I have long suspected that Auburn and Opelika have been getting a lion’s share of the rain that falls in Lee County during summer. Time and time again, clouds would form over western Lee County, winds would blow accompanied by lightning and thunder, and more often than not, little or no rain would fall. Meanwhile, downtown Auburn and Opelika and immediate surroundings would be deluged with rainfall. Turns out, the reason was the “heat island effect.”

NASA satellite photos confirm that urban heat islands create more summer rain over and downwind from major cities and that heat islands can destabilize and change the way air circulates around them. Heat resulting from hot paved surfaces and motorized vehicle traffic causes convection currents that heat the atmosphere and make it rain. Rural areas east of Auburn and Opelika consistently get more rain than areas to the west, and it is likely because they are downwind from the urban municipalities. During summer, prevailing winds blow from the west.

Brian Stone Jr., director of the Urban Climate Lab at Georgia Tech, is studying the heat island effect in the Atlanta Metro Area. In his book, The City and the Coming Climate, he writes, “Not only are most municipalities heating more rapidly than the planet, they tend to be heating up at double the rate.” Research documents that temperatures under a thick canopy of trees can be much cooler than around paved parking lots.

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Two weeks ago, I criticized the Republicans for what I perceived to be an uncaring attitude about the declining status of our environment. Gov. Romney and Artur Davis belittled Pres. Obama for stating he would try to slow the rise of the oceans and help heal the planet. I thought, surely, the Democrats would take strong exception to those statements and attempt to curry favor with millions of concerned conservationists who believe it’s perilous to ignore threats to the environment. I was wrong. I watched with interest to determine if the Democrats were the least bit interested in the environment, and to my knowledge and recollection, not one of their speakers mentioned the environment. I’m beginning to believe we need a third party, maybe a coalition of conservative conservationists.

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I’ll bet not many readers know where Zip City is located or ever heard of a place by that name. It’s a small crossroads community in northern Lauderdale County, between Florence and Wayne County, Tennessee. I asked a resident how Zip City got its name. He said, “I don’t rightly know for sure, but I’ve always heard it was because Florence was dry and Wayne County was wet, and the road was heavily traveled with cars zipping back and forth between Florence and the honky-tonks on the other side of the Tennessee line.”

Quite a few years ago, I heard a country song about Zip City. I’ve asked some Lauderdale County residents if they had heard the song, none had, but they knew the location of the community. I once considered Bob Sanders to be the leading authority on country music in our area, and asked him if he had heard the song. When he said he had not, I began to wonder if my brain might be malfunctioning. I googled “music, Zip City” on my ipad, and several displays were provided, none of which were informative. I then googled, “Ask Jeeves,” and Jeeves answered my question. “Zip City is a song about a place in Lauderdale County, Alabama, and it is one of several on a CD titled Southern Rock Opera produced by Driveby Truckers. I ordered the CD from Amazon.com, and can’t wait to play “Zip City” on my truck’s CD player when I pick up Bob Sanders on our way to the Geezers meeting. When the rendition is over, I’ll tell him, “Bob, now you know you ain’t near as knowledgeable about country music as you thought you was. Zip City is only a stone’s throw away from Lamar County, and you didn’t even know a song had been written about it.”

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In case you haven’t noticed, football coaches Pat Dye, Gene Stallings and Bobby Bowden have publically announced their support of Alabama’s Forever Wild program, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot to allow the voters to vote for or against reauthorization of the program. I, for one, deeply appreciate these coaches for their wisdom and foresight in their endorsement of the Forever Wild program.


Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.