Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow North and West Sat. Night; A Bigger Storm Midweek?

The weather pattern across the nation has, as advertised,  turned warmer and wetter over the past couple of days.
The National Weather Service in South Burlington
says up to 4-6 inches of snow might fall near the Canadian
border, less to the south. Click on the map to make
it bigger and easier to read.  

The first of the storms in this somewhat altered weather pattern is going to hit northern New England and northern New York Saturday night.

For most of the region, this one's going to be somewhat of a close miss.

Light mixed precipitation will come in Saturday afternoon and continue Saturday night for the southern two thirds of Vermont and New Hampshire and in New York State south of the Adirondacks.

More to the north, it looks like there might be a fairly decent snowfall. In Vermont, it looks as if about 2 to 6 inches will fall within 30 miles of the Canadian border. Northwestern New York, up toward the northern Adirondacks,  ccould get something closer to six inches.

Those of you headed up toward Montreal, watch out: The Montreal metro area looks like it might be in for a six to 10 incher with this.

My usual caveat applies, especially in situations like this when the temperature flirts with 32 degrees. The forecast could be a bust, with less snow than expected up north. Or maybe the snow will extend south more into Vermont than we're thinking now.

This is just the best guess as of Friday evening.

The weather will turn mild and quiet Sunday, a bit cooler Monday, and then we'll have to watch the next storm.

If, and that's a big if, but if current computer models are right, Most of northern New England would be in for a decent six to 12 inch snowfall right around Wednesday. Maybe even more than that, since this midweek storm is going to come loaded with tons of moisture.

The only major question seems to be a few computer models take the storm more north than the others. If that happens, we get mixed precipitation. AND if that happens, there could be quite an ice storm in parts of central New England.

We DON'T need that. A snowstorm would be fine. Ice, not so much.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Vermont, Northeast Snow Lovers Now Have Some Reason For Hope

The weather pattern across the country has changed, temporarily at least,  to one that is a little warmer and wetter than we've seen in Vermont and surrounding states recently.
A cold setting sun casts long shadows across the thin
snowcover in my St. Albans yard earlier this week.
A slightly warmer, stormier weather pattern
might thicken up the snowcover a bit.  

That's potential good news for snow lovers and winter sports enthusiasts who have had lackluster conditions so far this winter.

It doesn't look like it will warm up spectacularly, just into the 20s to a few low or mid 30s over the next week or so.

Since it won't be super hot out there, chances are any storm coming along won't come with  burst of very warm weather and rain, followed by a flash, below zero cold snap, like we've see often this winter.

That's no guarantee each storm to come along will be this nice powder dump, but there's hope.

The new pattern favors a series of storms coming out of the Midwest into the Northeast. Aside from an inconsequential thing with a few snow flurries Friday night, the first storm system looks like it will come along Saturday night.

It won't be any kind of blockbuster, and how much snow we do get out of it depends on which of two likely tracks it will take.

If, as one computer model has it, it goes across central New England, the northern halfs of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire might get a decent 2 to 6 inches of snow out of this. Again, not huge, but nice.

If it goes a little more to the north, as other computer models have it, precipitation would be much lighter, and might mix with a little sleet or rain. Stay tuned on that one.

Another storm, this one with maybe a lot more moisture riding along with it, might arrive Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. It's way too soon to say how much precipitation we'll get out of it, whether it will be all snow or some kind of sloppy mix.

Just be prepared for not freezing your butt off in subzero weather for the next week or so, which is nice. And be ready for potential bouts of snow or wintry precipitation.

It's only getting into February, folks. Like it or not, there's still plenty of time for more winter.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Huge Atlanta Snow Traffic Mess/Fail Due To Unheeded Warnings

The news that I'm sure you've seen out of Atlanta is epic and horrendous.
Yesterdays snow and traffic disaster in Atlanta.  

When a snowstorm- not a big one, maybe one or two inches, hit during the middle of the day Tuesday, everybody piled into their cars at once and tried to flee for home.

Many people, including some children on school buses, were stranded on the freeways for eight, ten, even 12 hours. 

Some people were still trapped on the freeways early this morning when it was almost time for commuters to start heading into work.

Annoyingly, some victims of the Atlanta snow complained that meteorologists didn't warn them the snow was coming, but the record shows they did, with watches going up more than a day before the storm and more serious warnings many hours before the first flakes fell.

This was not a huge forecasting error, as some in Atlanta area municipal government would have it.     It wasn't. Meteorologists were pretty much right about the timing and intensity of the storm around Atlanta.

The real problem seems to be that government officials, and many citizens of the area, didn't know how to respond to the weather warnings.

The fact that everyone left their schools and offices at about the same time during the day Tuesday  as the snow arrived meant everybody was on the icy roads at once, so nobody went anywhere.

The city and region was ill prepared to treat the roads with salt and sand, and few motorists had much experience, or the necessary snow tires, to navigate the ice.

Given Atlanta's poor performance record of managing snow and ice storms, why didn't they just call off school for the day?

True, it wasn't snowing in the morning, when parents bundled the kids off to school. But the snow was accurately forecast to start by midday, which you'd think somebody would have realized the trip home from school would be problematic.

Even if the snow didn't materialize one snow day on a day in which it didn't snow isn't THAT big a deal.

And what of the major employers in the Atlanta metro region? Haven't they ever heard of telecommuting?  Granted, productivity might have slumped a bit for the day if many employers stayed home, opened up their laptops and tried to get work done in the home office.

But how productive is it to have their workers stranded and freezing on freeways for most of the day?  Instead of sending everyone for the doors when it started snowing at midday, a lot of employers could have told many of their employers to stay home and work Tuesday.

The forecasts were out on Monday. The workers could have taken their material home with them Monday evening.

I also don't think a lot of people understand the system of watches and warnings the National Weather Service puts out when a dangerous storm is approaching.  A watch means to prepare for a likely storm, and a warning means the storm is imminent or already happening.  A lot of people don't make the distinction.

Plus, storm warnings sometimes go up and the storm doesn't prove to be that bad. So people are lulled into thinking the storm won't amound to anything the next time a warning goes up.

This isn't unique to Atlanta. People have died or gotten in danger in storms as diverse as the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011 and flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, also in 2011.

The National Weather Service and emergency managers are wrestling with language they'd use in different degrees of storm intensity.  But how do you effectively inform the public to take mild precautions for a middling storm, and extreme precautions for an enormous, dangerous storm?

It's a puzzling alchemy, especially since different people respond to different warnings in varying ways. Plus, it's human nature not to respond to a warning unless they actually see the danger with their own eyes. 

People don't take cover from tornadoes until the funnels are right on top of them. People don't get out of the way of flash floods until they see the muddy, debris choked water racing right towards them. And urbanites don't take snowstorms seriously until the flakes are really flying.

So, if you get an unprepared, poorly planned region with little municipal oversight and coordination, and a population not used to emergencies, we'll get a lot more ugly, and maybe deadlier urband and suburan disasters in America in the future.

Here's a video of what happens when people venture out in the South with no snow tires on roads that haven't not been sanded and plowed.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Latest Arctic Front Might Cause Epic Southern Winter Storm

A band of snow, some of it briefly heavy, was passing through northern New York and northern New England this Monday morning as another Arctic front passes by.
Snow on the Alabama/Florida border in 2010. This
might happen again this week.  

The front caused an intense ground blizzard in the Midwest Sunday. (A ground blizzard comes when it's not snowing hard, or not at all, but strong winds blow snow and reduce visibility to near zero).

In parts of the Dakotas yesterday, they had to close Interstate highways because of the bad visibility.

Here in Vermont and surrounding states, roads are getting bad in places  visibilities were briefly falling to near zero in spots as snow squall pass by.

Temperatures that were flirting with the freezing mark this morning will crash this afternoon, and we'll have to deal with another round of wicked cold wind chills, down as low as 30 below later today, tonight and Tuesday morning.

We've dealt with that before. We get it every winter. We'll deal.

The real news with this Arctic cold front will come when it hits the Gulf Coast and the Southeast Coast.

Such "wintry" places such as New Orleans, Louisiana, Savannah, Georgia and even Pensacola, Florida are under winter storm watches and warnings.

You read that right.  Those areas are in for a nasty ice storm, and/or several inches of snow.  Moisture coming up from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean will combine with the cold air to produce the storm.

Some areas in a stripe from Houston to coastal South Carolina might get a really bad ice storm, complete with blocked roads, fallen trees and powerlines and general chaos.

Picture the bad, damaging ice storm we had in northern New York and Vermont back in December hitting the palm-lined streets and sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast and Southeast and you can imagine how bad things could get down there tomorrow.

Here's the dire warning to the public in coastal South Carolina and around the Savannah, Georgia area  from the National Weather Service in Charleston, South Carolina:


So yeah, it's bad.

From a historical perspective, big winter storms have hit that area of the South before, but not often.

According to weather historian Christopher Burt, a storm in February, 1895 dumped 20" of snow on Houston, Texas, 22" In Lake Charles, Louisiana, 8.2" in New Orleans, and 3" in Pensacola.

In 1899, 2.1" was reported in Pensacola.

On Jan. 19, 1977, snowflakes were seen in the air in the suburbs of Miami, Fla.

I couldn't find much on Deep South ice storms, which tells me they're pretty damn rare. We'll see how this plays out.

Friday, January 24, 2014

East Coast Snow, Cold Getting The Attention But Real Weather Story Is In California

I'm sure you've seen on the news the images of cold snaps, sudden snowstorms and wind and subzero temperatures plaguing the East Coast.
Lake Oroville in central California this month shows
the effects of the drought. Photo from the California
Department of Water Conservation.  

That's probably in part because such things have better visuals than the real weather story going on right now: The California drought.

While the wintry weather in the eastern half of the nation is breaking a few records for temperature, snowfall and the like, it's really not unprecedented. Worse cold waves and bigger snowstorms have happened often in the past.

The California situation, though, is uncharted territory.

Some observers say parts of California have never seen a drought this bad. And there've been winter fires in areas that have never seen fires in the winter.

This is normally the heart of California's rainy season and once again, on Friday, there are alerts for the potential of forest and brush fires. This fire danger includes parts of Humbolt County in northern California, which normally this time of year is among the wettest places in the nation.

The drought has been made worse by weeks of record warm temperatures on the West Coast. What little moisture there is evaporates faster in hot, dry weather than it would if it was cooler and more humid.

Drought in California has been going on for more than a year now, and there's little sign it will break soon. There is a drought emergency there, and this could impact you. Yes, you, shivering over your warm bowl of vegetable soup while the temperature in New England drops below zero again.

This time of year, storms normally come in right after another in California, keeping the valleys wet, and more importantly, building up a big snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

That snow slowly melts in the spring and summer, sending water down to the vast agricultural fields in central California.  That's where a lot of the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket down the road come from.

So far, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is somewhere between 8 and 22 percent of normal, depending upon where you are in those mountains. That's pathetic. If it doesn't rain and snow soon, there won't be enough water to feed the farmlands.

Then prices of a wide variety of food items will go up, hurting us in the pocket book.

On top of that, there's the risk of much worse than usual fires in the summer, which could cause a lot of destruction, with it's accompanying economic loss and possible insurance rate increases.

The rainy season in California lasts until roughly the first of April. If they get a parade of unusually heavy storms in the next couple of months, the state should be able to squeak by with barely enough water.

But don't count on it. California, and other areas of the West Coast need more than a foot of rain to make up for what they've already missed out on this winter. That's on top of the several inches or more than a foot of rain that normally comes down between now and April.

The forecast for California is bad.  It might actually rain and snow a little bit next week, which would temporarily tamp down the ongoing fire threat. But the mini-storms next week, if they materialize, would be pretty small and would dump only light precipitation. These would not be the super soakers California needs by any stretch of the imagination.

So, while you're complaining about bad weather where you live in the Midwest, Southeast or New England, remember, at least there's no crushing drought.

We're uncomfortable in the East this winter, but we're not suffering, like California is, or is about to.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cold Snaps Seeming To Last Longer In Vermont This Winter

We've had a lot of easy winters in Vermont and surrounding areas of the North Country over the past decade or two.
In this web cam grab from the University of Vermont
this morning, steam caused by Lake Champlain
water hitting bitter cold air has produced a bit
of lake effect snow band out in the lake.  

Cold waves would usually last only a day or two, then go away.

This winter, they're lingering. It's not a particularly cold winter so far, though it is colder than most winters we've seen in the past 10 years.

This year, the sharpest cold snaps seem to be lingering longer than usual.

In early January, the temperature dropped to under 10 below for three days in a row in Burlington, and we had the longest spell of continuously below zero weather since at least 2005.

As you've noticed, it's wicked cold this morning, dropping as low as 36 below in Rensselaer Falls, N.Y. and 32 below in East Enosburg, Vermont. Most communities in the North Country were in the teens and 20s below, according to a listing from the National Weather Service office in South Burlington, Vermont

We're used to weather patterns in which after a cold morning like this, it warms up and we don't get that cold again until days or weeks later. Not this time.

It looks like tonight, and the night after are going to be at least as cold as this morning was.  This cold snap is hanging around for awhile. The weather pattern bringing is persistent.

More persistant than you'd think.  After a very brief break Saturday, when temperatures might briefly climb to the near normal 20s above zero, it's back below zero for most of next week. I wouldn't be surprised if next week is as cold or even colder than this week.

It's depressing, I know. This time of year, it seems like it's always been winter, and always will be. The intense cold doesn't improve that negative mood.

Who knows what February will bring? There are signs that somewhere in the first week of February, the weather will change a tiny bit. Hard to say, but as it looks now, it looks like February will start out colder than normal, but not quite as cold as these teens, 20s and 30s below we're enduring now.

Let's hope for that milder trend. We'll certainly deserve it by then.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The (Sled) Dog Days Of Winter?

We've all heard of the dog days of summer, that stretch when summer has been going on for awhile and we're stuck in a fairly dull pattern of warm, humid weather day after day.
My truck awaits on a -10 morning today
to see if I want to try and start it.
Should work out.  

I really think there's a winter counterpart to that, and we've entered it now. The Sled Dog Days of Winter, you might call it.

Starting yesterday, and continuing for at least the next 10 days or so, possibly well beyond that, it's going to be cold, with few prospects of major, blockbuster snowstorms in northern New England.

Like the dogs days of summer, there will be some minor day to day variations. Some days will be colder than others, and there will be small snowfalls.

For instance, this week, the coldest period will be today through Friday morning, with temperatures dropping into the teens below zero pretty consistently each night. A familiar if uncomfortable routine.

There is a snowstorm passing by to our south, which has even prompted blizzard warnings for southeastern Massachusetts tonight, but it will only drop light snow on southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire and areas south of Lake George, New York.

It might warm up, somewhat,  briefly on Saturday, but it will probably also snow a little bit. And it won't get ridiculously mild. Then it's back in the deep freeze early next week, with maybe some more chances of light snow here and there.

Also like the dogs days of summer, the current Sled Dog Days of Winter aren't all that unusual. We get cold waves, or extended periods of chilly weather every winter.

Unlike the media hype, this also isn't the Second Coming of Polar Vortex. True, said polar vortex has moved to a position in Canada that is now closer to us, hence the cold weather. However, the polar vortex, that whirlwind of atmospheric icy air that's always up north this time of year, isn't doing anything particularly unusual.

In any event, the Sled Dog Days of Winter are here for sure. Bundle up. Enjoy the cold if you can. If not, hibernate. It will end eventually.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Snow, Though Not Huge, Most Welcome

Some areas of Vermont got an unexpectedly heavy dose of snow Sunday.
New falling snow whitens the landscape around
my yard in St. Albans, Vermont. Last week's warmth
allowed me to clean up the fallen branches under the
willow, courtesy of the December ice storm, and now
the new snow makes things pretty again  

I use the term "heavy" with a serious grain of salt, since it wasn't exactly super deep. But some towns got three or four inches of snow, and most places got at least one or two inches.

That whitened the ground nicely and made it look like midwinter for a change, and without all that awful ice we had earlier in the winter. So things look better out there.

More snow showers and maybe a few squalls will come through tonight, which could drop another one to three inches of snow.

As advertised, we are going to get into a pretty damn cold weather pattern over the next 10 days or so. That's not conducive to a lot of snow, so if you are a snow lover, be thankful for what you've got.

Expect a week with mostly below zero nights and highs struggling to get into the single numbers.

We'll probably get a brief break in the cold next weekend, along with a little snow, but not much. Then, we get another nasty cold snap for the following week.

So the way things are going, this winter will be noted for its bipolar temperatures, running hot and cold, but it won't be remember as a particularly snowy one, unless things really change in February.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Blogger Whines About Normal January Weather In Vermont

An Arctic cold front is going to sweep through the northeastern United States Sunday, and it will turn icy cold for at least a week.
A subzero morning two years ago creates this
steamy scene on Lake Champlain near
Burlington, Vermont two winters ago.  

Here in Vermont, we can expect high temperatures in the single numbers most days next week, and most places will be below zero each night. Some nights might get into the teens below zero.

This kind of weather pretty much happens every winter, and this won't even be the strongest cold snap of the winter so far. This is what Vermonters expect every January.

Still, I'm whining, which doesn't do my Vermonter credentials proud, let me tell ya. But I do get whiny when it's near or below zero, I have to say. Sure, I bundle up a bit when I go outside and it's not so bad.

But for some reason I get cold fast when I'm outside, and I don't enjoy the outdoors nearly as much when it's this cold. I feel like I'm being held hostage in the house, even though I'm well aware there's kind of no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.

Plus the furnace runs incessantly and I can just see the dollar bills floating away out the chimney.

I even get to the point during these cold spells where I ask myself why the hell do I live in this Arctic wasteland called Vermont.

Then, sooner than you think, spring comes and everything explodes in green, colorful flowers, warm sunshine and soothing rain, and I say, "Oh, that's why I live here."

What's your opinion about these subzero winter cold waves we always get?

Friday, January 17, 2014

It Couldn't Last: Arctic Cold To Return To Vermont (And Stay Awhile)

Our January thaw is tapering off and coming to an end.
The thaw around my house in St. Albans, Vt.
revealed where I compacted the icy snow
a couple weeks ago when I walked from the house
to the shed.  

And it's going to turn cold again. Very cold.

On the bright side, this might be the clean slate I'd hoped for. The big thaw melted much (but not all) of that awful ice from the freezing rain of late December.

Now, maybe, we can start piling up some powdery snow, as I'd hoped.

There's no big storms on the way, but we might get flurried to death, as we often do in the winter.

A couple of little storms will come through this weekend, each dropping one to three inches of new snow, with a little more than that in the mountains.

Next week, it will turn very cold, with some days only reaching the single numbers in the afternoons and then getting below zero at night.

It looks like the cold will stay around for more than a week, and there's signs another intense "polar vortex" could hit us with way, way below zero weather somewhere around the January 27 or 28. (That's not certain, but there are signs)

The cold pattern will suppress storminess well to the south and east of northern New England, so I don't imagine we'll get any big dumps of snow. But light snow and flurries will probably occasionally freshen up the thin snow cover during the cold spell.

Hey, at least it will be too cold for freezing rain.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Break From Winter, And Amusing Video For Those Who Don't Like The Season

The first few days of January in Vermont were extremely cold, running close to 30 degrees below normal.
 A winter reversal: Snow melts amid rain, fog and warmth
in my St. Albans yard Tuesday. The bright side:
Much of the ice from the December ice storm is gone. The
negative side: Not great for winter sports.  

It almost seemed as if we were setting the stage for one of the coldest Januaries on record.

Not so fast.

As pretty much everyone has noticed, it's been incredibly warm the past few days in Vermont and surrounding states.

In Burlington, as of Monday, the warm weather had cancelled the early cold, and the average temperature so far in January was running right around normal.

Milder than average weather until the weekend will put us above normal for the month, at least temporarily.  There's no telling how warm or cold the later half of the month will turn out.

But it will inevitably turn colder. That's good news for the winter sports enthusiasts, and winter sports resorts, that have been suffering through the warm weather, the lack of snow and the lingering ice.

However, some people are no fans of winter, and would be happy if it stayed warm. To that crowd, I offer this video, so you can suffer through the pain of winter just like the people in this video compilation:

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Windy Forecast, And Why Ski Areas Impose Wind Holds Sometimes

A weather pattern has temporarily set in across much of the nation in which weather systems are moving pretty much west to east across the nation.
Intense winds toss chair lifts in Montana.
The ski area had shut down, wisely, to
protect skiers.  

That means some strong, but mostly moisture starved storms are coming in off the Pacific.

Since the storms and the air flow are blocking Arctic air from invading from Canada, much of the nation, including Vermont and the rest of the Northeast, is experiencing a January thaw.

These Pacific storms are also generating a lot of wind. Wind warnings and advisories stretch almost coast to coast.

The winds contributed to grass fires in Oklahoma Sunday, and In the northern Rocky Mountains, some wind gusts reached 90 mph.

Here in Vermont, we'll get some windy days all week. Nothing extreme, but look for gusts in the 40 mph range at times.  The storms coming across will be able to gather some moisture, so look for a little rain Tuesday, and some snow showers later in the week.

The weather pattern will again change toward the end of the week, with a dip in the jet stream forming in the middle of the nation. That will allow Arctic air to once again come into the picture from the Great Plains to, eventually, by the weekend, here in Vermont.

It won't be anything extreme, like the polar vortex last week. It'll just get cold like it usually does in January.

In Montana, where the wind really blew Sunday, , a quick video of the Bridger Bowl ski resort in Montana shows why ski areas tend to kick people off the lifts if the gusts get too strong.

Judging from the video, Bridger Bowl was smart to impose a wind hold Sunday.:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Another Icky Rainstorm For Vermont, With A Little Ice

It's warmed up from that glancing, not so bad blow from the "polar vortex" earlier this week.
Will all the rain in the forecast make my
icy driveway in St. Albans worse, or will it
(hopefully!) melt some of the ice?   

With Friday temperatures in the upper 20s and low 30s you'd think this would be a nice set up for a pleasant snowfall instead of the rain and ice storms we've gotten so far this winter.

Think again.

A freezing rain advisory is up Saturday morning for all of Vermont, except for the Champlain Valley and Rutland County.

That freezing rain will probably ice up some roads Saturday morning, since they're so cold from that chilly weather we had earlier this week.  There won't be enough freezing rain to cause renewed power problems or tree damage, though, so there's that glimmer of good news.

However, it will really, REALLY warm up Saturday afternoon, reaching near 50 in some areas,  so the main threat is flooding.  Flood watches are up for all of Vermont except Grand Isle County.

Rainfal with this storm will amount to about an inch. That's fairly substantial for winter, but nothing horribly extreme.

The problem is, the ground is frozen. the moderately heavy rain will run off instead of soaking into the ground. . In some parts of Vermont, especially in the northwest, there's a thick layer of ice on top of the snow cover. That will encourage rain to run off, too, instead of soaking in.

So, all that water goes into those partly frozen rivers, the ice on those rivers will start to break up, and  there will be some ice jams. Plus, culverts and storm drains are clogged up with ice from those ice storms we had earlier this winter, so street flooding is going to be a problem.

All that ice underfoot has really been a problem for people trying to negotiate icy driveways and sidewalks and this won't really help. Rain makes the ice smooth and even more slippery. Some of the ice will melt, of course, and that's a good thing, but still.

It'll stay sort of mild in the Northeast through Tuesday. On Sunday and Monday, minor thawing will allow a bit more ice to melt, and some of the water from Saturday's storm to drain.

But there is the possibility of another soaking rain storm arrives Tuesday. Then it will turn colder, but not brutal. Instead of another round of below zero weather, we'll have pretty normal weather by the end of the week.

That means highs in the 25-30 range, and lows in the upper single numbers and teens. Not bad!

But I'm still waiting for that nice powdery dump of snow.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Too Much Ice! So Far, Not A Great Year For Vermont Powder Enthusiasts

Pretty much in all of Vermont, the snow is crunchy, icy and gross, not the kind of powder you want to play in.
The icy mess that is my driveway, St. Albans, Vermont.
Maybe an upcoming thaw will melt it,
and we can start over with some nice powdery snow?  

And in many areas, the snow cover is thin. Up in the mountains, a lot of it has melted during rain storms that have interrupted the sometimes deep chill the state has experienced so far this winter.

Plus, here we go again.

We're coming out of another cold snap and a storm is coming. Once again, it will be rain, not snow.

We could get quite a bit of rain out of this one, too.  

Saturday and Saturday night, expect anywhere from a half inch to an inch of rain as another January thaw establishes itself.

Watch out for some lowland and street flooding out of this. The warm weather and rain could cause ice jams in rivers. Plus the snow is rock hard, and the ground is frozen  too.  So any rain that falls will run off. 

I'm not sure if this next thaw will melt a lot of the ice underfoot, but I hope it does. I like snow on the ground in the winter, but this ice has to go. 

I feel like a hostage because I can't just go out and walk around my yard and driveway without slipping on the ice, risking life and limb.

Ice injuries have really been a problem in Vermont this winter because of all the ice. According to Vermont Public Radio, emergency rooms in hospitals across the state have been dealing with a huge rush of ice-related injuries.
I have to walk on this ice in my St. Albans yard and driveway
because of all the ice storms and rain we've had so
far this winter.  

At Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vermont's largest hospital, Chief Medical Officer Stephen Leffler told VPR:

"We have seen an outrageous number of people with fractures. I would say way more than usual....Because basically there's been three weeks of persistent ice. 

Leffler told VPR some injuries have been worse than simple arm or leg fractures: "We have seen some concussions and some more serious head injuries."
Maybe this next thaw will allow us to start anew, with a better brand of winter. This is probably too much to ask for, but maybe the gross and dangerous ice that's out there will largely melt with this next thaw, and we an pretty much go down to bare ground

Inevitably,  next week,  it will turn colder again. Then perhaps we can reset the weather pattern, so that we get nice snowstorms and reasonable temperatures in the 20s for the rest of the winter, rather than this deep freeze/ice storm rainy cycle we've been on so far this winter.

There's no science to my wish, of course. But a man can dream for a decent, and not disgusting Vermont winter, can't he?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Polar Vortex" Fails To Repeal Global Warming; Does Inspire Stupidity

If your favorite source of science information is Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh, you probably have some wicked bad misinformation on this "polar vortex" that's freezing the nation's collective tush off.
No Donald, The cold wave
does not mean climate change
is repealed. Did your hairpiece
freeze or something?  

Contrary to The Donald's assertion, the "polar vortex" cold snap does not mean global warming is a hoax. And doubly contrary to our buddy Rush, the vortex itself is not a hoax.

The media has seized on the term "polar vortex," the term for the giant upper atmospheric whirlwind of frigid air that usually hangs out near the North Pole but has oddly descended into the northern United States this week.

Since Rush Limbaugh has never heard of the polar vortex, his conclusion is it has come from the imagination of the "liberal media."

He says: "Do you know what the polar vortex is? Have you ever heard of it? Wel, they just created it this week....They're in the middle of a hoax, they're perpetrating a hoax, but they're relying on the total dominance of the media to lie to you each and every day about climate change and global warm."

Uh, no Rush. The polar vortex has been very familiar to meteorologists and other scientists for many,  many decades. It usually hangs around the North Pole, hence it's name. It's always there, especially in the winter, whirling away as part of the Earth's normal weather patterns.

Sometimes, odd kinks in the jet stream drive the polar vortex out of its home into places like Asia, Europe, or in this case, southern Canada and the United States. Unusual, yes, but not unheard of, and it's something scientists have long known occasionally happens.

The only difference this time is, in the age of social media, people heard meteorologists refer to the polar vortex in their forecasts, shared it like crazy on places like Twitter, Instagram and Vine,  and it became an instant cliche among national news broadcasts.

It's also true this cold snap is pretty intense.   It's the strongest in a couple decades at least in parts of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic states and Southeast.

However, this polar vortex cold snap is also not unheard of and probably has little or nothing to do with global warming, or global cooling for that matter.

The cold snap is only covering about 2 percent of the earth's surface, so it's not like the whole world is chilled to the bone.

In fact, while we're shivering, there's been strong heat waves going on lately in Chile, Argentina and Austrailia. So the question to Donald Trump is, if a cold snap in the United States signals the end of global warming, does a heat wave in Australia mean it's back?

Though individual weather events, like the cold snap or heat waves ongoing elsewhere in the world might be influenced by global climate change, climatologists caution against reading too much into one weather event.

Like I said, the Attack Of The Polar Vortex  has happened before, and will happen again. Some of the worst cold waves in United States history have been caused by the polar vortex making a southward excursion through Canada into the Lower 48.  Memorable cold snaps in 1982, 1985, 1994, 1996 and 2005 were caused by the polar vortex invading the United States.

Also this cold snap is pretty short lived. New England got a taste of it last week for two or three days before it retreated. Then it attacked the upper Midwest starting Sunday and has spread to the East Coast since.

But it's already starting to warm up in places like North Dakota, which experienced the cold wave first. By the end of the week, most of the nation will have normal or even above normal temperatures.

Other cold waves in history have lasted weeks, not a few days like this one. So don't get too excited about it.

These intense cold waves have actually been getting somewhat less frequent and less intense in recent decades.  On average, United States winters are warmer than they were 50 years ago. But any climate change has not repealed winter. We still get cold waves, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Some climate scientists suggest that since the Arctic is getting warmer faster than the rest of the northern hemisphere, the jet stream is weakening, which makes in meander more, which it turn means you can get more of these weird cold snaps and stronger heat waves.

That might be true, but since this visit by the polar vortex isn't exactly unprecedented, chances are we can chalk this up to the usual back and forth shifts in climate change.  There might be plenty of signs that the world's climate is going off the rails, but this isn't one of them.

So no, Donald and Rush, the science of global warming remains pretty sound, despite your tiresome protestations to the contrary.

It's just that this polar vortex is completely besides the point, and Donald and Rush are too stupid, or too  stubborn, or both, to admit it. Did you both get frostbite to the brain?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quick January Thaw In Vermont, Flash Freeze This Afternoon

It was remarkably warm across Vermont, especially the western part of the state Monday morning as we got a quick January thaw in advance of the next Arctic blast.
My lawn in St. Albans Vermont is an icy mess of fallen branches
and sticks after what has so far been a tough winter
Ice is too slick for me to safely pick up the mess

It's really messy out there. The cold ground means back roads are a sheet of ice. The big ice storm in late December clogged up a lot of storm drains. That means rain and melting snow is collecting in streets, causing ponding and flooding.

Temperatures have gotten to 50 degrees in Burlington, 58 in Bennington and the 40s across much of the rest of Vermont.

At exactly the same time these warm temperatures were noted in Vermont, it was 31 degrees in New Orleans and 25 degrees in Atlanta.

Go figure.

We won't stay warm long. A cold front will come through any minute, with gusty winds, more showers, and a quick drop in temperatures this afternoon.

All that wetness and standing water out there will freeze, making roads treacherous again and really turning sidewalks and path and driveways into minefields for people wanting to walk across them.

I bet Vermont emergency rooms are already busy with people injured in falls on  icy sidewalks, and that will only get worse later today.

I'd hate to be an emergency room doctor today.

As I've said the cold wave gripping the country is epic, but won't be for us, aside from all that ice on the ground.

It'll get to within a few degrees of zero tonight, only into the low teens at best tomorrow, below zero in many spots Tuesday night, and remain chilly Wednesday.

But we won't have any record cold like much of the rest of the country, and the chill in Vermont won't be as bad as we had last Thursday and Friday.

It looks like the weather will calm down later in the week, with only small amounts of precipitation and temperatures at, or even a little above normal.

That will make for a nice switch, for sure.

If only we could get rid of all this ice and get some nice powdery snow instead.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

While U.S. Shivers, Britain Awash In Epic Storms

Britain and much of the rest of Europe has been getting severely battered by huge storms since early December, causing widespread damage and repeated flooding.
Huge waves batter Wales this weekend.  

It's actually gotten worse there in recent days as a parade of intense storms have slammed into Britain from the Atlantic.

The storm that caused the blizzardy weather along the U.S. East Coast late last week is now arriving in Britain as a particularly intense storm.

There has been major river flooding, and the coastlines have been battered and flooded by repeated storm surges more so than anyone can remember.

Check out this link to the Daily Mail for a good pictoral, video and text overview of the ongoing disaster in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Some dramatic video has surfaced, too.

Here's a cliff collapsing because of heavy rain and wave battering in Sussex, England. Glad nobody was under the cliff when it gave way:

And here are some waves slamming Newquay Beach in the UK:

Cold Wave To Be Epic In Much Of Nation. In Vermont: Meh.

That well advertised huge cold wave, the worst in decades, is taking hold in the Midwest this Sunday morning and is spreading south and east.
The cold snap engulfs Toronto late last week. 

Many places in the eastern two thirds of the nation face record low temperatures. And since the cold is more intense than anyone has seen in at least a decade, probably more, there will be some unexpected disruptions.

I'm thinking there might be problems with barge traffic on major Midwest rivers as they freeze over.

There will be some spot fuel shortages due to shipping problems and high demand, pipes will freeze, produce prices might go up as Florida gets a freeze, there might be quite a few fires caused by overtaxed heaters and, worse, people will die of exposure.

The good news is this cold wave won't last. By the end of the week, temperatures across the nation will be near, or even a little above normal for this time of year.

So any disruptions I think will be relatively minor and won't last a long time.

Here in Vermont, we've already experienced the worst of the cold wave, when the polar vortex descended down on us last week. As you know, we had a few days of subzero weather.

This time, the "polar vortex" that's causing this cold wave first came down over the Great Lakes, and then will move toward us by midweek.

By then, the air within the vortex will have started to modify.  Which means Vermont is in for a routine, normal, run of the mill style cold snap Monday night through Wednesday.

That means temperatures at night will range from 0 to 15 below and highs for a couple days midweek will be in the upper single numbers and low teens.

Cold, definitely, but something we experience every winter and isn't that big a deal.

Before then, watch for some icy roads tonight amid some sleet and freezing rain tomorrow.  Roads could get icy again in Vermont Monday afternoon as the cold wave arrives, changing any lingering rain to snow and quickly freezing up any wet roads and puddles that might be around.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Year In Review: 2013 Was Warm, Very Wet Year

As is customary at the beginning of a New Year, we'll take a look at the previous year and see how it all stacked up.
2013 was a wet year in Vermont.
Here, July 4 flooding drowns a
Richmond swimming pool.  

Worldwide, it'll probably be the 7th warmest year on record, though various ways of measuring it only mean the year was somewhere in the top 10 warmest.  Every year in the past decade or two has been near the top of the charts in terms of global warmth.

Here in Vermont, 2013 was on the warm side and very wet.  Burlington is usually taken as the representative site in the Green Mountain State, though Burlington tends to be slightly drier than most of the rest of Vermont and relatively warm, too.

Anyway, Burlington had 44.99 inches of precipitation in 2013, making it the sixth wettest year on record. Most of the rain came during the epic storms that lasted from late May into early July.

The mean temperature for 2013 in Burlington was 47 degrees, which was 1.2 degrees warmer than normal. This, despite a cold end of the year which saw back to back cold months in November and December.

The year doesn't quite crack Burlington's top 10 list of warmest years. It's somewhere in the top 15.

The first few months of 2013 were relatively quiet, a welcome contrast to 2011 and 2012, which brought some of the most extreme and chaotic weather years in Vermont history.  However, by April and May, things began to get weird again in the weather department.

It was a windy, stormy year, a rough one for power companies in particular. After being beset by a series of particularly violent storms in  2013, Green Mountain Power just last week announced a surcharge on customers' bill to help cover the cost. On average, the surchage will be about $1.53 a month.

Here are some of 2013's weather highlights.

Jan. 30-31. After a seasonably cold first month of the year, temperatures soar to 57 and 56 degrees in Burlington on the last two days of the month. An early hint of spring.

March 20: What a difference a year makes. It was 33 degrees in Burlington on March 20, 2013, 47 degrees colder than the record heat exactly a year earlier.

Late April, early May: A dry, sunny spring before forests leafed out contributed to numerous brush fires across Vermont.  One brush fire destroyed a garage and forced the evacuation of five homes and a courthouse in Hyde Park. Other large brush fires burned in Bristol, Colchester, Milton, near St. Johnsbury and Ascutney.

May 22-23: Lines of thunderstorms repeatedly rolling over the same sections of Vermont caused severel flash floods, especially in eastern Chittenden County and parts of Lamoille County.   Several homes were damaged, and many roads were washed out, especially around Jericho, Underhill and Cambridge
It was an exceptionally stormy late spring and early summer
in Vermont. Here, menacing storm clouds loom over Fairfield.  

May 26-28: A long, cold, storm dumped prodigious amounts of rain and late season snow in Vermont. Burlington had four consecutive days with at least an inch of rain, the first time that has happened in records dating back to 1884.

On May 27, the high temperature was just 46 degrees, the lowest high temperature for so late in the season.

Many areas experienced late season snow, even in valleys. Six inches was reported in Walden, Vt, 4.5 inches near Marshfield. Some Vermont mountaintops got 18 inches of snow and the summit of Whiteface Mountain, N.Y reported three feet of snow.

May 31:   May was  the wettest on record in Burlington, with 8.74" of rain.  Some areas along the western slopes of the northern Green Mountains had more than a foot of rain during the month.

June 2: Severe thunderstorms swept much of Vermont especially in a line from west of Rutland to Fairlee, and along U.S. 2 from Montpelier to St. Johnsbury. About 14,000 homes and businesses lost power, many trees fell and hail the size of ping pong balls was reported in eastern Vermont.

Mid-June--Early July: A strangely persistent and destructive weather pattern set up over Vermont,  causing repeated rounds of flash flooding. Local floods hit all corners of the state. Many sections declared disaster areas. Damaging floods affected almost every corner of the state during the one month period of heavy downpours.

July 15-19: One of the strongest and longest heat waves in years settled into Vermont. Daily highs in Burlington were 93, 91, 95, 91 and 98.

July 19: The end of the heatwave was heralded by a band of severe thunderstorms that swept the state. Winds gusted to 52 mph in Burlington and near 70 mph in some areas. A "bow echo" line of dangerous thunderstorms concentrated the damage mostly across the northern third of Vermont.
A shelf cloud heralds the approach of a severe
thunderstorm near St. Albans Bay on July 19.  

Sept. 11: Severe thunderstorms hit parts of Vermont amid a late season hot spell that brought temperatures to the low 90s in some areas. Scattered areas of damage were reported statewide.

Oct 7: Squall line swept across Vermont, causing more power failures.

 Nov-Dec: The first back to back colder than normal months since in several years.

Dec. 20-22: Destructive ice storm struck Vermont, part of a vast ice storm stretching from Oklahoma, up through the Great Lakes, southern Ontario and into Maine. In Vermont, tens of thousands endured the cold without power, some for at least a week. Temperatures remained below freezing for days after the storm, prolonging the outages. Officials are assessing the damage in Vermont for a possible disaster declaration.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"Arctic Vortex" To Blame For Our Intense Cold

Blame something called the Arctic vortex for the current bitter cold snap, the worsts to hit Vermont in a decade.
National Weather Service is forecasting
wind chills in the -30s today in northern Vermont.  

"Arctic Vortex" sounds like the name of a cheesy disaster movie, but it's actually a normal winter weather phenomenon.  The problem is, the vortex in the wrong place at the moment.

The vortex is a whirlpool of intensely cold air that almost always spins around somewhere in or near northern Canada every winter and lasts for months.

If the vortex is over north central or northeastern Canada, passing storms will often snag a chunk of frigid air from the vortex and send it crashing through New England.

Those are the standard issue one or two day spells of subzero mornings and bone chilling days we get all the time every winter.

What's different this time is the vortex has been temporarily pushed southward by higher than normal air pressure over and near Greenland. So the Arctic vortex is no longer in the Arctic, where it belongs.

It's close to us instead.

Specifically, it's been over Quebec the past couple of days. Temperatures fell to around 50 below in central Quebec Thursday morning.  That's about as cold as it's ever been in that part of Canada.

With the Arctic vortex so close to Vermont, it was bound to get very cold. And it did.

Making it worse was that storm that got going on the East Coast yesterday. For one thing, clouds from the storm blocked the feeble January sun, so the sunshine couldn't warm us up, even by a few degrees.

Worse, the storm set up a steady north wind that drew the coldest air from Quebec southward into New England during the day Thursday. That's why the temperature fell all morning and most of the afternoon yesterday, rather than rising during those hours as it normally does.

The abnormal cold affected how much snow fell in eastern New England with this storm. You've heard of lake effect snows, right? You know, in western New York where cold winds sweep over the Great Lakes, pick up moisture from the relatively warm water and drops it as heavy snow.

The same thing happened in eastern Massachusetts. Usually, there's not much contrast between the air and ocean temperature, which you need to get lake, or in this case ocean effect snows.

This time, east winds blew off the relatively warm water, hit the frigid air on the coast, and caused and "ocean effect" storm that dumped two feet of snow on some parts of Massachusetts.

The Arctic vortex is still nearby, so the subzero, painful cold will continue today into tonight. It will temporarily retreat to the north to make room for a storm system that will approach Sunday, bringing much warmer temperatures and mixed precipitation Sunday night and Monday.

The Arctic vortex will then sink south again,  but this time over the Great Lakes and upper Midwest. That means the worst of next week's cold will be there. Temperatures in that part of the country will be in record low territory, about 40 degrees below normal.

Here in northern New England, the fact the Arctic vortex will be a bit further west than it is now means we'll be on the edge of the bitter air.

It'll be below zero at night during Monday and Tuesday nights, and days will be quite chilly. But the intensity of the cold next week won't be as bad as it is now.

This really is an impressive cold wave for us. For the first time since 2004, Burlington will go two days without ever going above zero. Many places in northern Vermont will be in the 20s below zero tonight

It'll start to warm up Saturday, but at first you might not notice. Strengthening winds in the Champlain Valley will keep wind chills low.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Storm Relatively Minor In Vermont, Bitter Chill Is Pretty Major

As of 7 a.m. this Thursday morning, the storm that's expected to pound parts of the Northeast was just cranking up, and will be a wild one by tonight.
Expect bitter cold through Saturday morning in
Vermont. Many places won't get above zero
until Saturday afternoon.  

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, it's terribly cold, with readings between five and 12 below zero.

Since it's cloudy and getting ready to snow, or already snowing a bit in some areas, the dampness deepens the chill.

The wind is going to pick up, too, and continue into Friday. Wind chill advisories are up as it's going to often feel like 30 below out there.

Temperatures in Burlington, Vermont went below zero last evening and aren't forecast to rise above zero until probably late morning Saturday. If this works out as forecast, Burlington will have spent the most consecutive hours below zero in years.

So called high temperatures today and Friday will be somewhere near 5 below zero.

This is quite a cold snap.

I'm harping on the cold because unlike in most areas of the Northeast, the northern reaches of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York won't be as affected by the nor'easter as other places. Sure, it will snow, the roads will get slick and road salt will be worthless since it's too cold for it to work.

But in the northern halves of these states, snowfall will only accumulate to between 1 and 6 inches, the least being in the St. Lawrence Valley and the most in central Vermont and New Hampshire.

In the southern halfs of Vermont and New Hampshire, a winter storm warning is up for six to 10 inches of snow, maybe even a little more, by Friday.

Southern New England is going to get a pounding, with heavy snow of more than a foot, strong winds, whiteouts, and coastal flooding. Some areas, particularly near Cape Cod, are under a blizzard warning.

Up here in Vermont and adjacent areas, the snow will taper off Friday, and the deep cold will continue Friday night with quite a few areas getting to near 20 below

Saturday will be "warmer" if you can call it that, with late afternoon temperatures in the teens.

Then, this winter's seesaw weather continues. Another storm is coming, this time with warmer temperatures. It looks as if snow will start Sunday, turn into mixed precipitation Sunday night, and even to plain rain for a time Monday. (This could change, but that's how it looks now)

Then it's back into the icy deep freeze next week.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Storm Update: Nasty One To South, Some Snow, Bitter Cold Toward North

For parts of New England, Thursday and Friday could bring the Snowstorm Of The Winter as a nor'easter takes shape just off the coast.
Here's what the National Weather Service
in Burlington was predicting for
snowfall in the next storm, due to start Thursday.
As always,  click on the image to make it bigger
 and easier to read.  

In northern New England, it's going to snow, maybe fairly heavily in some spots, but the real story in the North Country will be the horrible cold.

Don't bother traveling Thursday and Friday morning to places like Boston, Providence, Hartford and New York City. 

That is unless you like near-blizzard conditions, heavy snow amounting to more than a foot, pretty much impassable roads, subzero wind chills and coastal flooding. 

It's really going to be a mess down there.

Here in Vermont, and in northern New York and the northern half of New Hampshire, the impacts of this storm will depend upon where you are.

Southern Vermont, the southern half of New Hampshire and the Capitol District of New York will share in the heavy snowfall, with amounts ranging from 6 to 12 inches. Winter storm warnings are up in these areas, or will be soon.

Snowfall amounts will taper off quickly as you head north. Of course, this makes the forecast tricky, since a slight shift in the storm's track could make northern sections either get much more snow than forecast, or nothing at all.

The thinking now is central Vermont, say, Middlebury and areas just to the south of Montpelier are in for four to eight inches of snow. Around Burlington, the National Weather Service is forecasting two to four inches. As little as an inch might accumulate near the Canadian border.

This is going to be a remarkably cold storm. Usually, it warms up into the upper teens and 20s during this type of storm, but the Arctic air will hold firm. In fact, in some parts of the north, it will never get above zero during the entire duration of the snowfall.

And the temperature will go below zero this evening and not get above zero again until Saturday afternoon. 

As uncomfortable as the cold will be, at least this means it will be a powdery snow, not wet and heavy. This time, mercifully, it doesn't look like power failures will be much of a problem in northern New England. 

Watch out for the wind chill Friday and Friday night. With temperatures well below zero and strong north winds behind the departing storm, wind chills will be ridiculously low.

Another storm is due Sunday or Monday. Some forecast models push the storm to our west, which means a brief, abrupt warmup and snow changing to sleet, freezing rain and rain. Other computer models keep the Monday storm just to our east, which would bring us mostly snow.

Next week, the bottom will drop out of the thermometers again, so we'll deal with more bitter cold then. 

As I said before it's not an easy winter so far, is it?

Happy New Year! Now Bundle Up. Or Better Yet, Hibernate

Happy New Year!
I was away for the Ice Storm of 2013 and thick ice
accumulated on my truck while I was gone. I got
around to hacking into the truck on New Year's Eve.
Looks like I will be sweeping snow off the vehicle
several times over the next week.  

As dawn breaks on 2014, it's really not that bad out in Vermont, at least in terms of the weather. (I can't evaluate whether you have a hangover, and if so, how bad)

Temperatures are in the teens across most of Vermont, but that's about as nice as it will get for the next few days as winter really asserts itself.

It won't get any warmer today as Arctic air bleeds in, and starting late this afternoon, it won't get above ten degrees until Saturday.

Also, some of us, but not all of the North Country, is in for a very cold snowstorm.

Winter storm warnings are flying for the southern four counties of Vermont, the Capitol District of New York and southern New Hampshire.

A strengthening storm is going to scoot south and east of New England, and will drop a stripe of heavy snow across the southern half of New England.

Like the storm last Sunday, precipitation amounts will be heavy in the south, and taper off to next to nothing in the north. Rutland and Windsor counties in Vermont could see up to nine inches of snow, and the southern extreme of Vermont could pick up a foot.

Meanwhile, up near the Canadian border, expect nothing more than a dusting, maybe up to an inch or two if you get lucky.

Unlike Sunday's storm, this one is going to be frigid. No wet snow with this one. It will be powdery. As it's snowing, temperatures won't get above ten degrees. Some places will stay near 0.

After the storm goes by, the cold will deepen. Many communities in the North Country will never rise above zero Friday afternoon, and it will be in the teens and 20s below zero at night. Ugh.

It will warm up quite a bit Sunday and Monday, but another storm is looming then. It's too soon to say how much snow we'll get out of that one, or whether it will mix with rain or sleet.

After that, there are signs we might get a really, really intense cold wave next week.  It's possible it could be the worst cold wave in years, but don't count on that yet. Just stay tuned.

And hibernate.