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

Thursday: 9 January 2014

Adventures in Getting Married  -  @ 12:09:26
Last week, around 1pm on Thursday, January 2, Glenn and I got married in Washington, DC, after 35 years together.

We could talk about the reasoning and the limitations that moved our choice of venue, but we'd be here for hours. I may have some thoughts on those matters later. I love Georgia for many reasons, but not for the social and political ones. Georgia, sadly, was for those reasons out of the picture. Maybe some day, but not now. We are not spring chickens, and we really couldn't wait any more. Suffice it to say that we made our choice, and chose Washington, DC as our state of celebration.

A lot of people have asked why we didn't stay longer in DC, and again there were a lot of reasons, but mostly I convinced Glenn that it would be fun to fly there and back on the same day. He choreographed all the timing brilliantly, even though neither of us could have figured in at the time that the Arctic blast that we've seen in the last few days would be developing in the midwest.

Here's what our day was like.

We left home around 2:30 am last Thursday, and got back at 8:30pm that night, two hours after expected. Flights were all delayed since they originated in snow storm country. But because of that we were never late for either of the two flights, although we spent a lot of time waiting in the Atlanta and DC National airports.

Because of our long time firefighting association, we chose to wear emergency responder dress uniforms, identical, and they're all black - black pants, black shirt, black jackets, black ties. Those who follow this blog might know that we've fulfilled that role for the last ten or twenty years, so for us this was an appropriate salute. We got plenty of quick looks, and I'm sure they wondered what religious group we were members of. Not Mormons, surely, no white shirts, and besides aren't they drinking coffee and Heinekens? The only person who verbalized notice was the captain on the flight from Atlanta. As we boarded, he said to Glenn, who was ahead of me, "Don't look now but there's a guy behind you dressed exactly the same way." Glenn said, "I know, he's been following me all morning." There is only the tiniest minuscule chance that that pilot will ever see this, but other than the other thing, he made my day.

The only two points where the late arrival made a difference included the wedding ceremony itself. It had been originally scheduled in the Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns's conference room on Pennsylvania Avenue at 11:45. That's actually when the plane arrived. During the flight we were able, through circuitous SMS routes, to get word to Rev. Burns and she made a few executive decisions. She had a 1 o'clock ceremony conducting another wedding, and suggested we meet her at the church at 12:30. We got there by taxi a little after noon, and she married us in the library a little before 1pm. The practicing violinists for the following ceremony asked us if we'd like for them to play the wedding march, and then they did.

That's the very handsome stone built National Swedenborgian Church of the Holy City, on 1611 16th Street. The only time we had for taking photos turned out to be in airports, so I found this one taken by michiel1972, on panoramio. The church was completed around 1912 (the first one was destroyed by fire). It's English Perpendicular Gothic, which emphasizes overall asymmetry, which seems oddly appropriate. In some ways, the 18th Century founder, Emanuel Swedenborg, turned out to be also oddly appropriate for us, as did the church's mission statement.

The church is actually in Dupont Circle. For me, the coincidence closed a little circle that I had no idea had been spun up in college, when a couple of friends and I drove up from Tallahassee to DC during spring break. Dupont Circle had been one of our targets of interest. We may have actually driven or walked by the church, not guessing that Glenn and I would again visit it almost 40 years later. There will be those who can figure out the other significances of Dupont Circle.

We had thought we might not make the 2pm flight back home, but it too had been delayed an hour. We'd still have just made it anyway, because of security and wheelchair superstatus, but in the end got to sit, relax, laugh about the events, and kill four celebratory Heinekens before boarding.

It was mostly whiteout clouds all the way back but a couple of hundred miles before Atlanta had cleared enough to reveal most incredibly colored cloud formations in half a dozen strata right around sunset. It was pretty bumpy in all the wind and I think the pilot bounced the plane at least once on landing. Though I have flying anxieties, it was a great and bumpy ride, and I told the flight crew that. Might have had something to do with the Heinekens.

The only thing we actually did miss was our transport back to Athens, since the plane landed in Atlanta just around that time. But we did squeeze onto the next limo and that got us to the Georgia Center. We got home eighteen hours after we left, just in time to feed the cats. It felt like we'd been gone a week, but all's well that ends well.


Saturday: 4 January 2014

The Month of December  -  @ 14:20:28
Cold temperatures are moving in, as January progresses. We expect low temperatures here to fall into the single digits on Monday night. This is not something that we have seen in many years. But first!

It's The Month of December, Number 95 in a series. For us in northeast Georgia, somewhat warmer temperatures ruled for the most part. But the big news is that after a dry fall we had large amounts of rain in December, rounding out 2013 for the 10th highest annual rainfall since 1920.

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Displayed is the high and low temperature anomalies.

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

Compared to November, more of the US was cooler than average. The upper midwest experienced temperatures 8 degrees F below normal, and combined with precipitation (see below), that meant a lot of snow and ice. Colder than normal temperatures stretched across the country in the north, and then a tongue of cold anomalies 4-5 degF below normal penetrated south through Texas.

For higher than normal temperatures, only much of California and a swatch centered in New Mexico and Arizona were warmer in the west. But a coverage of higher anomalous temperatures were the case for the southeast US, rising to 6 degF in Florida.

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

The incidence of higher than normal precipitation brought (or will bring, once the melt) relief to two major areas. The northern tier of western to midwestern states received a lot of what was probably snow. And in the southeast there was a broad brushstroke of much higher rainfall than we've seen in several months. The southern half of Florida continued its drier than normal weather seen in November. California is still in a drought period, to put it mildly, and that extreme extended up into the Pacific Northwest in November and December, at least. Much of the south west of the Mississippi was drier than normal, as was the central part of the country.

For the Athens, GA area:

Below is my usual daily rain/temperature plot visualizing the changes in temperatures and precipitation. The spiky lines are temperatures recorded roughly ten times a day, and the lighter blue columns are Wolfskin rainfall measurements.

The black line is the normal average daily temperature, and you can see that we've been both above and below that line in December. We had a long period of high temperatures in the first quarter of the month, some normality in the second quarter, and then another round of high temperatures for a few days in the third. The last quarter of the month was fairly normal in temperatures.

The real story here was the large amount of rainfall, starting with daily pissant amounts in the first quarter, and then nearly five inches of rain in a 24-hour period on Dec 22-23. Not inconsiderable amounts totalling 2.5 inches fell in the last few days of December.

On average, we were warm in December. The Athens area mean temperature during December was 2 degF above the average 45.4F. We broke one high temperatures record, on Dec 22, with 71F edging out 1948's 70F. We came close, within a degreeF, on Dec 6 and Dec 21.

We had 5 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (average is 5.5 days), so the higher monthly temperatures were due not to high extremes. Rather, they were due to both duration - lots of days somewhat higher than normal - and record high low temperatures (at night). We only had 2 nights with temperatures more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows (average 4.4 nights). The number of events outside normality underscores the cooler temperatures the overall average reflects.

Let's look more closely at the breakdown in temperature ranges in December.

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

The high temperature events fall within the error bars (except, perhaps, for the >= 70 degF days). It's the average, oddly, that's way above normal in significance. We had many more average days, and the small number of much more than average temperature days kicked us over the December average. Nighttime events, not so much significance.

The dry period that began in September, and continued throughout the fall, ended in December. The official Athens rainfall in December was 7.62 inches, more than twice the 3.73 inches average. Out here in Wolfskin we had 10.2 inches, nearly three times the December average rainfall.

And so that does bring us to the rain for our area: in short, a lot, a whole lot. 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.

We actually flirted a bit with exceeding the river of peach for much of the month, but in the last week or so we really exceeded it.

Here is a little taste of our 2013 rainfall accumulations out here in Wolfskin. Athens data may differ somewhat.

First, take a look at the following accumulations by month, for the years 2005-2013. The 2013 black line ends at the highest point in the 9-year period, at 64.44 inches for the year, 18 inches above average. It edges out the previous clear record set in 2009.

Now's an appropriate time to report our recovery from several drought periods. The figure below shows accumulated rainfall since January 2005 in green, plotted against the accumulated average in red. For years, we've been below the red.

The blue shows the difference, as indicated by the numbers on the right hand vertical axis. We're still below the zero point that would indicate we've achieved normal accumulations on a decadal scale. But we're back up to the levels we got to in 2009, and have eradicated the drought of 2011-2012.

I like the blue plot above - it clearly shows the two periods of drought, the 2005-2009 drought, the recovery in 2009, and the lesser but still significant drought of the last two years.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the prognosticator telling us?

For us here in the southeast, it has been accurate over the last five months for temperature and precipitation, but its prediction of drier and warmer in the last half of December certainly failed for rainfall predictions.

So for what it's worth, as of 3 January, we'll have a higher than normal chance of precipitation for the next few weeks, then an equal chance, followed by a higher than normal chance of drier weather in the late winter and early spring.

Temperature-wise, it tells us in the Southeast that we can expect a couple of weeks of warmer temperatures (in the short term this is certainly not correct, and we might expect snow in the next few days). For the next three months (JFM), we'll have at least equal chances of being warmer than normal.

Take a look for your own region. In fact, there's now a very nice 2013-2014 winter outlook for everyone here.

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 30 December, ENSO neutral conditions continue, and are expected to remain neutral, now through the Northern Hemisphere summer. We've remained ENSO neutral now for 20 months. The last time we had such a lengthy period without an El Niño or La Niña must be at this point in the 1990s.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for November is available. There's a great map of significant weather events occurring during autumn 2013.

2012's annual report for is available regionally, nationally, and globally. Soon the report for 2013 will appear.

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