Driest July for Somerset West in 27 years!

26 July 2011

Somerset West (South Africa) 34°05′S 18°51′E, is facing the driest wettest month in 27 years.  The western Cape of South Africa has Mediterranean, winter-rainfall climate, and June to August are typically the wettest months.  Not in 2011 it seems…

Based on my own data, collected using a pair of automatic, recording, tipping-bucket rainguages, July rainfall as of today amounts to 18 mm.  The 27-year average is 130 mm!  The previous lowest was 33 mm in 1997, but as the median is 125 mm you will realize that there have not been too many dry Julys.  Is this climate change or a freak inter-annual event? 2010 was a low-rainfall year, totalling just 733 mm off an annual average of 818 mm.  Weather reports do not suggest that July will catch up!

Somerset West Annual Rainfall, 1984-2011

2011 rainfall for Somerset West (pink) vs the 27-year average (blue)

CyanoAlert – how algal toxins affect pets

24 July 2011

In a very useful summary, dvm360.com has provided guidance to how blue-green algal toxins may affect your pets and what the symptoms are likely to be.  This is useful reporting and augments public education. Read more »

CyanoAlert – NASA turns to blue-green algae!

22 July 2011

Somewhat off the main topic but now that the Space Shuttle era has ended, humans may move one step closer to colonizing space because of a new research project that NASA is funding at South Dakota State University, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Oglala Lakota College.  The South Dakota institutions have won a National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant of $750,000 to study ways to use cyanobacteria to make energy-dense fuels and high-value chemicals, oxygen and cleansed water directly from carbon dioxide, sunlight and wastewater, according to a news release. Read more »

CyanoAlert – USA heatwave continues

21 July 2011

Examining soil profiles to delineate wetland edges during our mid-winter! Photo: Bill Harding

A week of hot, humid weather, with a lot of sunshine is contributing to blue-green algae blooms on Wisconsin lakes.  Mark Werner of the state health services department says reports are coming in, including some from Lake Winnebago.  He says the algae causes health problems in people and animals, and there are also cases where people and pets have died after swimming around blue-green algae.  Lake Gibson (Oklahoma) remains a problem. Read more »

DWA produces the world’s most expensive compost!

19 July 2011

Hartbeespoort Dam Photo: Bill Harding

In a hard to equal example, the Department of Water Affairs has produced the world’s most expensive compost – all thanks to the Hartbeespoort Dam Metsiame programme – a much corrupted version of rehabilitation planning originally formulated for this very polluted waterbody west of Pretoria. Read more »

CyanoAlert – Toxin Symptoms!

19 July 2011

Not only birds like bird feeders! (Photo: Bill Harding)

Early morning sugar rush (Photo: Bill Harding)

The common symptoms of blue-green algal poisoning are 

• Stomach cramps, • Diarrhea, • Vomiting, • Headache, • Fever, • Muscle weakness and • Difficulty breathing

In dogs, the symptoms may be very similar to biliary (Lyme disease) and in humans liverishness (often misread as the person having imbibed too much alcohol and/or too much fatty food).  Given that the medical profession is unlikely to ask you if you came into contact with algae during your weekend, its important that you mention this if you are concerned.  The same with your vet if your pets are off-colour. Read more »

CyanoAlert – did the media “overkill” the Grand Lake reporting?

17 July 2011

Thick algal scums should be avoided by humans and animals (Photo: Bill Harding)

As Grand Lakebounces, or perhaps, wobbles back to normality after the algal scare of the July 4th weekend, questions are being asked about the possible lack of balance, in favour of sensation, that accompanied the reporting that exploded the day or so before the weekend – and which kept people away?  A quote from today reads: “We do not suggest that you [the press] not report legitimate news stories. We only ask that you carefully evaluate the veracity, tone and quantity of the words you put on paper, and their potential negative impact on others. The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword“.  Read more »

Summer in Winter

17 July 2011

Here in Cape Town we have had a week of warm, balmy weather – at a time when it is normally cold and very wet.  This may be climate change but it has been very pleasant. We had visits today from the following guys:

Amethyst sunbird (male) Photo: Bill Harding

Amethyst sunbird (female) Photo: Bill Harding

Read more »

Grand Lake blue-green algal scare could cause long-term economic damage

16 July 2011

The 4th July weekend algal scare at Not So Grand Lake has dissipated, but the economic effects may be long lasting.  Members of the public may be loathe to return unless the lake managers do a thorough job of ensuring that they can show that the algal problem has been managed properly. Read more »

Ecosystem vs Egosystem Management

16 July 2011

Photo: Bill Harding

Ecosystem management implies that the ‘manager’ has a comprehensive understanding of how all the constituent parts of an ecosystem, living and non-living, interact and respond.  Egosystem management is the belief that a single part, lets say a type of alga, can be managed without affecting anything else.  Egosystem managers also believe that they can manage a single part by managing a single ‘driver’ or ‘forcing function’, and ignore everything else.  This is akin to believing that you can control a crowd by simply speaking to one person in it.  For this to work, the person you speak to (and lets assume that this individual is aligned with your thinking) has to interact with each and every member of the crowd on an intimate level – and that you know and understand this up front.  You may already have grasped that ecosystem managers know very little about what they are trying to manage!

Egosystem management has a lot to do with treating symptoms, rather than causes.
Read more »