I couldn’t post last night as I had to go outside and clean up the snow, and it took over four hours. It is interesting how different the experience of snow is when you go out into it.

Not that I don’t get a lot from simply sitting in front of a computer and looking at maps. The sequence below shows the gale center occluding, and a small low I call the “zipper” forming where the warm front joins the cold front.

The occluded front represents an upper air pipeline pumping moisture to the center of the gale. A lot depends on how quickly this pipeline is squeezed shut. I’ve seen cases where it persists, and huge amounts of tropical air are injected into the gale. (For example, during the “Perfect Storm” in 1991, Hurricane Grace to the southeast sent pulses of moisture in.) I’ve also seen cases where the low is cut off quickly, and the “zipper” has rocketed off across the Atlantic, arriving off the coast of Ireland in only 24 hours even as the parental gale slowly dwindles back between Greenland and Labrador.

This sort of stalled low is much more common in the North Atlantic, and people in Europe probably wonder why we make such a big deal when they stall this far south. The difference is we see fewer of them, and also Europeans don’t have the frigid tundra of Canada pouring so much cold air in, and often see rain where we see snow. (To the west of Europe, that is. To the east they have Siberia, which is no laughing matter.)

This particular gale formed a little further east and north of the position which hammers New York City. The Blizzard of 1888 formed south of Long Island, and New York  City got feet of snow while Boston, on the warm side, only got a couple inches of slush. This storm gave Boston feet, as New York City largely escaped. (Click maps, or open them to a new tab, to enlarge and clarify.)

20150127F satsfc20150127D satsfc20150128 satsfc

The radar was fascinating to watch, as waves of snow came west from the storm, and then took a sharp left turn and headed south once they ran into the land. You can see an outer band of snow fade away over Vermont, even as a new band comes inland over New Hampshire, giving us our final inch here, before it too faded away.

20150127D rad_ne_640x480_05

20150127E rad_ne_640x480_1120150127F rad_ne_640x48020150128 rad_ne_640x480

Driving over to the farm wasn’t too bad. The snow was cold and squeaky, and that sort of snow is less slippery. It is almost like driving on sand. Also I had snow tires. It may enter weather lore that, “A sure sign a big snow is coming is when a stingy, old Yankee buys snow tires for the first time in fifteen years.”

Arriving at the farm, I accelerated and piled through the wall of snow the plows erected in the entrance. This is an unwise thing to do when the snow is wet and heavy, as you can wind up stranded with your rear wheels off the ground and without traction, but when the snow is powder it just makes a wicked cool explosion of white, and you have to turn on your wipers after you stop, to see how far into the drive you made it. The experience is very gratifying to the little boy in me.

I never much like to start, because everything is so smooth and streamlined, and even to tramp footprints across the sweep of white seems a little disrespectful of art, and like a sort of sacrilege. However the desecration is necessary to conduct business, so, with the guilt of a tycoon operating a strip mine, I started up the snow-blower.

Then it was four straight hours of noise. The wind doesn’t seem to like the competition, and blows the snow right back at you. It doesn’t seem to matter which way you aim the chute. If you aim it down wind, the wind swings around and down wind becomes up wind. But that may just be the wind’s sense of humor. The wind does have a sense of humor, and I learned this long ago, when raking leaves.

The snow had nearly stopped, but the wind gusts more powerfully at the farm, due to fewer trees, and at times very little of the arching stream of snow shooting from the chute made it to the ground. The wind caught it and swirled it far away down wind as a billowing puff of inconsequential chaff,  unless it decided to wash my face with it, in which case it did seem consequential, to me at least.

I had go slow, in  lowest gear, the snow was so deep. Then I broke two sheer pins when I scooped up a rock, and with only four of six blades scooping, I had to go slower. (There was no way I was going to put new sheer pins in in that  wind.)

Night fell, and I worked in the floodlights. The world swirled as a kalidascope of black and white. The swirls stood out against the black background, and I noted how may dust-devil-like dancers their were, and how seldom the wind blew straight. I tried to get all scientific about micro-weather in a microcosm, but my mind began drifting in my weariness, and I preferred to think I was walking among a bunch of snowy white dancers defying the darkness. (No, I don’t think it was hypothermia setting in.) (Maritime air had mixed into the storm’s bitter chill, and temperatures were slow to fall from the day’s high of 20.1°)

There is no satisfaction quite like a job being done, and driving home to a waiting dinner, and then sleeping the sleep of well-earned weariness, still watching the white angels dancing in the dark.

Now it’s a new day. They have cancelled school again, but our Childcare is open for business, and roughly half the children will be coming, as roughly half the parents are getting back to work.  I can see a few stars midst the clouds, and the temperature has dropped to 5°.  The first green of dawn dusk peeks through cracks between sliding silhouette clouds of black purple, to the east.


  1. Caleb – replying to yor comm3nt here –


    [GFS zonal bias] I thought so. It would be interesting to talk to the fellows who actually work with the models.

    No idea how to contact direct but I often read discussions on the UK weather forums (I tend to be good at scouring comments to find who is worth reading as opposed to the usual trolling/wind up merchants (wum) who frequent most online discussion. However, not sure if you read the forecaster comments here –


    Often they will mention in passing the bias of a particular model. ECMWF has a habit of over doing height rises, GFS as we know – despite the recent upgrade – goes zonal. This is quite noticeable once the output hits low res. Have seen, like clockwork, many a meridional set up being progged to go flat as soon as low res starts – most notable in the jetstream forecast. Cold dank air is a wuss as far as they are concerned despite being, historically, hard to shift!

    I really enjoy looking at the weather maps from the top of the globe. It is a different and revealing perspective.

    Amen to that! In the UK most people look at a snap shot of the Atlantic as a fait accompli ignoring the knock on effects upstream. In our side of the pond that is suicidal! Current focus is on a shortwave leaving Canada and has major impact here for snow. Like bouncing a billiard ball in a trick shot – all about fine angles. I am quite hopeful for here I to Feb as the cold in your end (rather than central CONUS) tends to portend well for here. The Northern Hem despite recent relative quiet seems to be loaded for some lower latitude bombs in cold unstable air. You made a key point regarding that big ocean to our west in NW Europe. We are warm for our latitude with the westerly flow, although this year – despite Atlantic modification – has been chilly with far more snow than expected from a NW flow (usually just rain). No ideas compared to previous years but it seems unusually cold. Quite akin to the winters of the 60s/70s (77/8 especially – following from a seeming hemisphere repeat of 76/7 last year). I was sat on the equator back then so rely on others but from what I’ve seen of Met Office reports of the time not far wrong. Slowly (very slowly) I’m trying to build up a picture of these changes and Stevie G’s (Tony Heller) + Gail Combes recognition of the polar vortex shape last winter with the Laurentide ice sheet sets off the brain cells. You can only see this when you look globally not locally :).

    Thanks for re-blogging my thoughts on your site. I occasionally get some interesting visitors steered my way.

    Caleb my pleasure. I really enjoy your musings and the personification of the pressure systems. You probably know this with the grandkids but that characterisation is what helps explain/visualise complexity in definable terms/means. I do the same with my little one who was surprised with the David Vinner no more snow crud (all bar one year has had snow falling each season). Your writing also highlights well the differences over the pond – most of our pipes tend to be under concrete, so if mine freeze in the weeks ahead I’m screwed! 😉

    I adored your Arctic musings, which I picked up via your WUWT comments on and off before. Much of the discussion in our field of interest is dry and deliberately incomprehensible – like most professions there is a slip into a lexicon not available to the average Joe, designed to a degree to exclude them (a professional by definition tends to exclusive not inclusive) . You have made the Arctic ice – for me – a living breathing thing. Instead of a boring line and a torrent of incoherent terms on a chart you described the interaction of say the winds and the weather systems that changed the ice conditions – rather than say reverting to the technical explanations which leave me cold (unintended pun). I often find myself rooting for the lows and highs! A massive thank you for that. As a fellow writer (long term hobby I add) I applaud your ‘homely’ style – hope you take that in the way it was meant. Relating the weather to your day to day life is what makes it liveable and breathable. So for me reposting, hopefully, adds to your exposure. Us weather freaks/nerds are not homogeneous. Weather and climate are what we all experience/endure/enjoy but it is not some mystical thing but a thing of wonder and beauty. So thank *you* Caleb. More power to your writing arm 😀


    P.S. Ever though of collating your weather/sea ice thoughts into a self published e-book? A Year of Watching Ice Freeze? I think there could be some traction to it.

    • I really enjoyed this comment. I’ve been meaning to write a long response,but have been busy buried by snow. Once I catch up I’ll surely get back to this and write. In the meantime, thanks for taking the time to share so much.

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