LOCAL VIEW —DAYS OF LONG SHADOWS—

I spent a Saturday doing my usual Saturday chores, which include a trip to the bank and a trip to dump, which we now call the “recycling center.”  I hate recycling, because there is always some sort of slime I get on my hands as I sort stuff. I can get very haughty, in a Rodney Dangerfield sort of way, about how inconsiderate my household is when they throw stuff away.

Today some rotten potatoes somehow wound up in the recyclable paper, and someone threw out a glass bottle of Thai peanut sauce that wasn’t empty, and I got it up to my elbows, as I sorted the glass to green, brown and clear bins. However worst were my granddaughter’s diapers. Someone just chucked a bag into the back of my pick-up truck, and the bag split, and the diapers spilled out and froze to the bed of the truck in a way that required a pry-bar to remove.  It was a chance for me to be spiritual and humble, and I totally failed.

It actually was a beautiful morning, but there is always some shadow that can spoil the beauty, if you allow it to. I knew I should focus on the brighter side of life, but sometimes I just get grumpy, and feel put upon, and then it seems best to remember Rodney Dangerfield, and to make a sort of exaggeration out of my mood, and reduce it to absurdity.

What I really wanted to do was be lazy, and write poems and study weather maps, but today was the day we get and decorate the Christmas tree, and that meant I had to start a second fire in a second stove, because I seem to be the only one who knows how to lay a fire correctly. (I might have turned up the heat, but I’m in the dog-house for forgetting to order propane, and we have to be careful before the truck comes on Monday, or we will run out.)

Nearly running out of Propane gives me something else to grouse about. Having four full-grown children at home, and a baby granddaughter, means long, long showers, and all sorts of cooking in the kitchen, and an excuse to turn up the heat (the baby), and the propane tank which was 60% full sank to 10% full with amazing speed.  I don’t even know why I checked it, this morning, but when I did my eyebrows shot past my receding hairline. I knew I’d be in really big trouble if we ran out on Christmas day. So, rather than sitting back and writing a poem, I had to track down the propane people on a Saturday when no one is available. Then I discovered they’d charge $200.00 simply to show up. I decided we could wait until Monday, but that meant I had to get the wood fires going.

It is ironic that the kids wanted to go out in the woods and get a tree. They sure didn’t have that attitude when they were small. I’d try to make the event be like something you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting, but they always wondered why we didn’t just buy one like other people did. (Usually I was basically broke, after buying gifts.) I’d tell them they would remember the event fondly, but they assured me they would require therapy to recover from the scars. Bears used to be woken from hibernation and poke their heads from caves in wonder, as the kids passed in a chorus of complaints, trudging through the trees.

I remember one time it started snowing, and snowed an amazing three inches in around an hour, and my youngest was a baby wailing in a back pack, as my three-year-old somehow lost both a boot and a sock and hopped about on one foot, and just then a loud helicopter slowly passed over, and could be dimly seen up through the falling snow, and my oldest daughter, (who was thirteen and thought “family-stuff is dumb” and answered “whatever” to anything you said,) looked up and cried out, “We’re saved!  We’re saved!”

The next year I bought a tree.

But now they want to go out in the woods? They want an absurd tree, like the ones I used to get?  They speak fondly of the tree that was narrow at the bottom, and expanded like an inverted pyramid until it was wide by the ceiling? They are sentimental about the time I wove a white pine, hemlock, and spruce together to make a facsimile of a balsam fir?

Bah humbug.

All I wanted to do was study weather maps and the radar, and try to figure out why the promising mass of moisture to our south didn’t bloom into a nor’easter, but instead slid harmlessly out to sea.

20141219 rad_nat_640x480 20141219B rad_nat_640x480_12

The interesting thing is that we did get a hint of the nor’easter that never happened. Where you see the thin blue bit of snow over northern Virginia in the second radar view above there was a plume of moisture from the southeast, and even far to the north in New Hampshire our sunny day suddenly saw purple scud come rolling up from the southeast, and it went from a day of bright sun and long shadows to a day softened by gray, with no shadows at all.

Not that I’d have time to write a poem about it. I had to get fires going, and then it would be rude to just sit at my computer, and not join the family to decorate the ridiculous tree my kids dragged in from the woods. I was just glad there was no nor’easter, and no shoveling to do.

20141219 satsfc

20141220 satsfc

(In the second map above you can see a mass of clouds pushing past Cape Cod. That is the nor’easter-that-failed-to-be.)

I have to confess that, even though I was feeling a bit tired, and bloated from the trays of snacks and goodies that was served instead of a wholesome dinner, there was something nice about trimming the tree.

Nor can I say I didn’t write a sonnet, after the house got quiet.

The shortest days grow the longest shadows.
My pest leaps along beside me at noon
Copying but not helping. It elbows
My concentration like some thuggish goon
Blotting darkness across a bright, clear day
Otherwise made wine-like by soft blue skies
And windless air and feathered, flitting play
Of small winter birds with thin, piping cries.
 
Go away, shadow. Who invited you to come?
You turn sunshine harsh, and make me glad
Low purple rolls in from the sea to numb
And turn the winter landscape gray and sad.
 
He never answers. I cross the gray lawn
And look beside me, and see he’s gone.

 

 

Local View —Popple—

Tonight I’m going to talk about Popple, because the map and radar-view below show that nothing is happening, weather-wise. I figure nothing happening is a good thing. It frees up time, and one can “make hay while the sun shines.” It wasn’t stormy, so I cut some wood with my chainsaw, including some Popple.

Of course, if you are a true weather geek, you have no hayfield, and can’t make hay while the sun shines. Your life is devoid of meaning, and therefore you have to seek the maps below for storms, even before they exist. Why?  I suppose it is because storms cancel school and work, which are situations that may give one the sense one doesn’t mean much, and instead places one in a situation where every helper counts and every man has meaning. (Or, even if you can’t be helpful with the shoveling, at least the humiliations of the classrooms and workplaces cease.)

In other words, storms give life meaning.

Looking at the map below you can see a very weak northern branch low over the Great Lakes with a very weak southern branch low to its south. A week ago computer models saw those two inconsequential features “phasing” into a big storm off the east coast. It gave weather geeks hope. Maybe school and work would be cancelled.

20141218B satsfc 20141218B rad_nat_640x480

That storm-cancelling, work-cancelling storm isn’t going to happen. Weather geeks are hurting, smarting from disappointment, and they express their rage by sneering at those models that disappointed them. In fact it feels good to sneer at someone else, after getting sneered at by bullies at schools and workplaces.

(And don’t think I am fooled for an instant by the efforts of the politically-correct to “end bullying” in schools. All it does is replace one sort of bullying with another. As long as a form of behavior is deemed “incorrect,” noses will wrinkle as if sniffing a stench when faced with that incorrect behavior, and that nose-wrinkling is a sneer, and the sneered-at will feel bullied.)

In any case, the sneered-at weather geeks, if not sneering at the failure of the current storm to develop, are looking ahead with hope to the next storm, a possible “Santabomb” on Christmas day. They refuse to become stagnant. They keep their minds ever-active.

I know all about this, because I was a wimp for a time in school, and, because no one would listen to me talk, I learned about the withdrawn world of writing. However after a while that got old, because no one would read my writing, either. I had to get the hell out, or become one of those fellows who slowly goes mad, living in their mother’s basement.

As a teenager I wrote a poem that began,

No policeman came and told me
I had harmed society
But every poem became an oldie,
Echoing a tragedy.
Hiding down in my bomb shelter
Words once bloomed like spring for me
But now words fall flat, helter skelter:
I have lost the harmony.
I have never fed the poor
Or helped the helpless live a day
So then what do I do it for?
Unless it’s an escapist’s play:
Working midnights without pay…

It was obviously becoming obvious, even back then, that I had to get out into the sunshine and make some hay, but that is more easily said than done, especially if you are determined to be a writer, (which gives you an excuse to withdraw). However, thank God, I did get out into the sunshine. (And discovered it didn’t stop my writing.)

Because I was forced (against my will) out into the sunshine, I was forced to spend time with old Yankee men who seemingly spent all their time making hay, and had no use for poetry. I found them incredibly dull, because they had no use for Shakespeare or Keats or Shelley or even Robert Frost, and had no interest in sonnets or alliteration or iambic pentameter or assonance. All they wanted to talk about was wood, wood, wood, wood, all the live-long day, it seemed. If they ever ventured away from the subject of wood it was to talk about saws, but that led to axes, and then back to the best wood for an ax handle. The only reason I paid attention to them at all was to create a sort of sneering parody of the way they talked. Fortunately I worked hard on my parody, and accidentally learned a thing or two about wood in the process.

Today, as I took advantage of the briefly open winter to chainsaw some wood, I got to thinking about those old guys, now long dead and gone and largely forgotten. I was feeling a bit sad I didn’t listen, as I cut some popple. I wished they were still around, as I had all sorts of questions.

“Popple” is a wonderful, but pretty much extinct, verb. (Notice how I, as a writer, veer away from the actual subject of the wood?) It comes from an old, forgotten word “popul” which may come from the Roman “populus”, and which, when combined with a somewhat mysterious Dutch root that created “poplen,” created a hybrid-word that specifically described choppy water when the chop was small, more of a pointed lapping than waves.

Of course we never spend enough time in small, open boats to need such a word in our modern world. However it is a rather neat word, nonetheless.

How did it shift from describing water to trees? Actually it is rather obvious, if you have ever been outside and watched cottonwood, aspen or poplar in the sunshine. Quaking aspen are called “quaking” for a reason. The leaves are designed to flutter in even a slight breeze, (perhaps to shake dust from their surfaces), and, because the upper surface of the leaves are shiny, the fluttering makes them flash and twinkle in a manner reminiscent of water. What’s more, they make a noise like water sometimes does, which is a little reminiscent of many clapping hands, and applause.

In any case, the tree was called “popple” in New England, by the old-timers. I knew enough to deem it a trash tree. Of course the old-timers didn’t call any wood “trash”, and would go on and on and on at great length about the uses for popple. The fact they could call a trash tree useful seemed worth sneering at, when I was young, and the only reason I know of popple’s uses is because I learned how to parody their learnedness.

It is a trash tree because it decays swiftly, if it stays wet. It would not make a good fence post, as the part in the ground would rot in a couple years. Also, perhaps because it grows so swiftly, the branches are not as deeply embedded in the trunks as other trees are, and can snap off with ease. Where an oak branch joins a tree with a strength boat-builders once coveted and used for ribs of ships, popple has no such structural integrity, and in fact they are a dangerous tree to climb, as I learned as a boy, when branches kept breaking off beneath me when I was far up a tree, to my great alarm.

Actually branches may break off easily for a reason, as they can easily re-root and form a new tree. Some old farmers actually used popple as fenceposts, because, if one took care, they would re-root and be living posts. (Willow was even better for such living posts.)

Under the right conditions popple can send up shoots from its roots, and grow an entire grove of trees from what began as a lone seedling. This is often seen out west, where an entire mountainside may be covered by what looks like hundreds of aspen, but is actually a single organism. In this respect some popple might be bigger than sequoia and older than bristle-cone pines.

Here in the east popple is most often spread by their seeds. The trees bloom like pussy willows in the spring, but the blooms get as long as big caterpillars and then produce huge amounts of pollen that can make a black car yellow, if the car is parked beneath. Then popple free seeds that float like dandelion seeds do, but in such enormous amounts that it can look like it is snowing.  The drifting of such fluff ensures that popple are the first tree to sprout in any abandoned field, or in the meadow that appears when an abandoned beaver dam breaks, and the old pond vanishes. Within five years, the beavers can move back, and repair their dam, because popple is one of their favorite foods.

Because the trees grow so swiftly, (most don’t survive fifty years, and a hundred-year-old popple is rare,) the wood is very light when dry. It has little flavor, and was once used to box cheese and for kitchen implements, but its light weight meant that it was used a lot for the wooden chassis of old time wagons, because horses preferred lighter wagons. Despite the fact branches break easily from trunks, the wood (when straight grained and knot-free) is surprisingly flexible and bouncy, and difficult to break.

I don’t really understand how the same wood can first snap easily and later refuse to break, but have seen the toughness of the soft wood cause me trouble. One time I was stuffing popple into a wood chipper, thinking the chipper would grind up the soft wood with ease, but instead the chipper ground to a halt. The popple had turned into long, flat strings which were so flexible they utterly bound up the guts of the machine. I had to spend an hour laboriously cutting away the strands with a knife, and pulling them out, before I could restart the chipper and get back to work.

Having described how surprising tough the wood is, whether as a kitchen spoon or a wagon chassis, I hasten to add it has to be to be dried swiftly, because if given half a chance popple reabsorbs water like a sponge, and then is swift to rot.

Robert Frost wrote a poem about a farmer who buried his young son in a casket of popple wood. The farmer was so insensitive that he was surprised when his wife got upset, because he remarked, (about the wood, not the son), that it was swift to grow and swift to rot.

All these thoughts were passing through my head as I chainsawed up a popple to use in the pasture campfire, at the Childcare today. Old facts wandered through my head, such as: Popple only makes good firewood if you can keep it out of the rain. Even bone dry wood can swiftly become so sodden it is nearly unburnable, if it is left in the rain.

I was cutting the lower half of a tree that lost a large part of its top in an ice-storm six years ago. The lower half lived on in a hopeless sort of way, and finally died last year.  The upper half, sprawled at the edge of the pasture,  was a favorite playground toy of the children, which they called “the monkey tree.” I have been told I can’t cut up the “monkey tree” for firewood, but the lower half was mine. It thudded to earth, and I was busily cutting the trunk into 18-inch-sections, but stopped sawing as the children came out to play.  As they clambered all over the new trunk and played with the sawdust (and informed me I wasn’t allowed to use the new trunk for firewood,) I looked over at the nearby “monkey tree,”  thinking how it had proved me wrong.

I figured the “monkey tree” would swiftly rot,  and therefore have quite regularly put the entire weight of my body on its barkless branches, testing them, (preferring them to break under my weight than to snap beneath an unsuspecting child.) Much to my amazement the tree hasn’t rotted a bit. Likely it is because it has stayed dry enough.

However there is another thing about popple I probably should mention. It may explain why the “monkey tree” is not rotting the way I expect a trash tree to rot.

The word “popple” actually is used to describe three different species of tree, here in New England. The old-timers, talking on and on and on about wood, likely knew which one they were talking about when they used the word “popple,” and likely would state this popple is a popple that rots more slowly than other popple.

I, however, didn’t listen. I can only wonder how much they knew has been lost by fellows like me.

LOCAL VIEW —Santabomb Storm—three versions—(updated)

Storm #10 gave us a backlash of snow first thing this morning, which eases my conscience about calling it a winter storm when it was mostly drizzle. It was a miserable drizzle, only a couple degrees above freezing, but if nothing freezes it just seems like cheating to tell people in the future, in a bragging sort of way, “We had the most snows since the 1600’s, and The Little Ice Age”.   There was a winter in the 1600’s when they had 26 snows, so that is what I’m aiming at.

The snow was a trickster, for when I looked out at 5:00 AM there was only light rain to see, so I relaxed, thinking I had no sidewalks to clean at the Childcare, but as I got ready to head to the farm at 6:15 I looked out at a whirl of white. So I shifted from slow and lackadaisical to fast and muttering blue blazes. It was a wet slush, and soon faded to scattered flakes, but was enough to sweep, in a slushy sort of say, and then forsed me to scatter some sodium cloride upon the thin sheen of slush the broom left behind. As I headed down the sidewalk I heard clucking behind me, and turned to see a couple hens pecking away at the grains of sodium chloride.

Suicidal hens are a sure sign of a hard winter. Not only are they suicidal to eat sodium chloride (which hasn’t shown any sign of killing them, yet) but those chickens are also suicidal to break out of their pens this time of year, for usually it is a sure fire way of getting snatched up by a local red fox. That  fox must have been slacking off, this morning.

The upper radar shot (below) shows the backlash hitting us, and the second shows it has moved up to Maine, but a second impulse of snow is moving through the Ohio valley.

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For a while the European models were turning that second impulse into a storm off our coast on Saturday, but now it looks likely to zip out to sea as several separate impulses, far south of us.

20141218 satsfc

Therefore weather geeks are looking to a midweek event which has been dubbed the “Santabomb.” However the weather models, which were unusually agreeing yesterday, and placing a storm over the great lakes, have now reverted to form, and disagree hugely.

The American model sees two features, but has the leading feature sucked back to a Santabomb over the Great Lakes.

The Canadian Model sees the leading feature retaining individuality, and has a bizarre, peanut-shaped storm over the Great lakes and the coast.

The European  Model sees the leading feature becoming more dominate, and crawling up the coast and moving inland in Maine.

I’ll add more later, but need to hustle a bit. We’ve used a surprising amount of wood already, (especially with my kids returning to the nest,) and I figure I’d better cut up a couple dead trees out in the woods before the snows get deep.

UPDATE

Once again Joseph D’Aleo is way ahead of me. I will steal three maps from his Weatherbell blog to illustrate the three versions of virtual reality available this morning from Dr’ Ryan Maue maps at the Weatherbell site. I figure they won’t sue me for theft, if I make it very clear how much better their site is than this site.

Also these maps are already outdated, for the computer models are already changing their minds. They are allowed to be fickle and never have to sign contracts. If you really want to stay updated you should be a true weather geek, and constantly check the latest “model runs”, or else lurk at the Weatherbell “forum”, where a bunch of somewhat obnoxious dweebs yak away about what idiots everyone else is, to not subscribe to the model run they do, until the next model run comes out. In some ways they need to get a life, and if they really want to see an idiot they should look in a mirror, however their redeeming quality is that they are up-to-date, when it comes to the computer model runs. They seem to have a desire to be the first, and even to believe that people think they are smarter than the true experts such as Joe Bastardi or Joseph D’Aleo, simply because they are commenting before the experts comment.

I don’t need to get a life, because I  already have one. In fact I’m working on two other posts, besides this one, involving things outside of my writing. In fact I have to struggle to even find the time to write.

In some ways I envy dweebs and weather geeks. It must be nice to have all that time to waste.

Here is this mornings outdated GFS map of a Great Lakes storm on Christmas day: The trailing low has absorbed the front-running low.

S-bomb 1 gfs_pr3_slp_t850_east_57

Here is the Canadian model’s view, where the front-running low keeps its identity.

S-bomb 2 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_34

And lastly here is the European view, where the front-runner absorbs the trailing storm.

S-bomb 3 ecmwf_slp_precip_east_30

If you have nothing better to do, it is great fun to lurk, and watch the weather geeks argue about which computer is correct, and then conveniently forget what they stated with great authority, when all three computers turn out to be wrong. I’d advise against joining the discussions, however, for you can wind up being shrieked at, for nearly anything. You are dealing with people with too much time on their hands, and I know, from personal experience, that can cause one to become a bit unhinged.

However the older I get the less time I have left, and therefore I am more careful about how I waste my time. Tonight I’d rather waste time discussing obscure details about differences between poplar trees, as I’ve been chainsawing wood today.

I only spend time focusing on three versions of Christmas to demonstrate to those who don’t yet know it that spending a billion on a computer doesn’t automatically give you a correct answer. In fact spending a billion three times, on three computers, may not give you the correct answer, because all three may be wrong.

At the very least, it should breed a bit of humbleness.  And at best, it can whip up some wonder.

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW —To Snow or No (with “santabomb” update)

A slug of rain moved up over us this morning, with just a bit of freezing on cold pavements, though the temperatures were above freezing at 36. I suppose the stones remembered the cold. The rain swiftly swept north and is gone, and now we are seeing a gray sun, with temperatures pushing 40. I suppose this is the long-awaited “warm-up.”

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The rain-snow line has been pushed well to the north, but I am going to call this “Winter Storm #10″ all the same. (We had some icy pavement, after all.) (I’ll never match the 26 winter storms of the 1600’s if I don’t cheat a little.)  Also a little snow may be swept around the backside, and give us a backlash tomorrow.

The map shows the warm front never made it here. It zipped up into an occlusion, and a weak coastal low has formed where the zipper is zipping, and the cold front separates from the warm front.  It seems that nearly the entire mild air-mass, full of Chinook kindness, was lifted before it got east. We got gypped. It all passed over head, as down on the ground we got a case of the shivers. (Click maps to clarify and enlarge)

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That coastal low will likely blow up into a gale up over the Canadian Maritimes, and we will get north winds and some moderated arctic air. Somehow the cold always seems to manage to sneak down our way. Here’s the latest temperature map: (Click and then click again to fully enlarge.)

20141217B gfs_t2m_noram_1

Besides the chill hanging tough over New Hampshire, the map shows some grey coloring south of Hudson Bay, indicative of temperatures dipping below zero Fahrenheit ( -18 Celsius). That is some home-brewed Canadian cold that was prepared for us during the long nights the air sat over the snow-covered Canadian prairies.  When nights are at their shortest Canadians don’t need to import air from Siberia to freeze our socks off.  The irony is that where the subzero air now sits is the exact location where the friendly Chinook air lay, last week. It seemed so sure to sweep east and warm us.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what happens to the warm air when it is occluded upwards. What happens to the heat it holds? There is a surprising amount of argument about whether it is radiated to outer space or not.

Another thing that kept the warm air from reaching us was all the snow-cover it had to melt away, as it came east.  It takes a lot of heat top melt snow, as the available heat turns into latent heat as water goes through the phase changes from solid to liquid, and from liquid to gas. (The opposite occurs when the phase changes reverse. A storm actually releases a lot of heat as vapor turns to liquid and liquid to snow.)

The snow-cover was at record levels at the end of November, and had advanced down to Texas, but the “warm-up” chased it north to Canada by December 13:

Snowcover20141213  ims2014347_usa

It has made a comeback behind Storm #10:

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You can see the snow is hanging stubborn, in New Hampshire, but it is not the pretty snow you see in Christmas cards. It is inferior, dingy stuff, with patches of bare ground showing on the south slopes. We could do with a touch-up, though preferably not until Christmas Eve.

I am going to add to this post later, as there is a lot of gossip about a storm this weekend, but I have chores to do before I can delve into that.

UPDATE  —“Santabomb” storm?—

As usual Weatherbell and “Whats Up With That” have beaten me to the punch, as Ryan Maue has tweeted the news about various Christmas blizzards the models are seeing.   The news can be read at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/12/17/santabomb-winter-storm-predicted-for-northeastern-u-s-at-christmas/#comment-1816610

The GFS computer was cranking out a 956 mb low over the Great Lakes: (Click to clarify and enlarge.)

Santabomb 958mb_low-xmas-day

First, this is a modeled storm, and models change their so-called “minds”, especially about events a week away.

Second, some sort of big storm is likely, as the very cold air returns and runs into the “warm-up” air in place over the USA.  The question is, where they will form and where they will move. In the winter of 1978 there were three big storms, two of which gave blizzards to New England, and which sandwiched a warm storm that sank my shack on the coast of Maine.

Here are some comments from the post over at WUWT:

  • Right. For New England there were actually three storms:

    1) In January a storm brought a record 24 hour snowfall to Boston and the east coast. I parked my VW Rabbit in a snow bank while I cleared the driveway and got snow on the external timing belt making it slip and the engine have zero compression. I figured out how to fix it the next day. This storm was poorly forecast by models.

    2) At the end of January, the midwest storm brought a record low air pressure to Cleveland, and quite a bit of rain to New York, Boston, etc. This is called the Blizzard of ’78 or the “Great White Hurricane” in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio and well deserves both titles.

    3) Feb 6th brought another record 24 hour snowfall, winds that nearly blew my VW Rabbit off I 495, massive storm surges that destroyed hundreds of homes and killed dozens of people. It is known as the Blizzard of ’78 in New England states and well deserves that title. This storm was extremely well forecasted by the models, but between the poor job for the first storm and big problem of snow starting around 1100, everyone was at school and work, leading to massive mayhem trying to get home. While several of its records have been broken, it remains the benchmark that all other storms are compared against.

    I had the most awesome, impossible to duplicate drive home that night. Seehttp://wermenh.com/blizz78.html and its companion.

    Storm started Monday, this was Wednesday:http://wermenh.com/images/bliz78_int.jpg

    As Vic Werme states, the Cleaveland 1978 Superbomb was a warm storm in New England, between two far worse New England blizzards. It had the effect of turning the street-side snowbanks, leftover from the first blizzard, to slush, which then froze as hard as rock, and became a problem when the second blizzard arrived, as the snowbanks wouldn’t budge and the snow plowed by plows went up the rock-like banks and then tumbled back down into the streets behind the plows.

    Another effect of the warm storm was surprise flooding on the coast of Maine. The bays and inlets and harbors opened to the southeast, and the warm southeast wind was so strong it sort of dented your eyeballs. The tide kept right on rising after high tide.

    I was living on a shack on a dock on the Harraseeket River in South Freeport, and my idyllic little home was washed off the dock onto the mudflats. It is an amazing thing to watch your house go blub-blub-blub. I had a extensive collection of Jimi Hendrix albums which was ruined, for it turned out it was impossible to remove mudflat mud from the grooves of those old fashioned records. It seemed tragic at the time, however it was probably healthy to stop listening to that stuff all day. Every storm has a silver lining.

    In any case, as very cold air charges south into the USA we have our best chance for the sort of storms one talks about thirty or forty years later. This looks to be like one of those winters.

LOCAL VIEW —Darkest Day—

Gosh!  The “warm-up” weathermen have been talking about for what seems like weeks finally made it to our hills.  We barely broke freezing, and, because the warmer air was moist, the warm-up was accompanied by lowering clouds and then a dark, dank drizzle.

I’d prefer yesterday’a cold, as at least it had sunshine.

The map shows the Pacific bowling ball storm has not headed up towards Hudson Bay, putting us in a mild southerly flow, but has instead stubbornly plowed straight east, and the warm front has remained to our south. (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

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The radar shows a line of rain showers headed our way, but not the drizzle that is already here.

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It looks like the rain-snow line will stay to our north, so there will be no brightening of our short day with snow. Today was one minute away from the shortest day of the year. (At this latitude the shortest day is nine hours long, which is pretty long compared to the days of a winter I spent in Scotland, but is short enough to fuel depression, if the Grinch is allowed into your life.

Grinch[1]

The clouds really made it a Grinch of a day. It was actually brighter at nine in the morning, under a light gray overcast, than at noon, by which time the purple had become oppressive. The gloom was made all the more oppressive by the fact that when our local church saw its minister resign, he took a loyalist with him, in the form of the choir director. And, when you think of what the Who’s used to defeat the Grinch with, it was music.

The Grinch has apparently learned a thing or two since the days when Dr. Seuss wrote his Great American Poem,  for back in the day the Grinch neglected to steal the choir director. He wasn’t so careless, this year.

Not that it will stop the Who’s. However, in case you’re wondering why the music is a bit out of tune, and the timing is erratic, this year, now you know the reason why.

The first fifteen days of December have had mercy on a nation clobbered by a November colder than many a January, however if you want to see the special attention the Grinch is giving me, look at this map of temperature anomalies for the USA, for the first 15 days of December. What is the one area below normal?

Grinch warm-up ncep_cfsv2_mtd_t2anom_usa__8_(3)

Yes, it is centered right over me.

I could go on, but you’d probably start to sob for me uncontrollably. I want a little pity, but not so much that I have to take care of you until the ambulance arrives.

LOCAL VIEW —Irrational reality—

We have enjoyed a couple of beautiful, crisp, clear, cold days, with plenty of sunshine but a certain tang in the air, making it like wine. The promised warm-up simply has failed to penetrate the northeast corner of the USA. In some ways it simply doesn’t make sense. In the world of the logic digitized into climate models, it is irrational.

The west hurled enormous amounts of mildness east. It was warmer in Alberta than Alabama. There was no chance a flimsily high pressure system could withstand the onslaught of kindly warmth. But look at the maps. It did.

Yesterday’s map:

20141214 satsfc

Today’s:

20141215 satsfc

The maps show a Pacific storm rolling across the USA like a bowling ball, with only the weakest if high pressure in its way, yet it was 27 degrees this morning, and barely nudged above freezing all day, here in New Hampshire. The northerly flow persisted, behind Storm #9, now well out to sea.

Not that I minded. A warm-up might involve clouds and rain, and our weather was cloudless and, by noon today, nearly windless. The low December sun shone clear and bright, and the leafless trunks of trees striped the landscape with long shadows. All seemed holding its breath in expectation of the warm-up that might never come.

The failure of the warm-up is quite clear when you compare Dr. Fyan Maue Weatherbell temperature maps from when ther warm-up seemed inevitable, and today when it seems quite evitable. First, the initial map from Decemer 13:

20141213 gfs_t2m_noram_1 (Click these maps to enlarge)

Then the initial map from today, December 16:

20141215 gfs_t2m_noram_1

Notice the mild air has moved from Alberta to the Great Lakes, but the cold has not budged from New Hampshire. Also notice southern Alberta has gone from mild temperatures around 40 to the teens, indicating cold will follow any warmth working east. Lastly notice the grey area to the top, indicating sub-zero air, has shifted southeast, taking dead aim on New Hampshire.

In other words, it does not look like the warm-up will last very long, if it ever gets here. As rational as the warm-up appeared, and as irrational as the alternative seemed, reality sometimes prefers the irrational.

(I sure hope it does, because I’m feeling a bit that way, these days.)

Some disapprove of the irrational, calling it chaos, but weather is a chaotic system, and look at the pretty curl of clouds chaos has created across the USA:

20141215 rad_nat_640x480_02

That pretty curl is the Pacific bowling ball storm, rolling across the USA, full of Pacific mildness and Chinook kindness, but notice how its west side has turned blue with snow. By the time it gets here it may see part of its east side turn blue with snow as well, which would make it Winter Storm #10.

Current local forecasts state we will only get rain, but that is based on rational stuff, and rational stuff hasn’t worked as well in reality as it does in the virtual world of computed prognosis, recently.

I was planning to use the above paragraph as an adroit Segway to a discussion of my personal life, which currently involves examples of the irrational trumping the rational.

This is to be expected because humans, like the weather, are chaotic systems. Like the weather they create curls which look like order, though they are made of chaos. Because such curls look like order, one even goes so far as to expect humans to be rational.

No such luck. I could give several humorous examples, but dealing with such lovable humans can be a bit exhausting, and my response to irrational humanity is to be even more irrational than they are.

The rational response to the irrational is to figure out what their problem is, and solve the problem. That is a lot of work. It increases my sense of exhaustion.  Therefore, rather than a rational response, I am going to do the irrational thing, which is to go to bed.

In the irrational world of dreams I will deal with all this irrational stuff. Then I will awake tomorrow and sound rational about it all.

 

 

 

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY —The usual but different—

Since I last focused on this subject back on November 29, the sea-ice has continued its usual amazing increase, a tripling and even quadrupling which happens every year, and in some ways is ho-hum news.  I only note it because next summer, when the decrease goes the other way, sensationalist headlines may read, “Ice decreases by huge amounts! Only a third of it remains!”  It sells papers. What puzzles me is why they don’t sell even more papers, in December,  with headlines reading, “Ice increases by huge amounts! Extent triples!”

Here are the maps for November 29, (left), and December 12 (right).

DMI2 1129 arcticicennowcast DMI2 1212 arcticicennowcast

The increase in ice is pretty much as to be expected. What I am focused on is slight differences from the norm, that may hint at changes in cycles, whether they be short term weather patterns or longer term 60 year cycles involving the AMO or PDO.

The swift freeze of Hudson Bay is ahead of normal, and of concern to me because the open waters of Hudson Bay to New Hampshire’s north is a buffer against the full brunt of arctic discharges. As soon as Hudson Bay freezes we are more susceptible to pure arctic outbreaks from due north. If the Great Lakes freeze we are more susceptible to cold from the Canadian prairie as well.  To my east, even though the Atlantic does not freeze outside of the bays, its waters can be signifigantly cooled by the right conditions.

One such condition involves the discharge of ice from Baffin Bay, which is a great producer and exporter of ice.  Even in the dead of winter when temperatures are down near forty below, open water can appear in the north of Baffin Bay, because so much  ice is exported down the west coast of the bay that a polynya forms in the north. That ice then continues along the coast of Labrador, and icebergs continue down into the entrance of the St Lawrence or even further. The flow is far more complex than you’d think, as currents can dive down beneath milder waters, but in general there is a counter-current to the south hugging the American coast, as the Gulf Stream surges north.

A second discharge of ice comes down through Fram Strait, down the east coast of Greenland towards and past Iceland. The ice in this current cannot dive even when the current’s water does, and therefore ice floats onward and effects the temperature of the North Atlantic. In extreme cases (1815-1817) so much ice is exported that icebergs can ground on the coast of Ireland, and Europe’s summer temperatures can be cooled.

It should be noted that the ice moving down the east coast of Greenland comes from the Arctic Basin, and therefore subtracts from the amount of ice left behind up north for people to fret about next summer. Although their worry about less ice in the arctic focuses on Global Warming, the concern should be cooling. Here is a quote from the year 1817:

“We learn that a vessel is to be fitted out by Government for the purpose of attempting again the north-west passage, the season being considered as peculiarly favourable to such an expedition. Our readers need not be informed that larger masses of ice than ever were before known have this year been seen floating in the Atlantic, and that from their magnitude and solidity, they reached even the fortieth latitude before they were melted into a fluid state. From an examination of the Greenland captains, it has been found that owing to some convulsions of nature , the sea was more open and moré free from compact ice than in any former voyage they ever made: that several ships actually reached the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in which no ice whatever was found; that for the first time for 400 years, vessels penetrated to the west coast of Greenland, and that they apprehended no obstacle to their even reaching the pole, if it had consisted with their duty to their employers to make the attempt…”

The fact this discharge of ice is concurrent with “The Year Without A Summer” is mentioned in this post,  http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/08/1815-1816-and-1817-a-polar-puzzle/  and further information can be found in this treasure trove: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/20/historic-variation-in-arctic-ice/

While nothing as dramatic as 1815-1817 has occurred recently, I do like to keep an eye on the discharge of ice, and utilize a layman’s assumption that less discharge may make Europe warmer, while more may make Europe colder, the following summer.

This past autumn the ice-export down the coast of Greenland, and also down the west side of Baffin Bay, were below normal, but recently the extent has increased to near normal.  This represents a surge or pulse of ice that bears watching, IMHO.

On the Pacific side of the Arctic there has been an impressive increase of sea-ice in the Chukchi Sea north of Bering Strait. It is still below normal, but is closer to normal. I like to watch this area for two reasons. First, once it freezes over Siberian air can remain cold when it takes the “short cut” route from Siberia to Alaska, and second, it gives hints about the current nature of the PDO. The PDO has been in a short-term “warm” spike midst a long term “cold” phase, so I would expect ice in the Bering Strait to be below normal, but ice will increase as the short-term “warm” spike ends.

There are past records of “warm” spikes during the “cold” PDO, however this is the first time we’ve been able to watch it with the detail satellites allow us,  so of course I’m watching with great interest.

On the Atlantic side the exact opposite has been occurring. We saw, last spring and summer, a “cold” spike during a “warm” phase of the AMO. Right on cue there was more ice along the north coast of Svalbard, even those it was the warm season and everywhere else the ice was decreasing. Then this “cold” spike ended, and now, even though everywhere else sea-ice is increasing, the northern reaches of Barents Sea have seen a decrease in sea-ice.  (Even more intriguing is the fact there are some signs the AMO may be about to go through a second “cold” spike.)

At this point the arctic is pretty much completely frozen over, and my attention turns to how the ice is being pushed around up there.  However there are a couple of areas outside the arctic that freeze over, which are interesting to watch.

The first is the Sea of Okhotsk east of Russia and north of Japan. Extremely cold air has been pouring into the Pacific off Asia, and these waters are starting to freeze over swiftly. (Their refreeze were below-normal, earlier.) I have a hunch the variations in how these waters cool may have something to do with the end of the “warm” spike in the PDO.

The second is the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea, especially the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland. Those waters are just plain fascinating to me, because so many fresh water rivers pour into the Baltic Sea that the further north you go the fresher the water becomes, until in the very north of the Gulf of Bothnia fresh water fish can swim in the Sea. Because the water is so much fresher it freezes more easily, and the northern Baltic becomes a hypersensitive measure of Scandinavian cold. When southwest winds and the Atlantic rules, there is little freezing, but when winds shift to the brutal east, the entire Baltic can freeze.

Having discussed the extent maps, I’ll swiftly go over the daily maps. I apologize for not being able to name the individual storms like I did last year. Other areas of my life got too bossy.

One obvious difference from last year has been that storms don’t ride along the arctic coast of Eurasia from Barents Sea, through the Kara and Laptev Seas, all the way to the East Siberian Seas, and meet up with Pacific storms in the Chukchi Sea. Instead they run into a wall, and are bent north to the Pole and even Canada, or south into Russia.

Back on November 29 an Atlantic storm had crashed into the wall and devided, with half heading towards Canada and half down into Russia. In the process it brought a huge surge of Atlantic air north over the Pole. Last year this Atlantic air surged over Europe and kept them relatively warm all winter, but this time that mildness was wasted on sea ice.

DMI2 1129 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1129 temp_latest.big

At this point something ominous happened, if you live in Scandinavia. My ears perked forward in interest, for it may be a forerunner of what could become a pattern, later in the winter. This time it was quickly rebuffed, but later in the winter ic could “lock in”.

What happened is that as the low pressure was defected south into Russia high pressure extended west to its north, creating a flow of east winds along the arctic coast. Brutally cold Siberian air rolled west (last winter I called it “the snout of Igor”), and Europe chilled, though not to the degree it could have chilled if the east winds had continued.

DMI2 1130B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1130B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 temp_latest.big

On December 1 there is a cross-polar-flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific, drawing mild Atlantic air right across the Pole. The flow is about as non-zonal as it can be. If you are into looking for proof of Global Warming, now is the time you point out a spike in temperatures at the Pole, but the exact same spoke can be used as a disproof.

What you need to do is think of how a summer thunderstorm uplifts hot and muggy air and breeds a cooling shower, and use that as an analogy for what is occurring on a far grander scale up at the cap of the planet. Warm air is uplifted, heat is lost, and the air comes down cooler.

Of course, this is a grotesque simplification, but when debating Global Warming, who really cares? (What is actually occurring as the mild air is uplifted up at the Pole is fascinating, and I don’t claim to understand it, but have learned enough to make it a subject for an amusing post I’m working on, and may even submit to WUWT. Rather than supplying any answers, it asked questions that need to be asked.)

Europe was spared the icebox of an arctic outbreak from the east by a series of lows that pushed the high pressure (and its east winds,) north to the Pole.

DMI2 1204 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1204 temp_latest.big

However rather than this low pressure bumping the high pressure over to Canada and continuing on to the east, the low itself got deflected north as high pressure again built ahead of it. A new cross-polar-flow, this time from Asia to Canada, began to appear, and temperatures at the Pole crashed.

DMI2 1206 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1206 temp_latest.big

By December 6 the most recent pattern began to manifest, and the final seven maps showing storm after storm failing to get across the Atlantic, and instead curling around north of Norway back towards Greenland. This has created a second invasion of milder Atlantic air to pour north through Scandinavia, on the east side of storms, as frigid winds howl down the east coast of Greenland and make Iceland cold on the west side of storms.

This pattern is (I assume) self-destructive, as eventually the North Atlantic (seemingly) will get too mild to its northeast and too cold to its southwest to perpetuate the pattern. Therefore I am watching in great interest to see signs of its demise, and to see what will set up next.

DMI2 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B temp_latest.big DMI2 1211B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1211B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1214 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1214 temp_latest.big

As a final interesting tidbit to this post I’ll add the graph of polar temperatures, which shows the big warming spike caused by the initial invasion of Atlantic air, the crash as the Siberian cross-polar-flow developed, and the start of a second spike as the second invasion of Atlantic air begins.

DMI2 1214 meanT_2014

All in all I would say this winter is promising to be another winter when any semblance of a zonal flow is rare, and the sea-ice will be wracked and tortured by storms. It will be interesting to watch.