July 23, 2013

Ohio flow

Sailing requires patience. Even in a good day of sailing, there will be times when the wind drops and there's nothing you can do but wait.

This summer's sailing season has required patience. Each summer, I wait until the currents on the rivers have fallen enough to make sailing possible. In my last four years of sailing on the rivers around Pittsburgh, that has always happened so that I can sail comfortably in June. This summer, however, we have seen exceptionally high currents all through June and into July.

The graph shows the flow on the Ohio River. My comfort zone for Ohio River flow is 20,000 cubic feet per second or less. The yellow triangles show the flows in a typical year. They fall into my comfort zone by June 1. The blue line shows what happened this year. All through June and into July we have had spikes well beyond the 20,000 mark. Even in July, we've seen flows of 90,000, which is 4.5 times my maximum. (The graph vertical scale is non-linear and that blunts the appearance of the spikes.)

The source of all this water seems to be unusually high rainfall. We've certainly seen some pretty impressive storms in June, so it is possible. To be sure, I'd need to compare river flows in this and past years against rainfall. It would be an interesting project, but I'm less inclined to do the work since it won't really change anything!

It is only over the last week that the flows have dropped to manageable levels. Last week was still not good for sailing. The temperatures were unusually high and that can quickly take the fun out of boating. If the cooling wind drops, you sit on the deck and cook. More practically, I was away in Canada teaching at a summer school. It wasn't all work. The school was held on a beachside resort on Lake Huron. It was hot there too, but I saw some nice sunsets over the lake.

Lake Huron sunset

Next week we are heading off for Germany (conference), Sweden (talk) and Denmark (vacation). So this week has to be it for any July sailing. Fortunately, the winds obliged and today I sailed. (See the next post.)

John D. Norton


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