Archive for September, 2011

Upcoming fall weather dates
September 25, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Since this is the first weather blog entry for the fall season, I guess it is a good time to preview what is ahead for us this fall.  We are inevitably heading toward chilly weather, even though the summer-like humidity today wouldn’t attest to that.  Nonetheless, here are some dates to circle on your calendar to get ready for as the temperatures start cooling off for the next couple of months.

Sept. 29 – average date of first frost in Springfield

Oct. 1 – earliest snow on record at Bradley Int’l (trace in 1981)

Oct. 10 – earliest measurable snow on record at Bradley Int’l (1.7 inches in 1979)

mid-October – leaves reach peak color across western Massachusetts

Oct. 30 – Patriots vs. Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh

Nov. 5 – halfway point of autumn, average high: 55, average low: 36

Nov. 17 – average low temperature drops to 32 degrees


Peak fall foliage
September 17, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

With the cool start to the Big E, and patchy frost possible tonight across the Berkshires, the fall season is quickly approaching (although some would say it’s already here).  Therefore, it is soon that we will be digging another map out of our weather computers…the fall foliage.

Parts of northern New England are already reporting some color.  As the map below illustrates, these parts of northern New England may be just a week or so away from reaching “peak color” in late September.  We still have some time in western Massachusetts.  Our peak color is generally expected in the middle of October.

Big E rainfall possibilities
September 14, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

The Big E opens on Friday…and spectacular weather will kick it off in style this weekend.  Expect chilly mornings for the first few days, with temperatures in the upper-40s when the gates open at 8AM in West Springfield.  A huge area of high pressure across the Northeast will keep the sun shining across the Big E for the first several days.  High temperatures for opening weekend will be an October-like mid-60s.

Now because the Big E lasts for 17 days, there is likely to be some rainy days at the Big E this year as well.  I have compiled a few fun facts regarding rain for September 16 through October 2:

– The average amount of rain from Sept. 16 through Oct. 2 is 2.32 inches.

– Just within the last 5 years we’ve seen extremes…nowhere near that average rainfall.  Last year we had 4.76 inches of rain, double the normal total.  Back in 2007 (one of the nicer Big Es if you recall), we only had 0.05 inches of rain during that same timeframe.

– We have had 154% of the normal precipitation so far this year (we’ve had 49.91” so far, we average 32.39” to this point).  If we extrapolate that to the 2.32 inches we typically see from Sept. 16 to Oct. 2, that would put us on pace for 3.57” of rain at the Big E this year.

Looking at some of these basic facts, a normal amount of rainfall at the Big E this year would probably fall somewhere around the 3-inch mark.  But as recent years have shown, a nice dry Big E or a rather rainy Big E can’t be ruled out either.

U.S. has 2nd warmest summer on record
September 13, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This summer (June, July, August) will go down as the 2nd hottest summer on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.  Texas and Oklahoma also recorded the two warmest summers on record for any state…a summertime average of 86.8 degrees and 86.5 degrees, respectively  The previous record for a state was when Oklahoma averaged 85.2 degrees in the summer of 1934.  The latest report from NOAA also listed a few of these facts for the summer:

– Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana recorded their warmest summers on record.

– Fifteen states recorded an average summer temperature that ranked in the top ten warmest on record.

– Washington and Oregon were the only lower-48 states to have below-average summer temperatures.

– While Texas has its driest summer on record, New Jersey and California had their wettest summers on record.

The harvest moon
September 12, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Did the moon look a little bigger than normal last night?  If you thought it did, you are correct.  Sunday night’s full moon is traditionally known as the “harvest moon”.  At this time of year, the elliptical nature of orbits appears to pull the moon a little closer to Earth this month.  Technically speaking, the harvest moon is defined as the full moon closest to the autumn equinox (which is Sept. 23)

It received the name harvest moon for the extra moonlight it would provide farmers to aid in bringing in their crops here at the end of summer.  On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes after sunset.  For the harvest moon, its unique position puts that lag time at about 30 minutes.  In further north latitudes, such as Canada and Europe, this lag time can be cut to about 10 minutes.

As a result, there is more moonlight available immediately following sunset…there isn’t as much “total darkness” time in between.  Along with it appearing lower and brighter in the sky, this would allow farmers to continue working longer into the night, bringing in their harvest before the cooler days of fall settle in.

Last year’s moon got an extra-special title…the “super harvest moon”.  That is when then harvest moon and Autumn Equinox occur on the same night.

Big chill coming
September 11, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

With this being our last full week of summer, it seems like the warm weather is ready to leave us rather quickly.  A very cool area of high pressure will be journeying down from Canada for the second-half of the week.  It’s this sort of weather setup that can bring those intense, Arctic cold snaps in the middle of winter to the northern states.

While it will not get that extreme, parts of the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and even northern New England could see their first frost of the fall season later this week.  Below is an example of one weather model’s prediction of low temperatures across the U.S. for early Friday morning.  While I know many people across western Massachusetts are not ready to be thinking about frost yet, this is actually the right time of year for frost for some of these northern-tier areas.

2011 NFL weather prediction
September 8, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

With the 2011 NFL season officially kicking off tonight, I thought it would be appropriate to offer some insight to any weather/football relationships, specifically for the New England Patriots.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything…high/low temperatures, precipitation, comparison to normal…anything that would correlate well with the Patriots results from 2010.

Expanding to the Super Bowl, I did find one things of interest…and probably to the dismay of New England fans.  This year’s Super Bowl is being played in Indianapolis for the first time, making it the 14th different city to host the Super Bowl (I consolidated some areas into one, such as Pasadena/Los Angeles, Tempe/Glendale, and Pontiac/Detroit).  For the 13 cities to host the Super Bowl so far, the first Super Bowl that city hosted has usually been won by the team from the warmer climate.  For example, the first time the Super Bowl was played in New Orleans, Kansas City defeated Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

Only 3 teams have reversed this trend…New England, San Francisco, and Green Bay won Super Bowls as the “colder climate” team.  New England defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX, which was hosted in Jacksonville, Florida for the first time ever.  However, when it comes to Super Bowl Sunday this January in Indianapolis, the odds are favoring the warmer-climate team.

NWS ranked among best government agencies
September 7, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

With all of the dissatisfaction and criticism of things going on in Washington, meteorologists across the country are happy to report that the National Weather Service has ranked in the top 15 percent of federal government agencies for customer satisfaction.

An independent survey by Claes-Fornell International (CFI) polled 33,000 people (94 percent whom are private citizens) regarding the customer satisfaction of the National Weather Service.  The survey asked to rate the National Weather Service in areas such as routine water and weather forecasts, support services, and severe weather awareness.  In 2010, the average score for government services was 65 out of 100.  Private sectors averaged a score of 76.  The National Weather Service received a score of 84.

All of the watches and warnings issued throughout the year come from the National Weather Service.  Just as the weather never stops, neither does the National Weather Service, as they monitor conditions every minute of every day.  This recent survey also found that one-third of Americans base job-related decisions after checking with the National Weather Service.

Rainy weather continues
September 6, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Here is a list from the National Weather Service (as of about 9:30 PM) with rainfall totals so far across western Massachusetts.  Clearly the highest totals have been up towards western Franklin County, as well as Berkshire County (where a flood watch exists there through Wednesday night):

Shelburne: 4.34″
Greenfield: 4.01″
Charlemont: 3.38″
North Adams: 2.37″
Pittsfield: 2.25″
Agawam: 1.47″
Williamsburg: 1.26″
Easthampton: 1.09″
Orange: 0.98″
Westfield: 0.93″
Chicopee: 0.86″

The map below comes from our Pinpoint Doppler Radar…this shows the radar-estimated rainfall totals over the last 24 hours.  This should help fill in the gaps…an easy visual of how most of the rain has been north and west of Springfield so far.

Tropical activity spiking
September 5, 2011

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

It may seem like the tropics have been very busy lately, but this is precisely the time of year for this spike in activity.  Recalling this graphic from a previous weather blog entry (August 15), we are currently in the peak of hurricane season.  If you look at the graph more closely, there is the sharpest rise in activity during this two-week stretch from about August 25th through September 10th.

After all, just take a look at how the tropics have impacted us during this time frame:  Tropical Storm Irene hit the Northeast on August 28th, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee are responsible for the unsettled weather this week, and Hurricane Katia will likely deliver rough surf/rip currents to the New England coast this weekend.

The reason for this spike in the activity at the very end of summer is greatly attributed to warmer ocean waters.  While the summer season is winding down and our air temperatures are cooling off, the water temperatures are just now reaching their peak.  It takes a lot longer for a large body of water to change its temperature.  There is a bit of “lag time” between when land reaches its peak temperature, and when water reaches its peak.  Similarly, there is a lag time for cold temperatures…which is why the Great Lakes freeze over well after temperatures have been below freezing in the winter already.