Friday, March 7, 2014
David Epstein has been a meteorologist for more than 25 years. He spent 16 years in Boston and currently freelances at WGME13 in Portland.
In 2006, David founded GrowingWisdom.com, a business producing educational and marketing videos for the green industry. He currently is a professor at Framingham State College, teaches Jan Plan at Colby College and owns Bloomscapes Inc., a landscape design business.
David authored "Gardens Of New England" and his work has been published in Grolier's Science Annual for 10 years. He lives in South Natick, Mass., and has a summer home in Harpswell.
Deep cold continues across New England this morning with clear skies and enough of a breeze to make it feel even colder. Wind chills are running at or below zero and will continue in this range the first few hours of the morning. It’s coldest in the mountains and inland areas and less cold along the coast. With arctic high pressure firmly entrenched there won’t be any clouds today, but highs will remain 15 degrees or more below more typical early March readings.
Temperatures begin climbing a bit on Friday when highs will break freezing from southern Maine to southern New England. Some folks on Cape Cod will enjoy readings in the lower 40s in the afternoon.
A quick flow of even milder air arrives Saturday. This is the day you will think you made it through winter, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of spring just yet. Highs will reach the lower 40s in northern New England to near 50F south of Boston. With a blend of clouds and sunshine, this will be one of the best days we’ve had in a couple of weeks.
A cold front moves through Saturday night and pushes the above average temperatures far to the south again. The air behind this front isn’t as cold as today, so highs will just be pushed back to slightly below average and remain there through the middle of next week.
A very cold morning for March greeted Mainers today and even the hardiest of winter enthusiasts is likely getting tired of the cold. While not one of the top 10 coldest winters in record, the cold seems to be lingering longer this year. According to the National Weather Service in Gray, yesterday was the coldest March day since the 8th of the month back in 2007.
Overall, winters aren’t as cold as they were in the first half of the 20th century, so for younger people this winter might be the coldest. For those of you who experienced the winters of the 1930s 40s or 50s, the memory may have faded enough to forget how cold it was back then.
Even the winters of the mid to late 1970s and early 80s were colder on balance. The record in Portland this morning is 21 below zero and the Jetport wasn’t even as low as zero today. That record was set way back in 1950, at a time when Casco Bay would still freeze over. Nonetheless, perception is reality and this seems like an unusually cold winter to many of us.
If you read my blog regularly you certainly know my Maine roots are deep and continue to grow. So much of the reason I am able to write or broadcast about the weather and gardening is because of all of my Maine connections. The weather looks pretty quiet the next week so it gives me an opportunity to reflect and thank many who have helped me follow something I love for so long.
One of my favorite memories in school was walking to Lyseth Elementary from Lyman Moore across the parking lot for lunch. (Moore had no cafeteria back then). It was a great opportunity to get outside and this short 5 minute walk often gave me the chance to ask (pester), my science teacher Mr. Chambers about weather and gardening. In spite of the cold of a typical March, I’d ask him when to plant peas and how much more snow he thought there might be before spring really arrived. To me, he seemed always have the right answers about all of these things. When I left Moore, he would write in my yearbook “I’ll look forward to your giving the report on T.V.”
When I think back to all the mentors I had during my years in the Portland School system it’s simply amazing how many teachers encouraged me to keep perusing my love of meteorology and horticulture. I have two hibiscus plants I winter over in the house every year. I can trace how I care for those plants to how Donna Agren showed me what she did to her own hibiscus each winter. Ms. Agren taught me how to sew and cook and I know I still use some of the techniques I learned in 8th grade today. In the 5th grade we had to follow the weather for a week and then make our own weather map. My work earned an A+. “Great Job” from Mr. Dulac, much to the chagrin of my fellow students who didn’t understand how any 10 year old could make weather maps that well.
I was having a discussion about the winter with a fellow meteorologist last evening about the winter and the perception of how cold and snowy it’s been here in New England. You might be thinking, wait a second, perception, I know it’s been cold, and you would be correct. For many in New England this has been the coldest winter since the winter of 2002/2003, but it’s not in the top 10 coldest. So if you are in your early 30s, this is the coldest winter since back in your college days, but if you are 70, there were several other winters that were colder. One statistic to look at is below zero days in Portland. This year we have had 9, normally we have 6. It's likely that statistic will stand as it becomes more and more difficult to drop below zero in March.
Across other parts of the country this will turn out as one of the top 5 or 10 coldest and snowiest winters on record.
Back to the cold and snow here in New England. I think there are multiple reasons the winter seems worse than the averages tell us. First, the numbers include the few warm spells we have seen since December. While those thaws didn’t last very long, they did add enough to the averages to bring them up. If you remove the warm-spells from the average, the cold becomes more notable. Second, for other parts of the country this is a blockbuster winter. This has led the national media to begin their newscasts with weather so many nights; it starts to become part of our collective psyche. At some point if you’re told how cold and snowy it is, it becomes cold and snowy.
Although I don’t know specifics yet, I would recommend staying away from travel plans Monday and Tuesday if possible. It could turn out to be nothing of course, but if you can avoid it, do so. The odds favor something big enough to disrupt travel, so why chance it if you don’t have to?