Today is the Summer Solstice. It arrives at 7:09 p.m. This solstice’s signals the mid-point of the summer. The sun has reached the highest point in the sky and today is the longest day of the year. After today, the days grow shorter, until the Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year.
Nature in Summer
Today is Beltane. The sky is overcast and there is a slight chill in the air, but it feels as if a corner has been turned. It feels like summer.
At some point during these past few days, spring has left us. Many of the cool-weather crops I planted in March and early April are ready to be picked.
Tomato, beans and peppers are ready to be set out.
“Beltane is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun’s progress between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The astronomical date for this midpoint is nearer to 5 May or 7 May, but this can vary from year to year.” (Wikipedia)
In the British Isles, Beltane marked the beginning of summer. I think the weather patterns are similar enough between here and the British Isles, that the seasonal holidays can apply here. Beltane is still acknowledged and celebrated by people in the British Isles and North America.
Beltane survived the Christianization of the British Isles by becoming May Day.
“Beltane is celebrated by the lighting of bonfires, making ‘May boughs’ or ‘May bushes’, dancing, singing, feasting. The practice of bedecking the May Bush/Dos Bhealtaine with flowers, ribbons, garlands and colored egg shells is found among the Gaelic diaspora, most notably in Newfoundland, and in some Easter traditions on the East Coast of the United States.” (Wikipedia)
For more about Beltane – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane
In the Northern hemisphere, hurricane season lasts from June through November. Most storms happen two months after the summer solstice, in late summer through early autumn, with August and September being the most active months. The average number of storms throughout the world during a season is 85.
What are they?
Hurricanes are powerful violent storms, with high gusting winds and heavy rain. They range in strength from weak to devastating. Winds can range from 74 to over 156 miles per hour. Sea levels can rise from four to over nineteen feet high. Damage can range from uprooted damaged trees and shrubbery to destroyed buildings. Storms can last 3 to 14 days. The long-lived storms can move over a large area ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 miles. Storms can move at speeds of 5 to 20 miles per hour. The scale which categorizes storm strength and intensity is called the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
Storms form over warm waters, near the equator and move toward the poles. For a storm to form, the upper layer of the ocean water’s temperature must be more than 80°F (27°C). There also has to be uniform wind speed, so the storm can stay in tact and not blow apart.
Storms in the Northern Hemisphere begin traveling from east to west. As the storm approaches the North American continent they shift to a more northerly direction and often travel along the coasts. The path of a storm is difficult to predict. Storms need heat and energy from warm waters and often die quickly when moving over land. This is why there are no hurricanes in areas far inland.
Tropical storms develop when the winds exceed 38 miles per hour. When the winds surpass 74 miles per hour, a tropical storm is then called a hurricane.
The National Hurricane Service of the National Weather Service (in the United States) issues storm watches and warnings when appropriate.
What’s in a name?
Storms are called different names depending where they occur. They are called hurricanes when they occur in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Northeast Pacific Ocean. These violent storms are called typhoons when they occur in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. And tropical cyclones when they occur in the Indian Ocean and near Australia.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issues four alphabetical list of names one for the each of the four major storm regions. A list of storm names can be found on their website.
One list is for the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. There is one list each for Eastern, Central and the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. Each tropical storm is named to help meteorologists communicate effectively about storms. Having a set list of names helps them to pinpoint where a storm occurred, its strength and what year it occurred.
The list of names include both male and female names that are popular in the countries affected by the storms. In the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean the first storm of the year is given a name beginning with the letter A. For the year 2012 the first name is Alberto. If the first storm meets the criteria for a tropical storm it is named “Tropical Storm Alberto”. If it gathers power it will be referred to as “Hurricane Alberto”.
What can we learn from a hurricane? Without all the scientific instruments, how would we know that a big, bad storm was coming? What signs could we look for?
My mother and I took note of the changes in the atmosphere and the behavior of the animals in the few days leading up to the hurricane.
We took note because animals often know what will happen before us preoccupied and distracted humans. All we had to do was pay attention.
Things we noticed even 2-3 days before the storm
- the air pressure was so low, it felt as if the air was “bearing down” on us
- the air was very humid and heavy
- the air held odors and smelt bad
- routine tasks tired us out
- overall animals were quiet
- insects stayed low to the ground, many insects were just sitting on plant leaves or household surfaces
- birds weren’t flying much
- birds were very quiet, I heard no singing and very little calling 2-3 days before the storm
- squirrels were quiet
- we didn’t notice any butterflies in flight
Some other things to consider
A hurricane is a low-pressure storm system fueled by heat and moisture. Hurricanes are most likely to form when ocean temperatures are at least 80°F (27°C). Climate change could bring more frequent and violent storms because of the raising temperatures of the oceans.
Hurricane season in the northern hemisphere runs June through November. Peak hurricane season is two months after the summer solstice which is June 21st or 22nd in Northern hemisphere. So, when the solstice rolls around each year, look out for signs of coming storms.over eight inches of water in the rain gauge
Relief after the storm
I think the most important lesson is to simply pay attention, every moment, of every day, to our surroundings. Then you know what is normal and what is not. It is what is different and usual that tells us something is amiss.
The air was so heavy and the anticipation was so great before the storm, I just wanted the whole thing over.
Today, high winds, cooler air and higher air pressure are a welcome relief after the oppressiveness of the last few days. It is still lightly raining but the air is cool. Strong breezes blow the gauzy curtains of my bedroom windows and my family is safe. I am happy now.raindrops on a flower after a hurricane
I think the idea of being “disconnected’ from nature is a lie we tell ourselves to dream that the condition is even possible. It isn’t.
For all our technology, ideologies and philosophies, we are still here, on planet Earth. And the Earth is the single most important aspect of our lives.
Big city or small town, the sky is still above us. We can still watch the movement of the moon, the patterns of the clouds and the wind direction from the swaying of trees. The Earth is still beneath our feet. And water still nourishes our bodies even if it is the form or coffee or beer.
You can still have wisdom about the land and the way the Earth works even in the concrete and asphalt plains of the city. Let us love our Mother.
Dog-Day Cicada (Tibien canicularis). Delicate wings, beautiful coloring.
It’s early August and the signs of summer ending are everywhere. Leaves are changing color and the frenzied call of the Dog-day Cicadas fill the afternoon air.
While leaving the public library, loud raspy buzzing sounds emanating from the treetops drew my eyes to the leafy green canopy.
It seemed the treetops were alive with hundreds or thousands of small bugs I couldn’t see. Walking to my car, I heard a faint flapping on the asphalt and at my feet was the white underside of a large bug.Dog-Day Cicada (Tibien canicularis). Males attract females with a loud buzzing on late spring and summer days. Photo by Donna L. Long.
I flipped over the bug and was delighted by a green and bronze Art Deco pattern on the bug’s head and thorax. The delicate see-through black wings and the touches of florescent green were an artist’s color palette waiting to happen. A lovely Dog-day Cicada was right at my feet.
The Dog-day Cicadas appear every year during the hot, humid stagnant air of July and August, called ‘dog-days’. This annual cicada lives in cities, suburbs and woodlands and forests.
These true bugs have a simple life-cycle. The female cicada lays an egg in a slit she makes in a tree twig. The egg hatches and the small nymph comes out. The nymph drops to the ground, burrows into the Earth and spends the next 2 to 5 years sucking juices from plant roots.
After 2-5 years of root-sucking, the nymphs claws to the surface, climbs a tree or other object and molts into the winged adult we see here. The adults don’t feed.Dog-Day Cicada (Tibien canicularis). Photo by Donna L. Long.
It is the males which make the loud sounds on lazy summer afternoons. The Dog-day Cicada looks like an unlikely drummer but it is one. The male cicada produces that raspy sound from two cavities on the last segment of its’ thorax. This cavity is covered by a membrane that vibrates like a drum head. The large abdomen (last part of the body) is largely hollow and may help to amplify the sound. One male cicada making “music” attracts other male cicadas and a large number of males gather together for a jam-session.
Female cicadas come from all over to the concert, choose a male(s) and mates with him (or them). This behavior doesn’t sound too different from human female groupies hanging out with rock bands.
Cicadas participate in the circle of life by burrowing down and aerating the soil. And as large bugs they become food for birds, insects, spiders and other animals. Humans in many parts of the world eat cicadas, too. I guess they are crunchy with creamy centers. I would have to be really hungry to try cicada.
In the meantime, I like listening to the raspy calls of males seeking females.Dog-Day Cicada adult. Photo by Donna L. Long.