Friday, February 17, 2017

#Phenology: more than probabilities?

While some of us are enjoying watching the snow turn into puddles, we also realize that there can be too much of a good thing. The next five six days or so will bring daytime highs in the fifty degree range. The extended forecast on weather underground indicates a better than 50% probability of 5 to 8 inches of snow a week from today. This looks like it may be a tough year to be a local plant.

early April snow
early April snow
Photo by J. Harrington

Post February, the National Weather Service has published an outlook that indicated much of Minnesota has a 33% to 40% probability of enjoying above normal temperatures during March, April and May and a 40% to 50% probability of above normal precipitation for those three months. I'm not at all sure how to make such information relevant to my day-to-day life. To paraphrase, there's a less than 50% probability that Spring in Minnesota this year will be wetter and warmer than normal.

As we've noted a number of times, Minnesota would be a much more pleasant place to live, work and play if it's weather averages weren't comprised of such extremes. Maybe those kinds of weather and climate change issues help explain the lyrics to Joan Baez' song One Day at a Time
I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead, and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time. 
Trying to anticipate the effect this may have on fly fishing, there's not much snow left to melt so it would seem that there's limited likelihood that above normal precipitation will compound snow melt runoff. Of course, we don't know how much above normal any given precipitation event may be. Might we see streams "in spate" time and again this Spring? We'll know those details one day at a time. If they recur year after year, we'll recognize a pattern change.

red-winged blackbird, harbinger of Spring
red-winged blackbird, harbinger of Spring
Photo by J. Harrington

These are the kinds of topics that make me think, again, about the need to provide a relevant cultural context for information and information that's relevant for a cultural context. Several Native American groups appear to be providing excellent examples of how to go about such an effort. The Iñupiaq near Barrow Alaska offer one perspective, the Navajo another.

People who live closer to the land than most of us, those who hunt, fish, forage, grow their own food, have a need for and closer relationship to the weather than those whose primary concern is how will it affect their commute. How much work would it be, and how rewarding, to find a better balance between our daily lives and seasonal or climate changes? To learn to recognize the current patterns so we can track changes in them. I know that I enjoy the anticipation of the arrival of waterfowl on local waters almost as much as the splashdowns, honkings and quackings themselves. Sort of like it's the whole Christmas season I enjoy, not just Christmas day.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,   
The only moving thing   
Was the eye of the blackbird.   

I was of three minds,   
Like a tree   
In which there are three blackbirds.   

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   
It was a small part of the pantomime.   

A man and a woman   
Are one.   
A man and a woman and a blackbird   
Are one.   

I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after.   

Icicles filled the long window   
With barbaric glass.   
The shadow of the blackbird   
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in the shadow   
An indecipherable cause.   

O thin men of Haddam,   
Why do you imagine golden birds?   
Do you not see how the blackbird   
Walks around the feet   
Of the women about you?   

I know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.   

When the blackbird flew out of sight,   
It marked the edge   
Of one of many circles.   

At the sight of blackbirds   
Flying in a green light,   
Even the bawds of euphony   
Would cry out sharply.   

He rode over Connecticut   
In a glass coach.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook   
The shadow of his equipage   
For blackbirds.   

The river is moving.   
The blackbird must be flying.   

It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.