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Thursday, 20 December 2012


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A friend of mine living in the country just outside Ottawa here bought himself a new snowblower this year and is jonesing for a blizzard so bad, I was thinking about bringing over a bag or two of ice from some gas station so he could chew through it and blow the resulting slush around his property for a while to calm him down. :)

Kenosha?? Come on up to Appleton or Waupaca. I've an extra shovel and you can help.

Waxing their snowboards...is that an euphemism? I don't understand.

[It's a perfectly straightforward process. This should help:



Running Back To Saskatoon :)

Here in Baltimore the city routinely close schools if snow is in the forecast! And watch out if you actually need toilet paper and milk after such a forecast because the stores really do run out of both. Honestly, there is such over-reaction to winter here that it's a long-standing joke for those of us who came here from other places.

A few years ago, I started on a flight from Copenhagen via Amsterdam with a touch-down for refuelling in Abu Dhabi and final destination Muscat in Oman.

Only late November in Copenhagen, but - alas - the departure Airport was fighting wind, ice and some snow. Result: I was delayed several hours, and had to reroute through Kuwait and Bahrain to reach Muscat (approx. 6-7 hours later). Luggage, naturally, went haywire, so...

At the reception in the morning I proudly showed a partly snowcovered KLM plane, and told them this was somewhat unusual for the time of year. Even up north...

Yeah, was the response. They also had unusual cold weather in Oman.

Right. Maybe I was a bit miffed too... not my best day.

While temperatures in Copenhagen had been well below zero (Centigrades), I discovered, that cold weather in Muscat in late november equalled 29 degrees centigrade (85F) at high noon. That's a heatwave, where I live...

Unusual cold weather obviously varies a bit from point to point on this, our small globe - even in the same winter and hemisphere ;-)

Spoken by a man who clearly must own a heavy duty snowblower. We manual labor types are feeling sore enough already, :-)

"I can't think of anywhere else in the world that has such unpredictable and volatile weather."

Snow prediction in the Western Pacific Northwest and the UK :-)

The upside of snow prediction in the midwest is that you can predict with high skill that somewhere it will snow and you will most likely get the amount right because you have lots of very cold air and very moist air and no mountains. Getting the precise amount at a given location is more problematic.

The problem in the PNW and the UK is the temps are only just around freezing (marginal for snow) and you need a particular pattern to get snow (a mixture of cold air from the north spilling through river valleys getting overrun by warm wet air from the west (sometimes an atomspheric river). And even when you get that combination you don't know if you are going to get rain or snow or a mix at any given location.

Snow prediction is difficult because you are working at a phase transition and a small difference in temperture of the atmosphere means the difference between 1 inch of rain (we can deal with that in Seattle) and one foot of snow (which closes the city down ... laugh not you Midwesterners!). We have more busts and the odd boom (Snowmagedon!) in the top left corner of the US.

Wisconsin Dells was on the NBC Nightly News as the nation's poster child for pre-holiday blizzard conditions. Here in New Jersey, it's just pouring rain. Ugh.

Well, I live in the only country on earth with 4 distinct seasons, but if it happens to hit 33F in Tokyo, it feels an Arctic blast. Before I moved here, when I thought 4 seasons included a winter that you could tell from late fall, and believed 55-60 degrees was kinda warm, I felt no need to wear a sweater under my jacket. Now, when it hits 50, I darned near freeze. And that white stuff? We see it once or twice a year.

Continuing my idiotic rant, back when I was in high school, one early January the weather service issued heavy snow warnings. All excited as I was a fellow who loved snow, I was a bit disappointed to awake to a clear, unseasonably warm morning. In the high 40s. By noon it had hit a record-breaking 80! (Record still stands, I believe.) The weather service continued to issue heavy snow warnings with highs in the 20s. The local DJ had to apologize and explain that he didn't make the forecast, he just read it. As anyone who knew anything about weather knew, the chance of heavy snow at 80 degrees was probably rather low. The weather service apparently did not know this. They apparently did not even know it was 80 degrees.

Back to Tokyo. I have learned to pay little attention to advance weather forecasts (except for typhoons--paths can be reasonably well predicted several hours in advance). Too many times I have watched it pour rain while clear weather is forecast. A 30% chance of rain seems to mean, "We don't know what it will do," so any forecast of for two days or more in advance, regularly calls for a 30% chance of rain. Weather forecasts can sometimes vary wildly depending on your source of information, too.

A few years ago, after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, I was talking with an acquaintance and his wife---he worked for the national government and his wife was an NHK announcer/talk show host. Joking about the unreliability of weather forecasts, I asked her if NHK had any windows in the room where weather forecasters worked, and said maybe they could make more accurate forecasts if they just looked out the window occasionally. I thought I was quite clever. Apparently, they did not.

Later, the husband (now in the diplomatic field) took me aside and said, "David, I hope nobody criticizes the weather service, because if Japanese people stop trusting it, the next time there is a tsunami warning, people might ignore it too."

It was too late though, 'cause even even without my massive influence on the people's opinions, people had trusted weather reports no more than anywhere else.

On the other hand, when I was stationed in San Antonio, weather forecasts from about April or May, until October seemed to be dead on. High of 95, low of 75, and zero percent chance of rain.

OK. Will shut up now.

}}} "Predicting a storm's track is very difficult. In the case of Midwestern winter storms, a fifty-mile bobble in the storm's track can completely throw of the snowfall forecast.

That can't be true. They're telling me what the temperature will be to the tenth of a degree in 90 years. They must be able to predict things near-term AT LEAST that well... LOLOLOLOLOL...

Kevin, I was about to say the same thing with regards to the Pacific Northwest. And on top of the small temperature changes, the angle the front(s) hit the Olympics and how it's thus deflected can also play a huge part in who gets what... as can your altitude above sea level. (Hence the Puget Sound Convergence Zone.)

"snow and cold and clean dry air " that's great!

One of my favourite photos is from Fulton, NY, not far from here. It's no northern Canada, but it will do. :)


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