We are all experiencing climate change. Climate change is global, an overall warming of the oceans and planet. However, local weather may or may not reflect the trend towards warmer weather. Last summer, 2018, was warmer than average here, but the winter started off with a significant snow just after Thanksgiving, which is rare. Suddenly it was possible to have some fairly decent downhill skiing early in the season. Then the weather warmed, and up here at 1100 feet elevation we barely had a white Christmas. At lower elevations rain and warm weather removed almost all snow. While skiers complain about the lack of white stuff, there are plenty of people who prefer an open winter. As Mark Twain said, "Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it".
My grandparents, who were born around 1884, told me that people generally enjoyed winter more before the automobile. Early cars were hard to start in the cold and did not do well on icy roads. Modern cars have heaters and are much safer, but winter driving is still no picnic.
Now, as we enter the latter half of January, we are preparing for a whopper of a storm, named Harper! This originated off the west coast and has been moving steadily across the country with various combinations of snow, sleet, ice, and cold weather. For the Adirondacks, the predictions are for 18 to 24 inches of snow and cold to match. We skiers are happy with a forecast like that!
I did extensive research while writing The Big Storm, including visiting NOAA headquarters outside of Washington DC. I came away with real respect for forecasts and the people who make them. Not all forecasts are perfect, but usually they are pretty accurate.
This kind of storm is called a Nor' easter. A low pressure center off the east coast circulates air in a counter clockwise direction, picking up lots of moisture from the ocean and bringing it ashore. With cold air in place, snow will swirl in from the northeast, and there will be plenty of it. As the storm moves off the coast, frigid air rushes in from the north leading to really cold temperatures and a howling wind. The north wind is called Keewatin by the Cree and Ojibway in Canada. Keewatin is generally translated as "north wind" or "blizzard of the north". The district of Nunavut, Canada, just west of Hudson Bay is called Keewatin.
What's New in the Woods Our house sits in a clearing on nine acres of woods half way up the first slopes of the Adirondack Mountains. This is the beginning of the great forests that cover the region. The woods are a mixture of tall pines and hardwoods, like maple, beech, and oak. The land is home to many birds and animals and millions of plants. On this page, you will come along with me as I explore these woods and beyond, waiting quietly for those rare magical moments when an animal, or perhaps a new flower, appears.
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Saturday, January 19, 2019
In the morning the sky is completely overcast. Occasionally, light snow falls from the clouds. By mid-afternoon the temperature has dropped to 10 degrees F, and we have brought in a lot of firewood to prepare for the full force of the storm.
Can you find two chickadees on the feeder? The other bird is a tufted titmouse, but you can't see its head. The big black cylinder keeps the squirrels from climbing the pole.
At 4 PM, it is nearly dark and a fine snow is starting, right on schedule. By 5:30 the flakes are larger and coming down fast. Already another inch has covered the ground . The temperature is a chilly 8 degrees, but no wind stirs the trees. Later tonight the storm is supposed to really intensify.
Sunday January 20, 2019
Snow fell heavily last night and is still coming down this morning. After a hearty breakfast, Helen and I began clearing the driveway and path to the front door. It was up to my knees inches in the meadow. The driveway is sheltered by big white pines and so there was a little less snow there. Clearing snow with snowblower and shovel took over an hour. Our neighbor came by with a tractor mounted snowblower and cleared the end of the drive where the town plow had piled well over 3 feet of dense white stuff. That saved a lot of work. Thanks so much, Stephanie! The temperature hovered in the mid-teens, and even warmly dressed with big mittens, my thumbs grew very cold.
As you can see the snow is deep now. The chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, and mourning doves were feeding heavily, but refused to have their picture taken
In the afternoon, the storm picked up again. As darkness approached, big flakes were falling thickly. The temperature dropped to 11 degrees but there was no wind, yet. As the evening progressed the sky cleared and the cold air quickly took over. Every half hour when I looked at the thermometer it was another degree colder. By bedtime the stars were out, it was zero outside. Around midnight it was below zero and I could see the total eclipse of the moon.
Monday, January 21, 2019- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Awakening around dawn, the cold air was fully in place at -11, and the wind waspicking up. Ski areas in New York and Vermont were reporting wind chills of -40 and even -60 near the Canadian border. At least one ski area was closed, while others limited their lifts to short runs. Frostbite is a real danger when bare skin is exposed in that kind of weather. Fortunately, our house is sheltered from the north winds by the Adirondack Mountains that rise another 1000 feet immediately northwest of us. The forest around the house adds additional protection, and so there was little drifting of snow. The temperature only rose to 1 degree, and now, at dusk, it is back to -3.
Tomorrow promises to be partly sunny, with low winds, and temperatures climbing back into the teens. Maybe it is time to head out and go skiing!
As you can see in these pictures, the house and ground are covered with some crusty old snow. Only a dusting of new flakes
can be seen on the mail box and bird feeder.
As I took these pictures in late morning, the snow had turned to sleet rattling against my coat. It was a break in the storm that was not to last long.