The family and I are just back from our annual winter trek to Lost Brook Tract and I have a joyful urge to write about how terrific winter camping is. My timing is not intended to offer any sort of counterpoint to Dan Crane’s recent post; the last time I checked he and I don’t coordinate our contributions. But counterpoint it will be.
In fact, let me begin with Dan: Dan! Dude! Get back out there and pitch your tent, buddy. There’s plenty of winter to go and I can vouch for the fact that there are perfect conditions in the back country right now – no doubt there will be for quite some time.
Why do we go backpacking in the Adirondacks? I submit that if you were to make a list of the reasons you go into the wilderness for an extended period, you would find that almost all of them are more valid and better fulfilled in the winter (I know, I know… yeah, sure, but it’s cold Pete). » Continue Reading.
Trees are about half water, maybe a little less in winter. And if the temperature drops low enough, the water in even the most cold-hardy tree will freeze.
So how do trees survive below-freezing temperatures? They can’t move south or generate heat like a mammal. Sure, the below-ground parts of a tree are kept insulated by a layer of snow, and that is important to winter survival, but the exposed parts of a tree are not so protected. » Continue Reading.
So far this season my home of Madison, Wisconsin has been bereft of any semblance of winter. Last Monday it was 65 degrees and I got sweaty playing with my dog while dressed in a T-shirt. Amy and I completed our circuit of holiday parades – we do maybe a dozen of them all over southern Wisconsin – without once seeing a snowflake or having stiff fingers from the cold as we prepped our equipment. That kind of track record is without an analog in these parts.
Last week the NOAA announced that 2012 will finish as the warmest year in US history. According to USA Today’s report, every state in the lower 48 was warmer than average and eighteen states set records for warmest year ever including New York and virtually the entire Northeast. Many Midwestern cities will set records this week for longest stretch of consecutive days with no snow. Climate change is upon us and both the accumulating data and trend models show that it is warming more rapidly and more severely than previously predicted. Yet most Americans still don’t seem to care all that much about it and plenty of ignoramuses still deny it, following an ugly and embarrassing American trend of belittling science and knowledge. Even on the Almanack one suspects there are more than a few readers who are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in human-made climate change. In their case – in all our cases – ignorance will surely not be bliss. » Continue Reading.
In the northern hardwood forest, climate change is expected to reduce the viability of the maple syrup industry, encourage the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species, and impact timber resources and the winter sports economy.
Accurately gauging the pace of change in the Adirondacks has been challenging, owing to the relative dearth of long-term local data. Now, a new study published by 21 scientists that reviews 50 years of data from Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire concludes that our current models of climate change don’t account well for surprising real world changes taking place in local forests. » Continue Reading.
It seems each autumn, I start noticing sunsets more. They are so pink, so orange, so bright. I’ve always chalked up my autumnal sunset attention to my mood shifting with the changing season; perhaps I’m feeling a little wistful at summer’s end and reflecting on nature’s splendor more than usual. But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the colors we see during sunsets really are more vibrant in fall and winter than they are in spring and summer – seasonal melancholia has got nothing to do with it.
The intensity of sunset and sunrise colors has to do with Rayleigh scattering. I spoke with meteorologist Chris Bouchard of the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, who kindly dropped some knowledge on this scattering business. » 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.
There’s snow flying around in the air. It’s been snowing on and off all day, with some sticking to my car this morning, but there’s none on the ground. I noticed the slightly silvery coloring of the pines and hemlocks from snow sticking to the branches, though. I’m glad it’s not sticking on the ground yet, but it won’t be long, and even though it’s been cold, we’ve been lucky that the snow didn’t start flying a week or two ago.
They say that this is the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, which at the cabin turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. We had a wind storm last winter where I could hear trees coming down with a fair amount of regularity, but this past Monday night didn’t add up to much. There was one branch down on my road, so it turned out I didn’t need to bring my chainsaw with me. But I guess it’s good that I was prepared to cut my road clear to get to work. Or maybe it’s not good. I don’t know. » Continue Reading.
Blending meteorological history with the history of scientific cartography, Lake Effect: Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows by Mark Monmonier (Syracuse University Press, 2012) charts the phenomenon of lake-effect snow and explores the societal impacts of extreme weather. Along the way, he introduces readers to natural philosophers who gradually identified this distinctive weather pattern, to tales of communities adapting to notoriously disruptive storms, and to some of the snowiest regions of the country.
Characterized by intense snowfalls lasting from a couple of minutes to several days, lake-effect snow is deposited by narrow bands of clouds formed when cold, dry arctic air passes over a large, relatively warm inland lake. With perhaps only half the water content of regular snow, lake snow is typically light, fluffy, and relatively easy to shovel. Intriguing stories of lake effect’s quirky behavior and diverse impacts include widespread ignorance of the phenomenon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since then a network of systematic observers have collected several decades of data worth mapping, and reliable short term predictions based on satellites, Doppler radar, and computer models are now available. » Continue Reading.
Last Thursday, the Climate Prediction Center, the long range weather forecasting division of the National Weather Service, made its prediction for this coming winter with a rather unusual statement.
The El Niño event that had started to slowly develop and was expected to strengthen and influence weather patterns across our continent, suddenly vanished. (El Niño is a cyclical warming of the surface water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and helps to establish a broad area of high pressure over this equatorial region which can greatly impact weather patterns over the U.S., especially in the northeast.) » Continue Reading.
The nights are longer and cooler and the daily high temperatures are lower than the summer lows. I’m glad for the solar lights strung around the cabin. They cast a pleasant blueish glow without being blinding. Wearing a headlamp literally all time last winter really got old, and it’s nice to be able to see without one. Now I can find my glass of Maker’s Mark without burning batteries.
Ed got another mouse last night. He can never get them during normal waking hours, only in the middle of the night. So, after work, I didn’t do anything that could be called “chores” or “work” or anything like that. I sat on the boulder that serves as my front step and played guitar. I let all the animals out to enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun. Pico ate grass and layed around, Ed went out hunting, and Herbie was somewhere doing whatever it is fat cats do. » Continue Reading.
The rainy weather that has persisted over the past month has returned the water in our rivers, lakes, and ponds to levels typical for this time of year, rejuvenated the trees and shrubs in our forests and the grass and weeds in our lawns.
It has also restored the moist soil environment necessary for the continued activity of numerous invertebrates, terrestrial amphibians, and other creatures that reside on the ground and in the dirt. Despite several frosts and the record cold this past Friday night that temporarily froze the surface of the soil, many of the organisms that exist in the ground remain active well into the autumn. » Continue Reading.
For many locations in the Adirondacks, the growing season ended last week when the temperature dropped into the mid-20’s. The hard frost that formed on unprotected garden vegetables and cultivated flowers that were not covered was enough to destroy these sensitive forms of vegetation, along with many herbaceous plants that thrive in fields and meadows.
However, not all places in the region experienced freezing temperatures, as the calm air that permitted heat to be radiated from the atmosphere into space also allowed many spots to retain just enough warmth to stay several degrees above 32. In heavily wooded areas, the dense canopy of leaves that still exists is able to act like a sheet of plastic placed over a garden and trap the warmth of the ground beneath it. » Continue Reading.
With the premiere of the latest PBS series by filmmaker Ken Burns entitled The Dust bowl on November 18-19, WPBS is working on a documentary chronicling Northern New York and Eastern Ontario’s local weather disasters.
The documentary’s producers are reaching out to local communities to gather first-hand accounts from individuals and families who experienced these major events in local history. WPBS is asking for folks to share any pictures, videos, or testimonies of the experience of the community in any of the following disasters: The Blizzard of ‘77, the Microburst of ‘95 and the Ice Storm of ‘98. » Continue Reading.
The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for tonight (Monday, Sept 10) for the southern and western Adirondacks, including Northern Warren, Hamilton, Herkimer, and Fulton counties and Southeastern St. Lawrence, Southern Franklin, and Western Essex counties. A frost advisory means that frost is possible. Temperatures are expected to be generally in the mid to lower 30s. Near freezing temperatures and areas of frost will damage unprotected crops and tender vegetation and sensitive outdoor plants may be killed if left uncovered.
Tom Kalinowski wrote about the impact of the first frost on Adirondack plants and wildlife last year.
Ellen Rathbone wrote about the impact on frost on garden plants in 2009.
The Almanack frequently posts the latest weather advisories on our Facebook Page.
Pico was just digging in the ground, making a cool spot to lie down in. After the rain we got last night, the disturbed ground had a nice, earthy smell to it. A week ago, it would have been just dust, floating up into my face and choking me. Now it smells good.
This is my favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to change color. There are bright yellows and orangeish-reds. Most of the trees are still green, but that just makes the few that are changing really stand out. They look striking.
The road is covered with dead leaves that blow around on the dry days. The good news is that since there are dry days, there must be wet days. The rain we’ve gotten isn’t making up for summer, but at least it’s raining once in a while. We needed the water, and it’s also nice to get a free car wash now and then too. » Continue Reading.
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