Weather

Holtsville Hal and his handler, Greg Drossel, during a previous Groundhog Day celebration. Photo by Kristen D'Andrea/Town of Brookhaven

By Heidi Sutton

“Well, it’s Groundhog Day, again.” — quote from Groundhog Day (1993)

Pennsylvania may have the legendary groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, but here in Suffolk County we have our very own prognosticator of prognosticators, Holtsville Hal. The cute little rodent with his buck teeth and short bushy tail will be the star of the day as the Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve celebrates Groundhog Day with a special event on Feb. 2. Hundreds will gather to hear Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro announce Holtsville Hal’s famous forecast. 

According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow after stirring from hibernation on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. Superintendent Losquadro will reveal Hal’s prognostication at approximately 7:25 a.m.

“Our annual Groundhog Day celebration is an enjoyable tradition for many local families,” said Superintendent Losquadro in a press release. “I’m always hopeful Hal will predict an early spring to help my snow removal budget, but either way this is a much-anticipated event each year in Brookhaven Town.”

“Holtsville Hal’s prognostication is anxiously anticipated every year and it’s always a relief when he predicts an early spring. Let’s hope that he doesn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day and we can look forward to a short winter season,” added Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine.

Although he’s sure to be the center of attention, Holtsville Hal will not be the only animal available for viewing on Feb. 2. Following the ceremony, residents are welcome to enjoy some free hot chocolate and visit the more than 100 non-releasable, wild or injured animals residing at the Animal Preserve, including its latest resident, Leonardo “Leo” DiCatprio, the Eurasian Lynx, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

The Preserve is also home to a buffalo, black bear, bobcat, coatamundi, hybrid wolves, an artic fox, goats, horses, pigs, cows, alpaca, deer and many more.

Gates will open at the Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville, at 7 a.m.; parking is free. 

Residents are asked to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible to get a good view of Hal. Call 631-451-5330 for more information.

METRO photo
Mild headaches and fatigue are common consequences

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

During the summer, we talk a lot about the dangers of dehydration. However, it can also cause problems during the cooler winter months. Dry heat quickly evaporates moisture in the air, making it hard to stay hydrated or to keep any humidity in your home or office. This can dehydrate us.

Complications and symptoms of dehydration can be mild to severe, ranging from constipation, mood changes, headaches and heart palpitations to heat stroke, migraines and heart attacks.

In addition, the dry air can make our throats and sinuses dry, making us uncomfortable and more susceptible to irritations and viruses.

Let’s look at some of the consequences of dehydration and suggestions for keeping hydration up.

Headaches and migraines

In a review of studies published in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology, those who drank four cups more water had significantly fewer hours of migraine pain than those who drank less (1). Headache intensity decreased as well.

Heart palpitations

Heart palpitations are very common and are broadly felt as a racing heart rate, skipped beat, pounding sensation or fluttering. Dehydration and exercise contributing to this (2). They occur mainly when we don’t hydrate prior to exercise. If you drink one glass of water before exercise and then drink during exercise, it will help avoid palpitations. Though these symptoms are not usually life-threatening, they can make you anxious.

Heart attacks

The Adventist Health Study showed that men who drank more water had the least risk of death from heart disease (3). Group one, which drank more than five glasses of water daily, had less risk than group two, which drank more than three. Those in group three, which drank fewer than two glasses per day, saw the lowest benefit, comparatively. For women, there was no difference between groups one and two; both fared better than group three.

The reason for this effect, according to the authors, may relate to blood or plasma viscosity (thickness) and fibrinogen, a substance that helps clots form.

Decreased concentration and fatigue

Mild dehydration resulted in decreased concentration, subdued mood, fatigue and headaches in women in a small study (4). The mean age of participants was 23, and they were neither athletes nor highly sedentary. Dehydration was caused by walking on a treadmill with or without taking a diuretic (water pill) prior to the exercise. The authors concluded that adequate hydration was needed, especially during and after exercise.

I would also suggest, from my practice experience, hydration prior to exercise.

How much water?

How do we go about this? How much water we need to drink depends on circumstances, such as diet, activity levels, environment and other factors. It is not true necessarily that we all should be drinking eight glasses of water a day. In a review article, the authors analyzed the data, but did not find adequate studies to suggest that eight glasses is the magic number (5). It may actually be too much for some patients.

You may also get a significant amount of water from the foods in your diet. Nutrient-dense diets, like Mediterranean or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets, have a plant-rich focus. Diets with a focus on fruits and vegetables increase water consumption (6). As you may know, 95 percent of the weights of many fruits and vegetables are attributed to water. An added benefit is an increased satiety level without eating calorically dense foods.

Remember that salty foods can dehydrate you, including breads and pastries, so try to avoid these.

Caffeinated beverages

In a review, it was suggested that caffeinated coffee and tea don’t increase the risk of dehydration, even though caffeine is a mild diuretic (7). With moderate amounts of caffeinated beverages, the liquid has a more hydrating effect than its diuretic effect.

Keeping some humidity in the air

To reduce sinus inflammation and dry skin that heated air can promote, measure the humidity level in your home with a hygrometer and target keeping it between 30 and 50 percent (8). When the temperature outside drops below 10 degrees F, lower this to 25 percent.

Strategies for adding moisture to the air include using cool mist humidifiers, keeping the bathroom door open after you bathe or shower, and placing bowls of water strategically around your home, including on your stovetop when you cook. If you use a humidifier, take care to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and clean it regularly.

It is important to stay hydrated to avoid complications — some are serious, but all are uncomfortable. Diet is a great way to ensure that you get the triple effect of high nutrients, increased hydration and sense of feeling satiated without calorie-dense foods. However, don’t go overboard with water consumption, especially if you have congestive heart failure or open-angle glaucoma (9).

References: 

(1) Handb Clin Neurol. 2010;97:161-72. (2) my.clevelandclinic.org. (3) Am J Epidemiol 2002 May 1; 155:827-33. (4) J. Nutr. February 2012 142: 382-388. (5) AJP – Regu Physiol. 2002;283:R993-R1004. (6) Am J Lifestyle Med. 2011;5(4):316-319. (7) Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2007;35(3):135-140. (8) epa.gov (9) Br J Ophthalmol. 2005:89:1298–1301.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

PSEG Long Island is mobilizing for remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which is forecast to hit our area late Friday into Saturday. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and potentially hazardous winds.

PSEG Long Island personnel are performing system checks and preparing for potential outages. Workers are ready to respond safely and as quickly as possible when the hazardous winds subside.

“We continue to monitor the track of the storm and are preparing accordingly,” said Michael Sullivan, vice president of Transmission and Distribution at PSEG Long Island. “PSEG Long Island will have personnel ready to assist our customers in the event of outages caused by the heavy rain and strong winds.”

During this storm, PSEG Long Island may use an enhancement to its outage communications process to increase the accuracy of estimated times of restoration (ETRs). With this enhancement, customers contacting the Call Center early in the storm may receive an “Assessing Conditions” message rather than an ETR message. This will allow crews to assess storm impact first to provide more precise ETRs. For more information about this process, visit https://www.psegliny.com/outages/estimatedrestorationtimes.

COVID-19-related storm processes remain in place to ensure the health and safety of employees and the public. To that end, we ask that customers remain in their homes when crews are working nearby. If customers must speak with our crews, we ask them to practice responsible “physical distancing” and remain at least 6 feet away. For more information about how PSEG Long Island continues to live up to its commitment to safety during the pandemic, please visit www.psegliny.com/covid19.

Customers are asked to note the important storm safety tips below and to visit https://www.psegliny.com/safetyandreliability/stormsafety for additional storm preparation information.

Customer Safety:

  • Downed wires should always be considered “live.” Please stay away from them, and do not drive over or stand near them. It is best to maintain a distance of at least 30 feet from a downed power line. To report a downed wire, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 800-490-0075 or call 911.
  • Electric current passes easily through water. If you encounter a pool standing water, stop, back up and choose another path.
  • Never use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Use an extension cord that is more than 20 feet long to keep the generator at a safe distance.

Stay connected:

  • Report an outage and receive status updates by texting OUT to PSEGLI (773454). You can also report your outage through our app, our website at www.psegliny.com/outages or with your voice using the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant app on your smartphone.
  • To report an outage or downed wire, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 800-490-0075.
  • Follow PSEG Long Island on Facebook and Twitter to report an outage and for updates before, during and after the storm.
  • Visit PSEG Long Island’s MyPower map for the latest in outage info, restoration times and crew locations across Long Island and the Rockaways at https://mypowermap.psegliny.com/.

Stock image from Metro

October began on a somber note with several days of rain, cloudy weather and blustery winds. For many people, short-term inclement weather can lead to lethargy and depressed moods.

Dr. Veronique Deutsch-Anzalone, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine, is a clinical psychologist who has researched the weather’s effect on people. The doctor said the first thing many think of regarding lousy weather and mental health is seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as SAD. Deutsch-Anzalone said SAD is not technically considered a disorder anymore in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” but now what patients are diagnosed with is depression with a seasonal pattern. She added seasonal pattern is considered a specifier.

“Why not just throw on some raincoats and galoshes, go out and just jump around in the puddles and make those mud pies with them. They’re going to remember that and enjoy it.”

Dr. Veronique Deutsch-Anzalone

“There are actually a lot of conflicting views on whether or not the lack of sun and the increase in cold and darkness causes us to have a depressed mood,” she said, adding that a 2016 study showed no objective data to support that depression is related to either latitude or season or sunlight. The doctor added that some people get depressed only in the summer.

However, due to many having depression that tends to follow a seasonal pattern, the disorder of depression with a seasonal pattern remains in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.”

She said similar symptoms that people feel in the winter could be experienced even during short-term weather patterns, such as the recent period of rain, as lack of sunlight has been a factor in psychiatric problems and depression, with females and the elderly being particularly susceptible.

There are a few reasons, the doctor said, that support cloudy, rainy days being accompanied by depressed moods which involves serotonin, a body chemical that has to do with body functions; and melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.

“We have our circadian rhythms where we’re programmed to be alert when the sun is up and be drowsy when it’s gone, and that is because when the sun goes down our bodies produce melatonin,” she said.

On darker days, the body produces less serotonin. On sunnier days, more serotonin is made, and it’s a neurotransmitter, Deutsch-Anzalone said. She added, on a cloudy day, people tend to keep the lights low in their homes and cuddle up on the couch to watch TV, which increases sleepiness. In turn, she said, a person may crave carbohydrates, sugar and salt.

“Unfortunately, when we turn to that kind of food that actually kind of makes us go into more of a slump, and can also cause some people to feel guilty and not very happy with themselves,” the doctor said.

Comfort foods raise serotonin but only briefly, Deutsch-Anzalone said. The best approach is eating healthy and drinking water. The doctor also advised against excess alcohol and caffeine intake, which can cause inflammation and dehydration.

She added an increase in aches and pains during stormy weather also doesn’t help matters. The drop in atmospheric pressure causes body fluids to move from the blood vessels to the tissues, creating more pressure on nerves and joints.

“That can lead to more increased pain or stiffness or reduced mobility, which then of course, makes us a little bit less likely to want to move,” she said.

She said on gloomy days, it can help to turn the lights on inside to increase serotonin and have more energy. Deutsch-Anzalone added some people might need a light therapy lamp or doctors may prescribe vitamin D.

She said it also helps to engage in enjoyable activities to lift one’s spirits. When a person is feeling down and can’t even think of pleasant activities, she suggests googling to find a list of things to do. Some, the doctor added, might be ones a patient hasn’t thought of, such as picking up an instrument, writing poetry or decorating a room. Exercise is also recommended as well as socializing or calling a friend.

Even in the rain, she suggested embracing nature, especially for people who have young children.

“Why not just throw on some raincoats and galoshes, go out and just jump around in the puddles and make those mud pies with them,” she said. “They’re going to remember that and enjoy it.”

Getting a good night’s sleep is also imperative, she said, since human’s circadian rhythms are thrown off when it’s dark outside for long periods of time. Napping and lying around the house most of the day also throws off a person’s sleep schedule.

“If you’re able to keep that good sleep hygiene and get a good night’s sleep, that will continue to give you a good amount of energy throughout the day, and it’ll ward off any sort of irritability.”

Deutsch-Anzalone advises anyone who is struggling with their mental health to seek professional help.

Disaster Emergency Supplies. METRO photo

Once again, Suffolk County residents find themselves in the midst of hurricane season.

Hurricanes Fiona and Ian recently reared their ugly heads. While Long Island was spared, the headlines featuring the wreckage left behind in places such as Puerto Rico and Florida remind us of how devastating these storms can be.

In the Atlantic and Caribbean, hurricane season officially begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30. The height of the season is typically August, September and October.

Many Long Island residents remember the wrath of Gloria in 1985, and while it was downgraded to a superstorm once it hit our shores nearly 10 years ago, Sandy started as a hurricane, leaving damage and death behind, from the Caribbean to Canada.

Though we are well into hurricane season, it’s never too late to take precautionary measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends preparing before a storm hits by programming all emergency phone numbers into cellphones, writing down the numbers and placing them on the refrigerator or near home phones. CDC officials also advise locating the nearest shelter and researching different routes to get there. Pet owners should also find pet-friendly shelters and hotels or an out-of-town friend or relative who can take in pets during the case of an evacuation.

The CDC suggests having emergency supplies handy in case of a weather emergency. People should keep in mind that water and electricity could be cut off, and it’s imperative to have a supply of items such as batteries, bottled water, flashlights, medications and important documents that are easily accessible.

All family members should know where the fire extinguishers are in the home and how to use them. And, most importantly, families should go over their emergency plan regularly.

When a storm is predicted, the CDC says to clean up any items outside of the house that could potentially blow around and cause damage. Installing storm shutters or putting plywood on windows can prevent shattered glass coming into a home. Carbon monoxide detectors should be checked to prevent CO poisoning.

The most important tip various agencies give is to follow the advice of government officials and first responders regarding evacuating or sheltering in place at home. When evacuating, take only what you need as well as your emergency kit. Drivers should travel on roads they are instructed to use even if there is traffic, and avoid any downed wires.

Those staying at home need to remember not to go outside, even if it seems calm, until news that the hurricane has finally passed. Also, stay away from windows and, of course, always be prepared to leave if responders tell you that it’s necessary.

For those who have a trip planned, AAA cautions travelers to be proactive when a storm is predicted to hit by monitoring weather conditions of one’s departure city and destination before leaving. When traveling after a weather event such as a hurricane, it’s imperative to call hotels to get an update on the storm’s impact and to confirm if flights are scheduled to leave on time. Remember that even if an area wasn’t directly hit by a storm, it could still be negatively impacted.

A bit of preparation and caution can help a person and families navigate most storms. Hopefully, Long Islanders won’t need the advice this season.

PSEF LI Facebook photo

PSEG Long Island is monitoring the remnants of Hurricane Ian that may impact the service area Saturday through Monday and is following its pre-storm processes to handle any outages that may occur.

The weather front is expected to bring showers during the weekend, followed by wind gusts up to 45 mph, enough to possibly topple trees and bring down branches on wires.

“PSEG Long Island has been carefully tracking the remnants of Ian, and we encourage our customers to prepare,” said Mike Sullivan, vice president of Transmission and Distribution at PSEG Long Island. “As we watch the forecast, we have performed system and logistic checks, and have a full complement of personnel who can jump into storm mode if needed. In the event of any outages, our crews will work to safely restore service as quickly as conditions will allow.”

COVID-19-related storm processes remain in place to ensure the health and safety of employees and the public. To that end, PSEF LI asks that customers remain in their homes when crews are working nearby. If customers must speak with the crews, please practice responsible “physical distancing” and remain at least 6 feet away. For more information about how PSEG Long Island continues to live up to its commitment to safety during the pandemic, please visit www.psegliny.com/covid19.

Customers are asked to note the important storm safety tips below and to visit https://www.psegliny.com/safetyandreliability/stormsafety for additional storm preparation information.

 Customer Safety:

  • Downed wires should always be considered “live.” Please stay away from them, and do not drive over or stand near them. It is best to maintain a distance of at least 30 feet from a downed power line. To report a downed wire, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 800-490-0075 or call 911.
  • Electric current passes easily through water. If you encounter a pool of standing water, stop, back up and choose another path.
  • Never use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Use an extension cord that is more than 20 feet long to keep the generator at a safe distance.

Stay connected:

  • Report an outage and receive status updates by texting OUT to PSEGLI (773454). You can also report your outage through our app, our website at www.psegliny.com/outages or with your voice using the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant app on your smartphone.
  • To report an outage or downed wire, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 800-490-0075.
  • Follow PSEG Long Island on Facebook and Twitter to report an outage and for updates before, during and after the storm.
  • Visit PSEG Long Island’s MyPower map for the latest in outage info, restoration times and crew locations across Long Island and the Rockaways at https://mypowermap.psegliny.com/.

Pixabay photo

In late July, amid some of the hottest weeks of the year, the Suffolk County Water Authority put out a statement urging residents to conserve water.

“With continued hot and dry weather leading to excessive early morning water use that is pushing water infrastructure to its limits, the Suffolk County Water Authority is urging residents to immediately take steps to conserve water,” the statement read. “Though it is always important to conserve water, during hot and dry periods it is imperative to do so, as residents tend to overwater lawns and set their irrigation timers to the same period of time in the early morning hours.”

We’re asking people to shift their watering patterns to the nonpeak periods.’ ⁠— Joe Pokorny

SCWA’s deputy chief executive officer for operations, Joe Pokorny, outlined the issues surrounding high temperatures. While the underground aquifer is not at risk of going dry any time soon, he said high water consumption is placing a greater strain on the water authority’s infrastructure.

“There is only so much water that we can pump at any given time,” he said. “The aquifers are full of water, but we have limited wells and pumps in the aquifer to deliver water to the customer.”

Strain on the pumps is a problem of supply and demand, according to Pokorny. Higher temperatures increase the demand for water, thereby limiting the supply of water. Pokorny asks that customers be mindful that simultaneous water use can overwhelm their pumps, which could lead to diminished water pressure, possibly harmful to communities.

“We just can’t keep up with demand, so we ask people to curtail [water consumption] because our pumps can’t keep up,” he said. “If that happens for long enough, then we start to see a decline in water pressure and then we get concerned about having enough water available to fight fires and general pressure for people to have in their homes.”

To alleviate the challenges associated with high heat, Suffolk County customers are asked to modify their water habits slightly. By cutting back on water during the peak hours of the highest heat, residents can ease pressure on the pumps.

“We’re asking people to shift their watering patterns to the nonpeak periods,” Pokorny said. “That gives our infrastructure a break. People will still get the water they want, they just get that water at a different time.”

‘Literally, the height of groundwater in the aquifer is declining by many feet during the summer period.’

— Christopher Gobler

The conversation around water conservation prompted a broader discussion around the Long Island water supply. Christopher Gobler, endowed chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation and a professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, discussed the unique relationship that Long Islanders share with their drinking water.

“We have a sole-source aquifer, which means that all of our drinking water comes from underneath our feet,” Gobler said. “When water hits the land, almost all of it seeps into the groundwater and, as it does, it carries with it what’s on the land. And once it’s in our aquifer, that’s our drinking water source.”

For those who tap into the public water supply, the water that they drink typically comes from within just a few miles of their own homes. For these reasons, community members and local governments have a certain obligation to be mindful of their activities on land.

Open space, according to Gobler, is generally most beneficial for promoting water quality within the underground aquifer. These spaces generally act as filters, flushing out contaminants as they work their way through the groundwater and into the aquifer.

“Different land-use practices have different impacts on the way that the water that is falling on land affects our drinking water,” Gobler said. “For example, pristine forests or undisturbed vegetation tend to be really good at, say, taking out nitrogen as water strikes land or falls from the atmosphere.” He added, “Without that, you have just impermeable surfaces and the water may run directly into the groundwater without any benefits of vegetative treatment.”

As summers continue to become longer and hotter due to climate change, the question of the long-term prospects for water supply is likely to arise. Gobler explained that the aquifer is drained and then replenished based on the seasons.

“On average in any given year, about half of the rainfall that falls on Long Island … is what’s called ‘recharged’ into the aquifer,” he said. “The other half that is not recharged undergoes a process called evapotranspiration, which essentially means it either evaporates or is taken up by plants.”

In the warmer months, little to no water gets recharged into the aquifer as it evaporates. Gobler said the window of time during which no recharge is taking place is likely expanding because of climate change.

“I think there’s an old paper from the ‘80s and it said that Sept. 15 is around when the aquifer starts recharging,” he said. “Well, that’s probably not the case anymore. Our falls are getting warmer, and particularly after a really hot and dry summer, the ground is going to be really dry.”

Gobler said SCWA is experiencing two dilemmas at once. During the summer months, the water authority must accommodate both zero recharge to the aquifer and maximal extraction of its water. “Literally, the height of groundwater in the aquifer is declining by many feet during the summer period,” he said.

On the whole, the aquifer is being recharged at a greater rate than it is being extracted from. Long Islanders are not at risk of having their aquifer drained dry. However, climate change is altering the balance, which could create issues decades down the road.

“In broad-brush strokes, we’re fine,” Gobler said, adding, “We’re not in the Southwest of the United States where they’re relying on the Colorado River for their water supply. But we are at a time when the balance of water-in and water-out is getting closer to even.”

Moving forward, residents of Suffolk County should remain aware of the impact that they have on both the quantity and quality of their water supply. “Everybody needs to recognize that there is not only a quantity issue but also a quality issue,” Gobler said. “Everyone impacts both, as do all of the activities that are happening on land.”

Kite. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The visitor comes unexpectedly sneaking around corners, invisible in the air even if you’re staring directly at him.

He is particularly welcome in the summer, when it’s so hot that the sweat on your skin only makes you wet and clammy, without providing much relief.

A cold drink might help, you think. As your fingers take respite from the moisture on the cup, your lips, tongue and mouth journey far from the heat, giving your brain the chance to ignore the signals the rest of your body is sending about how hot and miserable you are.

Short as this comfort is, it’s nothing compared to the effect this guest brings.

I tend to make an odd face when I get too hot, curling my short, thick tongue into my slightly larger lower palate and waiting, as patiently as possible, for the fall to bring cooler temperatures, Halloween costumes, pumpkin pie and, down the road, maybe a snowman that’s taller than me and my son who years ago started bending down to hug his father.

Today, however, during that most amazing of now moments, the guest has arrived, offering the kind of cooling and refreshing massage that lasts much longer than an hour. He charges nothing for his services.

He has an open invitation, of course, but he doesn’t always accept the offer, particularly when he’s traveling elsewhere.

He makes the horseflies scatter and alters the surface of the water, causing the kind of rippling pattern that may inspire a young mathematician eager to find a formula to explain what she sees.

He can interrupt even the most heated of discussions, debates and disagreements. It’s hard to be angry or to make an aggressive point when he’s around. And, in case you ignore him, he has a way of making his presence felt, knocking that stylish hat off your head and into the Long Island Sound, causing that expensive silk scarf to ruffle toward your face, or loosening those carefully tucked bangs.

Powerful as the sun and heat are, he can offer a counterbalance.

He can be cruel, knocking a bird’s nests out of the trees. He can also topple a table filled with carefully cooked cuisine, turning the mouth watering meal into a mess. When he feels like attending a baseball game, he can turn a home run into a fly ball and vice versa.

Ah, but go with him when you’re sailing, flying a kite or just sitting on a hot beach, and he brings the kind of cleansing magic to the air that water brings to a parched plate.

He helps send a kite high into the air, tugging on a line that causes the kite to dart, dive, dip and climb.

On a sailboat, he is the copilot, willing your ship, no matter its size, faster. You don’t need a motor when he’s around and you may not even need to drink that iced tea, lemonade, ice cold beer or soft drink you brought along with you.

After a sail, even on some of the hottest days, but particularly around dusk, he provides cool comfort in much the same way a blanket offers warmth during the coolest nights of the winter.

As he climbs through the nearby trees, he seems to ask you to “shhh.” Then, he waltzes past chimes, tapping each sound singularly and together, singing a unique summer melody that changes with each of his appearances.

He is an equal opportunity flag waver, indifferent to the political leanings of the people who hoisted the revered cloth to the top of a pole.

One of my favorite companions during the summer, I celebrate the cherished breeze, not only for the comfort he affords but for the way he alters the landscape and offers a respite from the heat.

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

By Daniel Dunaief

Clouds and rain often cause people to cancel their plans and seek alternative activities.

The opposite was the case for Katia Lamer this summer. A scientist and Director of Operations of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing, Lamer was in Houston to participate in ESCAPE and TRACER studies to understand the impact of pollution on deep convective cloud formation. 

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

With uncharacteristically dry weather and fewer of the clouds she and others intended to study, she had some down time and created a plan to study the distribution of urban heat. “I am always looking for an opportunity to grow the Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing and try to make the best of every situation,” she said.

Indeed, Lamer and her team launched 32 small, helium-filled party balloons. She and Stony Brook University student Zachary Mages each released 16 balloons every 100 meters while walking a one mile transect from the suburbs to downtown Houston. A mobile observatory followed the balloons and gathered data in real time through a radio link. 

While helium-filled party balloons are not the best option, Lamer said the greater good lay in gathering the kind of data that will be helpful in measuring and monitoring climate change and explained that until some better balloon technology was available, this is what they had to use.

“Typically, we launch the giant radiosonde balloons, but you can’t launch them in a city,” she said because of the lack of space for these larger balloons to rise without hitting obstacles. The balloons also might pass through navigable airspace, disturbing flight traffic.

The smaller party balloons carried sensitive equipment that measured temperature and humidity and had a GPS sensor tucked into foam cups.

“If we can demonstrate that there is significant variability in the vertical distribution of temperature and humidity at those scales, then this would suggest that we should push to increase the resolution of our models to improve climate change projections,” she explained.

By following these balloons closely with a mobile observatory, Lamer and her team can avoid interference from other signals and signal blockage by buildings.

The system they used allowed them to select a cut-off height. Once the balloons reached that altitude, the string that connected the sensors to the balloon burns off and the sensors start free-falling while the balloon climbs until it pops.

The sensors collect continuous data on temperature, humidity and horizontal wind during the ascent and descent. Using the GPS, researchers can collect the sensors.

While researchers have studied urban heat using mesoscale models and satellite data, that analysis does not have the spatial resolution to understand community scale variability. Urban winds also remain understudied, particularly the winds above the surface, she explained.

Winds transport pollutants, harmful contaminants, and heat, which may be relieved on some streets and trapped on others.

Michael Jensen, principal investigator for the Tracking Aerosol Convection interaction Experiment, or TRACER and meteorologist at BNL, explained that Lamer is “focused on what’s going on in the urban centers.” Having a truck that can move around and collect data makes the kind of experiment Lamer is conducting possible. Jensen described what Lamer and her colleagues are doing as “unique.”

New York model 

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility

Lamer had conducted similar experiments in New York to measure winds. The CMAS mobile observatory’s first experiment took place in Manhattan around the One Vanderbilt skyscraper, which is 1,400 feet high and is next to Grand Central Terminal. No balloons were launched as part of that first experiment.She launched the small radiosonde balloons for the first time this summer in Houston around the 990 foot tall Wells Fargo complex. 

Of the 32 balloons she and Mages launched, they collected data from 24. The group lost connection to some of the balloons, while interference and signal blockage disrupted the data flow from others.

Lamer plans to use the information to explore how green spaces such as parks and blue infrastructure including fountains have the potential to provide some comfort to people in the immediate area.

Such observations will provide additional insight beyond numerical models into how large an area a park can cool in the context of the configuration of a neighborhood.

This kind of urban work can have numerous applications.

Lamer suggested it could play a role in urban planning and in national security, as officials need to know the dispersement of pollutants and chemicals. Understanding wind patterns on a fine scale can help inform models that indicate areas that might be affected by an accidental release of chemicals or a deliberate attack against residents.

Bigger picture

Katia Lamer during her experiment in Houston. Photo by Steven Andrade/ BNL

Lamer is gathering data from cities to understand the scale of heterogeneity in properties such as heat and humidity, among others. If conditions are horizontally and vertically homogeneous, only a few permanent stations would be necessary to monitor the city. If conditions are much more varied, more measurement stations would be necessary.

One way to perform this assessment is to use mobile observatories that collect data. The ones Lamer has deployed use low-cost, research-grade instruments for street level and column wide observations.

Over the ensuing decades, Lamer expects that the specific conditions will likely change. Collecting and analyzing data now will enable scientists to develop a baseline awareness of typical urban conditions.

Scientific origins

A native of St.-Dominique, a small farmer’s village in Quebec Canada, Lamer was impressed by storms as she was growing up. She would often watch them outside her window, fascinated by what she was witnessing. After watching the Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton movie Twister, she wanted to invent her own version of the Dorothy instrument and start chasing storms.

When she spoke with her high school guidance counselor about her interest in tornadoes, which do not occur in Quebec, the counselor said she was the first person to express such a professional passion and had no idea how to advise her.

Lamer, who grew up speaking French, attended McGill University in Montreal, where she studied earth system science, aspects of geology and geography and a range of earth-related topics.

Instead of studying or tracking tornadoes, she has worked on cloud physics and cloud dynamics. Hearing about how clouds are the biggest wild card in climate change projections, she decided to embrace the challenge.

During her three years at BNL, Lamer, who lives with her husband and children in Stony Brook, has appreciated the chance to “push the envelope and be creative,” she said. “I really hope to stay in the field of urban meteorology.”

by -
0 274
METRO photo

Summer weather draws many people outside. Warm air and sunshine can be hard to resist, even when temperatures rise to potentially dangerous levels. 

Sunburn may be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of spending too much time soaking up summer sun. But while sunburn is a significant health problem that can increase a person’s risk for skin cancer, it poses a less immediate threat than heat stroke, a well-known yet often misunderstood condition.

What is heat stroke?

Heatstroke arises when one’s body temperature climbs to 104 degrees, according to Penn Medicine. A body at this temperature may experience damage to the muscles, heart, kidneys, and brain. 

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and the most severe form of heat illness that results from long, extreme exposure to the sun. During this exposure, a person’s built-in cooling system may fail to produce enough sweat to lower body his or her body temperature, putting his or her life at risk as a result. Heat stroke develops rapidly and requires immediate medical treatment. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can prove fatal.

The elderly, infants, people whose occupations require them to work outdoors, and the mentally ill are among the people with an especially high risk of heat stroke. Obesity and poor circulation also increase a person’s risk of suffering heat stroke. Alcohol and certain types of medications also can make people more at risk for heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat stroke

One person may experience heat stroke differently than another. In addition, because it develops so rapidly, heat stroke can be hard to identify before a person is in serious danger. But Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that some of the more common heat stroke symptoms include: headache; dizziness; disorientation, agitation, or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; seizure; hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty; high body temperature; loss of consciousness; rapid heartbeat; and hallucinations.

Can heat stroke be prevented?

The simplest way to prevent heat stroke is to avoid spending time outdoors in the sun on hot days. If you must go outdoors, do so when temperatures are mild and the sun is low, such as in the early morning or evening. 

In addition to being wise about when you spend time in the sun, you can do the following to prevent heat stroke.

• Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and sports drinks that can help your body maintain its electrolyte balance, when spending time outdoors. In addition, avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda and tea as well as alcohol.

• Wear lightweight, tightly woven and loose-fitting clothing in light colors.

• Always wear a hat and sunglasses when going outdoors, and use an umbrella on especially hot days.

• Take frequent drinks during outdoor activities and mist yourself with a spray bottle to reduce the likelihood of becoming overheated.

Heat stroke is a serious threat on hot summer days. Because heat stroke can escalate rapidly, people must be especially cautious and mindful of their bodies when spending time outdoors in the summer.