Early spring

_C1_0323.JPGThis is just wrong, y’all.

Trees and other plants from the South to the Great Lakes are coming to life several weeks early. Four days this month have reached record high temperatures, according to the National Weather Service, and we’ve gotten to 80 degrees twice. January had 11 days above 60, while the average is in the 40s. Now, there’s always been wacky weather, and climate scientists are always quick to point out that climate change doesn’t cause any single weather pattern, instead affecting the probability of certain events. But it’s hard not to wonder if the highest carbon dioxide levels in millions of years have something to do with all of this.

On top of that, these particular blossoms belong to a Bradford pear, an ornamental but invasive species that humans brought here from east Asia. Invasive species like these trees and honeysuckles crowd out native plants and steal away their light and nutrients, which can hurt local bugs, birds, mammals, soil, water and us, and they’re hard to get rid of.

Basically we’ve made a mess, even if it looks nice or feels great.

_C1_0222.JPGThat brings me to these rock piles along Lee Creek at Devil’s Den State Park. I know I’ve shown them here at least once before, and they’re a pretty and neat way for dozens or even hundreds of people to connect in the same space. It’s also something we shouldn’t be doing, come to find out. It’s bad for creek beds and the fish and amphibians and bugs living in and under them, and it’s something park rangers around the country are trying to stop.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be the buzzkill during some really fantastic weather. The point is we humans have a way of leaving our marks big and small. Keep an eye on them.

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Thanks for lookin’.

Dan

Thunder and Flood

IMG_1964No snow for the Ozarks this Christmas, just rain, rain, rain. As of this posting, between 6 inches and 10 inches have fallen almost without pause during the past two days along a band from Oklahoma to Indiana, according to the National Weather Service; for some comparison, here in Fayetteville that’s about the typical amount during November and December combined. It’s not forecast to let up until late tomorrow, either. In the meantime, we have a lot of the image above: overflowing ditches and streams and rivers, sunken roads, flooded fields and golf courses, and constantly overcast skies.

The amount of water flowing around here is almost indescribable. White-water rapids cascade from every bluff and cliff, bridges are overrun and, whether it’s in a gentle shower or a thunderstorm, the rain keeps falling, channeled by northwest Arkansas’ hills into torrents of opaque brown water.

IMG_1973Take Devil’s Den State Park, for example. The photo above shows one camping area along Lee Creek, which at this point usually spreads out placidly into a little lake as it approaches a dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Here’s what the dam usually looks like, as shown in a photo from April 2014:

_C1_4371Here’s what it looked like today (notice the turquoise metal spike for scale):

IMG_1980I almost wondered whether the dam was still there, the water poured over it so fast. The roar and spray drowned out anything softer than a yell. On the surrounding hillsides, newly created streams and waterfalls carved through the leaf-covered forest floor like threads of pearl through rust.

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IMG_2007We haven’t seen rain like this since May and June, when about a foot fell around here and led to flooding of its own (You might remember the photos of the inundated golf course). Wacky and dangerous weather has struck across the country, with record warmth and several deaths from tornadoes in the past few days. Stay safe out there, everybody. Turn around, don’t drown, the whole bit. It could take days for all of this water to calm down.

I’ll end with the (normally) little creek that runs by my apartment complex and some last thoughts: Thank goodness this isn’t snow, and brace yourself: It’s supposed to drop below freezing tomorrow night.

IMG_2016Hope you had a good holiday! Thanks for looking.

Dan

Bird’s Eye

IMG_6570On a clear day from an airplane 7 miles up, the horizon is more than 230 miles away. That’s a view no human had until a few decades ago, and there’s a lot to see out there. I was looking through some old photos and found some old shots from plane windows, mostly between the Midwest and Arizona via Dallas. They make an interesting set; most of them showcase the large-scale power of water even in places with hardly any.

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The multilayered windows and sheer distance distort details and colors — the bluish tinge makes them look like 1970s film photos to me — but the scenery is surreal and striking enough on its own. I have no clue specifically where most these canyons and rivers are. I get lucky searching on Google Earth every now and then; the first photo up there is Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks, for example. Otherwise, I’ve never seen them twice.

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Thanks for lookin’.

Dan