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

Sunday: 31 October 2010

Trunk or Treat  -  @ 08:08:12
When Lisa 404 suggested having "trunk or treat" at the fire station on Oct 30, I understood what she was talking about - a brilliant idea, I thought - and just let the odd reference pass. Later she was talking to Ed 401 and they were both talking about "trunk or treat," and Glenn 418 and I, 411, pondered the reference a little more. Awhile later Ed asked me, "what is 'trunk or treat?'" and I said - "I thought you knew."

Well, alright, Wayne, you shoulda googled it - it only gets 409,000 hits.

It makes sense. Although it's a flexible though poorly parsed-out concept, it's just the case that in a county like ours where there may be no neighborhoods and houses may be dispersed at distances measured in miles rather than feet that you need something else if kids are to enjoy trick or treat. And so churches and other establishments offer advertised safe areas where parents can drop by. Some just bring the trick or treaters, others bring extra treats to add to the resources, and some do both.

On Friday, Glenn's shopping list, which reminds me of the Fernwood USA metaphor, the "Palace of Varieties Double Feature:" Sound of Music, and Deep Throat:
"Sudden Death" wasp and hornet killer spray
Halloween candy

At least Glenn didn't get arrested, although he's probably on a list at one of those alphabet soup agencies now.

Anyway, Halloween Eve "trunk or treat" turned out quite well. We had a half dozen WFD firefighters pull out trucks, set up trunks, and entertain at least 30 kids and it seemed like just about as many adults for a couple of hours on Saturday evening. The trucks and their lights and noisemakers were a hit as always. It ended up being an open house sort of thing, with the adults sticking around for a lot longer than they had to for a very convivial evening.

We even had one of our "on leave" firefighters, Andy Rusk 408 (yes, for those of a certain age, it's *that* Rusk), notice the festivities and drop by. That was a delight. You never know what's going to happen.

Photo by Glenn. More at the WFD blog.

Friday: 29 October 2010

Superstorm  -  @ 06:57:01
Some pretty incredible weather events across much of the US this past week. They can be boiled down to this massive culprit:

That's the GOES East satellite photo of the massive extratropical cyclone that formed over the central US and moved northward into Canada over Oct 25-28. At 4pm EDT on Oct 27 it looks like a hurricane, doesn't it? And apparently it achieved a record low barometric pressure at its center, 954.9mb, over Minnesota in the early evening on Oct 26. That's a record low for the continental US, excluding events associated with real hurricanes and nor'easters. It's the kind of air pressure found in the eye of Category 2 hurricanes.

When you see concentric isobar lines like this, so tightly packed, you know there's going to be high winds, and there were. That's a GFSX 12 hour model prediction found on Unisys, showing the event at 8am EDT on Wednesday Oct 27.

It was that afternoon, at 4pm, that I was driving to work down Wolfskin Road at 10 mph through some of the most intense rain and electrical storm I've ever seen. Those fluffy little clouds across the southeast that you see in the satellite photo at the top were the manifestation of a plume of moist air being sucked into the cyclone, at that point crossing the US-Canada border.

A half hour later as I pulled into the parking lot at work there was a NOAA alert for a severe thunderstorm warning 6 miles southwest of Crawford in Oglethorpe County - potential tornados, etc. That would have been right over our house.

And by the time I got home we'd had two inches of rain, with a total of 2.57" by early Thursday morning.

Here is a composite of 12-hour satellite photos I put together from archived images at Unisys. The times are UT, so substract 4 hours for EDT. The dates are in white, in decimal format.

In the second panel, early Oct 24, green arrows point to a cyclonic development over the northwest Pacific, and the mass that seems destined to become the Oct 26 event. Cyclonic events over the Pacific off the northwestern coast are not at all uncommon. This one might have provided a little "oomph" but it's not the Oct 26 event itself.

Oct 27.0: the green arrow points to the center of the "superstorm" at its peak over Minnesota. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is now being sucked out and is streaming northeastward over the southeast.

And the last arrow is pointing to those fluffy clouds that I was driving under on Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday: 23 October 2010

Shot in the Dark on its Way  -  @ 06:36:40
A couple weeks ago I mentioned that Glenn and I were working on the annual newsletter to the community. It was our first effort at such a thing and didn't turn out badly at all.

On Thursday afternoon we finished it up and with some help from a couple others folded, clasped, stamped, and addressed about 430 of them. The fire chief kindly delivered them to the Arnoldsville post office early yesterday morning and I guess they'll be appearing in Wolfskin mailboxes beginning today after a trip to Atlanta and back (everything goes through Atlanta, at least once).

It's more of an introductory brochure than a newsletter, although there is news of the year in it. And of course it's an appeal, at least from my point of view, for new membership, something few actually address beyond talking about it. It is a one-time extravagance, made necessary by a lack of annual reports over the last four years, during which time I imagine quite a few folks have forgotten we exist.

(I should say that "one-time extravagance" refers to the current incarnation. The Plan is to continue this annually, but at a considerably lower tech level. Glenn's analysis is that that won't make all that much a difference to cost, but we will worry about that next year.)

One of the several intangible benefits was to update the Wolfskin mailing list. Glenn went through the tax assessor's website and the gold area on the carefully constructed map and identified an additional hundred or so property owners and renters who don't actually live in Wolfskin. These had never been on a mailing list before, probably because no one explored ways of obtaining owners' addresses unless they had a mailbox on the property.

There were certainly plenty of photographs to choose from, and you've seen most of them. You haven't seen this one, though.

Friday: 22 October 2010

Rhetorical Tells  -  @ 08:11:44
"Quite frankly, ...."

"To be honest, ...."

"Just between you and me, ..."

and the ever popular

"I'm not a bigot, but...."

There must be a fancy Latin phrase for the fallacy that represents that last one. The intent is to mellow by an introductory warning phrase the fully intended meaning of the concluding contradictory phrase without losing its effective message. It takes the general form:

"[Introductory warning phrase], BUT [concluding contradictory phrase]"

"Don't get me wrong, BUT ...."

"I don't mean to criticize, BUT ...."

"Some of my best friends are XXXXX, BUT ...."

and the endearing southern version:

"Bless his heart, BUT ...."

Tells, which don't have to be physical, are pretty interesting if you're listening for them. One of the givens is that the person who displays the tell isn't aware that he or she is doing it. Now the above examples are almost cliches, if you've been paying attention. So it's odd how so *many* people use them, sincerely and unknowingly, as if they're effective.

There must be a great many more of these.

Sunday: 17 October 2010

Where the Fires Are, Right Now  -  @ 06:12:54
We haven't had any rain around here for over two weeks now, and the GFSX model at Unisys doesn't predict rain until *next* Sunday. That means we've been under red flag watches and warnings and will continue to be, with low humidities and warm temperatures.

So I've been looking around at the offerings for easy-to-use current fire observations. It turns out that my usual favorite weather site, Weather Underground, has an interactive map version with that capability.

That URL will get you to a pristine map from which you can navigate in the usual way to your position. If you don't know your coordinates, you can zoom in to the max until your location is centered. Click the "link to current view" just above the map so that the URL will actual appear in full in the URL box.Your latitude and longitude will appear in the URL box, toward the beginning of that long string.

Now, click the box marked Fire in the options below the map, and fires in the previous 24 hours will appear. These are detected by various satellites and may have multiple icons, presumably because different satellites have detected the same fire and estimated it at a slightly different location.

Here is the map for Georgia and surrounding, yesterday morning. By noon, all the fires except a couple in central Tennessee had disappeared, indicating that wunderground simply accumulates detections for a 24-hour period and then zeroes them all around noon EDT. So the map is not real time in terms of extinguishing fires, but does a pretty good job at quickly adding a fire once it's been detected.

(Note - for some reasons Wunderground insists on defaulting to a map containing those blue icons. Apparently these are the positions of PSU students. I have no idea why we'd care about that, but there's no control on the page for getting rid of them. What you can do is to look at the URL box, follow the string almost to the end, and you'll find a portion that reads &PSU=1 ... Change the 1 to a 0, and reload, and the PSU students will disappear. For websites that put the controls in the URL itself, this is a generally nice thing to be able to manipulate.)

Here's yesterday morning's map for the western US and lower Canada. You can, by the way, turn the weather station data off. You also have a satellite view of the land, but I prefer the terrain view. Note those pesky PSU students. Get rid of them!

Once you have the map centered and populated (with the annoying PSU students removed) as you wish, you can bookmark the URL. Don't hit that "link to current view," otherwise wunderground will put the PSU students back in - what is that all about?? If you know your coordinates, you can simply replace the ones in the URL (at the beginning of the string) with the ones you know (in decimal form).

There are other commercial weather sites, of course, and people have different preferences, but at least they are all fairly user friendly. Wunderground seems to have a cleaner presentation, and with rare exceptions high resolution accuracy with close to real time updates. The commercial websites are *all* cluttered with advertising and they're *all* link pharms, so there's no getting around that. I don't know if other websites are now including fire detections, but it's a pretty nice feature if you live in a fire-prone area. From the next figure, you'll see that quite a lot of us do.

The data for producing those fire detections at Wunderground obviously come from the same source as the Forest Service's detection maps. You can click on the state you're interested in in the link above, but then you'll have to download the current jpg, which is up to six hours out of date and shows an entire region without county outlines. It's totally static, and in fact includes all fires in the current calendar year, so not very useful for real time monitering.

It may be nice not to have advertising on a website; unfortunately another option, the interactive fire detection viewer on the left sidebar is excruciatingly unfriendly to work with.

The "fire data in Google Earth" option format is much easier to use - I presume you must have Google Earth installed on your computer first, though.

(Glenn, who does not have Google Earth installed, confirms that that you must have it installed. Don't install it just for this, but it's great for lots of other reasons though it is a greedy hog. I use it frequently.)

Once at that page the "current KML for fire detections" is the option you want to click on. This will load the current KML data into your Google Earth software so that the fires can be displayed. "KML," incidentally, seems to be just a data file that has all the stuff you requested.

Here's a screenshot of yesterday morning for the entire US. Icons for fires are color coded according to time after detection, up to six days. The red ones are the most recently detected, 0-6 hours. I don't know if Google Earth updates the data in real time or not. Because of the use of a static KML file, I suspect not. You must close out the current Google Earth page and reopen it with the KML file that is now available. Then it's not as useful as the Wunderground application, which does that for you.

My guess is that there are probably some cell phone apps now that allow you to get fire detections downloaded real time. My cell phone is pretty basic, and doesn't do that kind of thing - someone else would have to check.

One last thing - closer to home, and about 20 miles to the southeast, is this indication of multiple fires off Hway 22, Union Point Rd in southeastern Oglethorpe County. The multiple detections are probably not all of different fires, but rather of the same fire a number of times. That would seem to be more a bug than a feature, but it's also true of the Wunderground presentation.

All in all, the Wunderground application for visualizing fire detection is easier to use (by far) than the Forest Service's options for doing the same thing. The greatest advantage is that the Wunderground page will update in real time for new detections. I've actually seen it do this - a few weeks ago there was a brush fire call for the southeast portion of the county (in fact, very close to the map above), and when I idly glanced at the Wunderground map on the screen, the icon had appeared in the proper place.

That particular fire was put out rather quickly, but the icon stayed on the Wunderground map until the next day, so real time doesn't apply to removal of the icon, just in some sense to its appearance. But that's interesting in itself, in that the fire call on that day was actually phoned in to the sheriff's office - the appearance on the map was independently made by satellite detection.

Friday: 15 October 2010

The Return of Florida Panther?  -  @ 05:56:56
Since Sunday I've been plagued with a cold and sore throat, and low grade fever swings - THE CRUD, as my mother, my dear sweet little mother, and let no one deny that, has always called it. As has always been the case she knew exactly how to characterize it - neither quite the flu, but more than simply a cold - it's THE CRUD. The perfect opportunity to get things done, I always think, surely lots of blog posts, which is silly because that's never the way it has ever worked.

I did run across this Science report on the restoration of the Florida Panther, Puma concolor coryi, by WE Johnson, et fifteen als., Science 329, 1641-1645, unfortunately behind a subscription wall. It's nicely summarized by University of Minnesota ecologist Craig Packer earlier in the issue, A Bit of Texas in Florida, and that may or may not be behind the wall (I can't tell).

We are talking about cats, then, and I do love cats. The story is this:

There are a number of North American cougar (puma, mountain lion) populations, the most viable in the western US and Mexico. The only population in the eastern US is the subspecies in southern Florida, gradually whittled away by habitat loss, disease, and the usual deaths by human incursion.

By the early 1990s, there were only 20-25 Florida panthers left in the wild, with a number of signs of the effects of inbreeding. The estimated extinction date was just a couple of decades away.

In 1995, eight wild Texas females (P. c. stanleyana) were introduced into the south Florida panther habitat. Within a short time, five of the eight Texas females had bred, and by 2003 there were at least 95 adults. The Florida population has showed a large increase in numbers, physical health, and fertility.

And what does this population now consist of? Primarily hybrids of one degree or another, although there are still a few original Florida genotype panthers to be found.

How do they know? By DNA fingerprinting, of course! The same methods that are used in forensics analyses. A large number of DNA markers distinguish the Florida and Texas populations from each other. Hybrids will have a mixture of these markers, and that's what is seen in most of the population after a decade.

Here are a couple of panels of Fig. 1, from the paper. The left panel shows the situation in 1995, at the time of introduction of the eight Texas females (red circles). The native Florida panthers are shown in yellow or purple (there are actually two distinct genotypes found in Florida panthers).

The right panel shows the count in 2007: most (a minimum of 62%)are orangish, which indicate hybrids.

By 2007, it looks like the population now consists of a minimum of ten individuals of the original Florida genotype (a loss of the original population), a minimum of zero original Texas genotype (in 2007 we're pretty much beyond the life span of the original Texas females introduced in 1995), about 65 hybrids to one degree or another, and somewhere around 25 more of unknown genotype. (I'm summarizing Fig. 3 in the paper, now.)

What to make of this? In one sense, it's not a rescue of the pure Florida genotype, for that was clearly doomed - it had fallen below the numbers needed to maintain genetic diversity. In another sense, it's a rescue of those Florida alleles, at least, because those alleles do survive even though their animal carriers are hybrids. Future generations, assuming a healthy hybrid population has been established, will begin to respond to the southern Florida environment and the Florida panther alleles that are important to that will persist.

In yet another sense, the introduction of the Texas females may have just reconnected the Florida and Texas populations, for there is evidence that historically the two populations intermixed anyway. It's only since human incursion in the last century or two has cut them apart from each other that they have become isolated. So the introduction may have been the equivalent of a safety valve, and not an "unnatural" act.

The authors are clearly aware of this, as well as that invigorating the genetic health of the population is only the tip of an iceberg of problems yet to be encountered. Craig Packer:
"Big cats may be popular in places where they've become scarce and most people live in cities, but the rest of the world still struggles to deal with the dangers that man-eaters and cattle-killers pose to rural residents."

In other words, charisma is directly related to scarcity - the more scarce, the more endearing.

While there were hard data that described the physical health of the hybrids, compared to the Florida originals, I was especially amused by the visuals that this little qualitative observation invoked, again from Craig Packer:
"The adult hybrids were also superior competitors: The pure-bred Florida panthers suffered greater mortality from fights with outbred cougars, and hybrids were better able to climb trees when pursued by scientists."

"Pursued by scientists." Certainly the least of their worries.

Sunday: 10 October 2010

Stink Bugs  -  @ 06:16:36
Over the last couple of months I've seen a number of references to a stink bug population explosion in the eastern US, particularly among the middle Atlantic states. We haven't noticed this here, but it's never surprising to find boom and bust cycles among insects, especially imported ones.

The New York Times has a nice article, which identifies the insect as an import from east Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys. It also does a nice job of explaining the ecology of imported pests without predators.

Plus, the front porch photo is pretty effective at conveying the scale of the population explosion.

Perhaps by coincidence, a group of agricultural scientists in Japan have isolated a stink bug repellent from "green foxtail," Setaria viridis, which as it turns out is also found as a common pest throughout North America. The isolated chemical is produced by an endophytic fungus that lives in the plant. It appears to be as effective as naphthalene (mothballs), but with the added advantage that it's specific, and not simply a general smelly substance.

It seems to me that an alternative approach would be to become the predator: collect the stink bugs and mash them into a paste, which when mixed with spices and seasoning become a popular garnish in Southeast Asia. Apparently it's the bugs' stink that really gives it the flavor. Those folks on the porch in the New York Times article seem to have enough stink bugs to freeze a lot away for later winter treats, or to give out to friends, perhaps as Christmas gifts.

If stink bug pate is not your thing, then take that bucketful of bugs and run them through your waring blender, along with copious amounts of water. Filter the goop, and then spray the filtered extract onto the living bugs. The idea here is that baculoviruses and pathogens, even if only a small percentage of stink bugs is infected, will be extracted into the spray water, which will then infect the sprayed upon. I have no idea if it works, since I've never tried it, but if you do, let me know. You might want to devote an extra blender that you keep separate from the one that you make your margaritas with.

Saturday: 9 October 2010

Forty Two  -  @ 08:13:32
This is the time of year when we get our greatest swings in temperature, and today may be the largest - 40 degrees F from nighttime low to daytime high. It's likely that we'll at least come close to record highs for the next few days. And no rain in sight for the next ten days, except for a very tiny chance on Thursday.

If you thought I was being silly the other day about binary dates, it turns out that tomorrow, 101010, is being celebrated by quite a few silly people. And we mustn't neglect that 101010 in base 10 is 42!

Friday: 8 October 2010

By Way of Explanation  -  @ 08:04:03
Rightly or wrongly, it seems that a great deal of time in the past month has been snagged by the fire department, and to some extent the time involved there explains the lesser time involved here.

It was decided, six months ago, that we should put out our first newsletter after a four-year hiatus, a Report to the Commmunity. Month after month this didn't happen, so Glenn and I took it over and that's what we've been doing. Once there was some substance on paper, everyone got enthusiastic and helpful, and we're just about done with it.

Neither of us has ever produced a newsletter, so this was something of an adventure. It will be two pages, front and back and folded into thirds. We'll go with professional printing as the newsletter has turned out to be more of an introductory brochure. Subsequent annual publications will probably tend toward the low cost low tech, but this one can double as the format for an ongoing handout.

I won't belabor the other details or final result, but I do love this map that Glenn has been working on off and on for several years. It will constitute the entirety of one of four pages. We'll put the address label and contact information on the back, since it's most likely that if recipients keep anything it will be this pretty thing:

You can see a larger (1 MB) image by clicking on the above map. Glenn has preserved fantastic detail down to parcel and address, more readily apparent on the large version.

To remind you, we have thirteen volunteer fire departments in our rather large county, and they respond to ALL CALLS1 to their assigned coverage. You see four of our fire departments here: Wolfskin, in gold, and then our overlap for Automatic Aid to Maxeys, in blue; Crawford, in violet; and Arnoldsville, in green. Deeper shadings indicate residences and lighter shadings indicate properties without residential structures, so far as we can tell. The little red dots are the positions of active Wolfskin firefighters capable of driving a truck.

Because we border Oconee County and Clarke County we have mutual aid agreements with adjoining portions, and so those are colored in in green and purple, respectively. Glenn calculates that while the gold covers 29 square miles, our actual responsibilites cover about twice that, the rest of the colors, at 59 square miles.

I think it's a beautiful map, and I'm especially glad Glenn included the creeks, ponds, and lake that constitute our watersheds. It seems that the map itself would be a nice fund raising opportunity. The largest and most highly resolved version (not presented here) could probably be printed up at 300 dpi to a fairly large and handsome print.

UPDATE - Glenn told me that our fire chief said he wouldn't pay money for that : - (  . Glenn's response was, "I'm not surprised," which was as good and canny a response as it gets. I'd have been a lot more acerbic in response, invoking lack of curiosity, lack of appreciation of aesthetics, and a lot more having to do with cruelty of statement after a lot of work. Much better that I didn't hear it.

1Oglethorpe County does have one subscription based private fire department, which is generally a total mystery to most or all of the rest of us.

Sunday: 3 October 2010

Breaking out the Orange  -  @ 09:44:50

Not only is the caterpillar orange, but soon we must be too. It's hunting season, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has its 2010-11 hunting regulations up. Neither Glenn nor I are hunters, but it's in our best interest to be aware of such things.

There's a lot of stuff interesting for all kinds of reasons, but I'd recommend looking at the second PDF "best for slower internet connections," rather than the fluffy very large alternative.

There are dates outside of those indicated below for specialized hunting of other species, or of deer in urban areas, but the big draw in our area here is rural deer hunting. Here are the deer hunting dates that affect Oglethorpe County:

Archery: Sep 11-Oct 8
Primitive Weapons: Oct 9-15
Firearms (northern half of Georgia): Oct 16-Jan 1
Some counties have exceptions, but Oglethorpe County is not one of them.

Some counties, especially those surrounding urban areas like Atlanta, allow only archery and may have an extended archery season Jan 2-31. There are a number of such exceptions, and the southern half of Georgia has different dates.

I always find interesting stuff here. For instance, deer may be hunted with dogs under some circumstances and within certain dates. Deer may be hunted with dogs only on leased properties of at least 1000 contiguous acres or private properties of at least 250 contiguous acreas that are permitted by DNR.

(The only reason that this comes up is that up until the mid-90s we did have some training of hunting dogs occurring nearby, and that constituted their being released and allowed to run at will. There were several incidents at night and day of trespassing dogs. That can no longer happen, legally. The area is below the limit allowed for hunting with dogs, unless the owners have obtained the necessary permit required by DNR).

Our immediate area includes a hunting club of around 300 acres (we purchased 20 acres of this a couple of years ago, allowed the manager to continue to use it last year, and will do so again this year). Taking a look at the parcel maps, the property is adjacent to about twenty parcels, including ours, and so runs the potential of affecting those to some extent. The manager of this large tract leases to a limited number of hunting club members, and they and he have demonstrated responsibility in protecting and managing the area. Among my concerns is fire, for instance, but recreational campfires are permitted only in a certain well-prepared location. Another concern was the potential for trespassing, or shooting into surrounding residential areas, but Glenn's periodic communication with the manager satisfied us that the leasees are made well aware of the limits of their assigned hunting area. It has turned out to be a peace of mind sort of thing.

Another point of interest is that of legal responsibility by landowners. We've discussed this before, but as long as a landowner hasn't erected "traps," such as digging a pit that isn't marked clearly, or isn't receiving recompense for allowing hunting on a property, the owner can't be held liable for injuries.

But the main thing is that from this point on, it's not just smart to wear a fluorescent orange vest, at least, it's also at least quasi illegal not to. And so until Jan 1 that's our outdoor attire, and it should be that for anyone who is in an area where hunting goes on, whether you hunt or not.

And that brings us back to the caterpillar, which Glenn took a quick photo of a week or so ago. It's one of those "wooly bear" caterpillars that encompasses a number of species of tiger moths. This one appears, by virtue of the longer finer hairs, to be not the traditional wooly bear, but rather a Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea. There's a lot of variation in the caterpillars, from nearly white to nearly black, as you can see from the image page, but here is one of a number of examples that fits the bill.

While we hadn't run across the caterpillar itself before, we have seen the moth itself, back in early October 2007. And yes, Glenn did pick it up and handle it, with no ill effects ; - )  . It's sort of traditional for him to do so.

Saturday: 2 October 2010

The Month of September  -  @ 02:50:42
It's The Month of September, Number 56 in a series. We were hot again, for the sixth month in a row, but for the first time it was a dry heat!

This time, they're hiding the usual temperature anomalies product here, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. These are the *mean* temperature anomalies for September.

As in April, May, June, July, and August, the eastern half of the US experienced hotter than usual temperatures in September, while parts of the north had cooler than normal high temperatures. A look at the monthly means over the last few months shows the western US has continued to gain in higher than normal temperatures.

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

Except for the eastern half of North Carolina, Maine, and our area in Georgia, much of the eastern US was drier than normal. The bright green areas are almost certainly due to the influence of the weird hurricane movements up the Atlantic coast this season. Ours is certainly due to Tropical Storm Nicole, a few days ago. Westward to the Rockies continued normal to above normal precipitation. Dry conditions continued much of the country from the Rockies west, except for Washington and Oregon.

For Athens:

For Athens, we continued for the sixth month in a row a warmer than usual trend. Our high temperatures averaged 6.7 degF higher than normal, however our lows were just about normal for the first time this summer. The mean anomaly you see below is about right.

Here is my plot of high temperatures for the month of September in Athens. As usual, the black dots are for the years 1990-2009 (black dots), 2010 (green line), and 2009 (red line).

We broke no high temperature records in September, although ironically we came very close to a record low Sep 5.

We only had 17 days in September that were more than one standard deviation above the mean high (4.5 days is normal). There were 5 nights in September that were more than 1 SD below the mean low (5.7 nights normal).

The normal low temperatures at night are testament to the transparency of the atmosphere and low humidity during most of the month. Even the hot days felt comfortable.

The figure below shows the Athens rainfall 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 20 years, the vast river of peach shows the standard deviation.

In September, Athens received a somewhat above normal rainfall of 5.35" (normal 3.53"). Just 12 miles east here in Wolfskin though, we got 7.64", the reverse of last month's situation. That excess occurred in the last 5 days of September, due mostly to the effects of TS Nicole.

Here is this neat prognosticator in which you can get variously timed precipitation and temperature outlooks:

For us, the long term (three months) continues to suggest somewhat warmer than usual temperatures, and average to below average rainfall. Factoring in La Niña, it should now be much drier than normal for the next three months. In some ways that will be a relief, but in others it means fire weather.


NOAA's weekly ENSO update tells us that we're now experiencing La Niña conditions, and we're expected to continue these into 2011. Scroll down to the bottom of that update for temperature and precipitation map forecasts through the winter.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for August made for interesting reading. For land areas in the northern hemisphere, summer 2010 was the hottest on record. There are many interesting weather- and climate-related items to be found here.

Friday: 1 October 2010

Halfway There  -  @ 07:31:28
For the first time since 2001, we have a year in which we have binary dates of the form I use, YYMMDD. We haven't had one since January, when we had 100101 (37), 100110 (38 ), and 100111 (39). Today is 101001 (41), and we'll have five more such dates in 2010. Then in 2011 we'll have another nine such dates, and then nothing for the rest of the century, I suppose. We really should do something special on these days.

Early yesterday morning came the flood: a total over our house of 4.01" beginning late Wednesday afternoon. 3.61" of that occurred between 3am and 5am Thursday morning, after a forecast of "slight chance of showers after midnight, then clearing."

A little after dawn I saw some hopping motion in front of the front steps, and found this little guy.

I'm guessing he's probably a leopard frog, but it's hard to say. Those little back legs were certainly functional - no sign of the front ones yet. He's getting a little face now. That tail will gradually be absorbed and I assume provide the basic materials to complete the metamophosis.

He obviously wasn't happy where he was. I assume the flood resulting from the rain a couple of hours earlier had washed him out of the pond and down the path. To what extent he's capable of it, I'm sure he was relieved to find himself home.

(I've had a few communications about the odd bite, or whatever it was, on my arm. The status quo remained for about six days, and then yesterday morning I noticed some improvement. The light pink flush that extended several centimeters from the center had faded, the puffy 1 cm central red area had flattened out and also faded a bit, and the dark 0.4 cm ground zero is scabbed over. It never wept or oozed, and until yesterday it didn't itch (so not poison ivy!). There weren't any signs of necrosis of the sort that would indicate a brown recluse, and no systemic effects, so I'm guessing that if it was that I had only a mild reaction to it. If it wasn't that, then this was either a severe reaction to something normally innocuous, or an unusually rapid secondary infection. Whatever it was, it's something of a relief to have it receding.)

I'm only placing five posts on the front page.
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