Thursday, February 23, 2017

Winter Fox

Fox in Winter ~ Eldora, Colorado
Photo by Dan Vardamis (2/23/2017)
Continuing our "Wildlife in Winter" theme, this photo comes to Head in the Clouds Amherst courtesy of my brother, Dan Vardamis. He snapped this incredible, evocative photo of a resident fox just this morning, outside his home high in the mountains of Eldora, Colorado. Dan’s caption: “And this morning winter is as she should be again.” A few days hence, and winter (sans fox) will also be revisiting us here in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bobcat in the Snow

Bobcat in the Snow - Hadley, MA (off North Maple Street)
Photo by Ken LeBlond, 2/15/2017
A bobcat family has taken up residence in a marshy area adjacent to where I work in Hadley. It's been very distracting. This photo of one of the adults, affectionately dubbed Bobbi by my colleagues (or is it Bobby?), was taken by Ken LeBlond. Thanks for sharing, Ken!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mark Twain - yes, a weather humorist too!

Along with being a brilliant essayist, satirist and writer, Twain was
an avid weather follower, sometimes drawing weather patterns
in the margins of his novels (an example of which is shown in this photo).
Those of you having to alter much-anticipated plans due to our impending snowstorm may well appreciate this excerpt from a letter written by Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) to his wife Olivia on Saturday, March 10, 1888, when a great blizzard prevented her from joining him on a trip to New York. Clemens wrote:
And so, after all my labor and persuasion to get you to at last promise to take a week's holiday and go off with me on a lark, this is what Providence has gone and done about it. It does seem to me the oddest thing--the way Providence manages. A mere simple request to you to stay at home would have been entirely sufficient; but no, that is not big enough, picturesque enough--a blizzard's the idea; pour down all the snow in stock, turn loose all the winds, bring a whole continent to a stand-still: that is Providence's idea of the correct way to trump a person's trick. If I had known it was going to make all this trouble and cost all these millions, I never would have said anything about your going. Now in the light of this revelation of the methods of Providence, consider Noah's flood--I wish I knew the real reason for playing that cataclysm on the public: likely enough, somebody who liked dry weather wanted to take a walk. That is probably the whole thing--and nothing more to it.
An aside here - Along with being a brilliant essayist, satirist and writer, Twain was an avid weather follower, often drawing amusing weather patterns in the margins of his novels (an example of which is shown in this photo).

Snowstorm 'a 'Comin'

WINTER STORM WARNING for our area, from 7 am Sunday through 7 pm Monday.

Okay, everyone - our upcoming storm is no laughing matter. Forget that lovely, light fluffy stuff that fell two days ago and you cleared away without breaking a sweat. This storm is forecast to feature 10-16 inches of moderate to heavier wetter snow, starting around 10 am on Sunday and continuing, heavy at times, into Monday afternoon. Also expect 15-25 mph winds and significantly reduced visibility at times. Taken together, this will mean isolated power outages due to the weight of the snow on tree limbs and power lines, and some roads will be impassable at times. (Heck, some roads were near-impassable with the fluffy, light stuff.) Travel will be slow at best on well treated surfaces and quite difficult on untreated surfaces. Residents across Southern New England are being advised to only travel in emergencies - if you have to travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your car. Take precautions now, and please stay safe out there!

Winterfest Amherst 2017 TODAY!

Winterfest Amherst 2017, 1-6 pm TODAY at Cherry Hill Golf Course, has hit the jackpot with snow. (Sometimes they actually have to work for it!) Tucked between last week's big snowstorm and tomorrow's (likely) big snowstorm, today's festivities are going to be everything you and your family love about winter. Don't miss out!

For more information, visit the Winterfest Amherst Facebook page here:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ice Ice Baby

National Weather Service photo by David P. Smith
shows ice accumulation of 1/2 inch on tree branch
Okay, folks, pay attention. WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY is currently in effect from 5 AM Tuesday to 3 AM Wednesday. The snow accumulation forecast for tomorrow has decreased to between 1-3 inches around here, BUT the potential ice accretion has increased. We can expect to see between a tenth to a quarter inch of ice accretion (freezing rain) around Amherst, with up to half an inch of ice across the higher terrain of far Northeast and North Central MA. Tomorrow's weather system is expected to start out as all snow between 5 and 9 am, changing to freezing rain by the late morning/early afternoon. It should eventually change to all rain by evening, but pockets of freezing rain may continue across the higher elevations.

It's going to be your basic weather mess. Hazardous travel all over, along with isolated power outages in areas of heavier ice accretion. There will likely be school closings as well. Be prepared for slippery roads, limited visibility, and other drivers who freak out in such weather. Best option if you can swing it - stay home and avoid the ice altogether.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Walking along Puffer's Pond

Looking for a brief respite from the noise and negativity of today? Come for a 90-second walk at Puffer's Pond. There is nothing like the solitude of nature (even brief and from a computer screen) to sooth the soul.

Video by regular Head in the Clouds Amherst contributor, Joshua Wolfsun.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Clouds at a Stoplight

Stoplight Clouds - Hadley MA
Photo by S. Vardatira, 1/16/2017
I snapped this picture while at a stoplight, barely looking through the viewfinder. I had no idea the clouds, the power lines, and the traffic lights were so beautifully symmetrical. (And, yes, this is untouched.) That shot won't come my way again.

Snow, sleet, and freezing rain - all in a day and night

Update on tomorrow's WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY:

Take heed - tomorrow's Winter Weather Advisory for Amherst and the surrounding region has moved earlier - now starting at noon Tuesday through 7 am Wednesday. So if you, like me, were thinking you had until Tuesday night to start considering the possibility of hazardous travel, guess again.

All models are coming into good agreement on the timing. Precipitation is expected to break out in Western MA and northern CT in the afternoon and spread eastward toward evening. That said, the most difficult part of this forecast is what precipitation to expect and when. So we don't know exactly what kind of precipitation will be falling in the afternoon.

Since this morning, NOAA has expanded the Winter Weather Advisory to include Central Middlesex and Western Essex Counties in Northwest MA. They have also upped snowfall totals significantly over interior and especially northern MA.

All models are predicting at least 3 inches of snow, with perhaps as much as 6 inches occurring in the Route 2 corridor of Northern MA. Best estimate is for 3-4 inches around here. Following the snow, sleet and freezing rain will be the predominant type of precipitation in Western MA before, most likely, changing to all rain. Up to one-tenth inch of ice accretion is expected, although NOAA is not ruling out local two-tenths amounts, especially in the slopes of the Berkshires.

A lot could change with this situation. A small change in temperature, both at the surface and aloft, could result in big changes of precipitation type and corresponding snowfall amounts.

And while the difference between 2 and 4 inches of snow isn’t going to make any of us break out in a panic, ice is another beast entirely. Keep in mind that even a thin coating of ice on untreated roadways can be dangerous. Please slow down and use caution if driving Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Could this be the end of "falling back"?

The case for Atlantic Time (from The Boston Globe,
"Why Mass. should defect from its time zone"
Could this be the end of "falling back" one hour every fall?! According to the Boston Globe, "A special commission meets at the State House at 11 a.m. today to start discussions on whether Massachusetts should move from the Eastern to the Atlantic time zone, and stay on Atlantic Standard Time all year round. We would gain more daylight at the end of the day in winter, but our clocks wouldn't always mesh with our Eastern Seaboard neighbors. The time would be the same when other states spring forward from March to November, but an hour later when those states fall back."

Confusing? Sure. But more daylight at the end of the day in winter??? I'm all for that! Plus, would our Eastern Seaboard neighboring states be far behind?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Snow Morning on The Common

Snow Morning on The Common, Amherst MA
Photo by Joshua Wolfsun, 12/30/2016
Many thanks to Joshua Wolfsun for sharing this breathtaking panoramic photo, taken just after dawn last Friday on S. Pleasant Street in downtown Amherst. It had snowed overnight, as you may recall. The Town Common is directly across the street, and the sun is about to rise over Porter House (Amherst College), to the right.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Special weather to usher out 2016

A "SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT" has just been released for our general area (including Eastern Hampshire County/Amherst) for snow starting later this evening between 7-10 pm and tapering off between 1-4 am. This is not the forecast one generally wishes for on New Year's Eve. Lower elevations (like here) may get a snow-rain mix at the beginning. Expect a coating of snow to 2 inches, more at higher elevations. In addition to the usual hazards of New Year's Eve travel, add slippery roads to the mix. Enjoy your evening, everyone - and stay safe out there.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Something (snow) stormy this way comes!

A WINTER STORM WATCH has now been posted for Amherst - and really all of Western and Northern Massachusetts - beginning Thursday morning, December 29, through Friday morning. If that sounds like a long period, you are correct. Computer models have converged around the fact that this is likely to be a significant snowstorm, but they are less decisive on timing. Somewhere between 4-8 inches of heavy, wet snow is currently forecast, with a high likelihood of at least 6 inches around here. Models currently have the snow starting up on Thursday morning, intensifying Thursday afternoon and early night. It all should taper off after midnight on Thursday. Expect hazardous driving conditions and poor visibility -- and increasing accuracy with respect to amounts and timing as we go through Wednesday.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 26 Freezing Rain Advisory

Black Ice Driveway
(see how deceptive black ice can be?)
Photo by S. Vardatira, Amherst MA
A FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY has been issued for 3-11 pm Monday, December 26, the first day of Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, third night of Chanukah, and generally busy shopping day around these parts. Location of the advisory includes Western and Central Massachusetts, encompassing Hampshire County and the surrounding areas. A few hundredths of an inch of light freezing rain is forecast, possibly with sleet mixed in. Although patches of light freezing rain may break out mid-afternoon Monday, it is more likely to occur early Monday evening. The main impact will be a light coating of ice on untreated roadways and sidewalks, which can be dangerous for anyone out and about at that time. Slow down and use caution while driving. Better yet, finish up early and spend the evening playing board games, lighting candles (if that's your tradition), or reading a good book. After about 11 pm, temperatures will have warmed to above freezing. And Tuesday will dawn soon after.