LOCAL VIEW –In Awe Of Thaw–(updated)

The first week of January was brutal, blasting, bitter and a blizzard. Often we would only have the children outside for a half hour, for the wind chills were simply too dangerous to allow prolonged exposure. We spent more time dressing and undressing them than we spent outdoors, but it does pass the time, and they do rejoice at having a brief time outside. If they are too cooped up they literally bounce off the walls.

Worst was the wind, which often gusted to gale force.  Simply having the winds calm down made it seem far warmer, and when temperatures rose all the way to 32°F (0°F) the children were eager to hike. So was I. I wanted to see what the winds had done.

In the forest the snow was mixed  with bits of pine needles, as if the needles had become brittle in the cold and broken in the blasts, and there was a drift by each tree trunk, even in the shelter of the trees. The children found the landscape strangely changed, with a place they liked to hide behind a rock completely buried, even as a nearby path was swept down to the level of the dirt. They also found some drifts were packed to a consistency of Styrofoam, and they could walk on them, while other crumbled and they wallowed up to their waists, often requiring rescue. We tended to stick to the trails packed by snowmobiles to play it safe.

The most amazing drift was on the downwind side of the dam at the flood control reservoir. The blasting winds had swept the reservoir largely free of snow, but the downwind side of the dam had a drift that was in places thirty feet deep.

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I was surprised by the cracks forming in the drift, as its sheer bulk pulled it downhill like a glacier.

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I doubted the drift was going to tumble down as a small avalanche, but decided I didn’t want to take the chance. Therefore I warned the kids away from the edge and we only looked at the frozen outlet of the reservoir from afar.

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Instead we hiked down the other, windswept side of the dam.

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The kids were enchanted by the other worldly landscape. More than one paused, looked up at me, and commented in the matter-of-fact manner of the small, “This is really fun.”

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The drifts were crisp and firm, but the underbrush (to left in picture below) would cave in and the kids would find themselves abruptly up to their waists.

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Without the wind, none complained of cold, and the children seemed quite content to loll in the wan sunshine.

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When it was time to go back for lunch there is always one so enchanted they don’t want to leave.

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We only has two days to enjoy such hikes, because the thaw grew stronger, and the snow grew heavy and wet. But this also meant the snow became sticky enough to build forts and snowmen.

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My staff did get a bit carried away with the snowman.

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But the kids appreciated setting a “world record.”

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I couldn’t be as involved as I usually am, as I was dealing with what often seems to come hand in hand with a thaw. Namely the ‘flu. (Though the thaw gets the blame, I think it is the period of close confinement just before the thaw that allows the spread of germs, and after the inoculation it takes a week for the ‘flu to break out. ) In any case you know something is wrong when a lively child abruptly decides to take a nap in the snow.

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I have a sneaky suspicion that, in a few cases, parents can’t afford to miss work, and load up their children in cough syrup before delivering them to us, hoping the kids will make it through the day. The kids were dropping like flies, usually around the time a four hour cough syrup would wear off, though that may just be a coincidence.

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Most parents are pretty good about leaving work to pick their children up. Only a few shut their phones off.

By Friday we only had five of our ordinary twelve all-day children, and I was showing symptoms. Though I wash my hands often, kids vomited on me, and it’s hard to avoid the virus when exposed in that manner. Nor did the ‘flu shot do much good this year, as apparently 70% of the people who got the vaccine still got the ‘flu.

In any case at noon on Friday I took to my bed on my doctor’s orders, and have only left it to limp off, achy and shivering, to feed my goats. My wife is also down, which is highly unusual, as she almost never gets sick.

Therefore I didn’t take pictures of how the snow swiftly vanished under the drumming fingers of a warm rain. There is no snow left in the yard where they made a giant snowman on Thursday.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to this post tomorrow. And a sonnet about rain on the roof.

*******

It was 5°F (-15°C) at dawn so I think we can state THE THAW IS OVER,

As promised, here is a picture of the Childcare playground, so full of sticky snow last Thursday.

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The cold came on so swiftly it froze up the run-off and flooding from the thaw, leading to some tricky situations at intersections. (It is hard to obey the “yield” sign on sheer ice.)

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I would have liked to drive around and look at streams, because I think there may have been some good ice jams, but simply driving a mile to feed my goats at the farm seemed to test my ability. I’m surprised I wasn’t pulled over as a driving drunk. Mostly I stayed in bed, only occasionally venturing down to put wood in the fire or check out maps on my computer. Here is the front surging across us yesterday:

20180113 satsfc

And here is the arctic high pressure atop of us today, with the front and the thaw’s mild air pushed far out to sea.

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It does not do much good to look backwards in battle or while plowing, and I’m nervous about the future of that Alberta Clipper sliding down to the Great Lakes. I’d better baby myself into shape, because it looks like snow to me. However, just for the record, here are statistics showing the thaw from the weather bureau up in Concord.

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Yesterday’s high of 57°F (14°C) was at midnight, and they’d plummeted by dawn, so it is a bit misleading to call the day +15° of normal. But that is how statistics work, sometimes.

If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. But if you like it, kiss it good-bye.

No sonnet so far. I googled “Sonnets from a sickbed”, and have been entertained (by works clear back to the 1500’s), rather than have I been the entertainer.

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –Cross-polar Draining–

It has been hard to report on the sea-ice situation at the Pole, as all sorts of pettifogging details from real life have intruded on what is of paramount importance, namely: what is occurring in the long darkness of the polar night.

For example, I knew I should check the air pressure of my tires when the temperatures sank to -10°F, because the air contracts and the pressure in the tires gets so low the tires can get flat. But who can bother with things like that when one has sea-ice to think about? So I neglected it, and started the New Year by driving off with tire going ker-slam, ker-slam, ker-slam on the street. Not only was it flat, but it was frozen into that shape of flatness. I immediately returned to my parking space, but it doesn’t take many ker-slams to utterly ruin the wall of the tire.

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Oh Great. And what are the odds that the old 2003 Subaru Outback I just bought will actually have a jack in it? To my astonishment it did have a jack, but not a lug-nut wrench. Therefore, rather than focusing on sea-ice, I had to focus how to find a lug-nut wrench I could borrow, on a day with wind-chills of -30°F.

Multiply this annoyance by twenty-five others and you have an idea of why I haven’t posted on sea-ice.  Between blizzards and my staff catching some ‘flu the ‘flu-shot didn’t make people immune to, I’ve had to run around doing a great deal of dithering details a person of my intelligence shouldn’t have to deal with.

I blame Donald Trump. By now he should have redirected all the six-figure salaries from pseudo-scientists like Mann and Hansen to honest airheads like myself. Sigh. Hasn’t happened.

In any case, we have a patch of mild weather, so I am going to seize the opportunity to catch up.

When I last posted just after Christmas the flow of bitter cold air from Siberia to Canada had been interrupted by a ridge of high pressure that was funneling the cold air down into the Atlantic.

 

I keep an eye on such funneling, for it seems to be reflected in the weather down where I live in New England a week later. When the arctic leans into Canada we see cold come bulging south over us, but when it leans into the Atlantic we can get a break in our cold, and warm air can come north, perhaps fueling a storm for us. Thus even people who are not interested in sea ice should pay attention to where the cross-polar-flows are directed.

 

By December 28, though some cold still was funneled in the Atlantic, the Siberia to Canada flow was reestablish itself.

 

Two days later, despite a low moving up into Alaska, the ridge on the Pacific side was persisting, and the delivery of cold air into Canada continued.

 

As the low pressure on the Atlantic side persisted there were some feeder-bands that aimed to the Pole, and very weak versions of “Ralph” ineffectually tried to become established at the Pole. (Nothing like last year.)

 

 

 

 

 

By January 3 the ridge of high pressure across the Pacific side of the Pole, and the flow of cold air into Canada, started to weaken, (which gave me dim hopes of future thaw, far to the south, though all Canada was still loaded with cold.)

 

 

As the high pressure shifted east into the Canadian Archipelago, its western side began to actually draw air out of Canada and back up to the Pole.

 

 

By January 7 the high pressure slid up to the Pole, briefly giving us a “zonal” situation, which traps the cold at the Pole. Not that the tundra of Siberia and Canada doesn’t create its own cold, but their cold doesn’t receive reinforcements.

 

By January 8 the high had pumped-up, down towards Canada, while ridging towards Siberia, and again a Siberia-to-Canada flow existed. My take was that the thaw that developed far to the south in my neighborhood would be interrupted.

 

By January 9 the flow had already broken down, as weak feeder-bands from both the Atlantic and Pacific side fueled a weak “Ralph” at the Pole. An amazing storm between Greenland and Iceland got no news coverage, as no one lives there.

 

 

Today it looks like the “Ralph” is being pressed off the Pole by high pressure towards Canada, even as that big low that has been smashing Greenland transits the Greenland ice cap and comes north as a decent storm north of Svalbard. Quite a southerly flow will develop in the Atlantic between that low and the high pressure over Scandinavia. The high over Scandinavia may pull Siberian air west over Europe on its underside, even while tugging at milder air way down over the Azores on its western side. I haven’t a clue how much mild air could be fed up to the Pole, and will zip my lip and simply watch.

 

No sea-ice post in January can be complete without a mention of Africa and the Sahara  Desert. Last year a dusting of snow fell in Ain El Safra in northern Algeria, and it was reported as “The first snow in nearly forty years.” Rather than waiting forty years to happen again, it only waited thirteen months, and rather than a mere dusting they received as much as ten inches.

Sahara 1 sahara-snow2-2018

Cold Snap Brings Snowfall to the Sahara Desert – for the second winter in a row

In case you are wondering what this has to do with sea-ice, it is because during our discussions we’ve been drawn into excruciating calculations of “albedo”, yet there seems to be a neglect to calculate “albedo” when it is off the surface of the Arctic Sea. For example, the sun went down at the Pole at the September equinox and clear down to the Arctic Circle at the solstice, which renders albedo a mute point in those northern reaches. However the Sahara, at latitude 32°45′ N, is another matter. Even if the snow all melts away in three or four days, more sunlight is bounced back to outer space by the one white blot in the Sahara on the map below than at the entire Pole in December. (Gibraltar hidden by clouds to upper left.)

Sahara 2 sahara-snow

It would be interesting to come up with a number for the heat-loss of such freak events, and compare the number to heat-loss amounts at the Pole in late August. As it is, Alarmists tend to simply say some heat-loss matters and some doesn’t. The actual fact may be that the freak events add up, and are indicative of climate moving towards a cooler state (perhaps due to the “Quiet Sun”).

Currently our Polar temperatures, though still above normal, are roughly five degrees colder than last year’s. It will be interesting to watch the oncoming surge of south winds in the Atlantic, and see if we come close to matching last year’s. (2017 left; 2018 right.)

 

The total sea-ice extent is quite low, as calculated by the DMI:

DMI5 0110 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

I expect this to now become the Alarmist focus, though most of the “missing” sea-ice is on the Pacific side outside the Arctic Ocean. They tend to have a focus that is highly selective. The problem is that last year at this time, when “extent” didn’t support their narrative, they tended to pish-tush “extent”, and to say “volume” was important, because the 2017 volume was lower than 2916’s. This year you hear less about “volume” because 2018 is above both 2016 and 2017, (black line at far left of graph).

DMI5 0110 Volume FullSizeRender

To me it seems the “Quiet Sun” chill may be starting to have its effect, despite its counter-intuitive ability to increase warm El Ninos and decrease cool La Ninas. The main thing is that there is no apparent “Death Spiral”. Although sea-ice is at low levels there is no crash in its levels as was predicted. In fact Tony Heller produced a comparison with the thickness of ice on New Year’s 2008 with this New Year’s, and if anything the ice now looks more substantial.

DMI5 0111 Heller Attachment-1

Stay tuned.

*******

 

I thought that, with that huge gale crashing into southern Greenland, it would be interesting to check the Greenland mass-balance gathered by DMI. It has been relatively cold and dry over the west of Greenland after big storms early in the season, and the mass-balance was trending back towards average, which filled me with dread. Why? Because the moment the mass-balance slips below average the selective focus of Alarmists seizes on the news as verification of their narrative. And this in a way twists my arm and forces me to counter,  explaining the nuances of a loopy jet stream, bringing up things like snows in the Sahara, even though there is little chance they’ll heed. (Mostly I debate for the onlookers on-the-fence.) Any delay in such futile debate is a great relief, and this big gale provided such a delay by dumping a huge amount of snow in southeast Greenland. (Current to left; average to right.)

Greenland MB 20180110 todaysmb

The morphistication (transit) of this storm over Greenland is liable to dump more snow, before it reforms between Greenland and Svalbard and the dry northern winds resume down Greenland’s east coast. This will create a blip in the mass-balance graph, and delay the inevitable hoopla a while.

Greeenland MB 20180110 accumulatedsmb

I count my blessings.

LOCAL VIEW –Annual Frozen Pipes Post–

Even boxers get to sit down between rounds, and enjoy some rest, and also Sunday is the Day of Rest, and therefore my wife and I decided that after church we’d go out and have someone else cook, and have someone else serve, and have someone else do the dishes. We figured we deserved it, after coming through the grueling blizzard we’ve just been through. Monday might be just around the corner, but we’d pamper ourselves on Sunday afternoon.

Not that problems don’t intrude even on our Sundays. The latest attempt to repair our washing machine didn’t work, and we had a huge pile of laundry to do at a Laundromat before we went out to eat. However the machines did big loads in only 22 minutes, and, (because my wife decided we might as well wash all sorts of stuff I didn’t think needed washing, while we were at it,) we walked in with 12 loads, used four huge washers, inserted 76 quarters, soap, and then walked out to sit in the car for 22 minutes. The sun was settling down on a winter horizon and we had stuff to talk about. 22 minutes later we hustled hampers of wet laundry back to the car (because our drier still works at home, and our cellar can use the heat,) and headed off to the restaurant. The sunset was a beautiful gold, and I couldn’t help but notice that it was later; before Christmas it was dark at 4:30 but now it is golden and pink.

Among the many things we talked about in our usual, efficient, and scatter-brained way was this Sunday’s sermon at church, which was about “The Rapture”. Although the word “rapture” is not used in the Bible, there are numerous, somewhat-upsetting references to a time that could happen any day, when believers would be swept up to heaven and non-believers left behind to endure seven highly unattractive years on earth.  (This concept inspired the movie, “Left Behind”.)

Back when Jesus’s disciples were still alive the idea Jesus could return “any day” kept people on their toes, but after 2000 years people are perhaps jaded. If you tell them the Rapture might occur in five minutes, people tend to roll their eyes and say, “Right. I’ve heard that one before.” People are not as impressed by the prophesy as they once were. Today’s sermon simply asked, “But what if it happened? Where would you be? Swept up, or left behind?”

Even though I am a “believer”, and have faith in things people say I’m nuts to have faith in, I confess I’m often far from perfect. I do have a temper. I usually apologize afterwards, but not everyone forgives me. And this got me to thinking about the timing of the Rapture.

If the Rapture occurred when I was repenting, and apologetic, and asking for forgiveness, and accepting the abuse of those who are in no mood to forgive me, then I might pass for saintly, and be swept up. But what if the Rapture occurred right when I was at my worst? What if it occurred at the moment I was pounding my fist on a table and telling someone to stuff an unmentionable thing up an unmentionable orifice?  It seems highly unlikely such a person (me) would be permitted to be swept up, and far more likely that person (me) would be left behind.

I was bringing this up in a humorous way, and perhaps a bit too flippantly, for it stirred up my wife, and she waxed eloquent on how the foibles of those who are believers are different from the foibles of those who don’t believe. Her excellent points are too complicated to repeat at this time. I am just bringing this up because some think that people at laundromats are a bunch of low life retards.  We’re not. We are actually highly intellectual and altruistic thinkers. Perhaps it is those who do laundry at home who are the retards.

But this discussion, about who the retards are, is definitely getting too profound for my humble post. This is often the case when you broach spiritual mysteries. What I meant to say was a more simple thing, namely: I decided that maybe I would try harder than usual to keep my temper in check, just in case the Rapture was imminent.

Actually it was easy to keep my temper in check. Even though it still was very cold, you could feel the mercy of a thaw was in the wings. And even if you were not sensitive to the shift of the wind to the southwest, you could always check your cell phone, and find reasons to rejoice.

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Hallelujah! Cellphones are a wonderful invention. Even if long-term forecasts are a government trick to keep us from despairing during cold winters, it is a trick that works.

This morning it was -13°F (-25°) here, but Wednesday it might be +45°F (+7°C). It will feel like April, after what we’ve undergone. And it does tend to fill me with a benevolence when the outlook is so hopeful. It would be good if the Rapture occurred at such a moment, for I am beaming with generosity.

To further the beaming, I ordered a martini, and sat at the best seat in the restaurant, (because the dinner rush hadn’t started at 4:30), and gazed at the final beams of sunshine slipping from the topmost needles of the white pine across a frozen waterfall.

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There is nothing like looking at hardship through a rear view mirror.  A flat tire isn’t funny when you are jacking the car up in the cold, but when the tire is changed and you are on the road again, you can laugh, and get the joke. And seeing the frozen waterfall was like seeing evidence of the incredible cold we’d been through in the past tense, for the present tense was a warm restaurant, a charming waitress, and a steaming dish of delectable food placed before me. And just then a text came through on my cell phone.

Cell phones are a horrible invention.

To cut the texting short, the situation was this: My pregnant daughter is living briefly above my Childcare as her young husband makes the money for an apartment they have their eyes on in Boston. He’d made a big wad of dough as a Uber driver during blizzard condition in Boston, but only had snatched bits of sleep on a friend’s couch, and now had come home for a hot shower and a sleep in his wife’s arms….but the shower didn’t work. Cross examination discovered the sink and toilets didn’t work, neither upstairs nor downstairs at the the childcare. Pipes had frozen at the source, which was a different building, an old abandoned farm house across the driveway.

Blame the sermon in church, or blame the martini, but I had not the slightest urge to slam the table and rave, “Can’t I even have a single meal in peace?” Or…well…I’ll admit I did say to my wife something along the lines of, “I thought when she married her problems became his, and weren’t mine any more.” But that was more of a quip than a serious statement. There was no way an exhausted young man could figure out the irregularities of a a farm that slowly sprawled over a hundred years, with pipes and wires added in a unplanned manner. I was the only available expert.

I refused to hurry. I could have rushed to the farm in twenty minutes but instead texted, “Be there in an hour.” (Didn’t get a “happy face” reply.)  Then I enjoyed my meal, (though I did talk a little more about peculiar plumbing than I might have). I kept my sense of peace, because the Rapture might happen at any moment, and it it wouldn’t look good if I was cursing and gobbling food and gulping the final third of a martini and putting my jacket on upside down. Instead I was as smooth as silk.

Come to think of it, it was bizarre. I should have lost my temper, but didn’t. We drove home, unloaded laundry, and then I sauntered upstairs to change out of my Sunday outfit into work clothes. I came downstairs, gathered a few tools and some rags, and my wife handed me a big thermos of boiling water. I drove to the farm, located an extension cord and a heater with a blower, talked briefly with my daughter and her husband, and then waded through the drifts to the dark, old farmhouse, and decended into its creepy cellar.

What a switch in scenes! Fifty-five minutes earlier I’d been in the lap of luxury with a lovely wife looking out at a gorgeous view with scrumptious food before me, and now I was in a dingy cave festooned with spiderwebs. You would have thought the martini would have worn off, but, instead of cursing, I laughed. The irony of the scenery-switch would be too absurd for a novel, but life is better than a book.

I couldn’t locate the problem, but kept my good mood, humming hymns like an old man pottering in a sunny garden, as I brushed aside dirty spiderwebs and checked the usual suspects: The fuse box, the pressure tank, the pressure switch, and even a cellar faucet, which gushed water. Where could a pipe freeze? Couldn’t be the main line. I had a heat lamp baking where the pipes went into the field-stone wall to cross over to the childcare. It couldn’t be there. But then I noticed a loop of pipe sidetracking into a water softener system, just outside of the reach of the heat lamp. Could that be it? Probably not. Surely the heat would travel along that short length of pipe. But, just to cover all bases, I wrapped those pipes in rags and poured boiling-hot water from the thermos onto the rags. Then I looked around and began thinking of getting more chords and setting up more heat lamps and heaters, but just then my phone advised me of an incoming text.

Sometimes cellphones are wonderful things. The text was from my daughter, across the yard:

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Best was the simple fact no frozen pipe was broken.

Then I got the pleasure of sauntering over to my daughter and her husband and seeing their great delight over something we take for granted: Running water. And also there was the delight of a young man who has been craving a long, hot, relaxing shower, and now gets to take one.

But what about me? Wasn’t I craving a long, hot, relaxing meal? Why am I always the one being interrupted?

I didn’t actually think that. I just put it down because I thought of it now. At the time I was all smiles, and enjoying being a hero. I also was enjoying the strange sensation of having not lost my temper, even once. Too bad the Rapture didn’t happen while I was being so saintly, although I suppose, with my luck, if it was going to happen at any given time it would have happened just when I ordered the martini.

In any case we survived a cold wave, and the traditional episode of frozen pipes. Next comes the January thaw, for the map shows the arctic got too greedy and has overreached its limits. There is a bit of a front southwest of Jamaica, showing how far south the blast reached. Down there I suppose they may find the cool breeze delightful. What we will find delightful is the western side of the high, bringing north mildness we haven’t seen in weeks.

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LOCAL VIEW –Shuddering–

And still the winds are roaring this black dawn
When stars stab cold knives and the sift of snow
Hisses by my door, and before the roar’s gone
The next blast rattles the sash. The window
Looks out darkly. I see I should have done
So many things back when weather was warm
But now it is too late. I can blame no one
And can do nothing but endure this storm
Shuddering. Hope is too far away to grasp
And the east dawns no sun, but a cold moon
Instead leers skullish on bent hills. I would clasp
Your warm love and warble the sweetest tune
If only Your smile hove into sight.
It’s in darkest dark I remember the Light.

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Iced dawn spills over the shuddering east
And reveals a white world that has drifted.
The pre-storm chores I shirked are now least
on my list. Priorities have shifted
In a world white as an unwritten page.

Who will write the first words with a trail
Of blue footprints? The house is like a cage.
I’ll bolt and walk a signature as winds wail.
I will pace a poem, although drifts erase
My tracks like shifting sand. My words are like
A small child’s sand castle by the stern face
Of unthinking surf, yet still I will hike
Across a hillside, and my tracks will spell
The magic only poetry can tell.

What a cruel day! Not a true sub-zero day like they have out in the plains, but close enough, with a high of 7°F and winds that wouldn’t have the decency to knock it off.

Added to my Saturday chores of taking the recyclables to the recyclable center (where none of the equipment worked in the cold) and going to the bank, (bad hair days), were added things to do outside in an unkind wind, such as rake the big drifts from a roof before the drifts gained weight with rain and collapsed structures. And get my bulky, broken snowblower up into the back of a pick-up truck to be taken off and repaired. Or face a path I’ve had to shovel three times by hand already, drifted in.

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But when I step back I see that same wind scoured the driveway free of snow.

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All things considered, my neighbor across the street likely had grounds for a lawsuit. Fourteen inches of snow buried my fences to the bottom rail, but the cruel gales stripped all that snow to the ground-level crust of a pre-Christmas snow,  and deposited it all in his drive.

Simply to be out of doors was an ordeal, and surreal. All the faces you met were pained and wincing, and I had the odd sense I was in the dog house, as everyone looked mad at me. Had I done something Friday night I couldn’t remember? No, because I’m not that young anymore. I had no hangover when I awoke, only when I stepped outside.

The buffeting was like the blows of a boxing match. A man who fought Mohammed Ali stated no jab hurt, but after a while you noticed his jabs made you feel a bit dizzy. And Mohammed Ali himself stated that the fifteenth round of a fight was like functioning in a dream and in a circus.  You’ve been knocked for a loop but refuse to go down for the count. Somehow you keep tottering about, still battling.

This probably explains why this post begins with two sonnets. The jabbing wind had punched me into a mental state which some get called “poets” for being in, while others wind up in institutions.

Even as I emphasis how bad it was, it wasn’t near the worst. New England has seen such blasts twenty degrees colder. So I have no real reason to complain, especially as the winds finally died down a bit in the afternoon. At long last the Blizzard was fading away towards Baffin Bay and Labrador.

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The map shows the massive arctic high bringing modified polar air all the way down to Jamaica and Costa Rica. But here it was not modified. Here we got the real deal.

After experiencing “the real deal”, few find New England as attractive as Norman Rockwell made it look.  There will be an upsurge in homes for sale in this area next spring. Quaint has its limits, and the pathways of art are not for all. Where Norman Rockwell produced paintings and I produce sonnets, many turn their backs and skedaddle. Can’t say I really blame them.

*******

SUNDAY MORNING 7:00 AM -12°F (-24 °C) 30.31 and at last the wind has ceased.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –A Boston Bombo-Blizzard–(With Friday Night Conclusion)

“Bombogenesis” is the word given by weather geeks for the explosive development of a nor’easter into a gale center as it moves up the east coast of the USA. Such storms are not as well understood as some believe, but there are some fairly reliable signs one is on the way. One of the best signs is to go into a grocery store to buy bread and see this:

Bombo 1 DSqZGIDUQAA_6xC

This sort of spectacle is indicative of great zeal on the part of the weather bureau, provoking panic on the part of the public, and suggests maybe I should check up on the young whippersnappers, and see what in blue blazes the geeks are up to.  Likely I’ll see, if it is winter, that they have gotten a bee in their bonnets and have issued an “Armageddon Alarm.” In this particular case I was a little disappointed to see it was merely a “Blizzard Warning”. Ho Hum.

I went outside, and it was about the nicest day we’ve had in a week. The temperature was up above 20°F (-7°C), which doesn’t seem warm unless it has been far colder for a while. It has been so cold that the air hurt your face, and people wore flinching expressions. When you can finally stop flinching, the relief is all out of proportion to the reality. Local folk walk around with big smiles on their faces, at temperatures that make people who have just returned from vacations in Florida shudder and wrap their coats around themselves more tightly.

If you want to spoil things for the folk relishing the improved temperatures, you put on a grouchy face and mutter, “Just a while back folk were speaking the old saw, ‘It’s too cold to snow’, but they’re not saying that any more. It’s warm enough to snow now.” This may not be as liable to provoke panic as a “blizzard warning”, but it does express the grumpy idea that no good can come out of any improvement.

Another pessimism is expressed in the idea that an especially blue sky is a sign of storm, and manifests as the local saw:

When the sky is fekless blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

Still, this lacks the drama of a blizzard warning. It is hardly even ominous. And indeed a nice sunset at 4:20 PM sparked a memory of a more optimistic saw:

Red at night
Sailor’s delight.

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The only thing slightly threatening about the sunset was the fact the jet contrails were not fading away, and instead were expanding. But old timers didn’t have newfangled things like jet contrails.  Such ideas were above their down-to-earth heads, so I decided to check out the surface maps. Surface maps are down-to-earth, and go clear back to the 1860’s, so no one can accuse me of being newfangled if I look at them.

There is really no obvious sign of doom. Two days ago there is just a massive arctic high repressing what was left of a Pacific storm out in the Rocky Mountains to the west, and pushing tropical moisture away to the farthest southern reaches of the map.

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Yesterday we saw a new cold front appear across Canada, as even colder air rolled south, and on its east side a weak low like an Alberta Clipper, (which perhaps should be called a Hudson Bay Clipper), exploit the slight uplift caused by slight warmth of water beneath Hudson Bay’s thin sea-ice as an excuse to come nearly due south, towards the slight uplift caused by the Great Lakes. But that low down by Florida? It looked sure to be pushed out to sea by the big arctic high to its northwest. Right?

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Wrong. The computer models were stating it would blow up to a big storm off the coast. And a certain (usually younger) species of weather geek have great faith in models, and little faith in their own ability to forecast. If a prankster had the models produce a forecast for showers of obleck mixing with strawberry brandy they would rumple their brows with serious contemplation.

This morning we saw the Hudson Bay Clipper sag to the Great Lakes and grow stronger. The arctic high pressure to its south warmed and stopped pressing down with sinking cold air, and consequently lost its ability to press down high pressure with remarkable speed. The high pressure shrank. The dinky little low over Florida did not zip out to sea, but lingered and strengthened.

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By midday the Florida low was showing signs of strengthening, and had created a coastal front to its north.

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This evening the Florida low is deepening and moving north along the coastal front. The big arctic high pressure has all but vanished from the map.

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Still, there seems little reason to freak out. Yet people are. Schools are canceled for tomorrow. In some cases, near Boston, they are cancelled for Friday as well.

If the Florida low slices out to sea we will get only a dusting, and the weathermen will look like fools.

If the Florida low hooks inland, we will get rain and the weathermen will look like fools.

I bring this up because I am in awe of the risks these fellows take, making a forecast of a blizzard and precipitating a panic. The younger ones have little idea of the dynamics involved in “bombogenesis”, while the old-school can tell you of many of the dynamics involved. The younger ones merely look at a computer print-out, and parrot what computers regurgitate. The older ones understand the concepts that programmed the computers, and that the concepts are far from perfect.

If you put imperfect concepts in, imperfect forecasts will result, but the younger forecasters haven’t learned this yet, and tend to be too trusting of computer models.  The older forecasters are more on their toes, waiting and watching for signs of imperfection. They know, “Tomorrow will tell.”

Of course this post will need updates, so we can see what tomorrow tells us. I expect I will continue to be in awe of what weathermen dare to do, even if others scoff because a storm sliced fifty miles east, or hooked fifty miles west, and made parts of their forecast look silly.  People forget that they themselves never saw the storm coming two days ago, and are quick to ridicule those who did see it coming, if they miss the storm’s exact track by a matter of miles.

If the storm allows me time to sit and we don’t lose power, I hope to share the little I know about the factors that lead to bombogenesis. Those are the dynamics programmed into computers that make computers look amazing, when they are right.

Those are the factors young meteorologists should study, if they want to be aware of those times computers are wrong.

Here the stars are fading out, and high clouds have stopped the fall of temperatures, which reached a low of 2°F but are now back up to 4°F. This will be the first night we haven’t fallen below zero (-17°C) in a week.

Thursday Morning 6:30 AM

Temperature has risen to 15°F (-9°C) overnight, and pressure is falling to 29.66. Pressure was something the old-timers were savvy to, and they’d be on guard now, keeping an eye on the “glass” (barometer).

The map shows the storm exploding off the coast. At this point everyone should give meteorologists some credit, for foreseeing a storm would even be there.

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8:00 AM

Temperature is still at 15°F, but the pressure is falling fast, to 29.56. The snow began at around 6:00 and we only had a quarter inch when I went to spread a little sand at the Childcare. (A dust of snow over old, packed-and-polished snow can be amazingly slippery.) By 7:30 three quarters of our customers had cancelled. We will likely have only six children today. (We never close, for some parents have to work even in the snow; some Dads drive plows or are policemen, and some Moms work at hospitals. In ten years the only time we closed was a single day during an ice-storm, when the road was made completely impassable due to fallen limbs and trees.)

The cold snow is amazingly squeaky to walk upon. Tires make a strange growling sound when cars swing slowly into the Childcare’s driveway. I was brooming, as there was too little snow to shovel. There are gale warning for later, but the snow was merely slanting as it fell through the gray quiet. (Warning! Warning! Fit of poetry may attack me.) To my surprise the wind was from the southeast. Likely just a temporary, local effect, but I note it for southeast winds can bring about surprising spikes in temperature and change snow to rain.

Now I’m back home, and waiting for the snow to build up before going back to work. There are some amusing reports from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where they are not used to snow. Here’s a picture from Savannah, on the coast of Georgia:

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Notice how the snow is not melting on the pavement. That is very rare, that far south. Although I know how to drive on such slick surfaces, no one else has a clue, and you couldn’t pay me to venture out on a southern highway under such circumstances. Its like trying to drive in a pinball game, at times. Up here our snow is so dry and squeaky it actually has traction, and even southern drivers have a chance of staying on the street.

Boston humor going viral:

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(Note for foreign viewers: The bottom face is the famous coach of our professional football team.)

The gale is developing an eye like a hurricane. (Picture from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell)

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Like London facing Blitz, Boston musters humor:

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Boston Globe reports 700 flights canceled, but subway running well. Go underground. (That’s what groundhogs do, until February 2).

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Judging from twitter, no one is heading underground or even indoors just yet and instead folk are out snapping pictures.

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Maybe I should do the same.

9:10 AM 18°F 29.50 

Storm now officially is a “bomb”. Notice the coastal front forming just east of New England. Cape Cod now forecast to get rain. Folk there will be scorning the weathermen, because yesterday the storm was thought to be heading a bit further off shore, which would have given them a blizzard. They’ll still get winds of storm force, with gusts over hurricane force. Our peak gusts should be around 50, here in the hills, though I’ll bet the hilltops will see higher. (Most old-timers chose to build down in the valleys.)

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What now could mess up the forecasts is if the storm drills so deeply into the atmosphere it slows down and even stalls. The Blizzard of 1888’s track described a tight little loop, and New York got two feet blown into towering drifts, as Boston got two inches of slush. But forecasters seem confident this storm won’t stall.

10:12 AM:  20°F 29.44

12:22  PM: 23°F  29.18

Hard to tell with the wind, but I’d say we are already over six inches. I think the snow grew heavy earlier than expected. This is the real deal.

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I have photographic proof I did leave this computer and snow-blow the first six inches from the Childcare parking lot.

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I couldn’t hear the wind due to the roaring of the engine, but the gusts brought blinding white-outs.

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After I was done I decided my goats were smart to just hide out, under the barn.

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The meekest one prefers to be fed up where the others can’t harass it.

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You need to be wary with these devilish creatures. For example, it is a little known fact goats have the power to hypnotize. This one is saying, “You are getting sleepy…sleepy…very sleepy. You will move your goats to Florida…Florida…to Florida.”

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2:11 PM: 23°F  29.02 (High temperature was 25°F)

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5:00 PM  21°F 28.88  Around a foot. Snowblower broke. Still snowing hard. Temps dropping.

6:09 PM  19°F 28.91 Pressure finally rising! Ever try to find a person to plow in the middle of a storm? Snow may be slacking off, as wind is not off ocean.

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You won’t see a map like this too often:

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In places the noon high tides rivaled the 1978 blizzard’s, Here is a video of salt water cascading down the steps of Boston’s “Aquarium” subway station. I guess it wasn’t so safe underground, after all. (Salt water can’t be too good for the third rail.)

9:06 PM 16°F  28.99  Wind still roaring but the snow has stopped. I have done far too much shoveling for a man of my advanced years. I’m just going to stand in the shower until all the hot water’s used up, and then sleep.

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5:01 AM Friday Morning  10°F (-12°C)  29.20 Clean-up morning. Too busy to write.

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12:30 PM 9°F 29.35

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6:30 P.M. -1°F 29.47  Roaring wind. Drifting snow. People walking outdoors have grimacing expressions.

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This “dry side” of the storm has been in some ways crueler than the “blizzard.” Fourteen inches of snow is no big deal for tough northerners, and though the gale was by no means “mild” and the snow was powder-snow, temperatures were not all that bad. They were over twenty Fahrenheit, and the mildest in a week. Today the temperatures dropped as the sun rose. The winds grew more bitter and bitter. Nor did they weaken.

Worst was the snow in your face. At first there was some fine backlash snow from deceasing clouds that didn’t show up on radar, but even after that stopped and the sun shone brilliantly in a blue sky there were strange white shapes, dancing and twirling, ghouls of blowing snow, drifting and shifting and sifting into any crack of a barn or chink in my armor of wool. But no matter how you try to hide at least part of a face is exposed, and warm skin melts the fine particles of ice that are whipped into your face, and if there is anything colder than sub-zero wind chills against dry skin, it is sub-zero wind chills against wet skin.

This deserves a post all it’s own, for I doubt many will read through this entire post to hear of the drifting. Just allow me to conclude by saying all the fellows who tried to stay ahead of the snow by shoveling and snow-blowing and plowing yesterday faced places where they had dug pathways last night, made into smooth, flat surfaces of deep snow, by the wind and the all-night drifting, by daybreak today.

I was only able to open my Childcare this morning because my eldest son came sweeping through the parking lot with his plow. It was a good thing, because the local schools had a “two-hour-delay”. This puts parents in a predicament, for they are expected to be at work on time, and, even in the unlikely case their bosses have compassion, many parents are on such tight budgets they can’t afford even two hours cut from their pay. We, as a Childcare, step in to fill the gap, though it creates chaos for us, for the older children are suppose to leave as the younger arrive, and a two-hour-delay creates an overlap, where we have twice the kids, often with some of our staff delayed by blocked driveways. Usually we can do it, but when my snowblower broke yesterday it seemed impossible. I couldn’t ask my oldest son to help, because he has too much plowing to do as it is, and was suffering his own equipment break-downs. So I told my wife, “We’ve only been closed by storms once in ten years, but I think tomorrow will have to be our second day.” She said, “We can’t! They are depending on us!” So I was fighting a battle to just clear twenty feet of the entrance (and a path to the door) with a shovel, so people could pull in, drop off their kids, and back out. It would have been easy at age twenty, but when pushing age sixty-five it was like I was Hercules shoveling King Augeas’ stables, and I am no Hercules. I was muttering nonspiritual vocabulary and thinking the drifting might win, when my sleep-deprived eldest son came by, and saved the day.

There are a time when a pebble, or even a grain of sand, can start an avalanche which brings all to ruin.  There also times when a single deed stops ruin from happening. Storms bring such situations to the forefront. It is then that the small deeds of (seemingly) unimportant people are very important.

There is an old rhyme that starts out, “Because of a nail a horseshoe was lost”, and winds up with a kingdom falling “all because of a half-penny nail.” Conversely, there are times a kingdom is saved, because a tired son plowed an extra driveway that allowed his father’s Childcare to stay open which allowed parents to go to work so they could be taxed and allow teachers to take the day off.

Hmm. Something here isn’t adding up. But this post is already too long.

Memo to self: Expand upon this topic.

Memo to self: Try to keep posts on meteorology from straying outside the topic of the meteorology.

9:40 PM   -3°F   29.53   Wind still roaring in the pines; snow still sifting by the windows.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –In honor of O-buoys–

The blogger “Nigel” (AKA “Jasbond007”) (I assume) has done me a great favor by sharing pictures he captured from O-buoy 14, in the “comments” of my posts. In case you missed his offerings, I think it is well worth repeating the links he gave me to batches of pictures at”Flikr”.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/161602435@N07/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasbond007/galleries/72157667628714069/with/39184834041/?rb=1#photo_39184834041

Nigel has the selective eye of a good observer, and it shows in other pictures he shares here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasbond007/

I have asserted elsewhere that a good observer may not have any degrees in Arctic-Sea-Ice-Science, but still have value because they may catch something others overlooked. They may not be a “professional witness” in a court of law, but they still have value and even power, as a “just plain witness.” To be a witness is enough, and older scientists of the better sort have learned to cock an ear when someone who knows next to nothing about the science they study shares an insight. Einstein was said to question children, when adults utterly bored him.

In my case I am just too busy with boring stuff of little consequence, like the IRS of the government, and various inspectors who make life unsafe claiming they are all for insurance, when they are after insurance payments, and are bleeping gangsters resorting to extortion. Such imbeciles have no idea what they miss by ignoring the subject of sea-ice far away. But (sigh) I have to deal with them,  and this leaves me with too little time to study sea-ice around the clock. There are terrible gaps in my watchfulness. For this reason I am hugely grateful that other observers are watching, and see what I have missed. For example, I completely missed what Nigel saw, when O-buoy 14’s unprejudiced eye glimpsed Melville Island in the distance.

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Furthermore, other witnesses take things one step further, and notice what I fail to notice even when I look at the same pictures they do. For example, Nigel notices how high up the camera is, as O-buoy 14 is prepared for operation back in 2015. It is at the very top of the buoy.

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And then consider that same camera, well over the heads of those two mortals, was too low to picture a polar bear’s head, and only caught his shoulder:

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Even if you assume, (as I assume), that the yellow part of the buoy in the first picture has melted down to the level of the ice, the bear still must be far taller than the two men deploying the buoy. It gives me pause. Those fellows had guts to do the job they did, and should be named, in recognition of their courage: (Mike Dempsey and John (Wes) Halfacre).

This consideration just shows you what a witness can come up with, just being an observer and saying what may seem obvious, but what others may overlook. This is one thing that made the O-Buoy project so invaluable. (And made the other “North Pole Camera” project invaluable as well.)

If you return to the first picture you must note the solar panels are black. Besides absorbing sunlight for energy they absorb heat, and on calm days this creates a pocket of warmer air around the buoy. It is a sort of microcosm of a UHI (Urban Heat Island). (I call it a BHI [Buoy Heat Island]). The thermometers attached to a buoy may be recording an elevated temperature, especially when winds are calm. This elevated temperature is then fed into a computer which obeys the principle of GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)  and then produces a map of polar temperatures. A lot of hard-working scientists worked overtime to produce the map, and they do not take kindly to some bumpkin like me coming along and stating, “Sorry, but your map is wrong.”

How dare I be so audacious? Well, blame the cameras. They show me the buoy is sitting in a pool of its own making, when no other ice around it is melting. Furthermore, the cameras show melt-water pools skimming over with ice, when the map states temperatures are above freezing. And on and on it goes. The map states the water is ice-free but the camera shows a local clot of ice. Or the map suggests sunshine when the camera shows clouds, or rain where the camera shows snow.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to abolish thermometers or satellites or any nonsense like that. I just feel cameras are a wonderful way of double-checking. They are an invaluable addition to other instruments. The fellows who undertook the visual aspect of buoys deserve great praise. (The name Todd Valentic appears as a credit to the development of the O-buoys.)

Sadly, I am afraid the fellows who developed the cameras don’t get the credit, or the funding, that they deserve. Alarmists don’t like them because cameras did not show the political idea of vanishing ice that Alarmists desired. Skeptics don’t like them because billions have been spent on the Alarmist agenda, and they are sick of the misappropriation of funds. However I believe cameras are worth every penny they eked from the squandering.

Why? Because the eye-witness has value. In our court of law you can have an IQ of sixty, and your testimony still has value. The polar cameras have been a wonderful check-and-balance to those who spend too much time at computers, and never stick their noses out of doors.

For this reason I feel the cameras should be funded, even as the other silly wasting of money is trimmed. Fire the do-nothing people with six-figure salaries, and fund the cameras. Cancel the conventions of blathering political correctness in Paris and Bali, and fund the cameras.

For seeing is believing.

LOCAL VIEW –The Rapids Freeze–

The way to defeat “cabin fever” and to avoid going “shack whacky” is to grit your teeth and go out into the cold, so I decided to practice what I preach and went out to take some pictures of the Souhegan River freezing up, (with the Patriot’s game on my car radio), yesterday. It was well worth the discomfort of getting out of the comfort of my car, from time to time, to take some pictures.

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The Souhegan is basically a brook as it comes north from its headwaters down in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, but it quickly gathers other brooks, and back in the day (when water power was the only power) it fueled a number of small mills in my town.  It was enough, back then, to make my out-of-the-way backwater a center of industry, even though it was up in the hills, as people went where the power was. Later, when railways were invented, my town chose to prevent the railway from expanding because it was thought the railway would “attract the wrong people”, and that was the death knell to many of the local industries, and the town faded to its current backwater status. However one mill survives at “High Bridge”, having transitioned from an age when fabric was for clothing, to making fabric for body armor and dirigibles and even spacecraft landing on Mars.

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And just downstream is where I began freezing my fingers, taking pictures of the freezing stream.

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A few miles downstream lies Greenville, where the mills prospered more, for they did allow the railway in, (though it no longer goes that far.)

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North of there the river is a favorite place for white water kayaking in the spring,

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It was amazing how much of the water was iced over, but I couldn’t stop as the snowbanks and traffic made pulling over too dangerous. Further on, just past the Temple-Wilton line, the river passes beneath an abandoned bridge, (I think built by New Deal workers in the Great Depression).

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On the west side of Wilton another stream tumbles down from Temple Mountain to join the flow.Brook 21 FullSizeRender

The water gurgles and mutters and gargles from holes in the fast-forming ice

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And the old railway still reaches this far.

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Driftwood is frozen in place where water tumbles over the first dam.

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The second Wilton dam’s pond is solid ice

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And I simply had to crunch along the road, despite biting winds and blaring traffic, to see beneath the dam.

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Check out the outlet pipe. (And the graffiti beyond it).

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I wonder what the old water mills did, when it got this cold? (And where do the teenagers now go?)

Then on to Milford, as the river turns east.

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And more hidden artwork from warmer days.

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And onward to the Merrimack River and then southwards to the sea.

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The cold can not stop it. Ice cannot clamp
The water’s yearning for the distant sea
In its vice. Like a happy old tramp
Offered a steady job, it will flee
All restraint but that of its double banks
And the steady tugging of gravity.
So do not cold-shoulder with icy glance
The inevitable progress of the free.
Do not think you can keep children ever young
Or prevent the innocent from finding Truth,
For though arctic winters have come and stung,
Forever fluid is the river called “Youth”,
And though your white may clench from bank to bank
Underground gurgles will sing and will thank.

It pays to practice what you preach, and to walk the walk besides talking the talk. Although I may have appeared a foolish old man, out taking pictures with a cell-phone in a wind that could freeze the bleep off a bleep, heedless of the whizzing vehicles flying past with incredulous onlookers, (or sort of heedless), I had no symptoms of cabin fever as I headed home. In fact I noticed that, once you have spent time trying to find the perfect angle for a picture, and the right views to capture an idea, your eyes seem to become stuck in the habit, and even when you are not taking pictures any more the whole world looks strangely photogenic, and you see beauty you usually overlook.

Last but not least, you never know what you will find, if you just get out and look. I was seeking river ice. Who would dream I would find graffiti?