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Cold Snaps

Cold night ahead then ocean storm brushes area.

Posted by David Epstein March 24, 2014 04:37 PM

There is little change to my thinking from earlier this morning. The storm is still on track and I am leaving the maps intact this evening. The bulk of the storm will affect the outer and mid-Cape regions. I'll provide an update this evening with some more details on timing and of course all day Tuesday.

This morning blog
Temperatures are running cold enough today so I can call this more of a January-like day rather than the start of the final week of March. This cold air will remain in place for the upcoming storm and therefore snow is back in the forecast.

Sunshine is bountiful all day with a high in the upper 20s. There will be some wind at times making it feel even colder. Another winter-like night lies ahead with lows back into the teens. We start Tuesday with sunshine and end with clouds. Highs reach the 30s, still below average.

If you are someone who flips around and watches or reads all the different weather forecasts you will see predictions ranging from 1 inch or less in Boston up to 6 inches. It can be confusing for anyone when they see this.

The reason for the discrepancy is of course the computer models we all use to make the forecast. The European model is the furthest west and gives the most amounts of snow and wind to the region. The model has been quite consistent in its prediction, something which brings more confidence to the table.
Euro track.jpg

Other models like the Canadian and GFS keep the storm much further offshore and barely have any snow in Boston with a few inches over Cape Cod. If the storm ultimately passes further out to sea then the snow amounts wonít be very high, even over southeastern Massachusetts.

Iíll be updating the forecast on Twitter @growingwisdom.

What I do know is one monster of storm is going to develop and a wobble of 50 to 75 miles, in either a west or east direction, will change the forecast. Something to note, even the most aggressive of models still doesnít give Boston a major snowstorm (foot or more).

Impacts to most of you will be small to none. If you live in and around Boston you can expect some snow and wind to slow down the morning commute Wednesday. Further south and east the impacts will be greater and much of the day Wednesday will have slow travel. Even there, the evening commute will be much improved.

High winds will be the biggest player in this storm with gusts approaching 50 miles per hour over parts of Cape Cod and the Island. In Boston, winds will be gusty, but not that strong. The winds will be powerful enough to whip the snow around and lower visibility to under a quarter mile at times. Over Cape Cod and the Islands a blizzard watch has been issued for this possibility. watches.jpg Further northwest, a winter storm watch is in place for the chance of over 6 inches of snow, if the odds of this happening increase the watches will become warnings. The watch area doesnít include Boston or even the immediate suburbs to the south.

The map below shows my best estimate for snow based on all the information available. These totals could increase or decrease later today as new information becomes known.

What all forecasters will be watching today is trend. I'll be analyzing if the models and their ensemble counterparts push the storm further east or west. The trend of the information today is going to be critical as to how I (and everyone else), handle snow amounts this afternoon.
latest snowfall.jpg

The National Weather Service puts out a great series of maps on probabilities. Below is one of the maps which show the chances as of this morning of areas seeing up to 4 inches of snow. Notice how the odds increase as you move south and east of Boston.
4 inches prob.png

Milder air will be here for the end of the week and part of the weekend so I expect melting to resume in earnest and nearly all of the new snow to be gone rather quickly. After a brief shot of cold air later in the weekend and early next week, temperatures again become seasonable to even dare I say, above average.

Temperature roller coaster continues and a look at Monday storm chances

Posted by David Epstein March 14, 2014 08:07 AM

Thereís a term some meteorologists use called ďmodel huggingĒ. Basically, this means buying those models you hear so much about hook, line and sinker. The thing about the models, they are guides to what will happen in the future, not gospel.

Any model is not 100% correct, just ask an economist. When I forecast a storm I certainly review all the models, but ultimately I have to make the call myself. When it's three or four days before a storm the models often are still all over the place predicting how the atmosphere will come together.

The models are amazing and itís a wonder to me we can forecast the formation of anything 10 days in advance. Yet, they often don't have the accuracy needed for a confident forecast more than 72 hours ahead of time. This is why you hear so many "ifs" in the long range.

On a planetary scale, knowing a storm will form is important, but to get the forecast right for an area Cape Ann to Cape Cod and back to the Berkshires, the model has to predict the track of a storm within 50 to 100 miles otherwise the forecast wonít be accurate. The model could show a storm's track correctly 10 days in advance, but the odds are much higher it will do so 2 days before an event.

The basic way the models work is weather balloons are sent up from weather offices across the globe twice each day. The map below shows where these balloons, known as radiosondes, are launched.(just USA stations) This gives us a good picture of what the atmosphere looks like right now. That information is given to computers where physical and mathematical equations move the picture of the current state of the weather ahead in small time steps. Some models keep doing these steps to eventually predict 16 days into the future. The further ahead in time you go, the better chance the model will have errors. While climate models are somewhat different, they too predict far in to the future and the further out you go, the less accurate those forecasts, but thatís for another discussion.
weather ballon stations.GIF
The models show agreement for the next couple of days. Today is certainly milder with highs in the 30s. There will still be a busy wind from the northwest, so it feels colder than the actual temperature indicates.

Overnight as even milder air streams north a quick shower could fall. These could last into the first few hours after sunrise, but the trend will be for increasingly sunny skies and a milder afternoon. Highs will reach the upper 40s and lower 50s with some towns hitting a bit higher southwest of Boston.

As another cold front crosses Saturday night itís back to the deep freeze for a few days and a renewed chance at another snowstorm.

cold again.png

Another Snowstorm
Storms love to form on the boundary between arctic air and milder air with more moisture. All the models agree there will be a storm forming on this boundary Sunday and Monday. Similar to a storm 10 days ago, if the cold air pushes far enough south, the storm will ride the boundary of the cold air and stay south of New England. However, if the cold air doesn't move as far south, it paves the way for the boundary of air masses to be much closer and therefore the snow to fall over our region.

I put only two tracks on the map below. The closer to the northern track any storm takes, the more snow we could see. If the storm stays closer to the southern track, it will pass safely out to sea with little or no snow at all.
Monday storm.png

Back in 1956 Blue Hill Observatory recorded 12.6 inches of snow on Saint Patrickís day and in 1993 Boston plowed over 3 inches of snow on the same date. Both years were cold and snowy ones for New England. In 1956 another storm brought over a foot of snow on the 19th in the final hours of winter.

Over the weekend forecasters will be watching the models closely and those of wishing for spring will also be hoping for a bit of Irish luck.

Iíll be updating the forecast on Twitter @growingwisdom.

Heavier burst of snow will leave 1 to 3 inches of snow inches this morning

Posted by David Epstein March 13, 2014 10:40 AM

While the storm fell as rain overnight, as the arctic air continues to pour into the region it's creating a bit of a small snowstorm this morning. Our snow showers have quickly turned to steady moderate or even heavy snow. The big temperature contrast from single numbers to low 30s across the region is giving the atmosphere a kick of lift. This snow will continue for a few hours and since it's so intense I think some of you could see 1-2 inches from this and 3 inches isn't out the question. This will wind down by noon.

The storm which brought the warmth, the wind, the wet and the snow is now heading for Canada. Behind the systems itís pulling in a very cold air mass for this time of year. Temperatures have been falling since after midnight and will continue to tumble this morning. Itís going to be a very cold and very blustery kind of day reminiscent of some of our colder days of the entire winter.

As the cold arrived, snow showers have increased and much more than a coating will fall. While it may look like a big snowstorm for a few hours, this will move out later this morning.

All the leftover moisture from last night has now frozen. The strong winds did help dry the roads before the snow which alleviated a layer of ice from forming on the pavement. If winds were calm when the cold air arrived, the water wouldn't have been able to dry out as fast and there would be more black ice.

Surfaces not treated with salt etc. may be a bit treacherous this morning, but I suspect since this whole ďflash freezeĒ and snow shower scenario was well forecast, there wonít be many places ill prepared.

highs today.png

The low temperature record for the city of Boston tomorrow is 12F set back in 1896. If you think about this for a second it means for the past 118 years it hasn't be any colder than that on this date in mid-March. Tomorrow morning temperatures are going to fall far enough so Boston will come close to a record.

Iíll be updating the forecast on Twitter @growingwisdom.

Just before the turn of the 20th century Boston was a very different place. Henry Ford had yet to put the finishing touches on his ďQuadricyleĒ and there weren't big tall buildings throughout the city. Interestingly there was a fire in the Pope manufacturing office on Columbus Avenue in the South End of the city on the afternoon of March 12th 1896. I have no idea what caused the fire, but it was an unusually cold day and I have to wonder if something happened while folks were keeping warm.
Pope buidling fire 1896.jpg

Tomorrow morning temperatures will fall into the lower teens in Boston and single numbers west and north of the city. This is quite impressive cold because for Boston to get this cold, this late, with so much heat from the buildings, concrete and cars perhaps indicates the actual air mass is likely very similar to the once back in 1896.
Although it will be a January-like start to the day Friday milder air will ensue and most of you will see highs in the upper 30s and lower 40s for the afternoon. This will feel markedly more acceptable for March.

The weekend looks mildest Saturday with highs in the 40s before it turns colder Sunday when it stays in the 30s. Next week continues the theme of below normal temperatures with a shot at some snow or perhaps rain during the middle or latter part of the week.

Cold arctic air for a few days here, snow in mid-Atlantic

Posted by David Epstein March 3, 2014 07:39 AM

Although Boston won't see a flake of snow today and sunshine will quickly take over this morning the effects of the storm are being felt. Currently, over 2000 flights are cancelled across the system and the ripple effects may reach your flight. Please verify your travel plans this morning.
dca snow.png

Cape Cod Snow
There is snow in Massachusetts. Over Cape Cod and the Islands 1 to 3 inches of snow will fall. The snow will end starting by mid morning over many areas and as late at noon over Nantucket. If you are Cape bound this morning, expect some travel delays. The radar from this morning shows where it was snowing at 6:30AM, this area will push southeast during the day.
radar now on cape.jpg

Winds are picking up across New England as the dry air from the arctic continues to erode any opportunity for snow. Even in New York City, the cold dense air has pushed the brunt of the snow south.

Please follow my updates on Twitter @growingwisdom

Cold as January
Temperatures this time of year should be reaching about 40F, but won't get much higher than the lower 20s, today. This is but a continuation of the cold air of February. In comparison, today's highs are certainly more typical of early to mid January, not early March.

The cold is keeping local lakes and ponds frozen and skating and ice fishing can continue longer than they have in recent years. It does appear on balance March is going to be colder than average. Unless we have a remarkable turnaround in the pattern, leaf-out will be delayed somewhat. As we get closer to the later part of the month, I can reevaluate this. There are all sorts of interesting pieces of natures puzzle that come into play when you have a cold spring.

Overnight is going to be very cold again. There will be some readings in the far northern and western parts of the area which fall below zero. Inside Route 495 lows will be in the single numbers and as "warm" as the lower teens in Boston and the immediate coast.

Tuesday looks cold and dry again with a few clouds increasing. The middle of the week brings a slow moderation in temperatures with a few flurries. While your favorite app on your phone might snow snowflakes, there is no cause for concern, it's just the chance of snow showers.

Late week warm-up
Towards the end of the week milder air will bring temperature readings closer to normal along with the opportunity for a new round of precipitation. A storm will be brewing in the ocean, but whether it comes close enough to this area to bring rain or snow is a toss of the coin right now.

Meteorological mentors
In addition to my blog and the work I do on radio and TV I also teach. Being in education, I hope I can positive influence my students in ways they will come to appreciate in years to come. If you read this blog regularly you certainly know my Maine roots are deep and I proud of them. So much of the reason I am able to write or broadcast about the weather and gardening is because of all of my Maine connections. Of course Maine was once part of Massachusetts so it seems fitting I would settle here, now for over two decades.

Since the storm bringing a major snow event to the mid-Atlantic is going to miss us, the overall weather pattern looks pretty quiet. This lends me an opportunity to reflect upon all those mentors, without whose guidance, I wouldnít be doing what I love so much.

One of my favorite memories in school was walking from my junior high to the elementary school for lunch. (Our school had no cafeteria back then). It was a great opportunity to get outside and this short 5 minute walk often gave me the chance to ask my science teacher (pester) Mr. Chambers about weather and gardening. In spite of the cold of a typical March, Iíd ask (pester) him when to plant peas and how much more snow he thought there might be before spring really arrived. To me, he seemed always have the right answers about all of these things. When I left Moore, he would write in my yearbook ďIíll look forward to your giving the report on T.V.Ē
When I think back to all the mentors I had during my years in the Portland School system itís simply amazing how many teachers encouraged me to keep perusing my love of meteorology and horticulture. I have two hibiscus plants I winter over in the house every year. I can trace how I care for those plants to how my teacher showed me what she did to her own hibiscus each winter. Ms. Agren taught me how to sew and cook and I know I still use some of the techniques I learned in 8th grade today. In the 5th grade we had to follow the weather for a week and then make our own weather map. My work earned an A+. ďGreat JobĒ from Mr. Dulac, much to the chagrin of my fellow students who didn't understand how any 10 year old could make weather maps that well.

In 1980 I started all my tomato plants in Mr. Hoytís biology room at Deering High School and would attempt the same thing the following year with Mr. Walker at Portland High. (Growing up where I did I was able to transfer schools my junior year). Each of those teachers fostered a love of plants, animals and the natural world around me I still carry today. When I applied to Colby , my 8th grade English teacher Ginny Foley wrote one of my recommendations, although she was later tragically killed by a drunk driver, her support was a big piece in helping a very awkward kid grow up and be accepted into the college I would come to love so much.

Senior year at Portland Dr. Greer, the then superintendent of schools, would periodically call me out of class before a storm to ask me what I thought about the upcoming snow. His first question was always to ensure he wasn't taking me out of Mr. Hadlockís class, the ultimate faux pas when it came to my Physics lessons and Mr. Hadlock. IMG_2460.JPGThe day I graduated, I open my diploma to find a personalize note from the secretaries at PHS. At first I thought it was blank, but quickly read the kind words from those women.

Television news also made an indelible impression on me growing up. Those forecasters who told the weather story were heroes to me. In same way others worship their favorite athletes, I knew I wanted to have a job like some of the forecaster on TV. In Maine, Bob OíWril, Art Horn, Steve Adamson , Terry Casey , Barry Burbank (before he went to WBZ) and Joe Cupo. Iím fortunate years later to call many of these people respected colleagues. My first internship was at WBZ with Bruce Schwoegler just after Don Kent had retired. I was fortunate to meet Don when he would sometime visit during the winter.
At Colby, I was exposed to incredibly supportive professors and staff who further helped guide me towards my eventual career. Senior year, when I wrote my cover letters to about 100 TV stations throughout the country I spelled the word career with two rís. In a pre-spell check world, I was so grateful when the administrative secretary for the Biology not only caught the mistake, but retyped the letters and for me. (I continue to work on my grammar and punctuation in these unedited blogs).

One student who took my class at Colby (I taught Jan Plan there) is now an anchor in Bangor at WABI. It definitely brings a smile to my face when I see a tweet from @newsycaitlin and think about her budding career in the media and hopefully years of success. I remember how excited she was the first time I took the class to a TV station and her telling me this was the field for her.

I know spring will come, it always does and whether I am forecasting April showers or planting my peas, the people and institutions who helped guide me along the way are always close in my heart.

Ask me a question about weather or gardening on Twitter @growingwisdom.

February closes on a cold note, March starts quiet then turns snowy

Posted by David Epstein February 28, 2014 08:38 AM

I used to relish winter when I was in school. What kid doesn't want to turn on the radio or TV to their school cancelled for the day? Even throughout my 4 years at Colby, I loved a good snowstorm. Iím not as much a fan of winter weather anymore because I have to operate my car in it, but still enjoy reading historical accounts of weather, especially big storms. One of my favorite books growing up was The Country Journal: New England Weather Book by David Ludlum.

The book has some great historical accounts as well as many weather records for all of New England. Published in 1976, quite a number of the snow records are outdated as are many others, but it's still a great reference point for what weather events stood out 40 years ago and which ones still are memorable today.

The book is divided on such a way you can read about how each month unfolds here in New England. For March, David wrote this ďMarch is frequently a wintry month in New England. Not until the close of the month do the chances of a twelve inch snowstorm or a morning of zero cold diminish to minimal percentage possibility.Ē He goes on to talk about March 1956 which still stands as one of the snowiest Marches on record. That year Boston saw over 31.2 inches of snow, much of it falling from back to back snowstorms on Saint Patrickís Day and again on the first day of spring. The record stood for many decades until my first March in Boston, back in 1993, when 38.9 inches of snow fell. I clearly remember having to dig out my car which was parked on the streets of Brookline that year.

Today we find another cold day as we close out the month of February and get ready to begin the 3rd month. The high in Boston will likely be around 22įF or 23įF making it one of the coldest February 28thís on record. The coldest high temperature for the day is 18įF set in 1875, one of the older records on the books.

Ask me a question about weather or gardening on Twitter @growingwisdom.

The arctic air will retreat over the weekend making way for a new round of storminess on Monday. The entire forecast hinges on the exact track of the storm (it always does) and its strength. Take a look at the two maps below.
sunday snow.jpg

The first map shows how the surface map will likely look Sunday afternoon. The green is snow or rain and the blue is heavier precipitation. Notice how elongated the precipitation field is? This is the result of the warm air to the south overrunning the cold air to the north. When this type of storm occurs it often brings the heaviest amount of precipitation during the first half of the storm and it can arrive very quickly.

Now look at the next map. This map shows snow totals for the storm across the east. I purposely took off the amounts because itís just a forecast and whatís interesting is the pattern. The pink represents the heaviest snow, blue is less and gray is a dusting. See how narrow the swath of significant snow is?
swath of snow.jpg

Notice there is little snow in Maine and virtually nothing south of Washington, DC. If the cold air to the north pushes a bit further south, the entire area of snow will move in that direction. If the warm air moves further north over the cold air, the heavier snow will fall over our area or even southern New Hampshire.

The storm which will cause this weather Monday is still over the Pacific Ocean. Later today and overnight tonight the computer models will get a better picture of the strength and configuration of this weather system. That information will then be fed into the computers used to model the weather and a clearer picture of Mondayís storm will evolve.

We aren't able to ďsampleĒ very much information from Pacific storms so their predictability is quite poor until they are over land. At that point, meteorological weather balloons can float inside the storm and obtain information about wind, moisture and temperature. The lack of good data over the Pacific is one reason storms are often not forecast very well in California.

Throughout the weekend Iíll update the forecast here and of course on Twitter @growingwisdom. Please follow me there.

No prolonged warming in sight, but there is some storminess ahead

Posted by David Epstein February 25, 2014 04:36 PM

While teaching yesterday I was talking about the cold air that seems to be perpetually entering the region. The type of air mass we have over us is called continental polar or continental arctic, depending on just how cold it is. These air masses originate in Canada and have been responsible for the continued cold this winter.

While it might seem like the pattern began in December, I can actually trace the start of this back to last August. During the summer, when cold and dry air comes into the country from Canada, we tend to appreciate it. In August 2013, several days stayed in the 70s, with a couple of days those first two weeks, remaining in the upper 60s and lower 70s. Several nights fell into the 40s and there were even some upper 30s across parts of northern New Hampshire. Back then, after a very hot and humid July, most of us were quite excited about the prospect of such comfortable air in the middle of the summer.

As fall began, cold air continued to build across central Canada, snow followed and the stage was set for a lot of arctic air to be created a 1000 plus miles away. Then, other factors such as the cold phase of the Pacific Ocean, a non-existent El Nino, strong ridging (dry pattern) off the west coast and a negative Arctic Oscillation acted together to bring continued rounds of arctic cold along with snow to much of the country, mostly east of the Rockies, this winter. Additionally, although the polar vortex has been spinning around the top and bottom (and bottom) of the planet for millennium, this was the year the media decided to incorporate the term into an already hyper-overblown analysis of every storm and cold snap that hits the country, somehow making the cold even worse.

As we close out February, the pattern remains chilly and although we are not seeing any significant storms right now, I donít think we will be so lucky next week. As usual, I'll be discussing more of this on Twitter @growingwisdom

The cold is likely to continue through the first 2 to 3 weeks of March. This doesn't mean we wonít hit 40F or 50F during this time, it does mean we will continue to see cold blasts of air making their way into the region through the next 21 days. What will happen is each successive cold outbreak wonít be quite as cold as the previous one as the sun continues to get stronger and stronger. We still havenít gone below our early January lows in Boston and after this week, I donít believe we will be this cold again until next winter. Again, I'm not suggesting temperatures wonít be below average because they will be, but if the low temperature this week is 12F in Boston, it wonít be 12F again next December or January.

You will likely see some snow on several of the upcoming days, but little accumulation. Tomorrow a few snow showers could dust the ground with a few more on Thursday and again Saturday. None of these systems looks to be significant. Highs wonít reach freezing the rest of the week and interior locations will fall into the single numbers several of the next 5 mornings.

The cold will continue to have added economic impacts. Added heating costs beyond what we normally expect are going to continue, planting is going to be delayed this year and construction projects will also be set back up to several weeks, depending on the amount of snow and cold we have in the next 4 weeks.

Later Sunday through Tuesday the two jet streams which bring cold and moisture to the region will likely interact to form several waves of precipitation. Itís too early to give you more details. However, there is a lot of agreement our weather will turn stormy in this time frame. This could mean snow, rain or a mixture, but amounts will be more significant.
march 3.png

Although I donít know specifics yet, I would recommend staying away from travel plans Monday and Tuesday if possible. It could turn out to be nothing of course, but if you can avoid it, do so. The odds favor something big enough to disrupt travel, so why chance it if you donít have to?

A taste of spring, followed by a full plate of winter

Posted by David Epstein February 1, 2014 06:01 PM

Not one, not two, but three storms threaten the area in the coming 7 days; we are defiantly in an active wintry pattern. There is some good news in all this. Storm number one, late tomorrow night and Monday, will just brush by southern New England. The second storm which moves into the region sometime late Tuesday night and third storm which hits us next weekend look more likely.

After a wonderful taste of spring today, we have a mild night ahead. There wonít be any precipitation this evening and I was able earlier today to walk around the yard and do a little winter assessing. I noticed some big branches have fallen in the past could of months and I disposed of them this afternoon.

Some of you live in areas you can do burns this time of year, tomorrow would be a great day to set some of the brush ablaze. Be sure to check with your local fire department first about the regulations for your specific area.

As milder air blows up from the south overnight we will enjoy a nighttime thaw. Itís been a while since readings stayed above freezing all night, yet they should do this inside much of the Route 495 area. Those of you in the colder area to the north and west wonít fall but a degree below the freezing mark.

Tomorrow could see a couple of quick showers in the late morning or early afternoon, but the real story is the warmth. Highs will reach 45-50F and it will feel very spring-like. Whatever Punxsutawney Phil says tomorrow, remember heís a rodent. While I might not always be correct, I tend to do better on forecasting the weather, although he can dig better holes.

A fast moving storm passes to our south Monday. You can see on the forecast radar below, most of the steady precipitation is south. This means although we could see a spot rain or snow shower from this storm in Boston, any steady precipitation will be confined south of the Cape Cod Canal.
radar sunday night.jpg

A more important storm is brewing for Wednesday. One of the reasons I have been able to feel comfortable with this forecast for so many days is the models have been agreeing there will be a storm. Agreement between the models brings a higher chance the predicted state of the atmosphere will occur.

The map that follows shows the prediction for the position of the storm from each of the two models we tend to rely upon. There are important differences in the exact position of the storm. The GFS has the storm much closer to Cape Cod and would bring more of a wintry mix to the region. The Euro has the storm further east and would bring more of a snow solution to the region. By Sunday night and Monday we will see how these two lines of ďthinkingĒ are playing out. The models will tend to converge on one of these solutions. Often the final result, (what really happens) is between the two. Once I see a trend, I will be better able to forecast things like start times, snow amounts, rain/snow lines etc.
GFS and Euro.jpg

Not matter what happens the storm won't be a blockbuster, but will certainly impact the commutes on Wednesday. Air travel, as we have seen all too often, is also highly affected by these storms.

Cold temperatures return for the end of the week with the third storm for Saturday looking like a mainly snow event right now. Of course, the storm is 7 days away, but again the models have been very consistent on insisting something is going to form next weekend. Iím going to stick with following them for now, unless of course Phil tells me otherwise.
7 ddays.jpg

Does this year's cold and snow mean the climate is or isn't changing?

Posted by David Epstein January 28, 2014 02:10 PM

Another very wintry week is underway for much of the eastern 2/3rds of the United States with the arctic cold pushing its way south through the heart of America and down the Gulf Coast. Atlanta Snow today.jpgThere are winter storm warnings from Louisiana to North Carolina and a major snowstorm is looking increasingly likely for areas that can go years without seeing a flake. This same storm will clip southern New England with a few inches of snow across Cape Cod and the Islands late tonight and early Wednesday. The cold begins to moderate towards the weekend.

We donít know yet the final numbers on the winter of 2013-2014, but suffice to say it will go into the record books as a cold and snowy one for much of the nation.

What does it mean?
Humans love to try to draw conclusions about everything and it can be tempting to do so about this winter and the reasons why itís been so cold. There are predictable patterns for this seasonís cold we understand. These include the position of the jet stream, the now famous polar vortex, a cooling Pacific ocean, a less active sun and other meteorological indices like the Arctic oscillation. Additionally, there are other climatological and meteorological factors in play.

I'd love to hear you opinion on the topic. Follow me on Twitter @growingwisdom.

As a scientist, I try to read as much as I possibly can about those topics that interest me. As you might expect, these include weather, climate, gardening, conservation, technology and sociology. This year, it frustrates me to see some individuals and the media using our cold winter as ďproofĒ of a lack of a changing climate. Equally as exacerbating are those who report the arctic blasts as examples of how climate change is responsible for the bitter cold readings. Neither of these is truth. Simplistically, I could write, the reason itís cold this year is because itís winter and winter brings cold weather. Some winters are milder than others and this year, similar to the winter of 1917 and those in the late 70s, itís cold. Whatís more, although itís been a frigid month, itís not the kind of cold the eastern half of the country saw back in January of 1977. During that month, my grandfather called me from Palm Beach to say he was brushing snow flurries off his car. The flurries even extended into Miami.
January 1977.png
As frigid as January 2014 may turn out, it wonít rival the one 37 years ago. That fact is nothing more than a data point.

Human influence
I suspect, though itís impossible to prove, if humans didnít exist and everything else was the same, it would still be cold this winter. I might argue the cold for some area would be much worse if people didnít exist. I can say with confidence, if a city wasnít present where Boston is, and there was still a swampy marsh in the Back Bay, it would be frozen solid. I would also be comfortable saying those of you who live in any area with significant buildings, roads, concrete, and other man-made structures would have experienced even colder temperatures this winter without those objects, as those objects give off heat. This is called the heat island effect and is likely some of the reason Boston continues to no longer regularly see temperatures below zero. Some scientists believe the observed warming of the cities has weighted too heavily into the global calculation of temperature, but most agree the effects to be statistically insignificant.

Looking ahead
There are all sorts of scenarios about what future winters will be like as the climate continues to change. The scenarios run the gamut from seeing Maineís future climate similar to the Carolinas of today. Others predict smaller and more gradual changes over the next century. Some scientists even believe the entire concept of anthropogenic warming is without merit. The chart below shows various predicted scenarios for the Earthís temperature. Most of the time, but not all, the media uses the worst case scenarios and observations and neglects to mention there isnít one forecast for the future climate. Itís also critical to remember these are only based on computer projections. What you see below are projected changes in global average temperature under three no-policy emissions scenarios. The shaded areas show the likely ranges while the lines show the central projections from a set of climate models. A wider range of model types shows outcomes from 2 to 11.5įF. Changes are relative to the 1960-1979 average.
Climate change predictions.jpg

Source: USGCRP 2009

Exploration of ideas
I read a blog yesterday called the Quadrant Online and I found the authorís, (Garth Paltride) perspective worth passing on. One of the paragraphs, which most resonated with me follows:

ďThe chances of proving that climate change over the next century will be large enough to be disastrous are virtually nil. For the same reason, the chances of a climate skeptic, or anyone else for that matter, proving the disaster theory to be oversold are also virtually nil. To that extent there is a level playing field for the two sides of the argument. The problem is that climate research necessarily involves enormous resources, and is a game for institutions and organizations. Skepticism is an occupation for individuals. Things being as they are in the climate-change arena, skepticism by an individual within the system can be fairly career-limiting. In any event, most individual scientists have a conscience, and are reluctant to put their heads above the public parapet in order to propound a view of things that may be inherently improvable.Ē

Back in 1979 the then director of the Woods Hole Institution here in Massachusetts wrote a short piece in Newsweek about the future state of global warming. You can read the article below.
Climate Change Nov 19th 1979.jpg

Climate change temperatures.png

Has the warming stopped?
Whatís interesting from the article is Spencer's prediction of ďa degree and a half or soĒ of warming by the mid-90s. The reality is, not only did that prediction not happen, we havenít seen a temperature rise of that level in the 35 years since the article was published. Additionally, the warming pace observed during the1980s and 1990s has been on a 15 year hiatus. Put another way, global temperatures since the turn of this century have all been equally warm. This is why each year keeps being reported as ďone of the warmest on recordĒ. Since nearly all of the past 15 years have been warmer than the long term average, they are all close to the record. Hereís another way to look at this. If the stock market drops 10 points off the high for the year, itís still ďclose to record territoryĒ. If the market stays within a few points of the high for the next decade, itís still ďin record territoryĒ, but most investors wouldnít have made very much money during that time.
latest trends in climate change.png
Will the warming resume in the next few years? Climatologists canít be sure, but most agree it will resume and perhaps even accelerate. The sensitivity of the entire system is still hotly debated. If we knew the exact affects of the CO2 humans put into the atmosphere we wouldnít have all these different scenarios and predicted outcomes would be much closer to the observed state of the atmosphere.

The fact the prognosis back in 1979 hasnít come true doesnít mean the climate isnít warming nor does it mean the human contribution to any warming isnít real; it does show hypothesis should be subject to revision. We live a time of such polarized ideas, itís impossible to critically explore climate change without being giving a label. Iím sure some of you will blast me in the comments section for even suggesting any alternative views of the conventional wisdom du jour. I hope most of you will see the exploratory theme of this blog, not any attempt to mandate a view or policy.

Alternative energy
We donít know what we donít know yet either. Research continues to move forward to mass produce hydrogen fuel cells for cars. The only byproduct of these cars is water vapor, not carbon dioxide. Hereís an interesting fact. Water vapor is actually a bigger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The atmosphere has about 30,000 times as much water vapor as CO2. Some researchers believe we have to be careful not to trade the reported CO2 issue for a water vapor one while other researchers believe since the water vapor wonít make it to the stratosphere it wonít matter.

If anthropogenic water vapor did actually cause more planetary warming, it would bring an entirely new meaning to the saying itís not the heat itís the humidity.

For millions of people across the country this winter has been cold and snowy. For millions of others this has been a warm and dry winter the likes of which havenít been seen in many decades. The weather seems extreme, yet much of what we observe has been observed before. How daily, monthly and yearly weather patterns are influenced by known and unknown future climatic shifts are still subject to interpretation, research and debate. The chaotic noise of weather occurs inside the equally chaotic variables affecting climate and the climate itself. Itís not only responsible to question the interplay of these variables, itís irresponsible not to.
Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @growingwisdom. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on weather, climate and horticulture or anything else of interest.

Keith, D.W., and A.E. Farrell, 2003a: Rethinking hydrogen cars. Science, 301, 315-316.
Keith, D.W., and A.E. Farrell, 2003b: Rethinking hydrogen cars - Response. Science, 302, 1329.
Pielke, R.A., Jr., R. Klein, G. Maricle, and T. Chase, 2003: Letter to the Editor - Hydrogen cars and water vapor. Science, 302, 1329.

Storm continues south of Boston, but it's the cold elsewhere

Posted by David Epstein January 22, 2014 10:28 AM

Depending on where you live, you are either shoveling or just sweeping the snow away. The very cold and very dry air helped to keep the accumulating snow from penetrating far to the north overnight. Yesterday evening, heavy snow bands set up in a southwest to northeast configuration and since then have pushed east and rotated towards Cape Cod. You can see this in the two images below. The lack of movement north, is why some of you are waking up to less snow than you expected to receive.
Tues PM band.jpg
Weds AM.png
How much more snow?
Because the dry air kept the snow from progressing into northern areas, snow amounts were very little over northern Worcester county building to over a foot of snow south of Boston. South Weymouth has seen nearly 16 inches of snow so far! The snow continues to accumulate in those areas with up to 6 additional inches of snow over Cape Cod, but only a coating to an inch in the immediate Boston area.

The maps below shows how much more snow will fall today as well as the end times for the snow. I also put a projected radar map for this afternoon here to give you an idea how the snow is going to linger over Cape Cod well past the 12PM hour.
how much more.png

Snow ends.png
The wind will continue to be a factor much of the day with the wind chills remaining in the single digits even during what is suppose to be the warmest part of the day.
Wind chill wed.png

The rest of the week will be cold and dry with highs only in the teens and night time lows just below zero over northern and western areas to single number in and around the immediate Boston suburbs.

The pattern is active and while this doesnít mean we are going to see multiple snow events, it does say the possibility is there for snow. A good place to get my updates to the forecast is on Twitter. You can follow me @growingwisdom

When you have so much cold air in place, it doesnít take a lot of energy to spawn a storm. Over the next 10 days, I suspect the forecast to include snow multiple times. Like this storm, the gradient of no snow and heavy snow is going to be very tight. Our next chances of snow come Saturday, with a few snow showers and again Monday with another chance.

The cold relaxes a bit over the weekend, but after those snow showers finish Saturday, the arctic air reestablishes itself for several more days. Thereafter we will see two to three more shots of cold through the middle of February with the warm-ups between not lasting very long.

Super Bowl
Although the Patriots arenít in the big game this year, a few of you asked about the Super Bowl weather. I took a peak this morning and if the maps were right, which is not likely yet, it would be cold and dry with highs in the 25-30 degree range and a gusty wind. Thatís all I got on that right now. More data as it becomes available in the coming week.

Snow continues overnight, heaviest south of Boston

Posted by David Epstein January 21, 2014 06:08 PM

Snow has started in parts of southern New England, but remains relatively light. South of Boston, especially towards Cape Cod, the roads are snow covered and travel is slow. North of the Massachusetts Turnpike there is less snow as only a few flurries have fallen.

If you are not already following my updates on Twitter you can get them there @growingwisdom

It's been a cold afternoon and this snow event will occur in very cold air. This means it will take less moisture to make each inch of snow. If you melted an inch of the snow from Saturday and compared it to an inch of tonight's snow, Saturday's inch would have 2 or 3 times as much water!

How big is this storm?
There is a blizzard warning up for Cape Cod, coastal Massachusetts south of Boston, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. new warnings.pngA blizzard means the visibility is expected to fall under one-quarter of a mile for three hours in a row due to snow falling or blowing snow. It's not an indication of the amount of snow.

For most of us, this is a typical January snowstorm, but it will have impact. Around Boston 6 to 9 inches of snow is a good number have in mind when thinking about the storm. Areas south of city will have several more inches, while other areas well west of Route 495 don't see that amount. This isn't a long duration storm and the snow will be light, not wet. The evening commute will be impacted mostly south of Boston with the Wednesday morning commute impacted mostly east of Route 495 and south of Route 2.

Timing of the snow
As mentioned snow is now overspreading the area and will continue to do so throughout the evening commute. I expect any accumulation to be low before 6 PM. The snow will be heaviest from 8PM until about 6AM Wednesday. The snow will end over western areas of Worcester County first around 6 AM and the outer part of Cap Cod last, around 1PM

The two maps below show projections for how the radar and snowfall totals will turn out this afternoon and evening. These are based on models which are relatively new, but do give a good idea of trend.
radar 2pm.png
accum 5PM.png

How much snow?
The heaviest totals remain over the southeastern part of the state. There will be a sharp drop in snow totals as you get west of Route 495. While Cape Cod is in the 8 to 12 inch band, I put a line to indicate where higher amounts could occur. I believe Boston itself ends up around that 6 inch total give or take an inch or two. That's why this is a moderate storm for the city, but a more major storm south.
MA snow.png

Wind and drifting
Winds are going to be quite gusty during the storm. I am not expecting winds to reach damaging levels, but since the snow will be very light, it wonít take much wind to blow it around into drifts. The wind will whip up the snow enough to cause visibility issues overnight Tuesday. I do not recommend travel, especially along the coast from now through early Wednesday.
winds wed 5am.png

School delays and cancellations
Some afternoon activities might be impacted today, but there will be many delays and cancellations on Wednesday.

Airport travel
This storm will hit Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York earlier this afternoon. Air travel will definitely see issues today and continuing into Wednesday. Call ahead and bring your patience. We have seen how these storms are having bigger impacts to air travel than one might expect.

Cold air and wind chill
Behind any snow, cold continues with frigid temperatures the rest of the week. Wind chills will be in the single numbers above or below zero Tuesday night and continue to be low through mid-week. There will be some moderation in the cold for the weekend before more frigid air returns next week. The cold pattern is likely to continue through the first week of February.

About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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