Sunday, March 9, 2014
February begins this weekend and it’s going to start on a damp, but mild note. February is a short month and still a very wintry month here in Maine. The one part of the month that begins to remind us spring will come is the light.
I am forever fascinated by the light. I look at charts on when the sun is going to come up nearly every day. I have an app on my phone that automatically tells me the position of the sun at any given moment on the planet. At night, it tells me how many degrees below the horizon the sun has gone. I find it really interesting to think about how connected the Earth and Sun are and how it drives life on the planet. Around July 4th, I get bummed out we have already lost several minutes of light. (I know, it's a bit obsessive)
I love to tweet about astronomical, horticultural and meteorological observations. You can find me on Twitter @growingwisdom
When we were an agrarian society everyone would have noticed the light much more. You would be more aware from late December until now the sun is nearly 7 degrees higher in the sky at noon. You might even have figured out the sun moves up and down each day faster in summer than it does in winter. This is one of the reasons for the longer winter sunsets.
You have no doubt noticed it’s light longer now in the afternoon. We are gaining about two and a half minutes of daylight each 24 hour period and will increase the number to 3 minutes by the first day of astronomical spring in mid-March. In total, we will gain 75 minutes of daylight in February and see the sun nearly 10 degrees higher at noon on the final day of the month.
The light is about to signal for increased levels of testosterone to be manufactured in some species of male birds. Towards the middle to end of the month, if you listen in the morning, you will hear the songs of many of these animals change to a mating call. Much of this is light driven.
Of course, in many ways spring is two months away. February, March and even April bring some of the heaviest snows to the area. In the mountains, skiing should further improve this month as a more active storm track takes shape and brings an increasing chance of snows to the region. While December was quite snowy, after the foot of snow to start January, there has been little additional of it.
The next week will bring a series of weather changes to the area. This weekend a few inches of snow could fall across far northern and western areas with some rain showers at the coastline. Temperatures will break freezing across southern Maine and near 32F even in the mountains Sunday. I am thinking Sunday is a great day to go skiing with a few inches of fresh “pow pow” for a run or two on the “freshies” Sunday morning. The chart below tells the story of our upcoming weather over the next 7 days. Remember, this an image from one model. Look at trends, not specifics for the specifics will change.
Next week a more important storm does threaten the area for Wednesday. The details on timing, amounts, etc. won’t be known until late in the weekend, but this storm has the potential, if the track is perfect, to give parts of Maine the biggest snow fall since back in early January. Thereafter several shots of cold air are going to keep us in the deep freeze for much of the month. I don’t really care what the Groundhog says Sunday morning; winter isn’t even close to being over.Tweet
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.