Thursday, April 11, 2013

Robins are back - I hope they survive this late winter storm

Three days ago I was listening to robins singing in my yard, watching a flock of juncos passing through on their way to Canada, and hearing flocks of geese overhead, honking their way back north.  Today we are getting buried in snow again -- at the same time Washington D.C. is having record breaking 90s -- in April!  Talk about global weirding.

Jet Stream, April 11, 2013
(Map courtesy of 
The instability of the Jet Stream is a big contributor to all this strange weather.  I can remember when it pretty much stayed put up in there Canada, circling the arctic and dipping occasionally into Minnesota but no further south.  Now, as you can see from this map, it has gone crazy.  And with it comes all this weird  weather.  That huge dip is pulling cold air south, where it meets warm air from the Gulf and produces severe storms, including early tornadoes along the front.   It also traps warm air on the East Coast, resulting in those record-breaking 90s yesterday. (For more on how the Jet Stream is causing more severe weather lately, read this article on Climate Central.)

Last year's crab apples provide
food for spring birds
Meanwhile, birds on migration are getting caught in the storms.  The winds have been very strong today, so I suspect we will have a major bird drop around here (which is different from a bird dropping!)  A bird drop is when migrating birds come down to wait out the bad weather.  Sometimes you get to see some unusual species when the weather clears -- if the birds survive.

I find myself wondering what those robins on my land are eating today.  The Juncos can find seeds on tall grass stalks and the harrier hawk who returned a few days ago will no doubt find a rodent or two around the chicken coop.  But the ground is still too frozen for those robins to find any worms.  In the past I have seen them picking on frozen crab apples still on the trees.  So maybe that will help.

Minnesota drought map 4/11/2013
(Click pic to enlarge)
In spite of this snowstorm, we are still in the midst of a serious drought here.  Today's drought map shows my county, Pine, in the "severe" category.   (For more on the drought, click here.)

Last year it was so dry in late summer-fall that we headed into winter about 7 inches below normal in precipitation.  With the ground still frozen, all that this snow will do is run off -- which helps the wetlands downhill from my place, but won't do much for the garden.  In fact, it is so dry that, for the second year in a row, I decided not to tap my trees for maple syrup.  They grow along the edge of seasonal woodland wetlands that normally provides them with plenty of spring moisture during the melt-off, but this year it is bone dry.  I saw on the news that some syrup producers are getting a decent run -- guess it depends on where you are.  But for everybody it is very late, because of the abnormally cold spring.  In the past, syrup production would begin in mid-March and be over by now.

All of which goes to show that the climate is indeed changing.  Better get used to the new normal -- whatever that turns out to be...

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