One of My Favorite Geographers

by Derek Kaden

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is her name. You might know her from one of her public television cooking shows, like Lidia’s Italy.

Lidia_Bastianich

She is a chef, writer, restaurateur, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, and as I would add, a geographer too. In almost every one of her episodes, she takes us to a different region in Italy and cooks meals with ingredients that are particular to those regions. In Sicily, dishes are cooked with a bit more spice than other areas because of an abundance of Peperoncino (dried red pepper flakes), and couscous is also a staple there; the volcanic soil around Naples creates excellent conditions for large vegetables to grow; Puglia – the “heel” of Italy – grows a lot of durum wheat, which supports pasta and bread production in surrounding regions; and places along the Adriatic coast, including the one where Lidia is from, use a variety of sea food – scampi, shrimp, bluefish, sardines, clams, and mussels – in their cooking.

Lidia was born in February 1947 in Pola, Italy, a city on the Adriatic in a region called Istria. This region changed many governmental hands in the last hundred years. After World War I, it was given to Italy by the defeated Austrian Empire. In the summer of 1947 it became part of Yugoslavia, and since that country’s dissolution in the 1990s Croatia administers the area today. Lidia’s hometown now goes by Pula (you can translate that word into Romanian if you dare), and she takes us there in a few of her episodes.

Istria_Today

Current administrative boundaries on the Istrian Peninsula

To me, one of the best moments in her show had nothing to do with cooking, but it made me think about geography and how places are important in all of our lives. In the episode Briny as the Sea, which can be streamed for free on Hulu, Lidia shares recipes she remembers from her childhood. Then, the camera cuts from her New York City kitchen to the Istrian Beach – the same one she played on as a kid – and she says, “this water, these rocks, regenerate me every single time. And when the stresses of today’s life get me, I just pack up and I come to my water, I come to my rocks”. It was a beautiful moment.

I have learned a lot from watching her show – about Italy’s regions, political history, when foods are in-season, and of course good recipes and cooking techniques. I completely recommend for you to watch it, either for free on Hulu or on the public television network Create.

Surface Temperature Differences in the Great Lakes

By Derek Kaden

Have you ever heard someone say that the water along Illinois’ or Wisconsin’s beaches is colder compared to Michigan’s? How could that even be possible? I mean, the air temperature in Chicago and Benton Harbor in Michigan could be the exact same, but the lake temperatures in these two places could be completely different. Why?

The answer has everything to do with geography.

All water is propelled by the wind. In the Great Lakes region, the dominant winds – called the Prevailing Westerlies – generally move from the west to the east. They travel in this direction because the Earth rotates counterclockwise. Therefore, the Westerlies push lake water away from the western shore and toward the east.

One important characteristic of water is that the colder it gets in temperature, the heavier it gets as well. Warm water is lighter, less dense, which means its molecules are more spread out. Therefore warm water rises to the surface, while cold water sinks to the bottom. Fresh water is at its densest when it is at a cold 39.2°F. This means that the water at the bottom of the Great Lakes – or any lake that extends deeper than the pycnocline (1,000m) – is always going to be 39.2°F! Learn more about lakes, differences between fresh and salt water, and the ocean in this blog post.

When the wind pushes water away from Chicago’s shore, the water it pushed needs to be replaced. At the same time, the water being pushed toward Michigan’s shore needs somewhere to go. This movement of water is called upwelling and downwelling.

Chicago’s shore experiences upwelling, meaning the water being pushed away by the wind gets replaced by the dense cold water from the bottom of the lake. Downwelling is the reverse of this. In Michigan, the warm surface water gets shoved to the bottom, leaving no chance for the cold water at the bottom to rise.

Take a look at these pictures I drew which help to illustrate the point:

Upwelling

downwelling

The fluctuation in temperature is greatest between late spring and early fall. In these months, the surface temperatures on Lake Michigan can vary by as much as 15 or 20 degrees between the western and eastern shores. The same goes for any of the other four lakes. During the winter, the lakes’ surface temperatures are pretty much as cold as at the bottom. It’s either frozen (32°F) or just covered in cold dense water. Take a look at these temperature maps produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

The first one is from spring of 2014. Notice the warmer surface temperatures beginning in the middle of Indiana on Lake Michigan. They go on past Muskegon.

spring

The same fluctuation can be seen in the summer. The biggest difference is on Wisconsin’s shoreline, between Milwaukee and Green Bay (light green), compared to shoreline north of Muskegon (brown and red). Both of these regions are at basically the same latitude, but the difference in water temperature is up to 15 degrees! This is upwelling and downwelling in full effect.

summer

 

The trend continues into the fall.

fall

 

And by winter, the fluctuation subsides and we’re left with a combination of cold dense water and…ice.

winter

Romanians in Chicago Help Elect Their New President: Klaus Werner Iohannis

by Derek Kaden

Unlike Americans, Romanian citizens abroad can’t send in an absentee voting ballot through the mail. They need to vote in-person at a facility approved by Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the division of government that organizes diaspora voting. During the first and second rounds of the Romanian Presidential Election, which took place this past November 2nd and 16th respectively, Romanians in the U.S. voted at Consulates in major cities, the Embassy in D.C., and various schools and halls in all corners of the country.

Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova have similar requirements for its citizens who want to vote outside of the country. The rules are pretty straightforward. Voting can only happen on Election Day, and it must take place at an approved polling station. If you’re busy that day, or can’t commute to a polling station, you don’t get to vote. Under the mail-in system, people have a more generous timeframe to send in their ballots. In addition to the U.S., Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, and Britain allow mail-in voting. Mexico allows it as well, since 2005. In Britain, voting can even be done through proxy: one countryman can designate another to vote for him!

Roughly 3 million Romanian citizens live outside of Romania. That’s enough people to swing the election, which was decided by only 1 million votes. The diaspora leaned heavily toward Iohannis, who was viewed as progressive, anti-corruption, and someone who would nurture Romania’s relationship with Western Europe. Ponta, on the other hand, was seen by the diaspora as traditional, old-guard, and unable to inspire the sense of progress and transparency that Romanians crave.

Klaus Iohannis                                                                       Victor Ponta

Ponta actually had the most votes during the election’s first round on November 2. He got 40%, but needed at least 50% to win. Iohannis was the runner-up at 30%, and the remaining 30% was divided between twelve other candidates from a variety of political parties, including the Romanian Ecologist Party (.45%) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (3.47%). Since no candidate won the majority, the election went into a final round between the top two on November 16.

The map below shows results by locality during the first round. Iohannis, blue, was clearly favored by the diaspora, and also in his home region Transylvania in the northwest of the country. Sibiu, the city where he was born and served as mayor since 2000, is located more-or-less at the crosshairs on the frame of the map. Ponta was favored in the three other major regions of the country: Muntenia, south, which includes Bucharest; Moldavia, northeast; and Dobruja, southeast.

First Round Results
Below is another map showing the election’s second round results. Ponta maintained a sizeable support in Muntenia, Moldavia, and Dobruja, but more localities within those regions voted Iohannis. Bucharest went from supporting Iohannis in only one municipality to all six in the second round. In addition, almost every locale that supported a third party candidate in the first round voted Iohannis in the second.

Second Round Results

In Chicagoland, Romanians either voted at a school in Niles, IL or at the Romanian Consulate downtown. Chicagoland was the only metropolitan region in the U.S. where two polling stations were located. Madrid and Brussels had four polling stations, more than any other city. Italy had a total of fifty-one for the more than 800,000 Romanian citizens living there. Khartoum, Sudan; Abuja, Nigeria; and Colombo, Sri Lanka all had a Romanian Embassy where voting was possible. Surprisingly, there were even two polling stations in Kabul, Afghanistan where there’s a sizeable Romanian military presence. Yes, the diaspora is widespread.

In major Western European cities, as well as in Chicagoland, the government’s organization of polling stations was seen mostly as a disappointment. That being said, it must have been a logistics-headache to staff and manage every polling station: there were more than 200 outside of Romania. Many were quick to blame Prime Minister Ponta, aware of the diaspora’s dismal support for him, for purposefully making polling stations inefficient. In cities like London and Paris, thousands lost the chance to vote because time ran out while they were still waiting in line. Since voting could only take place on Election Day, there was nothing they could do. Others were discouraged from waiting in the first place.

RomaniansI witnessed voting at the station in Niles, IL. The parking lot, similar in size to a suburban grocery store’s, was jam-packed. Volunteers were directing traffic, telling drivers to go to a neighboring parking lot, because there was no room left. Some people, in all the madness, invented their own parking spots by going on the grass, for example. I saw tens of would-be voters turn back to their cars, deciding it wasn’t worth standing gridlocked in line. Those who waited looked understandably tired and impatient, yet they stood dedicatedly. Upon reaching the voting area, people presented their passports, a form, and then stamped the name of their desired candidate in front of a government official. Despite the crowd of hundreds, only four stamps were in use.

Iohannis was sworn into office on December 22, 2014. His job lasts five years, and in 2019 he will have the chance to serve a second and final term.

The Best Photos of Winter Storm Hercules

Last Thursday and Friday, a massive winter storm, dubbed by The Weather Channel as “Hercules,” brought impressive snowfall and frigid temperatures to much of the Northeast and Midwest. Although the storm wreaked havoc on commutes and holiday travel plans, it did provide for some fun and funny photo opportunities. Below, we’ve compiled the best photos of Winter Storm Hercules from around the internet. Enjoy!

It looked impressive from space and miraculously seemed to miss Texas completely.

It was impressive from space and miraculously seemed to miss Texas completely. (source)

In Kansas City, Parks and Recreation officials dyed this fountain red in support of the playoff-bound Chiefs, but it froze.

In Kansas City, Parks and Recreation dyed this fountain red in support of the playoff-bound Chiefs. It froze. (source)

Too funny.

Too funny.

The caption on this Instagram post read simply: #rental (source)

The caption on this Instagram post read simply: “#rental” (source)

In New York, a man broke out the cross country skis for his commute through midtown.

In New York City, this guy broke out the cross country skis for his commute through midtown. (source)

It even snowed inside subway stations.

Even the Borough Hall subway station got an inch or two of snow. (source)

The local and national media fawned over the city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who shoveled his own sidewalk in Brooklyn.

Local and national media fawned over the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who did his own shoveling at his home in Brooklyn. (source)

Dante de Blasio's friends didn't hesitate to ask him to lobby his dad for a snow day.

Dante de Blasio’s friends didn’t hesitate to ask him to lobby his dad for a snow day. (source)

The snow didn't stop this guy from enjoying his hot tub.

The snow didn’t stop this guy from enjoying his hot tub. (source)

Newport & Hoboken after Hercules snow storm

Temperatures in Hoboken got as low as 8 degrees on Friday. (source)

Chicago got ___ inches of snow.

Chicago got 11 inches of snow. (source)

O'hare airport got ___ inches, and ___ cancelled flights.

O’Hare airport got 11 inches, and hundreds of cancelled flights. (source)

This person tried to save their parking spot with a box of Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops. (source)

This Chicago resident used boxes of Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops to claim their parking spot. (source)

Chicago Lakefront Winter 2014

The typically picturesque Chicago lakefront was even more so. (source)

GSC friend, Bela Shayevich, sent in this pretty shot of a Chicago billboard.

GSC friend, Bela Shayevich, sent in this pretty shot of a Chicago billboard at night.

In Minnesota, this family built a sweet snow shark. (source)

In Minnesota, this family built a sweet snow shark. (source)

In Michigan, this lighthouse almost completely froze over.

In Michigan, this lighthouse almost completely froze over. (source)

In Boise, zookeepers made a snowman in these lions' play area, the lions mauled it.

In Boise, zookeepers made a snowman and these lions tore it to shreds. (source)

This Canadian man had some trouble. (source)

This Canadian man had some trouble getting outside. (source)

Portland, Maine got ___ inches of snow.

Portland, Maine got 12 inches of snow. (source)

Boxford, Mass. got __ inches of snow.

Boxford, Massachusetts got 24 inches of snow! (source)

Breaking waves covered this coastal house in ice in Scituate, Mass

Breaking waves coated this coastal house in ice in Scituate, Massachusetts. (source)

Winter Storm Hercules on Nantucket Island

Nantucket Island flooded. (source)

Frozen waves in Rhode Island (source)

Frozen waves in Rhode Island. (source)