A Mid-West Snow Storm

from the Weather Channel web site

from the Weather Channel web site

   Knowing this storm was headed our way for the past week has not diminished its impact. The snow started around 6:30 a.m. and has been falling at about 2-3 inches (5 cm -9 cm) per hour since then. It was up to around 8 inches while I was clearing the driveway and in the last hour since I have been inside there is at least another 1-2 inches!
   I’m using a Mantis electric snow shovel and I am very happy with how it works despite the snow being higher than the shovel. The snow, fortunately, is very dry. There has been lightning and thunder throughout the morning as well. All highways and even both airports are closed.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Imbolog 2013

shadowsGroundhog Day
   It has become a tradition in the United States to watch for a ground hog to emerge on the 2nd of February. We know this as Groundhog Day, an event that originates from ancient Celtic tradition. Groundhog Day was known as Imbolog, or sheep’s milk, a time for nurturing young sheep and planting spring crops. The belief arose that if Imbolog were to be sunny and clear, then winter’s effects would endure, foreshadowing a long winter. However, if skies were overcast, then the warmer days of spring would arrive early. To farmers then and today, an early spring means early spring planting and a subsequent early harvest. Often fires were lit to commemorate the event as fires were a sign of warmth and light, both of which increased as days lengthened.

   German immigrant farmers are credited with bringing Groundhog Day with them to the United States as they settled in Pennsylvania. To them, February 2 was called Candlemas Day, because of the practice of lighting candles on this day in celebration of early planting. The Germans believed that the badger was able to predict the weather on the basis of whether or not its shadow appeared. If the badger, or ground hog, saw its shadow on Candlemas it would be scared and return to its burrow for another six weeks-to sleep through the long winter. However if the skies were overcast then no shadow would appear, and an early warm spring would be expected.

   So year after year, since 1898, crowds have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 to wait for a certain ground hog to emerge from its burrow. Today the belief in this as a predictor of weather is not nearly as consequential as it appears despite all the hoopla created by the news media. Yet there is some scientific rationale to the ritual, albeit not in the accuracy of the forecast. When the skies are clear temperatures tend to be cold as the ground radiates heat absorbed during the day back into the atmosphere. When skies are overcast, temperatures tend to moderate as clouds trap heat nearer the ground.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Blowing in the Wind

Satellite Image of Hurricane Sandy

   Hurricane Sandy, described as “historic” because of how late in the year it formed and its intensity, is approaching the eastern seacoast of the U.S. threatening our friends and family living in the storm area. They as well as everyone living in the area are certainly in our thoughts and prayers.
   In a recent post I shared some links for tracking hurricanes. So in that spirit here are some web links for tracking Hurricane Sandy. However the focus of these two are the winds that blow across our country as well as those that circle counterclockwise around the low pressure in the storm’s center.
   The Weather Underground web site, a longtime Internet presence, offers a static map (updated regularly) showing the wind patterns across the United States through the use of a color code for wind speed, and small arrows indicating the direction the winds are blowing toward. Other links on this page connect with the other display choices.
   The Wind Map web site offers a very unique view of the blowing winds across the United States with an animated map that is color coded to show wind speeds. From the animation it is obvious which direction the winds are blowing towards. This web site is one of the many visualization projects created by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg two visualization artists at Google. Click here to learn more about them and their creative work.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Under the ‘Hook’

Weather Radar for Mid-West

The mid-west has finally received some much-needed rain. Once the remnants of Isaac moved southeast from where I live yesterday afternoon we have been in the ‘right’ place for the rain that a low pressure system brings. As the low pressure spirals counterclockwise it has kept us in constant rain for nearly 24 hours, as of this posting. Our sump pump is almost working non-stop but is keeping up with the rain fall. That is one nice thing about receiving a lot of rain at one time (for our area) when the time is as long as it has been for this storm. In past storms where we have had similar amounts in just a couple of hours it had always been accompanied with thunder, lightning, and power outages. When that has happened in the past we have also had a flooded basement and backyard when the two creeks overflow. This time despite around 5 inches of rain no problems.