The experts at the National Weather Service can tell you all you’d ever want to know about the science of tornadoes. But they’re interested in learning what average citizens know about twisters.
Three town hall meetings are being held (the first is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Norman Public Library) to let residents do the talking.
“This might be the first time meteorologists have really tried to learn about other ways of thinking about tornadoes from local people,” said Kim Klockow, with the OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.
Klockow said her colleagues are finding that what local people believe about twisters can influence how they react to them, as much or more than what forecasters provide.
“We know a lot about the weather, but we know much less about the beliefs or local knowledge of the local people who are experiencing it,” Klockow said.
It’s an interesting concept. Folks in Moore and Newcastle will want to mark their calendars. Town halls also are planned Sept. 20 in Moore and Oct. 4 in Newcastle, with locations and times to be determined.
For a quarter of a century, Mary Gilmore Caffrey has made the Tree Bank Foundation her branch office. Pun intended.
Caffrey has announced her retirement as the foundation’s executive director, effective Sept. 30. She’s overseen the planting of more than 200,000 trees on public grounds in Oklahoma and the distribution of more than 108,000 seedlings for others to plant.
Concurrent with her retirement, the Tree Bank Foundation is celebrating 25 years of adding trees to the landscape, trees valued collectively (at maturation) at nearly $250 million.
The foundation was started in 1987 and seeded by volunteers dedicated to planting and distributing trees. It joined with Oklahoma Forestry Services for the Centennial Witness Trees program that was part of Oklahoma’s 100th birthday celebration in 2007. More recent projects include the planting of native tree species at Oklahoma City University and a reforestation project in Atoka County following the April 2011 tornado outbreak there.
Chances are you saw a Tree Bank tree growing somewhere along your route to work or school this week. Recipients of Tree Bank plants don’t just get the trees. They also get instructions on how to care for them.
Trees are not only nice to look at. They provide shade and reduce air pollution. So we congratulate Caffrey and an organization with a lot of bark that’s taken a big bite out of a tree-challenged landscape.
If only crickets could eat a lot of mosquitoes.
Blame the mild winter on two outbreaks, one of West Nile virus transmitted by mosquito bites and the other of crickets.
The cricket explosion is blamed on ideal breeding conditions for crickets and less-than-ideal breeding conditions for the insect’s natural predators. Mosquitoes need water for breeding but not for living or for biting. The hot weather has actually spurred their development; it won’t stop until freezing temperatures hit.
West Nile symptoms typically start appearing three or more days after the bite from a carrying insect. The virus has taken the lives of five Oklahomans so far this season. Being forewarned means protecting your forearms and other body parts from mosquito bites as summer rolls into fall.
As for the crickets, they’re a nuisance but at least they don’t foster a dread disease.
Who needs more drilling here in America to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Not the Obama administration, which this week finalized rules requiring that average gas mileage for new cars and trucks nearly double — to 54.5 miles per gallon — by 2025.
The administration says the changes will leave us less reliant on foreign energy, save motorists money at the fuel pump and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney correctly points out that meeting the new standards will require more-expensive vehicles that will cancel out the savings consumers realize from filling up less frequently.
The gas mileage rules will be phased in gradually and will be reviewed in 2018. Perhaps by then we’ll be well on our way, under different leadership in the White House, to reaching oil independence through smart drilling and exploration programs instead of gimmicks.
Water and electricity don’t mix. So we were told as children, to overcome our resistance to leaving a swimming hole when a thunderstorm approached. Water and electricity may soon mix in the Bricktown Canal.
Plans are to convert the gasoline-powered canal boats to run on electricity, using a federal grant to buy the engines. This would be a quieter, potentially cheaper alternative that also has the potential of being better for the environment.
Operators also won’t have to carry heavy fuel cans to the boats. Instead, they will plug them.
No one swims in the canal (at least not legally), but water and electricity will make a good mix for the water taxis running in Bricktown.
Much was made of the record-tying high temperature on Aug. 3, when the thermometer hit 113. That tied a record set on Aug. 11, 1936.
As we all sweltered this month, Oklahomans old enough to remember the original 113-degree day could offer some perspective. In 1936, air conditioning was a rarity. Indeed, in some parts of the country then, electricity itself was still in the future.
Conditioning the air has its roots in ancient Rome, but the forerunner of what we have now dates to early in the 20th century and Willis Haviland Carrier’s electric air conditioning system.
Oklahoma should set aside a day each year to honor The Father of Cool. Since his birthday is Nov. 26, when nature cools us without electricity, perhaps Aug. 3 — or Aug. 11 — is appropriate.
The heat wave/drought is an anomaly. It will break soon. In any case, this can’t be as bad as last summer. An El Nino will come to our rescue, just wait and see! Last year the heat broke around Labor Day and it started raining again in the fall. This will happen again!
Let’s face it. This is as bad as last summer, the one that broke all records. Relentless triple-digit highs? We’re used to that. But not to relentless 110-plus days.
Why us? Why is it hotter here than in Phoenix, in the “Valley of the Sun”?
We will accept these miserable summers as a tradeoff if the winters will stay mild and ice-free and the storms in spring and fall bring just rain and not hail and high winds. Also, we’d like it not to rain at all during the State Fair, except between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Also, no weather delays at OU or OSU home games.
We will get through this. By late October, we’ll all be enjoying the autumnal breezes and complaining (if only mildly) that it’s a bit brisk in the early morning or that the skies have been overcast for three straight days.
Rachel Beckwith’s story is a testament to human kindness.
Rachel, a 9-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., died last year in an automobile accident. At the time, she was trying to raise $300 to help bring clean water to Africa.
As her 10th birthday approached, she asked friends and family to forgo buying her presents and instead donate to a New York-based group called charity: water. News of Rachel’s quest spread following her death, and it resulted in nearly 32,000 people giving a total of $1.27 million.
This week, the girl’s mother, grandparents and others were in Ethiopia visiting the wells built with Rachel’s gift. That money will go a long way. Charity: water says a $20 donation can provide one person with clean drinking water for decades.
“There’s something about Rachel and her story that has touched people and inspired them,” her mother told The Associated Press. “She was such a special girl.”
This month Greenland’s ice sheet experienced dramatic change. About 97 percent of the ice sheet experienced melting over four days. The largest melt area observed by satellites over the past three decades covered just 55 percent.
Is this “proof” of global warming? Not really.
Ice core records show similar melting occurred in 1889 and indicate similar melts have happened every 150 years. Greenland’s history is filled with dramatic temperature change. The Norse Vikings arrived around 980, during a 300-year-long warm period. Then around 1100, the average temperature dropped 7 degrees Fahrenheit in about 80 years, driving the Vikings out.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that over the past 5,600 years the Greenland arrivals and departures of the Vikings and two other groups coincided with major, rapid temperature changes.
A changing climate is not proof that mankind is changing the climate.
The misery index loves company.
Actually it’s the heat index, that measure of temperature mixed with the humidity. But with recent heating, the temperature is becoming a master over the moisture. Lower humidity may help 98 degrees feel more like, well, 99 degrees, but it also increases fire danger. That’s misery wrapped in a cocoon of concern.
The miserable company Oklahoma is now keeping is the 72 percent of the country labeled by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in the “abnormally dry” category or worse. This is the largest geographic extent of drought or pre-drought conditions recorded since the Drought Monitor began in 1999, according to Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus.
“Odds favor more drought development as summer trudges ahead and a dry Oklahoma looks with anticipation toward the fall rainy season,” McManus noted last week in an Oklahoma Climatological Survey press release. Nearly half the state is already enduring drought conditions, he said, with the remainder “abnormally” dry, a precursor to outright drought classification.
Given the misery of the summer of 2011, this is discomfiting news. We’ve gone from “Surely it can’t be as bad as last year” to “Here we go again!”
At least the economic misery index (adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate) doesn’t yet have the firefighters on high alert.