Severe weather affecting much of the East Coast this afternoon and will continue overnight. Currently, the heavy rain across the mid-Atlantic region where 1-4" of rain will fall is moving towards the north. This evening, that area will likely see some flooding issues. Locally, winds will continue to increase this afternoon and become gusty from the south overnight. This strong wind will transport very warm and humid air into the region. Temperatures remain around 70F much of the night. You might need to put on the air conditioning again if you don't like sleeping in muggy weather. A tornado watch has just been issued for Berkshire county here in southern New England, and thunderstorms are a distinct possibility in other areas.I'll be updating information about this storm and others in the future on Twitter at @growingwisdom
The big picture
The map above shows low pressure (L) along a cold front, (blue line) that will all help create a stormy 12-18 hours for much of the Atlantic seaboard including New England. Low pressure means that the air in that area is rising. As the air rises, clouds and precipitation result. The cold front divides very warm and humid air from colder air to the west. As the front moves east, the lows will ride along the front into Canada. The closer the front gets, the greater the chance for rain. The greater the contrast in temperature the stronger the front and sometimes, like today, more wind.
The next 24 hours
A wind advisory for the overnight hours means winds will increase from the south at 20-30MPH with some gusts along the coast and across higher elevations reaching 50MPH. On this map, areas in brown are under the advisory until 6AM tomorrow. Wind speeds like this can create some minor damage and power outages. If you have light furniture or kids toys around the yard it would be good to put those things away. If you have a boat in the water, I would advise checking the moorings and tying it down extra tight. The rain is quite heavy to our south and the radar loop below shows the extensive coverage of the rain area. The heaviest rainfall should occur between 9PM and 6AM tomorrow. Don't be surprised if you hear the rumble of thunder as well during some of the heavier downpours.
After the storminess
Clearing will move into the area later tomorrow and leave us with cooler and drier conditions the rest of the week. Temperatures will be in the 60s during the afternoon and 40s by early in the morning. Over the upcoming weekend I expect great weather most of the time with clouds and sunshine. There will be the risk for a shower or two but timing on those showers is still questionable. Stay tuned.
Gardening this week
I wanted to give you a tour of the garden at it's peak this week so we went around with the camera and took shots of some of my favorite spots in the garden. I hope you enjoy it.
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The foliage season ahead
What do the leaves change?
The leaves of plants are food making machines. They gather light, carbon dioxide (C02) and water and convert that to food for the plant. In addition to the food, the leaves give off oxygen for us to breathe. (Interestingly carbon dioxide levels of the entire planet go up in the winter and down in the summer. This predictable pattern is related to the foliage coming out and dropping.) The food making process in the leaves is known as photosynthesis and it's what keeps the plants growing. Deciduous plants, those that lose their leaves in fall, stop making food as the days get shorter. As the leaves die, chlorophyll is also no longer made. Chlorophyll is what gives the leaves their green hue and masks the reds, yellows and orange underneath. Once the leaves begin to shut down for the winter, the lack of chlorophyll allows us to enjoy the "true" colors of the leaves each autumn.
How good will the color be this year?
The health of the tree and especially the leaves, is a big factor in seeing vibrant colors. A wet summer allows the leaves to often be covered with disease. The result is that the colors end up more muted and dull. If we have a prolonged summer drought the leaves often fall early seeming to just dry up without much color. This year, we started spring with a drought and very warm weather. As the leaves emerged it turned cold and a bit wet, there was even some frost damage in May. June ended up being a below normal month of temperatures, the first such month in a year. The rest of the summer featured fairly typical weather with adequate rainfall and breaks in the heat. The western part of New England, especially the Berkshires has experienced some drought. Where there is severe drought, especially in the Midwest, the color will definitely be negatively impacted this year. The general health the trees this year looks to be in good shape. Of course there are trees with disease however, I believe we are in good shape heading into the foliage season. The sweet spot for spectacular foliage seems to be a dry but not too dry late summer, cool nights, mild to warm days and not much wind. We seem to be getting that type of weather over the past few weeks and certainly again this week.
I do believe that the leaves coming out early and the weather on the drier and warmer side of average will help tip the scale toward a stellar foliage season as opposed to a dull one. Things that can impact this forecast would be several days of rainy cool weather, very windy weather in early October or very cold and even snowy weather with the leaves still on the trees.
When is peak?
The term peak doesn't mean it's the best time for viewing. I think the best color is when we are at about 50%-60% color and still have some green on the trees and less leaf drop. This is somewhat a personal an arbitrary opinion. By the time we get to the official peak week, there can be a lot of leaves on the ground. The maps below show where we are now, where we were last year in a couple of weeks and the average dates of peak foliage. I think we will be about 7-10 days early this year as compared to the average.
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