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

Monday: 30 September 2013

Year Eleven Microstegium Completed  -  @ 10:25:49
Yesterday I completed this year's Microstegium vimineum eradication.

Those who have read this blog for years will recall that in the early 2000s, specifically around 2003, the year before I started this blog, I began an effort to rid around 20 acres on our property from chinese packing grass (nepalese browntop, japanese stiltgrass, etc), known here as "microstegium." October 11 2008 probably presents as good a summary of the effort as any other.

Why is it so awful?

The above represents a fairly mild infestation in a relatively dry area. Under wetter conditions it will grow much taller and denser, and will choke out native plants. Perversely, deer won't touch it, and so actually end up selecting for it as they eat the natives.

This year I mainly pulled plants, since I've finally gotten them back down to reasonable levels since the hiatus of 2010-2011. I spent 37 hours over 16 miles, and pulled 10 30-gal bags full of plants.

But I also used roundup in a few very dense areas that were not close to creeks. I ended up using 12 gallons of 3/4 strength mix, beginning a few days ago and constituting the last of my efforts. The 4 hours of spraying very dense stands, not close to creeks or runoff areas, is about 1/10 the total time spent so I figure a 10:1 ratio of manual pulling to spraying is within integrated pest management standards. Manual pulling isn't all that bad - it's bending down a lot of times vs carrying up to 40 pounds of spray and sprayer on your back.

There's always an element of suspense in this end of summer task - will I get done? Will I keep up with last year? In 2010 I didn't do it at all, and 2011 didn't keep up. The effects were very obvious in 2012, when I spent a lot of effort in getting back to where we were.

I like to start as late in the summer as possible, and it's not just the heat and humidity. This year, for instance, was relatively cool and wet, and from what I see microstegium seeds from earlier years were germinating pretty much all summer (recall that the seeds can stay in the soil for years, awaiting fine conditions such as we just had). If I start too early, it will all be for nothing.

In the end, this worked out perfectly. The grass just started flowering a couple of days ago, and I've noted before that the fruits don't finally mature and shatter until the second week in October. I think that with the cool wet weather this summer, the seed bank may be close to exhausted. Next year I predict there will be a much lessened population of microstegium.

Saturday: 28 September 2013

How It Happens  -  @ 11:58:12
So this is how it happened. After a couple of years of thinking about taking on another cat, and a couple of years of various things negating that, it happened last night. Neighbors alerted us they had a kitten discovered in a culvert next door, and did we want him?

The alert and patient will recall that we had five cats die in the course of a year, and I'll just mention that the last time we had a new kitten was Gene, 9 years ago. So here is Gene, investigating the new kitten. Can you tell which is which? It's hard, I know, but the moment we heard that he was a tuxedo kitty his futures soared.

I admit that rightly or wrongly I used the cell phone to take the photos. We actually took on Sophie more recently than Gene, but she wasn't a kitten. She was the product of a bizarrely broken home. She's huge, too, and is apparently intimidating despite her extremely gentle nature.

His working name, we were told, is "Willy." I'm not so sure about that. Willy reminds me of the sleezy guys who wear shoes with velcro straps. I've yet to convince Glenn, but the two little dots on the back of the ears scream "Colon." Short for semicolon, of course.

Saturday: 7 September 2013

The Month of August  -  @ 08:56:25
It's The Month of August, Number 91 in a series. Rainy conditions beginning in June accelerated in July and continued through August. A relatively cool summer continued for us in the southeast.

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed is the mean temperature anomaly for August.

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

Much of the eastern US went from weakly warmer than usual in June to considerably cooler in July, and that situation continued in August. Much of the West continued warmer than usual, except for parts of the extreme southwest.

(The high and low anomalies graphic shows that nights were warmer than days were cool. Again, cloud cover, rain, and high humidity kept us cooler during the day, but prevented cooling at night. This was also distinctly true for the West, by whatever means.

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

The Pacific Northwest got some relief from the very dry weather of July. The pattern of dry and wet is very scattered and broken. The Midwest continued drier than normal in August, while the most of the Southeast continued wetter than normal. Rain did spill westward though, into the previously dry southwest. OK and KS once again received at least normal rainfall and a surplus in many parts of the states, but dry weather began to creep northward into NM and TX.

For the Athens, GA area:

Below is what I've finally come up with as a daily rain/temperature plot. The spiky lines are temperatures recorded during the days, and the lighter blue bars are Wolfskin rainfall measurements.

The black line is the normal average daily temperature, and you can see that we're distinctly on our downward fall toward autumn.

Two outstanding features above: the daily highs seldom went above 90, and the rainfall that began in June continued in August, with two events over an inch to add to the many such this summer. I believe we broke records for lowest high temperatures midmonth, but did not quite break the record lows during the same period. We did match the record low of 1967, at 60 degF on Aug 17.

The average monthly temperature for August was 76.9 degF, significantly below the 30-year average of 80.2F. Again, our average high was lower than usual by nearly 5 degF, and our average low was lower than usual by just about a degree.

So it should come as no surprise that we had, again, 0 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs, and 0 night with temperatures more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows. We did, however, have 9 days that with highs more than 1 standard deviation below the normal high.

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

Despite the distinctly cooler average temperatures in August, the histogram shows little distinct deviation in numbers of days within the indicated ranges. I think we have run into a rarely encountered weakness in this presentation: The highest temperatures in August rarely went over 90F, and that is my cutoff for that range. So much of the 90-99 column are 90F temperatures that could have gone into the 80-89 column, had I chosen my ranges just slightly differently.

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 22 years, and the river of peach shows the standard deviation.

For the third month in a row, we had the welcome blue of surplus rain, greater than one standard deviation, although only for a day or two. The green line is Athens official, ending up at 5.68" for August. Here in Wolfskin we had 5.46". That now puts over the annual average rainfall.

Our total rainfall this Jun/Jul/Aug out here was 25.86", more than half our usual annual rainfall. Overall, we have stayed above average rainfall all year since mid-February.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the neat prognosticator telling us? For us here in the southeast, it has been accurate over the last two months for temperature and precipitation. As of 6 Sep, it tells us that we can expect normal to higher than normal precipitation over the next three months. Temperatures should be normal from here on out.

Over the next couple of weeks, though, temperatures will become increasingly above normal for much of the rest of the US.

ENSO stuff:

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

As of Sep 3, ENSO neutral conditions continue, and are expected to remain neutral throughout the Northern Hemisphere fall. We've remained ENSO neutral now for over a year. The last such lengthy period was 10 years ago, 2003-2004. You can't use an El Niño or La Niña to explain extreme weather this year.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for July is available. And last year's annual report for 2012 regionally, nationally, and globally is also available.

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