Monday, September 22 will be the autumnal equinox. Near the equinox, the length of the day (sunrise to sunset) decreases more rapidly than at any other time of year, and weather patterns respond by changing.
Many animals migrate tens, hundreds — even thousands — of miles.
Festivals take on a different feel, the final frenzy of Major League Baseball approaches, and football activity is in full swing.
As the jet stream becomes more active, cold incursions from Canada into the US become more frequent. An early-season blast of cold air set temperature records in the midwest and northern plains last week, and there was even a dollop of snow in the Rocky Mountains for good measure.
This weekend, a new push of cooler air will invade the upper midwest and northern plains, but the east and south will stay warm until next week. Some rain will accompany the front — in the upper midwest on Saturday, and the Ohio Valley on Sunday.
Meanwhile the tropics are still active, and interaction between the low- and mid-latitude flows results in weather such as the deluge in the southwest from Hurricane Odile. Leftover moisture from Odile may hamper outdoor activities in Texas and adjoining states, and the cold front in the east could bring heavy rain to Florida.
On the whole, however, the weather in the US this weekend will be nice, with temperatures not too far from normal and rain on the sparse side.
Across the pond, Europe is still under the influence of a broad ridge in the jet stream which will keep temperatures above normal this weekend from Manchester to Moscow and Scandinavia to Sicily. Some showers could occur, especially in northern locations, but it will be a good weekend for outdoor activities.
Autumn Bird Migration
Last week Decoded Science mentioned migrations of fish, which cover as many as several thousand miles. Well, birds do them better. Some (arctic terns) even travel from pole to pole (I guess that makes sense if you’re an arctic tern).
This week’s focus is on the hawk migration along the east coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Massive kettles of broad-winged hawks ride the updrafts created by the mountains or the shoreline to catch a free ride south.
When winds turn against them, the birds hunker down and wait for a cold front to pass. Then they appear as clouds swirling upward before cruising along in the updraft. There are many spots from which to view the migration, but appropriately-named Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania is especially appealing.
The lookout is a short walk from the visitor center and the migration could include red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, peregrine falcons, merlins, kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks, goshawks, northern harriers, turkey vultures, ospreys, bald eagles, and many species of songbirds. There is always an expert on site to identify the various birds for novices.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, Pennsylvania, visitor center open nine to five daily
Hawk Mountain, about 20 miles west of Allentown, is a little hard to get to, but worth the trouble. Thursday’s count of 795 hawks included 750 broad-wings. You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to see the birds: Four hundred of the broad-wings were sighted between noon and one p.m. But don’t leave too early, either; the last bird Thursday was an eagle.
Weather: High pressure behind the front that came through on Thursday should provide good hawk viewing this weekend, with Saturday the better day. Sunday the next front gets close enough to cause some showers and unfavorable winds in the afternoon.
Major League Baseball
The baseball season winds down with just a couple of positions in the post-season in doubt, and though the three game matchup between Detroit and Kansas City could decide a playoff spot, Decoded Science is featuring a different kind of game.
It’s rare for a mismatch to hold very much interest, but this one is different. Tonight Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers pitches in Chicago against the again-hapless Cubs. Kershaw is not only a lock to win his second consecutive Cy Young Award, he is considered the front-runner for MVP.
What makes this game especially appealing is that Kershaw, with a record of 19-3, could become the majors’ first 20-game winner this year.
The Cubs send Edwin Jackson to the mound; Jackson’s record is 6-14 and his earned run average is over six (Kershaw’s is under two). A Cubs’ victory would be a major upset.
LA Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs, Friday, 2:20 p.m. EDT
Weather: A perfect September day for baseball at Wrigley Field. Good weather for this game before the cold front brings rain on Saturday.
After two weeks of play, the parity in the NFL is obvious: 18 of the league’s 32 teams have split their first two games. Two exceptions are the Houston Texans and the New York Giants. The surprising Texans have the best point differential after two games, while the equally-surprising-in-reverse Giants have the second worst. The teams meet in New York, and another Giants’ loss would probably seal their fate for the season.
Houston Texans @ New York Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT
Weather: Excellent fall weather for tail-gate-partying football fans, as the front holds off just long enough. Maybe a little warmer on the field than the players would like.
The Denver Broncos will visit Seattle for a rematch of the disastrous (for Denver) Super Bowl of last year. The Broncos are 2-0, while the Seahawks, after looking impressive in week one, were beaten by San Diego, which lit up the vaunted Seattle defense for 30 points last week. You can bet Peyton Manning spent a lot of hours looking at film of that game.
Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Weather: High pressure over the west should hold up until Sunday, after which a rainy spell is in store for coastal Washington.
Music And Food Festivals
The season for music festivals is nearing an end, but local harvesting activities are on the rise. Many farms allow customers to pick their own apples and other fruit (more about that next week). The following are just a couple of suggestions from Decoded Science. There is sure to be some kind of event in your neighborhood.
The 4th Annual Gateway International Food & Music Festival, Norcross, Georgia, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This festival near Atlanta features music, food, dance, arts, and crafts, southern-style.
Weather: Atlanta is nice in September, as the heat of summer has subsided as have the afternoon thunderstorms. Saturday will be a great day for this festival.
Fiddle ‘n’ Pig Shindig Annual BBQ & Bluegrass Festival, Friday and Saturday, Fort Mill, South Carolina
This self-proclaimed shindig not far from Charlotte features bluegrass and barbecue, including a cook-off comfortingly sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
Weather: Warm-but-not-too-warm early fall temperatures with no rain. Y’all come down and chow down.
Latest News: NOAA Reports Summer 2014 Was The Hottest Ever
NOAA’s report on combined land and sea temperatures for August and summer (June, July, August) shows they were both the highest on record, though in the United States temperatures were near normal. These are two more data points that are consistent with a changing climate. What kinds of changes in the weather do you notice where you live?