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.)

20141231 satsfc 20150101 satsfc 20150102 satsfc 20150103 satsfc

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.

20150103 rad_nat_640x480

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.

20150103 lice-00

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.)

20150103 gfs_t2min_conus2_23

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.)

 

 

 

 

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LOCAL VIEW —To Snow or No (with “santabomb” update)

A slug of rain moved up over us this morning, with just a bit of freezing on cold pavements, though the temperatures were above freezing at 36. I suppose the stones remembered the cold. The rain swiftly swept north and is gone, and now we are seeing a gray sun, with temperatures pushing 40. I suppose this is the long-awaited “warm-up.”

20141217A rad_ne_640x480_01 20141217B rad_ne_640x480_12

The rain-snow line has been pushed well to the north, but I am going to call this “Winter Storm #10” all the same. (We had some icy pavement, after all.) (I’ll never match the 26 winter storms of the 1600’s if I don’t cheat a little.)  Also a little snow may be swept around the backside, and give us a backlash tomorrow.

The map shows the warm front never made it here. It zipped up into an occlusion, and a weak coastal low has formed where the zipper is zipping, and the cold front separates from the warm front.  It seems that nearly the entire mild air-mass, full of Chinook kindness, was lifted before it got east. We got gypped. It all passed over head, as down on the ground we got a case of the shivers. (Click maps to clarify and enlarge)

20141217 satsfc 20141217B satsfc

That coastal low will likely blow up into a gale up over the Canadian Maritimes, and we will get north winds and some moderated arctic air. Somehow the cold always seems to manage to sneak down our way. Here’s the latest temperature map: (Click and then click again to fully enlarge.)

20141217B gfs_t2m_noram_1

Besides the chill hanging tough over New Hampshire, the map shows some grey coloring south of Hudson Bay, indicative of temperatures dipping below zero Fahrenheit ( -18 Celsius). That is some home-brewed Canadian cold that was prepared for us during the long nights the air sat over the snow-covered Canadian prairies.  When nights are at their shortest Canadians don’t need to import air from Siberia to freeze our socks off.  The irony is that where the subzero air now sits is the exact location where the friendly Chinook air lay, last week. It seemed so sure to sweep east and warm us.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what happens to the warm air when it is occluded upwards. What happens to the heat it holds? There is a surprising amount of argument about whether it is radiated to outer space or not.

Another thing that kept the warm air from reaching us was all the snow-cover it had to melt away, as it came east.  It takes a lot of heat top melt snow, as the available heat turns into latent heat as water goes through the phase changes from solid to liquid, and from liquid to gas. (The opposite occurs when the phase changes reverse. A storm actually releases a lot of heat as vapor turns to liquid and liquid to snow.)

The snow-cover was at record levels at the end of November, and had advanced down to Texas, but the “warm-up” chased it north to Canada by December 13:

Snowcover20141213  ims2014347_usa

It has made a comeback behind Storm #10:

Snowcover 20141216 ims2014350_usa

You can see the snow is hanging stubborn, in New Hampshire, but it is not the pretty snow you see in Christmas cards. It is inferior, dingy stuff, with patches of bare ground showing on the south slopes. We could do with a touch-up, though preferably not until Christmas Eve.

I am going to add to this post later, as there is a lot of gossip about a storm this weekend, but I have chores to do before I can delve into that.

UPDATE  —“Santabomb” storm?—

As usual Weatherbell and “Whats Up With That” have beaten me to the punch, as Ryan Maue has tweeted the news about various Christmas blizzards the models are seeing.   The news can be read at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/12/17/santabomb-winter-storm-predicted-for-northeastern-u-s-at-christmas/#comment-1816610

The GFS computer was cranking out a 956 mb low over the Great Lakes: (Click to clarify and enlarge.)

Santabomb 958mb_low-xmas-day

First, this is a modeled storm, and models change their so-called “minds”, especially about events a week away.

Second, some sort of big storm is likely, as the very cold air returns and runs into the “warm-up” air in place over the USA.  The question is, where they will form and where they will move. In the winter of 1978 there were three big storms, two of which gave blizzards to New England, and which sandwiched a warm storm that sank my shack on the coast of Maine.

Here are some comments from the post over at WUWT:

  • Right. For New England there were actually three storms:

    1) In January a storm brought a record 24 hour snowfall to Boston and the east coast. I parked my VW Rabbit in a snow bank while I cleared the driveway and got snow on the external timing belt making it slip and the engine have zero compression. I figured out how to fix it the next day. This storm was poorly forecast by models.

    2) At the end of January, the midwest storm brought a record low air pressure to Cleveland, and quite a bit of rain to New York, Boston, etc. This is called the Blizzard of ’78 or the “Great White Hurricane” in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio and well deserves both titles.

    3) Feb 6th brought another record 24 hour snowfall, winds that nearly blew my VW Rabbit off I 495, massive storm surges that destroyed hundreds of homes and killed dozens of people. It is known as the Blizzard of ’78 in New England states and well deserves that title. This storm was extremely well forecasted by the models, but between the poor job for the first storm and big problem of snow starting around 1100, everyone was at school and work, leading to massive mayhem trying to get home. While several of its records have been broken, it remains the benchmark that all other storms are compared against.

    I had the most awesome, impossible to duplicate drive home that night. Seehttp://wermenh.com/blizz78.html and its companion.

    Storm started Monday, this was Wednesday:http://wermenh.com/images/bliz78_int.jpg

    As Vic Werme states, the Cleaveland 1978 Superbomb was a warm storm in New England, between two far worse New England blizzards. It had the effect of turning the street-side snowbanks, leftover from the first blizzard, to slush, which then froze as hard as rock, and became a problem when the second blizzard arrived, as the snowbanks wouldn’t budge and the snow plowed by plows went up the rock-like banks and then tumbled back down into the streets behind the plows.

    Another effect of the warm storm was surprise flooding on the coast of Maine. The bays and inlets and harbors opened to the southeast, and the warm southeast wind was so strong it sort of dented your eyeballs. The tide kept right on rising after high tide.

    I was living on a shack on a dock on the Harraseeket River in South Freeport, and my idyllic little home was washed off the dock onto the mudflats. It is an amazing thing to watch your house go blub-blub-blub. I had a extensive collection of Jimi Hendrix albums which was ruined, for it turned out it was impossible to remove mudflat mud from the grooves of those old fashioned records. It seemed tragic at the time, however it was probably healthy to stop listening to that stuff all day. Every storm has a silver lining.

    In any case, as very cold air charges south into the USA we have our best chance for the sort of storms one talks about thirty or forty years later. This looks to be like one of those winters.

LOCAL VIEW —Warm Sweeper—

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

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

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

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

Snowcover 20141201B ims2014331_usa Snowcover 20141201A ims2014335_usa

 

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

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

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