Weather alert for Toronto, 4 January 2014

I like these detailed weather alerts.

City of Toronto
5:23 PM EST Saturday 04 January 2014
Special weather statement
for City of Toronto continued

Winter storm with heavy snow later Sunday and Sunday night, with mixed precipitation for some regions. Windy and sharply colder again Monday with some blowing snow and lake effect snow-squalls.

Old man winter is about to have another go at Southern Ontario as a winter storm developing over Oklahoma threatens the region.

A weak cold front from a separate weather system affecting Northern Ontario will slip into Southern Ontario tonight. This front will give a few centimetres of snow to many areas by Sunday morning, with 5 cm or more falling in locales east of Lake Huron to the south of Georgian Bay. This front will likely stall north of lakes Erie and Ontario on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a low pressure system developing over Oklahoma today will intensify and track northeastward along the line of the stalled front, crossing Southern Ontario Sunday night.

Some disorganized snow is expected on Sunday over some regions. As the deepening low approaches, the snow will become heavy over Southwestern Ontario Sunday afternoon and over the remaining regions Sunday evening. The snow will likely change to some rain near Eastern Lake Erie and Lake Ontario as well as parts of Eastern Ontario later Sunday evening. There is also a threat of some freezing rain in these areas. Any freezing rain that occurs will have virtually no impact on hydro for those areas impacted by the recent ice storm. But more significant freezing rain may impact travel to some degree over Eastern Ontario. Freezing rain warnings will likely be issued later tonight. The precipitation will taper off overnight Sunday or by early Monday in the east.

It appears that regions north of a line from roughly Leamington to London to Barrie to Pembroke will receive snowfall amounts of 15 to 20 cm. Amounts will likely be up to 5 cm south of that line with locally 10 cm in some areas.

In the wake of the storm, bitterly cold west to northwest winds will return on Monday, producing blowing and drifting snow in areas which receive the most snow from the storm. Furthermore, intense snow squalls are forecast to develop off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay Monday and persist into mid week.

Travel conditions are expected to deteriorate and become hazardous due to accumulating snow and poor visibility in heavy snow over Southern Ontario Sunday. If freezing rain falls, untreated surfaces may quickly become icy and slippery.

There is still some uncertainty as to the exact track of the storm centre and where the freezing rain and heaviest snow will fall. Environment Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation and issue warnings accordingly.

It should be noted that widespread dangerous wind chills are likely especially from Monday night through Wednesday as some of the coldest air in years seems poised to settle across the region accompanied by brisk winds.

The public is advised to monitor future forecasts and warnings as warnings may be required or extended. Please monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at

Where to find Britain’s nesting seabirds

The BBC has a quick overview of some of Britain’s largest and best nesting colonies of seabirds: Seabird spectacular.

Nesting seabirds

A nesting colony of northern gannets


What’s interesting around the Internet?

Wierd and wonderful: Verreaux’s Coua

Coua verreauxi is a member of the cuckoo family that lives in a very small area of southwestern Madagascar. The bird lives on the shores of a single salt lake and is classified as Near Threatened. It lives in dry-adapted scrubland and is threatened by habitat loss. You can see a video clip here: BBC, Zoo Quest: Island of Marvels, Part 3. Video clip, 0:06:50 – 0:08:35, Verroux’s coua. the bird in this clip is puffed up against the cold.

a crested, grey and white cuckoo with its feathers puffed up

Verreaux's coua

Nature by numbers

There are some beautiful images in this video showing the math behind the shapes.


Annoying bug bites

It’s spring and soon the blackflies and mosquitoes will be out and biting Tincture of iodine applied while a mosquito bite is still fresh can neutralize the itching–I wonder if it would help with other bites, and whether it’s the iodine or just the alcohol that’s helping. I don’t think I’ve ever had a chigger bite. Black flies slash rather than sucking. Some of their bites hurt and some can’t be felt. They’re worse than mosquitoes, and relentless. And small. They look like tiny, burly houseflies. Or largish, burly black fruit flies. They are the reason the bug jacket was invented.

That made me wonder if we had the itchiest biter of all, the chigger. I found the Missouri chiggers page. Chiggers, it says, are bright orange-red, fast-moving, larval tick-like objects. I’ve seen something like that, but I thought they were bird lice.

Regular mosquitoes repellents will repel chiggers. All brands are equally effective. Applying these products to exposed skin and around the edge of openings in your clothes, such as cuffs, waistbands, shirt fronts and boot tops, will force chiggers to cross the treated line get inside your clothes.
Unfortunately these repellents are only potent for two to three hours and must be reapplied frequently.
By far, the most effective and time proven repellent for chiggers is sulphur. Chiggers hate sulphur and definitely avoid it. Powdered sulphur, called sublimed sulphur or flowers of sulfur, is available through most pharmacies. Dust the powdered sulphur around the opening of your pants, socks and boots. If you plan to venture into a heavily infested area, powdered sulphur can be rubbed over the skin on your legs, arms and waist. Some people rub on a mixture of half talcum powder and half sulphur.
But a word of warning: sulphur has a strong odor. The combination of sulfur and sweat will make you unpleasant company for anyone who has not had the same treatment. Sulphur is also irritating to the skin of some people. If you have not used sulphur before, try it on a small area of your skin first.

Chiggers bite us only incidentally in N. America; their hosts are other species. It may take them an hour or more to settle on a place to bite, so a bath with warm, soapy water can remove them before they get around to it. They suggest a few things for the itching.

Symphony of Science: An Unbroken Thread

This video clip uses the words of Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, and Carl Sagan: “An Unbroken Thread.”

Things the cats dragged in: black rat

black rat, originally uploaded by monado.

This is a black rat, also called a roof rat, brought in by one of my cats. I don’t usually mention them because usually I find half a rat–the front half. It weighed 182 grams (6 ounces). Yes, I weighed it –why do you ask?

Black rats look a lot like giant mice. Norway rats or brown rats, which came from Europe on wooden ships, are much larger with a shorter tail and shaggier fur.

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