LOCAL VIEW –Thunder Panic–



I think the poor weathermen may be feeling slighted, with everyone ignoring their warnings due to concerns about the Wu-flu. I’ve got a little weather-radio in my study, and it has an alarm that goes off when the weather office feels the ordinary public should be alerted to some danger. Lately they’ve been setting that alarm off for silly fears, or so it seems to me. For example, if I hear it go off, and feel compelled to drop what I am doing, and to hobble hurriedly into my study, and then only learn that overpasses may be frosty and slippery in the morning, or there may be patches of fog down in the hollows after dark, or that a late freeze may nip delicate indoor plants, if you have left any out on your porch, it hardly seems worth all the hoop-la.

In some ways the people on the other side of that squawking weather-radio remind me of a small child who hasn’t been receiving enough attention, and who therefore prances and dances about disturbing adult conversations. I try to be patient and see they mean well, but at times I get the feeling they must think the general public consists of complete morons. It wouldn’t surprise me if they set off a blaring warning to tell people it was suppertime, and hunger might happen.

I get a bit irked when I’m treated like a moron, especially when I need to do some task that involves risk. Some people just can’t stand risk. Fifty years ago I never would cut down a tree with my grandmother watching, because the anxiety she’d be subjected to would have been cruel. In like manner, I try not to burn brush with town officials watching, because they don’t trust me, even though the only time I burned up a backyard was fifty-five years ago, in 1965, when I was twelve. That experience taught me well, and I’ve been very careful with fire when its windy ever since.

The best time to burn is in the spring, before lush green weeds spring up and before trees create an emerald canopy which casts the shade that keeps the ground damp. Between the spring sun being as high as it is in August, and the dry air coming down from snow-covered lands to the north, (which, when warmed, achieves a parched humidity of Death Valley dryness), conditions are perfect for seeing the “duff” (the top inch or two of dead leaves on a forest floor) dry within hours of a rain. Sometimes I would miss these prime conditions, and might fail to burn, were it not for the fact my weather radio blares out a warning, telling me it’s dreadfully dangerous.

Often the radio alerts me to stuff I already know. I am sixty miles from the sea, but when the moon is full and the wind swings to the east I have a sort of instinct that kicks in, dating from years I spent by the sea, My old bones know the tides will be high, and even though I don’t have a rowboat any more I remember to draw it up farther on the beach, and not to park my car in the low lot by the salt marsh. It is only after these obsolete considerations have gone drifting through the back of my mind that the weather-radio goes off with shrill warnings about high surf and spill-over, sixty miles away.

After a while the weather-radio becomes a bit like the little boy who cried wolf. I tend to ignore the alarm. Or, if I go to listen, it is only because I’m puzzled about what on earth they could be in a frenzy about this time. This eventually puts the meteorological Alarmists in the position of the little boy, when the wolf actually comes.

I do glance over the written forecasts, and therefore I was well aware a front was coming through, likely with thunder, to end the workweek. I planned accordingly, keeping an eye to the sky, and also checking the weather radar on my cellphone. The forecast was a bit too hasty, regarding when the thunder would arrive, and this actually helped me, because I hurried to get things planted before a deluge, and then the deluge was delayed, so I could keep working, and I was done earlier than I would have been if I worked in my ordinary, dawdling, old-man manner. Of course, at my age working fast did hobble me a mite, yet it was nice to go home early and sit with my wife on the screen-porch, watching the skies darken, sipping a beer, and ignoring the silly weather-radio going completely berserk, off in the distance, in my study.

The weather-radio becomes basically useless when actual storms approach, for besides pertinent information they need to legally cover their butts by adding a string of extra advise, such as not to stand by open windows and not to drive into flooded roadways and not to do ten other things. It’s a bit like the tag that warns you not to use your electric toaster in the shower, and is delivered in an animated computer voice, with the emotion never quite right. This robot-voice might be bearable if they went through the inane list only once, but the computer automatically adds the warnings to each specific alert about each storm cell, and when there is a whole line of storms with many separate alerts the redundancy becomes ridiculous.

If I want actual information beyond what I can see with my own eyes I turn to my wife, who is good at multitasking, and even while chatting with me can text on her cellphone with numerous others. I am not as good at multitasking, and can only attend to stretching out my legs and my beer.

It was downright cozy, just sitting on the porch watching the western skies darken and flash, and hearing the first soft purring of distant thunder, when suddenly both my wife’s cellphone and my cellphone let out a piercing whistle, and the screen yelled, “Tornado Warning”.

I sighed. A “warning” is different from a “watch”, for it means an actual tornado has been sighted, but it was obvious the tornado wasn’t nearby. However my wife was texting like crazy, dealing with other women who were also texting like crazy. I used my cellphone to check the radar, looking for what is called a “hook echo” that a tornado tends to be associated with. I took the screenshot I pasted at the start of this post, which shows a typical line of thunderstorms, with what might be “hooks” well to our north, and some big cells approaching but likely passing to our south. (I would not like to be in the shoes of the fellow who has to look at such maps and issue actual warnings.)

By this point my wife had already determined one daughter was in a house with no cellar, and a granddaughter was serving ice-cream from a tiny shed-like stand. She asked if they should run for cover. I shrugged, and said it didn’t look that bad, but that they should listen for sirens. Then I sauntered outside the screen porch to scan the sky.

Now, at this point I suppose you could scold me. One is not suppose to saunter, when a tornado warning has been issued. One is not suppose to go outside, but rather down to the cellar. In fact a nosy neighbor could, I suppose, have tattled on me, but that would have involved confessing they too were looking out their window, rather than rushing to their cellar.

The fact is, I am not very good at panicking. I have spent a good part of my life “in harms way”, in one way or another. Panic has never seemed as wise as “assessing the risk”. Only occasionally have such assessments resulted in the appropriate response being, “Run like hell”.

The approaching flashes of lightning to the west were numerous, but I’ve seen worse. Most meaningful to me was the thunder. It was all the soft, sky-to-sky sort. There wasn’t a single thumping, ground-shaking, sky-to-ground bolt, even off in the distance. To me this is an indication of storms past their prime, and of storm cells with little updraft and on their way to becoming merely downdrafts of thunderless rain. I told my wife I wasn’t all that impressed, and she immediately texted my opinion far and wide. She also was getting other opinions from other old coots from far and wide. The worst we heard of was some hail. There wasn’t even much talk of winds. We saw no need to hurry to the cellar, and settled back onto our cozy porch.

It took about ten minutes for the storm to pass. There was heavy rain, a brief smattering of hail, some vivid lightning more than a mile overhead (counting the time between flashes and rumbles) and surprisingly little wind. Usually a storm gives you at least one blast that makes the trees thrash their branches, and blows the rain in through the screens, but this storm was meek.

So it looks like we failed at storm-panic, the same way we’ve failed at virus-panic. But at least the storm watered my plants. The virus, on the other hand, seems a complete nothing-burger, in these parts.

LOCAL VIEW –Warm Blooded Plants–

In southern New Hampshire, on the border with Massachusetts, it snowed fitfully all day today (Saturday, May 9), with the wind blasting from the north. Temperatures were hard pressed to top forty. (4.4° Celsius). The sun, as high as it is in August, kept blazing out between hurtling clouds, and the snow never really stuck, though all the tree branches were white, first thing in the morning.

One does not think of plants as being “warm blooded”, but they do put out heat. Perhaps the best example is skunk cabbage, which can melt its way up through ice in March the way a dandelion pushes up through asphalt. Though other plants do not put out as much heat, I don’t imagine early-budding northern trees have so much sugar in their sap without reason. (Sweetest is sugar maple, but swamp maple also can be tapped, and I’ve heard of people experimentally tapping birches and cherries and managing to boil down a syrup, although it apparently isn’t as tasty as maple. Oak, on the other hand, is not so sweet, but waits a fortnight longer than maples, before budding.) (The old-timers advised, “Don’t plant your corn until the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear”).

Once it’s May, it is likely the trees “know” they can’t delay any longer, and in a sense they wage war on cold winds. Despite our miserable Saturday the maples slowly unfurled leaves and the lilacs cautiously expanded the buds for their blooms. The world grew greener despite the bitter winds.

Tonight the war will be fierce. Temperatures are forecast to dip below freezing, in which case a lot of tender shoots and leaves will be blackened. But the plants will battle to make the computer models wrong. I would not at all be surprised to see temperatures touch freezing, but not dip below.

People, on the other hand, are not as tough as plants. The sodden day and bitter gales seemed to make people even more crabby than all the nonsense about the corona virus had them, to begin with.

Fortunately, in the afternoon, the weather became so absurd people’s sense of humor started to kick in. This stuff called “graupel” started to fall. It is a sort of soft hail which occurs when super-cooled water forms rime around a snowflake. In actual fact it is like being bombarded by pompoms out of a Dr. Seuss book. It was so ridiculous that it was hard to remain grouchy.

In any case, I didn’t get my garden planted, but the good thing is no one wanted to argue with me that Global Warming is happening. (Also I wrote a good grumpy sonnet.)

*******

Well, now it is Sunday morning, and it appears the plants won. Despite all the freeze warnings, all the way to the coast, it seems temperatures stayed just above freezing even in the cold light of dawn.

This is not to say that there wasn’t a touch of frost down in hollows tucked out of the wind, but if you examine the plants there you will notice they are the sort that can take frost. Many (such as brambles) even undergo a fascinating process where leaves turn purple and only become green when the weather warms. Up higher the plants won the war.

Some may debate there was no freeze because the wind never died. I can attest to that, for some of that wind blew under my bathrobe when I went out to examine the leaves before dawn.


There was no sign of white frost or a blast’s blackening. Therefore I assert the tree tops had an effect. After all, though the winds had origins far to the north where there is still snow, the wind had to pass through miles of tree tops, all burning sugar to unfurl leaves.

This got me wondering if it can be said that trees “know.” Obviously they lack brains, but they do respond to diverse situations and are alive. Besides being effected by their environment they effect their environment, which is why we go sit under one on a hot summer’s day. Besides being beaten down they to some degree fight back.

It seems to me that this battling is largely unconscious, but still it seems a form of consciousness. This explains something. It explains why a silly old man is out talking to trees in his bathrobe at the crack of dawn.

Another thought occurred to me, before another breeze under my bathrobe sent me hurrying back inside. It was this: Though trees may be largely unconscious, they were created by a Creator who is omniscient. Therefore there is something all-knowing about mere vegetables.

That seems a good thought for a Sunday, and also a handy thought to have on hand, next time some rude person says you have the brains of a cabbage. They actually are saying you are all-knowing, infinitely knowing, the knower of the past, present and future, and are knowledge itself (albeit unconsciously.)

LOCAL VIEW –May Snow Sonnet–

This spring’s a florist’s refrigerator.
The daffodils have stayed fresh for three weeks.
Though sunsets stain skies later and later
Snow still falls far below ivory peaks.
Snow on May ninth! You’ve got to be joking!
I seek my gloves, put on my sweater,
Don’t garden; instead keep my chimney smoking
And tire of saying things will get better.
Where is that sunbeam that nudges my cheek?
That one kindly day before black flies swarm?
I’m feeling like Job. My faith’s getting weak.
My heart’s growing cold. It never is warm.
I’m merely a mortal. I fail the test
And confess a weakling’s need to be blessed.

LOCAL VIEW –How humid was it? Sequel

I have to add a sequel to my humidity-grousing, for we had an event too good to avoid being grumpy about.

A  front was at long last pushing west to east, and there was high anxiety about whether it would push out to sea in time for a local church fair, and a very big local fireworks display.

I tried not to care about the church fair, for I left that church. But then it seemed wrong not to care, so I did pray and the sun did come out. But it only bloomed up big billows of cloud and the fair got poured on. I suppose I didn’t pray hard enough, or perhaps my grumpy side snuck into those prayers. In any case, as it poured I tried not to smile. But it’s an effort being spiritual, at times.

Then it cleared off at the end of the day and we headed off to the fireworks. I brought my raincoat. My wife shook her head at me and rolled her eyes.  There was not any sign of rain on the radar.

The fireworks are a big deal, set off by Atlas, the second biggest fireworks-maker in the world. (The biggest is in China, of course.) It is a demonstration of their latest creations for potential customers at the airstrip in Jaffrey, New Hampshire,  and over the years greater and greater crowds have come to watch, and they now make quite a bit of money charging people who want to park right on the runway to get a nearby view. Now around twenty-five thousand people show up, at $50.00/car. It was amazing how many were packing into a car, but they created a limit, which ended that part of the circus.

The circus, (and it is a bit of a circus), tends to be wonderful assortment of people who seldom rub elbows, ranging from Mennonites in gingham to Bikers in leather, all showing up starting at around 3:00 in the afternoon for fireworks that don’t start until 9:00.

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There are places selling hot-dogs and burgers and chicken and fry-bread, and some of the old-fashioned carnival attractions to prove your strength, which I tend to avoid, due to fear of wounding my ego.

(I got talked into trying one last year.  It was some sort of Army-recruitment gadget where you slug a cushion and it measures the power of your punch, using some scale of one to a hundred. The little kids were reaching five to ten, and the young fellows fifty to seventy, and their girlfriends forty to fifty. One grandson reached seventy, so my eldest son had to hit seventy-five and then other, smaller grandson popped the pad for thirty. Then I walked up, in a hurry to get the humiliation over with, and threw a quick cross-body punch you could never throw in real life, unless the fellow hung his jaw a foot off your right shoulder. I got my whole body into it and the dial shot right to a hundred. Everyone looked a bit startled, and I was utterly gratified, and decided then and there to retire undefeated.  And no, the Army didn’t ask me to enlist,)

Mostly I like to stroll back and forth with my wife, up and down the runway, people-watching. They have a very good system of speakers, and a couple of disc-jockeys who prattle and play four generation’s worth of music. The weather looked decent and my wife teased me about my raincoat. The disc-jockeys said we should look up at the sky-divers, and we looked up, and the second disc-jockey said, “You idiot; that’s a commercial airliner!” But then we heard a faint engine and saw the small plane high above, and tiny black dots spill from it, and come down to land precisely on their target (with a man dashing beneath them to keep the flag from touching the ground).

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The wait always seems like it will take forever, and I was a bit nervous about how the lower clouds still hit top of Mount Manadnock as they passed. As it grew dark it felt damper and damper. But at long last the display began. It is a solid half hour of non-stop fireworks choreographed to music, and there is a collective sigh from the crowd as the first flower bursts in the sky.

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However I immediately noticed each bright spark seemed to leave a tiny contrail. The air was so saturated we were doing a sort of cloud-seeding experiment.

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The growing fog bank was especially obvious near the ground.

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As the display increased in intensity, so did the fog bank, and by the time of the thunderous finalé you couldn’t see a cotton-picking thing. There was just a lit-up smudge of fog shifting from one dirty mix of messed-up colors to another, accompanied by thunderous noise that you could feel on your chest. Then it stopped. There was not the usual wild roar of appreciative applause. There was just a strange sound, not quite silence, that 20,000 people make when they have waited three to five hours for a smudge: The sound of mass dejection. To top it off a thick drizzle began to fall. I pulled up my hood with emphasis, when my wife looked my way.

People watching from a hill to the north saw all the fireworks emerging from the fog bank, and said it was spectacular, lighting clouds both above and below. But the wind was just perfect to shower us all with ashes and bits of the clay that they use as a packing material in the shells, (which is also apparently good nuclei for cloud droplets.)

The next morning dawned foggy, but the sun soon broke out.  I walked out and noticed my wife’s white car looked like a Dalmatian, and added “go to the carwash” to the day’s list.

Anyway, that is another answer to the question, “How humid was it?”

LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights Demonstrated–

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Last week I talked about the old captains of coastal schooners, and the way they studied the sky for signs of “Hurricane Heights”.

Before railways were built in the mid 1800’s the main way to ship things was by boat, (which is why we speak of “shipping” things, even when we use trucks.) New York City was so big and growing so fast it had an insatiable appetite for lumber, and not all could be supplied by barging it down the Hudson River. Good money could be made “schooning” lumber down from Maine, but, before the Cape Cod Canal was built in 1914 (and widened to its current size 1935-1940)  the route south was nearly 150 miles longer, and involved going outside Cape Cod, which was that much closer to the hurricanes people on shore hardly noticed because they had “gone out to sea.” Even when the hurricanes’s winds were to the east huge waves traveled outwards, and when they reached the shoals off the elbow of Cape Cod they could turn waters a ship could ordinarily navigate over into a landscape of breaking waves, huge combers far from a beach,  with troughs so deep a keel could hit sand. Therefore a wise captain kept “an eye to the sky”.

This was done in a manner we can’t imagine. If we tried to force ourselves to study the sky we would soon start to fidget. Our minds would wander, and before long we’d get up and go to see what was happening elsewhere. However the old captains were stuck at the tiller or helm, and couldn’t go anywhere any faster than the boat was going. They studied the sky for hours upon hours.

One thing was very important to know, and that was whether the wind was going to back or veer. This was especially important when heading upwind. Without engines a ship had to tack to and fro, and (for example) a north-bound ship’s course could be made shorter if you knew beforehand whether the the headwind was going to shift to the northeast (veer) or to the northwest (back).

A rough idea where the nearest storm was located was to face the wind and stick out your right arm and point. You were pointing at the storm. But what direction was it moving? To guess at that you would look up at the high clouds, which moved with upper air winds that “steered” the storms. Then, by having a rough idea of whether the storm was approaching or departing or moving parallel to the ship, the captain would have a rough idea whether the winds would pick up or die down, and how they might back or veer.  On dull days this merely shortened the route and number of tacks necessary, and on more exciting voyages it might be the difference between successfully reaching safe haven, or shipwreck and death.

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Few would bother study the sky to this degree now. What would be the point? Now, if a captain wants to go upwind, he just takes down the sails and turns on the engine. There are a lot fewer shipwrecks now, but modern captains are dimwits compared to the captains of yore, when it comes to eyeing the sky with understanding. The need is no longer there to sharpen wits to that degree, and in fact if anyone now spent that much time studying the sky we might call them “obsessive”.

Personally I feel a certain amount of obsession is necessary, if you want to ever be really good at something. One person who seems really good, concerning the understanding and prediction of hurricanes, is Joe Bastardi, and he quite freely confesses he obsessed on weather maps so much when young that he was in some ways a nerd. But it paid off in terms of genius. Some years ago he looked at a tropical depression off the coast of Africa and said, “Houston, we have a problem”, which some say is one of the best long-range forecasts ever made.

Last Monday he said it looked like we could have frontal remnants becoming a storm like Brenda in 1960. I said, “La-la-la! I’m not listening”. Why? Because I want to pretend I’m an old schooner captain, and trying to see signs of storm only using my eyes and a barometer. (Of course I did hear Bastardi, but I can pretend I didn’t.)

Friday the skies were as blue as they get, and the air refreshing and cool, which is a reprieve but also a reason to be on guard.

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The passage of a Canadian high-pressure is often a prelude to trouble brewing to the south. (Bastardi calls high-pressure to the north “A ridge over troubled waters.”[Hat tip, Simon and Garfunkle.]) Not that you want to spoil your summer by worrying every time it’s sunny, but you watch for the return of clouds and the southerly flow behind the high pressure. And sure enough, when I awoke Saturday morning the newspaper had arrived, not on my doorstep, but in the sky straight overhead.

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What would such a newspaper tell an old schooner captain? I see two clues he’d see in the scene below, plus a clue he wouldn’t see.

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First, just over the pines to the lower left is a bit of low cumulus, so low you could almost call it scud.

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Right off the bat, his farsighted eyes squint to determine what direction those low clouds are moving. If they are moving to the right and approaching then the wind is southwest. That would be a benign wind, as the storm would be to the northwest, and likely a summertime Alberta Clipper. At worst, if it was hot and muggy, a Clipper might swing down a cold front and bring thunder,  but the air is still refreshing and the sky is still deep blue and Canadian, so thunder is unlikely. But, because the captain has time to watch the sky, he notes the low clouds are not approaching; they are moving to the right and retreating. The wind is not from the southwest, but from the southeast.

A southeast wind is a whole different kettle of fish. It means a storm is to the southwest. Something may be coming up the coast. A certain wariness awakes. (I should note more than eyes were used by schooner captains. Like a dog (whose morning newspaper may be a fire hydrant) he sniffs the air, as a southwest land breeze has a completely different smell from a southeast sea breeze. He also likely runs his fingers through his hair, for hair tells you a lot about humidity. All his senses are involved; the sea is a sensual experience.)

Lastly he is very aware if the wind is backing or veering, and this southeast wind has veered all the way from the northwest through the northeast . For reasons I don’t understand, this is different from a wind that backs 180 degrees the other way, although it winds up blowing from the same direction.

Then his eyes lift a bit higher to the left, over the cherry tree, to the cirrus (which he would call a “mare’s tail”).

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Cirrus is high clouds snowing into slower wind beneath. To the captain this is more reassuring than cirrocumulus, which is indicative of warmer air aloft and more inclined to be associated with hurricanes. Also the cirrus is still approaching from north of due west, which should “steer” a storm out to sea. However a rumple of concern appears on his brow, for he notices the high cloud’s movement is not as much from the north as it was. Indeed the high clouds are backing, even as the low clouds veer. Knowing nothing of upper air maps,  heedless of upper air ridges or trofs, the wheels in his head start whirring. If the high clouds back, and especially if they back with speed, look out.

However I have one clue he doesn’t.  There were no jets back then, and I can squint at contrails, and spot one over the trees in the center.

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When contrails quickly evaporate behind a jet, it is a sign of descending and drying air aloft, and a sign of fair weather. When, as is the case with the contrail above, the contrail expands into a cloud, as if part of a cloud-seeding experiment, it is a sign of moisture aloft and rising air, and a sign of increasing clouds and approaching storms. (It doesn’t say what kind of storm: Gentle rain or hurricane or the squalls of a thundering front.)

Even without contrails the old schooner captains were likely observing whether high clouds were growing or evaporating. Where modern yachtsmen can set a “self-sailor” and be buried in a book, the skippers of yore would only “lash the helm” when there was a lot of other work to do. They liked the feel of the helm, and likely, by making subtle responses to each passing swell, could shave an hour or two off the length of a cruise.

When I was young I attempted to have spiritual experiences by closing my eyes, sitting cross-legged, and gazing up at the inside of my forehead.  I never lasted very long. Rather than sacred subjects my my mind gravitated towards how divine pizza or a woman’s body was. But at the helm of a sailboat without a self-sailor I was forced to pay attention or the boat might luff or jibe, and paying-attention became a sort of yoga leading to an altered state of consciousness. This divine intoxication is the reason some people are fanatics about sailing, while those who haven’t imbibed the wine cannot see the good of it, or why anyone in their right mind would willingly suffer seasickness.

How many modern people, with their short attention spans and craving for constant stimulation, can sit and watch a cloud as it passes from one side of the sky to the other? The so-called boredom would drive many nuts, and perhaps there is an element of craziness in being at sea. However it has its own constant stimulation, in the rocking of the waves and passing of the swells, the ruffling of sails and the ringing of rigging, the hypnotic slosh and thud and gurgling of waters, and it all combines to enter one into a different dimension, a different relationship with reality, with sea and sky. Call it “obsessive” if you will, but it includes the wisdom of the weather-wise.

Just looking at the clouds I’ve pictured above, the old schooner captains would have known “something was brewing” to the south. Would they have set sail?  Well, that was up to them to decide, and they did know how to handle a moderate storm. All business involves an element called “risk”.

And how do they compare with modern computers? Well, the billion dollar GFS Model never caught onto the coastal development until Saturday morning, right about the time an old captain would have tasted the first hints of a wind-shift to the southeast.

Others models did better, but how is one to chose? Even a single model can have fifty “runs” that all differ. Which one is right?

The answer seems to be obsessive, like Joe Bastardi. In order to be good at anything you need to in some ways over-do it. But Mr. Bastardi does amaze me. Last Monday he said that by Saturday a storm “like Brenda in 1960” could appear on the coast.  He also forecast that the weather bureau likely wouldn’t call it a hurricane, despite tropical characteristics. Then, on Saturday , there it was, looking all the world like a dying hurricane, though it had never officially been a hurricane and therefore could not officially be a dying one.

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The weather bureau can bicker all it wants about whether things are “official”. I think they may be jealous if Joe’s ability, even to the mean level of not calling an event “tropical” because to do so might make Joe look better than they. But we are not suppose to become irrational, and envy is irrational. The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Bastardi kicked their butts. And, when faced with superiority, the smart thing to do is sit at the feet of the master, and inquire, “How the heck did you do it?”

Let’s face it: If you had plans on the water off the coast of New Jersey or Long Island on Saturday, wouldn’t you like a heads-up that storm-force gusts like the feeder-bands of a hurricane could be coming north?

 

 

A final clue that this storm was “tropical” was shown by how quickly it is weakened once it cut inland.

What are we to conclude from all this? Perhaps we should conclude this: The next time we are called “obsessive”, we should respond, “Thank you very much.”

LOCAL VIEW –SEA BREEZE–

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The weather continues bone dry here in southern New Hampshire. Ana has formed off South Carolina, but seems bound to stay south. Our first chance of rain seems to be Sunday night, when the front to our west finally nudges past with showers.

Our day began nice and warm, which I don’t mind, especially as a hot day sends the black flies to the shade. Also it loosens up old joints and stiff muscles. At noon it was pushing 80° here, even as Boston climbed to 71° and then fell back to 59° as winds came in from the chilly waters to the east. I’m not sure at what point a sea-breeze graduates to a back-door-cold-front, but we weren’t there yet.

I’m getting fed up with our five chickens. This week I planted roughly 40 feet of onion bulbs the size of marbles, (10 feet purple, 10 feet white, and 20 feet yellow), and they seem determined to scratch them all up. The onions don’t seem to mind, as the soil is so dry they aren’t even thinking of sending out roots. I replant them, giving the chickens dirty looks. I think there free-range days may end for a while. Not only do they mess up my planting, but they no longer lay their eggs in the proper place, and have a hidden nest somewhere I haven’t been able to locate.

I got 100 feet of potatoes in (25 feet pink, 25 feet Kahtadin, and 50 feet Burbank Russet).  I did give the kids a demonstration of how you cut them up, making sure to have 2 eyes per piece, but once that was done for a few potatoes I switched to my lazy-man approach.

Over the years I’ve run into various problems with cut pieces of potatoes, and decided to skip problems, and the bother of cutting them, by planting whole ones. At the feed store they have barrels of potatoes, and I rummage through them and select the smallest ones, around the size of golf balls. When you plant a whole potato it seems to skip the trauma of recovering from a wound and to throw all its effort into growing. Also the fact the initial potato is small doesn’t produce small potatoes, but rather you can get ten large potatoes from a surprisingly small beginning, provided you feed them and keep them watered but not too wet. I hill them several times, and just before I do I sprinkle rotted manure and wood ashes down the row.

Also I transplanted 40 lettuce seedlings  (20 black Simpson and 20 butter-crunch).  My lazy-man approach there is just to dump the tiny seeds into pitting soil, skipping the problem of weeding and thinning in the garden, or individual pots indoors. Before the seedlings are too large I dump them into a bucket of water, turning the roots into threads amidst mud, and carefully seperate the tangle and plant them individually in soil which is weed free, because it is recently tilled. I water a lot after transplanting, especially when the soil is like this year’s: basically dust.

I planted my spinich the old fashioned way. Even though the soil is tilled and weed free when you plant, by the time the seedlings appear the seedlings of what seems like thousands of weeds also appear, and you have a job on your hands.

As I worked in the hot sun I abruptly felt a cool breeze waft by. For around an hour the cool wafts alternated with warmer wafts, but then it suddenly was downright chilly. The back door front had passed. The amazing thing is that it can drop 20 degrees in half an hour, and the sky doesn’t even hold a cloud as the front passes.

In the hot garden a cool breeze wafts by
And I immediately smell the sea,
Or so it always seems in my mind’s eye.
My old nose can’t smell shit, in reality,
But so evocative is the cool touch
Of wind that I hear gulls just down the road,
Though the shore’s sixty miles off. Then how much
Do I want to be a boy. What a load
Of chores my garden becomes. I just want
To escape school and be utterly free
of spelling, typing, and choosing what font
Will turn my dreary prose into poetry.
As a boy I fled dryness for what wets.
The more a man learns the more he forgets.

LOCAL VIEW —Boston Sets Snowfall Record—“An Inconvenient Winter”

We got around an inch of snow up here yesterday. The first half inch was glop, a sort of wet layer that melted as fast as it fell, and then nearly as fast as it fell, as the vibrant March sun dropped lower, and stopped the amazing job it does of melting snow even when it is behind clouds. Then the sun got to the horizon and we had a flash freeze, so the second half inch was powder drifting over a layer of frozen crust.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I heard my wife heading out for her predawn-twilight power-walk. Her footsteps crunched a certain way on the drive, and I swung out of bed in a sort of angry thrash, as I knew I had to start work an hour earlier, heading to the “Town Garage” to shovel sand into the back of my pickup, and then heading to my Farm-Childcare to cast that sand around the entrance of the parking lot, and the area where parents disembark with their children, and the front walk, and lastly the rise where cars exit and young mothers tend to spin wheels and get stuck. Who needs Monday to start an hour earlier?

All was redeemed, however, when I learned Boston got 2.9 inches of snow where we only got an inch. That bumps their winter’s total past the most snow ever recorded (in recent times) of 107 inches in 1993, to 108 inches. This is all the more amazing because Boston was below the normal snowfall of January 10 on January 10.

It makes me look rather good, for I was talking about this being “the worst winter ever” back in November.  Not that there haven’t been worse winter’s up here in these hills, or even in Boston. Back in in the 1600’s, when the Back Bay neighborhood was actually a bay, the bay was frozen over for six weeks, and there were 26 “snowfalls.”  However nothing matches 1717, when the snows were so deep that some houses were buried and could only be located by holes in the snow,  with smoke coming out, melted by the chimney and the constant fire that heated the home.

http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/oral/cram/blizzard1717.htm

It does seem sort of anticlimactic to beat the record with only 2.9 inches of snow. Not that it isn’t too late to have a final massive storm. The blizzard of 1888 began on March 11 and ended on March 15, and we got four feet in these hills, (as Boston got two inches of slush.) The “April Fools Storm” a few years back gave us two feet.

The good thing about setting a record is that it justifies a sensation many around here have that they have been through a mugging. People not all that far to the south roll their eyes and act as New Englanders are sissies, fussing about a minor inconvenience. Not that people did fuss all that much.  Come to think of it, the tougher New Englanders don’t even fuss when they get mugged.

I remember an old man who ran a tiny four-lane-bowling-alley in Portland, Maine, back in around 1975. You got to it by descending a stair in a dark alley, and it was a subterranean affair, with everything a bit mildewed, and the balls old and slightly bumpy as they rolled, but the old man was a genius when it came to candle-pin bowling, and also he had the cheapest rates in Maine. I was interested in the sport back then, and picked his brains, and besides learning how to curve the balls around the fallen “wood”, I got bits of his philosophy, such as, “Never bowl without a sponsor and never sponsor a bowler.” Often I was the only person bowling, and I doubt he even could pay his electricity bill with his gross take, and concluded he only ran the place because he loved bowling, but one time I went in to discover he’d been mugged for the small amount of money he had. He had two black eyes, and a scab on his forehead. When I expressed my concern he dismissed it, muttering, “Arrh, it was just kids. An inconvenience.”

In any case, I guess we can call it an Inconvenient Winter. It is especially inconvenient to Al Gore, who through “Inconvenient Truth” and lecture tours assured us snow would become rare and our ski areas would need to close down.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when Al Gore used his political power to start up the Global Warming fraud, cutting off funding to Bill Gray (whose predictions based on the cycles of the AMO have proven wonderfully accurate) and pouring money onto James Hansen, (whose forecasts have proven to be balderdash), you actually could graph the snowfall in Boston and create a “trend line” that demonstrated that snowfall was decreasing. If you look at the graph below as far as 1992, the “trend” is definitely down.

Of course 1993 changed all that. In fact, in terms of snowfall since 1890, six of the nine greatest yearly totals have occurred since Al Gore opened his big mouth and stated we’d have to shut down our ski areas.

Inconvenient Winter Screen_shot_2015_03_15_at_8_13_11_PM

(Graph from Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog at the Weatherbell site.”)

If anyone has been mugged by this winter, it the Alarmists who are attempting to sell Global Warming. However they are not stoic about being mugged, like a tough New Englander. Rather they become increasingly shrill, shrieking the heavy snow proves it is warmer.

Mann Tweet screenhunter_7071-feb-11-22-19

People in New England tend to be suckers for liberal causes. Freeing slaves seemed like an altruistic deed, and every town in New England has a monument in its graveyard commemorating the astounding number of young men who died for that cause. However the Global Warming cause is starting to be harder and harder to swallow, even for New Englanders, because right after Michael Mann spoke of waters off Cape Cod being 21 degrees above normal (utterly false) they saw waters looking like this:

Cape Cod iceberg2

Maybe even in New England it will turn out that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. After all, Abraham Lincoln stated that, and people voted for him in New England. Perhaps the political winter we are finding inconvenient will give way to a spring.

In the mean time, we have to endure a bit more winter. Today we saw the bright March sun melt away the crust of snow, but later tomorrow the cold will fight back, and the rains advancing from the west likely will change to more snows as they move over us.

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