Monday, July 18, 2016

Threat of Severe Weather this Afternoon

A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH has just been issued for our region through 8 pm. The forecast is calling for isolated to scattered thunderstorms and severe weather in localized areas across Western and Central Massachusetts and Northwest Connecticut, including damaging winds, hail, heavy rainfall and frequent lightning. There is a secondary threat for an isolated tornado. On the plus side, the severe weather is coming as a cold front swings through the area later today into Monday night. So for the next few days at least, temperatures should dip into the lower 80s, making it much more tolerable.

If you are outside or on the water this afternoon, keep your eye on the sky and be ready to take cover inside.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Amherst on July 16th, Then and Now

Summer afternoon cumulus, Hadley MA - July 16, 2016
Photo by S. Vardatira
On this day in 1879, a disastrous tornado swept across Massachusetts from west to east. Local and regional newspapers called it "the storm of the decade." Two people in Pittsfield were killed, and lightning struck the almshouse in South Amherst as well as many other buildings across town.

I always feel it helps, when lamenting the weather (today's insanely high temps for example) to remember that it could be worse. Although, in truth, extremely hot weather can be just as lethal if you don't have somewhere to cool off. Speaking of cooling off, I just drove past Puffer's Pond and have concluded that at least half the town is parked on State Street. Best approach on foot if you feel called to the water.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tornado Watch Posted for Western MA (including Amherst)!

View looking west from CT River (Hadley), Photo by S. Vardatira (from July 2015)
TORNADO WATCH just posted for our region through to 10 pm tonight, though the greatest threat is for an isolated tornado for late afternoon and especially this evening across Western MA.

Isolated and widely scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop this afternoon and evening. A few of the thunderstorms early this evening have the potential to be strong to severe. Damaging wind, dangerous cloud to ground lightning, and heavy rainfall are the primary threats. However large hail and a brief isolated tornado are also possible. Timing of the strongest storms will be 6-9 pm across Western MA. Take appropriate measures and stay tuned for updates.

Hmmm. Can I be done with work in time for a little storm spotting and chasing action? (Always done cautiously and with eye on radar, of course!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Revisiting the Tornado of June 14, 1877

139 years ago today, a tornado swept through the Pioneer Valley, damaging much of Northampton and destroying the covered bridge which crossed the Connecticut River to Hadley. Eleven people and six teams of horses (or was it 15 people and 10 teams of horses?) went down with the bridge. Read all about it here, in a prior Head in the Clouds Amherst post from 2013....

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sundown over the Valley

Tonight's sunset was brief but spectacular. Here's one view, sent to us by friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, Joshua Wolfsun. Wow!

Sundown in the Valley - Hadley, MA, 6/13/2016
Photo by Joshua Wolfsun

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Noctilucent Cloud Season Starts Today (to our north)

Noctilucent clouds over Hoogeveen, the Netherlands, by A.J. Hidding
(originally posted by The Cloud Appreciation Society)
June 1st is not only the start of hurricane season, but it is also the start of Noctilucent Cloud Season in the Northern Hemisphere. Meaning ‘night-shining’ in Latin, noctilucent clouds are only visible after dark, when they shine out against the night sky as eerie, bluish ripples. They are visible primarily in the higher latitudes, between 50˚ and 70˚ from the equator. Although this is north of Amherst (and the entire U.S. for that matter), look for them if you are vacationing this summer in Canada or other northern climes (U.K, Europe, China, Mongolia, etc.).

At altitudes of around 50 miles, these are by far the highest clouds in the sky, forming in a very cold and dry region of our atmosphere, the mesosphere. Being so high up, they still catch the light long after the sun has dipped below the horizon and the lower atmosphere is in shadow. Look for these clouds during summer in the hours after sunset and before sunrise, when the lower sky is clear.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Weather Cooks Hadley Asparagus (Tart)

Asparagus at Amherst Farmstand (aka Hadley asparagus?!), Amherst MA
Photo by S. Vardatira, 5/15/2016
Weather Cooks entry by Marian -

Spring has arrived in the Happy Valley…lilacs are blooming and farmstands offer Hadley asparagus everywhere you drive!  Personally, my favorite way to enjoy asparagus is steamed and tossed in some butter with salt and pepper, although roasted is delicious, grilled is tasty, and I’ll confess to enjoying a few servings of decadent deep fried asparagus.  But maybe you feel inspired to experiment with something more…extraordinary? 

The recipe below is SO simple, it’s really worth the 5 ingredients and 5 easy steps.  It is absolutely elegant enough for a dinner party but so easy that you can make it any evening.  It’s delicious hot, warm, room temperature and even cold.  Enjoy!

Hadley Asparagus Tart

Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry  (yes, use store bought, it’s delicious)
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle and place it on a baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. This will create the edges of your “asparagus pool.” 
Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with cheese (gruyere or fontina works best). Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.

Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

For more seasonal recipes, see our Weather Cooks Page...

Cumulus and steam at Yellowstone

Friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, to be known as "smf," sent us this amazing photo of Yellowstone from her recent journey out west. Those are cumulus clouds in the sky (background), with steam rising off (I am now guessing) Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. Thanks so much for sending this our way!

Cumulus and Steam, Yellowstone National Park,Wyoming
Photo by SMF, Spring 2016

Cloudspotting a Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk looking back, Hadley MA
Photo by S. Vardatira, 5/14/2016
Late afternoon cloudspotting drive, crossed paths with this red tailed hawk swooping across the sky and then alighting roadside. About 100 feet away, I exited my car and approached by foot. And got closer. And closer. And closer. Stopped at about 8 feet away because, well, talons and beak. Still, s/he seemed completely unperturbed by my presence and the camera.

Also enjoyed some amazing cloud vistas.

Sky ahead of front, looking west from Amherst MA
(Cumulus, altostratus, cirrus - maybe also cirrostratus or altocumulus?)
Photo by S. Vardatira, 5/14/2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lilacs now in the dooryard bloom

If only I could somehow post the scent of lilacs to this blog....

Lilacs Bloom - North Amherst MA
Photo by S. Vardatira, 5/11/2016

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Clouds Calling

Truly, I was having a hard time looking anywhere but up today. The clouds were calling...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Clouds on the move (Light and Dark)

Providing a counterpoint to Amherst's annual UMass graduation frenzy (yes, this is that weekend!), we offer up 'Light & Dark’, a calm-inducing 50 second cloud video by Hong Hu, from Singapore. Here in Amherst, we've got a uniform gray sky without variation (stratus clouds, if you are keeping track). Just dreary.

Cloudspotting #001 / Light & Dark from Hong Hu on Vimeo.

Click here if the video does not display automatically:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Today

More minor geomagnetic storm activity is predicted for today due to effects from a positive polarity coronal hole high speed stream. Which means greater potential for aurora borealis (northern lights) at higher latitudes, to our north, and even possibly northern parts of Western MA over the next few nights.

Watch the video to learn more, but disregard the bizarre accompanying music - in fact I advise turning the sound off entirely. For those of you who cannot access the video from this page, click here