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.

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Happy ending.

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Waiting for Irma’s eye by candlelight.

 

My son and his friends made it through Irma just fine.  They stayed a friend’s home about 10 miles inland.   By the time Irma barreled into Tampa, it was only a Category 2.      The storm surge was no where near what the forecasters were predicting, probably because the eye turned back inland, away from the coast.

One weird thing that happened was that hours before Irma arrived, the entire Tampa Bay lost all its water.  Photos of it looked like a desert or a moonscape (one is shown below).   It was very strange.   As Irma passed to the north, the water came rushing back in.  This phenomenon also happens before tsunamis but of course this wasn’t a tsunami — the wind literally sucked all the water out of the bay!  Tampa Bay is quite shallow though.  It’s possible to walk for a mile into the water and without it getting any deeper than about 3 feet.

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From the videos my son posted (until the power went out), it seemed like he and his friends were actually having a blast.  He took videos periodically, but the worst of the storm didn’t come until very late at night, so he was unable to take videos of that.  The power went out and they lit oil lamps and candles.

He said it got very hot, because of the lack of power, so it was not possible to run the A/C or even fans, and of course they couldn’t open the windows.

At about 2 AM he texted that he was directly under the eye!  The wind and rain suddenly stopped, and he said he could see a few stars.   A few minutes later the wind picked up again, but it was less intense.   So he went to bed.  It was a long day.

When he woke up this morning, he took another video of the damage, which was mostly just fallen trees and branches.  No structural damage to the houses that I could see.   A tree branch was wedged under his windshield wipers and part of it inexplicably got stuck inside the car door.  But all in all, things didn’t look too bad, and today he returned home.

When he returned to his complex, it was not underwater as he had feared.    However, the power was out and there were trees down and one tree had fallen on top of another apartment in the same complex., crushing its roof!

My son said he feels even closer to his friends now that they’ve been through this experience together, so I think it was a good thing for him and it’s certainly something he will always remember.

We are feeling Irma’s effects here today in western North Carolina.  It’s rainy, windy, and cold.  I think I’m actually going to put on the heat and curl up under the covers with a book and go to sleep.   It’s that kind of weather.

*****

More good news!  All 54 Hemingway cats in Key West (I wrote about them the other day since they were directly in Irma’s path) and their caretakers are safe!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4870610/Caretaker-Ernest-Hemingway-s-FL-home-rides-storm.html

Freaked out by Irma.

Yes, I know it’s still far too soon to know exactly where (and if) Irma will hit the United States, but  I just saw a report on the news (MSNBC)  that terrified me.

It showed that Irma, which is expected to be another devastating hurricane like Harvey, is expected to keep moving west and then could possibly turn north once it hits the Florida peninsula, moving along either the Atlantic or the Gulf Coast (no way to know yet).

When I looked it up online, I couldn’t find anything but this.

https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/irma-major-hurricane-atlantic-ocean-leeward-islands

As a worrywart and a mom, this put the fear of God in me.   My son lives in west-central Florida, right along the Gulf Coast, and has no plans to evacuate even if his area takes a direct hit.

There’s nothing I can do except pray and beg him to stock up on bottled water.   I know it’s way early to be this worried, but I can’t help it.

 

 

Spring in January?

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I adore spring (it’s my favorite season), but the temperatures all along the East Coast have been unseasonably warm for at least a week (like , 60 – 70 degrees every day) — and there is no sign that it’s going to get colder any time soon — even though the forecasters are promising winter isn’t done with us yet.  Apparently, it’s warmer in New York than it is in Florida — at least according to this map.  Now, that’s weird.

What concerns me is that the trees here are looking a little “pregnant” — that is, they’re starting to get that sort of full look, with a muted reddish tint, that trees always get in the late winter just before they start to bloom.   Usually that doesn’t happen until March in this region, or sometimes as early as late February.  But mid-January?  That’s not normal.

The grass is also starting to look like it needs a mow.

I also saw a bee buzzing around.  And the birds were singing as if it was May.

I think I recall in 2007, the same thing happened.   Shortly after Christmas it got warm and stayed warm for two weeks — and the rose bushes outside started to bloom.  So did some of the early-blooming shrubs.  But it got cold again, and by the time real spring rolled around, the shrubs decided once was enough: they weren’t going to put on their flamboyant show of color again.   So they just went from bare to green.

If it stays warm, then, well, maybe global warming is true after all (and now we have a President who thinks it’s a myth started by the Chinese) and we can start to plant palm trees here on the East Coast.   Hey, I hear they plant them on the Jersey Shore now!  They’d probably have an even better chance here in the South.

But if it gets cold again, which most likely it will, then I’m afraid we’ll be in for another barren, bloomless spring, like we had in 2007.

Spring, you know I love you, but please be patient!   It’s too early.

Sunrise: 1/12/17

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Ominous clouds.

For awhile it looked a bit threatening, but nothing happened and soon the hot sun was back out. It’s been like this all day, as if the weather has Borderline Personality Disorder.

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Summer storm.

At around 7:30 PM the sky began to get very dark, and a severe thunderstorm warning was issued. I drove to the nearby shopping center parking lot so I could get some good photos of the storm coming in.

It looked pretty impressive and scary as it rolled in, but turned out to be a washout, with rain but no hail, although it did get VERY windy for a few minutes just before the rain started.

I also got a couple of shots of the sky as the storm moved out, around sunset, and the colors were so pretty. (Click on the photos to see more detail).

Taken at around 7:30 PM:

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I took these at about 8:30 PM:

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Global warming, you say?

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It’s almost May and it’s 47 degrees outside and windy. Brrrrr!

Approaching thunderstorm.

The first one of the season!

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Click photos to enlarge.

March madness.

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March is a weird month.
Yesterday was sunny, extremely windy, and in the low 70s.
On Sunday, temps climbed into the low 80s.
Today was like late November, cold and rainy, temps in the low 40s.
This weekend is supposed to be pretty, but then they are talking about SNOW after that.
Tornado season starts about now, too. Fortunately i don’t live in a Tornado Alley state.

Welcome, Spring!

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