Northeast Weather Blog

Active weather pattern this week/cool season crops

By: sullivanweather, 9:31 AM GMT on March 30, 2009

Current watches, warnings and advisories.


Eastern US current watches/warnings
Fig.1 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.

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The seasons’ first severe weather outbreak occurred yesterday afternoon and evening from south-central Pennsylvania eastward through much of New Jersey, southeast New York and extreme southwestern New England. An upper level disturbance advanced towards the region via the Ohio Valley, the same system that gave the Central/Southern Plains into the Upper Midwest significant snowfall and blizzard conditions. Synoptically, a strong/divergent flow aloft combined with a window of clearing skies ahead of an advancing cold front. This cold front was preceded by a surface warm front, putting southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey in the warm unstable sector of the storm, increasing lapse rates and giving rise to the development of the storms. These storms were also aided by the development of a surface triple point low along the juxtaposition of the surface frontal features and rapid height falls/cold pool aloft. Overall, 47 severe weather reports were logged, mostly comprised of dime to quarter-sized hail, although there were several high wind reports and downed trees and power lines.



Synopsis - Issued - 3/30/09 @5:30am

A much more active weather pattern is upcoming for the Northeast, which should bring beneficial rainfall to the region. The CPC drought monitor now places much of southern Pennsylvania, all of New Jersey, southeastern New York and extreme southwestern New England in the abnormally dry category with D1 (moderate) drought conditions just south of the Mason-Dixon line at our doorstep. Today, an upper level low will drift across the region bringing mostly cloudy skies and generally unsettled weather to the region. Across the higher terrain of the interior scattered snow showers may bring a couple inches of snowfall but most other locations will see non-accumulating snow showers transitioning to plain ol’ rain showers along the coastal plain. High pressure builds in on Tuesday before another trough approaches for Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, the next system will move into the region and will hopefully be mostly out of the picture to give the Northeast a quiet end to the weekend.


Short-term - Issued 3/30/09 @5:30am

A solid shield of rainfall is currently pushing through eastern Maine and should be moving into the Canadian Maritimes by daybreak. Thus far, this area of rain combined with melting snow has yet to produce any flooding of significance as most rivers are within their banks, although ponding of water on area roadways has been reported. As the surface low pressure moves offshore and colder air filters into Maine rain will change over to snow and may accumulate several inches in far northern Maine in a developing deformation band/trowal. Further west, an upper level low pressure system is slowly rotating across New York State producing scattered to numerous showers. Across the higher terrain of western/central Pennsylvania, this precipitation has been falling in the form of snow with Bradford, PA now reporting light snow for several hours. As colder air gradually filters into the region expect the rain showers to gradually transition to snow showers towards daybreak, especially in elevations above 1000’. The upper low will slowly drift to the coast by late afternoon, bringing mostly cloudy skies to the region along with scattered showers. Across the higher terrain, mainly above 1,500’ during the daylight hours, precipitation will be in the form of snow where an inch or two may accumulate, mainly on the grassy surfaces. With such a cold airmass aloft (500mb temps –20 to -25°C) it wouldn’t be surprising if a few short-lived thunderstorm cells pop up given the high lapse rates, capable of producing short bouts of heavy rainfall and perhaps some small hail. Skies will gradually clear across southwestern Pennsylvania during the afternoon as drier air advects into the region. Highs today will fall below average for the first time in about a week as temperatures will struggle to climb into the 40’s across the interior and 30’s will be found across the higher terrain and northern Maine where snow will be falling. Along the southern coastal plain and across southwestern Pennsylvania west of the Appalachians enough breaks in the cloud cover will allow temperatures to reach into the 50’s given the now strong late March sun (Sun angle now is comparable to mid-September). Winds will be out of the west-northwest at 10-20mph.

Skies will gradually clear tonight from west to east as high pressure builds into the Northeast providing subsidence and advecting drier air into the region. A few leftover snow showers may be found across the higher terrain of northern New York and New England but with limited moisture there shouldn’t amount to much. Lows will fall back into the mid 20’s to low 30’s across much of upstate New York, north-central Pennsylvania and the higher terrain of New England. Along the coastal plain and southern interior temperatures will drop back into the mid 30’s to low 40’s. Low-level moisture trapped under an increasing subsidence inversion provided by the building surface high may lead to locally dense fog in low lying areas and river valley locations. Winds will be out of the west-northwest around 10-15mph but will gradually diminish during the evening hours, becoming nearly calm across the western half of the region after midnight.


Surface high pressure will dominate over the Northeast on Tuesday with mostly sunny skies and moderating temperatures. The only exception will be over northern New England where lingering effects of the pesky upper level low may hang around during the morning hours before skies clear during the afternoon. Any localized areas of fog will quickly burn off after mid-morning. Temperatures will respond nicely to the strong late March sun with highs pushing into the 50’s across most areas with even a few 60’s across the southern coastal plain and southwestern Pennsylvania. Only the higher terrain will fail top reach into the 50’s. Winds will be light and variable.

The high pressure is rather quick to move offshore Tuesday night, giving way to an approaching trough from the west. However, other than an increase in high clouds, most of the precipitation associated with the advancing trough will hold off until Wednesday. The high will provide ideal radiational cooling conditions across much of New England where low temperatures will bottom out below freezing across much of the interior. The same bodes for upstate New York where high clouds will move in a little too late to hold up temperatures. Along the coastal plain, lows won’t drop below freezing but should get down into the mid 30’s to low 40’s. Further west, increasing high cloudiness and an increasing southerly flow will cause temperatures to hold steady or rise after midnight after dropping down into the mid to upper 30’s.


Mid-term - Issued - 3/30/09 @5:30am


Once again, the main area of low pressure associated with the next trough will move well to the northwest of the region, wrapping up over Minnesota. This will place the Northeast on the warm side of the storm with a 40-50kt southerly low level jet helping to pump modest amounts of Gulf moisture into the region. Expect rain showers to break out during the morning hours across western New York and Pennsylvania, pushing east to the New England border by evening. This area of rainfall will slowly outrun its upper support over the Great Lakes region so the showers should weaken as they push east during the day on Wednesday. Rainfall amounts of up to a half inch can be expected across the western sects, but gradually tapering to a tenth to a quarter inch across eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York and New Jersey. Across New England high pressure should hold off much of the precipitation until after dusk, though high clouds will be in the increase. Temperatures should climb to normal levels.


The trough will slow down and stall over the coastal plain and western New England late Wednesday night into Thursday as the tough axis aligns to the upper flow aloft. Scattered showers will continue to fall along this boundary into Thursday with mainly precipitation-free conditions across the western half of the region and eastern Maine. Clouds will be quite prevalent, however, as moist southerly flow in the low levels will continue. Temperatures will continue to average near normal during the day and slightly above normal at night considering the mainly cloudy skies expected.



Long-term - Issued - 3/30/09 @5:30am


The next in a series of troughs will approach from the southwest on Friday. Yet another strong upper level disturbance will push out of the Plains and towards the region, this time, taking a more southerly route to get here, across the Tennessee Valley and moving to the Delmarva Coast by Friday night. This system appears to carry with it a bit more moisture and rainfall amounts should range from a half into to an inch and a quarter, especially across the southern half of the region closest to the track of the surface low. This low will move offshore during the day on Saturday but some wrap-around moisture will keep things unsettled, especially across eastern New York and New England. By Sunday, mostly sunny skies will once again grace the Northeast under high pressure.



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Fig.2 - USDA plant hardiness zone map of the eastern United States circa 1990. Credit: USDA

Garden Series

Blog 1: Planning the Garden


In the previous blog we discussed the steps needed to be taken early in the season to plan the garden and some of the work needed to prepare it for planting. Now that we're started the next steps that need to be taken involve basics in weed control, garden pests and fertilization of the soil keeping in mind that we want to put in a garden in accordance with nature (i.e. organic!). Also, this may be the time you'll want to start a compost heap or bin. Although we briefly discussed amending the soil in the previous blog I will try to provide additional information that will help you find the appropriate fertilizer to the corresponding crops. I also want to discuss some crops that you could start early in the season that are frost tolerant that perform best while the weather is still cool.

First we'll concentrate on amending the soil. Even though certain crops require specific soil types and fertilizers you'll want to have a basic fertile foundation soil. Before you go out and purchase bags upon bags of soil, look around the your yard for anything that you could use to amend the soil with. If you're into yard work there's likely a pile of grass clippings or leaf mulch that has been rotting in an unused corner of your yard that you've been dying to get rid of, here's your chance. Find the most broken down parts of this pile and mix it into the garden dirt to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Now, grass clippings only go so far and if you plan on raising your beds you'll have to consider buying soil. The size of your garden will determine how much of what you'll need to purchase. I highly recommend adding peat moss to the soil, especially if your soil is sandy but even if it is hard clay. Peat moss helps to aerate soil and increase its ability to hold moisture. A 3.8 cubic foot bale will amend an area of 150 to 200 square feet and cost 8 to 10 dollars. Peat moss will come very dry, resemble saw dust and will have to be worked deep into the soil (top 6 inches) otherwise a heavy rainfall soon after adding it will likely wash it away or have it form clumps on the surface of the soil. Secondly, you'll also want to add peat humus to your soil, which is a dark coloured highly organic soil. Humus is the last stage organic material breaks down into and has many benefits in the garden. It helps with the breakdown of organic material and nutrients into forms that makes it easy for plants to uptake into their roots, moderates the acidity or alkalinity of soil and its dark colour helps to warm the soil temperature in spring. Peat humus can be found in 40 pound bags for around 2 to 3 dollars a bag. Add a 40 pound bag of peat humus for every 20-30 square feet of garden space and work into the top 4 inches of soil. In addition to the soil amendments, you'll want to add an all-purpose fertilizer to provide your plants a source of nutrients. Remember, buy an organic (non-chemical) fertilizer. I'll provide links at the bottom for such products.

There's only a few varieties weeds that over-winter and have begun to grow but soon there'll be many more weeds that will begin their growing season as soil temperatures are now beginning to rise aiding in their germination. There's several methods of weed prevention in the garden, however, there's only one I recommend - using a cultivator. Whether a long handled cultivator or a hand cultivator this method works best for it not only gets rid of the weeds but also aerates the soils. When using a cultivator be especially careful to get the weeds and not the crops or their roots which happens if one it not paying attention. For shallow rooted plants or root crops it is best to simply pull those weeds by hand. There's plenty of other ways of weed prevention, such as laying plastic or felt, but sometimes weeds still grow through and it also makes it impossible for the soil to get proper aeration and could also lead to mold/fungal disease. Again, the goal here is to avoid using any chemicals. I cannot stress this enough.

Now is also a time you may want to think about pest prevention so you won't have to deal with them later on in the year. As you were turning your soil you may have noticed white, brown or gray worms occasionally. These are cutworms, grubs and/or beetle larvae and will do significant damage to your young crops if left unchecked. Finding and killing these pests is not enough, there’s too many of them in the soil. A wonderful control method to rid yourself of these pests is beneficial nematodes, which can be bought from a website I will provide a link for at the bottom of the page. This company specializes in organic products that you could use in pest control and prevention and will send a great mail order catalogue. There's also a plethora of other garden pests that will show up as temperatures warm later into the spring and summer. There’s also certain flowers that you can plant in your garden that will attract natural predators that will feed on pests. Early in the season alyssum is a frost tolerant flowering annual that can be planted along garden borders to help get this process started.


Beets
Beets are a highly nutritious root crop which requires a high phosphorous, low nitrogen soil free of rocks or other debris. Beets also require a higher alkaline soil than most crops, so if you had used peat moss to amend the soil you may want to consider using lime to raise the soil PH as peat moss will gradually turn soil acidic. About a pound of lime per 20 square feet will do. Beets will tolerate frost so can be sowed directly into the garden a week or two before your last expected frost. Sow seeds an inch apart in rows about 1/2 inch deep and cover with fine soil. Once the seedlings appear you’ll want to thin every other plant. Seeds can be identified by their reddish purple colour. After the second and third sets of leaves appear you’ll want to thin again, leaving the strongest looking plants about 4-6 inches apart. Beets perform relatively poor if having to compete with weeds. Around the plants themselves you’ll want to pull the weeds by hand making sure not to disturb the root of the plant. Beets also need a steady supply of moisture. A lack of moisture will cause leaves to wilt and the root to not develop fully and become bitter to the taste. The entire plant is edible. Beet greens can be harvested early for a highly nutritious side dish, but leaving enough leaves on the plant to ensure proper food production. The root will normally mature in 50-70 days. Leaving beets in the ground too long will make their root become woody and tough in addition to losing flavour.

Broccoli
Broccoli is a highly versatile crop which performs best in the ‘cool season’ but there are varieties that can be grown where temperatures during the summer are routinely hot, although they will typically require shade during the hottest time of the day. A neutral PH soil is what broccoli prefers best although the crop will tolerate acidic or alkaline soil. Soil high in organic matter is preferred and should be fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Seeds should be sowed 1/2 inch deep about 2 inches apart and covered with fine soil. After seedlings appear and have grown their second sets of leaves thin plants to every foot apart. These plants also require a moist soil and grow very quickly once established. Harvest broccoli heads once the buds of the flowers begin to swell. You will only have a 2-3 day window to harvest the heads as the flowers will open quickly if left much longer. Cut the stalk about 4 to 6 inches below the base of the head. Broccoli will continue to produce side shoots for weeks afterwards into the summer.

Carrots
A root crop which needs deep, loose stone-free soil in order to maximize it’s performance. Carrots require full sun but will tolerate partial shade, especially if started late in the spring which will take the plant into the hottest time of the year. You may want to add the ashes from a wood fire to amend the soil as this adds potassium to the soil which promotes sweeter crisper carrots and will also ward off common pests to carrots. Too much nitrogen will make carrots mealy and fibrous roots susceptible to branching. Carrots can be directly sowed into the garden 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost as they will tolerate freezing temperatures to 28 degrees. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, cover with fine soil and keep moist. Carrots are slow growers and will need to have weeds removed by hand until plants are several inches tall. After the plants reach 2-3 inches tall thin the plants to roughly 3 inch spacing. After 60-80 days remove some dirt from around the crown of the carrot. If the crown of the carrot is ~1 inch wide it is time to harvest, keeping in mind that leaving the crop in the ground too long will cause the carrot to become tough.

Cauliflower
A true cool season crop which doesn’t tolerate hot weather and can be started 4 weeks before the last frost. Cauliflower should be planted in fertile soil rich in organic material. Cauliflower is also a heavy feeder and will need additional fertilization every 3rd or 4th week. Seeds should be started indoors early in the season and transplanted outside once plants are 2 inches tall. Seeds can also be sowed directly into the soil soon after it can be worked (zones 3-4). Seedlings take about 4-6 weeks to appear so patience is required and another good reason to start indoors to make for easier identification. Cauliflower prefers evenly moist soil and should be kept well watered. Once heads begin to form in about 4 or 5 months you’ll have to blanch the heads by covering them with the leaves of the plant or a brown paper bag. This blanching process will help to keep the heads white in colour but do not leave the heads on the plant too long otherwise they will lose their crispness. Cauliflower leaves are also edible.

Celery
Celery is a mild flavoured cool season crop which is a dieters dream vegetable for it contains many vitamins and nutrients but virtually no calories. Celery prefers full sun and well-drained soil loosened to a depth of around a foot. Seeds should be started indoors 10 weeks before the last frost, but can be directly sowed into the garden in zones 3-4. If sowing seeds directly into the garden sow them just under the soil surface 2-3 inches apart and cover with fine soil. After seedlings are 2-3 inches tall thin to a spacing of around a foot apart. Celery has a long growing season and are heavy feeders, so make sure to apply fresh compost or fertilizer at regular intervals of around 4 weeks. Once plants are around a foot tall you’ll want to blanch them by wrapping their stalks with screening or paper. This helps to keep them tender.

Chard
Chard is a cool season crop related to the beet and used for the large leafy ‘greens’ chard which comes in many different colours. Chard is another vegetable which can be directly sowed into the garden very early in the season, 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Seeds should be sowed at a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch at a spacing of 2 inches and covered with fine soil. To increase your harvest you can thin the plants to 4 inches apart until they’re 6 inches tall. Then remove every other plant in a final thinning to leave plants 8 inches apart, using the plant you had thinned. Harvest leaves throughout the season before they’re on the plant for too long as the stalks, or chard, of the leaves will become tough and the leaves will lose flavour. Also, use the chard leaves soon after harvesting, for they do not keep well, on the order of just a few days.

Leeks
Leeks are another cool season crop in the onion family which does not tolerate temperatures much above 80 degrees. Leeks are best started indoors as some varieties require a 5 to 6 month growing season. Whether transplanting leeks into the garden or directly sowing them, you’ll want to have a 1-2 inch trench to plant them into. As the leeks grow gradually fill in the trench with soil. Leeks will tolerate heavy frosts but not hard freezes, so make sure to harvest the leeks before temperatures drop below 24 degrees. Leeks store quite well for several months in crisper bins.

Lettuce
Lettuce is a cool season crop that comes in many varieties of colour, taste and texture. Lettuce should be directly sowed into the garden a week or two before the last frost. Most lettuce varieties will tolerate temperatures down to 28 degrees but not much lower. Full sun and well drained soil are essential for earlier plantings while later plantings towards late spring and summer should be of a heat-tolerant variety and will prefer a couple of hours of shade during the hottest time of the day. Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and cover with fine soil about 2 inches apart. After seedlings emerge thin to around 6 inches apart for leaf lettuce and a foot or more apart for head lettuce. Lettuce requires an inch or more of rainfall per week and an evenly moist soil. When harvesting lettuce you’ll want to do so early in the morning while the leaves have their highest moisture content.

Onions
Onions are a bulb that require slightly acidic soil high in organic material. Onions can be planted by seed or purchased at your local nursery as small bulbs. Onions can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked and depending on the variety will take from 100 to 160 days to mature for harvest. If planting bulbs set them roughly 4 inches apart. If sowing by seed an inch apart will do. After seedlings emerge thin to the required 4 inch spacing. Onions do not like crowding so be sure to keep their immediate vicinity free of weeds. Since onions have a long growing season a future blog will provide information on maintenance and harvesting.

Peas
Peas should be sowed into your garden as soon as the soil can be worked as they can tolerate rather chilly temperatures down to 22 degrees. Soak pea seeds in water overnight before planting as this will aid in germination. Peas require as much sun as possible as shade will reduce their sugar content and make them mealy/starchy. Peas will grow even in poor soil and will not require much fertilizer, but growing them in fertile soil does enhance their flavour. Peas are also shallow rooted so they will require regular watering, but not in excess. Peas are ready for harvest after the pods become plump. Daily harvesting will prolong crop production and keep peas from becoming hard/starchy. Peas will lose flavour quickly after harvesting, so blanching your harvest may be necessary. This blanching process will also be discussed in a future blog. Peas can also be stored by drying.

Potatoes
Potatoes are a tuber, or stem plant high in starch and a staple food crop. Potatoes grow best in sandy soil high in organic material which is well-drained. Seed potatoes can be purchased from your local nursery or whole potatoes which have grown eyes can be cut and planted. If you plan on using cut potatoes you’ll want to leave them out for a couple of days to dry out and heal, otherwise they will be susceptible to rotting. Potatoes can be planted a couple to several weeks before the last frost depending on the variety. Make sure you loosen the soil rather deep and remove as many rocks as possible as these tubers will need room to grow. When planting dig a trench and place potato seeds or cuttings in the trench and fill with soil right to the top of the tubers. As the shoots emerge and begin to grow you may also want to add organic compost around the plants as this will help to keep these plants well fed and help to support them upright.

Radish
Radish is a fast growing cool season crop ideal for adding to salads and in certain cooking dishes. Being a root crop, radish prefers loose well-drained soil free of rocks or other debris. Radishes can also be companion planted with many other crops for they deter certain pests, will not compete for space and will often be harvested before the other crops will need it. Radishes can be sowed directly into the garden at a depth of a 1/4 to 1/2 an inch 3 inches apart. Seedlings will emerge in 5-8 days depending on soil and weather conditions. For a continuing harvest radishes can be planted every 2 weeks through September. Radishes are usually ready for harvest between 25-35 days and should not be left in the ground too long for they will become woody and split.

Spinach
A cool season crop and one of the first crops to be planted in the spring, spinach is highly nutritious and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The soil should be loosened to a depth of around a foot and high in organic material. The spot you choose should receive full sun, although if planted later in the season may require a few hours of afternoon shade and should also be a heat-tolerant/drought-resistant variety. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart and cover with fine soil. Once seedlings emerge thin to 8 inches apart and add a top dressing of compost. Spinach should be kept moist and well cultivated. Harvest individual leaves as soon as they’re big enough to eat. However, smaller leaves can be harvested early for spinach salad or mesclun mix.

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Soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm
Soil moisture 0-200cm
Fig.3 - Weekly averaged soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature 0-10cm
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Fig.4 - 6-hourly updated 0-10cm soil temperature. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature and anomalies 10-40cm
Soil temperature 10-40cm
Fig.5 - Weekly updated 10-40cm soil temperature and anomalies. Credit: NOAA


Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C




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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Fig.6 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

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Current snowcover

Northeast Snowcover
Fig.7 - Snow cover as of March 14th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Fig.8 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Spring is in the air

By: sullivanweather, 8:57 PM GMT on March 15, 2009

Current watches, warnings and advisories.


Eastern US current watches/warnings
Fig.1 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.

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Forecast Discussion


Synopsis - Issued - 3/15/09 @5:00pm

The weather pattern over the Northeast will stay rather quiet over the next 6-7 days with high pressure dominating much of the period. The only hiccups from the benign weather will come from a minor trough passage late Monday into very early Tuesday morning and a shortwave riding along a cold front dropping south into the region Wednesday night into Thursday. Temperatures will run several degrees warmer than normal until the cold frontal passage when they drop back to normal or slightly below.


Short-term - Issued - 3/15/09 @5:00pm


A wonderful early spring(meteorological) afternoon this Sunday for much of the Northeast. Visible satellite shows crystal clear skies extending from the Niagara Frontier to the New England coast on south across much of northern Pennsylvania. Some high clouds extend over northern New Jersey and southeast New York but these are doing very little to inhibit the strong March sun. Temperatures have responded by climbing into the 50’s across much of the region. Even the snow-covered higher terrain has pushed up into the mid to upper 40’s. The air is still somewhat chilly over northern Maine, where a weak cold front as cut into the region. Broken stratocumulus to overcast skies have been in place for much of the day with scattered flurries and temperatures holding in the 20’s, still winter there. Across southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania is where one will run into some more clouds as a shortwave disturbance pushes off the Mid-Atlantic Coast. This system is bringing beneficial rains with the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast but only a few light sprinkles north of the Mason-Dixon line, mainly in southern New Jersey. The cloud cover is holding temperatures down in the 40’s, however, but still close to average.

The Mid-Atlantic disturbances pulls out to sea tonight but clouds will remain in its wake across much of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There clouds will produce little, if any, precipitation but they will keep temperatures held up overnight, in the upper 30’s to low 40’s. Further north, the cold front slowly pushing south into Maine will become increasingly aligned to the deep-layer west-northwesterly flow and stall. It will be a vastly colder night north of the front with lows across northern Maine dropping into the single digits and below zero. To the south of the front skies will be mainly clear and winds should decouple in most areas, so radiational cooling should be optimized and temperatures should drop back into the 20’s for most locations away from the immediate coast. Black ice may develop in many areas where snowcover still exists as temperatures today have triggered melting.

Black ice threat ends mid morning on Monday as ample sun should push temperatures back above freezing early in most locations south of the stalled front across northern New England. Clouds will increase from the south late in the morning and into the afternoon as a weak trough approaches from the southwest, however, with high pressure building into northern New England from Canada and a broadly confluent flow over the region, this system will weaken and become sheared. South of the front temperatures will climb into the upper 40’s to mid 50’s once again by noon before thicker clouds move in and put a cap on the temperature rise. Northern New England, on the other hand, will still remain in the icebox. Mostly sunny skies will take the edge off the cold, but temperatures will still only climb into the upper 20’s to mid 30’s.

Some light precipitation, mainly rain, finally sneaks into Pennsylvania and New Jersey Monday evening into the overnight. There may be a few sleet pellets or snow flurries to mix in over the higher terrain but temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for the event in all areas. Amounts look very light, under a tenth of an inch, and coverage should be spotty, especially with the ambient dryness of the air. Further north, high pressure will be in control and conditions appear prime for another night of strong radiational cooling. Once again, northern Maine will see temperatures near the zero degree mark with teens and 20’s across the remainder of the northern interior.


Mid-term - Issued - 3/15/09 @5:00pm


The midterm portion of the forecast begins with a classic early spring day. Continental high pressure building over Nova Scotia and offshore New England waters as a developing low several hundred miles southeast of Long Island begins to feed off the naturally baroclinic environment provided by the Gulf Stream. The result of this tends to bring a raw easterly to northeasterly wind and marine layer to the immediate coast from Cape Cod on south to Cape May and general chilliness along the east side of the Appalachians as cold air wedges south along the banks of the mountains. Meanwhile, locations west of the Appalachians see an increasingly southwesterly flow under mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures.

Deep-layer ridging builds from the west Tuesday night into Wednesday, with westerly flow increasing, ridding the Northeast of the nasty maritime wedge by Wednesday morning. A cold front will begin to drop south from Canada during the afternoon hours on Wednesday but this will not arrive in time to spoil what is looking to another mild early spring day. Temperatures should climb to near their highest readings thus far this year for the southern half of the region, while the increase in clouds associated with the front to the north will hold temperatures down in this region.

The front pushes south Wednesday night as a shortwave pushing south into the Upper Midwest spawns a weak wave of low pressure that will ride along the frontal boundary. Precipitation will increase along the front as the disturbance moves along it with some of this falling as snow after midnight across the higher terrain of northern Pennsylvania into the Catskills and Berkshires. Any lingering precipitation should end Thursday morning as flurries or sprinkles with the front pushing offshore and high pressure building southeast from central Canada. The airmass does appear to be cold enough for a weak lake response late Thursday afternoon into the overnight.


Long-term - Issued - 3/15/09 @5:00pm


The aforementioned high will dominate the weather Friday into Saturday over the region, bringing mostly clear skies and temperatures back below normal. The next trough approaches for the second half of the weekend and should contain some wintry weather for the northern half of the region while the jury remains out for the southern half of the region where it could go either way depending on the storm track.


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Fig.2 - USDA plant hardiness zone map of the eastern United States circa 1990. Credit: USDA

Gardening is something we could all do whether or not we have land, a front porch or back deck. There’s many benefits for one to grow their own food, including savings on grocery bills, eating healthier, and reducing ones’ impact on the environment. It takes many pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, the burning of fossil fuels/subsequent release of greenhouse gasses and the clearing of forest in order for large commercial operations to bring food from the farm to the grocery store and finally to ones’ dinner table. A well organized garden could provide vegetables for ones’ family for 4-10 months out of the year (Northeast region), depending on ones’ taste and diet. That being said, a section of this blog will now be dedicated to gardening and will provide some background to when one should have certain tasks completed by and some methods for doing so.


For Northeast locations where the snow has melted now is a good time to begin your garden preparations. If one doesn't have a garden and is thinking about installing one, this is the time you should choose the location for your garden. It is essential that a spot be chosen that receives at a minimum, 8 hours of direct sunlight. The more sun the better. Be mindful of any trees that have yet to leaf out. In choosing the spot for the garden you want to have a plan of what vegetables you'd like to grow. Certain plants require lots of space while others not so much. It is wise to plan for this aspect of your garden early. If you're a first time gardener you'll be very surprised at how large and spread out certain crops get by August and you'll want to leave yourself space for harvesting.

Once a spot is chosen, you want to begin turning the dirt, removing as many stones as possible. For us here in the Northeast this is the most back breaking aspect of gardening for our soil is very rocky due to the area being near the extent of the vast glaciers that once covered the area at the peak of the ice ages. You want to have a bucket handy to put any rocks and stones into. You can either get rid of these stones by dumping them in a location of your choosing or save them for garden pathways. In my garden I chose the latter. There's many techniques to turning the soil. If time is short and you're not looking for a good workout, having or renting a rototiller is the easiest way to get the job done. For those of us that like to get dirty there's various other methods of turning the soil. The one I recommend is using a pick axe with a broad side opposite the pick. Other methods include using a durable pitch-fork, or a plain ol' shovel. Start at a corner of the garden plot working down about 10-14 inches. After you have yourself a hole you'll find it easier to chip dirt off the sides of the hole rather than going down from the surface. While working on this process it is essential to take frequent breaks and drink lots of water if your method of turning the soil is manual labor. As you're turning the soil take note of its consistency. Is it sandy? Does it have lots of clay? You may need to make an initial amendment to the soil during this stage to save yourself some time later on down the line when the richer top soil is added to raise the bed. The layer you're working on now will become the sub-strata and you want to make sure that the roots of your crops will be able to easily penetrate into this layer of the soil for the nutrients top soil alone doesn't provide. If your soil is heavy, add some peat moss and sand to lighten it. If your soil is sandy add in organic material such as leaf/grass clippings and peat.

Once this step is complete it is time to rake the area flat. You'll encounter many stones during this process so have your bucket handy. You'll want to rake through the soil several times, removing as many stones as possible, especially if you plan on planting root crops such as carrots or parsnips. In my garden the beds are raised and I highly recommend this method for vegetable garden beds. It has various advantages over more traditional garden beds that are at level with their surroundings For one, it makes for faster drainage of rainwater which helps to prevent fungus and rotting of your crops. Secondly, it helps make your garden aesthetically pleasing to the eye and gives you a place to put all those stones you’ll encounter.

To raise your garden beds you’ll want to have a border that’ll be able to hold back your soil. Bricks, fieldstone placed up on end, non-treated wood, logs from a fallen tree are all very good at getting the job done. You’ll want to outline your garden beds with these materials while placing the stones you have dug out of the garden in the paths along the outside. The stones will help with drainage and help to brace the outside of your border. Be mindful that this step is going to take several days to a week to complete, especially if your time is short. If you feel as though things are going slow don’t be discouraged. The work you have to put into preparation is tedious but well worth the effort.

By now you should have your garden plotted, soil turned, borders set and paths installed. This next step is very important, especially if you live in an area where deer roam (and who doesn’t). You’ll want to install some type of fencing to keep them out of your garden being mindful of other various small animals that may enter your garden as well. The first step will be selecting proper fence posts. You’ll want to get fence posts that are at least 6 feet tall (preferably 8 feet) and a correspondingly tall fence (as well as chicken wire fencing *optional). Sink the fence posts at least 18 to 24 inches into the ground to make sure they’re sturdy. After putting the fence posts into the ground dig a 6 inch trench between the fence posts then attach the fencing to the posts. Once the fencing is attached to the posts it is time to attach sections of chicken wire fencing to the primary fencing at the ground level. Cut a section of chicken wire to the length of the trenches you have dug between the fence posts. Lay the chicken wire into the base of the of the trenches and lean up the side of the primary fencing. Fill in your trenches with the dirt you removed and twist the cut ends of the chicken wire to the primary fencing. The reason for attaching the chicken wire fencing and burying it into the ground is to keep out smaller garden pests such as rabbits.

You’re now almost complete in your garden preparation. The garden is plotted out, borders are in, fencing is up and now it is time to amend your soil and raise your beds. If you’re putting in a garden for the first time it is very likely that your soil is not of great quality, especially if where you decided to put your garden used to be a lawn. You’re going to want to add plenty of organic material to your beds to increase the fertility of the soil. The easiest way to do this is to buy bags of high organic top soil. However, with a little intuition, one can find plenty of organic material lying around ones’ property. Many of us have places where we put yard waste, such as grass clippings, leaf piles etc. Wooded areas also can be a prime area to find high organic material to amend the soil with. Raking the top layer of leaves from a wooded area will reveal several inches of highly organic topsoil. Whichever method you use of getting this soil, upon having it you’ll want to incorporate this material into your garden bed, raising the level of the soil 6 to 8 inches, at least. In addition to adding soil to your garden beds you’ll also want to add an all-purpose organic fertilizer and work this into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.

Depending on how much time you have on your hands to complete these steps you’ll have yourself a garden ready for planting. The next blog in this garden series will be frost-hardy plants that you can start to put into the ground early in the season.



Soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm
Soil moisture 0-200cm
Fig.3 - Weekly averaged soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature 0-10cm
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Fig.4 - 6-hourly updated 0-10cm soil temperature. Credit: NOAA

Soil temperature and anomalies 10-40cm
Soil temperature 10-40cm
Fig.5 - Weekly updated 10-40cm soil temperature and anomalies. Credit: NOAA


Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C




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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Fig.6 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

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Current snowcover

Northeast Snowcover
Fig.7 - Snow cover as of March 14th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Fig.8 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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2008-09 Winter Forecast


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Updated: 4:50 PM GMT on March 17, 2009

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Nor'easter bears down on Northeast

By: sullivanweather, 11:14 AM GMT on March 01, 2009

Current watches, warnings and advisories.


Eastern US current watches/warnings
Fig.1 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.

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Forecast Discussion


Synopsis - Issued - 3/1/09 @6:15am


After days of numerous twists and turns in the models, the 500mb closed low and attendant surface low over the Southeast is now being resolved with consensus by forecast models. The surface low will lift up the East Coast today and Monday as the 500mb low opens and phases with a disturbance dropping into the Northeast out of the northern stream. Heavy snow will move over the eastern half of the Northeast with near blizzard conditions along the coast. Meanwhile, the western half of the region will see very little of this storm with high pressure in control. As the storm lifts north into Canada on Tuesday scattered wrap-around and lake effect snows will affect the interior as arctic airmass settles over the region. The cold lingers into Wednesday under fair skies with moderating temperatures by Thursday. Another trough moves into the picture to close out the week with snow to the north and a mix or rain to the south.


Near-term - Issued - 3/1/09 @6:15am


The first wave of low pressure is currently moving northeast, over the near-shore waters of the Jersey Coast. Light snow extends along the coastal plain from Philadelphia to southern New England, with a couple pockets of moderate snow embedded over Long Island and along the south coast of New England. Locations along the immediate shoreline are seeing snow mix in with rain on occasion but most reporting stations are receiving snow. Temperatures across the region this morning are very chilly, with single digits and below zero readings being reported across the North Country. Elsewhere over the interior temperatures range from the teens to mid 20’s rising to the upper 20’s to low 30’s along the coastal plain.

Snow continues along the coastal plain during the morning hours before tapering off in the early afternoon as the disturbance heads out to sea. Snowfall accumulations through noon should range from 1-2 inches along the coastal plain with the first wave of low pressure. A brief lull will occur between systems as the storm over the Southeast slowly gets organized. Skies will be mostly cloudy across the eastern half of the region, with thinner clouds of less coverage over the western half of the region. Highs today will climb into the 30’s along the coast with teens and 20’s inland. Winds will begin to increase out of the northeast, especially across the eastern half of the region, ranging from 10-15mph.


Short-term - Issued - 3/1/09 @6:15am


Conditions go downhill rapidly tonight as low pressure along the coast of the Carolinas pushes northeast, along a tightening baroclinic zone. To give an idea of the temperature spread across the region, just 100 miles offshore 850mb temps are running 10-12°C while just north of Lake Ontario 850mb temps are progged to be around –20°C! Quite a spread over such a short span and providing plenty of baroclinic energy for the surface low to feed from. At mid and upper levels the parameters of the storm are nearly as impressive. The region sits squarely under a coupled jet structure with one speed max of ~130kts rounding the base of the trough and a second speed max of ~130kts over northern New England. Combined with developing deformation banding, 850-500mb frontogenesis and the above-mentioned jet dynamics, broad deep-layer ascent will be found through a large chunk of the region. A surge of moisture will be propelled northward along the coast by a strengthening 50-65kt low-level jet off of Atlantic waters. As this moisture meets up with strong lift over the region precipitation will break out from south to north during the evening hours from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, into eastern New York and southern/central New England. Snow overspreads northern New England after midnight. Strong forcing via intense 700-500mb frontogenesis arrives after midnight and this is when snowfall rates will approach 2-3” an hour in localized spots. Negative EPV suggests the potential for slantwise convection and thundersnow is a distinct possibility. Prime area of the most intense snowfall occurs along the I-95 corridor from central New Jersey into New England during the overnight hours. Along the coast, enough warming aloft may change precipitation over to sleet and/or freezing rain. A couple locations on the eastern end of Long Island and Cape Cod may even see plain liquid rainfall but with colder air filtering down from the north via strengthening ageostrophic flow, would expect any liquid rain to be short-lived, and frozen precipitation types to dominate. To the northwest of the axis of heaviest snowfall there will be a sharp cut-off line to who gets white and who doesn’t. Cold and very dry airmass thanks to high pressure sits just north and west of the region and will be fed into the storm on strengthening northerly flow. However, moisture surge should adequately saturate the column east of a Harrisburg-Scranton-Binghamton-Utica line for a general area of light to moderate snowfall. With colder temperatures over this region fluff factor will have more of an effect and snowfall ratios should average 14-18:1. So despite the lower QPF, it will be made up for by the higher snow:liquid ratios. Go even further to the northwest and this storm will be nothing more than a few passing mid/high level clouds. Temperatures tonight will range from the single digits across the north to the teens and low 20’s across much of the interior. Along the coastal plain temperatures will slowly fall through the night from around freezing into the upper 20’s as the colder air works into the circulation of low pressure from the north.

Low pressure moves to just east of Cape Cod by noon on Monday and then to the Gulf of Maine by the evening hours. Heavy snow will continue over much of the region during the morning hours on Monday with the heaviest snow moving into central/northern New England. There are still some uncertainties as to how this system ultimately evolves while affecting the region. One of these concerns will be a dry slot moving north and possibly coming over southern New England during the late morning and early afternoon, effectively ending the snowstorm across this region but not before 8-12” of snow falls. Another yet unsolved aspect of this storm will be in regard to the western edge of the shield of precipitation. With cold dry air pressing down from the north and northwest, there will be a sharp cut-off line along the western flanks of this system, as will the gradient of precipitation be steep. This western cut-off boundary should lie around the I-81 corridor with areas to the west seeing very little in the way of snowfall while areas to the east see a rapid rise in amounts. Also sketchy on the details will be how much snow falls in the trailing mid/upper level feature following on the storms’ heels. There should be an extended period of steady light to moderate snow with this feature as it tracks along the coastal plain late morning into the afternoon. With much colder air working into the region, snow ratios will be higher as this system pulls through and an additional 2-4” of snow may accompany it.

With the strong northerly flow developing behind the system the Great Lakes will become active but short fetch will lead to rather narrow bands of lake effect snow with only minor accumulations. These strong winds will also be felt along the coast where near-blizzard conditions will develop at times in the heavy snowfall. Winds of 20-30mph with higher gusts will be felt up and down the coast and should add to blowing and drifting of snowfall for long after the storm ends. There will be very little diurnal rise in temperatures under the zone of precipitation and highs will likely be seen in the morning with slowly falling temperatures during the afternoon. Across the interior, away form the storm, temperatures will climb several degrees today but highs will only top out in the upper teens to low 20’s as deeper cold air penetrates south from Canada, being drawn into the circulation of the storm to the east.

The snow will taper from southwest to northeast during the late afternoon and evening hours, with most of the accumulating snowfall over by midnight for much of the region, excluding northern Maine. Winds will be out of the north and northwest at 15-25mph with higher gusts, which will continue blowing and drifting the snow around. Total accumulations will be posted in the map below but the big winners will be along the I-95 corridor where 8-16” amounts will be common, with localized areas getting as much as 20”. With the cold cyclonic northwesterly flow, lake effect will be found downwind of Lake Ontario where several inches of new snow may accumulate during the overnight. A very chilly airmass for the beginning of March will invade the region with overnight lows in the single digits and teens almost area wide. The exceptions will be over the higher terrain of the Adirondacks where temperatures may fall below zero and along the immediate coast where moderating ocean may hold temps in the low 20’s. With the strong northwesterly wind there will be a biting wind chill with many inland locations falling below zero as the coastal plain sees wind chills in the single digits.



Fig.2 - Snowfall accumulations through Tuesday morning

Mid-term - Issued - 3/1/09 @6:15am


Core of the arctic airmass moves over the Northeast on Tuesday as 850mb temps drop to –15 to –20°C region wide. Cyclonic flow will continue with lake effect/upslope snow showers scattered about the region that will continue into Tuesday night. Otherwise expect clearing skies though the winds will still be quite blustery. Temperatures will average 10-15 degrees below normal. High pressure slides over the southern Mid-Atlantic Tuesday night as the now vertically stacked low spins over northern Quebec. Gradient between these two features will keep winds going over northern New England but with a much more relaxed gradient over the southern half of the region, the winds will finally die down. Add into the mix clearing skies and, in some cases, a deep snowcover and ideal radiational cooling conditions will be met. Lows will fall into the teens and single digits across the Northeast with lows dropping below zero across the North Country. Would not be surprised to see some of the more sheltered valleys of the Adirondacks that manage to decouple in the negative teens.

High pressure slowly moves off the coast of North Carolina on Wednesday with westerly flow gradually taking over. This will signal a moderating trend to the temperatures that will bring readings to within a few degrees of normal under fair skies by Thursday.


Long-term - Issued - 3/1/09 @6:15am


A trough of low pressure slides across the region on Friday, bringing snow to the north and a mix or rain to the south. Still lots of spread in the models and this one could go either way but the trend for this system has been slightly milder over the last couple of days. With high pressure giving little ground to this approaching system over Canada and blocking pattern developing in the North Atlantic I would not be surprised to see future southward jogs to the low track as it potentially gets shunted southeastwards as it runs into the block.

By the weekend there are signs that a stronger ridge of high pressure will develop over the Southeast, increasing heights along the East Coast ahead of a developing system in the Midwest. Still lots of time to watch this one and not much attention was paid to it considering all the action in the short-term. Once again, the transition zone will likely bisect the region.




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Radar: Northeast Region Loop

NE radar
Fig.3 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.

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Current snowcover

Northeast Snowcover
Fig.4 - Snow cover as of February 26th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.


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Local SST's

Northeast SST's
Fig.5 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.


___________________________________________________________

2008-09 Winter Forecast


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Updated: 3:10 PM GMT on March 02, 2009

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About sullivanweather

Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!

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