The media, in its never-ending search for hype, has taken to naming winter storms as if they are hurricanes, which I disapprove of. The business of naming storms belongs to the people afflicted. Why not allow the locals to name the storms? I suppose some local names lack the things Madison Avenue deems important (and even requires), but, when old-timers spoke of “The ‘Thirty-eight Hurricane,” all the people who lived through it knew what they were talking about, though back then not even Hurricanes had names. Now even winter storms have names, but not everyone watches TV any more, so if you talk about “Rondell” coming to town, you may get an odd look, if not a “Who the -bleep- is Rondell?”

I don’t even know what the media-name for the last storm was. For me it was Storm-Number-Three, because a fortnight ago the computer models were showing us hit by three snowstorms, and I got a little excited at the prospect. We did get three storms, but they tracked well north of what was predicted, so much of what fell did not need to be shoveled, especially at the coast, which got nothing but rain. But I give the models credit. The storms were three in number.

My name for the third storm would be “The Grinch”, because it did all it could to rob Christmas of all “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” sentimentality. But it couldn’t stop Christmas from coming; it came.

The combination of Storm-Number-Two and Storm-Number-Three produced what the old-timers called a “Freshet”. Basically the first storm draped trees and broke boughs with especially wet, heavy snow, which held the rough equivalent of two inches of water. Then the second storm produced another two and a half inches of water, warmed to fifty-two degrees, which poured down very quickly, melting a lot of the snow as it landed. I think we may have seen two inches of rain in as little as three hours, and it melted roughly seven-eighth of the snow cover. This produced torrents which could not go down storm drains, for they (at first) were clotted with the prior storm’s snow. Suddenly there was a great deal of water with no place to go. Water refuses to stand still and wait its turn, so we suddenly had rushing streams digging gullies in unlikely places, and ponds where we’d never seen ponds, and lots and lots of flooded cellars.

This is not what you need two days before Christmas, when people tend to make the celebration of peace be most hectic. In my case I discovered a waterfall entering the cellar of the building that houses the electrical supply for my Childcare, and also that I’m a generous fool. During the kindly days of summer I’d loaned the sump pump which belongs in that building to a person afflicted by a summer thunderstorm. Then I totally forgot about it. I can’t even remember who I loaned it to.

In any case I went rushing off on a fifteen mile drive to buy a new sump pump. At the hardware store I met old friends, also buying sump pumps, but none of us had time to chat. I made it back to the Childcare in the nick of time, for the water had risen to within an inch of an important electrical junction box. In any case, such frantic activity in the bowls of a cobwebby basement was not in my to-do list for December 23.

I then had an hour off to gobble some delayed breakfast before starting my shift at the Childcare.

As I rushed home I wanted to take a few pictures of an amazing gully the freshet had gouged across my son’s driveway. Rather than rushing through a large culvert under the drive, the freshet had brought an amazing pile of autumn leaves down the hill all at once, effectively plugged the culvert, and then the torrents proceeded to actually rip up pavement digging a new channel. The street and State Highway were covered in sand and cobbles, with some cobbles as big as a grapefruit. The waters were roaring across the street into a poor fellow’s cellar windows. What a mess! What a great picture for this blog!

Much to my disappointment, pictures were impossible. I was too late. The mess was gone, and the water was rushing through the oversized culvert in the correct manner. Between my son’s landscaping equipment and a town road-crew’s backhoe, they had unplugged the masses of leaves and scraped up all the sand and cobbles from the pavement.

There is a story here I want to hear. My son has been telling the Town over and over and over that there would be trouble if they didn’t clean the leaves from the ditch uphill from his driveway, and now the trouble had happened. My eldest son does not suffer fools gladly. (I’ve seen his neck get bright red when a waitress is too slow at a restaurant.) Actually, come to think of it, maybe I don’t want to hear the story. But the job got done. The Town was even laying a patch of hot-top asphalt where his driveway reached the road.

And so we survived the worst the Grinch had to throw at us. By noon the downpours had turned to showers of drenching drizzle or spotted, splatting drops, but the worst was over. The amazing freshet was ebbing. And people got back to their frenetic preparations for Christmas as if nothing had happened.

Of course, everyone had a tale or two to tell, about how the freshet effected them, and of course among the best tale-tellers some knew how to employ certain embellishments of hyperbole, but what struck me most was the nonchalance. Between Storm Number Two and Storm Number Three the Grinch had delivered a pretty good left-right combination, and yet, rather than whining, the local folk were behaving as if the experience was exhilarating, and just gave them an opportunity to….well…brag? Or perhaps gloat? In any case, like the Who’s down in Who-ville singing, it was not what the Grinch desired or expected.

As Storm Number Three exited, temperatures plunged from 53 to 8, (12 to -13 Celsius), and the rain changed to pompoms of graupel and then snow, amounting to nearly an inch. The waterlogged world turned white. At dawn the next day, as family arrived from the snow-less coast, one looked around as we removed bags from their car and sighed, “You’re so lucky to get snow!”

The morning wind was blasting so cold I had forgotten to look up, but now I remembered, and you want to know something? Snow is really beautiful, sparkling in the sunshine.

LOCAL VIEW —Fasting—

The wind is roaring up in the pines this morning, but it still hasn’t gotten all that cold. I’ll go get some sand at the Town Garage and spread it at the Childcare in an hour, not because it has frozen but because it soon will freeze.  The map shows the second cold front sweeping down through the Great lakes, and the radar shows the lake-effect snows already blossoming downwind. Temperatures are likely to go down as the sun  comes up. (Click maps, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge.)

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It is a very cold looking map.  Not only are isobars showing a direct discharge of air from just south of Hudson Bay, where temperatures are touching -40°, but the associated high pressure over Nebraska is not a loner, but followed by further high pressures coming down the Canadian Rockies. Cold is likely to make the news this week.

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(Click this Dr. Ryan Maue map from the Weatherbell site to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge further.)

Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo have been warning this cold was coming, even last week when the computer models were showing last weeks cold fading away and a nice warm-up starting now. Therefore I have been taking no chances, and behaved as if it would be a real job to stay warm this week. I’ve gotten extra wood and a couple bags of coal, and yesterday I behaved as if the slush would soon turn to stone, and stay stone for a long time, and therefore I should remove as much as I could while it was still mobile stuff.

I hinted to my middle son and youngest daughter that it might be nice if they got some exercise by pushing some slush off the drive, but they were too busy being spiritual to help.  Spirituality, this particular Sunday, involved fasting.

I myself don’t see what is so spiritual about fasting. It seems to make people more crabby rather than nicer, and also it makes them too weak to help a dear old Dad push slush.  Nothing, in my opinion of yesterday, is quite so spiritual as pushing slush off a driveway.

Pushing slush is also a good activity if you are in the mood to grumble and grouse. It is a bit like singing the blues, in that you go on and on in a sort of misery, and wind up feeling better.

I had a lot to grumble about, because after church I was informed some people considered me a bully. I was astonished. Me?  A bully? However some felt I had been too hard on our ex-pastor, who dramatically resigned after the Christmas service. I suppose I might have been kinder and gentler with the man about the fact our congregation had dwindled from a hundred down to only forty, however I figured facts are facts and we should face those facts. A lot of the sermons were about a thing called “accountability,” and suggested if we did not hold each other “accountable” we were guilty of a sort of sloth. So I held the pastor accountable. Apparently I wasn’t suppose to look beyond the congregation to the pulpit.

Anyway, as I pushed slush around I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. “Sometimes you can’t win for trying.” If I didn’t speak at church I’d be slothful, and a bit of a coward, but if I did speak I was a bully. Things seemed hopeless, especially when I went over to the childcare and saw the entire lot covered with an inch of slush.  I walked across pushing the shovel, and looked back at a single stripe of wet sand on a vast expanse of yuk, and just about quit on the spot. But I kept on going, back and forth and back and forth, grumbling all the while.

It slowly grew dark as the sun set behind the dismal overcast, yet it didn’t get dark. The nearly full moon was shining above the clouds, and the overcast was lit by a muted glow. After taking all day to nudge above freezing, milder air was finally gusting in, with some puffs surprisingly mild, and the next cold again. Back and forth and back and forth I went.

I wondered if any of the parents would appreciate my work, when they dropped off their kids in the morning. I was doing it for them, so they could walk on sand, and not glare ice, or slush covered with a skim of ice. Probably they’d be in too much of a Monday hurry to notice. That’s how it goes, sometimes. All around us are signs of people caring, but it goes unnoticed.  The very shirt on my back was made by someone in Asia caring. Back and forth and back and forth I went, with my mood slowly improving.

I thought about my kids fasting, and how that theoretically denies the self. Sometimes it in fact gets one very focused on the self, especially the stomach, but in theory it is the spirit refusing to be ruled by the flesh.

Then I thought about pushing slush. In a sense that is putting pleasure aside, and putting the self aside, to focus on making walking easier for others, and therefore is a sort of fasting.

So is speaking the truth, even when people call you a bully for speaking. You put your own comfort aside, and accept a decrease in personal pleasure, to do the honest and truthful thing. It is another form of fasting.

Perhaps that is what spirituality is about. You become forgetful of your self, and busy loving others. You are not doing it for the recognition, and may in fact wind up feeling like Rodney Dangerfield, but there is a glory in it, for suddenly you pause, and look back, and the entire entrance of the Childcare is free of slush. The job is done.

I headed home in a much better mood, seeing the moon start to peek between the hurtling overcast, and the branches toss in the sky over the road and the moon-shadows dance in the street. Pushing slush seemed a great thing, a sort of spiritual therapy or yoga, conducive to revelation.

As I walked into my happy  home I started to tell my wife about my revelation, and after listening a while she said I sounded like the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Curious, I looked it up, and saw exactly what I was glimpsing had already been seen, 2700 years ago.

Some things never change, and, along with human grumbling, one of those things is Truth.

LOCAL VIEW —The New Year—

I’ve taken some time off to take stock of my situation, which can be a difficult thing to do when four out of five grown children descend on the so-called “empty nest.” Actually the situation is more aptly described as “my chickens coming home to roost.”

I like it in many ways, for I’m an old rooster myself, however it does involve a lot of interruptions to the flow of thought. I need at least a few hours a day to simply allow my swirling mind to settle. Usually I manage it by staying up late, but so do my kids. I found a way around that by developing handy insomnia, and being awake between two AM and five, however one side effect of having lots of chocolate around at Christmas is that chocolate makes me sleep like a log.

My wife and I decided we needed some time away, however we couldn’t afford flying to Florida, or even a night at a bed-and-breakfast, so what we did was turn our childcare into our resort. It was closed on New Years Day, so we went out to eat on New Year’s Eve and then, instead of going home, we headed to the childcare-farm and spent a quiet night there, followed by a quiet morning which extended into the day, and the next thing we knew the sun was going down and the kids were calling my wife’s cell-phone, worried about us.

Fortunately there has been a lull in the weather. Actually it was not exactly a lull, because the high pressure that came crashing down from Canada was enormous and well worth making a fuss about. We were on the northeast side of the action, which meant we got day after day of dry northwest winds, and only an occasional disturbance passing over and giving us a few wandering snowflakes. The Christmas mildness faded away, the mud froze, and then the sheer dryness of the air resulted in a lot of sublimation, and the frozen mud dried on its surface, and leaves scurried around the brown pasture in the wind. (Click maps, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge.)

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As the huge high pressure pressed south it moved over milder earth that lacked snow-cover and which warmed it, so that the heavy air grew less heavy, and less like a pressing high pressure, until now the western side is actually starting to rise and become low pressure at the surface. A great blob of moisture is starting north from the mild Gulf of Mexico, up the west side of the weakening high pressure, but the northern side of the high pressure remains cold and strong enough to put up a bit of a fight, turning the rain to snow in the north.

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I’ve been expecting this sort of mess to come north, and in fact have been surprised that there hasn’t been a storm. Quite often a giant high will breed a giant storm, but this one was so huge it squashed the last storm like a bug, and the flattened corpse slid out to sea, which was fine with me. However it looks like we won’t be so lucky with the next one.

I’ve taken advantage of the fine weather, (which has been tantamount to a sort of drought,) and have managed to cut some wood and shift it about. Yesterday I had some fun with the few kids who were at our Childcare on a day-after-New-Year’s-day, (many parents get the day off,) and they sat in the back of my pick-up truck as I rattled about over the frozen pasture, lugging wood in for the pasture campfire and the upstairs stove.

If I split the wood out in the woods the pieces are light enough for the children to hurl into the truck, but I was feeling a bit stiff and sore from splitting at home, and also in a hurry, so didn’t split the logs and I couldn’t employ the kids. The logs were too heavy. In fact when I looked at them, and considered heaving them up onto the tailgate, they looked a bit heavy for me. Not that I couldn’t do it, by I’ve learned to be lazy in my old age. It seemed the rounder logs might as well be rolled, and the kids could roll them. So they rolled all the rounder logs down the hill to the pasture campfire, and had good fun doing it. (The deal was that if they helped, I’d give them a ride in the back of the pickup.) Now we have a heap of round logs down where I can split them as I need them, for the pasture campfire.

Next we headed a bit further down the pasture to where I had cut up some lovely dead maple that was bone dry. Where a standing tree can continue to suck up a surprising amount of moisture even when it is dead, this one had snapped off and fallen into a fork between other trees during a summer thunderstorm, which kept it five feet above ground, horizontal, and wonderfully easy to cut into logs with my chain saw. I didn’t even need to bend my old back as I cut. I used a wheelbarrow to move these logs to my truck, (where I would have carried them when younger), and the children insisted on helping. Most of the logs were too big for them to hoist, but they had quite an argument about who got to roll the empty wheelbarrow back to the cut-up tree, and I had to be the judge and decide who got the next turn. When the pickup was half full they’d all pile aboard for the ride back to the barn, and all get out as I reached the fifty yards of public road, (as it is illegal to have children in the back of pick-up trucks on public highways,) and then wait for me to return with the truck empty for the next ride back and the next load.

It always surprises me what fun the children think this is. It doesn’t seem to occur to them they are working, and I can guarantee they will brag to the other children when they come back from vacation on Monday about all they missed, and the other children will slouch and feel staying home and playing video games in a warm house was not “where it was at”.

The goats came out to join us. They like an open winter, as they don’t like wading through deep snow and usually sulk beneath the barn, but now could poke through the brown leaves for the stray acorn squirrels have missed, and nibbling the green boughs of pines and hemlocks. They like having humans about as they seem to know it will keep the coyote at a distance (and they don’t seem to know the bear are snoozing in caves.)

As the dark fell it seemed everyone had a good afternoon, despite the fact there was no sledding on Christmas vacation.

After reaching record extent in November, the snow-cover has retreated to a degree which I think is average or even below average for the start of a year, but now is starting its January advance. The maps below show December 29 snow-cover (top) and January 2 snow-cover (bottom), and how the snow is all the way to Texas due to the huge high bringing cold south, and snow to Tuscon, Arizona and the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Snowcover 20141229 ims2014363_usa Snowcover 20150102 ims2015002_usa

I imagine the snow will be here by Monday, despite all the warm air surging north. It’s a bit much to hope for another Christmas rain. There was simply too much cold air brought south by the huge high, and also more cold air is coming right on the heels of the warm-up. We could be below zero by Wednesday.

The Great Lakes have again started to freeze, after actually thawing a bit during Christmas.

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However, with so much of the water open, the lakes will buffer us from the really cold air. The warming of the air crossing Lake Michigan shows up with wonderful clarity in this Dr. Ryan Maue map I lifted from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell, which shows the sub-zero air (-18° Celsius) as gray within the navy blue of single-digit cold, and charging us from the west on Wednesday. (Click to enlarge.)

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The problem for us will be when the winds shift more to the north on Thursday. Then the Lakes no longer are upwind, and Hudson Bay is frozen over and only warms arctic air slightly through the ice.

I think I’ll go buy a couple bags of coal. We have a tiny coal stove to supplement our three wood stoves, in the coldest nights. (I don’t trust the propane heat, after the brown-out we had last week.)

I need a warm house, to continue work on my novel. (A subject for another post.)





LOCAL VIEW —Christmas Bluebirds—

We are experiencing a truly kindly spell of late December weather, if you are an old coot like me, and have grown less fond of cold with time.

Not that I can’t remember being young and hot, and walking with a girl I was trying not to fall in love with, (and failing), and being warm through and through, though it was so cold the snow on the road squeaked as we walked over it. Also I can remember being desperate for snow, for I was running a lunch-counter at a cross-country ski area. However those are memories, and the reality is the present, and the Christmas present was mildness for an old coot, this year

What was really remarkable was a finger of warmth that reached the tops of the hills where I lived, but not the valleys. Indeed it was 43° atop Mount Washington, at 6000 feet, and only 40° at sea-level at the coast at Portsmouth. It was 39° in the Merrimack River Valley at Manchester 40 miles to our east, and 38° close to the Connecticut River in Keene 40 miles to our west, while here temperatures spiked up to near 60°. (57° in Jaffrey, 7 miles to our west.)

You can dimly see the finger of warmth in this temperature map, poking up into south-central New Hampshire (and also all the way north to Burlington, Vermont):

Xmas rtma_tmp2m_neus__1_(2)

On Christmas morning the sun came out and the breeze felt like April’s. Because we had the stoves going before the warmth came north, it was actually hot in the old house. I stepped out onto the porch and instantly remembered a Christmas back in my youth (1965?) when it was so mild I was running around outside flying a new toy helicopter barefoot.  I dedcided to stay outside to enjoy the mildness, figuring it wouldn’t last, as a front had come through to bring us our sunshine and clearing.

Temperatures did drop a little, but not much, and I could do my chores without gloves or a jacket.  My middle son was out with bird-watching gear, and announced by cell phone that a small gang of bluebirds, and a male and female cardinal, were by the house. I hurried, but didn’t see them, yet could hear them off in the distance, which seemed very evocative and symbolic of something just beyond my ken. (My son’s pictures:)



There was something so summery about bluebirds and cardinals being about on Christmas morning that I decided it must be my Christmas miracle this year, and a auspicious sign.

Then I sat back to wait for the cold to return, as it surely must. A warm wave in the winter is like the water drawing down on a beach; you know the water draws back further for the bigger waves. However though the cold has rushed down to chill western cities like Denver, it is taking its time coming east: (The first map shows our Christmas storm passing well north, with us on the southern mild side, and the second map shows two days later, with the east still spared the arctic air plunging into the west.) (Click to enlarge.)

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The radar map shows snow along the battle lines between the cold west and the warm east:


This battle line could brew up some big storms, as it works its way east, before the cold air eventually engulfs the entire USA. However for the moment we get a pause, a time of peace. The wind has died and the winter sun shines. Bluebirds are about. Obviously it is time for a sonnet.

I awoke to how wonderfully fashioned
Is a winter day, though the low sun is weak.
Faintly flavored, as when tea is rationed
And one sips a thin cup, one should not speak
Or one may miss the taste.   The breathless air
Is hushed; the sole birdsong is over a near
Hilltop, and is the scratchy cry of a rare
Christmas bluebird: Very faint; very clear.
I tell my noisy brain to be quiet.
I’m tired of its racket, and how it squints
At silence like bats in sunshine.
                                                    “Try it,”
Speaks the silence. “See My fingerprints
On every bough; with each breath you draw
See it takes no thought to wander in My awe.”

LOCAL VIEW —Darkest Day—

Gosh!  The “warm-up” weathermen have been talking about for what seems like weeks finally made it to our hills.  We barely broke freezing, and, because the warmer air was moist, the warm-up was accompanied by lowering clouds and then a dark, dank drizzle.

I’d prefer yesterday’a cold, as at least it had sunshine.

The map shows the Pacific bowling ball storm has not headed up towards Hudson Bay, putting us in a mild southerly flow, but has instead stubbornly plowed straight east, and the warm front has remained to our south. (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

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The radar shows a line of rain showers headed our way, but not the drizzle that is already here.

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It looks like the rain-snow line will stay to our north, so there will be no brightening of our short day with snow. Today was one minute away from the shortest day of the year. (At this latitude the shortest day is nine hours long, which is pretty long compared to the days of a winter I spent in Scotland, but is short enough to fuel depression, if the Grinch is allowed into your life.


The clouds really made it a Grinch of a day. It was actually brighter at nine in the morning, under a light gray overcast, than at noon, by which time the purple had become oppressive. The gloom was made all the more oppressive by the fact that when our local church saw its minister resign, he took a loyalist with him, in the form of the choir director. And, when you think of what the Who’s used to defeat the Grinch with, it was music.

The Grinch has apparently learned a thing or two since the days when Dr. Seuss wrote his Great American Poem,  for back in the day the Grinch neglected to steal the choir director. He wasn’t so careless, this year.

Not that it will stop the Who’s. However, in case you’re wondering why the music is a bit out of tune, and the timing is erratic, this year, now you know the reason why.

The first fifteen days of December have had mercy on a nation clobbered by a November colder than many a January, however if you want to see the special attention the Grinch is giving me, look at this map of temperature anomalies for the USA, for the first 15 days of December. What is the one area below normal?

Grinch warm-up ncep_cfsv2_mtd_t2anom_usa__8_(3)

Yes, it is centered right over me.

I could go on, but you’d probably start to sob for me uncontrollably. I want a little pity, but not so much that I have to take care of you until the ambulance arrives.


I figured a sensational headline might get you interested.

I looked over at Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell, and got a bit of a shock. Despite the fact we are midst a “warm spell,” the European model is printing out three storms next week. I can only suppose “warm” is a relative term, and “above-normal” can still be below freezing and still produce snow.  It may only amount to three inches in Boston, but if you look at the map below you will notice a lobe of higher amounts sticking down into south central New Hampshire, which would mean that these hills got over 28 inches. Yikes!  Now I understand why Joe Bastardi calls this pattern the “Heckuva Way To Run A Warm Up Pattern.”

Worst ecmwf_tsnow_ne_41(3)

This brings back a memory from when I was young, involving the way old-timers would worry when it got warm during the winter. Severe cold didn’t bother them much, because they would simply say “It is too cold to snow” and get on with their work.  However warmth promised snow, and snow was a bother and a nuisance, (and rain would bring muck and slush that would freeze and be worse,) so they would crumple their brows when the weather got nice.  It didn’t make a lick of sense to me, for to me the nice weather made the snow sticky, and be better suited for making forts and conducting snowball wars.

People now don’t need to work outside so much, but they still furrow their brows when the weather gets nice. They think it suggests Global Warming is occurring and the sea will rise and drown Boston. It still doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, but perhaps it is best I don’t go there.

In any case, the current computer models are showing a mild spell, but the above graphic demonstrates that might not keep this from being the worst winter ever. Therefore I will continue to record the storms, as if this might be an event people in the future would want to read about.

You people in the future might be interested to know that we people back at this time still had little idea what lay ahead, despite an amazing arctic outbreak in mid November that buried towns on the shores of the Great Lakes in as much as seven feet of snow, and also a rare Thanksgiving snowstorm. The waves of arctic cold were countered by waves of resurgent mildness, and the snow-cover that blanketed the land all the way south to Texas retreated back to the Dakotas often enough to allow us to entertain the hope the heart of the winter might not be all that bad.  You know if we were fools, but at this point we don’t.

Tonight we are experiencing the resurgent mildness. We had a snow-eater fog earlier, and now the low clouds are hurrying above, lit by a waxing moon that occasionally peeks down at the pines that roar up in the heights. The west wind brings a cold front this way, but we still hear the sounds of thaw, as the last of the snow and freezing rain that encrusted the trees this morning plash to earth, and eves drip. The roads are bare and the foot of snow that fell over Thanksgiving has shrunk to a dense inch, with bare patches on south-facing slopes. The temperature peaked at around 46, but has only fallen back to 41, as the pressure continues to fall even as the snow-event moves away, now down to 29.86.

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The lake -effect snow behind the cold front, shown by the radar, suggests the air is below freezing. Remember that below-freezing can be above-normal, now that we’ve reached the month of December.

If I’m looking for stuff to worry about I look up to the southwest of Hudson Bay, at the second cold front bringing arctic air in our general direction. Then I look to the very bottom of the map, at what seems to be a tropical whirl appearing south of Jamaica.  (Believe it or not, New England’s 400 years of weather history does contain a few references to what they called “snow-hurricanes.”) At the very least, a glob of tropical moisture coming north could add punch to a nor’easter.

Actually I’ve got a bad case of the sniffles to worry about.  It seemed to be getting better, however after cleaning up slush this morning I’ve been laying low, pampering myself just a little. I did go and buy some Italian chestnuts so the children can understand the song with the lines, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost Nipping at your nose…”

It’s funny how it once sounded cozy and romantic to have Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Now it just makes me worry my nose will turn blue.  When I was a boy I never much liked old guys with blue noses.

While pampering myself I got bored, and decided I should prepare a list of snow events that occurred during the “Worst Winter Ever.”


  • #0 November 3  Just missed us to the east; coastal nor’easter. Caused concern just before the Patriots-Bronco’s game, but field was cleared up before game time.
  • #1 November 14  Mini-nor’easter. 1 inch, melted by noon.
  • #2 November 17  Trace of snow changed to freezing rain, then rain. Primary low over Hudson Bay with secondary right over us.
  • #3 November 19 Dusting from Alberta Clipper bringing Arctic Outbreak #1 and amazing lake-effect snows by Great Lakes; only a few flurries made it this far east.
  • #4 November 23 Dusting at the very start of a mild surge as a storm moved up to the Great Lakes and then northeast through Quebec.
  • #5 November 26 Thanksgiving Storm. 12 inches. Formed on cold front trailing down coast from #4. Just barely below freezing, and little wind.
  • #6 November 29 Norlun Wave that formed behind Thanksgiving Storm. Followed by brief Arctic Outbreak #2. Temperature 3 degrees in Jaffrey.
  • #7 December 2 Another secondary on front dangling from a mild-surge storm that passed well north, over southern Hudson Bay. 1 inch followed by freezing rain, then rain.

There.  That’s a fine start to a worst winter ever, especially when I think back to milder Decembers when people were worried whether we’d have a white Christmas or not. I can remember one year, either 1991 or 1992, when it was in the sixties in December and I was hired to do some last minute house-painting. The way some are responding to the recent computer model’s ideas of a warm-up, they are expecting similar warmth this December, however when I look at the European map of snow totals by a week from tomorrow, I doubt much house-painting will be seen in New Hampshire.

UPDATE  —Take your pick—

Insomnia has me up at 2:00 AM, and I thought I’d take a look at what the computer models show for next Wednesday.  The American (GFS) shows fair weather for New England, while the Canadian (JEM) shows a howling storm.  The fascinating thing is they start out with roughly the exact same data, and come up with such wildly differing solutions. (The American map is on top and the Canadian on the bottom. (Click to enlarge.)

Pick gfs_precip_mslp_noram_53 Pick cmc_precip_mslp_noram_27

(Maps created by Dr. Ryan Maue at the Weatherbell site.)

LOCAL VIEW —Warm Sweeper—

Today the wind was kindly, from the southwest and, if not warm, not cold. Temperatures were a little over 50, (+11 Celsius) and the snow wilted away. I sat in the sun and basked, feeling more thankful than I felt on Thanksgiving.

One thing I don’t fully understand is why the warm fronts have such trouble pushing north into New England, while other times they rush past and all the way up to Labrador. In theory I know it has to do with the upper air pattern, and whether the troughs ripple around the planet or lock in place and stand still, but that is just theory.  Reality is down to earth, and, because I know how cold air can refuse to budge week after week, it seems wonderful when it does budge.

Though this is a break in the cold weather, all the ups and downs in temperature tend to give everyone colds. I’ve got one, and it felt good to relax in the sun today.  My body feels the exercise I’ve gotten recently, shoveling snow and splitting firewood, and though I’m sure it is getting me in shape the transitional shape I’m in sad shape, and enjoy a good slouch.

We’ve gone from having a foot of snow to having about two inches. The snow-cover maps show the snow again retreating north. The maps below are from five days ago (top) and today (bottom).

Snowcover 20141201B ims2014331_usa Snowcover 20141201A ims2014335_usa


The maps also give an idea how swiftly Hudson Bay is freezing over. It is ahead of schedule. Once it is iced over our north winds get colder.

The weather map shows the storm that passed far to our west has traveled over southern Hudson Bay and is now stalling way up in the right corner off the north coast of Labrador.  The warm front whisked through  without even a sprinkle, though it did make some rain when it caught up to the cold air north of Maine. The following cold front is catching up to the mild air’s moisture, and the radar shows a bit of snow in the middle of the USA.

20141201 satsfc 20141201 rad_nat_640x480

Although this is the seventh storm, it is hard to call it storm #7 when we haven’t gotten anything but mild breezes and sunshine.  Perhaps I’ll skip numbering it, unless a secondary on the front dusts us with some snow.



I creaked out of bed before dawn to peer out the front door towards the streetlight, and saw a whirl of snow. Another inch had fallen, due what is called a “Norlun Wave.”

20141128 satsfc 20141128 rad_ne_640x480_11

For a better explanation than I can give, of Norlun Waves, Matt Noyes has produced some decent articles at his site. Here is one, with links in it to other articles he’s penned, plus links to papers about Norlun Waves by others.

If you have leisure you can spend a whole morning reading interesting stuff and mentally dabbling with the intricate wonder of the atmosphere, but I still have to clean up the mess from the last storm, so rather than be scientific I’ll grouch and grumble.

After many storms all the moisture is swept out to sea by roaring northwest winds that bring south a cold front and dry air.  Other storms have much less wind, and ripple away to the north leaving moisture and mild air behind.  It is the mild moisture that sets up the Norlun Trough.

As this mild air gets squeezed by rising pressures behind the storm the effected area doesn’t see pressures rise, as you would think, but rather pressures fall because the squeezed air rises.(I am so disgusted by the prospect of more snow-blowing and shoveling that I will use the most disgusting symbol I can think of:)  The air is squeezed like a pimple, and the building pressure shoots up like pus, reducing pressure at the surface. The uplift is increased by the latent heat released by water vapor condensing and freezing, and the pus comes raining back down as disgusting snow-flakes on my driveway. At this point, if my mood is better, I write lovely poems about the white fluff outside, trying to emulate the appreciation the Japanese have of snow and cherry blossoms, but I am so achy from yesterday’s work I only scowl. If I flower at all I am a flowering crab.

If I had the time to ponder the nuances of the maps, I’d probably study the way the uplift of a Norlun Trough extends west to the uplift created by the relatively warm water of the Great Lakes.  There might be an interesting linkage between the two events. Even if there isn’t, I could say there was, and stir up a lively discussion at some obscure site where weather geeks gather, and in the process of being told how wrong I was I might learn a thing or two. That seems such a fine way to fritter away the hours, when I am faced with the heavy, brown crud blocking the entrance to the Childcare.

I have noticed that many meteorologists have a poetic streak. I suppose it is an occupational hazard that comes from looking at clouds too much. However I have no time for poetry or for meteorology. It is souring my mood, and I look a little like Rodney Dangerfield in my mirror. “I get no respect.” Rather than throwing money at me to write poetry, people want me to hack away at frozen slush. All  I can say is, they’ll be sorry when I’m dead.

I noticed that some of the other fellows were muttering similar thoughts, during Thanksgiving Dinner.  Usually the guys allow the women to do most of the bustling, perhaps carrying a pie in from a car or carving a turkey, but for the most part feasting and then sitting about bloated, talking about hunting escapades or the nuances of football, but yesterday there was a more tired-looking group slouched in easy chairs, shaking their heads about the poor excuse for snow they’d had to deal with.

Usually the first foot of snow is cleaned up with precision, and the snowbanks have sharp corners and are built with geometric exactness. It is the exact opposite of April snow, which is going to melt so soon it is sloppily shoved aside and left to wilt in the high sunshine. On this side of winter everyone knows the snowbanks may last five more months, so care is taken to get off to a good start.

Yesterday was a lousy start.  Even though I had the Childcare drive clean at six o’clock on Wednesday night, six more inches had fallen by Thursday morning, and the ground is still so warm that the bottom four inches slumped down to a substance somewhere between very heavy snow and slush.  Then the town plows, which (due to budget problems) hadn’t really even started to plow until morning, shoved this heavy stuff from the roads into the entrances of every driveway in town, mingling it with sand and bits of tar torn from the road’s deteriorating surface, (un-repaired due to budget problems.)

When younger I laughed at old geezers who used snow-blowers, and often had my drive finished with a shovel while they were still cursing at their machines and trying to get  them started. Those days are gone, and I’ve now converted to the geezer world-view. However the snow-blowers struggled even with the uncompressed snow on the drives, and the piles at the end of the drives strangled them. The chutes plugged up with the snow, and when it did come out of the chutes it was a sort of brown soup that described a pathetic arc and landed three feet away, still in the driveway.  Even though it is illegal, most just shifted the snow back out onto the roads, which were brazenly bare and wet and snow-free.

My oldest son said he even had trouble with his plow.  If he tried to plow straight ahead his truck would slow to a stop with all four tires spinning, so he had to plow a sort of zig-zag pattern up driveways, shifting snow first to the right side, and then to the left. (I would have had him plow the Childcare, but have learned through bitter experience that plowing builds huge mountains in all the wrong places, making it nearly impossible to clear snow in following storms, and also effecting the septic system’s leach field.)

In any case, it looks like we are off to  a bad start, this winter. I am going to have to revert to primitive shoveling, and to use shovels meant for dirt, as the stuff blocking the Childcare entrance laughs at plastic snow shovels. Fortunately I have two younger sons in their early twenties to help me, though I must confess they seem less than pleased by the prospect. To them Thanksgiving means leisure.

I have a strong feeling leisure is going to be in short supply, before we see the last of this winter.








20141121 satsfc

This morning’s map shows the weak storm #3 has passed to our north. The window shows the first hint of orange dawn to the clear east, with temperatures at 21 (-6 Celsius) despite a lack of snow cover to assist radiational cooling.

The hope in the map is the warm front towards the Canadian Rockies. A Chinook has made it across the Divide, and may interrupt the arctic flow from the north. However we are still in the arctic air.

The orange dashed line extending back west from Low #3 to the Great Lakes is a trough, created in part by those relatively warm lakes dimpling the high pressure with rising air and low pressure at the surface. That rising air creates the “Lake Effect Snow” which is making the news.  Though the snow is in narrow bands, where it falls it has approached record 24-hour snowfall totals of near six feet.

Imagine one day you have only a little snow in your yard, and the next morning you look out and see this:


At your workplace 20 miles away there is no snow. Will your boss believe you?  Probably not.  He will demand you show up for work. So you open your front door and see this:

Buffalo 2 West-Sececa-NY-snow-Jessica-Marie-225x300

It looks like it will be quite a job to get to your job.  It is enough to make a weak willed person despair. However fortunately there is something strong deep within the heart of men that refuses to despair, or…well…maybe it despairs for a while, but then gets bored with despairing. Humor comes bubbling up.  One refuses to be beat by mere little bitty snowflakes.  One grabs their shovel, again opens the door, and:


Sometimes the way people respond to calamity makes me happy to be included as a member of the human race.  (These pictures are from Roy Spencer’s site at: )

Those bands of snow dried out, as they moved east from the lakes to here, but we did get a few light flurries last night, that made it all the way here.

It is still looking like we will get a thaw over the weekend, which will allow us to either dig out from under feet of snow, over by the Great Lakes, or perhaps get some last minute chores done, before winter sets in for keeps around here.

The weather was cold but much more bearable at the Childcare yesterday, because the winds grew lighter. In the afternoon we built a fire to roast potatoes in, and had to break through and lift a crust of two to three inches of frozen dirt to reach the potatoes.  It was like lifting a lid, and seeing potatoes beneath.


Here is a satellite picture of the clouds blooming up on the upwind side of the Great Lakes, and snowing out on the downwind side.  This should be ending today, but we’ve already had a few flurries from scattered, low, windblown cumulus, which makes 4 days with at least flakes in the air (though none on the ground). That’s all we get from “lake effect snow,”  in terms of precipitation, here 500 miles to the east. In terms of temperature, the air is warmed considerably by its passage over the lakes.

Great Lakes Screen_shot_2014_11_20_at_6_32_40_PM

(This picture is from Dr. Ryan Maue’s blog at the Weatherbell site. He only posts occasionally there, but he posts many times a day on Twitter.)

Dr. Maue also noted that the upper Mississippi River is closed due to ice up by Minneapolis and St. Paul.  This is the earliest closure of those locks since records started to be kept in 1969. Prior to this closure, the earliest closing was November 24, back in 1989.


20141112B satsfc

Yesterday was another lovely day of unseasonable warmth, until around three in the afternoon, when a cold front charged through with just enough of a mist to make burning leaves unwise.  I probably could have gotten a fire going and burned leaves, but repaired the windows in the stable the goats have wrecked instead.  If you try to burn leaves when they are damp they tend to smolder and make A.) amazing amounts of smoke B.) the neighbors complain.

I have to be careful about annoying neighbors. Times have changed, since the days when  our farm was one of only eight houses on a mile of road, back in the 1960’s. Now there are fifty, and the dead end road was made into a through street, and the farm is starting to feel like an island of country in suburbia.

I tend to ask gruff questions, such as, “What did you move to the country for, if you don’t like cows?” My wife is far more diplomatic, and often gives me a certain glance, when she thinks I am going to ask one of my questions.  It is just as effective as putting her finger up to her lips. In such cases I have to come here to my blog to grouse, if I want to grouse.

At times it seems to me that people who move to the country don’t actually like the country. Instead they are running away from the mess they made in their past. Of course, as they are part of the past problems, they bring their problems with them, including a rather glaring inability to get along with neighbors.

Why do they come complaining?
It seems they might as well
Turn their suburbs into heaven
And not farmlands into hell.

In the country people do get to know their neighbors. In fact country folk often strike some newcomers as downright nosy. My wife always would bring a new neighbor a pie or fresh baked loaf of bread, as a way of welcoming them, and I recall one young woman (who later became a great friend) initially wouldn’t even come to her door when my wife “came snooping around.”

I suppose getting to know neighbors was originally important because survival could be at stake. Despite the fact people were amazingly self-reliant a century ago, people also might have accidents out in the fields, or a household might come down with the ‘flu, and then it was good to have your routine known by every person in town.

As a writer I’ve never welcomed interruptions, and have been a private person who tended to keep to himself, only putting my opinions onto a page, and then thinking long and hard before making my ideas public, and sometimes wrinkling the page up and throwing it into the fire (or, in  modern times, hitting the “delete” key.) I figured my problems were my business. However shortly after I got married I had to have an operation just when my wife was clobbered with morning sickness due to pregnancy. (For her it was afternoon sickness and evening sickness, as well.) It was not an easy time for me, as three beautiful kids came along with the beautiful woman I married. I had no idea I was living in some sort of Norman Rockwell painting. What happened next astonished me.

For a solid week, right at lunch time and again at dinner time, fussy church-ladies I didn’t even know would arrive at the door with lunch and dinner, for a family of five.  (I didn’t complain one bit if it often was macaroni and cheese.)  For a toughened artist like myself, who had spent long periods sleeping in his car, in rough places where people are immediately suspicious of you if you look down-on-your-luck, the experience of kindness was unexpected, and completely charming. Like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day.

After that I didn’t mind so much that country folk seem snoopy, and seem to gossip a lot about your behavior, especially your flaws. We tend to hide our flaws, but in the country people seek them out.  What I discovered is that they don’t reject you for your flaws. Rather it becomes part of a sort of resume.  About me they might say, “Caleb’s goats are bleating. He’s late feeding the poor things. Likely he’s writing one of those horrible poems.” As disrespectful as such comments might seem, I understand a sort of fondness is involved, and that, if the goats kept bleating, they’d check up to make sure I was OK.

In the country you have a name and a face, and are a character in not merely your own tale, but in a whole slew of other novels, called “other people’s lives.” It isn’t like that in urban and suburban places, where people don’t even know their neighbors. There you feel faceless, as if you only exist in your own autobiography.

The difference was brought home to me recently by an interaction between two men, one who is a friend of thirty years, and the other who is a relatively new neighbor.

The first describes himself as “a big, dumb Swede,” but I have never thought of him as dumb, and have always chuckled at his outgoing and bombastic humor. We are an odd duo when together, for he is every bit as outgoing as I am not. He asks the questions I’d never ask and says the things I’d never say.  He gets to know people I don’t get to know, and most everyone lights up, when they see him. Their faces light up even when they disagree with his politics, because they know he knows them, and remembers them, and listens to what they say to a degree where he can joke about it.  However there is no getting around the fact he can come across as a bit loud, at times. It goes with the territory. Along with jovial cheer comes some bombast, but people put up with that flaw because he is also generous to a flaw.

An example of his bombast is the fact that in his golf bag there once was an air-horn. He played golf at charity events, and if a person was taking golf too seriously for a charity event, out would come that air horn, to be used just when the person was putting. Sometimes the putt would be shot into the woods, after the air-horn blared.

If I ever tried that I’d likely wind up with a putter bent over my skull, but when he does it everyone laughs. They expect it from him.

He’s also loud when he drives past my house, always tooting his horn.  I never mind, even when taking a Sunday nap. I just roll over and smile, knowing my old friend is out and about, fighting his never-ending battle against the forces of grouchiness with his indomitable cheer.

However my new neighbor didn’t understand. He has lived in the city, and was a landlord for a while, and if anything can sour a man’s attitude toward neighbors it is tenants. He didn’t feel the slightest bit of fondness towards a fellow cheerfully tooting each day, as he drove by.  Slowly the horn became increasingly annoying. Finally he couldn’t stand it any more, and found out where my old friend lived (not from me.)  He went and expressed his opinion.

Because my old friend is such a goodhearted guy, he stopped tooting. Now I see the car swing by, and the silence of the sighing tires seems deathly.  What is it that has died?

If men got wiser
As they got older
They’d grow more kind
As hearts grew bolder,
They’d lose the chip
Upon their shoulder
But fronts push by
And days get colder.