd them all through this.

American students are in principle exposed to this sort of thing at least twice in elementary and secondary schools, but you'll find they are largely tabulae rasae during the first month in general chemistry. They despair at thinking they must memorize all the conversion numbers between English and metric, but actually they only have to know three.

For volumes, 1.056 quarts is 1 liter. For length, 2.54 centimeters is 1 inch. And for mass, 454 grams is 1 pound. That will get you anywhere you want, provided you know those arcane English to English conversions (the intermetric conversions are easy, which is why we here in the US should be using them exclusively).

And fortunately there's an elegant little helper called dimensional analysis that generally goes unappreciated but is unsurpassed in getting them through a complicated conversion. Dimensional analysis is a piss elegant term - I tend to call them chain calculations, since you're chaining one set of units into another until you've made the conversion. The units guide you as you plug away - you really don't even have to understand what you're doing.

In the first month, students are asked to do all sorts of odd calculations - practical things, like: how many light years a mole of stacked CD-ROMs of such and such a thickness in inches will extend into space; how many matchboxes of such and such dimensions, in inches, will be required to fill a rectangular stadium of such and such dimension, in yards; or what is the thickness in millimeters of a coat of a gallon of paint spread over a 10 foot by 20 foot wall - those sorts of things. How thickly, in millimeters, all the gold in the ocean could layer the state of Georgia. It's a rite of passage that ought to carry a political message: deplore the conservative bias against the metric system.

Last week, after our 3 inch rainfall, I decided it would be interesting to present a problem in calculating total amounts of rainfall, and since we're also dealing with heat transfer, amounts of heat generated upon condensation of that rain.

So: how many gallons of rain fell last week, when 3 inches fell over (coincidentally) 59 acres?

Our goal is gallons, way on the right, and we start with surface area in acres, on the left. Even I have to look up the conversion of acreage to square feet, but from then on you just divide by the unit that will get rid of the previous one, and multiply on top by the unit you want to replace it with. It takes a little practice to get the strategy, but eventually everyone is merrily cancelling out units until they arrive at the right answer.

In case you can't see it, 3 inches of rainfall over our 59 acres amounted to 4.8 million gallons of water. Since the formatting of this dimensional analysis into a presentable image is a nightmare to construct, I'll just tell you that that is about 20,000 tons of water.

Now for the heat calculations. Here we get into "latent heat," which is a fascinating concept. If you stick a thermometer into a pan of boiling water, you'll prove that the temperature never exceeds 100 degC (or in this country, 212 degF) until all the water is gone. That's because all the energy the stove is putting into the water is being used to disrupt those liquid attractions that hold the liquid water captive as a mundane liquid. Only after those attractions are broken can the water escape as steam. None of that heat is being used to make the liquid molecules move faster, and so the temperature doesn't increase in the liquid. Latent, or hidden heat, is what makes you cold when you step out of a shower, it's why Florida citrus growers spray water on their orange trees during a freeze, and it's what drives a hurricane.

So 20,000 tons of water vapor turned into liquid over our 59 acres. That released heat into the atmosphere, and we know that every gram of water that condensed released 2256 joules of heat. Our 20,000 tons of water released 41 trillion joules of heat when it condensed into rain.

How much heat is this? 41 trillion seems like a pretty big number. Or is a joule just really tiny? Actually, a joule is fairly tiny - it's the amount of energy emitted by your 1-watt nightlight in one second.

Lead seems like a good pick. It takes about 0.13 joules to heat up a gram of lead 1 degC. Lead melts at 328 degC. It takes 24.5 joules melt a gram of solid lead at its melting point. Add it all up and do the conversions.

If we could by some unproven technology somehow gather and focus all that 41 trillion joules of heat that was released by the water vapor that condensed over Sparkleberry Springs last week, we could heat up and melt about 711,000 tons of lead.

Wow! Lead is ridiculously easy to melt, but that's pretty neat. It seems like a lot of heat, but now let's figure out how hot the air over Sparkleberry Springs got when the heat was released. Let's confine it to the layer of air over that 59 acres, to about a thousand feet high. That turns out to be about 65 thousand tons of air. It takes about 1.6 joules to heat a gram of air by 1 degC, so it takes about 92 billion joules to heat this much air 1 degC.

Since we have 41 trillion joules released, we ought to be heating up that volume of air by 440 degC!!! Obviously this can't be the case, since if it were, we'd not only be wet during a rainfall, we'd be fried.

And that's where calculations of this sort have value - they expose your ignorance.

The first thing is that all that heat wasn't released in an instant - it was released over a period of (in this case) 13 hours. You're not going to get flash burns from that.

The second thing is that the rainfall didn't wring the clouds dry of water - only a tiny portion of the water vapor that was there actually fell as rain. Another calculation shows that about 94% of the moisture was still up there. That 20,000 tons that fell was only about 6% of the vapor and tiny droplets that didn't fall. And all that is capable of absorbing heat.

And the third thing is that heat rises, so our assumption of a thousand-foot height of atmosphere is sort of silly. The vast majority of the heat was released over a period of time, it heated up a lot greater than the volume we assumed, and it was absorbed by a huge amount of both liquid and water vapor that never fell as rain.

*I seem to have been rewarded for my efforts already - we're going to get snow today and tonight!

Wednesday: 10 February 2010

Jellies  -  @ 07:50:52
Other than for mammals and birds, this is the time of year for small things around here. Even then the assortment of fungi is sort of limited to the obscure forms - parchments, slimes, and jellies.

Here are two jellies we've seen before, but worth looking at again. They were fairly abundant on the day of the flood last week, although temperatures were in the low 40s.

This nice jelly fungus was popping up on hardwood debris frequently. As before, Dec 2006 I wasn't able to settle on whether it was Tremella foliacea or Exidia recisa but in any case they're usually referred to commonly as some version of jelly roll, jelly leaf, or witches' butter, coupled usually with some color attribute.

Mushroom Observer, a sort of bugguide for the fungi, has an interesting approach - offering multiple observations of best guess identifications, along with a visual key to get you there. There is a lot of variation in these species, e.g., T. folicacea, in color and form, from place to place and even season to season.

One thing I always look at this time of year is the time of year that these things are supposed to appear, and I almost always then ignore it. Neither of the two possibilities above are said, in most cases, to appear outside of late spring through autumn. But as the observations at Mushroomobserver indicate, quite a few photos were taken in December, January, and February.

The field guides are firm on this one, though - it appears all year around. It's a fairly easy one - (yellow) witches' butter, Tremella mesenterica, and one of my favorites (observed then 9 March 2008 ). As you can see from that page, Mushroomobserver also offers uncertainties for lookalike species, in this case T. aurantia and Dacrymyces palmatus (orange jelly).

I enjoy running into the jellies, but I'm not ever likely to be an expert on them, other than realizing that my identifications will always be tentative.

Tuesday: 9 February 2010

A Creek By Any Other Name  -  @ 08:14:36
I was reflecting on the name "Goulding Creek," which derives (or so I hear) from Militia Captain Daniel Goulding in the late 1700s-early 1800s. That's fairly venerable, not so much as The Thames, perhaps, but not bad for a little waterway in the New World. Of course I don't know *when* it was named Goulding - for all I know the name was bestowed fifty years ago by a little old Oglethorpe County history buff (Miss Florrie Carter Smith, perhaps).

There are at least 32 named creeks in Oglethorpe County, which is bounded on the north by the fairly significant but blandly named Broad River, and partially on the west by the Oconee River, which name is connected with a late 18th century war that took place around here. And nipped in the bud, a coupla hundred years ago, was a nascent independent state - the Trans-Oconee Republic.

It struck me that bodies of water (as well as mountains, but we don't have any (except Big Mountain, which isn't) in the county) can either have names that hold keys to historical information, or don't. So I went through the list, after I made it.

Here are some names that seem to me to be more evocative and unique than others. Besides Goulding Creek we have:

Sulphur Springs Branch
Big Clouds and Little Clouds Creek (Clouds could be a surname, too)
Mule Br (perhaps a little common)
Kegles Cr, Saxton Cr, Macks Cr, Barrow Cr, Milner Br - all surnames I either know or suspect. Barrow is an old family name around here and in Clarke County - John Barrow is a US Rep.
Troublesome Cr (nice!), and Syla Fork and Raiden Cr (these smite me with curiosity)

Now, the other extreme. Here are some that must appear thousands of times all over the country. What can you do with names that appear to be given by a child (not that there's anything wrong with that, other than there are a lot of children with perhaps limited imagination)?

Long Branch, Mill Creek, Millstone Cr. Yawn.
Goosepond Cr and Beaverdam Cr. These are also districts within the county. Goosepond is not really all that bad.
Long Creek and Big Creek. If there is a thesis here, Long Creek and Big Creek is it.
Moss Cr, Falling Cr, Fishing Cr and Sandy Cr. Moss could easily be a surname, of course (but then so could anything).

Here are some middling names that don't strike me as either common or particularly unique:
Hawks Creek
Grove Cr
Dry Fork Cr (redundant?) and North Fork
Indian Cr and Little Indian Cr (probably belong in the common category)
Buffalo Cr (no buffalo around here, ever?, so maybe more imaginative than I give credit for! Oops, I stand corrected thanks to Miss Florrie Carter Smith.)

Take a look at a map of your county, or region around where you live. Are there any particularly interesting names?

Monday: 8 February 2010

Presentations  -  @ 07:31:24
Our old friend the orange blob is back, leaner and shockingly meaner than last March 25. It's moved closer to home, and looks to be meant more for halloween. This time it's on a black walnut, and no, I never figured out what it was though I did speculate at that time. This was actually taken two weeks ago, Jan 25, during a warm period.

Yesterday was clear and sunny in the mid morning, and the slanting sun accentuated the three dimensional quality of the water and banks along Goulding Creek. So naturally I thought of -yes- stereo pairs! I suppose the flat images are fine (and document the creek levels 42 hours after the peak) but the last two, at least, are stellar as 3D. Click photo for crossed eye stereo images (opens in new page). (Instructions for Viewing)

Not bad, with the shadows of the trees curving up over a fine sand bed replenished by Friday's flood. It's true that the waters are muddy, but this is always the case for a few days after a flood. And it is characteristic of southern creeks and rivers, but after that first few days the water clears nicely.

A little farther down, a nice curvature where the shadows show the effect of the bending of the creek. High banks on the outer side of the bends, with beach deposited on the inner side.

I've pointed out this little pool before, last time a year ago, and it's still there after several big floods. I have no idea how it would continue to persist. There is a lot of depth to the stereo image for this shot both in the vertical and in the horizontal from foreground to background as the creek winds away.

Saturday: 6 February 2010

Water Water Everywhere  -  @ 09:34:50
The snow folks are getting to our north started out like this for us, early Friday morning. Temperatures remained a few degrees above freezing, so water did not achieve a crystalline state here.

Since Friday midnight, we've had 2.94 inches of rain, which along with the rain a few days ago puts us within an inch of normal for the month already. The rain wasn't heavy, but it was relentless for thirteen hours. Athens reported a record rainfall for the date. Lots of occasional puddles, so let's take a look.

The large gully southwest of the house always fascinates me. The drop in this photo is about eight feet.

Stereo Saturday. We haven't done this in a while. Click photo for crosseyed stereo images (opens in new page). (Instructions for Viewing)

Temperatures were around 38 degF during the rain, yesterday. It was quite misty and dark around 3pm.

This stereo image has a bit of a problem in the foreground where the water is moving differently between the images in the pair. It's actually the same fall as viewed in the first photo above, but from the top of the gully looking down. It's hard to tell from the flat photo but (again) the drop is about eight feet.

Below, I've stepped back from the brink a bit to get a wider view of the gully at its head. This is a very satisfactory stereo pair. Even the tree at foreground left comes into focus, and at upper right the continuation of the gully to its conclusion at SBS Creek can just be seen.

The water draining from farther uphill accumulates in puddles awaiting the drop into the gully at center right. This is another very satisfactory stereo pair.

One thing you'll notice in the image above is that the litter has been washed into piles, leaving the underlying surface bare. We've seen a lot of this in the last few months! It's especially evident in the stereo pair below.

We couldn't leave without the requisite photo of Goulding Creek. It didn't go over the upper banks but certainly submerged the lower shelves and undoubtedly rearranged the creek bed a bit. We'll see as the creek goes down.

This is yet another look upstream at the creek from this angle. We've seen it from here during drought and flood, in snow, and in winter and full spring growth.

We're looking downstream at the same point in the creek.

Farther downstream the creek has come close to the level of the bank. About four feet below the surface is what is usually a sandy beach that extends out several feet from the bottom of the bank.

Remember that normally Goulding is only a few feet wide and averages only a foot or so deep.

Monday: 1 February 2010

The Month of January  -  @ 07:35:01
It's The Month of January, Number 48 in a series. The word for January here was *cold*. What's your word for January?

This time, they're hiding the usual temperature anomalies product here, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Below is the difference in the average temperature for this January above or below the average for January over many years, plotted in colors.

In December, just about everywhere was cooler than usual, except the extreme northeast, portions of the southwest and northern midwest, and the Florida peninsula. In January the picture takes on a more typical El Niño pattern, with much warmer than usual temperatures west and north, and very cold temperatures from the central midwest southward. Florida, as you'll recall, had damagingly cold temperatures.

We find the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center's precipitation plots here these days.

As in December, there was a lot of precipitation in numerous locations. The Atlantic and Gulf states received at least normal precipitation. The Rockies and southern California received more precipitation than usual, with even more precipitation extending eastward across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Some dry areas are noteworthy in the central part of the country as well as south of the Great Lakes, and then that curious little area centered over Louisiana.

For Athens:

For Athens, cold temperatures prevailed, and for the fifth month in a row we were remarkably wetter than usual. Although El Niño winter temperatures can vary, this is classic. Over the next month we can expect severe storms on occasion.

Here is my plot of low temperatures for the month of January in Athens. (It seemed appropriate to present low temperatures this time.) As usual, the black dots are for the 18 years 1990-2007 (black dots), 2010 (green line), and 2009 (red line).

We broke no records, although nightly temperatures during the first half of January were remarkably cold. We had a warm break halfway through January, and then more or less normal winterish temperatures.

We had 5 days of high temperatures that were at least one standard deviation higher than average, and the usual number of such days is 5.3. But we had 13 nights below the standard deviation for our usual lows, compared to 4.6 such nights, and that's worth mentioning. More, we had a longer consecutive series of very cold days and nights (for us) than in quite a long time.

In January we had a continuation of the rains that have fallen since September 2009. This has been discussed here, so I won't belabor it except to say that we continue our exceptionally wet period of the autumn and winter.

The figure below shows the Athens data which are official for our area. As usual the green line shows our actual rainfall, the red shows the average accumulation expected. The black dots are rainfall over the last 19 years, the vast river of peach shows the standard deviation.

Even though the first half of the month was dry, things picked up in the latter half. The blue emerged as surplus during the last week of January - we ended up with a little under two inches of rain over the usual 4.6 inches. It's not the delirious amounts of Sep-Dec, but it's still more than a standard deviation above the mean when all is said and done.

We're now up (down?) to only 10 inches of deficit since the drought intensified four years ago. At the worst moment we were 31 inches below normal, in midsummer 2009, as that climbing blue line shows:

I'll continue to link to this neat prognosticator in which you can get variously timed precipitation and temperature outlooks. El Niño is dancing all over us now, and you might want to check that out. The current 1-3 month option shows us having notably cooler temperatures, and possibly wetter precipitation. In my mind, that means snow!

NOAA's weekly ENSO update has not changed since last month. We're now well into an El Niño event of continuing strength. It has continued to intensity, and is projected to last through spring 2010, and possibly into summer. Here we can expect strong late winter and spring storms with lots of tornado watches.

Relive your favorite weather events of the year 2009, courtesy of NOAA. NOAA has a neat State of the Climate product. By clicking on the year, such as 2009, you can get to monthly and even weekly reports and zero in on regional descriptions that are much nicer than my own.

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