Archives for posts with tag: The Weather Channel

I’m sorry to have to say it but we’ve entered the grumpy season.

It happens every year, sometime in mid to late winter.  It is almost always associated with prolonged periods of very cold temperatures or a string of heavy snow storms.  Or, in a bad weather year such as this one, both.

The first two or three snowfalls of the winter were beautiful, including a magical dusting that gave us a white Christmas (see December 25, 2013).  But the storms started early (in mid-November or December, depending on the source) and new ones have been arriving frequently.  The Weather Channel (which started naming storms in 2012, much to the chagrin of the National Weather Service and other weather forecasters) is already up to Leon (the names progress alphabetically, just like hurricanes).

Making matters worse, the forecasters have been simultaneously sensationalizing the winter storms (today’s “Leon Leaves Atlanta DEVASTATED!” is typical of TWC headlines) and underestimating their impacts.  As an exasperated friend recently lamented, “Why don’t the weather folks just come right out and say that now ‘snow showers’ means 3 inches?”  Most of us have already seen—and shoveled—as much snow as we care to, and it is only the end of January.

Meanwhile, this month has already established itself as one of the coldest in recent memory if not historical record.  In my experience (24 years in New York), a cold winter means highs in the 30s and upper 20s and lows in the lower 20s.  This year, we have considered ourselves lucky to have a high anywhere in the 20s.  The lows have been in the single digits (including one below zero).  Very rare and very cold.

So, we’re grumpy.  Especially in the morning, before the sun rises, when the temperature is at its lowest, and there is snow waiting to be shoveled.

Luckily, even if the grumpy season is prolonged, it eventually comes to an end.  It is most usually superseded by the mud season in early spring (the severity of March’s weather being a determining factor) and is occasionally interrupted by a gloriously, brilliantly sunny day such as this one.

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If I look at the average temperature over the last two weeks—78 degrees (high) and 57 degrees (low) since May 28—and the average rainfall during that period—1.30 inches per week—they appear to be almost ideal conditions for growing vegetables.

But if I look at the actual distribution of temperature and precipitation, the situation is less than favorable.  At the end of May and beginning of June, there were three days with temperatures at or near 90 degrees which were preceded and followed by days with highs around 70 and lows below 50.

Similarly, almost half of the total rainfall over that two-week period (1.03 inches) fell on one day; a large part of the remainder (0.44 inches) occurred the day before (as part of the same storm system).  That’s almost 1 1/2 inches of rain in a 36 hour period.

(These numbers are based on reports from the Weather Channel website; our conditions could be very different.  One of these days, I might get a high/low thermometer and rain gauge and place them in the garden.)

The extremes of temperature (at either end of the spectrum) can easily kill a plant, especially a young, recently-transplanted one.  And rainfalls of greater than half an inch (over 24 hours) are a waste of water, most of which runs off.  Heavy rains can also damage plants (due to impact) and often cause flooding or erosion.

I’m not complaining—there would be no point—but it leads me to imagine the garden of the average family from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.  Most likely tended by the fractional (0.58) child, the garden would probably be relatively small (being of average size) but I expect that the growing conditions would be good (even if, well, average).  On the other hand, the quality of the average family’s garden would be less than exceptional (by definition) so it would be something of a trade-off.

Always striving for the perfect tomato or stellar Sugar Snap pea, I’ll take my chances with our sometimes less-than-ideal conditions.

The middle of last week, 90 percent of the computer simulations reported by the Weather Channel predicted that Hurricane Sandy would drift off into the Atlantic after wreaking havoc on Cuba, the Bahamas and Bermuda.  Only one or two models indicated a trajectory over the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States.

By the weekend, all of that changed.  Apparently, a region of high pressure in the north Atlantic was blocking the normal eastward path of the hurricane.  To make matters worse, a mass of cold air descending from Canada and the Ohio Valley was threatening to combine with Sandy to create a storm—a la Groundhog Day—of epic proportions.  The pressure systems were bumpers and Hurricane Sandy a steel pinball in the giant arcade game that is the earth’s atmosphere.

Consequently, the National Weather Service is now predicting the end of the world.  Well, not quite but the forecast is very dire.  The expected storm could be like last year’s Hurricane Irene and October snowstorm combined, a rainy, snowy, windy mess.  The pressure at the center of the storm is extraordinarily low and when combined with tonight’s full moon, will result in record-setting tidal surges along the coastline.  We’ve been warned to prepare for the worst Mother Nature has to offer.

So now we are waiting for Sandy to arrive, with an emphasis on the waiting.  This storm is moving slowly—only about 15 miles per hour—leaving us to agonize in anticipation of its potentially dire impacts.