LOCAL VIEW —The unheeded insistant—

Storm #9 continues to slowly fill in and weaken, as it ever so slowly drifts away to the northeast.  As it has done so it has zipped up its warm sector into an occlusion, and then swung that occlusion down as a backlash on the northwest winds behind the storm. (Orange dashed line.) The guys who get stuck with drawing out such maps have a variety of ways of drawing such backlashes, depending on how the occlusion  behaves. Sometimes they draw it as a occluded front, sometimes as a secondary cold front, and sometimes as an orange dashed line indicative of an upper air trough. It pretty much boils down to the same thing (to me.) The storm is over, and all we have is junk left. We look west for what is next, but the junk is in no mood to depart.

The top map below is from two days ago, and the bottom is from before sunrise today.

20141211 satsfc 20141213 satsfc

What fools me about the first map is that nice warm front extending north from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. I say to myself, “Nice warm Chinook air is headed my way, behind this storm!”  However if you look at the second map you notice they conveniently erased that nice warm front.  It is still there, and is in fact more obvious as clouds extending north from the Great Lakes to  Hudson Bay, but it hasn’t progressed east, because the storm over us was in no mood to become old news.

In this manner storm #9 reminds me of myself. I too am in no hurry to become old news.

If you look at the latest GFS initial-temperature map you can see that despite storms crashing into California and mild, Chinook air pouring over the Canadian Rockies, the mildness simply isn’t sweeping across the USA to warm the east.  In fact it is colder in northern Alabama than in Alberta.

20141213 gfs_t2m_noram_1

The temperature map shows that, despite the mild air reaching the west coast of Hudson Bay, a spike of colder air continues to bleed down the east coast of Hudson Bay, all the way to Alabama. Despite the warm-up, which never happened the winter of 1976-1977, there is the ghost of the flow from the north, which is too much like 1976-1977 to cause me much optimism about a nice warm January full of January thaws.

This is especially true when you look at the top of that map, and see the extreme cold reloading up at the top of Canada.  This is due to a North Atlantic low moving towards Pole, and a high pressure on the Pacific side, creating a cross-polar-flow which has pushed all the polar cold from Siberia to the Canadian arctic.  So far that cold has mostly discharged down the east coast of Greenland, but so much cold remains behind that I can’t help but feel that, when our so-called “warm-up” ends, it could end with a vengeance.

Here’s the DMI arctic maps showing the cross-polar flow and cold built up in arctic Canada:

DMI2 1212B mslp_latest.big DMI2 1212B temp_latest.big

With far-seeing eyes I gaze into the future, but storm #9 nudges me and says, “Hey buddy, I’m still here.”  This not only  reminds me of myself, but also reminds me of the small children at my Farm-Childcare. They too demand I relate to the here and now, and in some cases won’t even allow me to look five minute into the future.

This is especially true because, even though our Childcare is based around the outdoors, and even though we did go out a little in rain gear during storm #9, the outside experiences were much shorter than usual. (Not that I will complain about our three inches of rain, as a friend’s cousin reported Storm #9 gave them ten inches up in New Brunswick.) Then, because the small children spent more time indoors, their energy built up and they began bouncing off the walls.

Small boys are worst, and I can see why some adults are tempted to employ Ritalin, which I will never do. Instead I attempt to do the politically correct thing, which is no longer a “time out” for rowdy boys, but now is a “redirection.” I tend to take out the Lincoln Logs or Legos,  and to get them building things, but when their energy gets pent up they tend to build guns or knives, and the next thing you know they are bouncing off the walls, playing war. After two days of rain I had to, with my almighty authority, invent a new commandment: “Thou shalt not build swords of Legos.” This didn’t seem to be working, as shortly after I pronounced my commandment I spotted two boys quarreling about whether the first had killed the second, and how much the second had bled. I reared myself up and loomed over them, and growled in my lowest voice, “I thought I told you it is forbidden to make knives and swords from your legos!” A six-year-old looked at me with blue eyes filled with trust and innocence, and stated, “Oh, this isn’t a knife. It is a surgical implement.”

Despite how annoying Childcare can be, it does have its compensating moments. In any case, I knew I had to get the boys outside, despite the swirling mist, however on Thursday Storm #9’s mist turned to snow. It was a bit odd, in that the north wind had given us rain, but when the wind swung to the southwest we got snow, however snow is much more enjoyable to walk through than rain, and nearly everyone was thirsting to go out.

All day it looked like someone had shaken the snow-globe. The snow didn’t stick at first, and then it was the sort of light fluff that you can sweep from a walkway with a broom. I didn’t much want to even broom, but didn’t forget to count my blessings, as not far to our north and west they had a lot more to deal with.  Also the snow formed and fell in a way that made perfect snowflakes, and I showed the small children how they could hold out a mitten and catch a flake and see the perfection and beauty of the six-pointed stars.

One little girl had never seen a flake before. Or she had never seen flakes beyond seeing white stuff falling out a window. Only three, she happens to be a bossy and loud little girl, with a voice strangely like a cigar-smoker’s, with absolute trust her opinions are worthy, and she was opining how it was stupid to go outside when she could be inside by the heater with dolls, when she noticed the shape of the snowflakes on her mittens. She became abruptly silent, brought the mitten close to her eyes, and then looked up at me with her face beaming and her eyes shining.

As rough as it may be to have to endure being bossed around by a cigar-smoking three-year-old, it is a great compensation to be there when she sees, really sees, her first snowflake. Among other things, it reawakens my own sense of wonder. Too often I take such wonders for granted, and only curse the snow.

The snow settled as swiftly as it fell, and we only got an inch even though flakes were still drifting down at dawn on Friday, from a sky that was partly cloudy and clearing. We got to remember what blue sky looked like during the morning, before the clouds came back and the snow-globe got shaken again in the afternoon. As dark decended on the scene I built a fire out in the pasture for the kids to warm by, as they passed the time sledding, awaiting parents.

We’ve used up a lot of wood for so early in the winter, and the afternoon’s compensating moments involved having three three-year-old girls help drag dead pine branches from the woods to the pasture campfire, and then a long and interesting discussion with boys aged six to ten about why the fire gave out less heat than usual.

It was something I might not have noticed, were it not for the observations of the very small, yet when I asked my college-graduate son when I got home, he had noticed the same thing: Our wood-stove was giving out less heat.

I know every trick there is about lighting a fire in a wet woods, (a subject for some other post), but once the fire was started there was no getting around the fact the flames were reluctant to blaze. It mostly smoldered. It seems that the drizzle and swirling mist of Storm #9 permeated even sheltered branches and protected parts of woodpiles, so that when everything began refreezing on Thursday night, all that moisture was with the wood.  Even year-old logs, and dead branches broken from hemlocks, hissed in the fire, and hissing makes the fire colder, until the moisture is boiled away.

Conclusion: The woods are wetter, as we head towards winter’s depths. That incidental news becomes one of those tidbits of data old-timers park in the back of their brains, which official weather-records fail to note down.

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