LOCAL VIEW —Duster’s Bluster—

I’ll count my blessing, as a second blizzard intensified explosively out to sea just far enough, on Friday evening, to clobber Maine, but only clip us.  I’m not sure I could take more snow-removal, though I suppose you do what you have to, when you have to.

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(In the lower left of that last radar shot you can already see the next storm coming.)

As the blizzard hit Maine the winds on the west side began to pick up, as the isobars tightened. (Click, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge maps.)

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Temperatures plunged in the roaring wind, and it was 2.6° (-16.3° Celsius) on Saturday morning. I was hoping the snow would have been just damp enough to form a crust and prevent drifting, but if any crust did form it was too fragile to stand up to the wind, which soon was digging down into the powder snow heaped up by last Tuesday’s blizzard. As the sun rose white in dazzlingly clear skies, the air was sparkling with tiny flakes of wind lifted snow.

I watched from inside at first. There was no way I wanted to go out in that wind. I’m not hot-blooded like my middle son, who headed out to cross country ski with his girlfriend.  When I decided I could hazard the heated cab of my truck and go to pick up some hay and grain for my goats, I passed “Windblown”, the local cross-country-ski area where I once worked and even ran a snack bar, twenty-five years ago, and saw business was booming, so I suppose my son isn’t the only person who enjoys being incredibly uncomfortable.

The roads were dry, and then you’d suddenly hit a place where the snow had drifted over the tar. Usually it was when there was an open field to the north or west, but occasionally it would be in the trees, and know the tree trunks must have formed some sort of coincidental, funneling tunnel. Sometimes the pavement would simply be powdered white, but in a few places the road would abruptly be deep, rutted snows. You had to make sure to keep your steering straight, and neither accelerate nor brake, until the pavement was dry again.

It was a wind that made you wince, and my goats had the sense to stay out of it. They’d found a south-facing area under the barn where they could stand in the sun and avoid the wind. They are not at all pleased by deep snow, as they don’t like walking where they can’t see what their feet are trodding upon, and are far less likely to wander and eat the neighbor’s shrubs, once the snows get deep. They are also more crabby, and take it out on each other, and give me glances as if they are contemplating taking it out on me, so I strongly advise them not to even think of it. The cold gives them a voracious appetite for the grain, and they are even less dismissive of hay than usual.

The chicken’s water was frozen, so I had to attend to thawing the dispenser and refilling it with warm water. By then my fingers felt like blocks of wood, and even my dog was standing by the door of the truck, ready to head home, which is unusual.  Temperatures had already started down, after reaching the day’s high of 12.7° (-10.7° Celsius.)

It was nice and warm at home. One of the benefits of deep snow on the roof of a 250-year-old house with lousy insulation is that it acts as a blanket, Also the pipes are less likely to freeze, with the foundation tucked in by white blankets of drifts. However I became suspicious when I noticed it was 70° by the front entry and only 60° on the kitchen where the wood stove was roaring, so I checked the thermostat for the propane heat. Sure enough, my son had turned it up, as like most young men he prefers his girlfriend warm. But he doesn’t pay the bill.

Now it is down to -3.5° (-19.7° Celsius) at 6:30 on a Sunday morning, and the wind has died down.  Already we have a winter storm warning for 7-12 inches of snow on Monday, with the high temperature during the storm expected to be around 10° (-12° Celsius). That’s a nasty cold snow, and makes today’s expected high temperature of 25° (-3.9° Celsius) seem downright balmy.

The power grid is being tested to the limit by the cold all over New England, and the wisdom of shutting down two power plants this January, because our president doesn’t like coal, (and Big Oil doesn’t like competition), is seeming less wise. So far we’ve only had one short brown-out, (when a transformer fire caused all sorts of frantic adjustments to be made to keep the power going), but people will really howl if the power goes off just as everyone sits down to watch the Superbowl. But that probably won’t happen, as so few businesses are operating on Sunday night. Monday will be the first real test, with many businesses starting up and running at full blast, even as many kids stay home from school and household electricity usage stays high.

Last year the cold came down further west, and we were on the eastern edge of the below-normal blasts, but it looks like New England will be right in the bulls-eye for the cold as February starts, and people west of the Great Lakes will get spared.

Here are the maps of the lull before the next storm. (Click to enlarge.)

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LOCAL VIEW —The teeth of the calm—

It’s cold and very dry, 10° at 4:00 AM on December 31. If we had any snowcover it would be ten degrees colder, but we don’t. The wind was nasty two days ago but it has faded away to a sort of calm that leans on you from the northwest. That side of your face stings a little, and the brown leaves still clinging to the branches of beeches rustle slightly every now and again.

I can’t recall seeing such a huge arctic high pressure come down from Canada in quite a while. It has been years.

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The dry weather has made it possible to get some wood split and onto the porch, but at age sixty-one I sure don’t swing the eight-pound maul the way I used to. I’m a bit delicate, and swing in a gingerly fashion, as if I expect something to tear. Actually the exercise keeps bones from loosing mass, in theory, but it seems I stiffen up the same day, where I used to stiffen up worst two mornings after heavy exercise.

For some odd reason we had a brownout for an hour on Sunday afternoon. I’ve never experienced one before. We had power, but some things simply didn’t work, including the computer. The microwave would rotate a dish but not heat it. No explanation was given, that I ever heard.

All the good food over Thanksgiving and Christmas taxed my teeth, and a toothache has been souring my attitude. Two hours at the dentist yesterday ought be all the psychiatry I need, however before I was cured I wrote the following hard-to-understand sonnet, just to prove I could make a sonnet from a toothache.

When young I idealized that poetry
Was in all things, for too often youth take
For granted teeth are forever, and see
No sweat in making sonnets from a toothache.
 
It’s not so easy when you get older
And walk wincing, with one eyebrow asking
And your head tilted. I’ve not grown bolder
Or braver, when all of my multitasking
Involves avoiding a series of ouches.
 
But perhaps I did the same when I was young.
I was suppose to deliver couches
Up long staircases, and not live among
They who lounge, but then I got fired
For acting like I was already retired.

I think that sprang from some work I’m doing that involves remembering what I was up to back in 1971.  The past can be a nice place to visit, if you can’t catch a flight to Florida.

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.)

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

COOL PICTURE—3 ECLIPSES

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It seems to me that some pictures deserve to be passed around the web. This picture by Doyle Slifer is one of them.

Three objects are eclipsing the the sun. First is the small airplane. Second is the streams of clouds. Third is the moon. (There is a fourth thing you can’t see; namely, specks of dirt on my computer screen.)

Above and to the left of the small plane is a group of sunspots on the surface of the sun itself.  As the sun rotated, these large sunspots swung around and pointed right at the Earth, in some ways like the barrel of a gun. There is always the possibility the spot will shoot a solar flare right at us, which can mess up our electronics in various ways.  A flare measuring “X-17” knocked out the electricity in Sweden in 2003. So far the largest this family of spots has produced is an “X-1”, and I think the nervous will exhale in relief as this swings away from us and vanishes around the backside of the sun. By the time the sun rotates around again the spots will likely be gone, or greatly reduced.

This group of spots are the largest of the current cycle, and demonstrate that even a “Quiet Sun” can occasionally make a big group. In some ways this is annoying, for once you get back in history our only records of sunspots are those that can be seen with the naked eye.

In the pre-telescope-era records from China, (the records somehow preserved from the zeal of the Red Guard, during Mao’s insane attempt to erase the past with the “Cultural Revolution”,) there are records of sunspots so large they were clearly seen when the sun was a low, orange disc, partially obscured by dust. Some assumed these historical events hinted at very active sunspot cycles,  but now we see they can occur during quiet times.