Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is an Emmy award winner, five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012 ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Classic February Nor'easter Top Local Weather Story of the Year

A classic Nor'easter delivered heavy snow and strong winds to southwestern Connecticut February 13 and 14, 2014, nearly paralyzing local roads and closing schools. The Winter storm is the top local weather story this year. The heavy snow pushed the season's total well over four feet. The snow began falling lightly just after 1 o'clock Thursday morning, February 13, and the heaviest snow fell between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Here is the surface map from 7 a.m.


There were white-out conditions during the morning with snow rates of one-to-three inches an hour. Another round of light snow developed early Friday, February 14, padding the snow totals. Cumulatively, nearly a foot-and-a-half of snow fell in Darien and Fairfield, and over a foot of snow was reported in New Canaan, Weston, Norwalk, Stamford, and Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Here are the snowfall totals from February 13 & 14 for southwestern Connecticut.


The storm's cumulative snow total was 12.2" at the airport, and that helped push the monthly total to nearly three feet (32.1"). Local climatologist Ralph Fato created this video showing the key highlights of the storm.



Paul

Monday, December 29, 2014

Nearly a Half-Foot of Snow Fell Two Years Ago Today

A storm system brought significant snow to Eastern Connecticut and plowable snow across Fairfield County two years ago today. The late-December storm, which arrived early Saturday afternoon, December 29, 2012, intensified as it moved away to the East, delivering nearly a foot of snow across parts of New Haven and New London counties. Officially, nearly five inches (4.8") of snow fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, bringing the monthly total to nearly eight inches (7.8").

That brought the 2012-2013 seasonal snowfall total to nearly a foot-and-a-half (16.2"), which is more than double the normal (7.3") through the date. That's more than four times greater than the previous year's total (4.0") through December 30. It was the fourth day with measured snowfall in December of 2012 and the eighth day that month with at least a trace of snow. Take a look at this photo sent by Lisa Chubinsky in Wilton. Her sons, Michael and Eric, made their first snowman of the season.


Officially, Shelton had the highest snow total across Fairfield County (6.3"), followed by New Canaan (5.8"), Newtown (5.4"), Bridgeport (4.6"), Redding (4.5"), Weston (4.3"), Norwalk (3.2"), and Darien (2.3"). New Haven County and points East received much more snow. In fact, Madison measured nearly a foot (11.2") West Haven had over a half foot (7.0"), and Milford had nearly a half-foot (5.0").


Paul

Friday, December 26, 2014

Powerful Blizzard Happened Four Years Ago Today

A powerful blizzard, which delivered about a foot-and-a-half of snow, 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts, and power outages throughout southwestern Connecticut, happened four years ago, December 26 and 27, 2010. The timing of the blizzard affected thousands of holiday travelers during Christmas weekend.

Storm3

It was the first time I wasn't able to drive to work on my own. One of my neighbors agreed to drive me to the studio in his snowplow during the height of the blizzard early Monday morning. I'm glad he did. To be sure, my Chevy Cavalier wouldn't have made the journey from Fairfield to Norwalk.

Officially, 12 inches of snow fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford from Sunday morning through early Monday morning.The eight inches of snow which fell Sunday marked the third snowiest December day on record in southwestern Connecticut. Only December 19, 1948 (16 inches), and December 30, 2000 (10 inches) brought more snow in one day. Here are some impressive snow totals from across southwestern Connecticut:
  • Wilton: 18"
  • New Canaan: 17.5"
  • Greenwich: 17"
  • Stratford: 16"
  • Norwalk: 16"
  • Westport: 14.8"
  • Darien: 14.5"
  • Milford: 14"
  • Bridgeport: 12"

Storm2

The biting wind was brutal if you were outside for any length of time. Sustained winds of 25 to 35 miles an hour were recorded late Sunday night and Monday, and wind gusts reached 60 miles at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford (9:21 p.m.) and Greenwich (10:00 p.m.) late Sunday evening. I was surprised that there weren't more widespread power outages.

Storm1

What a difference a couple of years makes. Today will be sunny and mild with a high temperature climbing into the 50s, which is well above normal for this time of the year. Some showers are expected tomorrow, though, as a cold front pushes through the region. However, it won't be anything like what we experienced four years ago this week.

Paul

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recalling a Snowy Christmas Eve Nearly a Half-Century Ago

We certainly won't have a white Christmas this year. However, I can't help but recall the snowiest and most memorable Night Before Christmas in my lifetime. Forty-eight years ago, over a half-foot of snow blanketed southwestern Connecticut on Saturday, December 24, 1966, resulting in treacherous roads, numerous accidents, and cancelled church services. Officially, 6.9 inches of snow fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, which still stands as a record nearly a half-century later.

According to an article which appeared in the Bridgeport Sunday Post the following day, the "weather plight was part of an old-fashioned Nor'easter, which brought icy cold, high winds, and a blanket of snow to most of the East (coast)." Gale force winds hammered the region through most of the storm. Take a look at the front page newspaper article from December 25, 1966:

Storm2

Yule

I recall my Dad attempting to drive my family, including my Mom, brother, sister, and me to my grandmother's home in Bridgeport for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. However, after sliding and skidding several times, our car got stuck on a hill in Fairfield. After several minutes, my Dad was able to gain some traction, and we decided to head home and avoid any more perils on the roads.

Although it's been 48 years since that unforgettable Christmas Eve, I remember it like it was yesterday. Do you have any memories of that storm from 1966? If so, I'd like to hear from you. Our weather won't be quite as memorable this year, but it will be wet and windy for Santa's trip to southwestern Connecticut.

Paul

Friday, December 19, 2014

Snowiest December Day on Record Happened on This Date in 1948

The snowiest December day on record in Bridgeport happened 66 years ago today. Sixteen inches of snow fell on Sunday, December 19, 1948. It is one of only two days in December with double-digit snowfall. The other was December 30, 2000, when 10 inches fell.

Take a look at the front page of the Naugatuck Daily News from the following morning, Monday, December 20, 1948. Please click the image to enlarge and read the story.


Paul

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter Solstice 10 Days Away

We're just 10 days away from the start of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter officially arrives Sunday, December 21, at 6:03 p.m. EST. Whenever I visited a school to conduct my Weatherkids program, many schoolchildren ask me why the start of a new season doesn't begin at midnight on a certain date, much like the beginning of a new year. The answer has to do with the Earth, the tilt on its axis, and its revolution around the Sun.

I've always maintained that the start of a new season is more of an "event" than watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve. That's because New Year's Day is a "man-made" holiday which can arbitrarily occur at any time during a calendar year. An equinox or a solstice, however, marks a precise time when the Sun's rays strike a particular point on the face of the Earth. I try to observe the arrival of a new season, and next Thursday will be no exception.


As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the North-South position of the Sun changes over the course of the year due to the changing orientation of the Earth's tilt with respect to the Sun. The dates of maximum tilt of the Earth's equator correspond to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, and the dates of zero tilt correspond to the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is day of the year when the Sun is farthest South. However, in the Southern Hemisphere, the Winter and Summer Solstices are the opposite, so that the Winter Solstice occurs on the first day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun's direct rays will be over the Tropic of Capricorn next Thursday morning.

The Winter Solstice also marks the "shortest day" of the year in terms of daylight. The length of time elapsed between Sunrise and Sunset at the Winter Solstice is at a minimum for the year. Of course, Daylight Saving Time means that the last Sunday in March has 23 hours and the first Sunday in November has 25 hours, but it does not correspond to the actual number of daylight hours.

Finally, the shadows cast by the Sun will be at their longest by the end of next week, since the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky. The actual times of Sunrise and Sunset in southwestern Connecticut for the Solstice are 7:16 a.m. and 4:27 p.m., respectively. Consider that on the first day of Summer in late June, the Sun rises at 5:19 a.m. and sets at 8:30 p.m. So, next Sunday's "length of day" is only nine hours and 11 minutes as opposed to 15 hours and 11 minutes exactly a half-year later.

So, as we prepare to welcome Winter, also realize that a week from next Sunday marks a turning point. The days will gradually begin to get longer from this point forward until the end of June. Things can only get brighter from here on out.

Paul

Friday, August 15, 2014

Connie & Diane Battered Connecticut 59 Years Ago This Month

Long-time area residents will never forget August of 1955 when two of the most memorable hurricanes --- Connie and Diane --- battered the Northeast. Hurricane Connie soaked New England with torrential rains on August 13, 1955. Then, just five days later, Tropical Storm Diane followed suit creating massive flooding not seen since the 1930s. Take a look at the front page of The Bridgeport Telegram from August 20, 1955.

Telgram
Test

The combination of Connie and Diane yielded rainfall totals close to 25 inches in some areas, resulting in unprecedented flooding. Nearly all of the major rivers in the lower Connecticut Valley exceeded flood stage. Some rivers rose more than 20 feet over their banks. Read the Valley News archive of daily weather events from August of 1955 to gain a better understanding of the power of those two August hurricanes!

Connie

While the two hurricanes affected the entire Atlantic coast, Connecticut suffered the most damage. For example, of the 180 lives that were lost, 77 were in Connecticut. Of the 680 million dollars in property damage, over 350 million dollars occurred in Connecticut. Over 200 dams in New England suffered partial to total failure. Many of these were in the area immediately south of Worcester, in the Thames and Blackstone headwaters. Here is a photo of Winsted, Connecticut, virtually devastated following the flood.

Aug55  
If August was not bad enough, two months later, a four day storm dumped an additional 12-14 inches of rain in southwestern New England. This event was not as widespread as the August storms, but record flood levels were achieved in some locations of the Housatonic and Hudson River basins.

Paul

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Marking the Anniversary of Hurricane Connie in 1955

An approaching storm system will bring rain, possible thunderstorms, minor coastal flooding, and gusty winds to southwestern Connecticut tonight and tomorrow. One-to-three inches of rain are possible. However, that pales in comparison to what happened 59 years ago today. Hurricane Connie brought nearly four inches (3.92") of rain to the region on Friday, August 12, 1955. Take a look at the front page of The Bridgeport Telegram from Saturday, August 13, 1955.

Telegram

Long-time area residents will never forget August of 1955 when two of the most memorable hurricanes --- Connie and Diane --- battered the Northeast. Hurricane Connie soaked New England with torrential rains on August 12 and 13, 1955. Then, just five days later, Tropical Storm Diane followed suit creating massive flooding not seen since the 1930s. Take a look at the front page of The Bridgeport Telegram from Saturday, August 20, 1955.

Telgram
Test

The combination of Connie and Diane yielded rainfall totals close to 25 inches in some areas, resulting in unprecedented flooding. Nearly all of the major rivers in the lower Connecticut Valley exceeded flood stage. Some rivers rose more than 20 feet over their banks. Read the Valley News archive of daily weather events from August of 1955 to gain a better understanding of the power of those two August hurricanes!

Found on Newspapers.com
While the two hurricanes affected the entire Atlantic coast, Connecticut suffered the most damage. For example, of the 180 lives that were lost, 77 were in Connecticut. Of the 680 million dollars in property damage, over 350 million dollars occurred in Connecticut. Over 200 dams in New England suffered partial to total failure. Many of these were in the area immediately south of Worcester, in the Thames and Blackstone headwaters. Here is a photo of Winsted, Connecticut, virtually devastated following the flood.

Aug55

If August was not bad enough, two months later, a four day storm dumped an additional 12-14 inches of rain in southwestern New England. This event was not as widespread as the August storms, but record flood levels were achieved in some locations of the Housatonic and Hudson River basins. The tropical season has been fairly quiet thus far, but things usually stir in late August and September. Tropical Storm Irene (2011) and Hurricane Gloria (1985) are two recent examples.

Paul

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Dog Days of Summer" Officially Come to a Close Today

The Dog Days of Summer officially come to an end today. In case you’re wondering, the dog days last for 40 days, from July 3 to August 11. They are directly related to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, or the big dog. Sirius is known as the Dog Star, and we see it clearly illuminating the night sky from early Autumn through early Spring.

However, during this time of the year, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun. During late July, Sirius is in “conjunction” with the Sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the Sun, creating a stretch of very hot, humid, and sultry weather. Actually, the conjunction of Sirius with the Sun varies slightly with latitude, and a gradual drifting of the constellations over time means that they are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome.


Although this is typically the warmest time of the year in southwestern Connecticut, the added heat is not due to the added radiation of a far-away star, regardless of how bright it is. The heat of Summertime in the Northern Hemisphere is a direct result of the Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt on its axis. Today's normal high temperature is 82 degrees, just one degree shy of the normal for late July.

This Summer has been one of the most enjoyable in recent memory. There has been just one 90-degree day at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford (July 8). An approaching storm system will bring heavy rain, potential flash flooding, and possible thunderstorms to the region Tuesday night and Wednesday. However, cooler and less humid weather returns Thursday and Friday, and the upcoming weekend is expected to be mostly sunny and pleasant.

Paul

Friday, August 8, 2014

August's Full Sturgeon Moon Illuminates Night Sky

We'll have a wonderful view of the Full Sturgeon Moon this weekend. Skies should be mostly clear when the Moon is nearly full Saturday night. Full Moon happens at exactly 2:09 p.m. this Sunday, August 10. A spectacular weekend is ahead under mostly sunny skies with daytime high temperatures in the lower 80s and nighttime lows in the lower 60s.

So, how did the August full Moon get its name? The fishing tribes are given credit for naming it, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
                    

Thunder and lightning are quite frequent with Summer storms in August. So, this month’s full Moon also goes by the name of the Lightning Moon for the Summer thunderstorms. Other names given to the Moon in August are the Red Moon and the Dog Moon. Full Moon names date back to the days of the Native Americans, in what is now the Northern and Eastern United States.

The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

Enjoy this weekend's Full Sturgeon Moon.

Paul

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Little League Weather

The Fairfield American Little League all-stars are just two victories away from returning to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Fairfield American's 12-year-olds play Barnstable, Massachusetts, this afternoon at 4 o'clock in the New England Regional semi-final round game at Breen Field in Bristol. If Fairfield wins, it will play in the nationally-televised regional championship game this Saturday evening.


The weather should cooperate for the players. It will be mostly sunny and seasonably warm at game time with a temperature of 77 degrees and a light wind out of the North. There is a slight chance of an isolated shower or thunderstorm, but that shouldn't prevent the game from being played. The locals are the top-seed of the four remaining teams after posting a 3-1 record in the qualifying round. Fairfield defeated Cumberland, Rhode Island, 5-3, this past Tuesday on a walk-off two-run home run by Jamie Flink.


The success of the Fairfield American Little League 12-year-old program is nothing short of amazing. The team won the state championship in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, and advanced to the Little League World Series after winning the New England Regional tournament in 2010 and 2012. If it wins the next two games, the team will have reached the Little League World Series for the third time in five years. That's simply incredible, considering the squad is comprised of new players and coaches every season.


Fairfield defeated Williston, Vermont, 9-4, in last Friday's regional opener before cruising to a 10-0 five-inning victory over Falmouth, Maine, Saturday. Goffstown, New Hampshire defeated Fairfield, 4-2, Sunday, but the locals came back to take the dramatic two-run victory over Rhode Island two days ago.

If Fairfield is fortunate to win today, the weekend weather looks great. Saturday evening's championship game will be played under mostly clear skies, a nearly-full Moon, and comfortable conditions.

Paul

Saturday, August 2, 2014

'Seasonable' July 2014 Much Different Than Scorching July 2014

What a difference a year makes! I'm sure you remember last July, which was the hottest month ever on record at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. There were two heat waves, including an unprecedented seven-day heat wave, and 11 days featured high temperatures at or above 90 degrees. The average temperature last July was 78.5 degrees, which was a whopping 4.2 degrees above normal.

Now, fast forward to this July. Incredibly, there was only one day when the mercury touched 90 degrees (July 8), and the average temperature for the month was 75.1 degrees. That was less than one degree above normal (74.3). However, the temperature never dropped below 60 degrees. The coolest temperature was 61 degrees on the mornings of July 6th and 30th.

Although the first half of the month featured average daily temperatures slightly above normal, cooler air arrived for the second half of the month. In fact, the average daily temperature was below normal five straight days from July 17th through July 21st. Eleven of the last 16 days of July were cooler-than-normal. On the flip side, only one of the first 16 days of the month was cooler-than-normal.

Interestingly, July's total rainfall measured just about three-and-a-half inches (3.46"), which was exactly normal for the month. There were nine days with measured rain, including three days in a row from July 2nd through July 4th. The greatest 24-hour rainfall (1.65") happened on July 14th and 15th. There were five days with at least a trace of rain, and 17 of the days were completely dry.

Paul

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August Traditionally Hot & Tropical

I'm sure many people won't be too happy to see July end. It's been a typical July weatherwise. In fact, the monthly rain total of 3.46" is just 0.14" above normal. The average temperature of 75.2 degrees is just 0.8 degrees above the norm. You may recall last July was the hottest month ever on record at Sikorsky Memorial Airport with an average daily temperature of 78.5 degrees, which was 4.2 degrees above normal and 0.1 degree above the record of 78.4 degrees set in 1994. There were two heat waves, including a record-setting seven-day heat wave from July 14 through July 20. However, August can be just as hot and oppressive.

You may recall that August of 2010 was much warmer than normal. We experienced a heat wave the last three days of the month, and the average monthly temperature (75.1 degrees) was less than one degree from the record of 76 degrees set in 1955. Eight years ago, we christened August with a heat wave when the first three days established record high temperatures of 95, 96, and 97 degrees, respectively, at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford.

Traditionally, August is the second warmest month of the year with a mean average temperature of 73.1 degrees, just behind July's average of 74 degrees, based on 40 years worth of data. The mercury has actually climbed to 100 degrees twice --- on August 9, 2001, and August 27, 1948. In fact, the daily record highs for the month never dip below 90 degrees. The warmest August on record (1955) featured two of the most potent rainstorms.

However, there are subtle signs that Summer is in decline over the next four weeks. The normal high temperature falls from 82 degrees on August 1 to 78 degrees by the end of the month. The overall mean temperature drops from 75 degrees to 70 by August 31. In fact, the record low temperature on August 29 is 44 degrees!


Daily sunshine continues to dwindle, too. We'll enjoy 14 hours and 21 minutes of daylight at the start of the month. But, by the last day of August, the Sun is out for 13 hours and nine minutes. We lose about an hour and a quarter of daylight over the next 31 days. In fact, sunrise occurs at 6:18 and sets at 7:27 by August 31. Remember, on the first day of Summer, the Sun set at 8:30.

As far as rainfall is concerned, the month averages about 3.75" of precipitation. The wettest August happened in 1952 when 13.29" of rain fell. There have been some drenching rains in August, including 4.66" on August 19, 1991, 4.01" on August 27, 2006, 3.99" on August 11, 2000, 3.92" on August 12, 1955, and 3.69" on August 21, 1952. Remember, we are in the heart of hurricane season, and tropical moisture is always a threat.

Long-time area residents will never forget August of 1955 when two of the most memorable hurricanes --- Connie and Diane --- battered the Northeast. Hurricane Connie soaked New England with torrential rains on August 13, 1955. Just five days later, Tropical Storm Diane followed suit creating massive flooding not seen since the 1930s.

The combination of Connie and Diane yielded rainfall totals close to 25 inches in some areas, resulting in unprecedented flooding. Nearly all of the major rivers in the lower Connecticut Valley exceeded flood stage. Some rivers rose more than 20 feet over their banks. There was tremendous destruction in the Naugatuck River Valley, especially in the city of Ansonia.

Summer officially reaches its halfway point this weekend. Another fairly nice day is ahead, but there is a threat of a shower later this afternoon and this evening with a high temperature in the upper 70s to close to 80 degrees. Unfortunately, it looks like the weekend will begin on a rainy note, as an area of low pressure moves North along a stationary front. Hopefully, we'll be able to salvage the latter half of the weekend. The start of next week promises to be fair and quite warm with daytime highs in the lower 80s. Good-bye, July!

Paul

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Devil's Den Nature Preserve Offers the Perfect Summer Getaway

Devil's Den Nature Preserve in Weston encompasses 1,756 acres and is the Nature Conservancy's largest preserve in Connecticut. The Den provides a valuable oasis for species that require interior woodland for successful reproduction. Research has shown that such large unfragmented forest areas are vital to the health of a variety of species. 

Devil's Den also represents a significant portion of the watershed of the West branch of the Saugatuck River, a habitat for many of aquatic species, including several uncommon species of mussel. Devil's Den is also of historical significance. Archaeological evidence indicates human use of the area, mostly for hunting, as long as 5,000 years ago. 

The remains of an up-and-down sawmill below Godfrey Pond testify to the importance of the lumbering that dovetailed with charcoal burning. The production of charcoal was an important commercial activity in the 1800s and marks dozens of sites. The Den was created by the late Katharine Ordway through a series of donations from 1966 through 1968, beginning with an 1,100-acre purchase from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.



The Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil's Den Preserve is the Connecticut Chapter's largest continuous preserve and the largest tract of protected land in densely developed Fairfield County. Its patchwork of woodlands, wetlands and rock ledges and a series of north-south ridges and valleys woven with streams and swamps make the Devil's Den ideal for low-impact outdoor activities such as hiking and bird watching. My sons and I enjoyed a seven-mile, two-and-a-half hour hike through the preserve this past Saturday.





Devil's Den is the chapter's most frequently visited preserve, hosting more than 40,000 people per year. It is ideally located to provide an enriching and educational outdoor experience for residents of surrounding towns such as Redding, Easton, Westport and Wilton, along with the nearby metropolitan areas of Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford. The Den is part of the extended 70-mile Saugatuck Valley Trails System, with contiguous forest and watershed lands.





The preserve's 20-mile trail system winds past dramatic rocky crests, outcroppings, and cliffs forming high ledges partly covered with grasses, mosses, and lichens. The preserve features more than 500 types of trees and wildflowers, including the beautiful pink lady's slipper, cardinal flower, and Indian pipe. Devil's Den is home to red fox, bobcat, coyote, Eastern copperhead, wood duck, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker and more than 140 other bird species.








The Den was created by the late Katharine Ordway through a series of donations from 1966 through 1968, beginning with an 1,100-acre purchase from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.

Paul

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Summer Reality Check

We're off to a beautiful start this morning. Clear skies and light winds allowed the temperature to drop into the 50s in some local communities. A refreshing breeze out of the Northwest is delivering much lower dew points and humidity levels through the start of the weekend. Dare I say it almost looked and felt like early Autumn outside this morning.

Believe it or not, yesterday marked the midway point of Summer vacation for my younger son. How is that possible? It seems like only yesterday we were helping them celebrate the last day of school. That was more than four weeks ago. In less than five short weeks, the students and teachers will be heading back to the classroom once again.

The days are indeed getting "shorter." In fact, we have lost nearly 40 minutes of daylight since the first day of Summer. Sunrise on June 21st happened at 5:19. This morning's Sunrise was at 5:44, 25 minutes later. Sunset is now at 8:17, 13 minutes before the latest Sunset, at 8:30, on the Solstice.


By the end of the month, sunrise occurs at 5:47, while the Sun sets at 8:10. Two weeks later, by mid-August, the shorter days become even more pronounced, with Sunrise and Sunset times at 6:02 and 7:51, respectively. The "shorter" days have to do with the Earth's revolution around the Sun, and the 23.5 degree tilt on its axis. By the end of September, the Autumnal Equinox begins a six-month period of longer nights and shorter days in the Northern Hemisphere.

Need further proof that we're moving through Summer rather quickly? My favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots, opened training camp yesterday in Foxboro, Massachsetts. Their first exhibition game is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. That's less than two weeks away! Before you know it, the regular season will be here.

Make sure you get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather day. It will be picture-perfect under mostly sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures. Tonight will be mostly clear and comfortable with lows in the low-to-mid 60s. Tomorrow will be partly sunny and pleasant before a warm front arrives early Sunday, bringing a threat of a shower or thunderstorm. Our streak of nine consecutive weekends without measured rain may come to an end.

Paul

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sun's Angle Lower & Shadows Longer Since First Day of Summer

Even though we're just a little more than a month removed from the Summer Solstice, there are subtle signs that the "longest day of the year" was just over four weeks ago. You may have noticed that the days are getting shorter, since the Sun rises 19 minutes later and the Sun sets 11 minutes earlier than it did on the first day of Summer. However, less discernible is the change in the length of shadows. Believe it or not, the shadows have been slowly getting longer, and that's due to the Sun's lower angle in the sky.

The Sun reached its highest angle in the sky --- or declination --- in the Northern Hemisphere on the first day of Summer. The declination of the Sun is the measurement of the angle between the Sun’s rays and the Earth’s equatorial plane. The Earth’s axis is tilted by 23.5 degrees away from the solar plane. This explains why we have different seasons and why the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere always have contradicting seasons. When tilted towards the Sun, it's Summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Sun’s declination varies throughout the year. Its declination becomes zero during the Spring Equinox and reaches the maximum declination angle of 23.5 degrees during the Summer Solstice. It reverts to zero declination when the Fall Equinox occurs and drops to a negative 23.5-degree declination during the Winter Solstice.

Today, for example, the declination of the Sun is an 20.24 degrees North of the celestial equator. That's more than three degrees lower than where it was June 20. By the end of the month, it will be 18.5 degrees North of the celestial equator. The Sun's declination will be +14.15 degrees by August 15, and +8.52 on the final day of next month. By September 16, it will be just 3.16 degrees North of the celestial equator. As you can see, the Sun's angle will be dropping lower in the sky over the next two months.


The change in the Sun’s declination results in yearly cycles which are observed as each season progresses. The declination of the Sun has effects on its own altitude and to the duration of daylight. The Sun reaches its highest altitude above the horizon each day at noon in the Northern Hemisphere. With respect to the celestial equator, it reaches the highest altitude of 73.5 degrees the first day of the Summer, while its altitude reaches the minimum 26.5 degrees during the first day of Winter.

Yesterday marked one month since the Summer Solstice, and the Autumnal Equinox is two months away. Hot and humid weather is expected through tomorrow before a cold front arrives, triggering showers and thunderstorms. Much more comfortable weather will be with us later Thursday into Friday.

Paul

Friday, July 18, 2014

"One Small Step for Man" Marks 45th Anniversary This Weekend

Some dates naturally carry more significance than others. Birthdays and anniversaries come to mind instantly. One such "anniversary" happened 45 years ago this Sunday. Those of you old enough to remember Sunday, July 20, 1969, no doubt can recall watching Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong descending the steps of the lunar module’s ladder and setting foot on the Moon for the first time. I was mesmerized by what I saw that night on the black-and-white Zenith television set in our living room.
Apollo-11-patch
Apollo 11, the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo program, launched from the Kennedy Space Center four days earlier. As a young child of 10, watching the late Armstrong walk on the lunar surface was probably the most significant news event of my youth. I can still remember the late Walter Cronkite on CBS television describing the landing, and the bundle of nerves I felt for myself and the Apollo astronauts, Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins.

I was fascinated by the space program in the 1960s. Naturally, I couldn’t wait for the landing of Apollo on the Moon. As I recall, while on the far side of the Moon, the lunar module, called the Eagle, separated from the Command Module, named Columbia. Collins remained alone in Columbia, while Armstrong and Aldrin used Eagle’s descent engine to right themselves and descend to the lunar surface. The wait seemed interminable for this youngster, who couldn’t believe that we would actually see LIVE images from the Moon later that night.

I kept asking questions of my Mom and Dad all day and evening. “What will it look like on television?” “When will the astronauts climb out of the Eagle?” “How are we able to see it if they’re so far away?” They couldn’t answer most of my questions since this had never happened before. I still couldn’t believe what we were about to see. I’m sure it’s what ultimately piqued my interest in astronomy, subsequent space missions, and Science in general. This is what it looked like 45 years ago this weekend.



Our family gathered in the living room in front of the small TV set with rabbit ears and watched as Cronkite prepared us for the first step on the Moon. Just over six-and-a half hours after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon at 4:17 p.m., we sat in silence and awe as Armstrong made his descent to the Moon’s surface at 10:56 p.m. and spoke his famous words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I'm sure the momentous event will be featured on newscasts this weekend. Incredibly, more than half the people living in the United States today weren’t even born when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. It was arguably the most historic event of the 20th century. I, for one, am glad I saw it LIVE, and I will never forget it for the rest of my life!

Paul

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Minneapolis to Host Mid-Summer Classic This Evening

The annual “Midsummer Classic” takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota this evening, when the American League's Minnesota Twins host Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. It's the first time in 29 years that the Twins are hosting the game. The National League defeated the American League, 6-1, at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, 6-1, in front of 54,960 fans on July 16, 1985.

The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 69 degrees at game time. There will be a light wind out of the Northwest at five to ten miles an hour, and the humidity will be a comfortable 53 percent. Sunset is at 8:56 p.m. The American League is hoping to make it back-to-back victories after posting a 3-0 shutout victory at Citi Field in New York last year to snap the National League's three-game winning streak.


Prior to 2010, the National League won just three All-Star games since 1988. The “Senior Circuit” won the 1994 contest in Pittsburgh, 8-7, in ten innings, and the next two years as well. However, the American League claimed 11 of the next 12 classics, with the only exception being the controversial 7-7 tie in Milwaukee 12 years ago. The National League is hoping to extend its winning streak to four games.

Asg69As for rainouts, perhaps the most memorable was the 1969 game in Washington. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening, July 22, but a torrential rainstorm forced a postponement to the following day. I vividly recall the images of water flooding the dugouts at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital. The outfield grass featured standing water and deep puddles. However, the next afternoon, 45,259 fans watched as the Nationals easily defeated the Americans, 9-3.

Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants was named the game’s Most Valuable Player by hitting home runs in the third and fourth innings. That tied the record previously set by Arky Vaughan (1941), Ted Williams (1946), and Al Rosen (1954). Johnny Bench also homered for the winners. Frank Howard, the hometown hero with the Senators, and Bill Freehan hit round trippers for the A. L. Oddly, the National League stretched its winning streak to seven games with the easy victory.

Asg67The first All-Star game I clearly remember was a “classic” in Anaheim in 1967 in which the National League edged the American League, 2-1, in 15 innings on a Tony Perez home run. Twelve pitchers were featured in the contest and each had at least one strikeout. There were 30 strikeouts in the game, an All-Star record. Tom Seaver of the Mets picked up the save by pitching a scoreless 15th inning for the National League.

Will the American League win again? It looks like Mother Nature won't play a role in this year's contest, save for the setting Sun and the pitcher throwing from the sunlight into the shadows early in the game. The Midsummer Classic means it’s time to relax, sit back, and enjoy major league baseball, just as long as the weather cooperates. Soon, it will be time to “Play Ball!”

Paul

Friday, July 11, 2014

July's Full Thunder Moon Happens Early Saturday

You may have noticed the nearly-full Moon in the Western sky early this morning. Unfortunately, lingering clouds partially obscured the view, but tonight will be mostly clear. That will afford us the perfect opportunity to see July's Full Thunder Moon. It will be completely full tomorrow at 7:25 a.m. EDT.

The Full Thunder Moon is so named since thunderstorms are common during this time of the year. Another name for this month’s Moon is the Full Buck Moon. July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer rush out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. Another name for this month’s Moon is the Full Hay Moon.


Full Moon names date back to Native Americans in what is now the Northern and Eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring Full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

A Full Moon rises at about the same time the Sun is setting. Since the length of daylight is about 15 hours and four minutes today, the Full Moon will rise later and set earlier this time of the year. In addition, the Full Moon will appear lower in the sky since it won’t be visible nearly as long as during the mid-Winter nights. However, since it is at perigee with the Earth, it will appear fuller and brighter than normal.

For example, the Moon rises at 7:35 this evening and sets at 5:52 tomorrow morning. That means the Moon will be visible for ten hours and 17 minutes. Conversely, six months from now in January when the amount of daylight is at a minimum, the Full Wolf Moon will appear higher in the sky and be visible for about 17-and-half-hours. That’s over seven hours longer than this time of the year!

A fairly nice weekend is ahead, but I'm not sure it will be the eighth straight weekend without any measured rain across southwestern Connecticut. Saturday will be mostly sunny and pleasant with a high temperature in the lower 80s. Sunday will be partly sunny and humid with a late-afternoon shower or thunderstorm and a high in the lower 80s. Monday and Tuesday will be humid with thunderstorms likely each day.

Paul

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Deadly & Destructive Tornadoes Hit Connecticut a Quarter-Century Ago Today

One of the most unforgettable weather days happened 25 years ago today when a series of deadly and destructive tornadoes hit Connecticut on the afternoon of July 10, 1989. I was the early morning forecaster at the Western Connecticut State University weathercenter in Danbury back then. Although I predicted strong to severe thunderstorms for the region that afternoon, I never imagined the magnitude of the tornadoes which would strike Connecticut later that day.

I remember the storms began early that morning in upstate New York. A tornado hit Ogdensburg just before daybreak, injuring one person. One inch hail and wind gusts of over 50 miles an hour were a telltale sign that the approaching frontal boundary meant business. Many reports of wind damage in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts occurred before noon.

Unfortunately, the timing of the storm had it moving into western Connecticut by the afternoon hours, when the atmosphere is most volatile due to the heating of the Sun. By midafternoon, as the atmosphere continued to heat up and the front moved eastward, the tornadoes developed. The first tornado, which may actually have been three distinctly separate tornadoes, started in the Northwest community of Cornwall, and leveled the Cathedral Pines forest.

The tornado continued south-southeast through Milton, leveling hundreds of trees and virtually destroying the village of Bantam before dissipating. A 12-year-old girl, who was on a campout with family and friends, was killed by falling trees in Black Rock State Park. Not much later, another tornado touched down in Watertown, passing through Oakville and northern Waterbury . That either damaged or destroyed over 150 homes and injured 70 people.

Hamden_tornado

However, the most destructive tornado occurred in Hamden by late-afternoon. The path was only about five miles long, and it stopped just short of New Haven. The tornado destroyed almost 400 structures, and even cars were tossed into the air. Rows of houses and an industrial park were flattened as a result of the tornado. The storm was so strong that much of the area was without power for at least a week, and there were some trees still being cleared months later. The adjacent photo shows some of the damage in Hamden. This video was made for the Hamden Fire Department's Training Division the day after the tornado struck.



The powerful F-4 tornado which struck Hamden caused $100 million in damage and another $20 million in the Greater New Haven area. Forty people were injured in the tornado. After the tornado dissipated, a wind gust of 80 miles an hour was reported in New Haven. At about that time, another tornado struck Mount Carmel, tearing the roof off a condominium and injuring five people.

Of course, 25 years ago we didn't have the technology we do today, but I was still able to monitor the radar by the time I arrived home early in the afternoon. Remember, the Internet, News 12 Traffic and Weather, and access to instant local weather coverage didn't exist in those days. By the evening, the violent weather had ended, skies were clearing, and the damage had been done. It was certainly a day I'll never forget.

Paul

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ridgefield Toddler Dies After Being Left in Hot Car

Recent stories about young children being left in cars during extreme heat have been headline news across Connecticut. It came to a head yesterday when Ridgefield police say a 15-month-old boy died after he was left in a hot car for an extended period of time. Police say the child died Monday at around 6 p.m. Police did not identify the location where the car was parked, but said it happened in Ridgefield. The child's name has also not been released. An autopsy is being done to determine the official cause of death.

Daytime temperatures have climbed well into the 80s and close to 90 degrees inland just about every day this month. However, inside a car, the mercury could possibly reach 107 degrees with an outside air temperature of 90 degrees in just 20 minutes. In fact, the temperature could rise to almost 120 degrees inside a hot vehicle within one hour. Take a look at the following graphic provided by the National Weather Service office in New York.


More than three dozen children die of hyperthermia in cars every year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since 1998, more than 500 children have died from hyperthermia after being in a hot automobile, Connecticut State Police noted. Ridgefield Police Captain Jeff Kreitz said yesterday the boy had been left inside the car for an "extended period of time." He declined to provide further details and did not say whether criminal charges were being considered.
                    

Unfortunately, there have been other instances this week of children being left alone in cars. Two children were found by a New London police officer dripping sweat and reddened from the heat after they were left in a hot car Tuesday afternoon. Police say a car in the area of 200 State Street caught an officer’s attention close to 5 p.m. because the driver’s side rear door kept opening and shutting very quickly. When the officer investigated, he found a six-year-old and a nine-year-old in the car without any adults around. They were dripping with sweat, and their faces were reddened from the heat, police said.

Police say 27-year-old Cassandra Donnejour Nonossiold left an infant and a toddler inside of vehicle at a North Haven Target parking lot around 9:30 Monday night. According to a press release, Nonossiold allegedly brought one child into the store with her, but she left the infant and toddler because she didn’t want to wake them. According to police, Nonossoild allegedly locked the doors and left the windows cracked, then left the infant and toddler for 16 minutes while she shopped. A concerned passerby noticed and called 9-1-1.

Unfortunately, it takes a death close to home to emphasize how important it is not to leave children, elderly, or pets in cars during the hot Summer months. The temperature will soar to close to 120 degrees inside the vehicle in just one hour. I know from sitting in a parked car with the windows open how unbearably hot it can get. Please exercise extreme caution in the heat this Summer.

Paul