Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rain In California Will Just Scratch The Surface Of Drought

A few inches of rain will probably come down on California this week. That'll be snow in the mountains.
A NOAA precipitation forecast map for
the next week shows a few inches of rain
coming to drought-stricken California.  

So drought-stricken California can breathe easy, finally, right?

Um, totally wrong. The drought has gone on so long, and has caused such a water shortage, that this week's storminess will barely make a difference.

Right now, 94 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought. That's really no better than it was in August. By now, there should have been some beneficial rains in California to put a dent in the drought, but so far, no. The autumn and winter rains are a little late.

So yes, California will take anything it can get, and any rain is better than none at all. Over the next week, rainfall totals will range from maybe an inch or two in parts of southern California to maybe three, four or even five up north.

An important part of California's water supply is snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. California can partly get by through the first year or so of a drought because melting snow in the Sierra can feed rivers, and thus water supplies.

But we're a few years into the drought now, so the Sierra Nevada isn't helping all that much. Snow pack last winter up there in the mountains was paltry, and melted far to early in the season in a warm spring.

California is actually by far having its warmest year on record, and that makes droughts worse anyway. Besides the lack of snow to melt, higher temperatures mean what little water there is can evaporate more quickly.
Almost all of California is still in severe drought, as
this U.S. Drought Monitor image from this
week shows. So one rainstorm due this week
won't solve the state's problems.  

Plus, demand for water among us humans goes up when it gets hotter.

Anyway, right now there is little snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There should be much more by now. This oncoming storm will add maybe a couple feet of snow in some high elevation areas.

The only downside to this storm is there might be periods of heavy rain Tuesday in southern California, which could result in local mudslides or floods in areas that had recent brush fires. 

If vegetation that normally holds the soil in place is burned away, the soil, duh! doesn't stay in place during downpours.

After this week, it looks like it will turn drier in much of California the following week, which is bad news.

The only way California can get out of its punishing drought is to have not just one wet week, like the upcoming one. They need every week to be wet now through March or April, when California's rainy season usually starts to wane.

Still, I bet you won't hear too many Californians complaining this week that their West Coast sunsets are obscured by rain clouds.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Stormscapes Video by Nicolaus Wegner Is Beyond Awesome

An ominous, beautiful wall cloud in a severe storm,
photographed by Nicolaus Wegner.  
Those of you who read this here blog thing know I like weather porn.

So do a lot of other weather geeks. Weather porn is totally safe for work.

It's images and videos of storms and other extreme weather that is thrilling to watch, dramatic to see. It's kind of a rush.

I'm always looking for "weather porn videos" like some sort of creep in a scary adult video parlor in a bad part of town.

Except, since it's innocent enough (No sex! No nudity! No weirdness!) I can be open about it, and can just enjoy this little foible I have. And share it.

I think I found what is maybe the best weather porn video I've ever come across.

It's time lapse videos of storms, tornadoes and other violent weather in Wyoming and surrounding states.

It was put together by Nicolaus Wegner, who, with his wife Daow, run LightAlive photography in Wyoming. 

Nicolaus Wegner captured his wife Daow, confronting
a beautiful, severe storm.  
The video, Stormscapes 2, is meticulously edited to music, and it's just an awesome concert of nature at its most violent and beautiful.

Wegner spent a lot of time driving around Wyoming, South Dakota and nearby other states to capture these big storms.

Just an amazing video to watch. And pop on over to the LightAlive photography web site, because he's got awesome still images of storms and other nature pics.

They do a lot of great portraiture and wedding photography, too, but their nature images are absolutely amazing.

Wegner's weather art are (hint, hint) the perfect Christmas gift for the storm, nature and art lover.

Here's his amazing Stormscapes 2 video. (It's best to watch it in full screen mode):

Stormscapes 2 from Nicolaus Wegner on Vimeo.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Brisbane, Australia Blasted By Incredible Supercell Storm. Wild Photos, Videos

James Marriott in his roofless Brisbane, Australia
apartment after an epic storm moved through. Photo via AP.  
While most of us here in the United States enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast, some with no electricity in the Northeast from a snowstorm, it was a normal workday in Brisbane, Australia.

That is until the worst thunderstorm to hit the city in decades blasted through.

Widespread areas of Brisbane and surrounding towns suffered through 85 mph winds, lots of lemon-sized hail, torrential, flooding rains and a zillion lightning strikes.

Planes at an airport were flipped over and sent skittering across fields. Residents huddled in hallways as roofs flew off and hail smashed windows, allowing more hail, torrential rains and hurricane force winds to blast into their homes.

The videos you can watch at the bottom of this post are outrageous.
This plane was flung across a field during
Brisbane's huge storm Thursday.  

Given the huge number of dangerous hailstones pelted down, the shattering glass in hundreds or even thousands of buildings, the falling debris, the roofs flying off buildings, some of them high rises; the flooding, it's amazing that only 29 people had minor injuries in the city of a little more than 2 million people.

Australian Broadcasting Corp says the city suffered at least $150 million in damage. Power was cut to more than 100,000 customers. Countless cars were totaled by the giant hailstones.

The storms hit just as the afternoon commute was getting under way. That meant there were a lot of cars on the road. Meaning a lot of cars that would get trashed by hail.

The hail and flooding and power failures also pretty much put the kabosh on public transit, so many people had trouble getting home from work to see how badly their houses were trashed.

The videos below are beyond incredible. Watch:

First video shows the incredible intensity of the storm:

Amazing that nobody got hurt in this downtown Brisbane neighborhood, considering what you see happening. Yikes!

Watch the storm invade this guy's apartment in a very scary fashion: The wildest part begins about 1 minute into the video:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Storm Departing; Widespread Shoveling To Start Thanksgiving

Via Twitter: Josh Elniger captured
this nice image of the snowstorm during
thunder snow Wednesday in
Mt. Pleasant, N.Y.  
Look at it this way: You're probably going to consume a LOT of calories, this Thanksgiving Day.

So you might as well burn it off by shoveling.

In the eastern United States, a lot of people have the opportunity to do just that.

A huge area stretching from the higher elevations of West Virginia and Virginia all the way up through the Northeast to Maine have six or more inches of new snow on the ground this morning.

Most of these accumulations are west of Interstate 95, but a big, big area is covered by this.

So far, judging from incomplete reports, the biggest snow totals are 18 inches near Paw Paw, West Virginia and 16 inches in Orwell, Vermont. So you can see how widespread this is.  I'm sure we might find bigger storm totals once all the reports are in.

The storm is departing now. There is some lingering snow falling across northern New England, but in other areas, the roads are being cleared for travel today. So maybe you can still make it to your Thanksgiving feast.

I talked about shoveling to burn off calories, but be careful. The snow in most places, except in northern New England north and west of Albany, N.Y., is very wet and heavy.  Shoveling it will be a lot like shoveling wet cement.

If you're over the age of 50 and/or not in great shape, you'd better let someone else clear the snow. You don't want to have a heart attack. Or destroy your back.

A bigger problem is power failures caused by the heavy wet snow bringing down trees and power lines. AccuWeather reported more than 300,00 outages in New England early this morning, with 148,000 or so in New Hampshire alone.

I can't imagine they'll be able to restore power to everybody today, so that really screws up Thanksgiving feast plans. What, build a bonfire in the backyard and cook the turkey in that? I don't think so.
Via Twitter: Geoff Pattern photographed this
weather related crash Wednesday in
Towamencin, Pa.  

One interesting thing about this departing storm is it went a little more to the west than expected.

Most nor'easters like this have something called a "deformation band" which is a band of heavier snow well northwest of the storm center, near out outer edge of the precipitation shield.

This storm had a well developed one, running from northeastern Pennsylvania, through central New York, curving to near and northwest of Albany, then into western, central and northeastern Vermont.

Albany, N.Y, in this heavier snow band, got 9.6 inches of new snow, making this one of the city's Top 10 biggest November snowstorms. 

In this band, a lot of places had more than 10 inches of snow. Just to the northwest of this band, amounts tapered off dramatically.

Burlington, Vermont, just on the outer edge of this band of heavier snow, got 8.4 inches of accumulation. At my house in St. Albans, 24 miles to the north of Burlington, I barely got three inches, and communities just 5 to 10 miles northwest of my house could barely muster an inch or two.

For the rest of the holiday weekend, it's looking pretty quiet in the Northeast, with just some small storms with scattered rain and snow showers moving through.

An exception might be coastal Massachusetts, where one of those small storms could gather some strength, and moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, to dump a few inches of snow late tonight and Friday morning.

That situation is uncertain, but should be watched.

Other than that, time to go play in the snow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snowy Thanksgiving Eve: An Update

Via @MrPatrickDugan on Twitter, a power line
burns near West Hartford, Ct. after tree branches and
lines broke amid heavy, wet snow.  
That nor'easter, as expected, is screwing up travel and causing other problems as it makes its way up the coast at the moment.

The storm's track was a tiny bit west of original forecasts. That meant that some of the big cities in the Northeast, like Washington, New York, and Boston, had more rain and mixed precipitation and less snow than forecast.

The storm was winding down in Washington DC as of late afternoon, and colder air was filtering in to places like New York City and Philadelphia, so mixed precipitation and snow will move back in before the storm moves on in a few hours.

The slightly westward track also pushed heavier snow more to the west than expected. In particular, central New York State and northwestern Vermont are getting more snow than originally forecast.

Where I live in the northwestern tip of Vermont, the original forecast of about an inch has turned into four or five inches. As of 5:30 p.m., it was snowing moderately in St. Albans, and a little over an inch had accumulated already.
A car crash, with injuries amid slippery road
conditions in Holliston, Mass.  

The snow is even wetter and heavier than expected in central and interior southern New England, again owing to the more westward track of the storm bringing in slightly warmer air.

The slushy accumulation is really weighing down trees and power lines, and power failures are pretty widespread in the region, especially in Massachusetts and Connecticut. 

So far, the highest snowfall total in the Northeast is 10 inches in Lanesborough, the the Massachusetts Berkshires.

Earlier, as the storm moved through the Mid-Atlantic States, up to 18 inches of new snow was reported in the Virginia mountains.

It still looks like the New York's Hudson Valley, western Massachusetts, southern Vermont, southern New Hampshire and parts of Maine are in the 10-18 inch bullseye for snow.

Often, a band of heavy snow sets up near the northwestern fringe of the main precipitation shield of a nor'easter, and that seems to be happening.
By late afternoon, four inches of snow had already
accumulated in Ludlow, Vermont. Up to a foot
is forecast in the area. Things are looking good
for nearby Okemo Ski Resort.  

It looks as if that type of band is setting up through the southern Adirondacks, into western Vermont near or just southeast of Burlington, then into central and northeastern Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and perhaps western Maine.

The prediction is for a storm total of 6 to 10 inches of snow in this area, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if some towns get a foot or a bit more of snow with the region I just described.

This storm continues to move right along, so the heaviest snow in New England will happen between now and midnight. Maybe until closer to dawn in Maine.

If you wisely postponed traveling in the Northeast today, tomorrow will be a better day. They'll be clearing the roads early in the morning, the snow will have pretty much stopped by sunup (except maybe in Maine) so you should be good to go.

Today's Snowstorm: As Forecast, Huge Area Of East Coast Getting A Big Dump

It still looks like this will be
a common scene in the Eastern U.S. today.  
The forecast hasn't changed much from last night regarding the big snowstorm affecting the East Coast today.

There's a huge area under a winter storm warning from western Virginia all the way up through Maine.

Yeah, I'm adding unneeded stress to your holiday, since traveling is a big deal today, but what can I do?

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, precipitation covered an enormous area from Florida to southern New England. From the Middle Atlantic States to Connecticut, the snowstorm had already started by dawn, and was spreading northward.

It'll cover most of the Northeast, including pretty much all of New England by this afternoon.

If you are on the East Coast, I'd pretty much forget about travel today, especially along and to the west of Interstate 95. The roads are going to be icy, and slick, visibility poor. Airlines, I'm sure, will have huge delays.

An ominous sign is that the airlines are waiving change fees on flights today. That's a sure sign they expect trouble from the weather.

As the precipitation arrives in the Mid-Atlantic states and southern New England, it might start as rain. Don't be fooled, it will quickly change to a wet, messy snow.

I still think the deepest accumulations from this storm will go through the Hudson Valley of New York, especially near and south of Albany, the western half to two thirds of Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, and the southern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

There, a good 10 to 18 inches of snow could accumulate today and tonight.

This is a relatively brief, but very intense storm, so that 10 to 18 inches will come down mostly within 12 hours or so. That means very poor visibility on the roads, and highway crews will have trouble keeping pace with the accumulations.

There's even a slight chance of thundersnow in southern New England today or this evening. Because the snow will be heavy and wet, power failures from snapping trees and lines could be a problem in some spots.

Geez, let's really complicate Thanksgiving. No travel, no power for cooking. What else could go wrong? I don't want to know.

The predicted zone of heaviest snow has been pushed back to the northwest a little bit, so more of Vermont and eastern New York are going to be in the winter storm warning or winter weather advisory zone for 4 to 8 inches of snow than I originally thought.

Extreme southeastern New England will miss the snow, because the storm will move close enough to the coast to throw warm-ish air to that region. Expect a lot of rain and wind on Cape Cod and the Islands, though.

The storm will be departing on Thanksgiving, so road conditions are expected to improve during Turkey Day. With Maine and New Hampshire seeing the storm last, those areas will be the last to see the snow taper off and the roads improve Thursday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yep, That East Coast Storm Looks Even Worse Than Before

The Weather Channel's take on snow accumulatin
from Wednesday's anticipated storm.  
Winter storm warnings are flying in a broad stretch of the East Coast, from the mountains of North Carolina, through parts of the heavily populated areas of the Mid-Atlantic States on into New England.

The storm as of Tuesday evening was gathering strength around Florida, and will make its way up the coast Wednesday.

As I noted this morning, Wednesday is the biggest travel day of the year, so this will really screw things up. Especially since it's hitting such a large area, and a very populated area.

With any coastal storm, slight changes in the track of the storm could have a big time effect on how much snow will come down.

Suffice it to say, if you don't have to travel anywhere in the eastern United States on Wednesday, don't. Easier said than done, I know, given the holiday.

I guess the best thing to do is give a state by state breakdown of impacts.

Florida: Very heavy rains are hitting much of the northern half of the state this evening. Flood warnings, advisories and advisories are up for wide swaths of the state.

The threat of flooding will continue tonight and into Wednesday morning, but things will clear up during the day Wednesday as the storm heads northeast. Look for a nice Thanksgiving Day.

Georgia: A lot of rain is hitting the state. A flood watch is in effect for coastal regions into Wednesday morning. Clearing is expected later in the day.

South Carolina: Heavy rain is due tonight and Wednesday morning, but no major problems are expected, except near an iffy dam in the southwestern part of the state, which could fail and cause some downstream flooding

North Carolina: Several inches of snow could accumulate in the mountains of western North Carolina, especially at elevations above 3,500 feet on Wednesday, especially early in the day.

Virginia: The northwestern third of the state is under a winter storm warning Wednesday. Three to six inches of wet snow is likely at elevations below 1,500 feet above sea level, with 6 to 10 inches at higher elevations. Travel problems are likely in these areas.

Maryland: Winter storm warnings are up for the western half of Maryland Wednesday. In those spots, four to eight inches of snow is forecast Wednesday, with the heaviest snow between 9 a.m and 2 p.m., says the National Weather Service.

Lesser amounts are forecast in the central parts of the state, where a winter weather advisory is in effect. The winter weather advisory covers Baltimore and just west of Washington, DC.

Minor coastal flooding is possible along the coast.

Delaware: Rain, heavy at times is due Wednesday, causing local ponding and flooding of urban streets. The rain will mix with snow, and there could be some slick spots.

Pennsylvania: The southeastern half of the state is screwed on Wednesday. Look for four to eight inches of heavy, wet snow during the day.

Here's an excerpt from the winter storm warning in Pennsylvania:

"Anyone with holiday travel plans Wednesday should complete travel no later than 7 a.m. Wednesday to avoid any significant weather delays... or travel after the roads are cleared on Thursday. Heavy wet snow will probably obscure some road signs. There is a chance the wet snow could knock down a few tree limbs and result in power outages."

Oh, joy!

New Jersey: Six to 12 inches of snow is likely in the northwestern third of the state. The winter storm warning in that region is in effect from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday. Again this will be heavy, wet snow.

A winter weather advisory for lesser amounts of wet snow is in effect along a stripe from Camden to Trenton to Newark.

New York: The bullseye of this storm for the Empire State will be in the Hudson Valley from Albany to just north of New York City. Eight to 14 inches of snow is likely, with heaviest coming during the afternoon Wednesday.

Travel will be difficult at best, with very slippery roads, low visibility and possible fallen tree branches and power lines.

A winter weather advisory for up to three or four or five inches of slush is in effect for New York City. The storm should be gone by Thursday, meaning the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade can go on.

On the bright side, the areas south of Buffalo that got seven feet of snow last week in lake effect storms shouldn't be too bad. There's a little snow and freezing drizzle around the area tonight and Wednesday morning, but that should clear out later in the day

Connecticut: Winter storm warning for all but the south coast. Expect 8 to 10 inches of wet snow. Winds could be a factor, with possible gusts to 35 mph.

Rhode Island: Winter weather advisory for the northwestern half of the state, including Providence,  for several inches of heavy, wet snow, and sleet, and winds gusting to 30 mph or so Wednesday and the first half of Wednesday night.

Look for gusts over 40 mph along the coast especially during the first half of Wednesday night

Massachusetts: Arguably the most affected state with this storm. Eight to ten inches of heavy, wet snow, with locally higher amounts. The heaviest snow will come in the afternoon and evening. Lesser amounts of slushy snow are likely around Boston.

A wind advisory is up for the coast below Boston, and on Cape Cod and the Islands. Look for gusts to 50 mph with this storm

Vermont: Small state, wide range of impacts with this storm. Eight to 14 inches of snow in the two southernmost counties of Vermont.

Winter storm warning for the area southeast of a line from northwest of Rutland, to Waterbury, to Lyndonville. Expect five to 10 inches of snow, mostly between Wednesday afternoon and just after midnight Thursday.

Winter weather advisory for a stripe from just south of Burlington to near Newport for three to five inches of snow.

Just a dusting to 2 inches in the far northwest near St. Albans

New Hampshire/Maine: Heavy snow across most of the two states Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning. The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine said travel is not recommended during this time period.

That Snowstorm Is Really Going To Screw Up Your East Coast Travel Plans Wednesday

Here's the Weather Channel's take on how much snow
will fall with the upcoming storm.  
Now it's official.

That snowstorm is indeed going to hit along the East Coast Wednesday, and it's going to be a nasty one.

It probably seems hard to believe, given the warm temperatures yesterday, in some places record warm.

Massena, N.Y. had a record high of 70 degrees and Burlington, Vermont had a record 67 degrees for a high. Montpelier, Vermont reported a record high of 64 degrees.

It's still going to be in the 50s today in many areas about to get snow blasted Wednesday. Go figure.

The bullseye of the heaviest snow will be along and west of I-95 from western Virginia, western Maryland, the southeastern half of Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley of New York and interior New England, except the far northwest.

In this area, at least 6 to 12 inches of snow looks like a good bet. A few places might get more.

This is by no means the worst snowstorm the Northeast could possibly get, but it is hitting at the worst possible time, since Wednesday is probably the busiest travel day of the year.

Most of the snow will hit during the day Wednesday, and Wednesday night. The Wednesday night snow will be mostly up toward New England.

It's going to be a heavy, wet snow, which is the worst for driving on. It compacts under car tires into ice, and there's usually a little water on that road ice, making it especially slippery.

It will snow really, really hard, with rates up to 2 inches an hour at times, so visibility will be bad.

And airports in the region? Fuhgettaboutit. I guarantee flight delays and cancellations, which could have ripple effects across the nation.

I wish I had better news, but there you go.

As is often the case with nor'easters, it looks like far northwestern New England and points west and north of that will escape most of the storm.

For instance, in Vermont, a foot or more is a good bet in the far south of the state, and way up by the Canadian border near Lake Champlain, little if any will accumulate.

The storm is intense, but a fast mover, and will be pretty much gone by Thanksgiving Day. By then,  the damage will have been done.

I'm guessing some people are going to miss their Thanksgiving feast, or at least have it sometime after Thanksgiving, because they won't get to their destinations in time.

If you can leave for wherever you're going today, do it. There's no weather problems to report on the East Coast, except for rain and some thunderstorms in the Southeast.

Elsewhere in the nation, things aren't perfect in the weather department either. Winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings are up for a broad area of Montana and the northern Plains.

High winds are buffeting the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, there's a flood watch in the Washington State, and southern California is bracing for possible wildfires. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Possible Big Pre-Thanksgiving Snow And Other Weather Excitement For Northeast

Pre-Thanksgiving travel on Wednesday could
end up looking like this in parts of the Northeast.  
Yesterday, I said nobody had any idea if a storm would dump heavy snow on parts of the the Northeast, as the forecasting models were all over the place.

It's now seeming more likely some areas will get a lot of snow to screw up holiday travel, but there's still some uncertainty in the details.

Most of the computer models have come around to the idea of bringing a nor'easter close enough to the coastline to dump snow on much of New England, New York State, and probably down into parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Maybe even into western Maryland and Virginia.

Still, those flighty computer models don't have an exact track for the storm yet, so we don't know what areas will get mostly rain, what areas get mostly snow, and exactly how much falls.

At this point, the snow bullseye looks to be the western half of Massachusetts, most of Connecticut, far southern Vermont, the Hudson Valley of New York and far northern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania.

Those areas have winter storm watches flying for Wednesday into Thursday. The best guess is there will be six to 10 inches of heavy wet snow in those regions. That's the kind that brings down trees and power lines, and feels like wet cement when you try to shovel it.

East of the winter storm watch areas, it might rain, it might snow, it's still uncertain. North and west of the winter storm watch area, it will probably snow, but we don't know how much yet.

This general forecast idea is not set in stone. It could change dramatically as the event gets closer and the computer forecasting models have a better idea of how things in the atmosphere are coming together. Stay tuned.

Obviously, the timing of the storm, Wednesday, when everybody's heading out for Thanksgiving visits, is lousy.

You could take a chance and keep your plans to travel Wednesday, as we could get lucky and things don't turn out that bad. But I'm pessimistic, and so are most other forecasters on this one. There will be icky weather around Wednesday.

If you can escape from work Tuesday and travel that day instead, go for it. There shouldn't be any weather problems Tuesday along the East Coast.

Before we get to the storms, today is turning out to be an interesting day, especially around Buffalo, N.Y., which has lately become Mother Nature's punching bag. They had all that many feet of snow just south of Buffalo, which is melting amid 60 degree temperatures.

Of course, that fast melt leads to flooding, and flooded basements and that sort of thing. Flood warnings are still flying out there.

Plus, there's a high wind warning in western New York today for gusts to 60 mph. The ground is wicked wet and soft from all that snowmelt. The soft ground makes it easier for the wind to topple trees.

The toppled trees cut power, which means the pumps trying to keep ahead of the flooding and the basement water conk out.

Plus, a particular surge of strong southwest winds later today and tonight might push Lake Erie water into the shorelines around Buffalo, flooding areas near the waterfront.

AND there's the chance, just the chance at this point, of more lake effect snow out that way this coming weekend.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, expect lots of wind today, but nothing too damaging. Temperatures will rise into the 60s in many areas, making it seem impossible that a snowstorm is brewing for Wednesday.

As experience shows though, just because it's warm today doesn't mean winter won't hit again soon.

Meanwhile, out west, the Los Angeles area, still under that huge drought, is bracing for possible wildfires between now and Thursday, as very low humidity and strong winds are expected to get going.

The weather is really turning into an obnoxious Thanksgiving dinner guest in many parts of the country.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why Meteorologists Have No Idea If A Nor'easter Will Screw Up Your Travel Plans Wednesday.

Different scenarios for a possible East
Coast storm Wednesday and Thanksgiving morning.  
Maybe there's going to be a big nasty storm on the East Coast Wednesday into Thanksgiving.

Or maybe there won't be any trouble at all.

You might have heard rumors this morning that a nor'easter would drop a boatload of snow on the Middle Atlantic states and the Northeast when we're all trying to drive over the hills and through the woods to Grandmothers house.

Or down I-95 to her condo in Passaic.

Well, right now that storm is just a rumor. The weather forecasting computer models that predict these sorts of things are all over the place right now.

Some models say a storm will dump six inches or more of snow on eastern and southern New England. Other computer models say there will be a pretty good storm, but it will be mostly rain.

Still other forecasting models say the storm will go out to sea and miss entirely.

So yeah, I'm not really helping with your holiday travel plans at this point, am I?

Here's the problem: We know a weak, but wet and kind of warm storm will come out of the Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday and start heading northeast. We also know a weak, moisture-starved and cold storm will head east and southeast out of the southern Canadian prairies toward the Northeastern United States.

The two storms are on a collision course.

The computer models, and no humans that I know of, can yet figure out where those two storms will collide, and what will happen when they do.

The collision will probably ignite a nor'easter along or off the East Coast.  Will that nor'easter be really strong, and just in the right position to dump a bunch of snow on the Northeast?

Or, Door Number Two, will the cold air package with the storm coming in from the west be a little slow, so the East gets a rainstorm?

Or, we have Door Number Three, in which the nor'easter gets cranking off the coast and almost all of its precipitation misses the East Coast completely.

Only time will tell. The ingredients for this potential storm are still far away, and in large part still over the Gulf of Mexico and off the West Coast.

That means there's not much data for the computer models to work with. Junk, really. Garbage in, garbage out, as the say.

Once we get closer to Wednesday, probably later tomorrow, we'll have better data and a better idea on what to expect toward Thanksgiving along the East Coast.

Sorry to make you wait, but that's the way it goes.

Elsewhere in the nation, if you're traveling on Thanksgiving, the weather will be fairly calm in the southeastern United States, cold in the northern Plains and upper Midwest, rather wet in the Pacific Northwest and dry in the Southwest.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Buffalo Snow And "Frozen" Meet, In A Fun Way

Michele Marie Roberts belts out a Buffalo, N.Y. snowstorm
parody of "Frozen."  
I know, I know, snow in Buffalo, snow in Buffalo. It snowed in Buffalo.

But I can't resist posting the video, below, that puts a positive spin on the gazillion feet of snow towns near Buffalo, New York got this week.

Seems like it was made by a Chamber of Commerce type group out of the Buffalo region, but that's cool. Or frozen, as the case may be.

It was produced by Visit Buffalo Niagara and Paget Films. The singer is Michelle Marie Roberts, and Karen Leary came up with the concept.

At least people are keeping a pretty positive attitude about the snow. I'd certainly be grumbling. Or curled up in the basement, sobbing, if I got seven feet of snow if four days.

H/T to Ellen Cronin for pointing out this video to me:

Buffalo's Ongoing Disaster......

A plea for help in snowbound Hamburg, N.Y.
Photo by Mark Mulville,  Buffalo News.  
I know I've been harping on the epic lake effect snows near Buffalo, N.Y., but I can't help myself. This is one of the most amazing and strange weather events I've ever seen.

It's not over, either. Next up: The possibility of epic flooding. Yeah, 60 degree temperatures, high humidity and rain falling on seven feet of snow would do that. And it's in the forecast.

The amount of snow that fell continues to astound me and a zillion other people.  The big "winner," if you will is the town of Cowlesville, N.Y. which got 88 inches of snow over four days. Yep.  That's more than seven feet of snow and enough to bury an NBA player.

Close behind were West Seneca with 78 inches and Hamburg with 79 inches. That's about the normal snowfall for an entire winter, basically November to April, where I live in northwestern Vermont. And those towns got it in four days.

Now, as I said, it's looking increasingly likely the snow disaster near Buffalo will get worse. Rain, high humidity and very warm temperatures will conspire to melt the snow rapidly, leading to a potentially nasty flood. 

Under normal conditions, the next storm system coming through is pretty normal for November. Often, a strong, windy storm will howl northward across the Great Lakes, hauling a slug of warm, rainy weather through the Buffalo region with it.
The weight of the snow was too much for this building
in Hamburg, N.Y. Photo by Brian Connolly, Buffalo News.  

It pretty much happens every November.

But until now, it's always happened when there wasn't seven feet of snow, with a water content of four to six inches, sitting on the landscape, just waiting to melt and cause a bad flood.

At first, any rain that falls will soak into the snow. (Although it doesn't help matters that some areas will have to contend with some freezing rain today in the snow zone. Ugh.)

But as the snow continues to melt, the big snow banks will act as dams, holding water back from its normal drainage routes. That means that even houses that aren't right near flooding creeks and rivers could be in trouble.

If a house or other building is on the wrong side of one of these snow dams, it could flood.

Plus the storm drains are all buried under heaps of snow, so the water can't go there. Plus the leaves came off the trees just prior and during the storm, so the storm drains could be further clogged with leaves.

Even if a particular building doesn't get into the flood waters, there still could be trouble.
According to The Vane, the weather blog at Gawker:

"The biggest story we'll hear out of this snowmelt might not be the flooding, but rather the structural damage that comes from water-logged slush pressing up against the walls and sitting on roofs. We will see roof collapses from this event.

Box stores are notorious for suffering from structural failures when rain falls on a dense snow pack, but the amount of snow on residential roofs will also pose structural problems." 

It's already nasty out there. The Buffalo News said 13 people have already died from the storms, and at least 30 structures have collapsed from the weight of the snow.

I'm reluctant to blame every extreme weather event on global warming, and it does seem counter intuitive to blame a massive snowstorm on global warming, but Eric Holthaus, writing in Slate, makes a very plausible case for the hand of climate change in this disaster.

Lake Erie was warmer than usual, thanks to a mild autumn. The lake temperature has been going up gradually as the yearly average temperature rises in tandem.

Lake effect snows thrive on the contrast between warm lake water and the cold air above it. The warmer the water and the colder the air, the more intense the lake effect snow is.

The cold wave that helped spawn the extreme lake effect was stronger than you'd expect for mid-November. Record low temperatures were set all around the eastern United States.

As Holthaus writes, the jet stream has gotten a lot wavier in recent years and decades, and it has included sharper kinks southward at times, causing more intense cold waves to occur, interrupting the generally warmer conditions we've seen.

The jet stream connection to global warming, especially the fact that the jet stream has gotten more erratic, is still under study, but it's worth looking at.

So if global warming makes the lakes warmer, and makes a few of the cold spells, goes the logic, then lake effect snows can get stronger because of global warming.

I'm not sure Holthaus is right. It's hard to connect global warming to any single weather event. But like I said, his argument is plausible.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Science, Schmience: Two Depressing Stories This Week About Climate Change Response

A scary number of Americans think
global warming is not caused by
greenhouse gases, but "Biblical
end times."
The Washington Post today reported on a distressing poll that suggests that nearly half of Americans think climate change is at least in part due to "biblical end times" rather than us putting too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

With that many people thinking there's some mystical reason for climate change, rather than pretty much basic physics and meteorology, no wonder there is not much political will to do something about global warming.

There's probably a fair number of politicians who think it's "biblical end times" and not greenhouse gases causing the problem, so no wonder they're not doing anything.

Plus, other politicians don't want to offend their evangelical Christian constituencies with trivialities like science.

(Political contributions from the oil industry surely play a role in the politics, too, but that's another story.)

I admit I'm not clear on the math in this poll, as it says 62 percent say its humans causing climate change and 49 percent say it's biblical end times. It looks like some people think it's both.

I get it. Science doesn't have all the answers. You'd think, though, that people would want to at least listen to what scientists says, since their pretty much experts in their field and seem willing to share their knowledge.

But I guess it's easier to make up your own story. It's more comforting than hearing news that doesn't fit your world view.

Which brings us to the second distressing bit of news. It appears Republicans in Congress don't want scientists influencing Environmental Protection Agency rules that have to do with, um, science.

If Salon and other publications are interpreting this right, under this bill, scientists would not be able to share with Congress their own research with lawmakers:

Says Salon:

".....the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in 'advisory activities' that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn't clear, experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research - the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest.

'In other words,' wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, 'academic scientists who know the most about a subject can't weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.'"

The legislation is presented by Republican as a bid for transparency. They say they don't want the federal Environmental Protection Agency to enact regulations unless Congress is presented with scientific studies backing up those regulations.

Which I guess would be fine, if they actually let the scientists present their information. But the bill seems to prevent that, or at least strongly discourage scientists from talking about their findings.

Oh, right! It's the industries that would be regulated who should write the rules. Scientists familiar with the issue shouldn't. That seems to be the "logic" here.

I guess education and rigor are totally passe. Mysticism and corporate lobbying, it's the American way!

I wonder what really is a bigger sign of the End Times: Global warming or the incompetence and venal wackiness of at least a good chunk of Congress.

Hilarious Angry Man Stuck In Snow, Does Everything Wrong

A very angry man has a long battle while
stuck in snow, and we respond by laughing at him.  n
As I'm sure everyone in Buffalo, New York knows, tis the season for getting your car stuck in the snow.

In that spirit, I bring you a video from last winter of a guy who is perhaps not the best person to get his SUV out of a snowbank.

He also proves, as you'll see in the video at the bottom of this post,  that getting angry just makes the job less effective.

He does everything wrong. He's got lousy tires, but it's too late to fix that here. He guns the engine rather than trying to gradually ease himself out of the ice.

There's a patch of bare pavement behind the vehicle that he can back up onto to give him a good start, but, nope.

And worse, he spins and spins and spins his tires, probably ruining the SUV in the long term, and in the short term, creating smooth, slick ice under the tires which means he'll never get out. Maybe.

The video, all seven and a half glorious minutes of it, were shot by a gleeful man filming from an upper floor apartment window.

The guy who shot the video said several passersby tried to offer help to the guy, but the Angry Man cursed them out. And notice an itty bitty Toyota Prius drove through all the bad slush and seemed to have no problem with it.

One commenter on the YouTube video had this perfect bit of wisdom about the situation, that I wish I had thought of:

"I heard that if you throw enough curse words at the snow and slam  your car doors hard enough, it scares the snow and causes it to melt faster. Who can blame him for knowing that information ahead of time?"

I know we shouldn't laugh at angry people, but what the hell:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worldwide Hot Times In October

Another record hot global month: October, 2014  
I could have just cut and pasted the blog post I wrote a month ago about September being the hottest such month on record.

Or, I could have just cut and pasted the blog post I wrote two months ago saying August was the hottest such month on record.

But, I won't take the lazy route to tell you that October was the hottest such month on record for the entire globe, according to NOAA's Climatic Data Center.

This year has really been on a hot streak, as May, June, August, September and October were all the hottest on record. Every month except February scored in the Top 10.

It looks like November, on a global basis, won't be the hottest on record, ending the current three month "winning streak," if you can call it that, but it still will be warmer than normal, the cold wave in the United States notwithstanding.

(The United States makes up only less than two percent of the Earth's surface so it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things when you're taking the globe's temperature.)

It now appears that chances are excellent that 2014 will be the hottest year on record for the Earth. So far, the top five hottest are, starting from hottest and going to fifth hottest are: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003.

As I noted last month, much has been made of the apparent "pause" in global warming over the past decade. It wasn't really a pause, just a slow down in the rate at which things were warming up.

October adds a bit of evidence, along with the rest of this year, that the quote, unquote pause might be over.

New Scientist reported earlier this month that water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are spiking, which could signal the end of a phase in which much of the earth's increasing heat was being stored in the deep oceans, rather than land.

With surface temperatures of the oceans rising sharply, especially in the Pacific, that could mean some of the extra heat will be transferred to the atmosphere. That could mean 2015 will end up hotter than 2014, and we'll have many other hot years to come.

And, no, just because it was the teens this week in North Carolina and Buffalo got a zillion feet of snow this week, (or something like that) doesn't mean global warming is a crock.

Global warming doesn't pre-empt winter. And it doesn't prevent all big cold waves. In fact, global warming could be causing extremes in both directions. More hot spells, sure, but maybe a few intense cold spells as well as the jet stream goes haywire. 

Whiplash Weather: Six Feet Of Snow To 58 Degrees?

Snow buried houses in West Seneca, N.Y. More snow
is falling on them today, threatening structural collapses.
Photo by Derek Gee.  
Early this morning, the lake effect snow nightmare in and around Buffalo was continuing.

At 4 a.m., Buffalo reported a thunderstorm with heavy snow as the lake effect snow band set up once again.

And once again, the snow band was slowly settling south, and is setting up over the towns just south of Buffalo today.

Great. They've already had five or six feet of snow. What's another couple of feet?

The weather drama near Buffalo is going to change dramatically this weekend, but I don't think it's going to be all that much fun.

There's already a lot of concern over structural failures because of the weight of many feet of snow on roofs. Already, there have been photos circulating on Twitter of show that had pushed against the sides of houses busting through windows and sliding glass doors.

Several feet of snow pressing against
this house in Cheektowaga, N.Y. busted
through a sliding glass door.  
By Sunday, it's supposed to rain out around Buffalo. That would add weight to the snow on roofs. Luckily, it now appears the rain won't be all that heavy.

However, temperatures by Monday will soar into the upper 50s across western New York.

That would set the stage for rapid melting and flooding in the areas that got a ton of snow. All that snow is blocking storm drains and such, too, so water will probably back up behind snow banks and snow drifts.

Definitely unpleasant to say the least.

Actually, a big chunk of the nation is about to experience weather whiplash.

Record low temperatures were reported over a wide swath of the nation, mostly east of the Mississippi River and south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Some cities reported the coldest temperatures for so early in the season.

It's about to warm up big time across much of the eastern United States, for a short while anyway. Places in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states that were in the teens Wednesday morning will get into the mid 60s to mid 70s Monday.

An outbreak of severe weather, with strong thunderstorms and maybe a few tornadoes, is likely in parts of Texas and the Gulf Coast this weekend. Severe weather is in part a product of warmth and high humidity, so there you go.
I'm thinking maybe he should have removed
the snow from the top of his car.  

It'll get cold again next week in much of the nation.

In and near Buffalo, there are hints that the lake effect snow monster could crank up again toward Thanksgiving.

It's only November and we've already had a totally crazy winter. I'm beginning to get worried about what surprises December, January and February could bring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Buffalo Lake Effect Disaster Worsens

A view of the Buffalo snow band from the air last night
Much of the city is in the clear, but to the south,
they're still locked in a solid wall of snow.  
I was pretty wowed last evening when I wrote my last update on the Buffalo, New York area lake effect snow blitz.

I'm even most in shock and awe mode this morning.

Worse, I'm getting really worried about people who live there. This is getting more and more life-threatening.

Already, at least four people have died in the epic snows, according to The Buffalo News. Three had heart problems and a fourth person died while trying to push a car out of the snow.

The persistent line of lake effect snow pretty much continued all last night. It might have weakened for a time but it came back on full blast early this morning.

There's a report that one town got as much as 76 inches of snow within 24 hours.
Look closely on the right hand side of this photo.
Snow is to the roofs of tractor trailers on the
New York State Thruway.  

If true, that's close to a record for 24 hour snowfall total from a lake effect storm, which according to weather historian Christopher Burt, is 77 inches in Montague Township on the Tug Hill Plateau of New York on Jan. 11-12, 1997.

The Tug Hill Plateau is near Lake Ontario, which is having its own problems with lake effect. Up there, it's three or four feet and counting.

The official record for heaviest 24 hour snowfall in the United States is
75.8 inches in Silver Lake, Colorado on April 14-15, 1921. The Montague Township record doesn't count because the measurements weren't taken as precisely as they should have been.

Anyway, it's extreme near Buffalo. And I'm worried about the structural integrity of the houses and other buildings creaking under the weight of all that snow.

True, lake effect snow tends to be light and fluffy, but it still has weight. A couple feet of lake effect snow is no big deal for most normal structures, but five, six, or seven feet and counting?  The weight must be tremendous.

Already, the force of the snow against one home busted down a door in the town of Cheektowaga. I'm sure we'll hear reports of roofs caving in.
Homeowners in West Seneca, N.Y.  opened their
doors and found this. 

Plus the snow is blocking air vents, which makes me worry about carbon monoxide poisoning in some buildings.

Additionally, nobody can leave their houses or respond to emergencies if the hard hit areas. If there's a fire, a heart attack, another crisis, what do you do.

Another 20 to 30 inches of snow (!!!!!) is due in the snowbelt area tonight and tomorrow.

Then, on Monday, it's supposed to warm up and rain in western New York. That rain will soak into the snow, add more weight and cause more structural problems.

If the temperature gets into the 50s and it rains fairly substantially early next week, I imagine flooding will be a huge problem as well.

The lake effect snow band has pretty much stayed in the same place as yesterday, causing widely varying snow totals. To the north, there's hardly been anything, then suddenly you get into feet of snow.

For instance, on the north side of Cheektowaga, N.Y. last evening, only two or three inches of snow had accumulated. On the south side of the same town, there was more than four feet of new snow. Same town!

Buffalo airport had received 3.9 inches of new snow as of last evening. Six miles away, Lancaster was at five feet of new snow and counting.

Here's how The Buffalo News describes the contrast. First we go to the hard-hit town of Lancaster:

"Plows could barely get in and out of the highway barns because of stranded cars. Paramedics ditched their ambulances in snowbanks in favor of snowmobiles to get to emergencies.

'It's like Beirut here,' said Jeffrey Bono, disaster coordinator for the Lancaster Volunteer Fire Corps. I kid you not. It's horrible.'"

Now let's follow The Buffalo News is just a handful of miles north of Lancaster to see what we find:

"But in Amherst, the skies were blue and the town's street crews were busy picking up fall leaves. And in Buffalo neighborhoods north of downtown, parents scratched their heads as their children cheered a snow day with less than two inches on the ground."

We'll probably have more on this unfolding weather disaster later today or tomorrow.  I'm finding myself saying this over and over again, with increasing frequency in regards to all these worldwide weather extremes:

I've never seen anything like it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New York Lake Effect Storm Is Beyond Incredible. Five Or More Feet?!?!

Just try driving down this section of the New York State
Thruway near Buffalo, N.Y. today.  
This is one for the record books out in western New York.

Snow in narrow lake effect bands is piling up to ridiculous levels as the weather pattern is just perfect to cause extreme lake effect snow.

How extreme? Some of the hardest hit areas just south of Buffalo has more than four feet of new snow since last evening, and are expecting total accumulations of up to five or even six feet by later tonight.

As of 4:30 p.m, the highest snow total from the lake effect storm is 51 inches near Cheektowaga, N.Y. 

That's just one part of Cheektowaga. Another section of the same community has only had about two inches of snow. So depending upon where you are in one town, you had somewhere between two inches and four feet. Unbelievable.

Via Twitter, Tara Schwab took this photo
of a dog who is going to have a
challenging walk in Lancaster, N.Y.  n
I wouldn't even be totally surprised if somebody exceeds the 82 inches of snow in a town south of Buffalo in December, 2001, considered the deepest lake effect snow on record for the Buffalo area

According to The Buffalo News, travel in these areas is impossible, cars are stranded. The New York State Thruway near Lackawanna is closed, and even firefighters and ambulances are having trouble getting to people in need of help.

The winds set up just right so that they blew from southwest to northeast along the entire length of Lake Erie. That allowed the air keep collecting and collecting moisture on a long journey across the lake.

Lake Erie water temperatures are well into the 40s. Not swimming conditions, but relatively warm. The air a few thousand feet above the lake is near 0 degrees.

The contrast allows for a lot of instability, helping to focus all the lake moisture into clouds and snow, which gets dumped onto the shore near and south of Buffalo.

Via Twitter, Mike Schnorr gives us a
photo of a car that's not going anywhere
anytime soon.  
The winds also blew almost in tandem with the length of Lake Ontario, but not quite as perfectly, giving areas near Watertown more than three feet of snow.

These lake effect bands are only maybe five miles wide. The trouble is, they largely stayed in one spot, not varying much north or south.

Areas just north of Buffalo pretty much missed out on the action. While chaos was happening amid several feet of snow in the southern metro areas, municipalities a little to the north of Buffalo were out collected autumn leaves, because there was no snow in the way.

Just reading statements and forecasts from the National Weather Service office in Buffalo gives you a sense of the total chaos:

"Intense Lake Effect Snow Will Continue To Impact the Southern Half of the Buffal Metro Area:

At 3:29 p.m EST, National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a lake effect snow band capable of producing snowfall rates of 4 inches per hour or more...and visibility near zero at times. The sharp northern edge of this lake effect snow band extends from South Buffalo to Depew and eastward towards Darien and Alexander.

The southern edge of the band is hugging the Chautauqua County shoreline then extending inland across far northern Chautauqua County, the Boston Hills and Wyoming County.

Travel within the most intense portion of this band from South Buffalo into the nearby southern and eastern suburbs is impossible. Local officials report all roads are impassable and clogged with snow and stuck vehicles. Do not venture out within this area. If you live north or south of the band of snow do not attempt to drive into the affected area. You will become trapped."

But wait! There's more! The lake effect snow is expected to continue into tonight, then redevelop Wednesday night and Thursday. Here's more nightmarish verbiage from the National Weather Service in Buffalo:  
From The Buffalo News: Visibility isn't so great
in the intense lake effect snow bands. Add caption

"Accumulations: Snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour in the most intense portion of the band. Storm totals will reach three to four feet in many areas south of a line from South Buffalo to Batavia. Local amounts of five to six feet from Lackawanna to Lancaster to Elma from the first storm ending on Wednesday.

Additional accumulations of up to two feet in the second storm late Wednesday night through Thursday night in persistent bands. The heaviest amounts may again focus on the Buffalo southtowns."

Yep. That's right. After this lake effect monster is done, they get another one Thursday. And just for fun, here's what the Tuesday afternoon forecast for a town south of Buffalo looked like. I like how nonchalant the "total daytime snow accumulation of 27 to 33 inches" reads:

"Snow with areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Some thunder is also possible. High near 23. Breezy, with a west wind around 24 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation 100 percent. Total daytime snow accumulation 27 to 33 inches possible.

They just get around to the 33 inches at the end of the forecast? The snow could be heavy at times. Ya think?!?!

Here's a stunning time lapse video of the snow band as seen from just north of where it was burying towns under feet of snow. Looks like a solid curtain of snow:

Here's a homeowner showing us the scene outside his West Seneca, N.Y. home:

If You Like Lightning, You'll Love Global Warming

Will global warming cause more lightning?
Researchers think so.  
ZAP!!! BOOOMMMM!!!!!!!

Ah yes, the sights and sounds of a wild thunderstorm. Fun to watch from a safe place. Dangerous, too, given that lightning sets fires, kills people and cuts the power.

Get ready for a lot more lightning in the future if a new study released is true.

The study says that the amount of lightning in the United States will increase by 50 percent by the end of the century under the effects of climate change, according to the Associated Press, which ran an article on the study. 

For every degree the world warms in the future, lightning strikes will increase by almost seven percent, researchers concluded.

If global warming really gets out of control, as some predict, what is two lightning strikes in a storm now would be three.

The reason for all this new lightning in the future? Warmer air holds more water vapor. Water vapor is a fuel for thunderstorms, thus more lightning. (Ever notice thunderstorms are more likely on warm, humid days? There you go.)

Plus, in a warmer world, researchers think clouds would tend to have more upward momentum. Think thunderheads. Towering clouds sometimes form into thunderstorms. Again, Zap! More lightning.

More lightning, can of course, be very bad, given that it sometimes sets fire to homes and forests. Though the vast majority of wildfires are started by humans, a few are set off by lightning, so that's a danger.

As I write this, lightning is flashing in some epic lake effect snow bands in New York State. Though I certainly can't connect that to climate change, it's just that much more lightning flashing out there.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wild Lake Effect Snow Storm In New York Tonight

The effects of a lake effect storm in North Redfield, NY
in December, 2013. Photo by Carol Yerdon/  
People who live in the areas of western and northern New York are used to lake effect snows, those bands of heavy snow that come off the Great Lakes and deposit sometimes feet of snow in some areas.

Tonight's lake effect, though, is shaping up to be a doozy.  

Lake effect snows depend upon the contrast between the relatively warm lake water and cold air above it.

It's still early in the season, so the lake water temperature is still in the upper 40s. The atmosphere tonight will become one in which the temperature drops rapidly with height.

This will lead to incredible amounts of instability, ensuring quite a lake effect snow.

The lake effect will probably set up in two single bands of heavy snow, one coming off Lake Erie and hitting near or just south of Buffalo, and another band coming off Lake Ontario and slamming into areas near and south of Watertown, New York.

Within these bands, expect howling winds, snow falling at a rate of several inches an hour, thunder, lightning, zero visibility and roads blocked by drifts. What fun!

These snow bands are so interesting in that underneath them, it's chaos, and then drive five or ten miles north or south of the center of these snow bands and all is calm. No snow. Starlit skies, you get the drift. (Ha!)

Of course, you really shouldn't be driving through lake effect snows, what with the zero visibility, the drifts that could reach a few feet deep, the cold, the wind. Stay home. It's safer.

But I bet there will be storm chasers in these lake effect snows tonight.

The lake effect in New York should taper off during Tuesday, but there might be other bouts of heavy lake effect snow later this week.

If you're a snow lover, though, head to those places in New York that get socked by snow tonight.

By the way, the snow bands will be so strong that some snow will probably make it all the way to the northern Green Mountains of Vermont. Nothing extreme up there, but those mountains should get a few inches of snow out of this.

Valleys should see nothing more than a dusting. Maybe an inch in some spots. And that's not counting the slushy coating of snow we're getting this morning as a storm system passes by.