SEA ICE TRIVIA —DO ICEBREAKERS INCREASE ICE?—

I do a fair amount of lurking about the web, learning what others are up to, and hopefully broadening my mind. Of course, at times my mind narrows, because I see some people are just learning, and to some degree are novices about certain subjects, and if I am not careful this allows my ego to become smug and condescending, which becomes a form of blindness. I give myself a slap, when I notice I’m becoming a prig. The reason to lurk is not to puff up ones own opinion, but to learn of other opinions.

One good way to avoid the traps of self-centeredness is to avoid words, and focus on pictures. I know I likely shouldn’t say words are a bad thing, as I am a writer, but at times I become all too aware of the problems inherent in words. (It is not without reason that Saint James called the human tongue the most evil organ of the body.)  Words hold all sorts of trickery, as our politicians make all too clear. Pictures, on the other hand, make trickery harder.  Even the evil geniuses of Madison Avenue often need to employ words and mood music, to make their pictures get us to buy what we neither want nor need.

In terms of sea-ice, satellite pictures tell no lies. It is how we interpret the pictures that causes confusion, and sometimes involves lies and liars. The pictures themselves are not to blame.

In any case, I sometimes like to just  wander about sites looking at pictures of sea-ice from ground level, and from way up in space, and to ignore all the voices that are attempting to tell me what I am seeing.  I have eyes. I can see for myself.

If you do use your own eyes, you occasionally spot things that are so intriguing that you feel a wonder worth sharing. These MODIS pictures are of that sort.

They show ice melting on the Great Lakes, by the Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac_Bridge

What is intriguing is that the first picture, from March 22, 2005, shows the ice solid, and the only open water as narrow channels made by ice-breakers.

The second picture shows the situation nearly three weeks later, on April 9, 2005, as the ice starts to break up. My common sense would assume that the first ice to break-up would be the channels made by ice-breakers. However the extraordinary thing is that those channels have become long lines of ice that is resisting the break-up.

This is so opposed to what I would have expected that it parks itself in my brain, as a wonder worth sharing.

Icebreaker 1 ISS010-E-23748

The thing I have noticed is that, if you continue to use your eyes, these wonders add up. They gradually turn into a “body of evidence” which has the ability to keep you from being played for a fool, on occasions when our common sense makes assumptions that are wrong.

We don’t like to admit our common sense can be fooled, but it often is. One of the most common tricks, used by both politicians and Madison Avenue, involves flattery.  There is a child-like trust within humans that tends to feel that the person flattering us really does like us. It is a common sense that betrays us, and that we warn our daughters about, when they prefer a flashy-talking sailor, who only wants to use them, to a decent fellow who is clumsy with words.  However in Shakespeare’s tragedy “King Lear” we see the old king fooled by his two flattering daughters, and disdainful of his truly loving daughter, who doesn’t flatter. Age is no guarantee that flattery won’t make a fool of us.

In conclusion: Avoid flattery, and allot some time for lurking.  Keep your lips buttoned and your eyes open, and who knows what wonders may be revealed?

Silence is golden, when your eyes still see.

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE ON USA EAST COAST

At this time of year there tends to be an increase of interest in the Sea-ice at the Pole, largely because some believe the Arctic sea-ice is in a “Death Spiral”, and when the ice up north goes the world will lose its ability to reflect sunlight, and we’ll all fry. The people who have this idea seem strangely happy at any sign there is less ice. I should think the end of the world might be depressing, but they are gleeful.

They are likely gleeful now, as there is less ice in the Arctic, as we approach the peak levels of ice in the first weeks of March. (Click all images and pictures to clarify and enlarge)

DMI2 0226  02icecover_current_new

In actual fact the levels of ice this time of year are not indicative of that the levels will be at when the sun is at its highest, and the most sunlight can be reflected. For example, in the above graph, in April, the green line is highest and the red is lowest, but by September their positions are reversed.

But never mind that. Let us play the game, and worry about sunlight being reflected. The word to use is “albedo”. This makes you look scientific, even if you only have a crumb of information.

One reason there is less ice up at the Pole is that during this past winter the winds have been “merdianal”, and air has often assumed a cross-polar-flow across from Siberia, and then down to the USA. This creates what might be called back-eddys, swirling milder air in from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. One Atlantic eddy formed a little gale on the Pole itself a week ago, and right now a swirl of milder air is forming a storm on the Pacific side. Between the two, a glob of cold Siberian high-pressure is being transplanted to North America.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big

Temperatures on both the Pacific and Atlantic side are milder than normal, though often below the freezing point of salt water.

DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

The thing to remember is that the sun hasn’t risen at the Pole, and even down by the arctic circle, where it has risen, it is so close to the horizon that it tends to bounce off any open water it strikes. Water, especially when glassy, can reflect the sun as well as ice can, when the sun sits on the horizon.

Another thing to remember is that the cold air also freezes water down south in the USA. In fact the Great Lakes are now frozen at record-setting levels for the date.

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

This ice is not included in the above graph of sea-ice extent, but it does reflect sunlight. In fact, because the sun is so much higher in the south, it is reflecting more sunlight than the entire North Pole. This should be added to “albedo” calculations.

Also not included in most graphs of sea-ice extent is the ice forming on the east coast of the USA. The satellite picture below shows ice in Long Island Sound, and off the New Jersey north coast, and down in Delaware Bay,  and even in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The sun is high and bright down in Virginia. In 1947 the cherry trees were already budding in Washington, before a bloom in March. The amount of sunlight being reflected is substantial, and it too should be included in “albedo” equations. Boston Harbor and New York Harbor are reflecting heat, rather than absorbing it.

East Coast Sea Ice screenhunter_7348-feb-21-10-512

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

With all this heat being reflected, should not we start to be alarmed?  I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at Niagara Falls!

Niagra Falls Frozen b-o_1qsxiaa7xn5

It may not be a sight you are longing to see, if you are longing for spring, but I think we can avoid being alarmed and skip talking about some sort of anti-death-spiral.  As is the case with most extreme weather, the media is wrong when they call it “unprecedented”.  For example, here is Niagara Falls in 1911:

Niagra 1911 article-2536278-1A82232200000578-809_964x522

In the same manner I myself get nostalgic when I see current pictures of Lobster boats frozen in, up in the harbors of Maine.

Lobsterboats frozen 6829983_G

What is alarming about the above pictures is what it may suggest will happen to the price of lobsters, and the income of lobstermen.  However back in the late 1970’s I lived up there and walked the ice on those harbors.

The following old post has a couple pictures from that time, and also points out the fun you can have. After all, if believers in the “death spiral” can get glee from the world ending, the rest of us ought be allowed to have some fun when it doesn’t end.

The only thing sure to end is winter, though I’ll admit it looks like it may take its sweet time ending, this year.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/a-retrospective-fun-with-sea-ice/

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE DRAMA —THE CRASHING AMO—

Actually there isn’t usually much drama in watching sea-ice, especially this time of year when the cameras are shut down and the long arctic night has blacked-out our views for months. Though the first hints of spring twilight are circling around on the Arctic horizon, it isn’t until March that the adventurers start to roam the ice and send back pictures, and the Russians land jets and set up their base. Here is a link to some pictures from last year:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/%EF%BB%BFjets-landing-on-north-pole-ice/

While we wait for human activity to resume, the best we can do is rely on satellite information, and the best site I know of is Anthony Watt’s “Sea Ice Page” http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/sea-ice-page/

I also like the Danish Meteorological Institute Site: http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/index.uk.php

The Danish site gives us this graph: (Click to enlarge)

DMI2 0224 meanT_2015

This graph shows the mean temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, and gives the correct impression it is warmer than usual up at the Pole this winter. However it is important to keep in mind the “warm” temperatures are at -25° Celsius. At these temperatures not only does any exposed ocean swiftly freeze, but salt is exuded by the freezing sea-water, forming “flowers” on the surface of smooth ice in calm conditions,  and then, when winds howl, being blown around with the snow without any ability to melt the snow. Only in May, when temperatures rise above -10° Celsius, can the salt abruptly turn snow to slush.

However the graph does show “warm” conditions, and this has occurred because much arctic cold has been exported south. In fact, if I want to see arctic sea-ice I have only to drive eighty miles to Boston Harbor.

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

I am not sure whether they include Boston Harbor, when they add up the total of arctic sea ice for this graph.

DMI2 0224 icecover_current_new

This graph suggests the extent of ice is on the low side, and is used by some Global Warming Alarmists to suggest the arctic is in a “Death Spiral.” This is largely an illusion.

One can get drawn into quibbling about where there is ice and where there isn’t any ice, however such fluctuations are quite ordinary, and tend to follow a sixty-year-cycle governed by the AMO and PDO. However, if you get sucked into such quibbling, a helpful bit of ammunition is the fact the Great Lakes are not included in sea-ice-data, but represent a large area of water, and the ice-cover on the lakes may set a modern record, this winter

Great Lakes 20150221 glsea_cur

The fact of the matter is that rather than a “zonal” flow, which steers winds around and around the Pole and keeps the cold locked up there, we are seeing  “meridianal” flow this winter, which involves a jet stream so loopy that at times air from Siberia flows across the Pole, rather than around the Pole, and then heads down to my back yard.  In fact, even as I type, the thermometer on my back porch reads -10.8° Fahrenheit, which is -23.8° Celsius, which means my back porch is colder than the North Pole, where it appears to only be -20° Celsius.

The reason it is warm at the Pole this morning is because, when cold air is exported, warmer air must come north to replace it. Often this imported air comes north aloft and doesn’t show up on surface temperature maps, but when the flow is especially meridianal you can see the plume of mildness curling north, and often breeding a storm as it rises.

DMI2 0223B temp_latest.big

This plume of warmth produced a neat, tight, little gale right at the Pole, which is wandering away towards Canada.

DMI2 0223B mslp_latest.big

Alarmists are coming up with various ideas that explain the meridianal flow as being due to warming, but in order to do so they have to turn a blind eye to the fact we have records that show us we have seen this all before. We may not have satellite records, but the Danes in particular kept records of where the edge of the ice was, due to their interests in Greenland and their fishermen. These records show a decrease in ice in the 1920’s and 1930’s was followed by an increase in the 1940’s (though the records become sparse during World War Two, when Nazis occupied Denmark and information about the sea-route to Russia became classified).

The interesting thing is how swiftly and immediately the ice responded to fluctuations in the PDO and AMO. The Pacific, though huge, has less direct imput via ocean water, and mostly effects the levels of ice in the Bering Strait.

One fascinating example of history repeating itself involves the fact that, the last time the Pacific PDO switched from “Warm” to “Cold,” it displayed an interesting glitch in smooth cycling, by reverting to “Warm” during a “spike” in 1958 and 1959. We have seen the exact same thing reoccur the past two years, and have seen the sea-ice in the Bering Strait immediately revert to low levels from high levels.

PDO Screen_shot_2015_02_17_at_5_38_30_AM

I was surprised to see the resemblance be so similar, because all things are not equal,  during these cycle, and outside influences are throwing wrenches into the works and keeping this cycle from being a copycat of the last one. For one thing, the sun is behaving very differently, and is described as a “Quiet Sun,” and even though we are near the high point of the sunspot cycle, the past four days have shown us a “spotless” sun, (though if you magnify you can see some “specks”).

DMI2 0224 sunspots latest

It seems to me that the current “warm” spike is stronger than the one in 1958 and 1959, and I am expecting a decrease in the ice in Bering Strait. However it is on the Atlantic side that the real drama is taking place.

The AMO is suppose to stay “warm” another five years, but last winter and spring it displayed a short spike into “cold” territory. There was an immediate response in the sea-ice, which grew along the north and east coast of Svalbard at a time of year it was shrinking back everywhere else. Then, when the AMO reverted to “warm”, that same ice shank back at a time of year it was growing everywhere else.

I assumed things had gotten back to  normal, and we could expect the AMO to remain warm, but take a look at this January’s graph.

AMO January amo(2)

This represents a major crash, and suggests we will be seeing some major changes in where the edge of the sea-ice is this summer, on the Atlantic side. From what I could gather looking at the old Danish records, the response is far swifter than one would think it could be.  Will the same thing happen again?

I haven’t a clue about the dynamics involved. To be quite honest, I doubt anyone does. We are witnessing this change for the first time since we developed the wonderful modern tools we can employ from satellites, and developed our modern buoys as well.

It is a time to buy some popcorn, and to sit back and watch. I imagine a lot of people who behave as if they are authorities and already understand everything are going be humbled.

I did offer some ideas for discussion in this “guest essay” at WUWT:   http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/09/author-of-its-own-demise-musings-on-the-amo/ and think the comments include some ideas better than my own. One idea I had never even thought about involved the viscosity of water at various temperatures, and how that could influence flow as much as density.

We may be about to see how Nature pulls off one of her magic tricks, and once she shows us how it is done we might shake our heads, and wonder why we couldn’t figure it out before.

LOCAL VIEW —Powder’s End—(Updated twice, with summery)

There is the word “rain” in the forecast. True, the forecast is for 4-6 inches of snow, ending as a glaze of freezing rain before we are clobbered by another cold wave, but it seems I haven’t heard that word “rain” for the longest time. It seems impossible, after the shot of cold we just took.

The core of the cold came in around dawn Friday. Temperatures had been plunging all night with squalls of snow, with the the final flakes flying after midnight and preventing Friday from being a “snow free” day, but by the dawn’s twilight the final clouds were hurrying away, purple buffalo galloping against the stripe of orange on the eastern horizon. Temperatures had dropped to around 5°. and were down to 2° when the brilliant sun peeked over the frozen landscape, and then, despite the brilliant sun, continued down. When I dropped the gang-of-six off at the kindergarten the dashboard thermometer read zero. (My thermometer at home, and a few others on my area, read higher, because a big drift covered the bulb.)

We didn’t even try to get the children outside at our farm-daycare.  Our focus may be the outdoors, but there comes a time to surrender to reality, and with the vicious wind whipping snow like stinging sand, surrender seemed wise. The best the thermometer could achieve, despite sunshine that made you squint, was 14° (-10° Celsius).

Meanwhile all eyes turned to the next storm, to our west.

20150220 satsfc20150220 rad_nat_640x480

I had to shovel out the back of my pick-up and hustle off through the cold to pick up some grain and do a few other out of town chores. One involved a visit to a bank I don’t usually use.

I saw a funny incident at that bank. A very old man came doddering in, and a young lady started to hit him with some sort of bureaucratic crap, saying that they had changed their policy and now both he and his wife had to sign a certain check for him to deposit it. It was 9° out with a howling wind and drifting snow, and the old man’s nose was blue despite his extensive scarves, a collar that engulfed his chin, and a furry hat that looked several sizes too large. The young lady was basically telling him to go home through the vicious wind and then come back through the rotten weather a second time. Though the old man’s voice was very reedy and quavering, his eyes got very regal and piercing, and the young lady stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. After looking her up and down, he picked up a pen and wrote his own signature with one hand, and then switched hands and forged his wife’s signature with the other hand. Then he handed her the check, as if daring her to say something. She didn’t dare.

The bank also had a group of young men with checks they’d gotten from people for shoveling roofs. Briefly unemployment  as dipped in this area. One topic I heard discussed was how homeowners have ripped shingles from their roofs, attempting to remove snow with long ice rakes.

I stopped at several places looking for the pucks of calcium chloride you can toss up onto roofs to melt ice-dams. The problem people are having with ice-dams is so serious that everyone was sold out, however an old-timer at a hardware store told me it is cheaper to just buy a big 50 pound bag of calcium chloride, and then, when your wife isn’t looking, you take her nylons and make a tube of calcium chloride, and lay it over the ice-dam at the edge of your roof.

The worst of this arctic shot actually headed south well west of us. Places in Kentucky smashed their all time records, which is all the more noteworthy as it is nearly March. Joe Bastardi, at his blog over at Weatherbell (and some other sites as well), are pointing out that the National Weather Bureau is displaying their political bias, and their eagerness to promote a Global Warming agenda, because they have no problem trumpeting record highs when they occur, but when an all-time-record-low is set they question the thermometers. They disallowed an all-time-record set in Illinois last winter despite the fact the thermometer seemed to work correctly, but couldn’t disallow the new record of -50° set in Maine, when that thermometer was compared to five other thermometers and proved accurate. It will be difficult to ignore the records set in Kentucky because the old records were not broken by a mere degree. They were smashed.

Not that it means the world is getting colder. It means the core of an arctic air-mass was flung south with such speed it didn’t have time to warm up.

Our temperatures dropped below zero again soon after sunset, but by then the core of the cold was past, and winds were already starting to swing around to the southwest. Temperatures dipped to -1.1° ( -18.4° Celsius) before midnight,  but now have crept up to +0.3° as I suffer my usual insomnia at 3:40 AM.

The storm is gathering to our west, with more snow in the current radar shot than appeared in the shot at the start of this post.

href=”https://sunriseswansong.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/20150220b-satsfc.gif”>20150220B satsfc20150220B rad_nat_640x480

I have lots to do to be ready for the next storm, but have to waste half a day taking one of those adult-education courses the State insists Child-care-professionals take. This seems a perfect example of bureaucracy run amuck .  Rather than doing what common sense would have you do, you must fulfill some requirement they dreamed up, because what else have they got to do with their time?

I’ll make the best of it, even though I often know more than my teachers. There is something to be learned from every person you meet, even if it isn’t always what they are teaching. Also I’ve been working so hard, physically, that it may do me some good to just sit for a while.

Unloading feed for my goats in that wind yesterday did make sitting sound awful attractive, especially as the snow is so deep I can’t back my truck very close to the barn.  I’m the one who should be sitting around and dreaming stuff up. I need to write a novel, and make enough money to hire a young fellow to lug grain for me. Of course, I’ve been saying that for nearly fifty years. The whole point of becoming a writer in the first place was to avoid working a real job. However I’m glad that didn’t work out, for what would I have had to write about?

I’ll update about this storms as it happens.

CLASSY CLASS

I was not very happy about having my Saturday stolen, especially having to hurry in the brittle chill of -3.5° daybreak to feed animals and be on the road to the western side of Southern New Hampshire. I like to potter about unhurried on a Saturday. Instead I was being tossed about in a van with my wife and three staff members, because even the more civilized State Highways are starting to be buckled by frost heaves. Furthermore it only got colder. It was below -10° in the low, flat former-farmland that cradles the large town of Keene. As the women in the van cheerfully  chattered I glowered across a landscape that was a queer mix of brilliant blue and brass, as the arctic air gave way to the advance of southern storminess.  The sky was a confusion of high clouds, speaking of warmth far away as the world beneath was frozen solid.

The class was about introducing children to the outdoors. Considering this was the entire premise behind opening our Childcare nearly a decade ago, and considering the crap the State put us through for daring to step outside of the box of institutionalized childcare where children are basically incarcerated in a jail, there is a certain irony in the fact the State now requires I be “educated” about the subject. It was one of those situations where I could say a great deal, however my wife shoots me a certain look that implores that I button my fat lips.

The class was in two parts. We had a class in October where the idea was introduced, and now we were suppose to relay our observations and results, after trying out the amazing idea of allowing children to escape the suffocation of the indoors, and run where the air is fresh and free. I was a bit cynical about what people would say, seeing as how we have had just about the worst weather on record, and childcare-providers were given just about every reason there is to stay indoors.

I was glad I kept my big mouth closed, for it turned out to be very interesting to listen to how amazed the childcare providers were about how positive the experience of allowing the children to play outside was. Duh. But I did not even feel the urge to say “Duh”, because there is something better about people discovering things for themselves than you doing the discovery for them and ramming it down their throats.

One thing I have often seen is that, when a new child comes to our Childcare, they stand around and watch the other children for a bit, before getting drawn into the play. I’d always assumed this was due to shyness, and never considered the fact they might not be used to the outdoors. However as I listened to other childcare providers I heard that the entire group of children stood about, when first faced with the outdoors. In some cases even the staff stood about. It was as if they were all asking, “Now what?” It took a day or two before they even began to run about and enjoy the outdoors. That is how alienated modern society has become from fresh air. However, after only a day or two, a sort of enthusiasm bloomed, and soon parents were remarking that all children would talk about when they got home was how much fun the outdoors was.

This is something my wife and I accepted as a basic premise. Not that we deserve a medal for anything so blatantly obvious, but it nice to see some sort of affirmation: We didn’t invent the Truth; the mystery is why others don’t see it.

Originally the class was suppose to be held outdoors, but the instructor decided against that when she saw the dawn temperature was -15° (-26.1° Celsius) in Keene. However by 10:30 AM temperatures had risen thirty degrees to +15° (-9.4° Celsius). This is still “too cold” for children to be allowed outside at State-run schools, and it was refreshing to hear many state how stupid that ruke was, in a windless calm, for +15° felt warm.

They have had less snow in western New Hampshire, only 30 inches lay in the playground as opposed to 60 inches towards the coast. However the snow was deep enough to limit the children at that particular Childcare, when they went out to play. As I watched, the 30 or so women attending the class (I was the lone male) all got busy making paths and building various shapes, as a “surprise” for the children when they came in on Monday. (My favorite was a circle with an inward-facing bench, built of packed powder, which got dubbed “the hot tub”.

I carefully avoided being helpful. My body is so achy from a week’s worth of work making my own playground child-friendly that I figured I needed a break. Instead I just watched, and was glad I kept my big mouth closed.

YAHOO SNOWFALL

Temperatures rose to 21.7° (-5.7° Celsius) as the day dulled to gray. I was Home by 1:30 PM, ate lunch, and snoozed, and the snow was beginning at 3:00 when I finally got myself going. Temperatures promptly dropped to 21.0°, and then stayed within a degree of that as the day slowly darkened and the snow grew heavier.

I had to drive about a bit taking care of minor bits of business before winding up at the farm removing snow from roofs, and couldn’t help but notice the insanity of the young men. They were fishtailing about the roads recklessly, as I crept along carefully in my old truck. The snow fell in bursts, with a half inch in ten minutes, and then a spell of light snow before the next burst. I passed one field where young men were going wild in snow mobiles, and then at the farm, as I worked in the deepening darkness, I could hear the snowmobiles whining like deranged mosquitoes off in the distance.

I used to really hate the noise, the disruption of the peace, caused by snowmobiles. I prefered the quiet where you can hear the sound flakes make as they land.  Oddly, I found my feelings had changed.

The economy has been so bad I heard few snow mobiles, up until a week ago. Then young men were able to find work shoveling off roofs. Apparently, rather than being wise and putting their money in a jar and saving it, they bought gas for their snow mobiles, and are being foolish.  Why does that make me smile?

The radar showed snow decreasing in a more westerly band, and increasing in a band closer to the coast.

20150221 satsfc

20150221 rad_ec_640x480

INSOMNIA REPORT

Temperatures have remained level all night, and are at 21.2° at 2:30 AM. The snow seems to be slackening off, and the western edge os approaching. We seem likely to escape with only three inches. Boston continues to have its odd karma, and snow still looks heavy down there.

20150222 satsfc 20150222 rad_ec_640x480_12

The extreme cold looks to be hanging back behind a temporarily stationary front back over the Great Lakes. That front will charge south and have us back below zero on Monday night, but it looks like we’ll get a day of rest this Sunday. It might even get above freezing, which will feel like fifty to the frost-bitten populace of New England. Weekend after weekend we’ve had storms, but it looks like this Sunday we’ll at least manage a church service.

The Great Lakes are freezing up, despite the fact the cold has been centered over us and not them, this winter. Last winter they got the extreme cold, yet we are seeing as much ice as last year, (perhaps because the water was colder to begin with.) This is especially noticeable on Lake Ontario, which is closer to the center of this year’s cold, and which has more ice than last year.  Storms and strong winds have torn at the ice and led to decreases, but still the ice cover increases. This does not bode well for a balmy spring.

Great Lakes 20150221 glsea_cur

ANOTHER INSOMNIA REPORT

A very weak wave rippled along the front as it pushed by yesterday morning, giving us a final flurry of snow, before the clouds broke and we got a kindly Sunday.

20150222B satsfc

20150222B rad_ne_640x480

Even though Boston got heavier snow, it was mixed with enough sleet and freezing rain to reduce amounts to something like an inch and a half. Nonetheless they are nearing an all-time-record for snow-in-a-single-winter, and have completely smashed their record for snow-in-a-single-month, despite the fact February has fewer days. (These records only go back to around 1870, and also I think they didn’t fuss so much measuring a half inch of snow, back in the old days. However they have broken the snow-in-a-single-month record by more than a foot.) Boston Harbor is choked with sea-ice.

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

There is sea-ice all the way down to inlets in Virginia. I wonder if they include it in the “sea-ice totals”. Maybe not, as I suppose it doesn’t count as “arctic” and they are measuring arctic sea-ice.” But we certainly have been included in the arctic, the past month.

However yesterday was different. It was a brief break. We managed a church service, and I greatly enjoyed getting out of my grubby farmer clothes, even if I was back in them three hours later and back warring with the snow. To some it may seem quaint, rustic and even primitive to congregate and sing 200-year-old songs praising a Creator some doubt exists, but speaking for myself, it was a relief, and a joy.

Then it was back to the battle. I’d say we had 3-4 inches of fluff, very unusual as it came on a south wind, and drifted places (such as porches) that are usually protected from snow. As I cleaned such a porch I had a vivid memory of being a small boy back in the 1950’s, and hearing my mother remark, “This is very unusual. We don’t usually get snow on a south wind.” It gave me the sense we were back to a place we were sixty years ago, in a sixty-year-cycle.

My up-the-hill neighbors are getting a bit desperate, as the oil-delivery-man is a bit of a weeny and will not zoom up their drive like his predecessor did, and turn around in a vast flat area at the top, and instead insists upon creeping up the hill backwards. To be blunt, I am better at backing up than this fellow is, and I am not all that good at it. He veers into snowbanks, and churns the wheels a little, and then gives up in trepidation over the prospect of “getting stuck.” He insisted they widen the drive, so they fought back the snowbanks. Then he insisted they sand the driveway so they sanded it.  Now he apparently is saying the packed powder is too deep, and they must scrape down to the pavement.  (I doubt it will do any good, for even if the pavement was bare and dry, the fellow is pathetic, when it comes to backing-up.) In any case they have now spread hundreds of pounds of salt, which had no effect at first, because salt will not melt snow when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. Then, yesterday, temperatures rose above twenty, and the driveway, which had been paved with a half-foot of packed, squeaky snow it was easy to drive over, turned into six inches of a sort of dry slush, which they were attempting to shovel away. I took off my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, put on my grubby-farmer-clothes,  and went out to join them. I likely violated commandments involving Sunday being a day-of-rest, but gleaned a few points for loving-my-neighbor.

Having already broken the commandment about resting on Sunday, I headed over to our farm-childcare to snow-blow the entrances and exits and parking area. The roads were wet, for the salt which formerly had no effect was starting to work all over town, and it gave one the sense we were experiencing a thaw. No such luck. Even in the brightest and sunniest part of the afternoon we couldn’t quite break freezing, only achieving 31.6°. (-0.2 Celsius). However the slush that was created needed to be dealt with, as, if you don’t take care of it, it turns to rock when the cold returns. (I think the salt actually drains away as a sort of brine, leaving a slush behind that is salt-free.)

No one seemed to be taking a day-of-rest. Everyone seemed determined to avoid letting the snow get ahead of them. I saw no signs of the April-attitude, which doesn’t bother with clearing up snow because everyone knows the sun will melt it in a day or two. We are not there yet, and there seems to be an unspoken understanding that everyone needs to keep fighting. We can handle 3-4 inches of snow, but it is like treading water. Everyone knows we cannot handle a big storm. There is simply no place to put the snow.

However it does no good to worry about what might not happen. You deal with the cards you are dealt. As I finished snow-blowing, and sudden silence descended, I looked west to where the orange twilight was draining into the sky, and listened, and heard not even the sound of snowflakes falling. There were no snowmobiles roaring weekend joys, for the weekend was over, and mine was the last snow-blower to quit. All I could hear was the silence of a world smothered by snow.

There was no roaring of oncoming arctic air, though that is in the forecast. In fact even now, as I write this insomnia report, temperatures have only dipped to 21.7°. We are still in the lull before the next onslaught of winter.

The map and radar shows a line of light snow, as the arctic air closes in, but the night is still still, and the stillness suggests a song.

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This sort of arctic front can bring us unexpected snow, as the sun is high enough to add uplift and turn a flurry into a squall, but it isn’t here yet, and I am content to simply listen to the silence, before the pines again begin roaring.

The moonless night feels draped by pearled moonlight.
The once-cold stars now have twinkling eyes.
Something is happening out of my sight;
Something out of my mind now softens sighs.
Under the drifts of deep drowning snows
A simpleness stirs. It’s nothing fancy.
It’s old. It’s what a mother knows
Before the father knows of pregnancy.
It’s the first stirrings of sap down in roots
Before the first drop plinks in a bucket.
It’s an earthquake, but lawyers in sleek suits
Can’t feel it, or else sense and say, “Fuck it.”
Though forecasts are cold, it’s forecasting mirth.
It’s a silence utterly altering earth.

LOCAL VIEW —A CLOUTING CLIPPER—(updated)

This is just a quick note. I’ll update later.

It only got up to 9° (-13° Celsius) yesterday, despite brilliant sunshine, but then last night it only fell back to 6° (-14° Celsius) before the clouds and slightly less cold air in front of an Alberta Clipper began moving in. This morning I look out at the dark before dawn and see a swirl of powder, and it is up to 15° (-9° Celsius.)

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A wild and windy wall of whirling white-out whooshed through this morning, giving us a swift 2-3 inches and making a complete mess of the morning commute. I clearly showed how virtual the world of administrators is, because yesterday there was a two-hour-delay to the start of school, with brilliant sunshine, because the administrators were in awe of the warning about the wind-chill, but today there were no warnings and everyone headed off to school at the ordinary time in conditions which, for roughly an hour, were like those of the worst blizzard.

One mother dropped off her child at the Childcare at the same time both mornings, as she works at a hospital where there is no such thing as a snow delay. If anything, snow brings more business to hospitals. Some elective surgery might be postponed, but a lot of illnesses and injuries don’t wait on the weather. So this woman simply had to get to work.

I liked her spirit. She just accepted the weather as something she had to deal with, and plugged on with, if anything, a bit of a ho-hum attitude. She was more annoyed about other drivers than the weather.  You can’t do anything about the weather, but driving is something people can do something about.

What people did was to creep along between 15 and 25 miles per hour, which seemed quite sensible to me. The core of the clipper, which seemed much like a strong cold front, included gales that came in blasts, and made the snow blinding. Then, just about the time the last child was delivered to school, the snow let up, as the clipper moved past.

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At 11:00 the snow has stopped and it is up to 20° (-17° Celsius) for the first time in days. TYhe blast of cold air behind this clipper shouldn’t be as bad as the last one, as it will come towards us over the Great Lakes, and though they are freezing up fast they still have a lot of open water.

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You can see the slightly milder air in the lee of the lakes well in this Dr. Ryan Maue map from Weatherbell below, which shows the Canadian model’s forecast of the situation 30 hours from now (which incidentally is the time of the Patriot’s playoff game.  Folk around here are deeply concerned about the passing of quarterback Tom Brady being effected cold and wind, and not so worried about their pipes freezing.)

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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 —WORST WINTER EVER—(A Synopsis) Updated

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.”

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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.”

WORST WINTER EVER SNOW EVENTS

  • #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.)