Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn 5: After the Storm

A nor'easter blew through Wednesday night and through Thursday, filling the coffee mug* I keep in the garden to overflowing.  A roughly straight-sided and flat-bottomed bucket nearby collected four-and-a-quarter inches of rain.  This was stunning: I hadn't seen much more than an inch in twenty-four hours this entire growing season.  A nor'easter is an extratropical cyclone that moves up the Atlantic coast, bringing strong north-easterly winds (and rain, snow, etc) to coastal regions--hence the name.  Next day's Boston Globe reported that Brockton had the 3rd highest rainfall total at 5.03 inches--showing that my bucket did not exaggerate.

Towns getting the highest sustained winds (30mph and higher), and the highest gusts (49mph and higher), were all more coastal than Brockton (which is about half an hour's drive from big water).  Even so, The wind brought down a few medium-sized limbs, and countless twigs.  I decided to see how much it had hastened leaf-fall, and whether it had dulled the reds noticeably.  (Why rain affects some fall colors more than others I discussed in "Why Do Leaves Change in Fall?")

Here are some before-and-after shots of the same trees.

Big silver maple down the street four days ago, and this morning.

Big white ash that held its leaves longer than any other I know, four days ago, and this morning.

Trio of sugar maples I've been watching, four days ago, and this morning.

The neighbor's big red maple four days ago, and this morning.

The weather clearly speeded the leaf loss, but not enormously.  Color differences--if there are any--are probably obscurred  by the difference in lighting: the earlier photos were made late in the afternoon.

A drive down the highway this afternoon permitted a general survey of leaf color.  It seems the predictions that last weekend would be "peak color" were correct: we seem to be past the half-way point.

The big rain did one very good thing, by raising groundwater levels a bit.  Here are photos of the shoreline of Nippenicket back on September 6th, and this afternoon.  There's still along way to go: nearly all that level sand (and its vegetation) was once under water.

September 6th

October 25th

*Who needs a store-bought rain gauge?  Any straight-sided, flat-bottomed container will give you a highly-local rainfall estimate.  Put out two or three to see any variation.  For best results, put each in a place with open sky above in all directions out to about 45 degrees.  Rain varies from place to place even within the same town--especially in summer showers--so your container will be more trustworthy for your own yard than the "official" numbers. 

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