SCANNING THE SKIES

SCANNING THE SKIES

I was enjoying the dry and balmy weather today, starting to work in the garden by putting in some asparagus roots.  Tomorrow I’ll get going on the cold weather crops such as peas, spinach  and potatoes, and consider putting in the cold-tolerant seedlings from the cabbage family: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, and kale. However I’m a bit worried about this spring.

I’ve seen May snows before. Few things are quite so annoying, and even disgusting. People joke a lot, and a sense of absurdity and hilarity keeps people from plummeting into depression, however there’s no getting around the fact snow in May just seems wrong, somehow.

My main reasons for worry are the fact the spring is generally delayed.  The red maples are just blooming, at a late date when the sugar maples usually are starting to bust out. The oaks are not even starting to swell their buds.  Do the trees know something the calendar doesn’t?

To our north the snow pack in Canada is much deeper than usual, and snow keeps falling up there, and also to our west.  Furthermore, the computer models keep inventing new snowstorms. We will have to wait and see if any actually happen, but here is one snowfall forecast for the Midwest:

 

gfs_6hr_snow_acc_conus_33-1(8)

And here is one snowfall forecast for Colorado:

eps_t2m_snow_c_west_61(3)

(Click the maps to enlarge them.)

The fact the computer models can even dream up such scenarios demonstrates a lot of cold air is around.  This spring is quite the opposite of last spring, when the rest of the planet was below normal, but the United States was having its second warmest spring on record.

In the “Tips and Notes” section of the “What’s Up With That”  website someone who called himself “Bryan S” gave this report, back on April 20.

“Just thought I’d try to focus your attention on weather in Minnesota. Spring 2012 was literally the earliest on record for the state. This is significant considering that reliable records in Minneapolis go back to 1819. But spring 2013 could very possibly end up being the latest on record for northern Minnesota (going back to 1880). Fargo has already smashed the record for latest 50*F temp in the calendar year, breaking the April 17th, 1881 record. No 50*F temps are expected in Fargo at least through the next week. But to the point of this: The record snows that dumped up to 23″ of snow on areas of Minnesota on the 18th and 19th, plus the already extensive snowcover (we received 1″ from that storm here in Bemidji, yet we still have 25″ on the ground from previous storms in January-present) has led to record cold weather. Embarrass, MN (aptly name for the embarrassingly cold temps they report… a true frost hollow) got down to -14*F this morning. International Falls set a new record of 4*F this morning, breaking the old record of 18*F!!! set in 1966… which was itself a nasty winter and a very cold spring in Minnesota. At temps in the teens, the lakes can actually make ice. To put this in perspective…. last year, every lake in MN, all 15,000 of them.. was ice free by April 10th. This year, only a handful of lakes in the far southern part of the state are ice free… and many set records for latest ice out date. Here in northern MN, there’s still 2-3 *FEET* of ice on the lakes when most even in Bemidji, in the northern 1/5 of the state, tend to lose their ice between the 15th and 25th of April. The flood forecast models for the Red River of the North are predicting a 40% chance of a record crest at Fargo… which would break the record set all the way back in…. 2009. This will mark the 4th time in 5 years that Fargo will see major flooding and set a top 10 crest. Except this year, the models are in uncharted territory as the thaw and crest gets pushed well into May. The only precedent, before models, is spring 1950. Currently that is the latest spring on record in Minnesota and with so much snow on the ground still and so widespread (record high snow pack for the month of April for the state is already “locked in”) and so much thick ice on the lakes, there’s a high chance that a significant portion of the state will be unfishable for the walleye fishing opener on May 11th due to ice still on the lakes. Just anecdotal food for thought. But the fact that what could be the latest spring on record following the earliest spring on record is not lost on us hardy Minnesotans.”

Last year the media talked much about the warm spring, suggesting it was caused by Global Warming, (while failing to mention that the world as a whole was colder.)  This year they are failing to mention the cold spring altogether, as it extends to Spain, where they are having a snow at a late date, and across into Asia   (Earlier they stated the snowy winter “might” be due to a lack of ice in the arctic, and therefore cold was caused by Global Warming, however the arctic has refrozen and that excuse would sound lame, if they tried to keep using it. Therefore there is silence.)

My garden could care less about the Global Warming politics of humans.  Cabbages don’t associate with Kings, outside of O’Henry’s works. Therefore, as I scan the skies, I’m only interested in reality. I search my memory for hints of what is to be, using past seasons to guess at future seasons. A lot of the recollection tickled by current affairs comes from way back, when I was quite small.

This makes sense to me, for in a very general way weather follows a sixty year pattern, and I am now sixty years old.  Things are cycling back to the way they were when I began.

The problem is that the pattern isn’t specific.  For example, there is a general yearly pattern that gives us thundershowers in the summer in New Hampshire.  However that is not much help in a specific way. Just because we had a thundershower on the third day of summer last year does not mean we will have a thundershower on the third day of summer this year. In the same way, just because we had a major hurricane on the 8th year of the 60 year pattern last time around, it does not mean we will have one on the 8th year this time around. Instead it merely means a major hurricane is more likely.

My attempts to use the sixty year cycle to forecast have only been correct in a most general way. I’ve been expecting major hurricanes to come up the east coast, but Irene and Sandy were far less damaging to New England than Connie or the 1938 hurricane, so in one sense I have wound up with egg on my face, a sort of Chicken Little who ran about telling people the sky was falling..

In the same way I’ve been expecting a return to Dust Bowl conditions in the Great Plains, but our recent droughts have been nowhere as bad as the 1930’s.

I have learned I’m no genius, however it doesn’t keep me from scanning the sky. Perhaps it is innate, and part of the human spirit, to do so. Furthermore, I base some of my actions on the subtle things I only glimpse, in a most dream-like fashion, on the very edges of my intellect.

I’ll share what I am sensing, even while confessing I’m guessing.

New England had some drenching rains from hurricanes in the 1950’s, which turned to a drought in the 1960s.  We are edging towards the dry cycle, which ought begin in earnest around the year 2020. For the next 7 years our summers ought be dry, with most moisture supplied by late summer tropical storms, and also by late spring snows.  In my boyhood there was much more snow in March and April, and even May, and we are seeing a return of that,pattern, after a hiatus. Weather records demonstrate this.

I’m planning to stack a lot of firewood.  Often the way one winter ends hints at how the next winter will begin. In my bones I feel next winter will come early and will be cruel, though hopefully it will end early, or at least have a prolonged thaw in March before a return of spring snows.

If we can get through seven more years without a major hurricane, we will have dodged a bullet.  By my calculations a thirty year period where the chances of New England Hurricanes is high ends in 2020.  Although we have experienced Bob and Bertha and Irene and Sandy, they are nothing like New England experienced in the 1930-1960 period.  It won’t be the first time New England has passed through such a period reletively unscathed.  However we still have seven years to go, and there is still a likelihood we’ll be hit by storms like the Great Colonial Hurricanes of the 1600’s, or the great storms of the early 1800’s, in 1815 and 1821, (and a smaller storm in 1827,)  or by a storm like “Saxby;’s Gale” in 1869.

It may seem early to be discussing hurricanes, but just before I was born there was a hurricane that hit Cape Hatteras in May.  Oddly, some computor models are showing a storm forming off Cape Hatteras this week, but, rather than coming north towards us, the models see it drifting away south, towards Florida.

Actually, New England seems a bit sheltered at the moment.  May snows stay to our west, and potential May hurricanes stay to our south.  Our soil isn’t all mucky, but isn’t yet too dry.

I have nothing to worry about, but still I scan the skies.

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