Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Lake Explore; Citizen Science using Project Noah App

Between the subzero wind chills of Vermont winter and a big project deadline, I'd been spending far too much time inside in the past few weeks.  With the deadline passed and an early winter thaw building in, it was time to get outside.  I decided to take a walk on the shores of Lake Champlain.  In addition to getting outside, I wanted to take advantage of the 'balmy' 33 degree air to try out Project Noah, a citizen science app for the Iphone.

The air temperature has been below freezing for most of December, but Lake Champlain is large and deep, and the wide portion of the lake near Burlington, Vermont has not frozen over.  The splashing waves deposit ice on everything near the lake, including branches, rocks, and even fences.


Click below to take a virtual tour of my walk, using Project Noah.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thinking of Flowers in Winter

December has been a stormy month in a lot of places.  California was pounded with heavy rains and mountain snows, Atlanta experienced a white Christmas, many areas near the Great Lakes were buried in lake effect snow, and now a raging nor'easter is pounding the New England area.  Burlington, Vermont appeared to have missed the storm but in the last hour or two, we have been pounded by heavy snow, howling north winds, blizzard conditions and a wind chill of well below zero Farenheit.  It looks like we'll end up getting several inches of snow (though mostly piled in drifts) but nothing like what is happening closer to the coast.

It's important to enjoy the stark beauty of winter, but it is also important to remember that spring is waiting on the other side of it.  In the midst of all this cold, and with the dead of winter still ahead of us, it seems like a good time to think about flowers.  So, below are a few plants native to the northeastern United States that do well in rain gardens.

Iris versicolor - blue flag iris - photo from Sylvania Natives in Squirrel Hill

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flooding in Southern California

A series of very powerful and wet storms are moving into southern California.  These storms are similar to the storms that hit the area in January, 2005, when I lived in Malibu and was dodging mudslides for a couple of months.

The storms will probably cause flooding, especially on Wednesday.  If you live in southern California, make sure to stay safe and don't drive across any flooded roadways!  It seems like every time there is flooding in that part of the world someone tries to drive across a flooded roadway and is swept away. 

It will be interesting to see how some of the new rain gardens and bioswales deal with all this water.

In the long term, the rain will be a good thing.  In addition to bringing up a lot of flowers this spring, some parts of the Sierras may pick up to 15 FEET OF SNOW!  This snow will be a huge addition to the snowpack, and for once, California may not be short on water this year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Has the polar jet stream lost track of the North Pole?

The polar jet stream has been acting a bit odd lately.

Usually it rotates around the north pole (thus its name).  Ripples and waves bring storms to the 'temperate' regions of the Northern Hemisphere; areas north of the jet stream are cold while areas south of the jet stream tend to be warm.  Sometimes it splits into two separate streams, or loops of it pinch off, and create 'cutoff lows' (a type of storm that is very hard to predict).  Still, it pretty much always makes its looping way with the North Pole as its center.

The above picture, from Wikipedia, shows the normal jet stream.  Right now though, the jet stream is doing something different.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Place-Based Technology

The turbulent weather of this fall is translating into a turbulent winter as well.  After picking up several inches of snow last week, Vermont was struck with a storm that blue in with snow and slush, followed by an inch of drenching rain.  Now, the cold air has bumped back in and it's snowing again.  We're expected to pick up about as much snow as the rain washed away - around 4 inches in the valleys, more in the mountains.  This storm has lead to great conditions for watching water move around, if not great conditions for hiking or driving.  As winter comes on though, there is so much to see and document!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

End of semester crunch; more apps

It's the end of the semester, and I'm really busy. So busy in fact that I haven't made a blog post this week. I am actually typing this from an iPhone on a bus so this entry is going to be a short one.

Winter has arrived in Vermont and Pittsburgh. Both areas have received significant snow, and Vermont hasn't been above freezing in about a week. It seems like an odd time to think about wandering around outside documenting creek flow, but of course this is exactly what I have been doing, in between final projects and grading papers. I've managed to get a few vermont creeks on the Creekwatch app. My friend also showed me two other apps - project Noah and epicollect. Project Noah is an app similar to creekwatch, except that people photograph and report animals, plants, and fungi instead of creeks. It's a really neat idea but I haven't had time to do much with it quite yet. Epicollect is a make your own type app... Later thus month I hope to make a Slow Water epi-app and try that out too.

More to follow soon!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Phase Change, Part I

I spent some of the long Thanksgiving weekend at the shore in Connecticut, where the temperatures were relatively warm.  Driving back to Vermont on Saturday we mostly traveled under blue skies and scattered clouds, with temperatures above freezing.  This all changed when we crossed over the Green Mountains.  When we reached the eastern side of the mountains it was lightly snowing.  When we crossed over the divide, the snow intensity increased, and in Rutland, in the Champlain Valley, we were faced with a full-on snow squall.  It was fast moving, and localized, and we soon drove through it.  Under the snow squall, there was significant snow accumulation but once we passed through the storm, and found the sunshine on the other side, only patches of snow remained.

Aug 12 Rain 006

As winter builds in, many areas, such as Vermont, we experience many days where the temperature fluctuates above and below freezing.  This causes water to change between a solid and a liquid form, and do lots of interesting things in the process.  Fluctuation of a compound between forms in this way is known as phase change.