Supermoon on the Horizon

Tonight and tomorrow night are the prime times to see the biggest event of the year! Look to the sky and you will see the Full Beaver Moon, but it is a special full moon this month. Known as the supermoon, it is a full moon that coincides with the moon being in the closest position in its orbit too the Earth.


Image credit to NASA

The moon travels in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, such that one side of the orbit is closer to the Earth than the other. This causes the moon to appear brighter in the sky during times in the Perigee and less luminescent during times it is in the apogee. The moon will be at its brightest and look the biggest in the sky right when it becomes full.  Unfortunately for us here in North America, that happens right before and during sunrise, so you will have to either get up early or try and catch the moon before it disappears in the brightening morning sky! Either way, it should make for some great photo opportunities! Do not fret! The moon will also be visible on Monday night in its “full” glory!

Supermoons, as grandiose as the name sounds, are named solely for their size and not their rarity. Supermoons occur roughly every 13-14 full moons, which equates to around 1 a year. The rarity of these supermoons is when they occur during the Perigee. The last time the moon was this close to the Earth was back on January 26, 1948! The next time the moon will be this close to the Earth is going to be in a couple of decades on November 25, 2034! Make sure to get out and take some pictures of this spectacular spacey spectacle!


Photos: This year’s supermoon from our telescope!



Say It Ain’t Snow! Well There Ain’t Much Snow To Talk About Yet!


Southern New England has had its real first good shot of cold air for the season this past week and that will continue through today and tomorrow.That was all thanks to the Low Pressure system that brought us intense thunderstorms Friday night into Saturday Morning. This allowed an area of cold High Pressure from the Northwest to settle into the region, bringing the strong wind gusts we saw along with unseasonably cold temperatures.


This sets us up nicely for our next round of precipitation that will move through the region tomorrow morning and afternoon. There is suggestion in the models right now that temperatures in the lower atmosphere will be well below zero for the morning hours so there is support for some flakes to fly when the precipitation first starts. However, a look at the surface map shows that surface temperatures for most of the region are still slightly above zero and since we haven’t had a hard freeze yet (being a prolonged period of below freezing temperatures) the ground itself is still too warm below the surface and any snow that falls would melt right away. The caveat to that being that if it snowed at an intense enough rate or for a prolonged period of time, then it would be able to stick, but that is nothing to worry about in this case.


Areas in Central and Western MA are most likely to be the ones to see any flakes tomorrow as the coldest air will stay at the highest elevations the longest, so for us here in Lowell, we most likely will be spared seeing the first flakes of the season for another couple weeks :(. Warm air moves in quickly with this Low Pressure system, so any snow that does fall will quickly switch to plain rain for the rest of the day. That leads into more seasonable temperatures and weather for the weekend!


The Backdoor Cold Front

Last Tuesday, October 18, was supposed to be warm and sunny.  So warm in fact, that the high temperature record in Boston was in jeopardy.  Forecasts were for highs to reach 80 degrees F throughout Northeastern Massachusetts.

The high in Boston came close to 70 degrees F, but only rose out of the 60s at 8pm that night.  The same thing happened in Lawrence, MA as well as Beverly, MA.  What happened?  We had a Backdoor Cold Front.

Regular cold fronts come from the west, usually the northwest.  A Backdoor Cold Front is a cold front that comes into New England from the “Backdoor”, often from the Gulf of Maine.  Backdoor Cold Fronts are very shallow and small in scale – only affecting part of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire in this case.  The cold air slips into New England as a High Pressure Area in Eastern Canada moves into the Gulf of Maine, and intensifies.  The cold air comes into New England from Canada and the Gulf of Maine.  Instead of sunny and 80 degrees, we had drizzle, fog and 57 degrees   Once in place, it can be slow to move out.  The following images show the “before”, “during”, and “after” phases.

Yellow lines are sea-level pressure in hPa (millibars), blue lines and color coding shows temperatures in degrees F, and the red symbols show the winds (conventional meteorological notation – the back half of the wind vector).

BEFORE:  8 pm Monday Night2016-10-18-ruc04

DURING:  8 AM Tuesday Morning2016-10-18-ruc16

DURING: 11 AM Tuesday Morning2016-10-18-ruc19

AFTER: 8 pm Tuesday Night2016-10-18-ruc28

AFTER: 8 AM Wednesday Morning2016-10-18-ruc40

Wednesday turned out to be the beautiful day with temperatures reaching into the low 80s!


Hurricane Matthew and The Track of Confusion


Satellite Image of Hurricane Matthew from this morning

Hurricane Matthew has been an impressive storm so far and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop any time soon. It has been one of the most powerful storms the Atlantic has seen in the past Decade. Yesterday the storm made its first landfall in Haiti, dumping anywhere between 10″ to as much as 40″ of rain on the country.


Dominican Republic rainfall for 24 hours starting yesterday

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people of Haiti that they may be kept safe and can rebuild from the destruction this storm brought them. Above is a current satellite image from the storm this morning. It made landfall in Cuba last night and is on track to reach Florida over the next couple of days.


Current Hurricane Track

This is the current track right now for Matthew based on current model data. However, with Tropical Storms such as this, the models really have trouble 3-4+ days out, so other than the storm hitting Florida, not much else is known about what will happen after that. The thought earlier this week was that the storm would move towards Florida and Georgia, then move off the Coast of the Carolinas and north up to New England. However, as of yesterday, the models began to agree that the storm would not have much of an impact on New England (as seen in the Spaghetti Plots below)


Yesterday: Looks like New England may see some of Matthew


6 hours later: Oh wait……never mind New England won’t see Matthew

There was a massive shift in the model forecasts from the yesterday morning to last night and this morning. The models have since shifted the storm from moving off into the Atlantic right away, to lingering off the coast of the Carolinas and even spinning back towards Florida before moving away into the Atlantic. Why has there been such a dramatic shift? That is the question everyone is trying to answer.gfs_z500_vort_us_2

First off, this is our main player to the storm track, a trough over the Western part of the United States. The shortwave which helped to form this trough only reached the coast of the United States last night and is only just beginning to form said trough. This means the models are basing the storm track after Florida on the formation of said trough, but the data for the trough isn’t fully there for input since it hasn’t formed yet. With the shortwave finally reaching land, this will allow for better data to help better establish how strong this trough will be and where it will set up.gfs_z500_vort_us_15.png

Current thinking this morning is the trough will move to the Northeast by the end of this week and set up high pressure over the region, extending down the East Coast into Pennsylvania. This would create a blocking High, preventing the Hurricane from moving up the coast and causing the backlash at Florida the models are suggesting. This would have to be a pretty strong high and the timing of the trough would need to be exactly as it is for this to set up perfectly.

Keep in mind, this storm is days out and there is really low confidence on its track after it hits Florida. Florida will see Hurricane strength winds and heavy rains, so anyone in the area of Florida and Georgia should take Tropical Storm precautions seriously and prepare for this event.

Cut-off Lows and Forecast Woes

This has been one of the hardest weeks to forecast for New England so far this Fall. It all started with the cold front that moved through on Tuesday. This brought some much needed rain to the region, but it also helped to move the High Pressure that was over the Region out to sea.


High Pressure we hardly knew you

This allowed for an area of Low Pressure to make its way south from the Great Lakes, however it cut-off from the stream and has stayed spinning over the Ohio River Valley for the past week. This was caused due to strong closed circulation at the surface and a blocking High that set up over Northeast New England.



This has caused us to be stuck in this cool, grey pattern that we have seen over the past week. Based on recent research into Weather Patterns seen in the Northeast during the Fall season, this would e considered Weather Type 3, as seen below.


Weather Type 3 Features rain, rain and some more rain.

This pattern is defined by an offshore high pressure system along with a Low Pressure system over the Great Lakes. This pattern typically persists anywhere between 1-3 days, but there have been cases of it lasting as long as 6 days. This would occur when such blocking as we have seen this week sets up. This allows the East Coast to see abundant rainfall due to the Southwest flow of moisture into the region at low-levels. However, as we have had a blocking High to the North, we in New England have seen more of a North/Northeast flow into the region. This has caused us to see average to below average temperatures and little rainfall as cool, dry air has been constantly fed into the region. As the Low begins to lift North back into the stream over the next couple of days, this is when we will see the rain come into the region as the High begins to lift out as well.


This should help with the drought a bit, but it still isn’t enough.

This will bring us rain showers beginning in the evening Friday and heavier rain moves in overnight and lasts through the late Saturday morning before turning back to showers by the afternoon. This should bring some much needed rain to the region as Northern parts of MA see around .35-.60″ and areas in the Southern half see around 1″+ of rain. Rain showers look to stick around on and off throughout the day Sunday and Monday. These look to be lighter in nature meaning that the days will not be complete washouts. Temperatures also look to increase as the High Pressure moves out and a more Southerly Flow takes over meaning Sunday and Monday will see Highs back in the mid 60s.

Sunshine looks to return for a bit next week but we have to watch out for Hurricane Matthew as it begins to trek northwards next week.al1416w5_nl




Autumnal Equinox is here!


While Autumn started for Meteorologists back in the beginning of September, today marks the Autumnal Equinox! What is the Autumnal Equinox you ask?? To start, Equinox finds its roots in Latin, meaning Equal Night. Here’s a quick look at the science behind it:


The Earth is always tilted, with the tilt fluctuating between 22.1°and 24° (which the change in the tilt angle occurs over thousands of years). Currently the Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5° towards the sun. When the Equinox occurs, the way the Earth is tilted and its position in the orbit cause it to be almost perpendicular to the incoming rays from the sun.


Now even though equinox means, equal night, the earth is not entirely perpendicular to the solar rays at all points due to its spherical nature. We can also look at the spherical nature and the nature of the atmosphere causing the light from the sun to refract and keep most areas light for more than half of the day. The equator never sees equal day and night due to this fact, but areas north and south of there see these days occur at different times after the equinox. The furthest points from the equator see the equal day and night closer to the equinox and points closer to the equator see equal day and night further away from the equinox.

This may seem a bit confusing as we traditionally think of the equinox as 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness, but the Equinox also plays a big role for our seasons. After the Equinox, the Earth begins to move further on in its orbit, so that the Northern Hemisphere becomes tilted away from the sun.


This brings shorter days and longer nights due to less solar radiation in the Northern Hemisphere. This brings us our Autumn and Winter Climate as the reduced amount of solar radiation plays a role in keeping temperatures cooler in the Northern Hemisphere. There is also much more interaction in the atmosphere that also affects the temperatures changes.

So what will this Autumn bring to us? Hopefully more rain as the summer was too dry and the drought in the area keeps getting worse!


Tropical Storm Hermine: Impacts on New England

Hurricane Hermine was downgraded yesterday after it passed over Florida to a Tropical Storm. It inundated Florida with torrential rains (up to 10″ in some areas) and flooding (thanks in part to a storm surge of up to 12′ on the coast) and broke a streak that saw the state go almost 10 years without seeing a hurricane hit! Now that it is out into the Atlantic Ocean waters again, what does that mean to us in New England?? Here is a current look at the storm:


Right now the Carolinas and Virginia are seeing the worst of the winds and the rain from the storm, but this storm is projected to stay near the East Coast for the next few days. Here’s a look:


Right now the cone of uncertainty is very high for the end of the week, but for the most part, it seems the storm will take a slow trek up the east coast and track further east as each day goes along. This does bring it close enough to New England for us to see some of the aftereffects of the storm, but the question is how much will we see? Our Ocean temperatures are still warm due to summer just ending, so the storm can still churn out some good rain as it won’t run into the cold water that usually kills hurricanes, but it is unlikely that the storm would strengthen any more.



First off is the rain situation. Looking at the projected radar image, we can see that bands will keep flowing into New England throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday and even into Thursday on the coast. This will bring some much needed rainfall to the area, with areas along the coast seeing the most rainfall (around 1-3″), while areas further to the North and West see less rainfall (anywhere from .05″ to 1). This unfortunately will not bring much relief to the droughts in the area, but any rain is good rain in our books.


A look at the current probabilities for Tropical Storm force winds puts the best chance for strong winds off the coast of New England with coastal areas seeing between a 40-50% chance of those winds. Areas over the whole of Southern New England should expect to see gusty winds between 20-40mph with stronger winds along the coastlines. This is not too dangerous usually, but as we have had such a drought this summer, the trees are dry and can easily break apart and be pushed over by gusty winds, so caution needs to be taken. Any boats or small crafts off the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island need to dock and take caution as the gusty winds out there will cause rough surf for the area.


This is further exacerbated by the GIF above showing the storm sitting and spinning right off the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island for a good two days before finally moving out to sea. This is just a preliminary analysis and does not represent what actually will happen by Thursday. Looking at the 10m winds, there are strong winds around 35-50 kts along the coastlines, meaning that there is a good chance for some strong surf in the areas as well as some minor storm surge along the coastline. REMEMBER: Storm surge is not a wave, it is water that is raised to a higher level due to the winds of a storm. This water will not just hit an area and go away as it keeps the depth that it had when it hits the land, unlike a wave, so areas that get hit by it will remain flooded with the extra water for awhile. It is not safe and anyone affected by it should stay out of the water as it could be dangerous.

Overall, New England is going to be spared from the brunt of Tropical Storm Hermine, but we still will see some of the winds and the rain from the storm over the coming week.