Tag Archives: february

February’s record heat like something ‘out of a sci-fi movie’

February’s record heat left federal scientists struggling to find words, describing temperatures as “astronomical,” “staggering” and “strange.” They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.

This was not just another of the drumbeat of 10 straight broken monthly global heat records, triggered by a super El Nino and man-made global warming. February 2016 obliterated old marks by such a margin that it was the most above-normal month since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The old record was set just last December and the last three months have been the most above-normal months on record, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. And it’s not just NOAA. NASA, which uses different statistical techniques, as well as a University of Alabama Huntsville team and the private Remote Sensing System team, which measure using satellites, also said February 2016 had the biggest departure from normal on record.

NOAA said Earth averaged 56.08 degrees (13.38 degrees Celsius) in February, 2.18 degrees (1.21 degrees Celsius) above average, beating the old record for February set in 2015 by nearly six-tenths of a degree (one-third of a degree Celsius). These global heat figures had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” Blunden said. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

“Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica,” Blunden said. “It’s insane.”

In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That’s after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).

Worldwide, the record heat made February 2016 warmer than about 125 of the last 136 Marches.

It was also the warmest winter — December through February — on record, beating the previous year’s record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius).

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said she normally doesn’t concern herself much with the new high temperature records that are broken regularly.

“However,” she added in an email,” When I look at the new February 2016 temperatures, I feel like I’m looking at something out of a sci-fi movie. In a way we are: it’s like someone plucked a value off a graph from 2030 and stuck it on a graph of present temperatures. It is a portent of things to come, and it is sobering that such temperature extremes are already on our doorstep.”

Scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, were astonished by the “staggering” numbers, said Deke Arndt, the centers’ global monitoring chief.

“Usually these are monthly reminders that things are changing,” Arndt said. “The last six months have been more than a reminder, it’s been like a punch in the nose.”

NASA’s chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt usually discounts the importance of individual record hot months, but said this month was different, calling it “obviously strange.”

This was due to the long-term warming from heat-trapping gases and the powerful El Niño, so these types of record heat numbers will continue for a few more months, but probably will not be a permanent situation, Schmidt said in an email.

But others were not so sure, including Arndt, who compared it to moving into a new hotter neighborhood.

“We are in a new era,” Arndt said. “We have started a new piece of modern history for this climate.”

Jason Furtado, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma who wasn’t part of any of the government teams, simply wrote in an email: “Welcome to the new normal.

 

Online:

NOAA: www.ncdc.noaa.gov

Follow Seth Borenstein at http://twitter.com/borenbears and his work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/seth-borenstein

 

 

Buy American Blooms: | ‘Slow Flowers’ movement pushes local grown, U.S. cut flowers

Come February, the owners of Farmstead Flowers begin nurturing seedlings and preparing three acres for their cash crop reaped from April through October — cut flowers.

Megan Hird and her husband founded their rural southeast Nebraska business in 2012 and are among the growing number of “farmer florists” intent on providing consumers the option to buy local — much as the slow food movement has sought to increase the use of locally grown, sustainable food.

About 80 percent of the cut flowers used in florists’ bouquets are imported, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. But flower industry experts anticipate that heading into Valentine’s Day, more people will eschew bouquets of imports for American blooms.

There’s been a recent — if small — rebound in the number of cut-flower growers in the U.S., from 5,085 in 2007 to 5,903 in 2012. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers recently reported an all-time high of 700 members, the majority of which are based in the U.S.

The shift is two-fold, according to Debra Prinzing, a Seattle-based outdoor living expert who operates Slow Flowers, an online directory of florists, wedding and event planners and growers who use stateside flowers.

“I think a lot of it is just this rejection of the more structural bouquets — the flowers that are the Dirty Dozen, the same-old, same-old,” Prinzing said. “The romance of a meadow or a cottage-garden flower or an heirloom flower is really penetrating the consciousness of floral designers.”

There’s also a rising consciousness about the carbon footprint caused by the distance from which flowers are shipped, “just the same as it is with food,” she said. Critics of the flowers grown in South America and other places say those countries often don’t employ fair labor practices and that the flowers are often coated with chemicals to preserve them for a long journey.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Floral Importers of Florida — based in Miami, where more than 90 percent of imported flowers enter the country — said they’re using outdated information. While Colombia’s and Ecuador’s industries used questionable labor practices and pesticides years ago, they are now heavily regulated and have minimum wage requirements and bans on certain chemicals, Christine Boldt said.

South America is the most hospitable environment for flowers to grow year-round, Boldt said, which also makes them cheaper. But American-based growers counter that you get what you pay for.

“The florists I supply simply like how much fresher my flowers are … They’re not having to pick through my supply to pull out wilted or dead petals and leaves,” Hird said.

She offers local florists and grocery stores — even truckers who pass by Farmstead Flowers’ roadside stand — bouquets of locally grown snapdragons, foxglove, peonies, sunflowers and nearly 40 other varieties. But as with many who grow outside of California and Florida, Hird can only offer flowers during a six-month window. For Valentine’s Day, she’s selling gift certificates that can be redeemed for a 25-stem bouquet when her flowers are in bloom.

Next week is also the first Valentine’s Day for which consumers can be assured their flowers sprouted on American soil.

Kasey Cronquist is the administrator for the Certified American Grown program that launched in July with 36 members, most in California. All of them went through a supply-chain audit to guarantee the flowers’ origin before being approved to use the American Grown logo on their products.

Cronquist predicted that American-grown flowers will take a bigger share of the cut-flower industry in 2015.

“We have examples of where florists are starting to segregate their coolers, so that when they get the calls from their communities saying, ‘I’d like to buy locally-grown bouquets,’ people can go in and grab from the right side of the cooler so they’re not mixing the imported product with the desire of the customer,” he said.

That hasn’t been Rhonda Bullington’s experience.

The owner of Loess Hills Floral Studio in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said rustic wedding themes with cottage and meadow flowers were big trends in 2012 and 2013, but this year, “brides are wanting big, over-the-top pieces.”

She uses a local Nebraska grower for some arrangements and tries to buy U.S. flowers when she can, “but they tend to be a little more expensive.” As long as her customers demand lower prices over local sourcing, that’s what she’ll provide to stay in business.

And Bullington sees a big difference in the slow food movement and the push for local flowers: “You don’t need flowers; you want flowers.”

Bundle up for a good cause, great tunes at Mitten Fest

Why wait until the temperatures warm to enjoy an outdoor music festival? On Feb. 7, Bay View bar Burnhearts will present its third annual Mitten Fest — a free, one-day music festival benefiting the Hunger Task Force.

Burnhearts owner William Seidel says the idea came as a result of an annual summer block party, a giant bash that takes over more than a block of Potter Avenue at the end of June. Two years ago, Seidel and the Burnhearts team got tired of waiting a whole year to host another event and realized there was nothing more Wisconsin than holding a music festival in the middle of a February afternoon.

Seidel said there were some doubts. He and the bar were inundated with comments like, “‘This is not going to work, and nobody’s gonna show up.’”

But the first two years proved the doubters wrong. Both concerts featured strong attendance and last year, Mitten Fest collected more than $2,500 for the Hunger Task Force, along with a ton of food and 36 giant bags of winter clothing.

“(The winter placement) gives people a little bit of light before the end of a dark tunnel,” Seidel said. “Going on its third year, it has become quite a big event.”

This year’s concert will feature Canopies, Greatest Lakes, Towers and Sin Bad. DJ Chris Schulist, a co–founder of local hip hop rarities record label Dope Folks Records, will provide music between sets.

Seidel said deciding who to select “boils down to who hasn’t played at the festival yet,” in part, but he also likes to pick acts that are on the upswing.

This year’s bands certainly qualify.

Synthpop quintet Canopies was recently featured on college radio tracker CMJ, thanks to promotion from WMSE. Greatest Lakes’ dreamy single “Looking In” was listed as one of the 10 best Milwaukee songs of 2014 by the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy. And both Towers and Sin Bad made waves when they debuted in the garage rock scene this year.

Seidel said playing in the cold can be daunting for bands, but he’s able to convince them to sign on by reminding them that “people who come don’t forget that show.”

In addition to the music and a craft fair, Mitten Fest will feature specialty drinks provided by the event’s sponsors: Central Waters Brewery, in Amherst, Wisconsin, and Founders Brewing Company, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Seidel said Founders was invited because you can’t have a Mitten Fest without inviting a brewery from the “Mitten State.”

The tastiest beverage might be Burnhearts’ own concoction: a specialty brandy old-fashioned. “We take old used bourbon barrels and fill them with Korbel brandy,” Seidel says. “In one of them we put 40 pounds of fresh ginger and simple syrup, and then we age it for quite a few months. The other one we put in all the fixings for a traditional Wisconsin old-fashioned.” The cocktails are sold at Mitten Fest and then the empty barrels are turned over to Central Waters, which will age beer in them for a year and sell the result at next year’s Mitten Fest.

It’s a tantalizing treat that Seidel said always draws attendees into Burnhearts — but they’re not the only local beneficiaries. “There are lots of other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, and they love it when people show up to get warm, have something to eat or drink, and then head back,” Seidel said.

First-timers, take heed of Seidel’s parting suggestion: “Bring three pairs of socks, and make sure you have nice warm boots.”

ON STAGE

Burnhearts’ third annual Mitten Fest is noon–8 p.m. on Feb. 7, at 2599 S. Logan Ave. Attendance is free, but food, clothing and cash donations for Hunger Task Force are encouraged. Visit facebook.com/burnheartsbar for more details.

Michigan anti-gay marriage ban goes on trial in February

Same-sex couples queued up all afternoon at county courthouses, some even carrying wedding flowers. Then a federal judge deciding whether to throw out Michigan’s gay marriage ban shocked everyone, saying simply: Wait ’til next year.

After hearing arguments and poring over a stack of legal briefs, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said on Oct. 16 that he needs to hear from experts on Feb. 25 before settling the fate of a 2004 Michigan constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

“This was never a scenario we imagined,” Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown said. Same-sex couples were at her office, anxious to get a marriage license if the judge ruled in their favor.

“One couple has been together for 53 years,” Brown added. “I think they’ve waited long enough.”

The lawsuit, brought by Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, two Detroit-area nurses in a lesbian relationship, argues that Michigan’s constitutional amendment violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, which forbids states from treating people differently. The amendment was approved by 59 percent of voters in 2004.

Friedman clearly caught lawyers on both sides off guard, as they had agreed to have him decide the issue on arguments and briefs.

More than 100 people were in the courtroom, anticipating a decision in favor of gay marriage, and dozens more watched a video feed of the hearing in a nearby room. A groan went up in that room when Friedman said he’s not ready to make a decision.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.

An attorney for Michigan said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that states have authority to regulate marriage. Kristin Heyse noted that more than 2.5 million voters supported the amendment.

“The people of the state of Michigan should be allowed to decide Michigan law. This is not the proper forum to decide social issues,” Heyse, an assistant attorney general, told the judge.

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, who have lived together for about eight years, declined comment outside court.

“We were all hoping for an immediate ruling, but they understand it’s a very long process,” Dana Nessel, co-counsel for the couple, told reporters.

Ninety miles away in Ingham County, Marnee Rutledge and Samantha Wolf were disappointed, too. Rutledge had a pink flower pinned to her shirt, while Wolf carried a bouquet of flowers that Rutledge gave her when proposing earlier in the day. They had a summer ceremony nearby in Holt that wasn’t legal.

“We are in our minds married,” Wolf said at the courthouse in Mason. “We had a ceremony, we took our vows. That we aren’t afforded the same rights as everybody who has stood up in front of their priest and loved ones – that’s wrong.”

Bonnie Jean of Mount Clemens in suburban Detroit legally married Heidi Jean in 2007 in Ontario, Canada, but said the marriage has no standing in Michigan. Bonnie is due to give birth to a boy in December.

“I’m already married to a woman. It’s recognized by the federal government, but not the state,” said Bonnie, who attended the hearing.

The state of Michigan says heterosexual marriage provides the best family setting for children, while attorneys for Rowse and DeBoer say research shows there’s no difference for kids in same-sex households.

“The parties must be afforded the opportunity to develop their own record in this matter with the benefit of calling witnesses and subjecting them to cross-examination,” Friedman said in an eight-page order.

Rowse and DeBoer’s lawsuit began as a challenge to a Michigan law that prevents them from adopting each other’s kids, but the case took an extraordinary turn a year ago when Friedman suggested they refile it to target the gay marriage ban.

During the hearing, co-counsel Carole Stanyar argued that the Michigan marriage amendment “enshrines” discrimination. She said U.S. history has at times revealed a lack of humanity, “but at times we right ourselves … and reaffirm the principle that there are no second-class citizens.”

Christine Weick drove 175 miles from Hopkins in western Michigan to hold a sign that said God opposes gay marriage. She stood outside the courthouse but across the street from a few dozen gay marriage supporters.

“I said, `Lord, what if I’m the only one out here?’ And look, I’m the only one here,” Weick said.