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

Friday: 10 August 2012

Snip  -  @ 15:30:17

I read today that we're only midway through the summer. Not so!

No need for axis labels - no matter where you are, we're now sliding down into cooler weather. Some of us are sliding faster than others, is all. And there's no guarantee that we won't have hot days, but on average, on average!

Monday: 6 August 2012

An Amazing Event  -  @ 13:57:23
The Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity" was so well promoted by NASA that you almost had to be in a coma or a shack in the Montana wildlands not to have known about the "seven minutes of LOL terror." If the sampling of the rather diverse array of blogs and news sites I keep up with was any indication, there was a great deal of interest in the landing. I know I got up to watch for it, didn't you?

Now most of the others are over it, and so you may have missed this most incredible shot. It was taken by the MRO, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The MRO doubled as both an observing station and as a repeater for Curiosity's signals.

It just happened to photograph Curiosity hanging from its parachute. The back shell has yet to be released, and the sky crane part of the landing has not yet taken place. (You can click the photo to get a new page with a larger image.)

Although there is a crater evident beneath the rover, that's not Gale Crater, the rover's destination, which is further vertically and off the page, I think. This was due to the angle between the orbiter and the lander.

You can find more photos and info as they appear at NASA's MSL mission gallery site, which receive all credit for these photos.

Here's a portion of the parachute and lander from the full image.

So here we have not only an approach and landing intricate in its choreography beyond belief, but it was also timed so a second spacecraft already in orbit was in view. Sure, it was mainly for the transmission repeater, but they also got the photograph. That's really amazing stuff.

Sunday: 5 August 2012

The Month of July  -  @ 09:52:16
It's The Month of July, Number 78 in a series. For us, July was brutally hot for the first day, 108 degF, and then became just a bit warmer than normal, with lots of rain, a rare presentation.

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The temperature anomalies were positive almost everywhere, but were most pronounced with up to 8 degF above normal mean for the central US. We here in Georgia got off relatively easy with just a couple degrees above normal.

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

Much of the US is under drought conditions this summer. July brought some relief, but drought conditions just grew worse for the central US that was also experiencing the hottest weather.

For the Athens, GA area:

Here is a plot of our temperature swings in July, along with precipitation amounts as experienced in Wolfskin:

Most of July was mildly warmer for us, with high temperatures usually exceeding 91.5 degF. High temperatures averaged out 2 degF higher than normal, 93.5 compared to 91.5 normal high. We had 8 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (5.2 normal), and 0 days more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows (4.3 normal).

The first of July ended the insane stretch of incredibly hot weather much of the US experienced in June. Temperatures spiked to 110 degF, with 107, 108 and 109 high temperatures common everywhere in the area. These set not just local records for the day, but for the month and in one case, for ever (109F).

Here's what the

Here is the end-of-month histogram that shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from July 1948 on. We had a significantly larger number of days with highs reaching the 90s, 24 such, and fewer cooler days. Nighttime temperatures were not significantly different from average.

The figure below shows the Athens precipitation 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.

Our total out here was 6.37", and in Athens it was 5.53". 4.47" is normal for July. For the first time since last October, we had a greater than average montly rainfall.

Lastly, our ongoing weather conditions, with temperatures for this year in blue and last year in red. Except for the spike at the end of June we have been apparently having a fairly moderate summer, at least compared to last year. We've finally been picking up on the rain accumulation (green), although at just above 20", we're still 30% below normal for this time of year.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the neat prognosticator telling us? For northeast Georgia, it seems that the prediction is a little different from last month's. Greater than average chances for rainfall over the next two weeks, and perhaps a bit cooler, and then equal chances of rain for the following 2-3 months. Warmer than usual after mid-August.

ENSO stuff:

Finally, 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.

Temperatures in the western Pacific have increased enough above average that there's an increasing possibility of an El Niño developing over the next few months. The nasty pressure domes that have resulted in high temperatures over much of the US has been attributed to lingering La Niña effects, so perhaps those might ameliorate now.

The US Drought Monitor continues to have us in extreme to exceptional drought, depending on where you are in Georgia. In fact, most of the US is now under at least abnormally dry or moderate drought classification, with a lot of the country in severe or extreme drought.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for June is available, and addresses the extremely hot weather during the last half of June. Here is what they say for the southeast region:
Although temperatures for the month were generally below average across the Southeast mainland, June ended with a heat wave of historic proportions. Over 30 all-time daily maximum temperature records were tied or broken across the region from the 29th to the 30th of the month. These included all-time records for Athens, GA (109 degrees F (42.8 degrees C) on the 29th), Raleigh-Durham, NC (tied 105 degrees F (40.6 degrees C) on both days), Charlotte, NC (tied 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) on both days), Columbia, SC (109 degrees F (42.8 degrees C) on both days), Atlanta, GA (106 degrees F (41.1 degrees C) on the 30th), Macon, GA (tied 108 degrees F (42.2 degrees C) on the 30th), and Columbus, GA (108 degrees F (42.2 degrees C) on the 30th). A preliminary state record temperature for South Carolina of 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) was set in Johnston and at the Columbia University of South Carolina station on the 29th of the month. This record is currently being reviewed by the South Carolina State Climate Office and NCDC and would break the old record of 111 degrees F (43.9 degrees C) last set back in 1954.
Scroll down for a Year to Date summary for each US region. The summary for 2011 regionally, nationally, and globally is also available.

Saturday: 4 August 2012

Stream of Consciousness  -  @ 11:53:10
Some odd impulse caused me to look up the events that have occurred on my birth date, December 8, the 342nd day of the year (or 343rd, this year). I'm astonished at how few of the many, many events and fellow twelve eighters I know. The last twelve eighter is an actress, 16 years old this year, who I'm pretty sure I've never heard of.

On the plus side, there are previously undiscovered connections with Jean Sibelius, James Thurber, one of the Carradines (David), Gregg Allman and Jim Morrison, Thomas Cech (RNA World and telomeres, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, yay!!!), and Mary Queen of Scotts (1542-1587). Ok, that last is just for laughs.

I must consider this a plus: I thought at first that the double 1982 entries on December 8 for 1)Hamit and 2)Halil Altintop must be a wikipedia misprint. But not! They're identical twins, they're from Turkey, and they play football (i.e., soccer). They share the same surprise at having woken up in the same universe with me, something you can readily confirm by viewing their wikipedia entries link to above, for your convenience. Hamit and Halil. Aren't they nice? Don't you wish you shared a birthday with them? I love this.

And did you hear the joke about the Hal 9000 computer and IBM? H+1, A+1, and L+1 = IBM. Arthur Clarke swore he didn't make that one up. I believe him.

On the minus side, I guess we could point to Sammy Davis, Jr. He's just a face-palm to me, though. There really aren't many horrible horrible people born on my day, but there is one that drags us all down into the pits: every December 8, Ann Coulter and I are thinking along the same lines. Can you imagine? Is there any legal mechanism by which you can change your date of birth?

On the weird side, December 8, 1660 was the day that "A woman (either Margaret Hughes or Anne Marshall) appears on an English public stage for the first time, in the role of Desdemona in a production of Shakespeare's play Othello.". My last name is, of course, Hughes, and I had an Aunt Margaret. Coincidence or not? You decide.

So then I had to look and see who shared my birth on the same day of the same year, 1955. There is only one wikipedia entry, and that is for this man, a Serbian actor and director. He died in a car crash January 5, 2008, so that just leaves me wondering what else happened on that day.

It turns out I recorded some events, but I wasn't moved by what I found on Niches on January 5, 2008. What I wrote the next day, though, detailing our travels through Georgia might be worth your while. To whet your appetite, here's a just a small sampling of the Georgia countryside marvels we saw from the car on that day.

So, what happened on your birthday?

Thursday: 2 August 2012

Remembering Gore Vidal  -  @ 18:22:15
Yes, ok, you might have liked to slap him in the face even if you were liberal, but still: he wrote a mean book.

I pulled together some of my Gore Vidal books and realized that I had loaned some out that had never been returned. This is about half of what I once had. Rot the socks off those who didn't return "Burr," "Lincoln," and all the others I don't see here. I think the only book I didn't have of Vidal's was "Visit to a Small Planet," and that wasn't really a book. As many compunctions as I may have had of him, this and more is how much I liked Gore Vidal.

Not shown: "Live from Golgotha," which I didn't care for anyway. Shown: "The City and the Pillar", from the 50's: disturbing, but the book that defined Vidal in a lot of ways, to me, as an extraordinarily brave person. There were certain decisions I made as a late teen, in the early 70s, that stemmed from that. They may have caused me grief, but they were absolutely the right thing to have done.

Gore Vidal saved Glenn and me during (and before) the hideously dark Reagan years. I'll always treasure him for his political essays, which we howled with laughter about. His political essays were the written versions of followups we'd later enjoy in the 90s and early 00's from the late, great, and lovely Molly Ivins, during the evil Bush Junior years.

There's nothing that gives me greater joy than to talk about people like Molly Ivins and Gore Vidal, especially when those who hate those like them are watching. I say "those who hate those like them," because I know they don't have any idea who I'm talking about, but I know they hate them, and that makes it all worthwhile.

(And enjoy this link to my tribute to Molly Ivins. She is among those greatest pleasures that we should revisit from time to time. Why don't more bloggers do this?)

Wednesday: 1 August 2012

Gore Vidal  -  @ 07:34:20
I expect little from this, because I have been so irresponsible lately, but at the same time it's possible that some might want to express their thoughts about this interesting and complicated and fortunately not terribly deep man. He was a snot and a snob, a throughly delightful literary ruffian, and Glenn and I loved reading him through the dark and terrible Reagan years when ironically it seemed no one was sane but Gore Vidal. His essays made us howl with laughter, because he was terribly naughty.

And that is why we like him, so goodnight sweet prince. (I can't do the RIP thing, sorry, not unless it's in the original Latin, and even then I feel just a little dirty. It's an atheist thing in part, particularly appropriate in this case, and to simply say RIP GV is also a slighting, regardless of religion.)

A little over five years ago, I did a fairly good job with Vidal's more populist rival Kurt Vonnegut, even if I didn't want to at the time. And even if I don't want to with GV, I really can't short change Vidal, so I'll probably have a little more to say when I get free of my obligations today. This may be the more controversial of my comparisons: I imagine that GV, the patrician, would never have considered KV to have been an equal, and so maybe I've started a wild fracus in heaven. Might want to check out those last three paragraphs, which surprised me when I just read them.

For your homework, take a look at Vidal's bibliography. How many have you read? Did you like them or hate them? Not the pablum crap like NPR is giving you - how about Myra and Myron? He got a few people upset with those! Like Nine of Them! I remember the powells and blackmuns, for some reason.

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