Half-horsepower Persian Snows

A strong west-to-east flow across northern Europe is driving polar Atlantic air deep into Siberia. (Maps below are created by Dr Ryan Maue from GFS initial data, and are among thousands of maps he makes available at the Weatherbell site.) (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

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This air is actually quite mild for December (although below freezing by the time it gets to Russia. Below freezing appears as pink on the map below.)Persia 2 gfs_t2m_eur_1

To get a feel for how above-normal the air actually is a temperature anomaly map is helpful. The map below shows temperatures are most above normal in Finland.Persia 3 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

This surge of relatively mild (but still below freezing air) will extend far across Asia, but does not represent the very cold (-40°C) Siberian air being warmed, but rather replaced. The displaced air is pushed north into the Arctic Sea, or west into the Pacific, or south and then east by a sort of backwash under the west winds. You can see the cold appearing in the lower right of the map above.

What this means is that places like Persia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel are seeing very cold conditions. Even the ordinarily hot and desert dry United Arab Emerites are seeing cold rain and temperatures down near freezing. UAR Cold Rain 3820661127

This is often an unexpected side effect of mild west winds across the Baltic and into Russia. Siberia is a huge place, larger than the USA and Canada put together, and its tundra and taiga create huge amounts of cold air. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this reservoir, or how impossible it is to warm this vastness in the dark days of December. It is only when a fringe of this cold comes east as a sort of backwash, and snows fall in the holy land, that one glimpses a hint of how gigantic the area of cold is. It perhaps can be shoved aside by a surge of air from the west, but it doesn’t just vanish, and I was particularly interested in pictures of the snow in Persia (Iran). Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

It is a bit stunning to realize that the displaced Siberian air has it colder south of the Caspian Sea than it is way up in Finland. (One thing to realize is that the relatively milder air rushing east past Finland is constantly losing heat, and will be quite cold after a week or so over the deep snows that cover most of Siberia this autumn.) In fact it is so cold over Persia that things are running at half-horsepower.1931874(1)

OK, OK, I admit it is a bad joke, but I actually thought this statue was so cool that it deserved an entire post just to share it. It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll discover, when you wander the web looking for news.




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I included yesterday’s map above today’s to show you how the cold front swinging down around a low parked up over Hudson Bay vanishes from today’s map. It becomes a “ghost front.”  I can still see evidence of it, in the trace of clouds extending northeast from Lake Superior, and the dent in the isobars. Therefore I am expecting a reinforcement to the cold, where others might look at today’s map, see that warm front up towards Hudson Bay, and think the cold would relent.

I can hardly  blame them, for often a huge southward surge of cold is followed by a northward surge of warmth, in a sense like waves surging up  a beach and then sucking back down. Also, some winters that begin very cold have “the pattern snap” and abruptly become warmer. (December 1989 springs to mind, as a winter that began with brutal cold, and then relaxed to rather benign normalcy.) Though such a “pattern snap” is much to be desired, by old geezers like myself with bad circulation, (and also by people who resent cold weather for making the idea of Global Warming look stupid),  the memory of the winter of 1976-1977 has been stimulated by a number of events similar to those that proceeded that brutal winter (such as last summer’s hurricanes up the west coast of Mexico bringing rain to Arizona), and I recall all too clearly that, during that winter 38 years ago, the cold simply did not relent, from November until early February,  (and in February it didn’t really become all that warm, however, after the bitter cold, “normal” felt like a heat wave…but I was still walking on sea-ice in a Maine harbor in early March.)

Considering it is only mid-November, the warmth should come surging back. The north simply has no business invading so far south so soon. In fact a friend of mine has a saying that I haven’t yet seen proved false, “Snow before Thanksgiving will melt away before Thanksgiving.”  And when you look at the map you can see the cold high pressure slipping south of us, and the warm flow to its west side bringing clouds and moisture north. Ordinarily I’d now expect a warm surge and a rain storm to come up behind the arctic invasion (and indeed I still hope for that) but….I notice the cold has been driven right down to the southern tip of Florida. And remember that :”ghost front” coming down from our north? And then check out the current radar shot of the precipitation coming up in the “warm” flow west of the high.

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I find it a bit disconcerting that there is no green (rain) and it is all blue (snow). Not that warmer air might not get pulled in of the Atlantic, east of here, and give us rain when the disturbance reaches us  However there are things that make me wary.

For example, look towards the Pacific. A true warm-up would have Pacific air pouring over the Rocky Mountains, and Calgary basking in a balmy Chinook and its citizens laughing as we soft southerners shiver.  However Calgary is still cold. The arctic air has also come south west of the Rockies, and has been driven right off the Pacific coast, until even a Pacific gale is having a hard time pushing mildness and moisture back to the California coast.

Also note that the arctic high to our south is followed by two more highs, over Montana and British Columbia, and they are suppressing the ruins of a Pacific storm which has suffered terribly, crossing the Rockies, to the southeast, rather that storm happily riding a southerly surge northeast.

Lastly, return to the warm front up by Hudson Bay. It isn’t really all that warm, though it does represent a 15 degree temperature rise. The air in front of it is around zero (-17 Celsius) and is causing the west coast of Hudson Bay to start forming sea-ice. The air behind it is a “balmy” 15 ( -9 Celsius). Furthermore, that warm front is making little headway, as the storm it is attached to is not part of a warm flow and heading northeast, but rather is plunging nearly due south in a flow from the North Pole.

All in all, I am not optimistic about the cold relenting. However perhaps it is because my day got off to a bad start.  I like to relax on a Saturday, but today was “church cleanup day.”

Our church is a lovely New England church, surrounded by beautiful maple trees that are glorious hues of crimson and saffron and tangerine, in October, but then proceed to dump tons of dirty-brown leaves on the grounds.

When I was young and unmarried I liked to pitch in, and rake, and lug tarps of leaves over my shoulder like an autumnal Santa, but now I am older and facing another big chill that is unrelenting. In fact I face two. The first is that leaves are heavier than they used to be, because I’m over sixty, and the second is that if your church fails to attract youth then there are no young bachelors to rake the leaves when you are over sixty.

It was darned cold this morning, though the sky was pure blue and the sunshine brilliant. Raking was difficult, because leaves were stuck to the ground in places by a white glue of frost, especially on the north side of the church and parsonage, where Friday morning’s snow hadn’t even melted. However exercise warmed me, and a great deal more warmth came from my fellow geezers, and even though I began raking in the mood to bite the heads off nails, I cheered up. Then I cheered up more, when the Boy Scouts arrived. (They use our church for meetings.)

Its amazing how quickly a job gets done when many hands are making work light. It wasn’t even lunchtime when I headed home to grab a bite and a nap, before heading to the Farm-Childcare to hurry to finish the goat’s winter-quarters before the snow (or hopefully rain) comes tomorrow night.  However then I faced another unrelenting reality.  I’d promised my wife I’d attend an “open house.”

A wife is like a church, in that if you neglect her then someday you’ll be an old geezer without help, but I haven’t neglected my wife, and we have five, beautiful, grown children to offer as proof. (They continue to use our house, like the boy scouts use our church.) In any case, I decided it would be wise to avoid neglecting her, and to go to the “open house.”

The “open house” was at the “Barr Mansion,”  which involves a bit of a sidetrack. I have to go back to the year 1968,  when I was a mere teenager, dragged against my will to a Christmas party at that mansion involving adults and the consumption of alcohol.

As strange as it may sound, many teenagers of my time considered the consumption of alcohol as being a sort of proof a person was “square.” I looked around at the increasing hilarity with the scornful disapproval only a teenager can muster. The adults consisted entirely of Yankee WASPs, who were laughing about people they considered “square,” who they called the “Holy Rollers.”  Unlike me, they were not disapproving, and actually sounded rather fond of the people who let them feel so smug and superior.

The “Holy Rollers” were Lutherans who had sought to escape the Czar and religious persecution in Finland between 1890 and 1910. They had been actively recruited by the Town Fathers, because the farms Yankee were abandoning, as being too cold and too stony, seemed warm to people from Finland, who were used to stony soil and who appreciated the job Yankee had done clearing stones from the fields for 200 years. Even the snobby Yankee didn’t seem that bad to the Finns, compared to the Czar.

The Lutherans were mocked for taking their religion very seriously. TV sets were deemed a bad influence, and they refused to own them, and birth control pills were deemed unacceptable, and they had very large families. They were dead-set against boozing, (and the few Finns who drank tended to prove alcohol was a bad thing.) They read the Bible every day of the week, and often would quote scripture to the Yankee, who also owned Bibles but almost never opened them. The one thing they shared with the Yankee was a northern work-ethic, though the Yankee were straying away from physical labor and starting to prefer offices.

My own experiences with this minority were limited, as I was new to town. I noted that, while the Yankee only seemed to visit our farm because my father was generous with his bourbon, the Holy Rollers dropped by to help my stepmother out because some part of the Bible said something or another about being a good neighbor. I only had scripture quoted to my face one time, and did not like experience one bit.

I had long hair, which, as strange as it may sound, consisted of hair that barely covered the tops of my ears, and a father-of-five (who I think was 25 years old) abruptly turned to me and said, “Young man, St. Paul says long hair is the glory of woman.”  I was speechless, but my father said, “What about Samson?”

Now skip ahead 21 years to 1989, and I’ve returned to town to help out my Dad and stepmother, who are both deeply depressed. Things have not gone well for the Yankee, and the town has lost a lot of its original flavor. Many of the Yankee children have left, and many who stayed are burned out hippies. There has been an influx of people who might once have had Yankee roots, but who seem a generic, post-cultural race-of-no-roots. However the Finns have thrived, and comprise nearly half the population.

After roughing it  for years on the road, often sleeping in my car (and often feeling fortunate to work a day for minimum wage) ($26.40), I am feeling hugely fortunate to be making $80.00 a day raking leaves at the Barr Mansion, and having the guarantee of five solid days of work because the grounds were so huge.  All around me others do not consider such wages good, and feel very unlucky, because “The Massachusetts Miracle” is crashing, and the $400/week I consider great wages is not the $1600/week they had been getting, and they can’t pay their $1600/month mortgages.

Therefore I was the lone dude happy and whistling as I worked, as other fellows were losing their homes and in deep despair. Given the choice between happy and gloomy, most old ladies preferred me, as a landscaper,   and soon I had a sort of harem of old ladies, and a decent business (until winter came).

One such old lady lived within the huge Barr Mansion, along with an obnoxious corgi. She was doubly wealthy, as she had not only inherited wealth, but also a sizable pension gleaned by working for IBM for over thirty years. Well over seventy, she never aged a day as I continued to be her gardener for ten years.  Part of my job was to have tea and crumpets with her, when I presented her with my hand-written bill on Fridays. We would talk about inherited wealth and IBM, (two subjects I knew absolutely nothing about), and also about poetry and Shakespeare, (where I could hold my own).  For the most part she was smarter than I, but I did know she should cut the trees and shrubbery back from her house, or the roof and clapboards would rot, but she loved the trees too much to listen.

After I moved on to less lovely jobs, she kept right on seeming ageless until she was over ninety, when she began to slow down and stoop more. By then the trees were practically inside her house, and the Barr Mansion was showing signs of serious decay. Finally she passed on, and for a time the mansion seemed a rotting hulk none would buy.

Which brings us to today, when the new owner of the Barr Mansion held an open house, so people could see the work that has been done.

There was a great deal of disapproval, as there always is when any sort of change comes to a small town. Lovely old trees were cut down, crumbling walls were removed, and even the gravel driveway was rerouted and paved with black asphalt. However the rot was dealt with, the roof was repaired, and the old Mansion looked like it was brought back from the dead.  When I went inside I was even more impressed. The slightly scary, old oil-paintings of Puritan ancestors no longer frowned disapprovingly downwards from the walls,  and the dingy paint, yellowed windows, faded ceiling, and archaic lighting had all been replaced by brightness and vitality, (despite the strangely low ceilings.)  I wandered about amazed by the work that had been done, and by the old beauty that had been preserved. Even the damp, cavernous cellar, (which always held spiders and seemed straight from an Alfred Hitchcock movie,) had been waterproofed, painted light colors, re-electrified, and was bright and airy.

Finally I stood in the same room I stood in, back when I was a teenager in 1968 listening to the Yankee scorn the Holy Rollers, and it was there I turned to meet the new owner who had done all the work. You guessed it, it was the grandson of one of those scorned Holy Roller Finns.

It didn’t seem the slightest bit ironic to me. Instead it seemed to prove the old Yankee values were solid. Hard work and decency pay off, in the long run.

The fellow, who I have known for decades, looked a little anxious, as I met his eye. I knew he had faced some disapproval for daring to change an old landmark, and thought he might like to be reassured he had done well, so I shook his hand and told him that I thought the old owners of the house would be very glad he had saved the place from rot and ruin, and that I also was glad, and very impressed as well.  A wide grin spread across his face.

Not all things that are unrelenting are bad. Change is one of them.