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Q: What are El Nino and La Nina, how do they affect Iowa, and are we in store for either this winter?

A: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “El Niño and La Niña are complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.” They refer to fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere. La Niña is sometimes referred to as the cold phase and El Niño as the warm phase. El Niño and La Niña episodes typically last nine to 12 months, but some prolonged events may last for years. The USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub, based in Ames, said this summer: “We could see an El Nino occur probably into the fall ... There is a fairly decent pool of warm water in the subsurface in the equatorial Pacific,” with an increased chance of a warmer winter.

Q: What was the score for the Graphic Edge Bowl reported on page 3 of Monday’s Courier that featured former Waterloo high school standout Carlton Todd? No score was given.

A: Iowa Central won, 34-20.

Q: Why would fresh coffee be oily after being made? I’ve changed the filter and washed the coffee pot with vinegar. What causes this to happen?

A: The folks at the Bunn company think it’s probably your water; they say hard water causes fatty acids that were dissolved in the hot brewing water to precipitate — fall out of solution — after brewing. They think you need soft water: “Soft water does not contain enough calcium to precipitate fatty acids. In general, the use of very hard water increases the oily film formation seen on coffee.”

Q: Why are the Iowa State football players wearing black uniforms instead of their scarlet and gold?

A: It’s just an updated style. As the Des Moines Register reported in October, “Before the season started, the Iowa State football team unveiled three new uniform combinations for 2018: The three new looks included all-white, all-cardinal and a huge fan-favorite all-black look.”

Q: How long is a product good after the best by use date?

A: According to Consumer Reports, “With the exception of baby formula, there are no federal regulations on date labeling. Often the ‘best if used by,’ ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ designations are just manufacturers’ best guesses about how long their food will taste its freshest. ... As a general rule of thumb, most canned foods (for example, canned tuna, soups and vegetables) can be stored for two to five years, and high-acid foods (canned juices, tomatoes, pickles) can be stored for a year up to 18 months, according to the USDA: Watch out for dents and bulges in cans, though. That might be a sign it’s time to toss those products. ... While nonperishable items like grains and dried and canned goods can still be used well past their label dates, meat, dairy and eggs are a different story. Although there are still no federally regulated expiration dates on those items, they obviously have shorter shelf lives.”

Calls are taken on a special Courier phone line at 234-3566. Questions are answered by Courier staff and staff at the Waterloo Public Library.

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