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Winging South for the Winter

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder; as long, languid summer melts into crisp, cool autumn; as nature takes on russet hues and puts on fancy dress; as you marvel at the beauty of the season, don’t forget to look up. One of nature’s great marvels is the show in the sky as the birds of North America migrate south. Migration is the annual movement of birds, often north and south along a flyway, between their breeding grounds and their wintering grounds. One of the best known, and certainly the most familiar, of North America’s migrators is the Canada (not “Canadian”) Goose (Branta canadensis).  The impressive V-formations of Canada geese flying south are seen all over North America; indeed, Canada geese are found in every one of the contiguous United States and every Canadian province. However, they are not our only journeying birds. “Of the more than 650 species of North American breeding birds, more than half are migratory.” Cornell Lab of Ornithology

50 Inches of Rain

Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to tropical depression Harvey, dumped 50 inches of rain on parts of the Texas coast this week. This epic storm has wreaked havoc on a large swath of the southwest and left destruction and devastation in its wake. When a large low pressure system moving in from the sea runs smack dab into a high pressure system over the coast, it’s a recipe for a natural disaster. Counter-clockwise circulating air vacuums up moisture from the Gulf, and all that warm, moist air rising up must eventually come down. And come down it did. “Harvey came inland about 200 miles south of Houston, and the outer rain bands pushed into Houston on Saturday. . . Houston lies a few dozen feet above sea level, and during normal rainfall residential yards drain into streets, streets drain into bayous, and bayous carry water into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

But this was not normal rainfall; it was extreme tropical rainfall. Meteorologists measure rainfall rates in inches per hour at a given location. A rainfall rate of 0.5 inches per hour is heavy, while anything above 2.0 inches per hour is intense (you'd probably stop your car on a highway, pull over, and wait out the passing storm). [In the Houston area], from 11pm to 1am that night, 10.6 inches of rain fell, about as much rainfall as New York City gets from October through December. That happened in two hours.   Ars Technica

 

Total Eclipse of the Sun

Monday, August 21, 2017. Mark that date in your calendar, because this is one you don’t want to miss. On August 21, North America will experience a rare and awe-inspiring astronomical event —a solar eclipse. The last time a total solar eclipse spanned across the continent of North America was almost a century ago—June 8, 1918. The most recent total eclipse of the sun that could be viewed from anywhere in America was 38 years ago, February 26, 1979, and was visible in five US states as well as parts of Canada and Greenland. Needless to say, this just doesn’t happen every day.

 

From One End of this Continent to the Other

July 2017. This month, North Americans will be celebrating the birth of their country, their identity as a people and as a nation. From Winnipeg to Washington, D.C., from Calgary to Corpus Christi, from Toronto to Tallahassee, we will watch fireworks and watch parades, we will sing and laugh and make merry. And EAT. Whether your celebration will include barbecue and watermelon, or haddock and butter tarts, there will certainly be some good eats. Join the celebration!

Plant a Garden

Summer begins on June 20 this year, so this is an excellent time to begin thinking about a summer garden. A garden can transform a drab yard into a showplace. As you think about your garden, take advantage of all the resources available, and plan before you plant.

First, it is helpful to know some flower basics . . . 

Drinking Water Week

Did you know that next week, May 7-13, is Drinking Water Week? A week in which we observe the absolute vital role that drinking water plays in our daily lives. A week to celebrate WATER! This year’s theme is “Your water: To know it is to love it!” and it encourages us to get to know more about the water we drink. 

1 Trillion Gallons of Water

1 Trillion Gallons of Water.

Sometimes when we hear numbers that large, it's hard to really conceive of what they mean. How much water is 1 trillion gallons, really?
Well, 1 trillion gallons of water is:

  • the amount of water in about 40 million swimming pools. 
  • the amount of water in about 24 billion baths.
  • the amount of water in Florida's Lake Okeechobee (669 square miles).
  • the amount of water used in one year by 11 million homes.

AND . . . 

  • the amount of water wasted every year by household water leaks. Washington Post

That's really an astounding figure. Every year, enough water to serve 11 million homes is needlessly wasted. (EPA ) Down the drain. That leaky faucet or constantly-running toilet is more than just an annoyance; it is wasting water at an alarming rate. 

Food & Water: Innovation in Agriculture

Food and water. We can’t live without them, but many people around the world are living without enough of either. The good news is that amazing work is being done to combat both drought and famine. 

We’ve written about some incredible advances in the production of clean water, including these articles:

There are so many more exciting new tools being utilized to give fresh, clean water to the thirsty, including this new and vastly improved solar-powered water purifier

Technological Breakthroughs from 2016: Can Virtual Reality Help Paraplegics Regain Mobility?

Last month we reported on many positive stories from 2016 —good news that you might not have heard:  Desalination plants bringing water to the desert, the elimination of measles in all of the Americas, infant mortality rates decreasing in Russia and life expectancy increasing in Africa. Great strides were made in the areas of world health, conservation, and, not surprisingly, technology. This is certainly an era of astonishing technological advancement; the science fiction of yesteryear is the reality of this year. From smartphones to smart watches to smart homes, technology is changing the way we live. And sometimes in amazing ways .  .  .

2016. Good News You Might Not Have Heard.

When you read the local paper or watch the nightly broadcast, sometimes it can seem that the only news is bad news. War and terrorism, crime and corruption, natural disasters and terrible accidents. Good news doesn’t seem to be reported as often. But there is a lot of good news out there. There are positive stories, hopeful stories, and they’re all around —in your town, in your neighborhood, and all across the globe.

Just take a look at a few of the stories from 2016 that you might have missed . . .

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