It is a hot and humid Sunday, with air temperatures in the evening over 80°F, but what gets you is the dew point, currently at 73°F. You can break a sweat by lifting your pinkie. Fortunately it is the Lord’s Day, a day of rest, when weeding is forbidden. Rather than my sitting-about being proof I own the sin of sloth, it is proof I am spiritual. Will wonders never cease?

Of course, there is a question about writing. Is that not work? Am I not working on the Lord’s Day?

Fortunately I’ve never made money writing. In truth it has gotten in the way of my becoming fabulously wealthy, and lighting my cigars with hundred dollar bills. Therefore my writing cannot be called work. In fact, even when I bash my head against writer’s block, or write experiencing such anguish that my pores all become polka-dots of red,  it is not work, or so I’ve been told.

It being Sunday, confession is good for the soul, and therefore I confess to you there have been times I’ve wanted to punch people in the nose, when they say, “Writing is not work.”

Be that as it may, the truth is that, when your writing makes no money, it does tend to become a form of star gazing. Rather than getting to work, you are avoiding the weeding. Because I didn’t mind being a staving artist, but did not wish to become a starved artist, I did concede to weeding a little bit, rather than only writing poetry. (Unlike many poets, I’m remarkably pragmatic at times.) In fact I became so pragmatic I actually, to my own astonishment, got rather good at weeding.

You may think I’m making this up, and no poet could possibly ever get so good at weeding, but I got so good at weeding I was able to raise five children by weeding.

I was able to do this because it turns out rich people do like the idea of gardens, but don’t like the reality, which involves sweat and grunt-work and worst of all, weeding. They will pay good money to poets if poets will do a bit of weeding for them, however one of the first things I learned is that the poet must never admit he is a poet. Rich people did not become rich by being foolish with their money, and if you say you are a poet they immediately step backwards with a hand protectively over their wallet, for they are wise to the ways of the world, and know that “poet” is just a word for “a crafty beggar.”

Therefore I would tell them I was a “landscaper.”

You’d be surprised how many landscapers majored in English in college, and once dreamed of being poets. An English degree is in many ways useless, in terms of making money, unless you are willing to be unscrupulous.

The unscrupulous English majors sell their souls, and become speech-writers for lying politicians, or work writing lying advertisements for Madison Avenue, or write what they are told to regurgitate for newspapers and call themselves “journalists” when they are merely parrots in an echo-chamber.  I feel sad for those fellows, though they do enjoy a certain time of wealth. One of the rules of poetry is that, if you want the founts to gush, you need to be honest and stand by truth, but if you sell your soul and become unscrupulous the well gets plugged up and the poetry dries up and you look in the mirror and know you are a has-been,  a poet who could have been champion but who sold his birthright for a mass of pottage.

Therefore the really good poets wind up as landscapers, but then face a second temptation. It turns out that the wives of rich men have realized how empty wealth is, and see the fellow in the garden holds more poetry than a millionaire, and try to purchase it, which results in poets falling and becoming mere gigolos in a garden.

Fortunately I was not tested in this respect, partly because my wife was young and extremely beautiful, and partly because my customers were older ladies who attended church regularly. Even so, my wife did refer to my customers as “my harem”.

In any case, I cannot hate either weeds or weeding, considering weeds fed my family figuratively, and at times literally.

Some weeds are delicious. Purslane tastes like beet greens, but is less stringy, more succulent, and tastes better if you get it at the right time. Stinging nettles are excellent spinach with surprising side effects, (in terms of stamina, not crazed brains), if you pick it (with gloves) when it first shoots up in the spring, because the sting vanishes when you boil it. All sorts of other weeds are edible, but have somewhat dubious flavors and can lead to astounding flatulence, if eaten straight. But who eats mustard greens straight? You have to know how to mix your weeds. The most superb spinach is lamb’s quarters, in my opinion, and it turns out lamb’s quarters was a staple in the vanished Mound Builder cultures, (due more to the quality of its seeds than the delicious leaves).

And I could go on, but you likely would think I was just inventing the excuses poets are prone to, when it comes to avoiding getting down on your knees in the dirt, and pulling the darn weeds up.

When I was younger, my customer’s gardens were weed-free, but when I got home I was tired, and my own garden tended to be a bit weedy. And now that I am older, and have managed to create a situation where my garden is actually part of my Farm-childcare business, my garden is still weedy, because the dratted thing is too large. In fact I have conceded half the garden to the weeds, because I am so old and pathetic I couldn’t even plant that side, this year. Fortunately my long study of English gets me off the hook, and when people wonder why that side is “weedy” I tell them it is “fallow”.

That still leaves me with half a garden to weed, and I’ve been fighting the good fight this past week. Much to my joy, my middle son found time in his busy schedule to join me on two days. He has a completely different strategy. Where I slowly plod down a row, leaving it utterly weed-free, he zooms down a row, only weeding by each plant, and leaving all other weeds in place. However you now can see there are rows, and beans don’t hold up top leaves like drowning swimmers midst thriving green.

As I worked I could not help but think to myself what a long love-hate relationship I have had with weeds. In 1973 I wrote not one, but two very long poems about a young poet complaining about weeds getting in the way of poetry, and a wise old farmer giving the young complainer sage advise.

How ironic it is that now I myself am the sage old farmer, and still I am wishing I could write poetry, as I weed. Usually poetry and weeding mix like oil and water, but last week I composed as I weeded, and then rushed to my pick-up truck and scrawled a rough draft of this:

When you sit back to think, the weeds keep growing.
They don’t take breaks, so you’d best keep going.
When mosquitoes swarm weeds won’t be slowing
So think all you want, but keep on hoeing.

Weeds don’t take breaks. They don’t say, “Poor me!
I have a deep thought! To dwell upon it
I need you to pull all my weeds for me
So I can sit back and finish this sonnet.”

The weeds keep growing in my soul as well.
If I sit back to think, my sloth will swell.
Poetic intentions pave roads to hell
So I must weed on, and I know it well

But pause. I pen this poem. I can’t resist.
My Love dubs me, “Hopeless Optimist.”

(In case you don’t get it, optimism is based on hope, and therefore to be a “hopeless optimist” is an oxymoron.) (However the point is that I wrote that sonnet, to some degree, while weeding, and therefore weeding does not necessarily oppose sonnets.)

And so a hot and humid Day of Rest draws to a close. All the static on the AM band of the radio is fading, the heat lightning to our west has died down, and it looks like we might again escape the thunderous wrath of muggy aIr being replaced by dry air. Tomorrow should be cooler and drier, and a good day to weed.

20150719 satsfc 20150719 rad_ec_640x480 20150719B rad_ne_640x480

LOCAL VIEW —Drought-buster—

I seldom root against my favorite weathermen. Their job is rough enough as it is, and has enough humbling involved for ten men.

Weathermen also have to deal with a fair number of twerps who remind me of myself when I was thirteen, though they are old enough to know better.

These twerps like to portray themselves as being able to out-forecast the weathermen, and then to have what is tantamount to a ticker-tape parade for themselves, as they sneer at the weathermen for being wrong. Of course, if the twerp was honest he would see he is very seldom as adept as the weatherman, however he is very quiet about all the times he is wrong, and sweeps scores of botched forecasts under the rug, and conveniently forgets them. It is only on those rare occasions when the twerp is right that he becomes insufferably vain, and insufferably condescending towards weathermen.

I suppose we all were a bit like that when we were thirteen. It is the beginnings of the competitive instinct which can take a complete twerp and turn him into a splendid forecaster, if he is lucky enough to be guided by wise mentors. And I also suppose that is why splendid weathermen do not shoot the twerps who assail them. They see a bit of themselves in the obnoxious little egotists.

If course, you do not want to look in the mirror at age sixty-two, as I am, and see an obnoxious little egotist. Unfortunately, (speaking for all when I probably should speak only for myself), there seems to be a bit of the obnoxious little twerp in every man. It is a part of us that refuses to die, no matter how hard we strive to be perfect. Only God is perfect, and  the sooner we recognize this fact the sooner we develop the ability to accept our own humanity, and the humanity of others, which seems essential, if joy is to enter our lives. The alternative is to be pissed off all the time about failures.

In any case, one reason I like following the world of weather and weather forecasts is because there are few things quite so humbling as trying to forecast the chaos we call our weather. The only other occupation which attempts such difficult forecasting of chaotic systems is psychiatry, but psychiatrists can blame their patients when they are wrong. It is very hard for meteorologists to blame the sky.

And so it is that, because weathermen are taking on such a insurmountable challenge, I tend to root for them. I want them to experience those shining moments when they are correct. Even if they were merely gamblers, I’d want them to appreciate those lucky times when a gambler is “on a roll”, however I know enough about forecasting to see when a lot more is involved than sheer luck. (Not that luck isn’t involved, to some degree, at times.)

I only hope weathermen are wrong when we are on the verge of setting a local record, but some forecast weather event is going to spoil it for us. For example, New Hampshire has been amazingly dry, this spring. I personally have never seen a spring quite so dry, but it looks like it will not quite fit into the somewhat arbitrary 31-day time-period called, “The Month Of May.”

I don’t see what is so good about 31-days. After all, February has 28 days. Or why does the period have to begin on May first? Why couldn’t it begin on April 27?  But no one asked me, when they wrote the rules, and so it is a couple of lousy showers at the very end of May will keep this May out of the record books. It will not be remembered. Only guys like me, who were out there in the weather, will know how amazing it was.

Not that the land isn’t crying out for rain. I just feel that, having had to deal with the nuisance of dryness for so long, putting up with a couple more days of it would be worth it, for then we’d get some credit. As it is, no one will remember we tough outdoors-men, who weathered the weather.

A heat wave this week made the dryness parch with extra power. A polar high sank south and merged with the extension of the Azores High we call, “The Bermuda High,” and warm air surged north on the west side, but did so without a warm front. Or, a warm front was visible, if you looked for high clouds, but not if you looked for rain. The rain was back west, towards the Great lakes, and then, as the warm front developed more, the rain extended east, but by then the frontal boundary was north of us, and the rain fell up by the Canadian border. Our only hope of rain was from a following cold front, well to our west:

20150527 satsfc

20150527 rad_ec_640x480 I was fairly certain this front would drench us, because my wife had scheduled an event at our Childcare involving lots of parents, and held outside. It has been my experience that, if she scheduled such an event in the Sahara Desert, the desert would bloom.

I myself tend to grumble when my wife holds these events, for three main reasons.

First, she expects me to make the farm look more groomed than any hardscrabble farm has any right to look. Even when I explain daisies and buttercups make a beautiful playground, she wants it mowed like a golf course. That means I have to mow in clouds of dust and 90 degree heat, so of course I grumble a bit.

Second, I can’t help but cringe at the expenses, especially as they are business expenses. I have my doubts that the IRS will approve of strawberries and whipped cream as a business expense, but my wife wants the parents treated like royalty. So I grumble about that as well.

Lastly, the idea of a graduation ceremony for preschoolers seems completely absurd to me. It is so absurd I can’t grumble.  Instead I stand back and watch, often in admiration and amazement, as she and members of the staff organize children too young to organize, and have them enchanting parents with song and dance routines. The fact this usually is occurring in a driving rain with lightning flashing and thunder crashing doesn’t seem to bother the doting parents a bit. They always fill Facebook with flattering comments, and pictures of drenched people smiling, and the event is always a wonderful success, which defies all logic, (and I do grumble a bit about that.)

I was slightly annoyed she was holding the event a little early this year, as it promised to ruin our chances for the driest May ever, with the typical deluge. You could see the big storms developing out in upper New York State, and moving towards us, but it seemed my wife got the timing wrong, as her event was scheduled for six o’clock and the storms weren’t expected to hit until seven-thirty, when the event would be ending.

20150527B satsfc

20150527B rad_ne_640x480

Looking at the above radar map. you can see the big storms entering western Massachusetts and crossing from Vermont to New Hampshire, but you can also see the storms have a sort of waistline, right on the Massachusetts border. This often happens. Storms, when they come from the west, pass north of us and south of us.

Also the storms died down swiftly as the heat of the day faded. Looking at the above radar shot you’d doubt the line of showers could pass and give us only 0.07 inches of rain, but that is what happened.

We had traditions to keep, and they were kept. At the end of our event the small children took their parents out to see various parts of the woods behind the Farm-childcare. Small children like being able to be guides, and show their parents places with names like, “The Cliffs”, “Lightning Rock”, “Reptilian Grove”, and “Checkerberry Woods”.  They all vanished into the trees in a leisurely, ambling manner. Then there was a single, loud boom of thunder. It was wonderful how swiftly everyone reappeared.

But amazingly that single boom was the only boom we got.

It didn’t take long for the sun to dry everything, the next morning. After all, in late May the sun is as high as it is in hot July.

Yesterday morning was what may turn out to be the peak of our dry spell. Lawns were starting to have brown patches, as if it was August. Even the trees, with deep roots that go down to where the water-table remembers February’s deep snows, were showing a slow-down I never recall seeing before. For example, now is when the leader shoots of pines, (and every other plant as well), grows with their most frantic speed, to climb above the competition, but the leader shoots seemed short. Without brains, the vegetables were reassessing their profits and liabilities.

Once again, in the afternoon, a line of thunderstorms developed, but this time it was not so fat and impressive.

20150528B satsfc

20150528B rad_ne_640x480_10

If you look at the above radar shot, understanding red represents heavy rains, you will notice it is red in Maine, and red in Massachusetts, but only green in New Hampshire. Yes, it happened again. Big storms passed to our north, and to our south. However this time we got the skirts of both storms, complete with wonderfully cooling downbursts and tumbling lines of purple clouds, so this time we got 0.35 inches of rain.

And today it is bone dry again, with the closest rain well to our west.

20150529 satsfc

20150529 rad_nat_640x480 However it is too late. That 0.35 inches of rain spoiled our chance to set a record. Therefore we might as well hope my favorite forecasters are correct. At his site at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo is using Dr. Ryan Maue’s marvelous maps to suggest we will move from being the driest part of the USA:

Droughtbuster 1 cpc_anom_60_usa_1(4)

To Boston being hit by five inches of rain, from next Sunday to next Wednesday.

Droughtbuster 2 ecmwf_tprecip_boston_41

Boston is five inches below normal, so five inches would be a real drought-buster for them. But if you look at that same map, you will notice a bulge of lighter red, indicating around two inches of rain, poking down from New Hampshire to central Massachusetts. And yes, that is us again. We do seem to miss out on the deluges, this year.

Not that 0.35 inches hasn’t made an enormous difference. It was amazing how much greener our landscape was this morning. And all the weeds in my garden have doubled in size. Therefore, if I do not post this weekend, you will understand why, and what I am doing. (Weeding.)


UPDATES WILL BE ADDED TO BOTTOM OF POST Arthur June 30 vis0(1) JUNE 30  Arthur-To-Be is already showing a better  structure than I thought it would this early. (Ordinarily now would be when I was just perking up and noticing it, but over on his Blog at the WaetherBELL premium site Joe Bastardi pointed out this storm was possible on  Friday, and changed that to likely by Saturday.) It is drifting south, but likely to pause and then start drifting north tomorrow, and really be intensifying by Wednesday, but not really to start up the coast until Thursday, and the surf will be up on the east coast beaches on July 4th as this thing starts racing north, clipping Cape Hatteras bwfore turning out to sea…..or will it? That is always the question on the east coast. To be honest, I’ve been expecting New England to be clobbered since 1990, when the AMO turned warm.  In the 1930-1960 active-time New England had the 1938 monster, a huge Cape Cod hurricane in 1944, and then a mass of storms in the 1950’s, including Carol, Edna and Hazel in 1954.  Then it was quiet from 1960-1990, but I figured the 1990-2020 period would again see great activity. FAIL.  I keep rushing out thinking I’m Paul Revere and wind up looking like Chicken Little. I am even more of an Alarmist than a Global Warming fanatic, although this has nothing to do with Global Warming.  (Irene and Sandy were really not all that bad, compared to what the “Big One” could do.)  Therefore I just link to an article I wrote a couple of years ago, so I don’t have to go through the trouble of amassing the data all over again: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/21/hurricane-warning-mckibben-alert/ Here’s the current map. (Click for full-size view) Map June  30 USA Arthur-to-be is that meek low off Florida. What is likely to happen is that high up the coast will get out of the way and the front up in the Great plains will come east and sweep the hurricane out to sea. Sweet and simple, and likely to happen. But there is always that 5% chance of the typical solution not occurring, in weather. So I’m watching for the worst case scenario. That will occur if the low dragging the cold front down zooms away into Canada, and a secondary low gets left behind on the front, and rather than southwest winds pushing the hurricane out to sea, there are southeast winds ahead of that secondary low sucking the hurricane inland.  Also, if the hurricane gets strong quickly it lifts a lot of air, and what goes up must come down, and the high pressure at the edges can be “pumped” by descending air.  If the high to the north gets “pumped” it will also tend to resist a movement of the hurricane out to sea. A lot of the steering goes on up at the level shown by 500 mb maps, but I have my head up in the clouds too much as it is.  I highly recommend going and sitting at the feet of Joe Bastardi at his weatherBell Premium site. (This would be a good week to take advantage of their 7-day-free-trial.) Today he posted a 500 mb map of the strong westerly flow over New England in 1954, just 36 hours before Carol came roaring up the coast and smashed us. It looks impossible for a hurricane to penetrate that flow, but a low pressure trough to the west swung east and dug down.  Things can change very swiftly when they want to, and it is best to stay on your toes. Here’s the map from 1954: Carol 36 hours before comphour_9D2ytKyssN I’ll post updates at the bottom of this post as things develop. UPDATE  A good post by Joe Bastardi here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/06/30/bastardi-potential-nightmare-a-tropical-cyclone-coming-at-the-outer-banks-on-the-july-4-weekend/ UPDATE JULY 1 Some of the models are now seeing this with winds over 100 mph as it passes out to sea west of Hatteras. Currently it has winds below 35 mph and hasn’t even been named, off Florida. Arthur 1 satsfc (3)  (click to enlarge) Feeder bands starting to appear on radar, to the north of the low. A lot of thunderstorm activity over inland Florida could compete and weaken the storm a little later this afternoon. Arthur 1 rad_se_640x480 (Click to enlarge) 11:00 AM  —ARTHUR OFFICIALLY NAMED— NHC Places Arthur at 27.6N, 79.3W, drifting NW at 2 mph, pressure at 29.74, winds at 40 mph. They’re thinking it will be a hurricane in 72 hours; I’d say sooner. I’ll bet a nickle on 48 hrs. JULY 2 2:00 AM  —Up to 60 mph winds— 28.0 N, 79.1 W  Moving north at 4 mph. Pressure 29.56

July 2 2:00 PM  ---continuing to drift north---
LOCATION...29.4N 79.1W

  Arthur July 2 vis0-lalo 

JULY 3 ---5:00 am UPDATE---
LOCATION...31.3N 79.1W


8:00 AM  ARTHUR STRENGTHENING—NOW A HURRICANE LOCATION…31.8N 78.7W ABOUT 300 MI…480 KM SW OF CAPE HATTERAS NORTH CAROLINA ABOUT 150 MI…240 KM SSW OF CAPE FEAR NORTH CAROLINA MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…80 MPH…130 KM/H PRESENT MOVEMENT…NNE OR 15 DEGREES AT 9 MPH…15 KM/H MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…983 MB…29.03 INCHES I notice strong convection is wrapping around the south side, coming from the west side of the storm where you usually watch for a “dry slot” to be drawn in.  The fact we are seeing strong convection rather than a dry slot indicates to me this storm means business. Arthur July 3 vis0_lalo New England shouldn’t lower its guard yet, though all models show this storm out to sea.  Notice the cold front has become stationary to the west, and some low pressure is on the front west of the storm. Arthur July 3 90fwbg (click to enlarge) 11:00  AM  Arthur up to 90 mph winds

LOCATION...32.4N 78.5W

2:00 PM 

LOCATION...32.9N 78.3W

Joe Bastardi sees no trough split, and the storm going out to sea once north of Hattaras. Hmm. I’m nit so sure, but have to go run a childcare in ninty degree heat. That is a hurricane in and of itself. I’ll just keep the hose running and spray the wild animals down. JULY 4 —3:00 AM—HATTERAS GETTING CLOBBERED—

LOCATION...35.6N 75.9W

 4:30 AM RADAR  Arthur July 4 rad_ec_640x480 (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Forecast shows hurricane missing New England, but gales on Cape and strong wind into Cape Cod Bay from northeast.

2:00 PM EDT Fri Jul 4
Location: 38.5°N 72.4°W
Moving: NE at 25 mph
Min pressure: 977 mb
Max sustained: 90 mph

8:00 PM EDT Fri Jul 4
Location: 40.3°N 69.6°W
Moving: NE at 28 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph

I’m glad I don’t have to make forecasts. While the radar at 8:00 PM shows the center and rain-bands still moving northeast as expected, north of the rain-bands the rain is heading to the northwest, right towards me. Outside it is rainy, with the low clouds moving opposite the way the radar is saying the rain showers are moving, with scud coming from the northeast. The map shows the front has stalled and a local low is right over us. It wouldn’t surprise me if the hurricane cut back, closer to Cape Cod, though that is not a forecast. The whole complex is rushing north so swiftly that even if it cut back drastically it likely would hit the Bay of Fundy and eastern Maine, and not here. But I never lower my guard until these things are past.

Arthur July 4 satsfc (3)Arthur July 4B rad_ne_640x480 (1) (Click images to enlarge)

If I was a boy, I’d be bummed out: Cold and rainy and no night for fireworks.

5:00 AM

LOCATION...43.1N 66.9W

A beautiful, brisk morning, here in New Hampshire, with purple clouds sliding away to the east. A the world is rain-washed, and ready to grow. Last night the neighborhood was full of bangs and flashes, despite the rain, and even as I drifted off to sleep at ten the ruckus was still going on, so I think the children were happy.

I can at long last answer the question that began this post. No. Arthur will not hit New England. Even Nantucket only got gusts to sixty, with the steady winds down around 45 mph.  The rest of us only got the indirect consequence of needed rain, as the hurricane bumped against the cold front.

Before I put this story to bed, I should note that low pressure associated with Arthur could wobble and split, undulate and morph, and be a storm over the North Pole a week from Monday.

In terms of the next hurricane, nothing is in sight to the south. Sound the “all clear,” maybe until August, and get back to weeding the garden.




cHINA sNUMMER sNOW 00114320db411376ae9b3e

(Pictures from China.org.cn)


It has been a hot summer in China. Even today (August 17) it got up to 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Beijing. (36 Celsius.) Therefore, when a vigorous cold front hit the north, and someone posted pictures of the snow, the pictures went viral:


How soon we forget.  People were grumbling when it snowed in China on June 21.


It reminds me of the old ryhme:

When it is hot
We wish it were not
But when it is not
We wish it were hot.


satsfc.gif JULY 21, 2013

Map #1 Now you see it

satsfc.gif July 23, 2013

Map #2 Now you don’t

(click maps to enlarge)


Sometimes I correctly forecast the weather even though nothing on the map behaves in a way I would call “correct.”  The map misbehaves, and I have the urge to scold it.  Then I become confused, for I’m not sure what I saw, or intuitively knew, or “was feeling in my bones,” for I can’t see it as a nicely outlined feature on the map.

What map #1 above shows is a massive, warm Bermuda High bulging west all  the way to Texas. Map #2 shows it simply melting away to a remnant in the Gulf of Mexico, replaced in the northeast by an impressive trough of low pressure.  In essence features have shifted thousands of miles without fronts moving much, and without winds.

In my bones I knew that big, hot air mass wouldn’t simply disappear without a whimper.  I expected it to punch the puny polar front right in the snoot and to come surging back north.  However the map shows that front still to our south.

However yesterday, when I stepped outside, I could see that on some level my stone-aged forecasting techniques were right, because the muggy air had come right back, as if that massive high still existed.  And today we are having torrential, tropical downpours, as I would expect on the west side of a big, juicy Bermuda High.

I assume the front was penciled in south of us on the above maps without the map-maker asking anyone in New England if the air was still cool and polar.  It isn’t.  We got a mere taste of Canada on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, before Georgia came surging back.  Even when the slight winds shifted to the east, and the low cumulus drifted up from the southeast, the air did not feel like it was coming from the cold Atlantic off Cape Cod, but rather from the warm Gulf Stream off Georgia.

In other words, while the map might say the high had retreated to the Gulf of Mexico and the front was still south of us, my lying eyes were telling me the Bermuda High was back, which was exactly what my old bones felt would happen.

Perhaps I am reverting to a more primitive way of forecasting.  Back when I was a boy they had no satellites and very few weather balloons with which to measure upper atmospheric conditions. Meteorologists pestered airline pilots for any information they could give about conditions aloft.  I can still remember the amazement people displayed the first time a newspaper showed a picture of a hurricane seen from outer space, (perhaps Donna in 1960 or Ester in 1961.)

Back in those days meteorologists paid much more attention to air masses and their source regions.  The first maps I looked at as a kid had mysterious letters by the “H” of a high pressure, and when I pestered I learned they were initials for where the air mass came from, as meteorologists knew a polar maritime air mass had different qualities than a polar continental air mass. Likely that is the reason I paid attention to the Bermuda High, even when it didn’t appear on the weather map any more.  It might not exist as a nice round circle of isobars, but its associated air mass didn’t just vanish.

Sometimes the boundary of an air mass is neatly shown by a clear-cut front, but the fronts eventually fade and vanish from maps, however as a boy I kept drawing where I felt the boundary was, as a “ghost front.”  I had much more time to do such things, as a spoiled kid, and I would insist on keeping track of an air mass even as it was stretched and elongated by surrounding forces.  For example, although a polar high starts out as a pure mass of northern air, the south winds on the west side bring north the bulge of a tropical air mass, even as the north winds on the east side brings south the cooler air mass, so the high is soon two air masses, which looked like a yin-yang symbol on my boyhood maps.

I remember one time I painstakingly tracked an air mass, (using the maps in “Weatherwise” Magazine,) until (on my private map) the air mass was stretched out to a elongated strip, and the top of the strip was sucked into a big gale, which then occluded, folding my air mass over like batter in a mixing bowl. Just then one of the early satellite picture came out, (because the gale made the news,) and to my great delight the pictured clouds very closely resembled my stretched, twisted and distorted “air mass.”

I no longer have the time to dwell on maps to that degree, and envy meteorologists who get paid to do so.  For me, in my current life, the time I spend dwelling on maps is a bit like the time I spend playing solitaire;  (time I feel guilty about, for I should be doing chores and not goofing off,) however the time I spent as a youth impressed me with some interesting things air masses did, when you bothered keep track of them.

One thing I noticed was that cool air masses don’t stay cool, if they come south. They heat up.  As they warm they are less able to be cold, heavy air sinking; they don’t press down as much, and eventually they don’t press down at all, because the air is heated to a degree where it starts to rise like a hot air balloon.

As I boy I noticed this as polar highs came down and headed off the east coast.  Each day they were less high; their central pressure was lower.  If they made it off the coast the pressure stopped dropping, and could even rise, for by then the air they held was warmer than the Atlantic, and would be cooled and again start sinking, as they merged with the Bermuda High (and in a sense strengthened it.)  However not all high pressure air masses made it to the ocean.  If they dawdled over the land too long they stopped being cool air pressing down, and stopped existing as a high pressure on a map.  Instead they became a general area of rising air and low pressure, and, because I knew of no name for such an air mass, I decided to call it a “Sog,” because it was juicy air and often brought soggy weather.  Furthermore, in the autumn, a “Sog” often turned into a pathway for an autumnal gale roaring up the east coast, so I paid attention to them.

Then I ran out of time and money and people to mooch off, and had to get a real job, and my study of maps went on hold for decades.  Not that I didn’t look at maps every chance I could, but I didn’t have time to dwell on them in the way I once did. However certain boyish perceptions stuck with me, and the concept of a “Sog” Is one of them.

Therefore when the Bermuda High extended to the west last week the boy in the back of my mind noted a large part of the high was dawdling over land, and whispered that the high pressure was likely to turn into a “Sog.”

And this morning, as others see a low pressure moving up over New England, I don’t see a low as much as I see a warm juicy high that isn’t high any more, called a “Sog.”

July 22 rad_ne_640x480 (1)


satsfc.gif JULY 21, 2013

(Click map to enlarge)


Looking at the above map you can see an honest front has slipped down over the Northeast.  It is not a sneaky back door front, which is a glorified sea breeze slipping inland and south from the cold waters off Maine and the Maritime Provinces, but rather is a more typical front from the west, holding polar air from way up in Canada and even the Arctic Ocean.

However it is still high summer. Up at the north pole the sun never sets, and temperatures have slowly risen until now they are around freezing, or above.  If you don’t believe me check out the meltwater pool shown by Camera One, up there: (click images to enlarge.)Arctic Ice npeo_cam2_20130722013404

Looking the other way with Camera Two shows no such pool, but it does look a bit slushy,

Aectic Ice npeo_cam1_20130722021242

When the weather gets really hot down here it can be very restful to check out the views from such North Pole cameras.  You can access all pictures taken clear back to April at http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/NPEO2013/WEBCAM1/ARCHIVE/ for Camera One and at http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/NPEO2013/WEBCAM2/ARCHIVE/ for Camera Two.

The melt at the North Pole occurs every year, and sometimes the camera even tilts, as the foundation thaws.  At times the ice cracks and you can see open water, (“leads,”) and then winds change and the the sides of the leads crush together like jaws and mini-mountain ranges of ice can build, (“pressure ridges.”) It is nice to stay up-to-date on such cool doings, when the temperatures are ninety in your neighborhood. On a whole the melt has been slow, recently, as temperatures have been a little below normal up there this year:

Arctic Temps July 21 meanT_2013 (1)

(I should note most ice-melt up there is caused by warm currents under the ice, and not so much by air temperatures above the ice.)

But even with temperatures below normal the air procuced up there in the summer is not called arctic, but rather polar, because as it starts down towards us it is roughly seventy degrees warmer than it is in the winter.  During the winter, even over that “warm” ocean, the air is at minus forty, but now, in July,  the air that starts south towards us is at plus thirty (F), at its coldest.

Then it travels through midsummer sunshine, across landscapes with midnight sun, and then across tundra with long, long days, and by the time it gets here it really isn’t all that cold.  As that polar air reached New Hampshire temperatures “fell” to eighty, today.  Even the dew points only “fell” from around 73 (F) to around 62 (F).

Still, it made a huge difference, especially in the shade.  Out in the sun you still knew it was midsummer, but in the shade it felt wonderfully cooler and drier.  And how did people respond, with the weather no longer oppressively sultry?  Did they walk with new found vigor in their stride?

Nope.  What I noticed was that everyone seemed to be yawning. It’s a good thing it was a Sunday, and officially “The Day Of Rest,” because vigor was definitely not in sight.

Actually I think this is to be expected, after a heat wave.  When I lived in South Carolina one summer I did see the body makes adjustments, acclimatizing to the heat, but this far north people are not acclimatized, and a heat wave is a true shock to the system.  Furthermore, is is an accumulative shock. Day after day people are beaten down, until both their bodies and minds start to see they need to make some radical changes or they will simply expire. Routines start to change, metabolisms start to change, (and, sadly, some elderly do expire.) All in all, it is exhausting, and the exhaustion shows as bad moods as the hot spell continues, and as a whole lot of yawning when the front passes and the hot spell ends.

Even when I was young, long before I noticed any aching in my joints as pressures fell and relief as pressures rose, I noticed I had my best sleeps on those cool nights after a front passed, when pressures were springing upwards

This is one of those nights, and I would have long since doddered off to bed, but I had my excellent sleep last night just after the front past, and a second excellent nap after church today, so I can stay up just a bit longer to look at the map.

One odd thing I observed was that, as the polar front approached, there was a lot of talk about the big thunderstorms the clash of air masses would create, but it didn’t happen. I heard no thunder. In fact, though a few small showers passed nearby, my vegetable garden didn’t receive a drop. Why didn’t storms form?

Usually the cooler air pushing in, being denser, snouts under the warmer, humid air, which is lighter like a hot air balloon, and rises.  This did happen. Why didn’t thunderstorms occur?

One fuel for the uplift of thunderstorms is the condensation of steam to liquid.  This not only increases uplift by releasing latent  heat, (IE: boiling steam burns worse than boiling water, because steam holds more heat,) but also, because a balloon of steam shrinks down to a drop of water, extra space is created and suction is created (low pressure) and more moist air is sucked in to the storm’s growing uplift.

However it wasn’t all that cold up high, due to the largeness of the Bermuda High south of us.  Whereas arctic and polar high pressure areas can be flat things, slinking close to the surface, warm tropical high pressure areas can stick up higher. It was well over sixty (F) atop Mount Washington, and even up around the 700 mb map level (10,000 feet,) it was fifty-three (F.)  Therefore, because it was so much warmer aloft, less steam condensed to liquid.  Cumulus clouds didn’t get that extra boost that hurls them upwards to thunderheads.

The fact the Bermuda high extended so high up seems to make it high and mighty, to me.  And the fact the cold front was stopped even before it could push south of Pennsylvania and New Jersey seems to suggest the polar powers are wimpy.  Therefore I expect the more-powerful Bermuda High to counter attack, and push the warmth back up over us.

Apparently I am completely wrong about this.  All the forecast maps show the Bermuda High eroding away to nothing in only 48 hours.  This will be interesting to watch and study, as it happens.  And, if it happens, my brains will be bright, for nights will be cool and sleep will be delicious all this week.


Crabgrass 3


            Yesterday the sun beat down with the peculiar yellowness that seems to go along with a heat wave.  It is as if you are seeing the world through sunflower-colored glasses.  The yellowness is more than a tint; it is a stain, and the process of staining is ongoing, drenching the green leaves, the wavering asphalt of the potholed country road, and the madman out there jogging doggedly down the side of that road under the lead-like weight of the heat. Even the spots of shade seem yellowed, as if seen through a honeyed haze, or as if the shadows existed in a photograph fading before your eyes.

The golden oppression was also drenching me, another madman with a big straw hat, walking very slowly out into the garden to contemplate the crabgrass, amazed at how a plant as big around as a teacup can spring out to larger around than a dinner plate, seemingly overnight  To add insult to injury, each leaf on a growing stem forms a joint on the round stem, such as you see on round stems of bamboo or corn, but where bamboo stays straight and forms a useful stick, and where corn has a nice ear of yellow kernels to munch at upper leaf joints, crab grass simply produces another stem at each joint, so one stem becomes two, and two becomes four.  What was as in innocuous weed with five legs like a starfish becomes a ten-legged and then twenty-legged creature as it sprawls sideways like a crab, but, unlike a crab, in all directions at once. To make matters worse, at each joint it also can start a new system of roots.  This means if you rip a big plant up, you may leave the tip of one stem behind, and it is rooted and ready to ramble, as soon as you turn your back.

The plant is amazingly good at sucking water from soil you would swear is bone dry. Two days ago there were thunderstorms rumbling all around us, however all we got was a misting that didn’t even drop the temperatures. Other plants, wilting in the heat, didn’t revive, but crabgrass guzzles such slight mists and drinks deeply of dew, looking lush and vigorous and vividly green, even as other plants fade.  Even when you rip them up, when you return to the pile of uprooted weeds a week later you find several crabgrass plants survived, and re-rooted, and are enjoying the compost made by former neighbors decomposing.

What is particularly annoying is that they are perfectly capable of growing straight and tall like other, more well-behaved grasses.  When they are warring other weeds a single root may form five stems, but they all shoot straight up without any dividing at leaf joints, marshaling all energy to escape the shade and pop above all other plants and catch the sun. I’ve seen stems six feet tall. Even in a well-weeded pumpkin patch, where the established plants create such a shade weeds can’t thrive, you will see a crabgrass stalk or two sticking up like little flags a midst the squashes’ thick and overlapping umbrellas. Therefore, considering they are perfectly able to be upright and civilized members of the vegetable kingdom, it seems sheer greediness that, given the slightest chance, they sprawl, and are like hogs or like dogs-in-the-manger, sucking every bit of dew and nutrients from an ever expanding circle. If they had voices they’d likely crackle like crazed misers hugging their heaps of coins, “Mine! All mine!”

Of course I am not all that spiritual myself, when I see one of these twenty-legged spiders exploding green a midst my pepper plants. I am supposed to love my enemies, but when I drop to my knees it isn’t to worship. It is to grab that sucker by his neck, and rip him up, to shake him savagely until his roots are gasping for dirt, and then to sadistically lay him roots up, so he can only wither in the burning sun. And then, down on my knees, I look ahead, and see another, and another.  One I get started I don’t care that the temperature’s ninety and my skin is a shiny, slick sheen that catches the shaken dirt and dust and makes me look very tanned until I shower.  I just go crawling forward like some primitive ground sloth, rooting and ripping and shaking pattering showers of dirt.

After a while the motion develops a tempo, much like the plodding motion of jogging, though it strengthens the upper body more than the legs. Weeding is good exercise. Furthermore, it occurs outside, and blue skies and bird songs are more beautiful than machines at a gym, and rather than costing you anything it pays you with bigger vegetables. Much like jogging, as you rip up weeds you hit walls of exhaustion and then get second winds, and as you plod along you watch your moods go through a kaleidoscope.

Today my mood spun off onto an interesting tangent as I contemplated the crabgrass. It was based upon an interesting tangent I had a long time ago, when I contemplated how much better life would be if I was trying to grow crabgrass.  It is such a sprawling, greedy, spreading plant that the only competitors that stand a chance are the plants that start earlier. (Clover, vetch, lamb’s quarters, pig weed, ragweed and many grasses germinate at colder temperatures.) If you tilled the garden once the weather was warm, and planted crabgrass seed, it would basically overwhelm all other plants, and you could sit back and never need to weed.  You’d have to go to a gym for exercise.

Therefore, some time ago, I decided to see if crabgrass has any use, and what I did was to check to see what Indians did with it, for it had been my experience that if a plant had any use, Indians made use of it. To my surprise I discovered Indians made no use of crabgrass, because it didn’t exist in North America until it was introduced. Furthermore, it wasn’t introduced by accident. It was an actual grain crop, promoted by the USDA in the 1800’s. (You can still buy seed, but only to seed pastures, to create rich forage for cattle.)

Crabgrass  is a type of millet, called Fonio in Africa. One plant can make 150,000 seeds. (I’m glad I wasn’t the guy who had to count them.)  However it is a bit of a bother to husk the tiny seeds. (See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fonio ) In Africa they pound the seeds with sand.  Then what?  I don’t know; perhaps mix it with water and the sand sinks?

In any case, Corn and wheat had bigger seeds and replaced crabgrass as a crop in the USA.

However, as I weeded in the hot sun my brains began to fry, and I began to imagine plots for disaster movies. After all, that is one reason to grow a garden. You imagine some event occurs, and the supermarkets are empty, and your broccoli, carrots, potatoes and corn save the children, and you are a hero for weeding.

The plot that went traipsing through my imagination involved something you often come across when roaming the internet: The fact corn is genetically modified and the modifications may at some point cause corn become susceptible to some smut or corn virus we don’t know about, and in a single year vast crops could vanish world wide. Vast populations would then be in shoes of the Irish, when their entire crops of potatoes abruptly turned to inedible slime in 1848.  The face of famine would loom and leer across lands where people can’t imagine such a thing.

And what might save the day?  What could we eat with corn withered away? Crabgrass. Crops of crabgrass with itty bitty seeds. Cotton picking Crabgrass!  My worst enemy might become my best friend!

Oh! The irony of it all! However at least I’d be learning to love my enemy.