Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Shorts : A Bright Side to the Cold?

The Winter of 2014 has been one to remember – with record cold throughout most of the northern tier of the Midwest and the Northeast. With both heating bills and winter fatigue on the rise, it’s hard to see an upside to these Arctic temperatures, but there may be one.

There has been some speculation that the cold temperatures of this December and January may have killed off some of the invasive insects that have plagued us in recent years, particularly the Emerald Ash Borer. University of Minnesota researchers floated the idea that this winter's historic cold could be the tipping point in the war against the Emerald Ash Borer Agrilus planipennis (EAB), the tiny, beautiful beetle that threatens the nation’s ash trees. They speculate that the harsh winter can halt the spread of EAB to the heart of the state where most of Minnesota’s ash trees are located. That would give the surrounding communities time to remove diseased tress, and perhaps halt the devastation. 

The beautiful, destructive, EAB

The USDA Forest Service published a paper predicting that when EAB larvae “reach -17.8°C (0°F), 5% will die; at -23°C (-10°F), 34% will die; at -29°C (-20°F), 79% will die; and at -34°C (-30°F), 98% will die.”

Residents of the Twin Cities experienced 84 straight sub-zero hours, with the coldest temperatures in the range of -20°F to -26°F. [Brrr, that's cold!] In my mind, things are looking pretty good for Minnesota.

Our cold temperatures in Connecticut are nothing compared to these, but we’ve certainly been below 0° and EAB is not as firmly entrenched in our state as it is in Minnesota.

The jury is still out on what the EAB larval death toll from this cold snap will be. We should have a better idea come spring. It is nice to contemplate the possibility that some good may come from these far lower than normal temperatures.

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

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