There’s something about the weather, particularly when it comes to hydrology, that creates an almost eye-rolling cycle of stories. If it’s not too dry, it’s too wet. With a changing climate, the normal also changes — for instance, while reporting a story on pollution running into Lake Champlain, I heard from officials on both sides of the lake that they’re seeing more rain and storms so intense they’re called “rain bombs,” a recipe for uncontrolled flashes of water that sweep pollution into the lake from fields and streets.
Some people notice all this. Others do not.
Two years ago, while I was reporter in the Southwest and had spent a few years covering a major drought, we had what seemed like an awfully rainy and cold winter for that part of the world. A few people I talked to regularly said, Oh yeah, this is strange weather for here. So, I called the National Weather Service and asked, Ain’t it awfully rainy and cold? Not really, the local meteorologist replied, it was only the 55th coldest stretch on record.
Such is the nature of human perception: We forget what happened or remember things that didn’t.
Given that maple producers have to boil down roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you would think that dry weather might improve things. Obviously if drought could get rid of a bunch of water for free, the sap would become concentrated and you wouldn’t need to boil as much. Heck, in an extremely dry year maybe we could just drill into a maple and have granular sugar come dribbling out.
If only it worked that way. In general, a shortage of water during the growing season hampers the production of sugar and leads to lower sap sugar concentrations the following spring. Green plants have a magic formula for turning sunlight into sugar, and it calls for a few simple ingredients: water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and chlorophyll. If one item is missing, the transformation won’t work. I’m told most spells fail for want of a newt’s eye or some such, but if a thing as basic and usually commonplace as water is in short supply, the miracle of photosynthesis slows to a snail’s pace (which is likely used for some other spell). » Continue Reading.
Scenes from the West’s five-year drought are striking – the cracked mud at the bottom of a dry reservoir, forests in flames. Wonder what a drought would look like in the Northern Forest? Just look out the window.
This is the first time that any part of New Hampshire has been in an “extreme drought” since the federal government began publishing a drought index in 2000, said Mary Lemcke-Stampone, the state’s climatologist. “Using state records, you have to go back to the early ‘80s to get the extreme dryness we’ve been seeing in southeastern New Hampshire.” » Continue Reading.
It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.
Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among the things we learned — and probably forgot right away — in Junior High Biology is that leaves are green because of chlorophyll, the amazing molecule that converts light, water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Its intense green tends to mask colors such as orange and yellow that are present in leaves in lower concentrations. When chlorophyll dies off in the fall, those “weaker” colors are revealed. » Continue Reading.
Due to the dry conditions black bears have been more active than usual throughout the Adirondacks. You can take steps to prevent problems with nuisance bears.
NEVER feed bears. It is prohibited by regulation and is unsafe for humans and the bear. Nuisance bears that have become habituated to obtaining food from humans can be become aggressive, requiring DEC to euthanize them. » Continue Reading.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a drought watch for the entire state of New York following consultation with the State Drought Management Task Force and Federal partner agencies.
A watch is the first of four levels of state drought advisories (“watch,” “warning,” “emergency” and “disaster”). There are no statewide mandatory water use restrictions in place under a drought watch. However, local public water suppliers may require such measures depending upon local needs and conditions. The last drought watch in New York State was issued in 2002.
The drought watch is triggered by the State Drought Index, which reflects precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, and stream flow and groundwater levels in nine designated drought regions throughout New York. Each of these indicators is assigned a weighted value based on its significance to various uses in a region. » Continue Reading.
If trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.
Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.
Bright sunny weather with little wind in March, such as the type that our region experienced this past weekend, not only triggers the flow of sap in maple trees and causes a case of spring fever in every normal human, but it also prematurely awakens several creatures that pass the winter in a deep state of dormancy.
Among those forms of animal life impacted by bouts of intense sun and temperatures above freezing during the latter part of winter is the cluster fly. After the sun starts to bake the south side of homes, barns and sheds, this insect rouses from its prolonged period of torpor and exits its winter retreat in the company of dozens to hundreds of its kin. As the late afternoon temperatures cool, this bug is forced to return to some hidden nook or cranny and wait until the next spell of spring weather awakens it again. » Continue Reading.
The time of migration for some birds, and their eventual destination, are very predictable. For others, however, it is impossible to say when they exit the general region and where they are going, other than somewhere south. One bird in this last group, illustrating the individualistic behavior patterns of the members of a single species, is the robin.
Along with being a harbinger of spring and ranking as our nation’s number one backyard bird, this orange-breasted songster has no set response to the lessening daylight and the onset of cold, other than to fatten up for the coming winter and eventually travel to a more hospitable climate. » Continue Reading.
It’s dry. Too dry. I dug a hole the other day and it was like digging in a sand box. A foot down and the dirt was still bone dry. I only remember one other drought like this, when I was at Paul Smiths. Doc Kudish pointed out to me that the leaves on the trees were actually wilting. The same thing is happening now, and there’s even a few that are starting to change color. And it’s not because it’s been cool out.
Both of the spring-fed streams that run through the property are dry because the water table has dropped so low. There are no blueberries, which is a shame because wild blueberries are hands-down one of the greatest foods known to man. We did get some rain earlier this week, and it was much needed, but it’s not enough to make up for what we haven’t gotten over the course of the summer. » Continue Reading.
I like bees. They really don’t bother me that much. It’s not like I want to get stung, but they tend to leave me alone, maybe because I don’t freak out when they fly near me. I understand those who are allergic or just don’t want to get stung, though.
I remember vividly the first time I got stung by a bee. It was at our house on 5th Ave in Gloversville, and I was already strapped into my car seat in the back. Mom was locking up the house or grabbing something from inside, and when I shifted in my car seat, the bee stung me right on the butt. I don’t know if I started screaming and I don’t remember the aftermath, but the sting itself is clear as day. » Continue Reading.
It’s been a bit surreal to read about this summer’s record-breaking drought from the lush, thunderstorm-drenched environs of Long Lake. But while the central Adirondacks may have had plenty of rain this summer, other parts of the North Country have not.
I have been tracking drought conditions across the region with stream gage data from US Geological Survey that measures stream levels and transmits the information in real-time to the internet. The USGS began stream gage construction in the late 19th century, and now maintains 7,500 gages across the country including dozens in the Adirondack region. The data from these gages are used for many purposes including flood forecasting, water supply allocation, wastewater treatment, highway engineering and recreation (rafting anyone?). » Continue Reading.
A “Notice!” was placed in the June 22, 1949 issue of the North Creek News by the Water District Superintendent Kenneth Davis and Supervisor Charles Kenwell informing local residence about the drought situation facing them over 60 years ago. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondacks and the surrounding region are at High Fire Danger Levels, warns the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers. Recent warm and dry weather has created a “High Fire Danger” condition that allows wildfires to start easily and spread quickly with devastating effects.
Three fires in the Adirondacks, one of which was started by an unattended campfire, have already burned eight acres of wild lands. The U.S. Drought Monitor is also reporting abnormally dry conditions in Clinton, Franklin, Northern Essex, Western Hamilton, Lewis, and Oneida counties. » Continue Reading.
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