Climate Data From my Yard #climate #citizenscience

If you follow climate science, you may have seen this:

The required rain gauge in my yard.

Every 10 years the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) calculates new climate normals for the United States. The 1981-2010 normals have been used for the past 10 years. On May 4th, the normals for the period 1991-2020 were released and will serve as the base period with which to compare our current weather until 2031. CoCoRaHS

Data for the updates come from many sources. For the first time ever, CoCoRaHS stations are included in the calculation of normals. CoCoRaHS is an organization of citizens across the country who record precipitation daily: rain and snow. My spousal unit and I have been members for enough years that our data qualified to be included.

There’s more detail here: https://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=climate-normals

Understanding the Earth’s climate is a big task, and its importance to you, me, and future generations is huge. I’m glad to play a tiny part. You – if you live in the USA, Canada, or the Bahamas – you can too 🙂 Learn about joining here.

Lost Apple Project Scores #citizenscientist #history #agriculture

In the fall, in Mimbres Valley farmers markets in southwest New Mexico, I can buy Red Delicious apples. And they are… delicious, that is. Not those mealy things found in supermarkets. That’s because there are orchards here with trees over 80 years old. Apparently, the Pacific Northwest has its own bounty.

There were once at least 17,000 named varieties of apples in North America, but only about 4,500 are known to exist today. By the 20th century, farmers stopped growing most apple types.

The Lost Apple Project [is] a nonprofit organization that searches abandoned farms and orchards in the Pacific Northwest to locate old varieties. Benscoter recently found seven types of apples in old orchards in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that were thought to have gone extinct as long as a century ago. NPR

These old varieties can be identified using a resource from the Federal government I’d never heard of before: the USDA’s Pomological Watercolors Digital Collection. Between 1886 to 1942, 7,584 watercolor paintings of American fruits and nuts were collected, including 3,807 images of apples. That leaves over 13,000 still lost, but maybe a few more will emerge from private collections.

The Project’s finds aren’t simply interesting, they can be useful. “The rediscoveries are a step toward increased genetic diversity of apples. He can test the historic varieties to find out what farmers and buyers will want. The USDA can then piece together that information to help farmers more reliably grow apples, not use as much pesticides and increase nutritional quality.”

Apple trees are often propagated by grafting, so cuttings from the newly rediscovered apples can be rescued immediately. It’s nice to know this piece of history is not lost, and perhaps people can join bears, deer, and squirrels in an annual feast. Congratulations, citizen scientists.

Citizen Scientists Study Hummingbirds in SW New Mexico #bird #birdwatching #citizenscience #ornithology

I visited the Mimbres Culture Heritage Center when they hosted a hummingbird banding weekend. Hummingbirds are fierce little warriors and fascinating to watch. I have three feeders out for them at my house now, and my windy ridgetop is not the best birding location in the county.

On your vacation through southwest New Mexico, be sure to visit the Mimbres ruins and, if you time it right, see the hummers.

Citizen Scientists! Tackle this hundred year old question – can you fry an egg on a summer sidewalk? #citizenscience #summertime

frying eggs in a pan

A pan and a cooktop definitely will be easier

Since at least 1899, Americans have speculated about frying an egg on a summer sidewalk. Can it be done?

Short answer – no. Long answer – it depends. Ah! The joy of “it depends.”

You can’t believe YouTube! You didn’t really think you could, did you? You’ll have to try for yourself.

Do this at home, if you don’t mind making a mess. First – set the parameters of your experiment. How cooked must your egg become?

When you cook an egg, the heat transfers energy to the molecules, causing the proteins to unravel. After a few minutes, the strings of proteins weave and bind together, and most of the water evaporates.

Yolk proteins begin to condense near 150 degrees Fahrenheit, while the albumen proteins ovotransferrin and ovalbumin thicken near 142 and 184 degrees, respectively. smithsonianmag.com

Let’s say you like runny yolks. Maybe softly-set egg whites too. So aim for… oh, let’s round it off and say, 140 degrees F.

I know from my wildland fire fighter training that dry grass baking in the sun can routinely reach 100 degrees F. A record for the highest official temperature on Earth comes from Death Valley USA:  134.1 degrees F (56.7 °C) That’s the temperature of the air, not a solid soaking up photons.

People quibble over that record, and you may not want to take your egg to Death Valley, but this seems promising.

It’s not just temperature that matters, it’s heat transfer. Ever bake a cake? Did you tap the cake’s top to judge if it’s done? Would you tap the pan? The difference is heat transfer rates.

So how about the sidewalk? Concrete isn’t the best material to transfer heat to a food item, which is why we don’t have a lot of concrete fry pans.

Asphalt would be better, “smoother and tighter, and also going to be hotter and hold its heat better… If you’ve got a road that’s at 150 or 155 degrees and you crack an egg onto it, it’s going to lower the temperature [at that spot], and that temperature’s not going to heat back up anytime soon.”

My home town in upstate New York, USA, has sidewalks made of slabs of black slate. Better than concrete for sure, but I don’t know how it compares to asphalt.

There are lots of ways to cook with solar ovens, and mirrors, aluminum foil, and magnifying glasses can help too. Is any such equipment allowed for your experiment?

Two cold drinks

I made one for you too

I tell you what. I’m going to sit in the shade with a cold drink. Let me know how your experiment turns out.

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for their article.