The Water Closet for December 18, 2015
[pullquote] “So when you hear that ocean water temperatures are rising a fraction of a degree, expect changes, some drastic.”[/pullquote] Fall will soon give way to winter according to the calendar. You wouldn’t know it by air temperatures and the dearth of ice. Autumn and late summer have been dry this year. Additional new houses in Middleton are borrowing ever more water from the Ipswich River Watershed. They don’t return it as clean as they got it. Middleton Pond, our reservoir which receives water from Emerson Bog and Swan Pond, North Reading, is down. The shallow, west third is without water. Last Friday sixteen COA/CC hikers walked beside the pond’s wide exposed beaches. Emerson Bog is as low as many can remember it. Middleton selectman Tim Houten who lives on the pond says it was lower five years ago but that was in late summer. Most years it is much higher at this time. The Stream Team’s and Danvers Water Supply Department’s average rain tallies since July are down ten inches from the 30 year average for that period. More water is being used; less is falling from the sky. As this is being written the evening temperature is 20 degrees F above average for mid-December. The almost continuous warm weather results in more loss through evaporation from the large surfaces of Middleton Pond and Emerson Bog. We have no figures for loss due to evaporation. Usually wet vernal pools are dry, indicating ground water tables are low.
One place the walkers did find water was in the large beaver impoundment in a once red maple swamp southwest of and feeding into Middleton Pond. All over the watershed and beyond, this holding back of water is due to the many beaver dams that slow flow to the river and the sea. The air was certainly moist on the walk. Looking from the south side of the pond, the north shore, only a tenth of mile away, was hidden by fog. The trees and ground were wet with dew. The twenty three heron nests in dead white pines above the impoundment, less than 100 meters away, were barely visible even to the better eyes in the old crowd.
The large impoundment over which the nests seemingly float is a wondrously grim place of standing and fallen red maple corpses, the fallen with root masses rising up six feet in the air. The shallow, dark appearing, water around them is still covered in places with green algae and tiny plants called water meal. Thin ice, the products of the few cold nights this fall, hasn’t lasted through the warm days. Most Decembers these green organisms would be frozen and often covered with snow.
Three weeks ago in Paris representatives from countries around the warming globe were striving to keep the world’s average temperature rise since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution under two degrees Celsius. Many pooh-pooh the effort saying, “What’s 2 degrees when our day to day changes here may vary as much as 20º C”? The reality is that you just can’t compare area fluctuations with planet averages. Averages over time and their effects must be carefully studied before conclusions can be drawn. Our purpose here is not to discuss global warming but rather to point our how even minor changes can have effects. All are well aware of the sometimes deadly effects of a couple degrees C changes in our body temperatures. Healthy at 39º, sick at 41º C. And how about the differences between – 0.1º and +0.1º C in water? Solid vs. liquid. Or between 99º and 101º C, liquid versus gas at atmospheric pressure. The lines between the states of matter are much less than 2 degrees; they are small fractions of whole degrees. So when you hear that ocean water temperatures are rising a fraction of a degree, expect changes, some drastic. We speak of oceans but isn’t there really only one covering 75% of the planet?
These thoughts coursed through the Old Closeteer’s mind as he circled the impoundment with friends. He wondered what the impoundment with its heron rookery above and myriad organisms below in the water would become in time as yearly average temperature changes came about. In the fog his guesses were as blurry as the unseen heron nests above.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Sept||Oct||Nov||Dec|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.77||4.40||4.55||4.12|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||3.97||3.11||2.49||1.5 as of Dec 20|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Dec 20, 2015 Normal . . . 58 CFS Current Rate . . . 17 CFS
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Dec.
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Nov..
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584