Don’t like the weather? Wait 10 minutes
February, 19, 2009
New England’s weather is notoriously hard to predict. There is a good deal of truth to the old saying that if you don’t care for our weather, just wait 10 minutes.
February is typically our snowiest month, but anyone with school-age children in this region knows that snow days happen when winter weather affects even just a portion of the six-town school district — even when other parts of the region are free and clear.
There is also a considerable range of possible winter precipitation, from sleet and freezing rain to thunderstorms and blizzards.
At our house during this white winter, we have been waiting in vain for “snowman snow” of the right moisture content and consistency for packing. And our skating pond has remained unusable because of the overburden of the last ice storm.
David Ludlum’s “New England Weather Book” describes this region of North America as “a vast meteorological mixing bowl where diverse air currents converge and concoct atmospheric situations as varied as tossed salads.”
The tracks of storms originating in Arctic Canada, the North Pacific, Colorado and the west Gulf Coast all converge on New England, while a howling Nor’easter can leave us buried in snow or drenched in rain.
The Taconic Ridge and the Hudson Highlands intercept storm fronts and trigger the release of precipitation that can be very different from one side of the mountains to the other. On Jan. 12, 1836, 60 inches of snow fell in central New York, to the west of the Taconics — with a mixture of rain, sleet and snow to the east.
The brief thaw we experienced in the first part of February may have allowed us to chip away at the frozen berms left by the plows and ice dams overhanging the eaves of our roofs, but a longer “false spring” can trick plants, soften buds and even prompt flowering before the danger of frost is gone.
Native species are less susceptible to a false spring than some introduced ornamentals, but even our native mountain laurel does better when protected by snowpack.
For three of the past five winters, I have observed maple sap running in January. Then again, I have vivid recollections of a record-setting May snowstorm when I was in second grade and we got 12.7 inches in Worcester, Mass.
Today, as I write, there is bright, cloudless, late-afternoon sunshine outside my window. There are no high-riding mare’s tails, no mackerel skies to net the setting sun, but there is a low seam of clouds lurking at the horizon west of the mountains. It could be a cold night ahead without a blanket of clouds, or it could snow before morning.
Variety is the spice of New England living, at least where the weather is concerned.
Tim Abbott is program director of Housatonic Valley Association’s Litchfield Hills Greenprint. His blog is at greensleeves.typepad.com.
© Copyright 2009 by TCExtra.com
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