Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seasonally Affected Cats?

As I mentioned earlier (Winters a' comin' 10/1/14), the first snows of the year always seem to confuse and disappoint the cats. While they somewhat tolerate the colder weather, they don't like the snow and unhappily spend increasing amounts of time indoors. Now it would appear there's another reason for their misery: Seasonal Affective Disorder in Cats. "Cats, perhaps more so than people, are sensitive to changes in light. Less light in the winter may cause a decrease in natural brain chemicals, like serotonin, that increase mood. One of the most notable symptoms of seasonal affective disorder is wanting to sleep all the time. Cats may overeat during the winter months. This can lead to unhealthy weight gain, so may need encouragement to get off the couch and be active." (http://www.ehow.com/about_5369713_seasonal-affective-disorder-cats.html). While they certainly overeat in the winter, they do pretty good job of it year round. Ruty's idea of exercise is to go from the couch to his food bowl, then to the litter box, and finally back to the couch. Repeat as needed. But they have adapted to the cold quite well, sharing the old couch dowstairs next to the monitor heater.
Although Ruty often prefers lounging in front of the woodstove when there's a good hot fire going.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Climate change?

Shortly after the last post (Winter's a' comin'10/1/14), the climate summary for Alaska came out. Not surprisingly, the average temperatures for September, like August, were well above normal statewide (http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/node/710).
What was surprising was an article that came out a little later: September Was Warmest on Record, NASA Data Show. "Like August before it, September 2014 was the warmest September on record, according to newly updated NASA data. The warm month makes it even more likely that 2014 will become the warmest year on record. Ocean temperatures have played a large role in 2014’s warmth, including the warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that have accompanied an emerging El NiƱo, Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Climate Central in an email. The ocean is where some 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases is stored." (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/september-2014-warmest-on-record-18172). Proof of global warming?
Hold on. Here's another view: Why is the Northwest U.S. warming? Natural variations or mankind's greenhouse gases? "Originally there was a lot of talk (last spring) of the potential for a Super El Nino, with some of the global warming "advocate" sites talking about its effects on the global temperature record. El Ninos (ENSO) are associated with warmer than normal water in the tropical Pacific and that such anomalies can influence Northwest weather (less storms, warmer, less snow). However, the sea surface temperatures in the critical central Pacific is only modestly warmer than normal and the atmospheric circulation has not reacted in a way to reinforce the warming and push us towards a moderate or stronger El Nino. So we should not expect much more than a marginal El Nino during the upcoming fall and early winter months. And amplitude matters. Weak El Ninos have lesser impacts. The correlation of our weather with El Nino is not perfect to start with. And for weak El Nino years the relationship weakens further. But for weak El Nino years, the precipitation patterns are all over the place. The latest NWS Climate Forecast System forecasts for December-January-February is for warmer than average over much of the U.S. But there is another type of natural variability that has a huge impact on the weather/climate of the Pacific basin. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has a period of around 50 years, oscillating between warm and cold cycles. It was in a cool cycle between roughly 1950 and 1977, then a warm cycle until around 2005, and more recently looks to be in a cooler cycle. If you compare the variations of the PDO with the Northwest temperatures, it is very obvious that the variations of NW temps seems to closely follow the PDO changes, suggesting our temperatures are highly controlled by this mode of natural variability. Thus, when some local scientists say that the temperature changes experienced here in the Northwest are mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions they are certainly incorrect. We live in an area where the greenhouse gas signal is small and where natural variability (as forced by the PDO and ENSO) are quite large (and there are other modes of natural variability)." (http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/).
 So who's right? Perhaps a better indicator of climate change are systems that respond to longer term cycles, like ice caps and glaciers. Two articles that point towards longer climate change are: Strong Temperature Increase and Shrinking Sea Ice in Arctic Alaska, which discusses recent temperature rises and loss of sea ice cover in the Arctic ocean (http://climate.gi.alaska.edu). Are glaciers growing or retreating? "Globally, glaciers are losing ice at an extensive rate. There are still situations in which glaciers gain or lose ice more than typical for one region or another but the long term trends are all the same, and about 90% of glaciers are shrinking worldwide." (http://www.skepticalscience.com/himalayan-glaciers-growing.htm). So what's the answer? No matter how much data will point to a particular outcome, some skeptics will confound the issues by only picking individual anomalies or by ignoring long term trends. These diversions do not address the most important question: what is the real state of global climate change?  Politicians are the worst, often choosing a position solely to gain support from their base. And in election years, the climate change clown show will only escalate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Winters a' comin'...

It never ceases to amaze me how fast it changes from summer to winter up here. Blink twice and you miss fall. After a pleasantly warm September, October starts with snow on the ground. Here's the weather services September summary (www.arh.noaa.gov): "September 2014 started off wet and cool for the first week and then transitioned to warm and dry conditions for the second and third weeks. The last week of the month turned cool with rain and snow showers. The average high temperature at the Fairbanks airport was 57.2 degrees which was 2.6 degrees above the normal high temperature of 54.4 degrees. The average low temperature was 35.5 degrees which was 0.4 degrees above the normal low temperature of 35.1 degrees. The average temperature for September 2014 was 46.4 degrees which was 1.5 degrees above the normal average temperature for September of 44.9 degrees. the average temperature for September 2014 ranked as the 35th warmest of 109 years of record. The warmest temperature recorded at the Fairbanks airport in September 2014 was 76 degrees on the 14th of September. not only was this a daily record high temperature but there has only been one other day in the climate record in Fairbanks that the temperature has been warmer than 76 degrees on a date later than the 14th of September. In 1995 the temperature reached 78 degrees on the 21st during a record breaking Chinook event. The coldest temperature recorded at the Fairbanks airport in September 2014 was 24 degrees which occurred on the 28th. The first snow of the season fell on the 23rd which is a couple days later than the average first snow fall in Fairbanks. 2.89 inches of precip fell during the month of September and was 1.79 inches above the normal precip of 1.10 inches. September was the 4th consecutive month with above normal precipitation and ranked as the 4th wettest September of 101 years of record. 1.43 inches of rain fell on the 1st which was a new daily rain fall record for that day. 0.3 inches of snow fell at the airport during the month of September which was 1.5 inches below the normal snowfall of 1.8 inches. This ranks as the 37th snowiest of 101 years of record." Probably more weather information than you need, so here's some pictures of the latest snowfall. While the dogs appear to love the snow, the cat's are kind of confused. Every morning they sit at the back door waiting to be let out, but when you open the door, they just stare at the snow and look at you like "where'd that come from?" Then go back inside. Pretty funny.