Archive for March, 2014

Nor’easter delivers strong winds
March 26, 2014

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

A strong nor’easter developed off the New England coast today, creating 40-mph wind gusts in Western Massachusetts today.  High winds were a result of a strong “pressure gradient force“, as described in detail on a previous weather blog entry.

Basically, when there is a large range of air pressure over a short distance (a large gradient), the air becomes pinched or streamlined and flows much faster through that region.

In the image below, an ocean buoy just south of Nova Scotia was near the center of the nor’easter late Wednesday afternoon. It recorded an air pressure of 957 mb (28.26” Hg) at nearly 6 p.m. EDT. Pressure readings that low can be synonymous with tropical storms or even minor hurricanes.  In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene only had a pressure of 965 mb when it made landfall in New York City and moved through New England.  Meanwhile, our air pressure today was at about 1010 mb.

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Amateur storm spotters in Nantucket reported nearly 10 inches of snow, with wind gusts above 80 mph creating drifts up to five feet.

Sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph were reported from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, with gusts as high as 39 mph. Similar wind speeds were observed throughout the day at Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield.

 

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NOAA issues spring outlook
March 22, 2014

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This week, NOAA issued its 2014 spring outlook, addressing flooding, drought, temperature and precipitation trends across the country through June.

It comes with little fanfare for western Massachusetts.  Drought is not expected. Flooding is only anticipated to be minor in northern New England.  We run about equal chances of seeing above or below normal precipitation (in other words, no strong indicators of either a dry or wet Spring).

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Temperatures, though, may struggle a little bit in the early spring across the northern tier states.  An abnormally cold and abnormally snowy winter may be the cause of a cold start to Spring.  Deeply frozen soils and Great Lakes ice reaching record levels (about 93% frozen-over this winter) will not allow temperatures to warm up too rapidly.  Much of the sun’s energy will go into thawing out the ground/lakes before it can heat the air to its full potential.

The opposite can be said about California, where drought conditions are expected to continue and help reinforce hot and dry conditions across the West this season.

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National Severe Weather Preparedness Week
March 8, 2014

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

This week was National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, an annual program organized by NOAA.  According to NOAA, there were seven $1 billion dollar severe weather disasters in the United States.  The following link has plenty of information on how to have a disaster plan ready, FAQs about severe weather types, and even a message from President Obama about being prepared for the severe weather season.

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/severe.html#.UxvaSrTQrTo

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February 2014 and meteorological winter recap
March 1, 2014

By Meteorologist Mike Skurko

It’s hard to believe it given the threat of snow tomorrow and the persistent cold next week, but today is March 1st and the first day of meteorological spring (which is slightly different from astronomical spring, which starts on the spring equinox).  Whenever the cold and snow does finally stop, most residents of western Massachusetts will look back on this as a cold and snowy winter we had to endure.

Snowfall totals through the end of February have topped out at 50.1 inches of snow, which is already 9.6 inches above an entire normal winter.  Despite some impressive snowstorms hitting the Northeast this winter, the Pioneer Valley did not set any new snowfall records [so far] in 2013-2014.  February ranked 7th all-time for the snowiest February on record.

Temperatures also finished below average this winter, but not quite the record cold that people may expect.  Other parts of the country certainly did set some record cold temperatures during our visits from the “polar vortex.” While western Massachusetts had some frigid days, it didn’t translate into record cold.  Only one record low was set this meteorological winter on January 4 with a low of -9 (previous record was -7 in 1981).

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