Monday January 07, 2013 | 07:34 AM
Posted by David Epstein

They don't happen every year, but they are, for many, a welcome break from the cold.  While this hasn't been a blockbuster winter, we have seen close to normal snowfall in much of the state and above normal snowfall across the mountains and parts of coastal Maine including Portland.  Overall in December, temperatures were milder than expected until just before Christmas, but have been typically cold  since and into the first week of  January.

I'll be updating the forecast on Twitter at @growingwisdom please follow me there.

Getting through the whole winter season is a bit of a mind game for me that goes something like this. I have a love-hate relationship with winter. I have skied since I was 4 years old and know many of my fellow Mainers make a living with the snow.  I love massive large snow storms.  I have never seen a 30 inch snow storm and would love to be in one just once.  However, I also hate, no loathe, driving in snow. I freak at what too much snow does to my gardens, and further it's a pain to clean-up after even an inch of the stuff. My dogs also don't like the snow.  Have you ever watched a 10 inch rat terrier try to get around in deep snow?  I  shovel paths around the yard for him to...go.  I remember my Dad doing that for me back in the winter of 1970-71 when Portland saw its snowiest winter ever!  So, around December 1st I start thinking that every day that goes by without a major snowstorm or cold outbreak is one day closer to spring.  In my mind, spring arrives March 1st. This is because even in the worst of March we always have 12 hours of daylight and the temperatures are just not ever going to be as cold as the heart of winter. I know that for ski areas March is one of the snowiest months and I am happy for it to snow there as much as it can up there. I also realize some of Maine's biggest storms have happened in March, but this MY game.  So, here we are on January 7th and we have a week or more of mild weather. That will get us all the way to January 15th.  You see, I am still thinking about getting out of this winter as easily as possible.  By the end of this weekend, using my logic, there are really only 6 weeks until spring!  Remember, this MY mind game and it's how I get myself through this season.  Truth be told, I do the exact same thing with July, because July can be brutally hot and dry and at least by August the sun isn't as strong and the nights start to cool off.  I suppose thinking about what I am writing there are really 4 days of the year I am happy with the weather but I am a New Englander and complaining about the weather is in my blood.

<strong>Back to reality</strong>
The weather this week does look mild. First, will have a cold day today as highs remain in the 20s to just around freezing with sunshine. Much of the week is going to be dry with some minor interuptions. There is a chance of a few snow showers Wednesday and  rain showers on Friday but, if either occur, they would be light and insignificant.  What you will really notice, besides the sunshine weather, is how mild a few days of the next 7 or 8 will turn out.  I think that we will get well into the 30s Wednesday and Thursday and we could easily make a run into the 40s by the weekend.  There is an outside shot of 50F plus Sunday over southern sections of York county.

<strong>Some meteorology</strong>
One of the key maps meteorologists review to determine temperature is called the 850 millibar map.  This map shows the air temperature at 5000 feet above the earth and is critical to determining how warm or cold it will be down here.  The reason we use this level map is that the temperature of the air up there, gives us a great idea of the potential temperature here we live.  The air at 850 millibars isn't greatly influenced by the sun heating the ground, so we get a clearer picture of where the various air masses are located.  This in turn allows us to follow the air as it moves across the globe.  If we tracked the air at the ground, it would be harder to know what was a different air mass or what was just a result of the heating of the day. (Our daily temperature can vary by 30 degrees or more) These daily fluctuations aren't seen at 5000 feet.  The reason for the explanation of the temperatures at this levels is that I was reviewing the maps above for later this week and then the following one. I  noticed a dramatic change  in temperature being forecast .  While temperatures this coming weekend could be in the 40s, if the predictions for the following weekend are true, high temperatures may not hit 10F. Additionally, the entire area could be looking at several of sub-zero mornings. By the third week of the month, our air might be coming straight out of the North Pole!  Forecasting two weeks into the future is risky business but, just like my winter mind game, is one I love to play.  There are of course many factors that go into medium and long range forecasting. I asked a fellow meteorologist, Judah Cohen  Ph.D., who is the Director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), what he thought about the upcoming weeks. He is focusing, among outer things on the North Atlantic Oscillation.  That is another factor which affects our weather.  He said that he  thinks "pretty much through the end of February the Arctic/North Atlantic Oscillation is predominantly in its negative phase.  This does favor cold and possibly snowy weather in the Northeast but is no guarantee. " Bottom line, stay tuned.

 Gardening This week's video talks about soil compaction. If you have an area of your lawn that won't grow grass very well or a tree that isn't performing, the issue might be soil compaction. Take a look at this video and see how soil compaction can be fixed.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog or any others. Please follow me on Twitter at @growingwisdom and check out my latest videos at

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About the Author

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, 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.

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