Archive for December, 2012

Saturday’s snowfall totals
December 29, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

**Updated Sunday 3:30p.m.**

A majority of these are from the National Weather Service’s network of storm spotters.

Franklin County…
Deerfield 7.5″
Turners Falls 5.5″
Ashfield 5.5″
Shelburne 5.0″
Leyden 5.0″
Sunderland 4.9″
Greenfield 4.5″
Charlemont 4.5″
Heath 3.8″

Hampden County…
Southwick 8.2″
Westfield 8.0″
Monson 7.5″
Agawam 7.0″
West Springfield 7.0″
Chicopee 7.0″
Wales 6.5″
Chester 6.0″
Blandford 5.5″

Hampshire County…
Ware 6.2″
Worthington  5.6″
Westhampton 5.0″
Amherst 3.9″


2012 U.S. weather in review
December 28, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Here is an interesting CBS News article that recaps this past year in weather across the country and the world.  If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I picked out a few of the highlights.

– 2012 is on track to be the warmest year on record in the U.S., and 8th warmest globally

– July was the all-time hottest month on record, beating out July 1936 at the height of the Dust Bowl

– It was a quiet year for tornadoes, with the lowest number of fatalities in decades

– On March 20, International Falls, Michigan’s low temperature was 60 degrees … which tied the record high temperature for that date

The full story can be found here

Thursday’s snowfall totals
December 27, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

More than a foot of snow hit parts of the western Massachusetts hilltowns in the first significant winter storm of the season.  Meanwhile, a steadier mix of rain for the valley helped limit snowfall accumulations to the 3 to 5 inch range across the Springfield area.

This image is our “SnowVision” which shows the radar estimations of snowfall on the map.  In general, you can see how the highest amounts were in the Berkshires, while it tapered off moving in to the I-91 corridor.

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Here is the complete list of reported snowfall from the National Weather Service:

ASHFIELD               15.0
HEATH                      15.0
SHELBURNE           14.0
CHARLEMONT       11.0
LEYDEN                    11.0
GREENFIELD         10.5
DEERFIELD              7.5

CHESTER                             9.0
SOUTHWICK                      8.3
BLANDFORD                      7.5
WESTFIELD                        6.3
MONTGOMERY                 6.0
LUDLOW                              6.0
HOLYOKE                            6.0
PALMER                               4.0
WALES                                  4.0

PLAINFIELD               14.4
CUMMINGTON             9.3
WORTHINGTON           7.9
WESTHAMPTON           6.5
NORTHAMPTON           6.2
SOUTH HADLEY           6.0
EASTHAMPTON            6.0
GRANBY                           5.7

* note these are specific measurements reported into the NWS, so it may not exactly match up with the radar estimations

Here is a look at our SnowVision for the entire Northeast.  You can see that the state of New York and Vermont received the most snow (similar numbers to our hilltowns).  Rain and wind hugged the coastline, limiting the snowfall totals for the Connecticut shore and the Boston area.

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NORAD “Santa Tracker” origins
December 25, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

For years, television stations have used NORAD’s Santa Tracker as part of their Christmas Eve newscasts.  Having used this myself during weather forecasts over the last few years, I just now read its interesting origins.

Here is an excerpt from an article by the Associated Press about how an unusual mistake turned into the phenomenon of the Santa Tracker:

“NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canada command responsible for protecting the skies over both nations, says its Santa-tracking rite was born of a humble mistake in a newspaper ad in 1955.  The ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper invited children to call Santa but inadvertently listed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, also based in Colorado Springs.  Officers played along. Since then, NORAD Tracks Santa has gone global, posting updates for nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans and 104,000 Twitter followers.”

NORAD received a record amount of phone calls from children this Christmas Eve, with some being surprised to hear from First lady Michelle Obama.  The full article can be found here

Happy Holidays from the National Weather Service
December 24, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Passing this message along from the National Weather Service … they would like to thank all of their amateur radio operators and SKYWARN spotters for their commitment to providing weather observations over this past year.  Many of the rainfall, snowfall, wind, and damage reports during inclement weather come from this network of weather enthusiasts located throughout southern New England.

Their holiday thank you message also contains a great, thorough summary of the weather we experienced this year:

Hello to all..

On behalf of the entire Amateur Radio Group at WX1BOX, the Amateur Radio station for NWS Taunton Massachusetts, and the forecaster staff at NWS Taunton, we would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holiday season. 2012 was not as historic as 2011 in terms of events, however, 2012 did have some very interesting weather events including a few historic events. Many of you provided critical reports, pictures and videos that supported and resulted in the protection of life and property and timely warnings being issued based on the surface reporting and ground truth that is so critical in confirming what the radar is or is not seeing. This information was then shared with local, state and federal emergency management and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are always looking for situational awareness and disaster intelligence to gauge the level of response and recovery required for an incident. They remain extremely impressed with all the work that all of you do and they extend their appreciation. That appreciation of the weather and damage reports is highly recognized by many of the media outlets as well who thank SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators on television and over social media such as facebook and twitter. This mission could not be done without all of your support.

A quick synopsis of 2012 reveal that while this year was quieter than 2011 in terms of historical events, there were a few significant event of note particularly toward the second half of 2012. After a very quiet winter, we had an average summer severe weather season but with a few notable events including the July 18th, 2012 severe weather event that resulted in a microburst in Arlington, Massachusetts and numerous Golf Ball to 2″ hail reports across portions of Southern New England and the North Shore and even a funnel cloud spotted by Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotters over the North Shore and out over Boston Harbor. There was also the August 10th, 2012 severe weather outbreak that resulted in the first ever in recorded history tornado in Block Island Rhode Island and a 100 MPH microburst in Glastonbury, Connecticut. In early September on September 5th, 2012, the remnants of Isaac combined with a frontal system to cause a serious flash flood event in Fall River, Massachusetts.

As we moved into the Fall, two historic storms affected the region. Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy impacted much of Southern New England with sustained winds in the high-end tropical storm force range with hurricane force wind gusts particularly over Connecticut, Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts. Storm Surge flooding, the worst seen since Hurricane Bob and the Perfect Storm affected portions of South Coastal Massachusetts, and Rhode Island while the East Coast of Massachusetts saw the worse coastal flooding since the 2007 Patriots Day Storm. Widespread pockets of trees and wires down were noted with pockets of structural damage to roofs. At the height of the storm, approximately 386,000 were without power in Massachusetts, 122,000 in Rhode Island and 640,000 in Connecticut for a total of over 1.1 Million without power. Despite such a significant impact on Southern New England, it paled in comparison to the New York City, Long Island and New Jersey area which had a total of over 4 Million without power, 2.4 Million alone in New Jersey and the region is still recovering from the affects of Sandy. Federal disaster aid is flowing into New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and recently, portions of Eastern Massachusetts were added to the federal aid assistance from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy. Much more will be analyzed and researched about Hurricane Sandy in the coming months about her evolution and impacts over such a large area of the US East Coast.

Approximately one week after Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday November 7th into Thursday November 8th, 2012, a powerful nor’easter impacted Southern New England. This nor’easter brought snow to portions of interior Southern New England and heavy rainfall and damaging winds to the coastline as well as minor to moderate coastal flooding. Wind Gusts as high as 70 MPH was recorded and what made the storm more damaging along the coast was the long duration of northeast winds that occurred lasting in many coastal locations for around or more than 24 hours. Scattered power outages were noted along the coastline along with minor to moderate coastal flooding in pockets. Some coastal folks noted that the duration of the strong to damaging winds made the nor’easter worse than Hurricane Sandy which had stronger winds but over a less duration of time than this nor’easter.

As we move forward in 2013, we will be continuing our commitment to SKYWARN training with planning starting in January. We will also continue to embrace new technologies while maintaining all the other technologies utilized to gather as much real-time and precise meteorological and damage report information as possible. We have more work to do in renewing our efforts to utilizing Amateur Radio HF and 6 Meters where required, Amateur Radio simplex as well as continued usage of all the SKYWARN Amateur Radio Repeaters and radio linked systems via the Internet that are at our disposal as well as monitoring of weather stations ingested over APRS and into the mesonet networks that have supported and helped with seeing what is happening on the ground. We are also looking at a new Amateur Radio technology called NBEMS, the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System, as a potential means to gather weather spotter data digitally over Ham Radio.

We continue to have our twitter feed setup and you can follow WX1BOX on twitter by following our Amateur Radio Call-Sign, WX1BOX. NWS Taunton has also setup their twitter feed recently. We also have our WX1BOX Facebook page and NWS Taunton a facebook page as well. SKYWARN Spotters and Amateur Radio Operators on facebook can ‘like’ these pages. They are available via the following links:

WX1BOX Amateur Radio SKYWARN Facebook Page:

NWS Taunton Facebook Page:!/

WX1BOX Amateur Radio SKYWARN Twitter Feed:

NWS Taunton Twitter feed:

We are also continuing to look at other ways to get near-real time video and pictures while also continuing to receive pictures and videos hours and days after a major severe weather event. This will further enhance our abilities to gather situatiuonal awareness and disaster intelligence information in a short period of time.

We, again, want to provide a tremendous THANK YOU to all of you that supported SKYWARN and the National Weather Service during 2012. We wish everyone once again, a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holiday Season and hope people enjoy their time with family and friends during this joyous holiday season!

Respectfully Submitted,

Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator

Mid-week nor’easter to bring wintry mix
December 23, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A classic nor’easter will deliver wind and precipitation to New England for Wednesday night into Thursday.  The question is … what kind of precipitation?  Well, snow-lovers have been hoping for a major snowstorm at the first mentioning of this storm a few days ago.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will pan out into a blockbuster snow event.

Here are three different long-range computer models … the GFS, the CMC, and the ECMWF respectively … showing this system at 7 AM Thursday morning:

wx blog wx blog2 wx blog3

They all agree on two key elements: First, the position of the low pressure center is in the New York City area by Thursday morning.  Secondly, and more importantly for western Massachusetts, look at the dotted red line just to the northwest of that low’s center.  That is known as the 540-line, which basically depicts the 50/50 rain-snow line.   All three of these models put western Massachusetts just on the warmer side (the rainy side) of this line Thursday morning.

Because of this, we are forecasting a complete mixed bag of precipitation – rain/snow/sleet/freezing rain with this particular nor’easter.  At this point, there simply appears to be a little too much rain for a simple snowstorm. We are way to close to that 540-line to guarantee an all-snow event.  There will be plenty of moisture for sure, but it’s not going to all stack up as snow.

How snowflakes get their shapes
December 22, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Here is a neat 2-minute video from the American Chemical Society explaining how snowflakes develop such unique and complex shapes.  And yes … chemistry has more to do with the shapes of snowflakes than simple meteorology.

We do have snow in our 7-day forecast: a quick chance for Christmas morning, followed by a larger Nor’easter arriving Wednesday night.  We’ll discuss those two possibilities a little more in-depth on this blog tomorrow.

Sandy to redefine hurricane warnings
December 15, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Earlier this week, the National Hurricane Center issued revisions to hurricane warnings after receiving much scrutiny in the wake of Sandy.  The new definition of a hurricane warning is as follows:

“An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical, sub-tropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.”

Basically, the new definition has two changes.  First, any storm that travels far enough north will still receive a “hurricane warning” if winds are still above 74 mph … regardless if it’s technically a hurricane or an extra-tropical storm.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) received criticism by some organizations that hurricane warnings were not issued for parts of the east Coast impacted by Sandy.  The main reason the NHC dropped the warnings was because the storm ventured far enough north that it technically became classified as “extra-tropical,” i.e. it ventured out of the tropical regions and was no longer being fueled by tropical weather components, such as the tropical westerly winds and tropical ocean temperatures.

Second, the change allows for hurricane warnings to continue even if winds drop below the 74-mph criteria, but forecasters believe high water and storm surge from the storm remain life-threatening.  As an example, if a category 1 storm with winds of 80 mph weakens shortly before or after making landfall … weakens below 74 mph … the hurricane warning does not have to be immediately dropped.

Additional critics are calling for further revisions to be made, perhaps integrating storm surge impacts into the category classification, not just wind speed.  For instance, if a hurricane has category 1 winds but is expected to have a devastating storm surge more in line with a category 2 or 3 storm, than the National Hurricane Center can manually “upgrade” the category to reflect that.  Right now, no changes to the current classifications have been made for 2013.

Probability of a white Christmas
December 9, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

Snow is officially in our 7-day forecast for next Sunday, December 16th.  What about the following week? Will there be a white Christmas Day?

There are many popular definitions of a white Christmas, such as snow anytime on Christmas Day or snow on the ground when we wake up Christmas morning.  The one that is deemed “official” by the National Weather Service is a snow depth of at least one inch observed anytime on Christmas Day.  This means either the snow can already be on the ground, and/or the snow can accumulate at least an inch anytime during the day.  A few flurries to provide a dusting on the grass would not cut it though.

Here is a map of the statistical odds of a White Christmas all across the country, based on a historical analysis of decades worth of December 25ths:

If you can’t see it close enough, the breakdown for western Massachusetts is:

highest elevations in the Berkshires: 76-90%

the rest of Berkshire County, Franklin County, and the hilltowns: 61-75%

city areas (Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton): 51-60%

A weather prediction for a singular day more than two weeks out is impossible.  What we can do is look at trends in the long-range models … such as a colder vs. warmer stretch of days, or a “quiet” vs. “active” weather pattern.  In other words, we cannot predict the exact high temperature for Christmas Day, but if a long-lasting arctic blast of cold air appears to be coming down from Canada for several days early that week, that would imply a cold-enough-to-snow weather pattern.

That appears to be the case right now.  Below is a suite of long-range models for Christmas morning.  You may need to click the image for a larger view.

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Notice how the 12-hour precipitation totals (purple and blue) is rather randomly scattered across the map from model-to-model, i.e. not a lot of consistency.  One thing that is evident is a potentially colder trend, or at least a cold-enough-to-snow trend.  The 540-line is the middle dotted red line running though the continental United States on each map.  Basically the 540-line represents where the temperatures at different levels of the atmosphere would produce rain 50% of the time and snow 50% of the time, sometimes referred to as the “rain/snow line.”  Notice how a majority of the models seem to put us on the colder side of this line.

However, there is a catch.  Of the models shown above, the ones that depict 12-hour precipitation totals over western Mass (the ones that have us shaded in purple and blue) are favoring a warmer scenario … as these models have us either right on, or the warmer side of, the 540-line, which would favor rain.  Therefore, interpret it how you want … either way it’s still too early to tell what Christmas morning will bring.  For now, I’d just favor the annual “averages” of a white Christmas.

Where’s the snow?
December 8, 2012

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A lot of stories have been circulating about how snow-less it’s been so far this season, not just here in western Massachusetts, but across the country.  Major cities across the Midwest … including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Omaha … have been flirting with records for most consecutive days without snow (around 270 to 290 days dating to earlier this year).

Here in the Pioneer Valley there have been rumblings about our little snow so far, but in actuality it isn’t too far off the mark from our seasonal averages.  Here is a graph listing our average monthly snowfall totals at Bradley Int’l, the official climate station of the Pioneer Valley.

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As you can see, 7.4 inches of snow is the average for December.  If you divide that over 31 days, and then multiply it for 8 days so far this month, it equates to an average of 1.9 inches of snow through December 8th (or more simply, since we’re a quarter of the way through the month, we would expect about a quarter of our monthly snowfall).  Adding that 1.9 inches so far for December with the 2.0 inches averaged in November, that means Bradley averages about 3.9 inches of snow through today, December 8th.

So far, Bradley has recorded 3.1 inches of snowfall this season … so while it may seem like a “lack of snow” so far this season, it’s really not too far below normal yet.  On the other hand, with no snow in the 7-day forecast, that gap between actual and normal will continue to widen for the week ahead.