Archive for April, 2012

April Recap
April 29, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Despite these recent cold nights, April 2012 is still on pace to crack the top-10 warmest Aprils on record at Bradley Int’l.  Through the first 29 days, our average mean temperature has been 52.1 degrees…which currently ranks it 8th on the all-time list.  The warmest record on April was 2010, with a mean temperature of 54.7 degrees (mean temperatures represent the average of all high AND low temperatures combined).

However, our final day of April tomorrow will continue to bring that monthly mean temperature down.  The forecasted temperatures for Springfield are a low of 27 and a high of 65.  If those numbers are the same at Bradley tomorrow, then the mean monthly temperature will fall to 51.9 degrees…and place it in a tie for 9th all time with the year 2009.

As far as precipitation goes, it was fairly obvious that this was a dry month.  We’ve only recorded 3.02 inches of precipitation, which is about 3/4-inch below average for the month.  However, that number is greatly skewed by the 2.68 inches of rain we had in last weekend’s soaking.


Only this cold once every 10 years
April 28, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Given the mild winter we’ve had, and the 90-degree day last week, most of us would find these cold nights this weekend as pretty unusual this late in the year.  A lot of that probably comes from wishful thinking, as many plants have already bloomed, and our favorite outdoor activities have probably been underway.  However, it’s more than just wishful thinking…as yes, statistics show a freeze this late in the year is quite uncommon for the Springfield area.

The following is a map from the National Climatic Data Center, which shows when regions only experience a 10% probability of a hard freeze (temperature of 28 degrees or lower) after the given date.  For example, the red line I have drawn represents the “May 1st line”…where towns on this line would only have a 10% chance of a 28-degree temperature after May 1st.  You can see this line barely goes north of the Springfield area, so immediate downtown Springfield and Bradley International Airport (where the official climate records are kept) probably fall somewhere on the “last week of April line”.

Therefore, a 28-degree temperature on the last morning of April in Springfield is pretty uncommon, statistically occurring about 10 percent, or once every ten years.  Our forecast for Monday morning, April 30, calls for a low of 27 degrees in Springfield…which could translate to a low of 28 degrees at Bradley, as they are generally 1-2 degrees warmer than Springfield.

The last time a 28-degree temperature was recorded at Bradley on April 30th or later was in 2008, followed by 2001, 1985, 1979, and 1947.  If you do the math, a 28-degree temperature this Monday would only be the 6th time in the last 65 years for it to happen so late in the season, or 9.2 percent…which is essentially about once every 10 or 11 years.  So take warmth in this: if that statistic does hold true, we should not have to deal with such a cold morning this late in the year until the year 2022 or 2023.

Winter storm to hit Pennsylvania
April 22, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

While we are dealing with a lot of rain tonight…it could be a lot worse.  On the other side (the western side) of this low pressure system, western Pennsylvania is getting invaded by extremely cold air.  Instead of rain, they will be digging out of several inches of snow by tomorrow.  In the Laurel Highlands (which is their equivalent of the Berkshires) more than a foot of snow is possible.

The graphic below is the National Weather Service Pittsburgh office snowfall prediction:

We will not have to worry about that, as we will safely be on the eastern side of the low.  A little Meteorology 101, the air flows counterclockwise around a low pressure center.  As you can see on the graphic of surface wind speeds for early Monday morning, we will be drawing in air from the south.  As this low continues tracking northward up though Canada, we will not get that cold shot of air on the “backside” of this low, although all of the clouds and scattered showers will keep temperatures stuck near 60 degrees for the next several days.

Soaking rain coming…it’s been a while
April 21, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Tonight’s rain showers will be a small taste of the steady rain that will washout much of southern New England on Sunday night.  That particular round of rain may be lasting for a 24-hour period virtually non-stop, and producing at least 2 inches of rain for parts of western Massachusetts.

It’s been a while since we’ve had such a soaking rain.  According to the National Weather Service, the last heavy rain event that covered such a large part of the region was January 12 and 13.  Bradley International officially recorded 0.99 inches of rain, while Westfield received 1.06 inches, Pittsfield had 0.84 inches, and Chicopee received 0.82 inches.  Other parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island also received about an inch of rain.

This year, our precipitation totals are about 6 inches below normal right now.  A potential two to three inches of rain should put a nice dent in that deficit.  However, a flood watch is in effect across nine states with this system, as it would be better if that amount of rain was spread out over the course of two weeks, not two days.



Much-needed rain coming soon
April 15, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

If the unusually high number of brush fire concerns in recent weeks wasn’t any indication, western Massachusetts could desperately use some rain.  Not just a scattered shower overnight…but a good, day-long soaking rain.  It appears that type of weather may be coming by this upcoming weekend.

The image below depicts a 48-hour rainfall total from Friday night to Sunday night.  An upper-level trough will be spawning an area of low pressure that will ride right up the Atlantic coastline over the weekend, according to this particular long-range computer model.  Even better news, the other two common long-range computer models (for weather one week out) are in agreement with a soaking rain on tap for western Massachusetts several days from now.

Western Massachusetts, colored in purple, is currently forecasted for at least 2 inches of rain over a two-day period for Saturday and Sunday.  A rain like that will bring our April precipitation totals back to normal, perhaps even slightly above normal for the month and cut into our 2012 deficit.  January, February, and March all had below-normal precipitation totals (a combined 3.79 inches below average)

“Goodnight, Irene”
April 14, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

After causing more than $15 billion in damage and 47 fatalities in the United States, “Irene” has been officially retired from list of tropical storm names, the World Meteorological Organization’s hurricane committee announced earlier this week.

Irene becomes the ninth “I” name to be retired, and is the only retiree for 2011.  It will be replaced by the name Irma beginning in 2017.

The World Meteorological Organization rotates through a list of names every six years.  Each list goes in order from A to W…skipping over the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z (can you think of six names that begin with each of those letters?).  The names also alternate between male and female names…both as the storms occur through the year (Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debbie, etc.) and for the same letter from year-to-year.  For example, 2011’s “Irene” will be followed by “Isaac” in 2012, and then back to a female “Ingrid” in 2013.

Relatively speaking, Irene was a “weaker” retiree compared to other names to bow down.  Of the 76 storm names to be retired, Irene only ranked 47th in lowest central pressure (942mb) and 59th in peak wind speed (120 mph).  However, its $15.6 billion ranked 7th all-time in total damages, primarily due to hitting a larger number of heavily populated areas in the eastern U.S.

So, a storm named Irene will never occur again…let’s hand the mic to Eric Clapton to say “Goodnight, Irene”

Weather may cause spike in ice cream prices
April 8, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

You may need to pay more for a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream soon.  Poor weather conditions for two of the world’s largest vanilla producers – Mexico and India – have caused the number of crops to significantly drop.  In Mexico, production has fallen nearly 90% in the past year.

As a result, many vanilla orders have been sent to Madagascar, which is now able to hold a monopoly on the product.  The labor-intensive process of vanilla first being planted, to being in its final product can take up to six years.

Wholesale prices of vanilla have risen 20% in the last two months, and experts believe it will continue rising.  That will eventually cause those production costs to be passed on to consumers.  A study released in the last few days estimates that the result may be a 10% increase in ice cream prices for the summer.



Masters Meteorology
April 7, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

My two favorite things to read about are golf and weather…and on a rare occasion they combine into one story.  Such is the following article from Golf Digest’s Masters preview issue.  The article titled “Swirling Down The Drain” discusses the complex, swirling wind that makes Augusta National’s famed par-3 12th hole one of the most interesting and crucial holes during the tournament…and how even the champions endlessly search for clues as to which way the wind blows.


Weather & the NCAA Basketball Championship
April 1, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

It successfully predicted the Cardinals seven-game victory over the Rangers in the World Series back in October.  It successfully predicted the Giants victory over the Patriots in the Super Bowl in February.  So let’s get it going again…here’s a look at who the “WX factor” favors in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tomorrow night.

The Kentucky Wildcats have a 7-3 record in the championship game (.700 winning percentage).  Their opponent, the Kansas Jayhawks, come from a warmer, drier climate.  Unfortunately for Kentucky, their championship record significantly drops to a measly 2-3 against teams from warmer, drier climates (.400 winning percentage).  All three of their championship losses also came to warmer, drier college towns.

For the Kansas Jayhawks, they have a 3-5 record in the championship game (.375 wining percentage).  Kentucky comes from a cooler, wetter climate…and Kansas’ record against such towns is 1-2 in the championship (.333 winning percentage).

Based on this, it appears that Kentucky has struggled more against the warmer, drier towns…whereas Kansas has stayed pretty close to the same overall winning percentage against their cooler, wetter opponents.  In fact, Kansas’ winning percentage is exactly the same (.333) for opponents strictly from wetter climates (a 2-4 record).

While neither team seems to have a major advantage in the “WX factor”, it appears Kentucky has a more noteworthy disadvantage.  Based on that, we’ll go with the Kansas Jayhawks as the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion tomorrow night.