Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dramatic Video Shows Falling Tree Almost Killing Cyclist

It's windy in parts of Vermont this Thursday afternoon and it's going to get even windier Friday.
This fallen tree almost killed a cyclist
in Amsterdam the other day.  

Already, in my St. Albans, Vermont yard, there are small branches down after a windy, rainy day.

I'll find more tomorrow, surely. A wind advisory is up for the Green Mountain State for gusts to 50 mph Friday. In northern New York, it's a high wind warning with gusts over 60 mph possible.

Judging from the video in this post, I might want to wait to clean up the branches until after the wind subsides.

In Amsterdam, during that horrible storm they had a couple days ago, a tree in a park blew over. Watch how close the cyclist came to being smushed. Yikes!

The Gales Of November Come Early

November starts tomorrow, and November is the time of month when storm systems truly become winter type, often become mega-weather systems that produce a lot of wind.
The Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a November
gale on Lake Superior in 1975, claiming 29 lives  

And that's what northern New England, and much of the nation for that matter is facing has October closes and November begins.

Often in November, large storms sweep out of the southern Great Plains of the United States and sweep up toward the Great Lakes.

These November storms cause a lot of havoc, and this one will be no exception. Expect severe thunderstorms and some flooding in the central United States with this one today.

Since these storms are often strong, they produce a lot of wind. In Vermont and surrounding states, we often get blasts of strong, strong south winds this time of year as the storms pass by to our west.

That's the situation we find ourselves in today and especially tomorrow. There's a high wind warning for most of northern New York, which will be closest to the storm, and therefore most prone to the gusts. Winds there could reach up to 60 mph.

In Vermont, there's no warnings now, but I imagine they'll put out wind advisories for Friday because I can see how gusts could get into the 50 mph range.

As these Great Lakes storms always do, this one will sweep a cold front through New England eventually. After a very warm Friday (Highs in the 60s in many areas) the gusty winds will shift into a westerly direction, and it will get colder and colder over the weekend.

By Saturday night and Sunday morning, much of northern Vermont could be getting snow showers, even in the valleys, even as the winds of November continue after the passage of the storm.

It's a bit of a yearly tradition with me, but when I talk about these windy November storms, I always bring up the Edmund Fitzgerald.  One of the strongest Great Lakes storms on record struck in November, 1975, sinking the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, claiming 29 lives.

The tragedy was immortalized by the famous song "The Wreck Of the Edmund Fitgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. I love the song, it's perfect for a weather geek like me, even if the tune does make me a little seasick.

Sample lyrics:

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
'Twas the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind

So here you go with the song: (Unrelated note: Doesn't Gordon Lightfoot look exactly like Jeopardy's Alex Trebek? Maybe they're the same person?) Anyway, the video:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That European Storm I Told You About Yesterday Got Worse

On Monday morning, I wrote here in this blog thingy about a storm packing hurricane force winds in Britain.
A huge wave crashes into a lighthouse at Boulogne
su Mer, France during the enormous storm
that hit Europe Monday. Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters.

The huge storm moved on during the day into places like the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Germany, spreading the havoc.

The death toll from the storm across Europe at last report was 13 up from the two deaths I talked about just 24 hours ago.

Air, train and road transportation was crippled in much of western Europe. Even Germany's famed Autobahn was closed for time due to high winds.

Below is a pretty incredible clip of some of the drama in various places in Europe


Monday, October 28, 2013

Frigid Night To Finish Off Anything Left Growing In The Garden

Some of the warmer corners of Vermont and surrounding Northeastern states have barely had a frost and freeze this month so far.
Cosmos in my St. Albans,  Vermont garden started off slow
and finally reached their peak by today, October 28.
But they'll be dead by morning as temperatures drop
to near 20 degrees  

In Vermont's Champlain Valley, temperatures have gotten to near 32 degrees a couple nights in the past week, but it hasn't been super cold. Some plants in gardens are hanging in there.

Or at least were. Monday night will be the moment when virtually everything in the gardens will get wiped out.

It will be damn cold. Not record cold, but cold enough. Unless you're right along the shore of Lake Champlain, it will get into the mid 20s.

Most places will be in the low 20s by Tuesday morning. Many valley locations in Vermont and northern New York will be well down into the teens.

It's really not worth covering things up. They pretty much won't make it anyway. (Root crops in the gardens will be fine, though)

Kiss those hardy flowers goodbye, folks.

It's been a long growing season, so I can't complain. And a cold night like tonight's forecast chill is coming about on schedule for northern New England.

Still, a part of me can't wait for things to start greening up in the spring again.

It's going to be a long, long wait.

Sandy Anniversary Brings Calm To U.S., Wild Storm To U.K.

Today and tomorrow are the first year anniversary of the mega Superstorm Sandy that struck the U.S. East Coast. It was one of the worst disasters in American history and some areas, particularly in New Jersey and New York, are still trying to recover.
Huge waves in Wales with a massive storm
hitting Britain. Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images  

It's pretty calm in the eastern United States today. A little chilly in most areas, but it's the end of October, we can manage that.

It's Britain's turn to get whalloped. A huge storm is almost finished blasting much of the U.K., causing massive transportation disruptions and causing a lot of damage. Many trees are down around London, and many cars have been crushed by them.

The storm is being called the St. Jude's Day storm, as it's hitting on the day honoring the patron saint of lost causes.  

 Early reports suggest at least two people have died in the British storm, but we'll probably learn of more deaths later today. Winds gusted to more than 90 mph in some places.

The storm is departing Britain now, so the worst is passed there. The storm has also caused dmaage in France, and is moving toward the Netherlands and Denmark.

Yikes! Seems like there's always a huge storm somewhere.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Neighborhoods, Before And After

I can't believe it's just about a year since Hurricane Sandy trashed New Jersey, parts of New York and other states.
Staten Island, New York, the day after
Superstorm Sandy, October, 2012

The photos kind of remind me of the way Vermont is two years after Tropical Storm Irene caused one of the Green Mountain State's worst disasters.

You look around now, and in most places you'd never know Irene hit Vermont. Everything is fixed, perfect, charming. But in a few spots, you see wrecked houses that have been untouched since the day Irene's floods destroyed them.
Same Staten Island neighborhood, a year later


Sandy was muc worse and covered a wider area. In the Weather Channel photos, it's fascinating to see some areas are perfectly restored to pre-storm beachfront perfection Other spots have been untouched since the disaster, wrecked buildings still right where Sandy left them.

And still other areas are sort of still in transition.

As you scroll through the Weather Channel photos,   you wonder what the stories are behind the transitions, or lack thereof in the post-Sandy landscape.

The people whose houses are restored got lucky, maybe they had good insurance, or the damage wasn't as bad as it looked.  The system worked for them, maybe.
Breezy Point, Queens, right after Sandy, October, 2012 

What happened at the properties that have been untouched since Sandy?  

In Vermont, the wreckage of houses that are still there are mostly remaining because of the long post-disaster process. 

The federal government is buying many of these properties, so there will never again be a house in the way of a flood.

The wreckage can't be cleared until the government acquires the property. Rules are rules.

About about the wrecked houses from Sandy?  Are the people who own them just still waiting for assistance? Did they just leave town? Have no money so had to permanently abandon their homes? Or did they die in the disaster?

You can't tell from the pictures. You just hope the people whose property hasn't recovered are OK. But you know some of them not.
Same spot, Breezy Point, Queens, October, 2013 

You also know sooner or later, another mega disaster will hit some part of the country or world. And other peoples lives will turn upside down.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fog Is Not Your Friend

Yesterday, I wrote about thick smog in China and elsewhere and noted that's not usually much of a problem in Vermont or surrounding states.

However, Vermont can have a real fog problem.

And fog can be some of the most dangerous weather out there.

The web site Jalopnik, which covers cars and car culture, had a thing on how people  on foggy highways tend to drive too fast, going faster than their ability to see through the gloom.

Here's the video Jalopnik featured of a crash on foggy highway.

If you're not terrified enough by that video, here's another one of a grandmotherly woman saying she can't see in the fog as she speeds along a highway, and can't even figure out how to turn on her lights, which of course distracts her even more.

As you can guess, it doesn't end well.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, fog causes or contributes to about 38,000 road crashes with about 600 deaths each year.

True, that's only 3 percent of all weather related car crashes and 8 percent of all weather related car crash deaths, but that's probably surprising to the many of us who think fog doesn't kill.

But compare the 600 people who die in foggy crashes to the average number of U.S. deaths from floods, In 2011, a particularly bad year for floods, 113 people died in high water, 68 in car-related flood incidents.

An average of 60 people die each year in tornadoes, but that number varies greatly year to year.

So far this year there have been 23 lightning deaths in the United States.

Bottom line: Fog is dangerous. Sometimes.

Vermont has many foggy mornings in the fall. And of course in the winter, heavy snow and whiteouts  cut visibility next to nothing. Plus the snow adds the joy of glare ice to the roads, so it's doubly dangerous.

So if the visibility is low on the highway, do us all a favor. Drive more slowly than you think you need to. Thank you.

Norwegian Town Finds Its Way Out Of The Winter Darkness

I don't know about you, but I really am dreading the darkness of winter.
Mirrors on the mountains direct a patch of reflected
sunlight onto the town square in Rjukan, Norway.  

I like daylight, and it's getting to the point where its dark too often. By December, it will seem like it's nightime all the time.  With the darkness comes the cold, too.

 It's a little depressing, frankly, but like (almost) everybody else, I'll get through it.

At least here in Vermont, we see glimpses of sun even in the cloudiest, darkest days of December when the days are shortest.

Up above the Arctic Circle, of course, there's weeks of darkness in the winter. Ugh.

And there's a town in Norway called Rjukan, where the lack of sun is particularly frustrating in the winter. It's in a deep mountain valley, so when the sun is at a low angle in the winter, they can see the light shining on the mountaintops, but the sun never reaches the valley.

So close, and yet so far. The town does have a cable car that residents can use to go up the mountains and see the sun.

Now, the town of Rjukan has an ingenious new idea for some sun. They've positioned mirrors on some of the hillsides, which reflects lights down on Rjukan's pretty town square, according to the Telegraph UK.

The sun is out in downtown Rjukan!

The Telegraph article says computers control the position of the mirrors, so that as the sun moves to different positions in the sky during the day and during the course of the winter, the mirrors adjust to make sure the sun keeps shining in the town square.

I don't know if the mirrors solve all the town's problems with a lack of sunshine, but at least it helps.

I know they tell us to stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer, and that's great advice, but even fair skinned people need a little sun frequently to manufacture Vitamin D in their bodies. 

As I noted, the lack of sun in winter is a bit depressing, to the point where some people have a real problem with seasonal depression.

So, congratulations to Rjukan for finding at least a partial solution to its sunlight problem.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hard To Breathe In This Polluted Chinese City

There's a brisk west breeze in Vermont this Thursday and the air is fresh and clean, as it usually is in this part of the world.
In this photo from Getty Images, a man in Harbin,
China navigates a bike through the thick smog.  

Which means I can try to ignore the chill, and the occasional rain, sleet and snow sprinkles that have been coming down.

It could be worse.

In parts of China, the air pollution has been off the charts lately. Fine particulate pollution in the Chinese city of Harbin was 40 times worse than the level set by the World Health Organization. 

The pollution, with its obvious health hazard and extremely bad visibility in the smog, pretty much closed down the city of almost 11 million people earlier this week.

According to the Telegraph UK:

"You could feel the burning smell in the air, and on the second day the thick fog just blocked your waay, keeping you from seeing anytbing," said Song Ting, a 21-year-old student in Harbin. "It's still disgusting."

Zhao Yao, a 25-year-old IT engineer, said "You feel sick when you breathe. You can't see many people on the street now, and some people wear three masks when going out."

The air pollution happened because a high pressure system parked itself over the region of China most affected by the pollution.
The fatal smog in Donora, Pa. in October, 1948
(Walter Stein, AP)  

Such high pressure systems sometimes do that in the northern hemisphere, often in the autumn and early winter.

The wind is light under these high pressure systems, so pollutants have nowhere to go. And the air sinks beneath these systems, so the smoke and gunk can't just go up, up, up and away.

This weather pattern is called an inversion because the air is warmer high aloft than near the Earth's surface, which is opposite of the usual arrangement of decreasing temperature with height.

That warm air way up above the ground acts as a lid that keeps pollutants down here where people live.

Places with better pollution controls usually fare better than China in these scenarios. Here in Vermont, we sometimes get these stalled high pressure systems this time of year. Pollution from cars and wood stoves increases during these times, but it doesn't usually get dangerous for most people.

China, however, is a differnet story. People are firing up their heaters, fueled  by pollution-laden coal, power plants, also fueled by coal, add to the problem. So do the zillions of cars in the region. And the farmers burning the corn stubble in their recently harvested fields outside the city.

China isn't exactly the most transparent, forthcoming nation in the world, so it's hard to tell how many people got sick or died during this pollution episode. But the situation is dangerous, and I'm sure plenty of people have passed away, mostly people who have pre-existing conditions, such as heart and lung disease.

Historically, there have been episodes like this in the Western Hemisphere, before pollution control laws really came into vogue.

On October 27, 1948, a high pressure system, and its inversion, settled over Pennsylvania, including the valley town of Donora.

Donora, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, had a zinc plant and a steel mill at the time, and pollutants from the factories hung over Donora.

At least 20 people died, and about 7,000 people got sick. Despite the obvious crisis unfolding in the town at the time, the owners of the zinc plant refused to temporarily shut it down. Hey, profits over people right?

In December, 1952, a similar smog hung over London for almost a week, causing almost 12,000 more deaths than would normally be expected over that time period.

Now China is having these smog attacks. I imagine the government there will be tightening pollution control laws pretty soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jay Peak Is Our Latest Harbinger Of Winter

Jay Peak Resort in far northern Vermont this afternoon Tweeted the photo in this post, which shows a light snow accumulation on its slopes.
The snow flurry that caused this wintry
scene at Vermont's Jay Peak Tuesday
set off an even bigger flurry of Tweets and

The bit of snow came from that cold front that came through the Green Mountain State today.

The front has been advertised for days as being the one that would end our long streak of warm autumn weather in the northeastern United States.

That seems to be what's happening.

The picture of snow flurries at Jay Peak set of a blizzard of Tweets and Retweets from people starved for winter sports.

Look for a little more snow from time to time in the upper elevations of northern New England for the next several days. We won't get any blockbuster storms, but there should be some.

Even some valley locations in Vermont and surrounding states might get a few wet snowflakes mixed with the occasional raindrops over the next five days or so.

I imagine some ski resorts will be firing up their snow making guns, too, just to see if they work. And I bet Killington Resort will open any day now, as they always do once they make their first patch of snow

Gloomy Weather Makes Your Boss Very, Very Happy

Early this afternoon in Vermont, it was overcast, chilly, damp, raw.
I took an extremely brief break while working hard
at my home office in St. Albans, Vermont to take
this shot of a gloomy early afternoon.
Apparently, we're more productive in this weather.  


Which means your boss is probably overjoyed at this point.

Hat tip to The Capitol Weather Gang today for alerting us to a study that shows bosses like lousy weather because it makes employees more productive, i.e. profitable for the company.

The study is sort of a Captain Obvious document, because admit it, when it's gorgeous outside and you're stuck in the office reviewing accounts receivables budget spreadsheets, you're distracted and would rather be outdoors.

The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School compiled research from Japan that showed productivity in banks is higher on rainy days than on nice days.

Researchers also looked at the quality and quantity done in workplaces in the United States and were able to show that more work got done on gloomy days.

This might mean investors might want to locate their offices in cloudier parts of the country. Are you listening, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development?

Of course, if we start advocating Vermont's cloudy skies to businesses, it might set off a war with another agency, the Vermont Tourism Department.

However, if your company thrives on risk taking rather than productivity and accuracy, maybe cloudy cities aren't the answer. Risk taking improves in sunny weather, according to UNC.

Now, I have bad news for your boss if he or she happens to be in Vermont. I notice as of 1:30 p.m. that the rain is beginning to taper off in the Champlain Valley, and patches of blue sky seem to be approaching from the west.

So you'd better get that spreadsheet work finished, pronto.

Monday, October 21, 2013

November Comes A Week Early To New England

After what has been a remarkably warm October so far, reality is setting in.
A chilly, windy Sunday pretty much ended
foliage season around my property in St. Albans, Vermont  

We are now going to get into a stretch of weather pretty typical of November in northern New England. Not exactly pleasant, but I guess that's payback for the beautiful autumn we've had.

There was a special weather statement early this morning for freezing drizzle in the Adirondacks, which sets the tone for the forecast.

Monday will be mild-ish with highs within a few degrees of 60, but that's it. A showery, raw day is on tap for Tuesday, with some clearing in the afternoon.

From then on, at least through Sunday, it's typical November weather, only this time before Halloween.

You know the November drill: Partly to mostly cloudy skies, light rain and snow showers, a chilly breeze to stir the fallen leaves, the roar of the newly bare trees in the wind, and daytime temperatures in the 40s.

This isn't to say we're done with pleasant weather this year. It's always possible we'll get another Indian Summer in November.

But the beach days sure are over.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Drown Your City: What Extreme Sea Level Rise Would Look Like

One of biggest threats from global climate change is the rise of sea levels. Since most people around the world live in coastal cities, this is a big problem, since global warming would swamp most of the world's biggest population centers.
Lower Manhattan if the sea level rose by 262 feet  

Andrew David Thaler is a North Carolina marine biologist who runs the Southern Fried Science site

In it, he uses GIS modeling and Google Earth images of cities to show how badly they'd be underwater if sea levels rose by 80 meters, or about 262 feet.

That's the most extreme prediction of how much sea levels would rise if the world were continue to warm through the burning of fossil fuel.

So yes, these are worst case scenarios, but it's still interesting to see what would happen. Judging from the images, it's clear that even if we are to fall well short of the biggest sea level increases due to warming, we'd still be in big trouble.
Washington DC after a 262 foot sea level rise  

Images in this post are Thaler's renderings of what an 80 meter, or 262 foot rise in sea level would mean in selected cities.

The images are crudely rendered, but you can really see how under water some areas will get.

This assumes major ice sheets, like on Greenland, Antarctic and elsewhere melt.

Obviously, even if global warming is worse than even the most extreme predictions, sea level rises won't get this bad any time soon.

We won't see it in our lifetime, anyway.

However, though we won't see any apocalyptic views that are apparently in Thaler's work, any sea level rise due to global climate change would be bad.
San Franciso after an 80 foot sea level rise

Some scientists have said we've already "locked in" four feet of sea level rise through global warming and that will come in the next few decades. So any storm that comes along will flood coastal cities more than they do now.

That means a run of the mill storm that causes minor coastal flooding in cities now would cause massive destruction in the future if the same sized storm hit.  

And we don't need anything like last year's Hurricane Sandy again.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rare Three Week Vermont Warm Spell To End

It's been remarkably warm in Vermont this October, in case you haven't noticed.
Flowers are still blooming in my St. Albans, Vermont
yard, long after frosts usually wipe them out.
It's been a warm October so far.  

There haven't been any extremely warm record highs, but the mild temperatures have been incredibly consistent.

Friday was the 22nd consecutive day with warmer than normal temperatures, as recorded at the National Weather Service office in South Burlington.

That's the longest stretch of unbroken warmth I've seen in ages. (I'm not sure what the record is for the most consecutive warmer than normal days, but this must be pretty close)

October so far in Burlington is running 7.5 degrees warmer than normal. If the trend would keep up, we'd end up with one of the warmest Octobers on record.

It shows out there. I see rose bushes are blooming like mad, lawns are still green and need mowing despite the coating of fallen leaves, and people are still retrieving tomatoes and cucumbers from gardens in warmer areas of Vermont, especially near Lake Champlain.

Pretty impressive for the second half of October.

However, and this is a big however, all good things must come to an end. Some cooler than average weather is heading toward Vermont. Today, Saturday, will be our last warm-ish day, with highs in the lows 60s, as opposed to normal readings in the mid-50s.

After a couple nearly normal days (weatherwise, that is, I'm not going to get into our personal lives), it will turn decided chilly in the second half of the week. High temperatures will only make it into the 40s, which will feel especially cold since we're not used to it.

The last time Burlington had a high temperature under 50 degrees was during that remarkably cold, rainy spell on Memorial Day weekend.

It's also going to snow a little in the mountains late in the week, and I wouldn't be surprised if a wet snowflake or two makes it into the valleys.

For perspective, highs in the 40s are chilly for late October, but not record breaking. Record lows this time of year are in the upper teens and low 20s, we've had days this time of year when high temperatures never got out of the 30s, and snowstorms happen on occasion

For those of you dreading the cold, then, look at it this way: It could be worse.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fires, Typhoons And Dust: What The Rest Of The World Is Dealing With

It's gradually turning cooler but the weather remains relatively sane here in Vermont, and for most of the United States for that matter on this Friday.
Thick smoke hangs over Sydney, Australia, this week
as massive bushfires destroy homes in the area.  

Things remain crazy in the weather department elsewhere in the world, however.

In Australia, summer came early this year, with record heat in September and so far in October.

They're getting the kind of weather they usually get in January, which is the height of summer in the southern atmosphere.

Already, this is spelling disaster.

Huge wildfires erupted the past couple of days around Sydney.  Many houses have already been destroyed. If they're getting conditions like this now, I worry about how bad things will get come December, January and February.

Here's a video showing how bad it's gotten:

Meanwhile, in Japan, the problem is not too little water, but way too much. A typhoon named Wipha swept through much of Japan the other day, dropping as much as 33 inches of rain in a day. (For perspective, it normally takes about a year for 33 inches of rain to accumulate in Burlington, Vermont.)

The resulting floods and mudslides killed at least a dozen people  in Japan and many more are missing.

The news keeps getting worse for Japan. Another typhoon, Francisco, is now threatening Japan.

Here's some footage of Typhoon Wipha havoc:

Things aren't so great in South America, either. Here's a scary dust storm this week in Cordoba, Argentina.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Hints For Vermont Snow Lovers

Usually by mid-October, the mountains peaks in Vermont have been dusted with white, the first harbingers of the usual snowy winters we get.
OK, it won't look like this in Vermont this weekend,
but the mountain peaks might finally get a dusting of snow.  

Not this year.

So far, there's been little or no snow at all in the mountains.  The first snow of the season in Vermont's mountains is running a little late.

That's about to change, but before you get your skis or snowboards out of the closet, relax. We're not in for a big storm, yet.

However, the weather pattern is changing, and by this weekend and early next week, we'll be a fitful, chilly, unsettled period, with clouds, some sun, some showers, and yes, mountain snows.

The highest peaks will probably get a dusting to a couple inches in some of these snow showers starting Saturday night.  Valley dwellers will probably have to wait a little longer for snow, as those places will just get some chilly rain showers.

Your time will come. Eventually.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Extreme Weather Worsens Poverty, Says Study, Which States The Obvious

It's fairly quiet in the weather department here in Vermont this week. A couple of cold fronts are coming in, promising some soaking rains tonight and maybe Thursday night, too.
In this image from Oxfam, drought hits
a region of Africa. A study says extreme weather
keeps millions in poverty.  

It will also turn notably cooler by the weekend.

Still, we're not expecting any extremes, nothing out of the ordinary for October.

With no extremes here, we look to the news and find a study that seems to state the obvious. In vulnerable countries, extreme weather worsens poverty, and makes it more difficult to fight your way out of poverty.

The most interesting part of the study, according to the BBC, is that extreme weather might be the biggest factor in maintaining poverty, more than social patterns, bad health, poor education, political problems or bad infrastructure.

Of course, this is a problem, since weather extremes are getting well, more extreme, due to global climate change.

The study says money usually flows in response to weather disasters such as drought and extreme floods in vulnerable countries. Maybe the money should flow toward preventing disasters, or at least bolstering the region's resiliance against weather extremes.

Unfortunately, death seems to make the money flow. Just last weekend, a massive cyclone caused major damage in a poor region of India. The nation did exactly the right thing in evacuating hundreds of thousands of people from the cyclone's target, and that saved countless lives.

(In 1999, a similar cyclone hit that part of India. The government didn't evacuate people, and about 10,000 died)

But since not that many people died, there might be less relief money going to the hard hit region of India, which would ensure people remain mired in poverty.

It seems that old Boy Scout adage works in everything: Be prepared.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Least Active Atlantic Hurricane Season In 30 Years

There's been 11 tropical storm or hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean this year, which is actually close to average.
Satellite view of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Thankfully,
we didn't have to deal with anything like this in 2013.  

So why does it feel like we haven't had a hurricane season to speak of at all?

Everything that has managed to form this year has been weak and short lived.

The United States has been fortunate enough not to have to deal this summer and fall with storm surges, mass evacuations, destructive winds and huge floods from hurricanes.

A much better way to measure the intensity of the hurricane season that by just counting the number of storms is to pay attention to something called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE of the season.

ACE is a formula that tallies up the commulative strength and staying power of all the tropical storms and hurricanes during a season.

The math and science of calculating the ACE score is pretty complicated, so I'll just say if you get a lot of giant hurricanes that last a long time, the Accumulated Cyclone Energy is a big number. If you get weak systems that fall apart quickly, like this year, the number is low. According to The Weather Channel, the ACE so far this year is the lowest in 30 years.

In a normal Atlantic hurricane season, we get an ACE score of 110. So far this year, we're at 28. In 2005, when we had a large number of hurricanes, some of them blockbusters like Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the ACE score was over 250.

According to Accuweather, there doesn't seem to be much of a trend over the years the Accumulated Cyclone Energy rising or falling much.

Of course, a low ACE score doesn't help you if one of the few strong tropical storms or hurricanes hits the coastline near you. But this year, the United States has gotten the added benefit of having few of these storms come ashore. Or if they do, they're already falling apart.

The quiet season defies widespread predictions that this year's hurricane season would be busy and destructive. The ocean temperatures were warmer than normal, the El Nino weather pattern that usually discourages hurricanes wasn't around, so everything pointed to a busy season.

It just goes to show scientists need to learn more about what goes into a busy season. We do know unusual amounts of dry air and dust over the Atlantic Ocean prevented hurricanes from getting going. Now we need to understand why this happened and how better to predict these conditions so we can anticipate the severity of a hurricane season.

This year's low ACE score is obviously a very good thing for the United States. What with the repeated floods, droughts, storms, fires, snows and other big weather extremes we've had this year, it's nice that we're not getting hurricanes to add to the destruction.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Long, Gorgeous Spell Of Vermont Autumn To End

October in Vermont, despite the fall foliage, can often be cloudy, blustery, chllly, raw.

Not this year. We've been blessed by many days that dawned clear, cool and calm and turned into sun-filled, warm, bright beautiful days. It's been a lucky stretch of weather.
Bright fall foliage in St. Albans, Vermont recently.
A long stretch of sunny, calm weather is about to end.  

It's about to end, as these things tend to do.

It's raining a bit in northwestern Vermont early Monday morning as a cold front arrives and falls apart overhead.

That's the beginning of the end of the perfect weather, folks.

It won't be bad at first. Tuesday looks like another nice day, then clouds and showers arrive midweek, though it will stay fairly mild.

By the end of the week and the weekend, though, it will be mostly cloudy, breezy, raw with highs barely making it into the 50s.

In other words, normal for this time of year.

So, I hope you got out to enjoy one of the most pleasant fall foliage seasons in memory. We're starting to move toward those dark gray days of November.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vermont Remains Calm; Don't Go To Rapid City

The weather gods really seem to have in it for the area around Rapid City, South Dakota.
This building collapsed under the weight of
several feet of snow during a blizzard i
South Dakota a couple weeks ago. The Black Hills
in that state continue to experience extreme weather. 

While we here in Vermont have enjoyed a (mostly) very pleasant autumn, the Black Hills of South Dakota just seem to be a huge weather target.

They had that huge blizzard a couple weeks ago, that dropped more than four feet of snow on many areas, brought winds to 70 miles and killed countless numbers of cattle.

That was followed a few days ago by rains, combined with melting snow to produce flooding, along with another windstorm packing gusts to 60 mph.

Now, in the forecast for the Black Hills the next couple of days, is heavy rain and more flooding, plus another heavy snowstorm. (though they're talking a foot of snow, not five feet this time)

So, if you're in Vermont like me or some other island of calm weather, remember this: Rapid City and the Black Hills are getting hammered by every kind of weird weather imaginable. It will calm down there eventually.

And then maybe it will be your turn in a few months to get hammered by a parade of bizarre weather extremes.

You never know.  So don't get too smug if you're enjoying a pleasant weather weekend

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Gorgeous Leaf Peeping Weather In Vermont

Does somebody at the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing have special powers?
Fall foliage near Mount Mansfield, Vermont last weekend.  

Because it seems the weather has been great this year for all those tourists who come to Vermont to watch the leaves die spectacularly.

Columbus Day weekend is traditionally one of two big October weekends for leaf peeping.  As usual by mid-October it's actually kind of past peak foliage now in the high elevations and in the northeastern third of the state.

But it places like the Champlain Valley and southern Vermont, it's gorgeous, and the sun is going to play off all those colorful leaves beautifully today and Sunday.  I noticed this morning's sunrise on the orange and gold trees around my house in St. Albans is absolutely lovely.

There might be a few clouds, especially in eastern areas of the state today, but that might just add to the photos. Also some wispy high clouds might arrive Sunday, which could mean another spectacular sunset to add to the color

Some showers will probably arrive Monday. But hey, you can't have everything.

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cyclone Phailin A Dire Threat To India

As if there wasn't enough bad news out there, a tremendous cyclone is about to hit India, and it seems mass casualties and incredible damage is inevitable.
Cyclone Phailin on Friday preparing to inflict
mass casualties and damage on India. 

A cyclone is the name for a hurricane in the Bay of  Bengal.  Cyclone Phailin, as it's called, is equivalent to a Catagory 5 Hurricane.

Phailin is packing winds of 160 mph and promises to bring a 20 foot high storm surge to the northeastern Indian coast.  By the way, a TON of people live there and are in harm's way.

So, if you want to get even more depressed about world events, watch as Phailin comes ashore within the next 24 hours.  It'll be the worst cyclone to hit India since at least 1999.

The only bright side, if you will, is the area Phailin is going to hit isn't as low lying as the area hit in 1999. So maybe a slightly smaller area will be flooded by the sea than in 1999. That's not saying much, though.

So, unfortunately, unless there is some sort of miracle, you will be reading about death and destruction in India on the news this weekend.

Nor'easter's Great Effect On Vermont: Wonderful Sunrises, Sunsets

Vermont has had several awesome sunrises and sunsets this week. Oddly, it's all because of a nor'easter.
Cirrus clouds over St. Albans Wednesday, sent north
by a distant storm off the mid-Atlantic coast.
If you look closely you can see sort
of a rainbow feature in these clouds.  

We associate nor'easters with raw weather, rain, snow and thick clouds, not beautiful fair skies.

But nor'easters throw a lot of warm, moist air high into the sky and that warm air often spreads for long distances.

The warm air aloft from the nor'easter, hitting the cold upper atmosphere, forms thin cirrus clouds that often move hundreds of miles from the storm center.

The cirrus clouds are often are harbinger of a storm approaching your area. The clouds often mean wet or stormy weather is less than a day away.

Not this time. A nor'easter has been stalled off the Mid-Atlantic coast this week, and will stay there for a few days more. It's been sending pulses of those high thin cirrus clouds way north into Vermont, but the storm itself is not moving in our direction.

The sun can shine easily through these clouds, and  sunlight gets scattered by the cirrus clouds.  The clouds are made of ice crystals, that often act as prisms. During the day, you can sometimes see rainbow like features near the sun in the clouds. And you end up with those  beautiful reds, oranges and pinks we've seen as the sun rises and set this week.

While skies will become deep blue at times the next few days, there will be more areas of cirrus clouds moving into Vermont at times  from that nor'easter, so there's a chance of more wild sunsets.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Study Backs Others: Growing Season Lengthening In The United States

It's well into October and the rose bush in front of my house has suddenly decided to put out a whole bunch of beautiful blooms.
A rose blooms in my St. Albans garden last weekend.
The growing season is lengthening allowing spectacles
like this October bloom.  

Foliage season in Vermont this year has been augmented by lush green grass in the fields, flowering gardens, and people still happily harvesting vegetables from their  back yards.

While much of Vermont has had some frost this autumn, some areas, particularly the Champlain Valley, hasn't had a freeze yet.

That's in keeping with a new federal Environmental Protection Agency study that says the growing season in the United States has, on average, lengthened by about two weeks in the past century.

That's one more piece of evidence that the planet is warming.

Another study released last winter from Plos One said flowers are blooming earlier and earlier in the spring.

For some reason, the growing season in the West is getting longer faster. There, its gone up by 22 days in the past century. Here in the East, we get about eight extra days of gardening per year.

The median date for a first freeze of the season in Burlington is October 7. This year, Burlington hasn't had a freeze yet, and none is in the forecast for the next few days.

The studies that show a longer growing season doesn't mean we won't have occasional late frosts in the spring or early frosts in the fall. It just means the trend line is we get to enjoy our gardens for longer periods of time each  year.

A couple spectacular blooms on my rose bush are fading after putting on a show this past weekend. But two more blooms are ready to pop. It's supposed to be mild over the next couple of days, so my roses will give me more late season joy it looks like.

Bottom line: Global warming is bad, but there are a few silver linings that come with it. Or in my case, white roses.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Aurora Borealis Thrilled Many Vermonters Tuesday Night

I missed it!
This amazing photo by Dan Russell captured
the aurora borealis Tuesday evening over
Malletts Bay in Colchester, Vermont  

For some reason, there wasn't a good view of the Aurora Borealis from my house in St. Albans Tuesday evening. I did see a pink haze to the north, which turned into a green haze, so there was that.

But luckily, other Vermonters saw the amazing light show and got it down on film.

I love this YouTube video that popped up today. It consists of photographs by Dan Russell.

He took the shots on the shores of Malletts Bay, Colchester, Vermont as the northern lights flickered. Between the amazing sky and the calm waters of the bay, the photography is absolutely stunning.

Here's the video: Thanks, Dan!

Another Stalled Weather Pattern Stirs Big Trouble, But Not For Vermont

Stuck weather patterns, in which the jet stream doesn't move and meander like it normally does, has caused a lot of problems in the past year.
This forecast map shows more than
three inches of rain from the nor'easter
is in the forecast for New Jersey, but
pretty much nothing in Vermont.  

It contributed to huge floods in Colorado, Alberta, Vermont and elsewhere this summer, drought in the Southwest, Hurricane Sandy last October and repeated floods earlier this year in Europe.

Well, we're stuck again, and that spells trouble for the mid-Atlantic coast. A nor'easter is developing, and begins of a blocked up weather pattern, it will sit and spin off the coast for several days.

This isn't a powerhouse like Sandy. Sure, it will be strong, but nothing extreme.

However, since the storm will sit there day after day after day, the coastline will be pounded by repeated high tides, battering waves and soaking rain from now into the weekend.

The mid-Atlantic coastline is already vulnerable after the damage from Sandy, compounded by other stalled nor'easters last February and March. So this storm will surely cause much more erosion and damage and it sits and spins into the weekend.

Up here in Vermont, that stalled weather pattern will protect us from the storm. A high pressure system will keep skies generally clear for the next few days. Some clouds will sneak into southern Vermont, and maybe much of the state this weekend.

East winds might also increase because of the storm this weekend, bringing is some somewhat cool air. But in general, the stuck weather pattern this time means pleasant foliage viewing in Vermont.

I guess there's benefits to everything.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

NWS Rapid City: Not Paid But Dedicated, Unlike Certain Congress People

During that big blizzard in South Dakota's Black Hills last week, National Weather Service meteorologists worked way, way overtime despite the government shutdown and the fact they are not getting paid.
The National Weather Service office in
Rapid City, South Dakota during last week's blizzard. 

At least somebody is dedicated to the job. More than I can say for certain members of Congress

Rapid City was a mess, given the four feet of snow that fell in some areas near the city, and those ten foot high drifts, the fallen trees, the lack of electrical power. Travel was impossible.

One meteorologist hiked through all that snow to and from work to put out the crucial weather warnings associated with the storm. 

This message went out from the Rapid City National Weather Service office to a central headquarter in Missouri on Sunday:

"Access to the office is still blocked. Two employees were able to hike in arround some obstructions, but it is not possible to drive out of the parking lot due to snow drifts and downed trees in the neighborhood. The (one that hiked in) is attempting to take two stranded employees home this morning. One forecaster hiked in for his mid shift last night, and I sent him home so he can come back tonight. Of the three who are on duty at this time, two have been here since 7 a.m. Friday and I have been here since 3 p.m. Friday. 

All this and these guys weren't getting paid because of the government shutdown.
While the National Weather Service has kept functioing during the shutdown, there are quite a few shortcomings cropping up in forecasting and meteorological research, as it turns out.

So let's hope sane people get the upper hand soon. 


So let's hope sane people

Violent Storm Looks Incredibly Peaceful From A Passing Jet

The storms last Friday over Nebraska and Iowa were violent. All hell was breaking out beneath the storms: Large tornadoes, gigantic hailstones, tremendous, destructive winds, scary lightning, torrential rains
A still from the beautiful storm video  

While all this was going on, a New York to Los Angeles flight was doing a detour around the worst of the storms.

It was nearing sunset, and setting sun lit up the clouds in a soft pink.

From the plane, the violent storm, with it's puffy roiling clouds, the lightning flashes muted by the thick thunderheads, seemed peaceful, relaxing, soft, inviting

Someone on the plane thought to shot a video. Here it is,  Just gorgeous and fascinating:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Afternoon Update: As Expected, Getting Stormy In Vermont

The wind is rising and the sky is darkening in Vermont as that strong cold front we told you would bring lots of wind and rain is bringing, well, lots of wind and rain.
Gusty winds tossing trees under darkening
skies in St. Albans, Vermont as of 2 p.m.  

As of 2 p.m. the main band of rain was across central New York, trudging east.

There's actually a tornado watch in eastern New York, right up to the Vermont border from Rutland County south. A watch means there is the possibility of a twister.

There's even a tornado warning, indicating radar has shown there is rotation and a possible tornado, west of Albany, New York as of 2 p.m.

I don't think there will be many tornadoes, because the weather system doesn't seem to have exactly the right ingredients for twisters. But I wouldn't be surprised if there are one or two brief tornadoes in the Hudson Valley of New York this afternoon.

The main story is the straight line winds. Out ahead of the cold front causing these storms, the winds are already gusting to around 40 mph in parts of Vermont.  Here in St. Albans, the wind is now strong enough in gusts to bring a few small branches down onto my yard.

As of 2 p.m., Vermont utilties report only scattered, minor power failures. But that problem could increase as the afternoon wears on.

As the main band of rain hits, the tall clouds associated with it will probably pull down some even stronger winds blowing aloft and bring them down here. So when the rain first hits, expect some areas of Vermont to see winds gust to around 50 mph.  A wind advisory remains in effect.

The main, heaviest rain band with the strongest winds will get into the Champlain Valley around 3 p.m. and well into Vermont by 4 p.m., so expect the roughest weather then.

On a side note, we're calling these thunderstorms, but there is not much lightning and thunder with these otherwise strong storms. That happens frequently with autumn cold fronts; all the elements of severe thunderstorms come through, except the thunder. Oh well.

When the rain hits, it will come down hard, and as I said this morning the downpours, combined with fallen leaves clogging storm drains, could lead to some street flooding in spots.

The torrential rain and strongest winds won't last all that long in any one spot, but look for falling temperatures some steady winds and rains through the evening.

This isn't an end-of-the-world kind of storm, but we're not used to it because it's been so calm lately. So when the storm hits, slow way down if your driving, and stay away from any downed power lines or trees.

Just stay inside, enjoy the excitement of the stormy weather, and look forward to more bright, sunny, calm weather for the rest of the week, starting tomorrow.

Winds To 50 MPH Will End Foliage Season In Some Sections Of Vermont

The woods around my house in St. Albans, Vermont look a lot different, a lot thinner than they did yesterday morning.
Fall foliage in my St. Albans, Vermont yard on
Saturday. These colorful branches are
now largely bare after wind and rain last night. Such
weather will continue today.  

We've had some good rains and some gusty winds late yesterday and overnight, and a lot of leaves blew off the trees.

It's still quite colorful with autumn foliage, but it is going fast in this wind.

I'm afraid peak foliage season is pretty much over in higher elevations and parts of northern Vermont as of today.

The state is under a wind advisory, with gusts to 50 mph likely during the day. We'll also get showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, and some of those will have some pretty heavy rain.

All this is the perfect recipe to strip foliage from the trees.

That's OK. We had a long spell of calm weather, and that meant the foliage was spectacular. We had our chance to enjoy it. I hope you did.

Plus, in the Champlain and lower Connecticut River valleys and in low elevations in southern Vermont, spectacular foliage will continue despite today's storminess. There is still some green foliage there, and that will turn color over the next week or so.

The wind will not only strip leaves from the trees today, it might also be strong enough to knock a few whole branches from the trees, and take down some power lines. So watch out for that.

This is particularly true since the National Severe Storms Center says some of the thunderstorms in Vermont could become severe, with winds pushing 60 mph. Maybe.

Also, the fallen leaves will clog storm drains. The rain this afternoon and/or evening looks like it might come in one heavy burst, with up to an inch of rain in just a couple hours in some areas. That clogged drains and heavy rain could combine to produce some street flooding here and there.

The stormiest weather in Vermont will come this afternoon, when the winds will be strongest and the showers and thunderstorms will arrive.

We have gotten used to calm, sunny weather and we've had so much of it lately. The good news is we're only getting one stormy day. The rest of the week looks like we'll have a return to sunshine. Tuesday will be sort of on the cool side, but it will warm up well into the 60s later in the week.

So the nice fall weather isn't finished yet.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Great Tornado Video, But Not Smart Video Maker

Somebody took a great video of that tornado Friday in Wayne, Nebraska from inside a truck stop. (Vid is at the bottom of this post.)
Aerial view of destruction from Friday's Wayne,,
Nebraska tornado  

I'm not sure the person taking the video was so smart, standing there by the windows as the tornado began to tear the building apart. But what do I know?

Luckily, the tornado gave the truck stop only a glancing blow, so only parts of the building blew away.

Especially luckily, since the tornado clipped the building opposite from where the guy was shooting video.

The building held until halfway the video. The loud crashes as parts started to blow around finally prompted the people in the building to take shelter. But by the time they finally made it to a safer, windowless rest room  the tornado had pretty much passed.

I'm torn by this tornado video: Incredibly exciting to watch, but should we be encouraging people to be this unsafe by watching? Oh hell, let's watch the video. It's that good.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Big Tornadoes And Even Bigger Snows Out West

As expected, the weather across parts of the nation got really rough yesterday.
I monitored this web cam out of Yankton, S.D. yesterday
as I watched severe storms approach the city, where some
of my relatives live. The storm weakened, leading
to this wind gust, nice sunset and rainbow
in the screen grab I captured.  

First the good news: Tropical Storm Karen is basically falling apart as it approaches the United States Gulf Coast. It will probably cause some damage, but it won't be any kind of catastrophe.

Out west, it's worse. They do things big out there, apparently.

In Nebraska and Iowa, some of the tornadoes last evening were more than a mile wide. There was quite a bit of damage, especially near Wayne, Nebraska. Knock on wood, I haven't heard of any fatalities.

I have several relatives who live around Yankton, South Dakota, in the far southeastern part of that state.

 I watched very nervously on the National Weather Service web site and a live web cam from Yankton as a tornadic supercell, with a tornado warning in nearby Nebraska, approached Yankton

Luckily, that supercell weakened dramatically just before reaching Yankton, and the Web cam from the small city showed a routine thunderstorm, some dark clouds, a nice sunset and a rainbow. Cool!

Here's a storm chase video of the tornado near Wayne, Nebraska.

Meanwhile, in the Black Hills in western South Dakota, the blizzard was incredible. Not just incredible for early October, but incredible for any season.
A photo from @Reading Reineke from Twitter, looking out
a snow blocked door from inside a Deadwood, S.D. business
during yesterday's blizzard.  

The numbers boggle the mind. It was still snowing hard in Lead, South Dakota at 8 p.m. last night when there was already 43 inches of new snow on the ground. That's not a typo. I'm talking nearly four feet.

In Rapid City, there was about 20 inches of snow, it was still snowing hard and the wind was gusting to 67 mph. Yikes!

Here's an early video out of Wall, South Dakota, but I'm sure we'll get more dramatic ones once the snow tapers off, people can drive and the power comes back on.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Please Pay Us" Alaska NWS Pleads In Coded Message

Credit the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post for alerting me to this gem
"Please Pay Us" say meteorologists.  

As I reported this morning, National Weather Service meteorologists, who are federal employees, are working so that people can get severe weather warnings and such, but they're not being paid while Congress dithers with the government shutdown.

Not surprisingly, these meteorologists are not happy about going unpaid.

So, meteorologists at the NWS office in Anchorage, Alaska found an ingenious way to protest the lack of pay.  Every forecast cycle, the NWS puts out something called a forecast discussion, that only hard core weather geeks like me read. The discussion basically lays out the scientific reasoning behind the forecasts they've issued.

Click on the image to make it bigger and more readable to see how the meteorologists managed to get their message across.   Bonus points if you understand what the meteorologists are saying in the discussion.

Stormy Weather, Stormy Politics: Will Government Shutdown Affect Storm Warnings?

The nation is facing some incredibly active weather today and on into the weekend. Tropical Storm Karen is threatening the Gulf Coast. 
Tornados like this one are possible
in parts of the Midwest today. Despite the
government shutdown, the National Weather
Service will issue warnings and watches,
as they usually do.  

Blizzard warnings (this time of year!) are up for parts of South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming as a massive snowstorm moves through.

Strong tornados are possible today in parts of the Midwest, especially around Iowa. And strong Santa Ana winds in California combined with a drought makes the risk of fires extreme today.

Meanwhile, the government has been shut down by a stubborn Congress. Since the National Weather Service is staffed by federal employees, does this mean people in areas of the nation threatened by all of today's dangerous weather might not get warnings and alerts in a timely manner?

The answer, fortunately, is the warnings will go out as always. However, it's not a perfect situation, that's for sure.

The web site is off line, thanks to the government shut down. But the National Weather Service web site,, is up and running as usual.

I've noticed on that forecasts are updated on about the same schedule as usual,  and weather warnings and advisories across the nation seem like they're being issued in as timely a manner as they would when Congress is not up to shenanigans. So at least National Weather Service meteorologists seem dedicated.

Meteorologists are regarded as essential employees, so they're working. But without pay, which has to stink.

And since some staffers are furloughed, and agencies the National Weather Service coordinates with during weather emergencies have skeleton staffs, I have to wonder if responses to severe storms, tornados, the blizzard and Tropical Storm Karen will be up to snuff.

Also, since there are so many weather extremes going on in the nation at once today, will the National Weather Service ultimately be spread to thin, given the reduced staffing? We'll have to wait and see on that.

Here in Vermont, there's no extreme weather in the forecast. Tropical Storm Karen looks as if it will barely affect us Monday with some rain and maybe a breeze, but not any damaging winds or flooding or anything like that.  The storm causing the blizzard and tornados out west will also affect Vermont Sunday and Monday but by the time it gets here all we'll get is rain, clouds and mild temperatures.

Still, I'd feel more comfortable if the government shutdown ends, the National Weather Service goes to full staff and the workers get paid, like they should, morally and legally.