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Has It Been THAT Bad?

By WBZ-TV Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher
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WBZ-TV's Eric Fisher Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher is Chief Meteorologist for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV News and...
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I find it exhausting to be miserable.

It takes extra energy to be angry about things you can’t change. The weather is one of those things. Granted, as you head outside today, I would be extremely impressed if you could conjure up a happy thought. Quite frankly, today is about as crummy as it gets for late May in our neck of the woods. BUT – has our recent weather been worthy of some atmospheric rage? I will take a little time to put on the optimist hat and prove to you that no, it has not!

 

Flooding – None to be found.

snowdepth Has It Been THAT Bad?

April 1st snow cover across the Northeast. Source: NOHRSC

All the papers and websites this winter were filled with brutal headlines. “Epic snow!” “Bone chilling cold!” and the like. And you better believe we had a pretty good season so far as snowfall went. The snowpack in early April was superlative across northern New England, where severe late-season cold kept it from melting. Some spots in the White Mountains had up to 4′ of snow – with nearly 60″ across interior Maine! Often when we see snow like that in April, we turn our attention to the spring flood threat. However, the lack of rapidly warming temperatures was in our favor. An orderly melt ensued, and there was nothing out of the ordinary when it came to stream flow in Southern New England. The Connecticut and Merrimack rose as usual in the spring, but never to an extreme or damaging level. Crisis number one averted.

 

Severe Weather – Quiet as can be

nhhail Has It Been THAT Bad?

: never seen hail like this in Weare, NH

Have you enjoyed many booming spring thunderstorms? Me neither. They have been noticeably absent so far this year, with more of our weather coming from the east (stable marine air) than from the west (potent cold fronts colliding with warm/moist air). There have been only a handful of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings all year, and most of them came last Sunday when two storms produced gusty winds and quite a bit of hail. No tornado warnings anywhere in MA so far, and no widespread damage from any thunderstorm. Now I love a good storm as much as the next guy or gal, but I’ll take an absence of damage any day of the week. No one roots for lives to be interrupted, or worse, completely changed, due to the weather. This is a trend I’d be happy to see continue.

 

Drought & Brush Fires – Not a major concern

fire5 Has It Been THAT Bad?

A brush fire in Peabody on May 12th

April in particular is a big month for brush fires. The leaves still aren’t on the trees, much of the plant life in general hasn’t woken up yet, and there are dry fuels leftover from the winter on the ground. Westerly winds can bring low humidity and warm temperatures – a recipe for wildfires to chew up the landscape. Now we *did* have a couple of days where brush fires were an issue, in particular during late April where some sprouted up around Western Mass and also Great Blue Hill. There was also an early May brush fire in Peabody. Overall, I’d call it a quiet to average season though, as many of the brush fires were limited both in quantity and severity.

So far as precipitation goes, it’s been a pretty normal year to date. March came in with 4.48″ of precipitation (+0.16″), April with 3.24″ (-0.50″), and May so far with 2.66″ (-0.20″). These figures are from Boston (Logan). February came in with a +0.88″ surplus, and January with a -0.12″ deficit. That all balances out to almost a quarter-inch above average for the year to date. Not very wet, not very dry, just enough to keep things balanced.

 

 Record Smashing Weather? Not even close

last90 Has It Been THAT Bad?

Temperature anomalies over the past 90 days. You want severe cold? Head to the Midwest. Severe heat? The west has been crushing records this spring. Chilly in the Northeast? Yes. Near record levels? No. Source: Climate Prediction Center

We’re used to hearing a lot about record highs, lows, extremes, etc on the airwaves and online. To be sure, there have been plenty of them around the world and here in the U.S. in recent years! But in our little corner, it’s hasn’t been the case of late. There wasn’t a single record high or low set in all of March, April and May (so far) for either the Worcester or Boston climate sites. Providence managed to tie *one* record for temperature during this stretch; a balmy 12º tied a record low on March 14th. No biblical floods, no searing heat, no unprecedented cold. I will say this – there were quite a few days where we were close. And most of those were record lows. But the teams that were ‘close’ to winning championships rarely show up in the record books. You have to go all the way to make it count.

 

Mosquitoes – haven’t been bitten yet

mosquito Has It Been THAT Bad?

 

A benefit to the lack of warm and humid weather? A few less bites on your ankles. I haven’t been hearing too many people complaining about the skeeters so far in 2014. To be fair – I live in the city and barely ever see them anyway. But I’m sure there would be some Mondays where the office was buzzing (couldn’t resist) about getting eaten alive or nearly carried away by a swarm of the pests at a weekend BBQ. Hopefully, this bodes well for any potential EEE outbreaks this year, although they are sure to make a comeback when things *finally* warm up around here to more summer-like levels. Below is a map showing last year’s cases. You can see that EEE usually shows itself a bit later on in the  year, so that’s a storyline we’ll continue to watch.

EEE

Source: USGS

 

No Late Freeze – Apples for all!

blossoms Has It Been THAT Bad?

An ill-timed freeze during the late spring can be devastating. We saw this in 2012, when a scorching March brought out the blooms, only to be crushed by ‘normal’ temperatures during pollination time. Millions of dollars were lost across the country. While the days haven’t always been warm this spring, the nights haven’t been too cold.

This spring, we’ve barely had a single Frost Advisory issued by the NWS! Looking out into the next couple weeks, I see no chances for frost and so we should be home-free when it comes to damaging cold weather. April 16th-18th saw freezing temperatures in the Boston area, but nothing was growing yet in the wake of our cold March. April 18th is the last time Boston dipped below freezing, and the same is true of Worcester. If you were an aggressive gardener, you could have gotten away with planting quite a few crops in late April!

 

Temperatures – Has it really been that cold?

tempranks Has It Been THAT Bad?

You want to blame a month for weather misery? Blame March. You truly have a gripe when it comes to the wretched March we endured this year. It was the coldest March ever recorded in Vermont’s history, with Top 10 coldest Marches recorded across many of the Northeast states. Even though we never set a record low in Boston (in fact we’ve only set 1 in the past 7+ years at Logan), temperatures were persistently and relentlessly frigid. The month came out -4.8º below average in Boston, and -6.4º below average in Worcester. When you talk about the smoothing influence of temperatures over time, a departure that exceeds 3º on either side of the coin around here is very significant.

How about after that? April certainly didn’t blast right into blissful warmth. Only 2 days topped 70 degrees, both of them reaching 71 for a high in Boston. And overall, the month came in -0.7º below the average. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. What was most noticeable was the lack of vegetation. This is partly due to the frozen tundra of March, which slowed down the growing season considerably. Not only that, but the cold winter produced well-below-average sea surface temperatures off our shores. So on any day that actually attempted to warm up and didn’t feature a strong westerly wind, sea breezes developed and blasted the coastal communities with chilly air. Many saw their backyard plants wake up 2-3 weeks later than usual as a result.

And that brings us to May. The general consensus I hear via grumbling at the gym or in the local coffee shop is that this May has stunk. “Where’s spring?!” they plead! Whey can’t we just have normal spring weather?

I hate to break it to you folks, but this is normal spring weather. Today is completely unappealing to most, and it’s the 5th day this May we’ve had a high temp stay in the 50s. Is that unusual? Nope. In fact, it’s an improvement. Last year there were 5 days where Boston stayed in the 50s, too. But the year before that? Nine days. And in 2011? A whopping 10 days with highs that never broke out of the 50s!

Temperatures, smoothed out over all hours and days so far in May, are running about +2º above average in Boston & Worcester. Every single climate site in New England has recorded above average temperatures to date this month. So we’re balancing out the cooler April. Below average temps the rest of the month should make for a nearly dead average May. We think of it as a month when you can start running off to the beach, but in reality those days are frequently few and far between. At least the grass is green and the leaves are full on the trees.

In Conclusion….

Has it been great? No not really. But when I look at the lack of big records, economic damage from severe weather, and no spring flooding – I can’t really be that upset about this spring. I’d be happy if we didn’t see a day like today again until November, that’s for sure. But we’re slowly getting there and there’s still a whole lot of summer lurking out there. I promise some 80s are in our future! When the books close on ‘Meteorological Spring’ after Saturday (Mar-Apr-May), it will go down as a below average season for temperatures due to the weight of our freezing March. The last 2/3 have been reasonable.

In the near term – don’t expect a blast of summer to set in. Lots of 60s and 70s ahead as we make our way into June. There are some signs that the persistent troughing over the Northeast may give us just a little break heading into the middle of the month. Keep in mind – average highs are now moving into the 70s. By  mid or late June, a ‘cool’ day is still a great day. Just roll with the punches folks and make the most of the days, whether weather allows or not.

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