Banana palms growing in western North Carolina?

bananatree

I definitely believe climate change is real.

Here where I live, in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina, each summer seems to grow progressively hotter and longer, and each winter has been milder and shorter than the last (not that I mind this personally, since I really can’t stand cold weather).   This fall has felt more like a continuation of summer than fall, and even at night the temperatures are still pretty warm.    It’s also been extremely dry, and the trees, rather than turning colors, are going straight from green to brown to bare (not that the fall colors here, outside of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the trees are chosen for their fall color, are that impressive anyway).   Sometimes I feel like I live in Florida, not the mountains of North Carolina, where the climate should be temperate, not tropical.

I’ve noticed something very strange this year too, something that I’ve never seen before.  Banana palms growing in people’s yards.  Maybe it’s just a new fad, and people are planting them here, but I don’t think it’s just that.   I think the climate has actually changed in the past few years, to a more subtropical (and less temperate) one, making it possible for banana palms to grow here.

I decided to look this up on Google, and found out that there is a such thing as cold hardy banana palms, that can withstand mild winters, even if the temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, as long as the trees are protected.  So although they couldn’t grow in the wild (yet), they could grow and thrive in someone’s yard.

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I looked up the climate type for western North Carolina and found out we are a Koppen Cfa climate (humid subtropical!) climate.  Even more shocking was to find out that central to southern New Jersey is also a Cfa climate, making it possible to grow certain types of subtropical plants, including cold hardy banana palms, there too!   I do know that many beaches at the Jersey Shore now have palm trees gracing them, but these trees are removed and taken somewhere else to spend the winters (I have no idea how that would be done) and then returned to New Jersey in late spring.

In general, North Carolina does not have palm trees, although there are many flowering evergreen species (these usually have dark, waxy leaves) here in the mountains, and palmetto trees (not a real palm tree but they are related to palms) growing in the coastal areas (the palmetto is also the state tree of South Carolina).

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Palmetto tree.

 

But this might be changing.   I live 37 miles north of the South Carolina border, and almost as soon as you cross the line into that state, palmettos can be found everywhere.  Banana palms are also common there.  So we’re not far from the cutoff for tropical (or subtropical) types of plants.  But I think the cutoff has moved farther north now, even into the lower mountains.   That would make sense, with climate change being a factor.  I haven’t seen any palmettos here yet, but I wonder if that’s just a matter of time.

If food shortages due to climate change ever become a problem, maybe I’ll plant some banana palms.  Bananas are a fantastic source of nutrients and quick energy.

Climate change and religious objection to climate activism.

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…And a little child shall lead them.  (Isaiah 11:6)

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg is a hero and an inspiration for the whole world.  That became obvious yesterday as hundreds of cities all over the world gathered in huge numbers for the worldwide Climate Strike that Thunberg started a couple of years ago, when she decided to skip classes to stand by herself on a street corner with a homemade protest sign.

The sign did not go unnoticed.  Who would have thought that a painfully shy, introverted, autistic sixteen year old with few friends could be the catalyst for a worldwide movement to fight the Climate Crisis caused by our continued use of fossil fuels and unsustainable, wasteful, earth destroying practices that the likes of Trump and Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro have further encouraged, almost as if to mock the scientific data that shows we are in grave peril unless we reverse these practices.

Greta Thunberg now travels all over the world (she chooses ships when crossing the ocean, so she leaves less of a carbon “footprint”) to give speeches to leaders of countries and the heads of ethical corporations who believe in sustainable technology and know it’s the wave of the future.   Powerful but ethical adults are listening, and she has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Thunberg also has many critics, who smear her by saying she is a mentally ill (because of her autism), spoiled, Godless, fame hungry child who knows nothing about the planet and uses fearmongering to get famous.   Blaming a vulnerable child who has the courage to speak the truth is one thing you can always count on the regressive fascists of the world to do.

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Thousands of Dutch students skipped classes to march for action on climate change.  Photo credit: Remko de Waal, AFP

The pigtailed Swedish teen’s peers are our planet’s future.  It has been said by some that her generation (Generation Z) will be the last one on earth (that may be a bit dramatic, unless Trump starts World War III, which is certainly possible).

More realistically, any offspring Thunberg’s generation has will likely have the misfortune of living in a dystopian world without breathable free air and drinkable free water, massive flooding changing the contours of the continents themselves, devastating droughts, terrible storms, and food shortages everywhere, even in places that never experienced food shortages before.   These children will grow up on a blighted planet choked with pollution, eye burning and organ destroying soot and toxic fumes, trying to farm infertile, blackened soil that yields few or no crops, a planet with its natural beauty destroyed by powerful men consumed with never having enough and always wanting more, even when that means stealing from the rest of us and taking away our national parks and public lands so they can drill for more oil and garner more riches for themselves and their cronies.   Greed does kill.

And their terrible sociopathic God tells them this is all okay.   That these conscienceless individuals who have twisted God into a being so much like themselves, after all, have dominion over the rest of us, and we, as their hapless subjects who are not “chosen” by God or “anointed,” have no rights at all and will burn in hell for even objecting to our rights being taken away.   Their terrible fake God feeds their narcissism by giving them permission to do whatever they want, rewarding them with ever more power and riches, no matter how wrong or immoral the things they do, or how much it hurts life on this planet.

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Greta Thunberg leads climate change march in New York City yesterday. Photo credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AP

They excuse their destructiveness by insisting they are the “chosen ones,” and patting themselves on the back for pretending to be “pro-life.”  But these are people without a conscience or empathy, so it makes no sense that they would have selective empathy for a tiny embryo who isn’t a sentient being yet, but never for the woman who carries it, for her other children who may be orphaned if the pregnancy will kill her, and never for children once they are born (especially if they are not white).   The explanation for their hypocrisy is simple.  Their real motive isn’t about saving unborn babies; it’s about having complete control over women.  That’s why they are fine with rape culture and are passing legislation that removes or diminishes laws that protect women from violence.  All fascist governments attempt to control and demean women in the same manner.   They do the same thing in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia under the Taliban and ISIS.  But I digress.  This is a post about climate change and environmental activism.

I had a few random thoughts about the hypocrisy of right wing fundamentalists and evangelicals’ objections to climate change activism, and I’d like to share them with you.

Right wing Trump supporting evangelicals think it’s okay for big oil companies and other powerful corporations to exploit and pollute the earth, and they also think it’s wrong for the people affected by these destructive practices to demand accountability and laws that regulate what these companies can do to the environment, because they believe it shows a lack of faith that God can replenish the earth.   How is that view any different from kids trashing the house and then saying they don’t have to clean their mess because it shows a lack of faith that their parents can do it?

Even if God is perfectly capable of restoring the earth to its pristine natural state without our help, isn’t the way we’re treating it pretty disrespectful of his property?   Frankly, we don’t even deserve to have a liveable earth should we destroy this one.    We seem so unappreciative of the one we already have.

As for the ridiculous claim by some evangelicals that environmental activism is “earth worship”:  Here’s a news flash.  Maintaining your house isn’t “worshipping” it. Expecting others not to trash your brick and mortar house and punch holes in its walls isn’t ungodly. Making necessary repairs to your house doesn’t offend God. So why do evangelicals think caring for our earthly home is offensive to God?

God never said it’s okay to exploit the planet for personal gain and riches.  That’s part of dominion theology, which is heresy.   The Bible is clear about how God feels about humanity trashing the Earth.    You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that true morality means caring for our earthly home and not exploiting it for wealth and power.  Greta Thunberg knows this.    I hope God blesses her richly.

The Top 7 Bible Verses About Taking Care of the Earth

 

The weather lately and climate change.

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A tree in Missouri suffering from bacterial leaf scorch

Scientists said this past July was the hottest one on record.   Each summer has been, on average, hotter than the one before it, and the hottest summers have nearly all been since 2000.  I bet this past August will be the hottest on record too.

I don’t know about you, but I believe the scientists about this, not the orange narcissist sitting in the Oval Office, a man who actually ordered scientists at NOAA to lie about where Hurricane Dorian made landfall, in order to save his fragile ego from having to face the consequences of being wrong.

But I promise I’m not getting on my political soapbox today.   I just wanted to talk about the weather — and the strange things I’ve been observing that may be due to climate change.

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It’s the middle of September, and normally by now, even in a mid-South state like North Carolina, the weather is starting to cool down into pleasant, warm sunny dry days and cooler nights.  A few of the trees begin to show fall colors (even though “fall colors” around here often means some shade of brown, maroon, or sickly yellow).  September in this part of the country looks like summer past its expiration date:  still summer, but the trees and plants all have a tired, overgrown, overripe look about them, like fruit that’s still edible but on the verge of going bad.

But this September has been the hottest I can remember.  In fact, it’s hotter than it was in August, and August heat here is almost unbearable every year.    The temperature has been soaring up into the high 80s and 90s nearly every day this month so far, with a heat index that’s about the same or even higher, and the nights are muggy and bring little relief.

It’s a humid, oppressive heat, the kind that makes a person literally drip and plasters my hair down to my head like a helmet and makes my hair straightener almost useless.   It’s the type of heat that makes you not want to do anything, but at the same time you can’t really get any rest either.   At night in bed, without the air conditioning going at full blast, I toss and turn as if in a fever dream, and in the morning my bed is soaked with sweat.  It’s as if Florida followed me back here in August.

And the bugs.  Holy shit, the bugs.   Not bees and butterflies and other “nice” insects that do useful things for us, and don’t bother you and invade your personal space, but nasty, hateful, biting bugs that have no respect for personal boundaries.   So, the problem’s not an excess of bugs, it’s the kind of bugs.  Scientists have discovered there is a shortage of bees and other pollinating insects due to climate change, exacerbated by harmful policies that further destroy them.    I’ve seen the decline for myself.   Usually there’s a plethora of bees among the many flowering plants here, but this year there did seem to be a dearth of them.   I also noticed fewer butterflies.   But there’ve been mosquitoes in great swarms this year (probably due to the surplus of rain we had in July and August), and right now I’m covered in their nasty, itchy weals.  Blood loving insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas, seem unaffected by the hot weather, and in fact they seem to thrive in it.  There seems to be an uptick in other unpleasant, seemingly useless insects such as crane flies, fleas, and cockroaches.

Finally, there’s something wrong with the way the natural world looks.   As I mentioned earlier,  southern states don’t get the stunning array of bright Fall colors that states like Vermont or Colorado enjoy (unless you drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the trees have been deliberately chosen for their autumn color), and most of the trees and other plants should still be mostly deep green anyway.

But the trees don’t just look past their prime.  They look downright unhealthy.   The other day I was driving down a pretty older suburban neighborhood whose streets are lined with huge, fat old oak trees.  These trees are probably well over one hundred years old, but I’ve never seen them look the way they do.  They looked like they were dead or dying.  All the leaves were still there, but they were a dried up, pale greenish brown, as if they were in a faded discolored old photograph. That’s not normal.   I don’t know what was wrong with those trees, but those weren’t fall colors.   They looked…dessicated or even burnt.  Perhaps the intense heat had done that to them.   There’s a fatal condition (shown at the top) that affects oaks and other types of trees called bacterial leaf scorch. Maybe that’s what it is, or maybe it’s some kind of blight.  Other trees and plants have that scorched, blighted look too.    I’ve also noticed a lot more dead trees.

One of my neighbors is growing a palm tree.  Palm trees don’t grow in western North Carolina naturally, but I have to wonder if, with the warm winters we’ve enjoyed the past few years (save a few days with temps in the single digits or teens), it just might survive if this winter proves to be even warmer.

For the past few years, I’ve also noticed the vegetation along the sides of the roads is dead.  Maybe it’s being sprayed with pesticides near the road, or maybe it’s the exhaust from the cars, but this seems like something new.  I don’t think I ever noticed it until a few years ago.

The sky has a strange look to it, a smogginess I don’t remember ever seeing in this part of the country before.   Sometimes near the horizon, it’s so heavy it obscures the view of distant objects, and it has an unpleasant yellowish gray tint to it, a color similar to a bruise, or an approaching thunderstorm even though there’s no storm coming.  In fact, it reminds me of the way the air looked on summer days in New York and New Jersey back in the pre-EPA 1970s. Could Trump’s relaxation of environmental regulations already be having visible effects?

Have you noticed similar changes too?  Let me know in the comments.

Climate change has turned our farms into lakes.

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Floodwaters in Henderson County, NC

 

For the past three or four years, I’ve been noticing drastic changes in our climate that can’t be explained by temporary freakish weather conditions or other passing factors.  These are enduring, permanent changes that have affected the climate in the mountainous regions of North Carolina (Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains)  and have actually raised us up a notch on the Plant Hardiness Growing Map so that plants that were once not viable here (due to it being too cold) can now be grown.    Soon I expect to start seeing palmetto trees!

Forgive the gallows humor, because it really is no joke.

In spite of occasional blasts of severe winter weather and single digit temperatures, for the most part, the past three or four winters have been extremely warm, some days so warm you can go without a jacket or sweater.  I remember Christmas Day of 2015 was in the seventies.   I’ve seen trees and flowers blooming as early as mid-February.   I may live in the south, but it’s not the tropics or even the deep south.   In normal years the winters have been consistently cold, though they don’t last very long, even here in the mountains, where it tends to be colder.

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But even more noticeable than the higher temperatures and earlier springs (and later winters)is the rain.  While climate change has made some parts of the country, such as California and much of the west, extremely dry and prone to drought and devastating wildfires, other places are getting an excess of rain (and severe storms).  We are one of those places, and the rain often leads to flooding, something that until recently wasn’t that common here, or at least was confined to specific areas that everyone knew to avoid.  Now it seems to be everywhere, and is affecting small farms in this area the most drastically.  There’s an area of fairly flat land in Henderson County that I pass on most days.   This is a valley area which is often used as farmland or grazing land.    Now many of these farms and grazing areas seem to be almost permanently flooded, forming shallow lakes and ponds.   The water never gets a chance to evaporate sufficiently before the next rainstorm comes along and causes even more flooding.

The rivers also seem unusually high.   There are times certain roads have been closed off due to the rivers and streams overflowing their banks.

And the mud!  While it tends to get muddy here every late winter and early spring, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.   When you walk across the grass,  you feel the ground give way beneath you like a soggy sponge.   Trees have fallen because the ground is too soft to hold their roots in place.   And all my shoes are ruined.  This forested region is fast becoming very close to something resembling a wetland.

The speed of these changes is scary.  Climate change is real.  Anyone who tells you otherwise either isn’t paying attention or has bought into lies certain powerful politicians and CEOs are telling.

Denying the obvious.

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Climate change is not a theory, but a scientific fact with nearly as much evidence to back it up as the existence of gravity.  Scientists and climatologists aren’t stupid or deluded.  They have spent years studying geology, climatology, oceanography, and meteorology.   Climate change isn’t a conspiracy theory dreamed up by George Soros, China, or “the left.”   It’s not God punishing us for homosexuality or abortion (some right wing evangelicals actually believe this, but there isn’t even a logical connection between natural disasters and sinful behavior so their “argument” is no more than superstition).  Climate change is a real thing, and we would be wise to heed the experts and not right wing politicians and conspiracy theorists who continue to deny what’s right in front of them.

Climate deniers like Trump remind me of my deceased mother in law, a malignant narcissist who lied about things that were obvious to everyone else, and then, when she was shown evidence that she was wrong, instead of admitting her folly, continued to deny the obvious and even double down on her “beliefs.”     I remember a year or so after I got married, my husband and I moved into the first floor of her two family house in New Jersey.   It was an older house, and hadn’t been maintained well, and unbenownst to us, it was infested with termites.

One spring day, we had a massive swarm. Flying termites were literally coming out of the walls and oozing out of every corner.   They were dropping their wings all over the living room floor.   There must have been hundreds or even thousands of them.   I was terrified and felt like throwing up.   I called my mother in law down to look and begged her to hire a pest control company.   But not wanting to take any responsibility, she denied the termites were even there.    She said they weren’t termites, they were “bugs” caused by “dirt.”   We weren’t dirty people, but she was trying to blame us, saying if we were “cleaner people” there would be no bugs (especially since they hadn’t invaded her upstairs living quarters).

She reacted the same way when the basement washing machine broke.   It was 20 years old, and bound to break eventually, but she said we broke it because we shouldn’t have been mixing different colored clothing in the same wash.   Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  How does mixing colors cause a washing machine to break?  It doesn’t.    It was a lie she made up to blame us.

Trump’s behavior toward the people of California when he finally went there to survey the damage caused by the wildfires reminded me so much of my mother in law.   Instead of showing empathy to the people and offering help and temporary FEMA shelters to people left homeless by the fires, he tried to blame Californians, chiding them for “not raking” the forest floors.    Raking forest floors to prevent fires makes about as much sense as not mixing colors to prevent washing machine breakdowns, or dirt causing termite infestations.    Malignant narcissists, instead of admitting they may have been wrong, double down in their convictions,  and if they have to, they will concoct the most outrageous and ridiculous lies to “back up” their ludicrous claims.

Recently, a climate report by an independent and scientific agency came out, and it contained an alarming warning:  if we don’t stop our use of fossil fuels immediately, our planet’s weather will continue to worsen, with more severe and frequent hurricanes and other devastating storms, more frequent and damaging wildfires like the one that continues to rage in California, and eventually the ice caps will melt, completely changing the outlines of our coasts and submerging vulnerable landmasses like Florida and coastal cities like New York.   The Gulf Stream, which warms western Europe (which otherwise would be as cold as Canada and the northern US due to those countries’ high latitude) would be disrupted, and those countries could be plunged into deep freeze.

I could go on about all the changes but there are way too many to name here, and most of them would be devastating to life on this planet.

Yet Trump and his supporters continue to deny climate change, calling it a conspiracy theory, a “Chinese hoax,” and a left wing anticapitalist plot.    They see how bad the weather has been in recent years, with terrible and frequent hurricanes, wildfires like we’ve never seen, long droughts, flooding rains, the destruction of crops, much warmer winters than have ever been normal, and generally,  strange and severe weather that’s atypical for its location and latitude.

Trump thinks that because it happens to snow somewhere, or temperatures are colder than average on a given day, that means “global warming” is a hoax.   The term “global warming” has fallen out of favor (even though average temperatures are in fact rising) because the outcome of climate change doesn’t always mean hotter temperatures, even though over the long term, the earth is warming.  The preferred term is now climate change, because it takes into account the fact that a warming planet can cause every kind of severe weather, even bitterly cold temperatures.

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A good example of how this can happen is the Gulf Stream (which I already mentioned earlier), a current of warm tropical water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and crosses the Atlantic, moving to the northeast, warming up northern and coastal Europe. The warming effect gives countries at high latitudes (Ireland is at the same latitude as Labrador!) much warmer weather than they would otherwise have.   If the Gulf Stream were to become disrupted (and the melting of the ice caps and rising sea levels would certainly do that), those countries will become much colder.   Yet it’s because the planet is warming, a chain of events started by the melting of the ice caps which would turn the entire Atlantic colder for a time.

*****

Further reading (please read, it is important):

A Grave Climate Warning, Published on Black Friday 

Earth Day 2017 — March for Science

Today is almost a year since the first March for Science. Here’s an article from USA Today about this year’s March:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/04/14/march-science-2018/517294002/

It doesn’t seem like a lot has changed in a year, as Trump and his minions continue to dismantle the EPA from within, destroy laws that protect us against pollution, push fossil fuels over sustainable clean energy, and double down on their climate change denial even as our polar ice caps melt and our weather becomes more extreme and dangerous.

I’m reblogging the post I wrote last year when I attended the March for Science in my city.

Lucky Otters Haven

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In these days of dangerous lies called alternative facts and facts touted by our leaders as fake news,  the celebration of Earth Day has never seemed more important.  All over the nation today, people in cities big and small gathered to defend science and scientific research.  Scientific knowledge and education is important to keep our water and air clean, our food healthy and safe, and keep our young people educated instead of indoctrinated in ignorance.

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The organizations that sponsored our event.

In one important sense, the Trump presidency is the best thing that could happen to our country, because it’s forcing people to wake up and finally take a stand for the things that really matter.   I doubt there would be this level of activity had Hillary won the election.   People would remain stuck in their apathy and cynicism.

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It’s encouraging that so many cities had such a big…

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Spring in February?

If you doubted climate change is real, the past two winters are enough proof to me that it is.   The past two winters are the two warmest winters on record (for this region, anyway), and I have never seen anything like this:

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Yes, those are cherry blossoms on those trees.  Other trees are blooming too.  The grass in my yard is ready to be mowed and flowers are starting to bloom everywhere.  The temperatures in the daytime have been in the 70s.

This is in the mountains of North Carolina, not northern Florida.   In normal years, our highland climate isn’t very different than that of southern New Jersey or the Mid-Atlantic states.  Winters here tend to be of fairly short duration, but they are normally quite cold and we do get some snow.

I love spring (it’s my favorite season), but this isn’t normal. These trees should not be blooming for another month.

The weather in other places has been very strange too.   Freezing cold temperatures in the Pacific Northwest (where it’s usually fairly mild in the winter), and days of flooding rains and tropical storm force winds in coastal California.

What a perfect time for the president to silence and attempt to shut down the EPA.

I’m attending a March for Science here in my city on Earth day — April 22nd.   It will be my first protest activity against this administration (besides my incessant rants in this blog and on Facebook and Twitter).  I’m fed up with the science deniers who act like global warming isn’t real, and now we have a woman under Trump (Betsy DeVos) who has plans to remove the teaching of science in schools (and defund the public schools while she’s at it).

If you want to help save science education, there are Marches for Science in many US cities.   Their website is here, and by scrolling to the bottom, you can find out where there will be one near you:

https://www.marchforscience.com/

 

 

Autumn 2016: warmest in U.S. weather history.

I still had flowers blooming outside in November.    Personally, I do believe in global warming.  Could this be an indicator?

Autumn 2016: Warmest in U.S. Weather History

By: Bob Henson , 6:10 PM GMT on December 07, 2016
 

https://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=3521

The autumn of 2016 was the warmest ever observed in records going back to 1895 for the 48 contiguous U.S. states, according to data released on Wednesday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The nation’s average September-to-November temperature of 57.63°F was a full 1.05°F above the previous autumn record, set way back in 1963, and it was 4.08°F above the 20th-century average (see Figure 1). The record-setting margin of more than 1°F is a hefty one for a temperature record that spans an entire season and a landmass as large as the 48 contiguous states. For comparison, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-warmest U.S. autumns are all clustered within 1°F of each other, as are the six coldest autumns on record.

Pushing this past autumn to the top of the temperature pack were the third-warmest October and third-warmest Novemberon record, along with the ninth-warmest September. Eight states along a swath from New Mexico to Michigan saw their warmest autumn on record, and every contiguous state except for California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington had a top-ten warmest autumn (see Figure 2).

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Read the rest of this article here