Friday, September 2, 2016

Shutesbury's Northern Lights "Crown of Pillars"

Northern Lights "Crown of Pillars" - Lake Wyola, Shutesbury
Photo by Susan Adams Panlilio, taken just after midnight last night, 9/2/2016
Wonderful pic of aurora taken in Shutesbury last night by friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, Susan Adams Panlilio. There has been a good amount of geomagnetic activity over the past week which can lead to aurora sightings even around here. Thanks so much for sharing, Susan!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

First sign of fall

Twilight through Pines - UMass Amherst facing west, 2015
Photo by S. Vardatira
A line from this afternoon's Southern New England SKYWARN email (National Weather Service) definitely caught my attention: "A cold front will move through Southern New England overnight into early Monday Morning and will bring the first fall-like temperatures of the late summer for a couple of days to start the new work week."

And just like that the season begins to change. ‪#‎Winteriscoming‬

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Amherst Institutes Mandatory Water Restrictions


Those of you who were alarmed by our 8/14 photo of Atkins Reservoir (namely the low water level) were not alone. The Reservoir is at 50%, and use spikes around the corner when the students return. In a move designed to be proactive, on Monday the Amherst Select Board voted to institute mandatory residential water restrictions starting at midnight tonight. The following activities will be prohibited: watering lawns, washing vehicles at non-commercial locations, washing building, sidewalks, and patios, and filling swimming pools. Residents are also encouraged to conserve water in other ways.

If only there were a way to distribute some of the 30" of rain that inundated Louisiana to other parts of the country that are dry and scorched.

Statement from the Town, as well as related resources follow below.

2016 Mandatory Water Restrictions

The Select Board, acting in its capacity as Water Commissioners, has authorized David Ziomek, Temporary Town Manager to implement Mandatory Water Restrictions for the Town of Amherst effective at 12:01 AM on Friday August 19th. Theses restrictions will stay in place until further notice. These restrictions are the result of a continued period of low precipitation and recent downgrade of the Connecticut River Region from drought advisory to drought watch status by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The Town of Amherst asks residents to comply with these restrictions to help address the impacts of drought conditions. This is an urgent situation- water conservation steps taken now will preserve water supplies in coming months should drought conditions continue. The Town has been working closely in partnership with the major institutional users in the community- the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College- to reduce overall water consumption. The community is very grateful for this collaborative effort as we enter a new academic year and as our population increases. Temporary Town Manager David Ziomek emphasized, "I'm asking all residents to work together to help the community thorough this difficult period. We all need to do as much as we can to conserver water now, so we have adequate supplies in September and October."

Mandatory water restrictions apply to all residential customers of the Amherst public water system and include the following prohibitions:
1. Watering lawns by any method.
2. Washing cars or trucks at non-commercial vehicle washes.
3. Washing of buildings, sidewalks or patios.
4. Filling of swimming pools.
The following water uses are allowed under these mandatory restrictions:
1. For the production of food and fiber for personal use or commercial sale.
2. For the maintenance of livestock.
3. To meet the core functions of a business (for example, irrigation by plant nurseries as
necessary to maintain stock).
4. For health and safety reasons.
The Town is also asking residents to conserve water in a variety of ways, including taking
briefer showers, avoiding letting the tap run while brushing teeth or washing dishes, and 
other simple behavioral changes.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Witchy wonderful moon

It's cooler out there than it's been, but still short sleeve warm, with a witchy wonderful moon above. Lunar corona (rainbow halo around the moon) caused by tiny ice crystals in the drifting high, thin cirrus clouds. The August full moon is known as the Sturgeon Moon, as well as the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. But go ahead and make up your own name - dare to be different!

Full "Strugeon" Moon with corona through clouds, Amherst MA - 8/17/2016
Photo by S. Vardatira

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lightning over Lake Wyola

Incredible photo of lightning over Lake Wyola last night - taken by friend of Head in the Clouds Amherst, Susan Adams Panlilio. Thanks so much for sharing, Susan!

Lightning over Lake Wyola, Shutesbury MA - 8/13/2016
Photo by Susan Adams Panlilio

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Seeking Photos for the 2017 Head in the Clouds Amherst Calendar!

Your photo could be featured (kind of like this) in our upcoming 2017 calendar!


Head in the Clouds Amherst is seeking photo submissions for our 2017 calendar. Back by popular demand, this year's calendar will once again feature monthly photos taken by 12 different photographers. You can see last year’s calendar, here

The deadline to submit is September 1, 2016. Submissions can be emailed or uploaded via Google Drive to Please enter "HITC 2017 Calendar Photo Submissions" in the subject line.

Along with your photo(s), please include: a caption or title; who is in the photo (unless it's a crowd scene or taken from a distance), where it was taken, the photographer's name, and your contact information.

All submissions must have been taken in Amherst or feature a scenic view of Amherst. And photos must also depict scenes that evoke the seasons and the intersection of life and weather. In addition to those qualities, if your photo also captures one or more of these themes it will get special consideration:
  • Amherst landmarks (popular gathering sites, university/colleges, museums, etc.)
  • Amherst annual events and happenings 
  • Clouds formations and weather phenomena (over or around Amherst)
Click on this link for additional tips on submitting winning Head in the Clouds Amherst photos. And keep in mind that we will not consider photos that are low resolution, low quality, or that contain inappropriate material. 

We welcome photos by professionals and amateurs, in color or black and white. And we’re also counting on friends of Head in the Clouds re-submitting photos you’ve already sent to us over the year. You can submit as many photos as you like.

If your photo is selected for the 2017 calendar, you will receive a free calendar and reduced rates on any additional calendars you opt to purchase. 

So what are you waiting for??? Start flipping through your photo collection – or grab your camera and make some new memories. We can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

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...