Thursday, January 31, 2013

Luscious fog sneaks into town this evening

It was a dark and foggy eve. People, cars and dogs were all surrounded by chowder, I thought I was going to need a headlamp to find my way walking home. The fog crept into the valley just over Glacier Creek like a snake slinking up on a rodent. Quiet, spooky and thickening by the minute! 

I have seen some thick fog having lived along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Fog in the southern U.S. is dense, ugly, and dangerous to drive in. However, this fog in Girdwood today was some dramatic, moisture laden, creepy blanket hanging over town. Of course having bright white snow capped mountains glowing in the atmosphere above the fog lent a depth to the emotion of the moment. Top is a view from the post office in Girdwood. Above is looking across Glacier Creek toward Alyeska. Look at the photo below and see how the fog starts to thin as I move away from the creek.

Seeing the white faintly glowing through the fog, I knew the sun was shining on those mountains indicating the town was covered by ground fog due to air being cooler above. Below is looking toward Alyeska, the white lights are on the ski slopes.

And cooler above it will stay, since the weather forecast is for the rain to continue through the weekend here in Girdwood. There is snow falling in the higher elevations for those that go to the tops of the mountains to ski. But the melting snow on my roof continues to drip like a metronome splashing us to sleep. 

When you visit Girdwood this weekend, plan to stop in at the Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts. There is a multi-media show opening on Saturday from 6 - 8 pm. Refreshments will be available. There is a collection of talented artists here in the valley and they all share space at the Center. Come learn that there is more to Girdwood than skiing. Find out more at their website

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How are climate forecasts made and why is it warm again in Girdwood?

This is Girdwood today, overcast, grey, raining, quiet. The temperature at the T is 35°, snow is sliding off the metal roofs. Snow is sloughing off the trees that surround my house.  A magpie stopped by to rest on a bare cottonwood. Yesterday I saw a moth flying around. I imagine the magpie and other feathered creatures are happy about all the spring seasons we have had this “winter”. What is this now, the fourth spring of the 2012 - 2013 winter? From the news reports, it seems the northeast United States received winter this year as opposed to south central Alaska. Ce la vie, we had it last year. Is this another outcome of climate change? My second postulation: different regions of the country receive winter in rotating years.  

NOAA creates these three-month weather pattern predictions at the Climate Prediction Center. Currently, their projection is for warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation in the south and southwestern United States. The NOAA extended climatological prediction for south central Alaska is for colder than normal temperatures. The colder temperatures could not arrive soon enough, but when? How does NOAA generate these predictions? Basically they generate statistical models. The main data is pulled from global ocean temperature data with no fluctuating adjustments. Forecasters also look at the position of the jet stream. The jet streams are affected by the Earth’s surface air temperature which is related to the ocean temperature. By looking at historical and current data of both temperature and jet stream, a climate prediction can be made. This is a basic review of a huge amount of study that goes into making climate predictions and by no means should be considered easy. 

This month, January 2013, the polar jet stream is at a higher latitude over Alaska because the stream is being pushed up by warm air and temperatures from the tropics. In the lower 48 United States, the polar jet stream is making a long dive south in the midwest bringing cold air to that region and the south. This link goes to a great website at San Francisco State University with maps of the jet stream.

Humans may heavily influence the weather by various means of altering environments or emitting concentrated amounts of gasses into the atmosphere. But I doubt humans will be able to fully control the climate of the Earth. The only place right now where you can control your environment is inside your home. This is where the joy of caring for and growing house plants comes in handy. You can turn lights on and off for your plants, and you provide the water and nutrients for your plants. Actually, this seems like a good outlet for Type A personalities that need to control events. So, while the ever changing outside weather is tempting and reminding us not to plant out there yet, go buy another plant to bring some green into your house!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nice powder snow in the valley today

The bitter cold broke the spell of the warm rain, and now the snow has briefly broken the spell of the bitter cold. Briefly. Last night Girdwood received 3 inches of snow, powdery, white, fluffy snow! Not wet, not mixed with rain. It was a lovely sight out the windows this morning. 

I had to drive into Anchorage and it was a blustery Tuesday along the Turnagain Arm. No white-out, not much snow falling at all. However, snow was blowing all over the highway. There were snow dunes on the shoulder along Potter Marsh, pretty. 

Though the weather forecast was for temperatures to rise, expected when there is cloud cover, the temperature stayed around 10° in the city. Upon return to Glacier Valley this afternoon, I came into a temperature of 25°, much more pleasant that the recent single digits. We could still use some more snow. Below is a picture of my favorite snow gauge, the picnic table at the Girdwood Fire Department. The photo with the bluer sky was taken in November. Since then we have had three warm spells when the snow has melted. There have been three small snow showers since, including last night. Notice the picnic table looks about the same as in November. By this time of year, the table is usually a snow mound. The lack of snow is a bit disconcerting. Not only for weather watchers and those concerned with the environment, but for the Resort and their ski mountain as well. I hope we will be blessed with our usual February dump of snow starting this weekend!

 January 29, 2013

November 17, 2012