Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rain Almost Average So Far

After two months of cold rainy weather, we still did not achieve the average rainfall through February. Lacking almost 0.8 inches compared to the average rainfall for the area. We are doing much better than last year when were falling short 4.4 inches at this time of the year. So maybe we will have more of a normal year though this summer than last. Let's hope so!

Mo AVG rain Avg to date 2009 to  date 2010  to   date Over/ (under) 2009 2010 Over/ (under) average
Jan 4.21 4.21 0.49 2.69 2.2 (1.52)
Feb 2.97 7.18 2.01 6.41 4.4 (0.77)



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Huntsville Snow 2010

For the entire Houston area, this was the second to the latest snowfall in our history. March 12th is the latest on the record books. 2010 ties the record for most snowfalls in any one year - three in 1973 when 1.4 inches was measured. That means it is not out of the question to have another snow in this remarkable winter.

There was significant snow in Huntsville on Tuesday. I went to Huntsville State Park to photograph what I thought was going to be three inches on the ground. That did not happen, but there was more than three inches that fell there! At first rain drop, it looked like there was going to be no snow at all.

Then the slush started. Nothing was sticking until about 3pm. Then the snow became pure and fell rigorously for about almost two hours before it slowed to flurries. Then about 530pm, the intensity again increased to a moderate+ level. It was beautiful and stuck to the ground.  

I took a hike for three hours in the falling snow there in the park, surrounded by birds and the forest. Late in the evening, I heard a couple of deer crash through the brush but never saw them. 

For the most part, I stayed dry with all the gear I was wearing. Keeping the equipment dry was a challenge in the wayward snow flakes that sometimes even traveled upward in the wind.

Although disappointed that the big snowfall did not occur, I was delighted with the beauty that the limited snowfall did provide. Snow lines cropped up in various areas of the forest, causing interesting effects.

In general, the accumulated snow acted as the icing on the cake for the forest. It dressed the forest floor up considerably, providing white where it once was brown, revealing birds that were difficult to see, adding colors to dead tree limbs and providing a variety of added color richness to the forest.

In some cases, the snow accumulated on trees, especially the Holly trees and on some of the smaller pines.

There were few cars in the park, but this one revealed to me the amount of snow that had actually fallen. The temperature was above freezing, so the snow that did stick to the ground was slowly melting.  I did see cars with more snow than this on them, coming into the park at about 6pm.

This dead tree has rusty colored lichens growing on it. Although that is colorful on its own, adding the white to the mix proved to be beautiful. I have several photos of this and will share them in other articles or via Twitter or Facebook.

A birdhouse in the park looked much better than normal with the added snow backdrop.

I would suggest looking at the photos a little closer to get the effects. Just click on them for a full sized view.

So what is the heaviest snowfall on record here? hint - it was a long time ago.

The snow line on Wednesday, indicating the remaining snow on the ground can be seen on the map at this location, courtesy of ABC13 news. Huntsville showed nothing but I bet there was remaining snow on the ground there, not visible from satellite. Huntsville reported 3 inches of snow officially.    

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to measure snow

Although the normal ratio of snow to rain for the same amount of water is 10:1, it depends on the wetness of the snow. Once inch of rain in the form of snow is likely to be less than 10 inches of snow here. So we cannot depend on measuring water to know how much snow we get. An open rain gauge can measure the mount of snow. Normally a gauge has a funnel at the top. That has to be removed to measure snowfall.

Snow accumulations are measured on a flat surface. I will put out a sheet of plywood. The color should be light to discourage melting of the snow. Put the board or flat surface material out early so that it adjusts to the temperature. Make sure it is located in a place free from obstructions and not under a tree. That removes most locations here in The Woodlands. Then measure the thickness of the accumulation with a ruler. It is that simple.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Texas Snow that could have been

This past week, we experienced a long cold day that dumped more than 1.5 inches of rain. The temperature was a little above freezing but not much.  Almost a week earlier, the weather bureau predicted we could see ice or sleet on Thursday. Upon arrival of the western-originated storm, a frigid arctic mass of air was to arrive. We weren't the only ones watching the event. This was a large Texas event and some snow was predicted for the northeast parts of Texas. We've seen these situations over and again. Two things have to be occurring simultaneously.  (1) A cold winter in the deep south, and (2) El Niño in the West. The southern jet stream carries the storms aloft, and the arctic air mass at the surface is pushed by the northern jet stream.

Indeed in this "winter of winters", Texas got a surprise. All snowfall records known to modern day weather forecasters were broken. In Tyler Texas, several inches of snow accumulated when they thought they may see some ice and flurries. In Dallas, more than 12 inches of snow fell, bringing the city to a standstill for a while. An interesting phenomena occurred there. The snow caused the roads to be safer. What might have been an ice storm turned into a a melting snow scene on the streets. Weather forecasters were off the mark on this one - significantly off the mark! For a more detailed view investigation for the reason why, I suggest you read the Dallas Morning article:  Forecasters tell how they miscalled Snowstorm of the Century

This could have been us. All the ingredients have the potential to collide here instead of Dallas. I wonder what we would do with twelve inches of snow. It could even be worse. The speed of the storm was slow but from our past experiences, we know a storm can just squat here and dump and dump. This winter could be the first of a series like this.  My trees are budding, but winter is not over. Migratory birds are passing through, but it remains winter.  Berries are ripening and falling off of the Yaupon, but it is near freezing.  Two more weeks of winter is still predicted.

And if you wonder how cold this winter really is, Lake Eerie is frozen over for the first time in 14 years. A full article on that subject can be found on the Go Eerie website. Also see:   Map of the Great Lakes and frozen status as of Feb 9th. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winter of winters

Our furry little weather forecaster probably got it right this year. Six more weeks of winter, in the north, that is... not to say however that we Southerners are out of the woods, so to speak. We can expect to be right in the middle of it. This weekend, after a full week of dismal weather, but wet, which we know we still need, our neck of the woods will be enjoying some sunshine. That will not last long, as another rain pulse accompanied by cold weather will be upon us quickly next week. Some folks are predicting that we will see snow in Houston again before Spring, even in the middle of next week! That is a far reach, but Old Man Winter has been reaching beyond our expectations for most of this season. As my backyard plants would tell you if they could talk, "it's been horrible out here".

Let's keep an eye on what Washington D.C is expecting tonight and tomorrow. A winter storm warning tonight and then an outright blizzard warning until late tomorrow night will be the talk of the nation tomorrow. I will be watching the news being published from Washington. Unlike the great snowstorm of our forefathers and the anguish that our army suffered to free our nation, we have fast electronics and warm houses to observe possible record breaking snowfall in our nation's capital. There could be more than 30 inches of snow falling in some areas around that city.

ABC news of Washington D.C can be found at this site.