Extreme Weather Patterns Threaten Georgia’s Peach Supply

iStock
iStock

Extreme weather patterns are damaging ecosystems, communities, and industries across the planet. The latest casualty hits fruit fans close to home: Georgia's beloved peach orchards.

Erratic weather patterns, unseasonable temperatures, and frequent storms have made produce farming harder than usual over the past few years. Summer and autumn of 2016 saw "extreme drought" in Georgia and Tennessee. Those dry months were followed by an unusually mild winter in 2017, which robbed peach trees of the cold periods they need to bear healthy fruit. 

Then there was an unusual freeze in March. And then the rains came. Since the spring, the region has seen "buckets and buckets" of rain, farmer Pam Hazelrig told ABC News. Average rainfall in Georgia has held steady at about 9 inches per month—nearly double the state's historical summer average.

State agriculture commissioner Gary Black says Georgia farmers will lose about 70 percent of their peach crop this year. Those in the middle of the state, the heart of peach country, were hit hardest.

Farmer's market customers can expect fewer peaches and a shorter peach season.

"Typically, we'd have peaches into August and September," Black told The Packer, "but we're not going to see that this year."

Orchards on the West Coast, unaffected by the unusual weather, are gearing up to help East Coast markets cover the shortage. 

Peach producers know that their business is "a gamble," Hazelrig said. "You just work through it."

Britain Is in the Midst of a Rare ‘Wind Drought’

iStock
iStock

Generating renewable energy in Britain is a little less than a breeze these days: A “wind drought” is halting the country’s wind turbines.

This month’s wind energy output is down 40 percent from the same time last year, New Scientist reports. On average, about 15 percent of Britain’s electricity comes from wind power. Data starting from July 1 of this year put the monthly average closer to 6.9 percent. Last month, turbines were producing less than 2 percent of Britain’s electricity—the lowest output in two years.

That’s with even more wind turbines being installed over the course of the past year, New Scientist says. The data aren’t entirely surprising, though. The jet stream tends to make the UK’s weather drier and calmer during the summer and wetter and stormier during the winter. But the high pressure the jet stream has brought with it this year has been unusually prolonged, scientists say.

“It’s like a lid, it keeps everything still,” UK Met Office spokesperson Grahame Madge told New Scientist. “From the forecast looking out over the next couple of weeks, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change on the way.”

The wind drought shouldn’t cause too many problems in the short term. Electricity demand is low during the summer (very few British homes have air conditioning), and the country’s been able to compensate for the lack of wind by burning more natural gas. If the wind drought continues to persist, though, UK residents may begin to see an increase in utility fees. Natural gas prices have already risen with the increased demand.

“As we continue to transition to a low-carbon energy system, managing the intermittency of renewable power an important role in balancing supply and demand,” a National Grid spokesperson told New Scientist. “However, we have planned for these changes and [are] ready to play our part.”

The wind drought comes about eight years after British politicians vowed to reduce the UK's dependence on fossil fuels. Last year was the first year that electricity generated from low-carbon energy sources like solar power, wind power, and nuclear power outpaced high-carbon energy sources like coal and natural gas. This summer’s wind drought may make it difficult to improve on last year’s numbers.

[h/t New Scientist]

Why Does the Sky Look Green Before a Tornado?

iStock
iStock

A common bit of folklore from tornado-prone parts of the U.S. says that when the skies start taking on an emerald hue, it's time to run inside. But why do tornadoes tend to spawn green skies in the first place? As SciShow's Michael Aranda explains, the answer has to do with the way water droplets reflect the colors of the light spectrum.

During the day, the sky is usually blue because the shorter, bluer end of the light spectrum bounces off air molecules better than than redder, longer-wavelength light. Conditions change during the sunset (and sunrise), when sunlight has to travel through more air, and when storms are forming, which means there are more water droplets around.

Tornadoes forming later in the day, around sunset, do a great job of reflecting the green part of the light spectrum that's usually hidden in a sunset because of the water droplets in the clouds, which bounce green light into our eyes. But that doesn't necessarily mean a twister is coming—it could just mean a lot of rain is in the forecast. Either way, heading inside is probably a good idea.

For the full details on how water and light conspire to turn the sky green before a storm, check out the SciShow video below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios