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Keeping Up with Our Times

Bay helps explicate nature’s calendar 
      Yes, the return of the Maryland Renaissance Festival is one sure sign summer is turning a corner. Still, I commiserate with King Henry VIII, his queens and his subjects. Summer of 2019 has plenty of hot days to come.
      You already knew that, didn’t you?
     This morning’s Washington Post (I still take my print newspaper with coffee) put a more analytical perspective on our common-sense notion of August. 
      In Chesapeake Country, as in Washington, we reached our peak of heat in July. August falls short almost two degrees on both highs and lows. I’ve been feeling that difference. Now Weather Gang scientist David Policansky has put some substance into my sense. 
     One reason is those shorter days we’ve been noticing, when the sun waits longer to wake us and departs before we’re ready for night to fall. 
       Sol is laziest in the morning. Since the earlier sunrises, 5:39am on June 12 through 16, we’ve advanced 46 minutes to 6:25am on Thursday, August 22. The loss is steady, a minute a day.
       (By December 21, the sun would laze till 8:25, though daylight savings time pretends it’s a solar hour earlier.) 
      Sol is slower to hasten his bedtimes, tiring only a half minute or a minute earlier each day. Since the latest sunsets, 8:35pm June 22 through July 4, we’ve receded 43 minutes to 7:52pm on Thursday, August 22. But now we’re losing time faster. Since August 18, the rate has been a minute or two a day.
       (That loss continues until December 2 through 12, when the sun sets earliest at 4:43pm.)
      Practically speaking, Policansky explains, the time shifts mean sun has less time to turn up earth’s temperatures in August than it did in July. We get the additional bonus of more hours of nighttime cooling. By late August, he says, average regional temperatures “really start to dip.”
       Less daylight is a phenomenon earth’s creatures cannot ignore. We may work in offices all day, but the mornings and evenings are speaking to us, whether or not we recognize the language. We’re typically not quite so hot.
       The light is different, too, gentler having lost the full saturation of sun yellow. (The reason, Policansky says, is that it’s hitting us at a lower angle.)
       All the earth’s flora is listening to the language of the sun. Annual plants like corn and black-eyed Susans have had their day and are withering from green to brown. Trees, those giant factories, are calling in their chlorophyll, subtly shifting their fullest green to new shades and colors.
      Other fauna are responding, too. The squirrels are gathering. The osprey are leaving. 
       All us creatures with noses can also smell the change of the season. On a hot afternoon, all the accumulated plant sugars of high summer add a hint of caramel to the air. 
      We can also hear the changing season. Since mid-July, emergent cicadas have been singing day and night, as nature photographer Wayne Bierbaum detailed in Creature Feature on August 15. The night chorus is swollen by tree frogs, he explains this week in a column with photos you won’t want to miss.
       On the human calendar, the Maryland Renaissance Festival indeed opens this week, as you’ll read in this edition. This first weekend tickets are the lowest price of the season, with adults saving $7, seniors 62+ $5 and kids seven to 15 free with a paying adult.
       You could credit the heat of August with those savings, except that splendid weather is predicted for this weekend.
       For kids, this is back to school time. If you’re past the kid stage, you’ll be shocked by the high price of school supplies calculated by writer Krista Pfunder Boughey and see why donations can mean so much to kids and families squeezed for disposable income. 
       Biggest of all on the human calendar is August 25, the 400th anniversary of slavery in our land. Listen for the bells, and ring your own. 
     I hope that this week and every week, Bay Weekly helps you keep up with our times.