Tag: weather

Scienceweatherzoos

Gonna rock you like a hurricane

This week, hurricane Florence, a category-5 storm, is gearing up to kick the Carolinas in their short and curlies. Climate change implications aside for the moment, Florence is projected to hit the US as the northernmost category-5 storm ever. And it’s currently pointing itself at what Carolinians (ed. note: Caroliners? Carolinears? Caroloins?) call “low country”, because “coastal bog” doesn’t have as nice a ring to it.

The governor of South Carolina ordered a mandatory evacuation of all coastal residents on Monday, and the governor of North Carolina followed suit the next day. And that’s probably smart, considering a gigantic whirlpool of hate, rain, and wind is currently pointed at all those “we rated our construction for much smaller storms” houses.

But what about those residents who CAN’T leave. No, I don’t mean the disenfranchised or the poor or the elderly, all of whom make up a substantial portion of the Carolina coastal residents. That’s a whole ‘nother issue for another time. No, I’m talking about the zoos in the Carolinas. What happens to the elephants, the flamingos, the heffalumps (ed. note: not a thing), the jackalopes (ed. note: also no), and the naked mole rats (ed. note: this one is real and it looks like a ballsack with teeth) who all can’t relocate to a Holiday Inn farther inland?

molerat

Look at it. JUST LOOK AT IT.

Turns out all zoos that are affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which is pretty much all zoos in the US and abroad – more than 230 worldwide, requires all member zoos have disaster emergency plans for things like hurricanes. These plans were created in part in 2005 after hurricanes Katrina and Irma caused extended power outages at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, resulting in the loss of more than 10,000 fish. Since then, zoos and aquariums have taken a much more programmatic approach to hurricane prep, as well as public communication.  As hurricane Irma bore down on Miami in 2017, Zoo Miami posted the following on their Facebook page.

We don’t evacuate our animals since hurricanes can change direction at the last minute and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location. Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal. These animals survived [Hurricane] Andrew without injuries. We’ve loaded up on additional food and water, our generators have been tested and ready to go. In addition, we’ve stored all cycles and removed debris.

This forward planning sometimes leads to unusual scenarios, like when Zoo Miami’s flamingos were housed in the men’s room for their safety…

flamingos.jpg

“Who are those handsome devils in the mirror?”

So when you’re watching the hurricane coverage over the next few days, think about all the captive critters riding out the storm in less than perfect accommodations. And to everyone anywhere currently in the path of Florence – stay safe, nail down the pool toys, and try not to think about naked mole rats.

 

meteorologyScience

“It’s not the heat…

…it’s the humidi…oof….OW! HEY, CUT IT OUT!

Sorry. Had to be done. But c’mon, admit it. There are few phrases more annoying than “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” (ed. note: Number one: “Looks like somebody has a case of the Mondays”). But with about one in three Americans in the middle of a heat wave, maybe these people are on to something.

The National Weather Service (ed. note: Apparently, they don’t make and deliver the weather, so we recommend “The National Weather Forecast Gang”) warns that most of the northeast and midwest US will be experiencing a heat wave right up until July 4th holiday. Alarmingly, reports of high temperatures plus high humidity will mean reading of over 100 on the heat index.

Wait. What in the name of my broiled sunburn is the heat index? So, answer – What is the heat index and do we care? Well, like most things there’s a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is “it’s how hot it is, and no, you really don’t care much beyond ‘f*ck, it’s hot’, do you?” The long answer is still pretty interesting. All the heat index represents is how hot it FEELS. Think wind chill, but with less wind and definitely less chill.

This chart, handily provided by the good people at NOAA, shows that basically, the more humidity you add to higher temperatures, the more it feel like three rats getting intimate in a wool sock (ed. note: Hot and unpleasant. Especially for the third rat. He’s always left out).

heat index

Note the density of orange and red in the chart. Red and orange never mean good things on a chart; this applies especially to a chart of Starburst flavors (ed. note: Yellow rules. Fight me if you disagree). It also means that if its above 90 degrees (that’s in freedom units…works out to 32 centigrade) and it’s humid, you’re gonna have a bad time. Except this bad time means your dog and/or elderly relative might die of heat stroke.

OK, great. We have a chart that tells us when the outside feels like sitting in a fat man’s armpit. But, I can hear you thinking is there a handy equation I can use to calculate the heat index? No. There most assuredly is not. There IS an equation, but handy it ain’t. Here it is (where T = Temp in Fahrenheit and R = Relative humidity):

Heat Index = -42.379 + 2.04901523T + 10.14333127R – 0.22475541TR – 6.83783 x 10-3T2 – 5.481717 x 10-2R2 + 1.22874 x 10-3T2R + 8.5282 x 10-4TR2 – 1.99 x 10-6T2R

Good lord, that certainly doesn’t help. So, what the heat index tells us, despite the obvious (it’s hot) and its cumbersome math is that prolonged exposure to a mix of high temps and humidity can have a seriously deleterious effect on people and pets (ed. note: this means you can get heat exhaustion or the much more serious heat stroke). A high temp one day can be more or less dangerous than the same temp the following week. Take the right precautions; such as:

  • Hydrate. Lots
  • Light weight, loose clothing
  • Hydrate. That means water, not margaritas, which despite being delicious aren’t helpful here
  • Wear a hat. And would it kill you to wear some sunscreen?
  • Alternate sun time with cooling down in the shade time

And the next time some slack-jawed doofus tries to tell you that it isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity, you can tell them no, it’s actually the heat index. And then you can show them the above equation and then beat them to death with a shovel.