I half expected a tornado to pop out of this cloud last night, and fortunately that didn't happen. I had a meeting in the evening and was driving back to the cabin, knowing I was just a step or two ahead of the storm. Then I got out of the car to take a few photos. As a result, when I did get back to the cabin a few minutes later, I only just pulled into the lane when the sky opened up, and a torrent of rain kept me from getting out of the car. It was like someone dumped a huge bucket right on top of Roundtop. I had over one inch of rain in 15 minutes, and I was lucky. Several miles away, they ended up with around 3 inches, but several miles to the north not a drop fell.
I've been working on the fall issue of Hawk Migration Studies, the journal published by the Hawk Migration Association of North America, and this week while editing the eastern flyway report, the flyway editor wrote that he lamented what he called the "new weather." I'd not heard this phrase before, but the more I think about it, the better I think it's a good one.
Back in the day, more than 20 years ago when I first started hawkwatching, we didn't know nearly as much as we do today about weather and migration. But, even then experienced hawkwatchers had a tendency to call in "sick" at work and show up on a hawkwatch in the fall the day after a cold front blew through, bringing with it northwest winds. For some years now, the problem has been that fall now rarely brings those sweeping cold fronts, and as a result patterns of migration have changed.
The flyway editor was noting that traditional hawkwatches that used to get many thousands of hawks (and other avian migrants) now rarely get those excellent flights. Instead, because the weather and wind patterns have now shifted, some ridge or hill that never saw much of a flight before is suddenly the stellar site from which to watch migration. Migration is no longer funneled by wind patterns past the traditional migration sites. Instead, migration now often follows a broader front or ends up on the coast or sometimes runs more inland than before, and these new areas are suddenly the hot spots.
I was thinking about this "new weather" last night when this storm clobbered my little corner of the world. Summer thunderstorms are not a new phenomenon here, but what is different is that the storms pass almost every night. Further, the storms are more localized. Instead of a storm that hits the region as a whole, these intense cells suddenly pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, and douse a small area with lots of severe weather. Only a few miles away, the storm isn't even present. Weird, eh? I guess it's just the new weather.