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

Tuesday: 9 July 2013

Mid Year Review, with Box Turtles  -  @ 08:21:07
The calendar year is just over halfway done. The meteorological calendar for summer, JJA, is just about half over, too. Time for a review.

Here is what serves as our mid year weather review, here in Wolfskin. These data are unofficial, and apply only to the Wolfskin area southeast of Athens, GA. The very small details apply only with a dozen miles or so. They quickly become mildly different with distance. The overall weather pattern, though, is pretty accurately reflective over the much larger northeast Georgia Piedmont region.

In all graphs below, red means 2012 and blue means 2013. I do that to have a comparison. Both refer to temperatures. Green refers to precipitation.

To start things off, we have a 100-point running average of temperatures. Since 8-12 temperatures are taken during the day, there are 10 days averaged together in each point. Each point is an average of the previous 50 (5 days) and the next 50 (5 days) temperature readings. The brownish smooth curve is the long term NWS average for Athens KAHN.

This makes the absolute temperature approximating some kind of mean, but mostly it just smooths out those hourly and daily jags so you can get at the longer term pattern beneath.

And you can see how our year in blue, this year, has largely been cool to average. Except for a few drops and rises, it's been remarkably smooth, too, compared to last year's red (which is notably all "above the line"). Right now we're noticeably on a cooling trend as we approach the summer peak (ignore the last few dropoff points at the end).

Below is the grand summary plot. I have one of these for each year since 2008, with the previous year also present. Admittedly, the inclusion of two years is confusing to most, especially with the cloud of individual measurements, but it's not hard to see through that cloud and it's important sometimes. I really like to be reminded of those red points sitting there, at the Jun-Jul line of last year, at a record 108-109 degF. Really different today!

A larger version can be had upon clicking on the image, but what I'm interested in mostly is the greenery here - the precipitation!

The vertical bars are this year's individual rainfalls, and their y-axis is the right one.

The lighter green trending line is the cumulative rainfall for the year, and its y-axis is the left one. (The dotted line is the NWS Athens cumulative rainfall Jan-Dec.)

(I've boxed in the area of May-Jun-Jul, which you can see it below.)

You can see that we took off in mid February, rose above the normal rainfall line, and never looked back. We now have so much surplus rain that if it didn't rain until October we'd still make normal annual rainfall. It's just about 10 inches above normal, which is more than 20% of annual rainfall for this area.

It's been a long time since we've seen this kind of thing. It's also been a long time since we've seen such a frequent occurrence of 1+ inch daily rainfalls, which are really easy to detect on the figure.

I'm noticing quite a large effect on the landscape. Some of this is very obvious to anyone. It's like the continuation of one very long spring, with the greenery just becoming more so (along with finding slugs where you never saw them before).

Other things I'm noticing, especially after this past week's torrent, are more subtle. Over the last few days of walking, with copious amounts of rainfall exceeding soil saturation, I'm seeing patterns of erosion that I'd say are exacerbated by the last few years of armadillo churnings. This past week of rain has scoured the creeks clean of several years anaerobic buildup in places, and removed a lot of organic debris. It looks beautiful, but those were still several years of microhabitats completely changed over a large scale.

And I think this cooler to normal temperature regime, along with the much increased rainfall, has had a revelatory affect on box turtle behavior. I've mentioned that box turtles have been in low activity this year (at least compared to last year). Well, that continues, and yes it does sound odd. Why wouldn't box turtles be absolutely out there, running about enjoying the bounty and good weather? I think I have a handle on why that is, or why it may appear so.

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