Monday, June 19, 2017

Weather this way comes

Storm clouds gathering (taken sometime in the past, not today)
Photo by S. Vardatira

For anyone who hasn’t already heard, we’re expecting isolated to scattered strong to severe thunderstorms over Western Massachusetts and North-Central Connecticut this afternoon and evening. Strong to damaging winds, frequent lightning and heavy rainfall, and flash flooding are the primary threats. Hail and perhaps even an isolated brief tornado are secondary threats. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect from Monday afternoon through late Monday night for Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Worcester and Northern Middlesex Counties of Western and Central Massachusetts and Hartford and Tolland Counties of Northern Connecticut.

I’m all set with my camera, umbrella, and rain jacket. Are you prepared?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Morning Fog at Campus Pond

Featured photo for May in the 2017 Head in the Clouds Amherst wall calendar. Photo by Stephanie O'Keeffe (thanks, Stephanie!)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

UMass Peregrine Falcon Camera is Live for 2017!

The UMass Amherst peregrine falcon camera is live for the 2017 season!

Peregrine falcons have nested on the roof of the UMass Du Bois Library since 2003, with the nest box "live cam viewable" for the past five years (starting in 2012). As of today, April 13, there were four eggs in the nest box. Last year, the mated pair successfully raised one chick. He hatched in late May 2016 and left the nest about a month later. May the weather this season be kind to our chicks.... watch on!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring in the midst of winter

Despite the sub-zero wind chills, spring is in full bloom over at the Smith College Botanic Garden! For more information, click here.

Smith College Bulb Show - 2017
Photo by S. Vardatira

Smith College Bulb Show - 2017
Photo by S. Vardatira

Smith College Bulb Show- 2017
Photo by S. Vardatira

Smith College Bulb Show - 2017
Photo by S. Vardatira

Cold and Snow

Snow Falling at Cushman Brook, North Amherst
Photo by S. Vardatira
Winter isn't going anywhere for the time being, as we look towards a SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM this upcoming week. Tonight’s temperatures bottom out at zero to 10 above, with bitter cold wind chills at around -5 to -15 late tonight and Sun morning. Another round of wind chill advisories will likely be issued for the higher terrain in Central and Western MA, where -15 to -20 wind chills are expected. Near record cold maxes are possible again Sunday with highs in the mid-20s, except upper teens in the higher terrain.

As for the storm possibility, confidence is increasing for a significant winter storm Tuesday into Tuesday night, and it will continue to be colder than normal for much of next week. Less clear is how, exactly, Tuesday's storm will affect us. As is often the case, storm track - and thus snowfall accumulation – is still a question. The energy associated with this system is still located in the Arctic, so it won't be until later today or even Sunday that computer models start to converge around what is likely to happen. Right now, some models show the system tracking off the southern New England coast, with others bringing it closer to shore. That said, models seem to be moving towards the system tracking closer to land. If that continues to be the case, we could be seeing more snow around here rather than less, easily reaching 6-12 inches with potentially 12-18 inches. But remember we’re still three days out, and the situation can change significantly before Tuesday.

Once the storm passes, we will continue with generally dry conditions and below normal temperatures as high pressure builds over the region. And just in case you're thinking this upcoming storm will be the end of it, another system approaches toward next weekend with the potential for rain/snow. Ah, winter. Seems the groundhog had it right!

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.