Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ready For A Long Weekend? Not This Time

As of right now, the prediction is for snow to start Sunday night, and continue through Monday.

Unless there is a sudden, large change in the weather patterns ..... 

Which seems to have happened.  The storm will be passing to the south.

Students, do your homework!  There will be school in Connecticut.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Not So Good News

The good news - you won't miss school on Wednesday, so the end of the school year won't be extended.

The bad news - all you teachers will have those wonderful meetings tomorrow.

On the other hand, as of right now there is a good chance of a snow day on Monday, and at least a late opening on Tuesday!

And yes, I will be back in Connecticut then.

(If it makes you feel better, the snow scheduled for Wednesday has moved south and will be raining on me.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Next Snow Day?

Here we go again. Another storm, and no one is sure where it will go. The polar vortex is visiting us again, shoved down by an increasingly erratic jet stream. 

As of right now, there will either be a little bit of snow on Wednesday, or the storm will shift north and slam Connecticut. 

As the computer models change I will be updating this. 

I can't see any snow at all from where I am on the Gulf of Mexico.

I do love brown pelicans.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Doves Too!

This morning the first sound I heard was a mourning dove singing.

All winter they have huddled in the snow, pretending to be rocks.

Now the days are longer, the sunlight is cooking up a testosterone cocktail in the male doves brains, and they are singing. Spring is here!
Click here to hear his song.

Idiot Threatens Thousands With Death In California

Measles is highly contagious and has lots of nasty complications.  You can read more about measles at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

About a million people worldwide die from it every year.  In the U.S. the 
vaccine is cheap and easy to get.

So why don't people get this easy to get and inexpensive vaccine?

Because idiots on the web get attention by claiming that their baby or some one else's baby developed autism (a genetic disease) after birth by getting vaccinated.  Then more idiots believe it because if it is on the internet, it must be true, right?  Right up there with the Earth is flat (or hollow) and tin-foil hats can keep the government from reading their brainwaves, and the Flintstones cartoons portray reality.

Now public health officials in Contra Costa County near San Francisco say a Berkeley student had measles when he rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit train
 between Feb. 4 and 7, 2014, possibly exposing thousands of people to this contagious and dangerous virus.  

The man, confirmed to have a case of measles, was unvaccinated and had recently traveled to Asia, where he may have contracted the disease. Measles had been wiped out natively in the U.S. by the 1990s, but local epidemics can be triggered when unvaccinated people travel to other countries. This has happened over and again here in America in the past few years, which is why measles cases tripled in 2013.  

That's right.  A disease which was wiped out in this country, and shouldn't exist anywhere by now, has come back to kill us because idiots don't get vaccinated.

Remember: When you get vaccinated, you are not just protecting you and your family. You’re also helping protect babies too young for their shots, older people, and people with compromised immunities (for example, those who are on immunosuppressants for cancer or arthritis treatment). Herd immunity is real, and important.   And when you don't get vaccinated, you are potentially responsible for their deaths.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Signs of Spring

A male cardinal in my back yard, during warmer weather
Yes, there is a mix of rain and snow falling right now and I am feeling a nap coming on, but across the street a male cardinal is sitting on a branch and singing his spring mating call.

Click here to hear his song.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


This guy doesn't like the deep snow in my back yard.  He came out to eat bird seed, but is having trouble getting out of the path that I dug to the feeders.

There was a time when possums lived only in the warm south.  No longer.  They are one of many species that are moving north.  Alligators have only reached the Carolinas.  It will take a while for them to get here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Central CT Winters

I don't really love them.  

Connecticut is too close to the ocean.   Water absorbs heat all summer and releases it slowly all winter.  That means that the average temperature here in the winter is just above freezing.

This last storm is typical:  snow, rain, snow.  The result is a back-breaking heavy white mess that is difficult to shovel.  Climate change won't make it better.

The view out my front window this morning.

The view out the back.  While I do have some "lawn" covered with violets, speedwell, clover an thyme (and some grass), most of my property is woods.  I like birds, rabbits and foxes much more than mowing.

My goldfish pond is under there somewhere.  That is my neighbor's storage shed, popular with skunks, raccoons, possums and stray cats.

Most people think of goldfinches in their bright yellow summer feathers, but in the winter they are beautiful.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Friday 2/14 School Predictions - Thursday PM

OK, I'm giving up on this one.

Closings in the western half of the state - Winsted has already closed (Region 7) and Region 10 has announced a 90 minute delay but with the possibility of closing.  New Hartford closed.  There is a 85% change of Simsbury and WeHa opening late, and a 50% chance of Simsbury and WeHa closing.  The problem is that the storm will be over by 5 AM.  Will they be able to clear the roads by 9 AM?

I'm going to say that West Hartford and Simsbury students had better study for tomorrow's tests.  There is a better than even chance of a late opening.  In fact I'm guessing that just about every school that opens will be opening late.  Then, just hope (or not) that tonight's snow is worse than predicted.

Never Stop Learning

Even on a snow day, keep exercising your brain-muscle.

Matter exists as solid, liquid, vapor and plasma.    Cats are liquid.

Oh, Just Take Friday Also

For those of you who thought you would be up in a plane somewhere on Friday, laughing at the kids who are taking the day-before-vacation tests ....
I think there will be a lot of schools closed on Friday.

Stay tuned in case the storm changes track again, but as of right now I am giving a 75% chance of schools closed in Connecticut on Friday.

Late openings for businesses.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So School Is Closed on Thursday - Now What About Friday?

Unless there is a lot of ice that brings down wires, at this point I suspect that there will be school on Friday.

Late openings are likely, and will vary from district to district.  Be prepared for anything.

More later, when the storm gets closer.

Two Birthdays - February 12

Two men were born on February 12 in 1809:  Abraham Lincoln and Charles Robert Darwin.

Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln was a focal point during the Civil War.  He made decisions that probably no other man could have made.  He was important.  Very likely the north would not have won the war without him.
Darwin at the time of his
trip around the world.

Darwin was - believe it or not - not as important.  He was rich enough to not have to work.  He was immensely curious.  He devoted his life to amassing data to support his hypothesis that evolution was driven by competition for the means of survival and reproduction. 

Ultimately he gave us the theory that evolution occurs through natural selection of variations.

(Note that evolution was a given.  A theory explains how it happens.  At the time there were several competing theories about the cause of evolution.  And yes, just like every experiment so far has proven Einstein's theory of relativity, so has every experiment so far shown that Darwin was correct.)
Alfred Russel Wallace also had
the idea of natural selection, and
wrote about it in almost the
exact same words as Dawrin

But natural selection was not Darwin's exclusive idea.  Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Darwin just before Darwin announced his theory, with a paper that stated exactly the same thing.  The two papers were presented together.  Each edition of The Origin of Species added more names of scientists that Darwin acknowledged were working along the same lines.

When the world is ready for an idea, someone will present it.  Many did.  Darwin had the time, money, and influential friends to make sure that his name was attached to the theory.  His lifetime of research is his real legacy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

No School Thursday - Now With A Good Chance of No School on Friday.

The storm is tracking closer to us than previously thought - it has a good chance of passing over the 40/70 benchmark (40 degrees north / 70 degrees west) that brings us the best nor'easters.

So my prediction for Thursday is now:
100% no school in Connecticut on Thursday.

The storm is slowing down, so there is now a 90% chance of a late opening on Friday - and now a chance of your vacation starting on Wednesday afternoon!

And, next Tuesday......

The Eagles Have Landed

Clear Brook Road is heavily used by dog walkers on the weekend, but it is the only easy access to view the eagle nest along the west side of the Nepaug Reservoir.

We used snowshoes today, and walked the 3/4 mile out to a good viewing spot.

Maximum zoom for a blurry photo
Two eagles are near the nest, but apparently there are no eggs yet.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Updated School Forecast for Central Connecticut - February 10 5:00 PM

It still looks like there is a very slight chance of a late opening in some places on Monday, although don't count on it.  [And there was none.]

Districts with good road crews and determined administrators will be having a full day of classes.  

The closer you are to the coast, the better your chance of a late opening.

Tuesday and Wednesday are nonevents for weather.

Thursday:  The latest computer projections are showing that the storm just might move closer to us.  It is still early, but there is now a 50% 90% chance of no school in our area on Thursday, with a mix of snow and ice.  More later this week.

Have fun.  I'm off to do some more skiing while the snow lasts.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sunny Snow

It is so rarely that Burlington gets more than a few inches of icy snow that I can't stand to waste a minute that I could be out in the sunshine playing in the snow.

Yesterday we took out the skis.

Today it is snowshoes.

A friend came with me.

Since snowshoes do a wonderful job of breaking trail for skis, tomorrow it will be more skiing.

The Week Ahead

Not this week.
No snow days.  Sorry.  Or congratulations, if you have plans for the end of June.

However, there is a chance of a late opening on Monday and again on Thursday and Friday as small amounts of snow will fall overnight.

I will update my predictions for the end of the week, but for now, there will be school on Monday.  Watch out for only a slight chance of a late opening.

Pyroclastic Tornadoes - Ouch!

Pyroclastic flows are the worst a volcano can do other than simply blowing up.  Debris at hundreds of degrees C go roaring down the side of the mountain at hundreds of miles an hour, carbonizing anyone in its path.

The Indonesian volcano Sinabung released a flow that killed 15 people and also spawned tornadoes.  

"The pyroclastic flow deposits red-hot material on the slope of the volcano. After a few minutes, air heated by the deposit establishes a convective regime and due to the speed of the rising air a series of small tornados (also spelled tornadoes) are formed. During daylight it is difficult to imagine how hot the deposit is. To see a pyroclastic flow deposit glowing at night from same location as present video one can view:"


Europe's oldest footprints uncovered on English coast

Now this is just cool.

Researchers at The Queen Mary University in London just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.  While surveying an area known for evidence of ancient humans, they found footprints.

Waves had uncovered what are not considered to be the 3rd oldest set of footprints ever found, and the oldest in Europe - 800,000 years old.  Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are older.

Had the researchers not found them just then, the waves would have washed them away.

The official press release from Queen Mary University is here.

Additional information from Science Daily is here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


The extreme cold in North America this winter (as opposed to the warm weather in Europe and the deadly heat in Australia) has been caused by a "wobble" in the polar vortex.  Why the wobble?

Start with the fact that historically the atmosphere is not as tall over the north pole as it is over the equator.  

Simple:  cold things contract, warm things expand.   

As the atmosphere warms up due to the combustion of fossil fuels, it expands.  Among other things, it is reaching up to those cell phone and GPS satellites and the friction will slow them down until they fall out of the sky.

The atmosphere is expanding everywhere, but mostly over the poles.  White snow reflects sun warmth.  When the snow melts the dark rock absorb sun warmth.  So the poles are heating up faster.  That means that the difference in atmospheric height between equator and pole is decreasing.

The lessened difference in atmospheric height is changing the northern jet stream - slowing it down and moving it north.

Two effects:  the wobble in the jet stream that causes polar air to move south in some places while warmer air moves north in others, and a slowing down of weather patterns, so that the hot / cold / wet / dry weather tends to stick around longer and cause extreme flooding or drought or heat or cold.

Getting The Word Out

I was not sure I liked the idea of Bill Nye the Science Guy debating Ken Ham of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.  

The Creation Museum is where you can see exhibits like this one, showing a girl not being ripped to shreds by an animal that lived 100 million years before there were humans - or 6 thousand years ago according to Ham's imaginative take on the bible.

Ham read the bible carefully - or not - and decided that the world was created 6,000 years ago, which probably came as a surprise to a lot of people at the time.
I guess someone forgot to tell him that
the Flintstones were a children's cartoon

Anyhow, the question among people who paid attention in science class was whether even standing up in public to talk to Ham would give him credibility.  As Mark Twain wrote, "Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience".

This must have been edited out of my 
copy of the bible.
Today Phil Plait, who definitely paid attention in school, wrote an editorial explaining why the debate was a good thing.  He pointed out that scientists too often think that the facts are obvious and need no explanation.  They are seen as snobby intellectual atheists.  

(A note on that atheist thing:  while more probable than the fact that some gigantic, petulant - read your old testament, folks -  man-like creature is watching over us and visiting us with plagues, atheism likewise is not based on observed fact.  In fact, science can not prove a negative.  Just because something has not been found doesn't make it impossible.  It just makes it unlikely.  So a true scientist must be an agnostic - not proven awaiting further data.)

What is needed, according to Plait, is articulate people people of faith to stand up and explain things.  People like Pope John Paul II, a deeply religious man, who stated that there is no conflict between the fact of evolution and his religion.  So, ironically, what we need are people of religion who can explain science and let the masses know that most traditional religions have no problem with science.

I wonder if Ham has a problem with science in the form of microchips, gps, internal combustion, television, medicine beyond quarantining lepers.

Phil Plait's article may be seen here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sunny Day!

It is snowing.  A lot.  The media will be full of photos of snow.  A lot.

So, I am posting some photos I took at Hammonasset State Park yesterday.  It was sunny, the Sun was warm, it was a beautiful day for a walk (although I was just out playing in the snow and today is also a beautiful day for a walk)!

This is a yellow-rumped warbler.  They are one of the first 
warblers to show up here in the spring.  Apparently they
have learned from the robins that there is no longer a need
to fly south for the winter.

Red tailed hawk.  Our largest hawk.  Only eagles and vultures 
are larger.

When I was at KP Elementary, we drew pictures and sang
songs about the first robin of spring.  Climate change has
changed that.

Tree sparrow

Starling.  An English invasive bird that has caused a lot
of damage here, but they are beautiful.

Phragmites, or reed grass.  A sign of wet ground.

The best photo I have ever taken of a horned lark.

Cedar waxwings and a robin.  There are a lot of cedar trees
here, and the waxwings love the cedar berries.  There is a
starling here also.

This is a Carolina wren.  This species showed up in my part 
of CT about 10 years ago.  They are moving north.  
Wrens are tiny birds with attitude.

Black locusts.  The pea-like flowers smell like grapes.
Good firewood.