Monday, July 27, 2015

Rainbow Chasing in Amherst (this afternoon)

Rainbow over Amherst - Amherst, MA (7/27/2015)
Photo by S. Vardatira
Forget tornado chasing for the moment. This afternoon was all about rainbow chasing (for me anyway). As soon as I saw the rain pouring while the sun was shining I hit the road. Rainbow profusion - actually saw what appeared to be two or three completely different rainbows within about 15 minutes. As I pulled off the road at one point a passerby remarked happily, "all rainbows go to Amherst!" Of course, we were in Amherst, so it only seemed like that. I'm sure people were seeing them all over the Valley, but Amherst's rainbows were spectacular.

Rainbow over Route 9 (looking towards Amherst Center)
Photo by S. Vardatira - Amherst, MA 7/27/2015

Rainbow over UMass from Rt 116 - Amherst, MA 7/27/2015
Photo by S. Vardatira

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Daylight's Last Glowing Embers

Friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, Meg Rosa, captured another gorgeous sunset. Yesterday afternoon's storminess to our west never really reached us here, but the post-storm clouds still made it beautifully memorable. Thanks for sharing, Meg!

Sunset over the Pioneer Valley - Tuesday, 7/21/2015
Photo by Meg Rosa

New Cloud Type Recognized - First Time Since 1951!

An asperitas cloud formation over Statesboro, Georgia (USA)
Photo by Sarah K. Davis, posted on 3/31/2015
This photo shows an example of: Altocumulus, asperitas
Photo was featured as the Cloud Appreciation Society's “Cloud of the Month” for July 2015
As a blog claiming to be "in the clouds," it's hard to believe I've never posted on the subject of cloud classification or, more to the point, on the imminent formal recognition of a new variety of cloud. To cloud geeks everywhere this is serious and exciting business. Especially so this summer, as a few weeks ago the World Meteorological Organization* accepted a new type of cloud into the fold. Named "asperitas," after the Latin for ‘roughness,' it's the first new cloud type recognized since 1951! According to the Cloud Appreciation Society (of which, yes, I am a proud member), this new cloud was identified thanks to photographs sent in by their members – like this one by Sarah K. Davis, taken over Statesboro, in Georgia. (Brief aside here - for whatever reason, "cloudspotting," not even really a thing in the U.S., tends to be hugely popular in other countries, so I always find it encouraging when people in the U.S. show more than a passing interest.)

The journey towards recognition of asperitas began back in 2006, when the Cloud Appreciation Society started receiving some photographs of a strange cloud over Iowa. With rough, turbulent and contorted waves, these formations didn’t seem to fit within the existing cloud classifications. As the Society wrote in their recent newsletter,
We weren’t sure what to call these clouds when we added them up on our photo gallery. There is already a term for wavy clouds, they’re called undulatus, but these turbulent waves seemed different from the usual undulatus. And those 2006 examples weren’t the only ones. We soon noticed other examples. These same dramatic wave clouds were being sent in from other parts of the world. Each time, we thought there’s another of those weird, nameless clouds.
By 2008, the Cloud Appreciation Society decided to give this cloud a name, which was subsequently tweaked by the WMO to conform with their Latin naming system. And no, Harry Potter fans, "Voldemort" was never considered during the naming process, no matter how much the new cloud looks like something he would conjure.

A cloud type is only official when it appears in the WMO’s International Cloud Atlas, an international reference for meteorologists (also prized by cloud geeks, cloud photographers, and nature lovers). The next edition of the Cloud Atlas is scheduled to come out in 2016, at which point aspiritas will be included right alongside some 100 recognized cloud combinations. In addition, a whole new cloud classification species, Volutus (from the Latin volutus, which means rolled) is also slated for inclusion in the 2016 edition. 

Now here's where it gets even more interesting for cloud aficionados who also know their way around a camera. The WMO, through the Cloud Appreciation Society, is soliciting photographs of the new cloud type, and to facilitate that process, the Cloud Appreciation Society has just launched a competition to find the best photograph of asperitas, which will appear in the International Cloud Atlas. This is your chance to make cloudspotting history, as the photo will be the reference image against which all asperitas spottings will be judged. The winner will be announced at the Cloud Appreciation Society Conference in London on September 26, 2015. Go here for more information. 

For those of you whose cloud knowledge begins and ends with "cumulus" and "cirrus," welcome to a whole new world! And don't forget to look at the road from time to time when you find yourself cloudspotting while driving.


* The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources. WMO has a membership of 191 Member States and Territories.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Lightning

Captured some lightning action on video this evening (about an hour ago, at 7:15 pm). Apologies in advance for the under-the-breath invocation. I had been seeing action in the distance and didn't expect something quite so over-arching!

If you are unable to see the video in this window, you can view it on YouTube at:

A hard rain's a-gonna possibly fall

Storm over Hadley
Photo taken by S. Vardatira, July 24, 2009
You wouldn't know it to look outside at this moment, but two severe weather alerts have just been posted for today. First, we are under a heat advisory through 6 pm this evening (the worst of it between 1 pm and 5 pm). Expect heat index values (what it will feel like outside) around 100 degrees due to temperatures in the low 90s and dewpoints near 70. The second alert concerns the risk of strong to severe thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, with the highest risk north of the Mass Pike - which includes us here in Amherst, of course. These thunderstorms may bring locally strong to damaging wind gusts and possible hail.

The biggest uncertainty is whether or not these isolated strong storms merge into a larger complex of thunderstorms. If that happens, we could get dangerous cloud to ground lightning, heavy rain, localized flooding, and significant wind damage. So keep a watchful eye as you go about your afternoon. Drink plenty of fluids and if you hear thunder, head for indoor shelter.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

All on a summer day at Puffer's Pond

South Beach in July, Puffer's Pond (Amherst MA)
Photo by S. Vardatira, 7-12-2015
Although the temperature topped out at 89 F this afternoon at Puffer's Pond, the crowds weren't as intense as you might expect on such an uncomfortably hot day. I theorize that some people, wanting to avoid mobs at Puffer's, may have sought relief at pools and other swimming holes across the area. At the same time, it's possible the crowd on the beach just seemed a little thinner because so many people were out on the water courtesy of air mattresses and inflatable boats. Whole groups had also congregated above and below the waterfall, along with a handful of young men who were rock jumping (a wholly prohibited and incredibly dangerous activity). The rock jumpers left the area in a hurry shortly after they realized I was photographing them. Ah, the power of a camera!

I took a narrow path along the shore from Fisherman's Point towards the waterfall, on the way discovering a lovely secluded spot where a couple had set out a picnic, complete with h'ordeuvres and a small carafe of wine. They were bobbing in an inflatable boat a few feet off shore, and when I apologized for intruding on their site, they laughed and waved their hands across the water, as if to encompass the whole summer scene. "Come on through," they urged, "this is for everyone."

Men on Puffer's Pond Dam
(before you do this, be aware that sitting on the dam is prohibited)
Photo by S. Vardatira, Amherst MA - 7-12-2015
Photographing yet more prohibited activity on the water....

Rock jumping at Puffer's Pond, 7-12-2015
(Photos by S. Vardatira)

A tale of two seasons - at Puffer's Pond

Two photos, one taken in January and one taken in July, at Puffer's Pond. Both photos taken from the same general vantage point as the sun was going down.

Last Swim of the Day - Puffer's Pond, 7/10/2015
Photo by S. Vardatira

Ice Skating at Nightfall - Puffer's Pond, 1/4/2013
Photo by S. Vardatira

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sunset After the Storm

Gorgeous photo taken this evening by friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, Meg Rosa. If you were lucky enough to be driving through the Pioneer Valley about an hour ago, this would have been your reward. Thanks for sharing, Meg!

Sunset over the Pioneer Valley, 6/23/2015
Photo by Meg Rosa

Under a Tornado Watch

This is serious everyone. A Tornado Watch has just been issued for Hampshire County until 11 p.m. tonight. Which also, by the way, means you can expect thunderstorms through that period as well. Stay tuned to the changing conditions, keep your ears out for any sirens from UMass, and generally just stay aware. And figure out a plan for where you can take shelter if necessary. Stay safe!

Cumulus Clouds Gathering

Photo of cumulus clouds over Hadley Massachusetts taken just now. More thunderstorms yet to move through this afternoon. Keep your eyes on the skies!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Batten down the hatches Tuesday afternoon

The buzz around the New England weather community has taken an uptick overnight, as anyone who keeps an eye on stormy weather is turning their attention to tomorrow afternoon. There is the potential for scattered to numerous strong to severe thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon and evening across Western, Central and interior Northeast Massachusetts, Northern Connecticut and extreme Northwest Rhode Island. At this point, Central and Western Massachusetts have a slightly higher potential for severe weather than the rest of the area. (Are you excited yet?) Damaging winds, large hail and poor drainage flooding are the main threats, but there does exist the potential for an isolated tornado or two.

The threat will be contingent on any cloud debris from any shower and thunderstorm activity that occurs Tuesday morning and how much destabilization occurs. Many other parameters look quite favorable for severe weather potential including very strong wind shear profiles. Although this is the most favorable severe weather setup modeled for the spring/summer 2015 season (so far), keep in mind that predicting severe weather threats 36-48 hours in advance - particularly in Southern New England – is more difficult than predicting nor'easter and other major storm events.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Solstice rain - and then sun

It may not be everyone's idea of a perfect summer solstice, but I'm finding the rain lovely and peaceful. There's more than one way to experience the longest day of the year here in New England.

And, what's more, we will be treated to sun this afternoon, so don't worry about getting wet if you're headed to the UMass Sunwheel this evening at 7:30 to bear witness to the setting sun (details here).

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser for Puffer’s Pond is Tomorrow Morning!

Puffer's Pond (photo by Joshua Wolfsun)
The 24th annual Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for Puffer’s Pond will be happening tomorrow morning, Saturday, June 6th at the Mill River Recreation Area in North Amherst from 8:30-11:00 am! All local and whole grain – local flour, eggs, butter, milk, blueberries, and real maple syrup! New for 2015 – gluten free option and sausage. Thanks to the Kestrel Land Trust which has partnered with the Town of Amherst to help create conservation areas like Puffer’s Pond since 1970. Please join the fun and help preserve this wonderful recreation area. Donations: $8 for adults, $6 for children and $5 extra for sausage. Music by Juggle Meadow String Band. We hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015