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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Chirping Birds Communicate in the Middle of the Night in May

Do you hear the birds chirping in the middle of the night? I do. The birds began chirping shortly after 3 o'clock this morning. Yes, it happens every May. The birds are chirping their melodious songs in the middle of the night. Although sunrise is a few hours away, the birds are already in midday form.

Hearing the birds chirping loudly at that hour is nothing short of shocking. Obviously, the days are getting longer, but is that the only reason the birds are up so early in the morning this time of the year? My curiosity got the better of me. I just had to find out.

No doubt you’ve heard the old adage about the early bird catching the worm, but there had to be more to it than that. According to Yahoo Answers, “The birds chirp and sing to communicate,” it states. “What you may not know is that, with few exceptions, it is the males that are doing all the chirping and singing. They chirp and sing to attract a mate and to announce their territory.”

But why are they chirping in the middle of the night? “Each day, as soon as possible, the males want to make sure that everyone knows that they are alive and well and ready to defend their territory. What is interesting, although it may all sound the same to us, is that there is some evidence suggesting that each bird has its own unique song and other birds know it.”

As for the modern scientific viewpoint, it is devoid of any romantic, religious or aesthetic aspects. It states that the pre-dawn chorus this time of the year signifies the warning signals given by each bird as it announces the re-establishment of its territory for the purpose of courtship, nesting, and food getting. All of these are the fundamental and basic steps to breeding, and the early chorus is just a way to warn other counterparts to keep away from their respective territories.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today Marks 22nd Anniversary of Warmest Spring Day on Record

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the warmest May day on record. The mercury soared to 97 degrees at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford on Monday, May 20, 1996, nearly 30 degrees higher than the average high temperature for the date. In fact, only one other Spring day has been as warm, and that happened on June 9 of 2008. What made the record high of 1996 so memorable was that it happened just 40 days after nearly a foot of snow capped the snowiest Winter on record, and just days after much colder-than-normal temperatures.

“Just over a week ago, the climate got rewound to Winter,” wrote N. R. Kleinfield of The New York Times in an article dated May 21, 1996. “Six inches of snow coated parts of upstate New York (as if the year required more snow). In the city last week, the high temperature dipped to the 50s. Spring, you might have noticed, either got lost or just forgot to come. Then came yesterday (May 20, 1996). It all got fast-forwarded to August. Bathing suits instead of ski parkas,” he continued.

“Turn off the heater and turn up the air-conditioner. What’s going on? Is this Earth or is this Mars? People could be excused for being mystified, discombobulated, distraught, furious, dazed, crazed, tentative, dizzy and, of course, just plain really, really hot.” The temperature reached a record high of 96 degrees in Central Park, eclipsing the previous record of 91 set in 1959, and a new record was established in Newark, where it was 99 degrees. Incredibly, just over a week earlier, on the weekend of May 11 and 12, 1996, it snowed in upstate New York.

Remember, the first two-and-a-half weeks of May in 1996 were unseasonably chilly. The record heat and outages at two power plants, one in Westchester and one in upstate New York, reduced the electricity reserves of New York state’s power pool, leading Consolidated Edison to ask customers to curtail electricity consumption. With air-conditioners thrumming away, demand in New York City reached around 9,000 megawatts, well above the normal 7,000 to 8,000 megawatts for this time of year.

Twelve years later, a late Spring scorcher, which included another 97-degree Spring day, forced area schools to dismiss early and close in early June of 2008. Temperatures soared to 90 degrees or hotter on Sunday, June 8 (90 degrees), Monday, June 9 (97), and Tuesday, June 10 (96). The normal high temperature for the first week of June is 74 degrees. It’s the first time in recent memory that school systems shut down due to the oppressive heat.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Rare May Snowstorm Affected Northeast 41 Years Ago Today

A "Winter" storm system brought snow and record-cold temperatures to much of New England on this date 41 years ago. In fact, at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, a trace of snow fell, and the temperature dropped to 37 degrees that morning, establishing a record low for this date. Other than a trace of snow which was reported May 27, 2010, it's the latest Spring day on which any snow has ever fallen in southwestern Connecticut.

The storm was quite shocking for this time of the year. Consider the normal high temperature for May 9 is 65 degrees, and the normal low temperature is 48. Snow in southwestern Connecticut is almost unheard of seven weeks after the Vernal Equinox. The coldest temperature ever recorded this month was 31 degrees on March 10, 1966.

According to the Naugatuck Daily News, "A Spring storm dumped several inches of snow on some parts of Berkshire County in Massachusetts. The area hardest hit by the storm was Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where police reported 10 inches of snow on the ground. Similar amounts were reported in parts of Vermont. Great Barrington police said there 'were about 100 trees down, wires are down, and we've got reports of accidents we can't get to.'"

Residents in the northwestern Connecticut rural communities of Goshen and Cornwall reported unofficial snow depths of up to five inches. The snow began to fall heavily in the Hartford area at the height of the commuter rush, slowing traffic considerably on most roads. The National Weather Service said a deepening area of low pressure over Connecticut produced a variety of weather conditions across Western Connecticut.

I consider myself a local weather history buff, but I honestly don't remember this storm. Special thanks to viewer Ralph Fato for recalling it and bringing it to my attention. It certainly had to be memorable for those who had to dig out of nearly a half-foot of snow in the northwestern corner of the state. I'm sure they were wearing their Winter coats, too, with the mercury plunging into the 30s.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Celebrate Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, which was first observed 48 years ago on the same date in 1970. There's no question we've become better stewards of our planet over the last four decades. Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson passed away in July of 2005 at the age of 89. He believed strongly that education is the key to changing people’s attitudes about the environment, and he devoted much of his time and energy to that challenge.

“The idea of Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962,” he wrote before his death. “For several years it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November of 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political ‘limelight’ once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue. It was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.”

According to Senator Nelson, the first Earth Day “worked” because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Though he felt he and his committee had neither the time nor resources to organize the 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated, “it organized itself.”

So, how have things changed in the last 48 years? Certainly, we’ve become more aware of the need to take better care of our planet. Many imporant laws were passed in the wake of the first Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, and laws to protect water, wild lands, and the ocean. The Environmental Protection Agency was created within three years of the first Earth Day.

Personally, I’ve seen a dramatic change over the last 48 years. What I clearly remember as a child is taking a weekly pilgrimage with my Dad every Saturday afternoon to the town dump. Dad loaded the family car with all kinds of debris and junk from the basement, and we followed the dirt path, greeted the seagulls, and dumped everything at the landfill. The garbage was simply buried. Today, our garbage is turned into electricity or, in some cases, steam.

Garbage isn’t something most of us want to think about, but managing nearly 230 tons we generate each year has consequences. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of garbage Americans generate has increased from 88 million tons to over 229 million tons since 1960. Fifty years ago, Americans produced about 2.7 pounds of garbage each day. By 2001, though, that amount jumped to 4.4 pounds a person each day.

I’m impressed at what has been done locally to address the issue of waste reduction. The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority’s Bridgeport Project consists of a 2,250 ton-per-day mass-burn trash-to-energy facility, eight transfer stations, two landfills, a regional recycling center, and the Children’s Garbage Museum. The Bridgeport Project provides solid waste disposal and recycling services to 20 Connecticut communities in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

The Bridgeport Project trash-to-energy plant, which is located at 6 Howard Avenue in Bridgeport is truly an impressive facility. Take your family there, and I’m sure all of you will be amazed at what you see. It’s the perfect example of how “one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure.” I’ve visited the plant several times, and each time I come away with a better understanding of how we manage our trash.

The solid waste is burned in a controlled environment to create electricity. Through this process, the volume of solid waste is reduced by about 90%. Waste-to-energy plants nationwide generate enough electricity to power nearly 2.3 million homes. Energy created in the Bridgeport facility has about the same environmental impact as energy produced from natural gas, and less impact than from oil or coal plants.

Recycling? We never bothered to recycle anything over a generation ago. Everything was considered “trash” back then. Now, we carefully sort our recyclables each week and place them in the blue bins. Recycled items include paper, aluminum, steel, plastics, glass, scrap tips, cell phones, and electronics. Americans recycled and composted nearly 30% of municipal solid waste in 2001, diverting 68 million tons to recovery.

Did you know, for example, that 71% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling? Over a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation. Seventy-four percent of boxes are recycled, and nearly 46% of office papers are recovered for recycling. These become raw material for printing and writing paper.

So, yes, we’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day was “celebrated” on April 22, 1970. Much has been done since then, but there’s still a long way to go. Gaylord Nelson said education was the key to changing people’s attitudes about the environment, and the more aware we become about our planet, the better we'll be able to take care of it.


Friday, August 18, 2017

This Week Marks the 62nd Anniversary of the Flood of 1955

This week marks the 62nd anniversary of The Flood of 1955, which was the direct result of the effects of hurricanes Connie and Diane less than a week apart in August of 1955.

Here is the front-page story from The Bridgeport Telegram the following day, Saturday, August 20, 1955. Please click "view" to enlarge and read.