Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is a New York Emmy award winner (2007), five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' in Connecticut (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction (2012 & 2013) ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award (2012) ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Monday, June 30, 2014

July Preview

Half the year is over. Now that July is just about here, it’s time to look ahead at what the month brings climatologically to southwestern Connecticut. I'm sure you remember the record heat wave one year ago. The temperature climbed to 90 degrees July 14 and reached into the 90s the next six days for a seven-day heat wave. That was unprecedented across southwestern Connecticut. In fact, we also experienced a four-day heat wave from July 5 through July 8.

This year, the mercury has not reached 90 degrees over the first six months of the year at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. That's only happened three other times since 1948 (1950, 1962, and 2004). It looks like we won't reach the 90-degree mark through the upcoming holiday weekend. Not surprisingly, July is the warmest month of the year with a mean temperature of 74 degrees. The hottest temperature ever recorded at the airport happened  July 22, 2011, when the mercury topped 103 degrees, tying the record originally set in 1957. The following day, July 23, 2011, another record high of 96 degrees was recorded.

The mercury reached the century mark two other times — July 2, 1966 and July 5, 1999. In fact, the average daily temperature climbs from 72 degrees at the start of the month to 75 by July 31. Last July was the warmest on record with an average temperature of 78.5 degrees, breaking the previous mark of 78.4 degrees in 1994.

July of 2010 was another hot one. You may recall the heat wave over the Independence Day holiday weekend four years ago. The high temperatures from July 4 through July 7, 2010, were 97, 93, 98, and 95 degrees, respectively. In fact, record high temperatures were established July 6 and 7. The mercury also reached 95 degrees July 24. The average temperature for the month was 78 degrees, a half-degree shy of last year's all-time record.

Many people have asked me why the hottest time of the year happens over a month after the first day of Summer. Well, it takes the Earth awhile to absorb the heat. As the Sun’s angle gets higher in the sky and the days grow longer in May and June, the Northern Hemisphere slowly starts to warm.

It’s much like warming your home. When you turn your thermostat up to 72 degrees after being away all day in the Winter, it will take awhile for the house to warm up. It doesn’t happen instantly. That’s why our hottest days are typically in July and early August.

On the flip side, the coolest temperature ever recorded in these parts in July was 49 degrees on July 1, 1988. Aside from that, every record low for the month is in the 50s. Believe it or not, according to the National Weather Service record book, a trace of snow fell at the airport on July 4, 1950. I find that too hard to believe.

As far as precipitation is concerned, the wettest July on record happened in 1971 when over a foot of rain (12.84″) fell. The average monthly rainfall is 3.77 inches. There have been several memorable rainstorms in July. For example, nearly a half-foot (5.95″) of rain fell on July 19, 1971, and nearly four inches (3.93″) was recorded on July 29, 1990. Two other days delivered well over three inches of rain — July 30, 1960 (3.57″) and July 23, 1953 (3.45″).

The length of daylight actually decreases next month. For example, on July 1, the Sun rises at 5:23 and sets at 8:30. By the middle of the month, on July 15, the Sun rises at 5:32 and sets at 8:24. However, at the end of the month, it rises at 5:47 and sets at 8:10, meaning we lose 44 minutes of daylight. Remember, the “longest” day of the year happened at the Summer Solstice in late June.

Our weather will be warm and moderately humid today under a mix of sunshine and clouds with a high temperature in the lower 80s. Tonight will become mild and muggy with patchy fog and a low in the 60s. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, warm, and more humid with a high in the lower 80s. Showers and thunderstorms are expected Wednesday and Thursday. A soon-to-be tropical storm is forecast to move just offshore Friday and Saturday, hopefully keeping our streak of rain-free weekends intact. However, the system bears watching over the next couple of days.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Next Week's Heat Coincides With the Start of the "Dog Days" of Summer

Dog_daysThe weekend forecast looks great. It will be mostly sunny, warm, and less humid with daytime high temperatures in the lower 80s. This will be the sixth straight weekend without measured precipitation across southwestern Connecticut. However, the heat and humidity will build early next week, and the mercury may flirt with 90 degrees by Tuesday. It will feel more like the "Dog Days of Summer."

Did you know that the "dog days" are actually a 40-day period which lasts from early July through mid-August? The dog days of Summer officially begin next Thursday, July 3, and run through August 11 in the Northern Hemisphere. It all has to do with the star Sirius, known as "the dog star." Sirius is the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere other than the Sun, and it is found in the constellation Canis Major, thus the name "dog star."

In the Summer, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun. During late July, Sirius is in "conjunction" with the Sun. The ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the Sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, the "dog days," in honor of the dog star.

Sirius2In ancient times, when the night sky was unobscured by artificial lights and smog, different groups of peoples in different parts of the world drew images in the sky by "connecting the dots" of stars. The images drawn were dependent upon the culture.
The Chinese saw different images than the Native Americans, who saw different pictures than the Europeans. These star pictures are now called constellations, and the constellations that are now mapped out in the sky come from our European ancestors.

They saw images of bears (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins (Gemini), a bull (Taurus), and others, including dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor). The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius. The star can be seen prominently in the Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, adjacent to Orion the Hunter.

The conjunction of Sirius with the Sun varies somewhat with latitude. Also, the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome. The Summer heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. The hot weather is a direct result of the earth's 23.5 degree tilt on its axis, meaning the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun during the Summer.

Summer_dogMake sure you get outside and enjoy this weekend. It will be beautiful. Summer vacations are now in full swing, and, so, too, will be the "dog days" by the end of next week. Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recalling the 2010 Bridgeport Tornado

It was four years ago yesterday that a tornado tore through Bridgeport, forcing more than 50 residents out of their homes for weeks. Parts of the city are still recovering as people remembered the afternoon of the storm. City officials say the tornado caused more than $3.5 million in damage.

The National Weather Service says winds reached up to 100 mph. One of the areas hardest hit was near the corner of Nichols and East Main streets. The Barnum Museum was almost completely wiped out. Four years later, museum officials say it is almost back to its regular operating hours after cutting back for reconstruction.

Other businesses in the city have completely rebuilt. Even though many businesses and homes were lost, officials say the damage was not enough to qualify for federal aid from FEMA.

Bridgeport Tornado by PaulWXman


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tornado Ripped Through Bridgeport Four Years Ago Today

It only took a matter of minutes, but a violent thunderstorm spawned a tornado which ripped through the Greater Bridgeport area four years ago today, resulting in much damage, destruction, and a loss of electricity for thousands. A powerful cold front collided with a hot and humid air mass to set the stage for a Tornado Warning and a strong thunderstorm cell between 2 and 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon, June 24, 2010.

The temperature soared to 90 degrees for the second day in a row at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford that day, but the dew point --- or moisture content in the atmosphere --- was extremely high. As the front approached, the sky darkened, the heavens opened up, and vivid lightning along with hurricane-force wind gusts ripped through the Park City. Here is a photo of Washington Park in Bridgeport taken by one of our viewers, Melissa, following the storm.


There was dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning and a wind gust of 78 miles-an-hour in Bridgeport. The average wind speed during the height of the storm was 43 miles-an-hour. Nearly a half-inch of rain fell in a short period of time, resulting in some minor flooding of low-lying areas. But, it was the wind damage which caused a state of emergency to be declared in Bridgeport. Take a look at this picture of a fallen tree in the Park City taken by Takina.


Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and former Governor Jodi Rell arrived on the scene to survey the damage from the storm. "It looks like Godzilla went through and ripped roofs off and threw cars around and tore wires down," Finch said as he spoke with reporters and residents who had gathered in the streets. "I mean, it's really amazing," he added. Shelley sent two photos of the damage on East Main Street.



Bethany sent the following photo of downtown Bridgeport.


Personally, my family and I ran to the basement that afternoon once we heard a Tornado Warning was issued and the skies darkened. In a matter of minutes, the wind began to howl and heavy rain fell. My sons were worried that a tornado would rip apart our home. Not unexpectedly, the power went out, but the storm exited shortly thereafter. We didn't get our electricity back until just before midnight. Here's one more photo taken by Amanda of minor flooding on James Street in Bridgeport.



Monday, June 23, 2014

Lightning Safety Awareness Week

This is Lightning Safety Awareness Week. People are often surprised to hear that I'm afraid of lightning and thunderstorms. Whenever thunderstorms are in the forecast, I tell our viewers that I'll be hiding under the bed when they arrive. "You're a weatherman, so you should know all about lightning," is the refrain I frequently hear. That's exactly why I'm afraid of it. I know that lightning can kill. This photo of a lightning strike was taken at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk.

Lightning is one of nature's most awe inspiring and dangerous phenomenon. The average lightning flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months. The temperature of a lightning bolt may reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's even hotter than the surface of the Sun.

Lightning kills about 73 people nationwide each year. In fact, lightning remains one of the most deadly weather phenomena in the United States, and it can occur almost anywhere throughout the entire year. According to the National Weather Service Web site, lightning occurring during snowstorms has even killed people. However, a few simple precautions can reduce many of the dangers posed by lightning.

First, when you first hear thunder, it is time to act to prevent being struck by lightning. Generally speaking, when you can see lightning or hear thunder, you're already at risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the bang of thunder is less than 30 seconds, immediately seek a safer location.

If you're outside, you should avoid high places and open fields, isolated trees, gazebos, open sided picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communication towers, flagpoles, light poles, metal or wood bleachers, metal fences, convertibles, golf carts, and water, whether a lake, pool, or river.

Inside, stay away from the telephone or computer, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside. These include metal door or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, or plumbing. People should stay away from playing computer games, too.

Many years ago my aunt was nearly struck by lightning while walking in an upstairs hallway during a severe thunderstorm. The windows at each end of the hallway were open, and a vivid bolt of lightning traveled through the hallway just as she entered a side room. The experience was frightening, to say the least.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Weekend Winning Streak Continues

Today is the last full day of Spring. Summer officially arrives tomorrow at 6:51 a.m. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere. That's when the Sun's rays are directly over the Tropic of Cancer. The weather will cooperate, too. In fact, high pressure will deliver another dry weekend to southwestern Connecticut with afternoon high temperatures close to 80 degrees tomorrow and Sunday.

This will be the fifth straight weekend without measured precipitation across the region. The last weekend day which featured rain was Saturday, May 17. Since then, we've enjoyed 11 straight weekend days without measured rain. This follows a streak of four straight weekends with rain beginning in late April. In fact, the weekend of May 10 and 11 had rain each day.

How long will the current weekend winning streak last? Let's not worry about that right now. Instead, enjoy the nice weather the next two days. Here's my latest weather forecast. Happy Summer!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

International Space Station to Pass Overhead Tonight

By Joe Rao
News 12 Westchester Meteorologist

The International Space Station will pass directly overhead tonight. With the prospects of a generally clear sky continuing to improve this Thursday evening, we should have ringside seats to watch a spectacular pass of the International Space Station over the Tri-State NY Area.

The ISS will first appear above the northwest horizon at 9:45 p.m. The Space Station will appear to move almost straight up and ultimately will pass overhead at around 9:48 p.m. Then, the ISS will drop straight down toward the southeast horizon and just after 9:50 p.m. it will quickly pull a fade-out as it passes into the Earth's shadow.

The total time of visibility will be 5 minutes and 34 seconds. The ISS will resemble a bright, non-twinkling "moving star," shining with a yellowish-white hue. As the Space Station climbs higher, it will also brighten noticeably. As it passes overhead it might become as bright as the planet Venus, so it should easily be visible to the eye, even from brightly lit cities.

Spread the word! Take the kids out and show them the largest man-made object now in orbit, 240 miles above the Earth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Full Strawberry or Honey Moon Happens Early Friday Morning

The Full Strawberry Moon happens just after midnight, Friday morning, June 13, at 12:11 a.m. The name was was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. The relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June, so the Full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

The June Full Moon is also called a Honey Moon in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly because it never gets very high in the sky. When we gaze toward the Full Moon tonight, we are seeing it through more of the Earth’s atmosphere than when the Moon is overhead. The atmosphere reddens its color.

The Full Moon is especially low in the Northern Hemisphere because it occurs just about a week before the Summer Solstice. The Full Moon is opposite the Sun in the sky. Therefore, when the Sun is higher in the Summer sky, the Full Moon is lower. Every Full Moon stands more or less opposite the Sun in our sky. That’s why the Moon looks full.

Around the world tonight, the Moon will rise around sunset, climb to its highest point around midnight, and set close to sunrise. As seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the Moon – like the December Solstice Sun – will rise far South of due East and set far South of due West.

North of the Arctic Circle, tonight’s Moon – like the Winter Sun – will be too far South to climb above the horizon. Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere – where it’s Winter now – tonight’s Moon will mimic the Summer Sun, arcing high in the heavens. South of the Antarctic Circle, the Moon will simulate the midnight Sun – up all hours around the clock.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Solstice Just a Week-and-a-Half Away

Cartoon-sun-thumb10088541Ask any child when Summer begins, and he or she will undoubtedly respond with the date of the last day of school. Ask an adult and his or her answer is most likely either June 20 or June 21. In case you're wondering, the Summer Solstice happens Saturday, June 21, at 6:51 a.m. EDT.

That’s when the Sun’s rays will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer, marking their northernmost point on the face of the Earth. The Sun rises at 5:19 a.m. and sets at 8:30 p.m., which is the latest Sunset during the year. We’ll enjoy 15 hours and 11 minutes of Sunlight on the first day of Summer.

Two days later, the Sun rises at 5:20, and the days begin to get “shorter” once again. Remember, since the first day of Summer is “the longest day” of the year, the days actually become shorter by the end of the month and the remainder of the Summer.

So, why does the Summer Solstice actually happen? Well, the seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. Because the Earth rotates like a gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed position constantly, while the Earth is revolving around the Sun. During one half of the year, the Northern Hemisphere has more exposure to the Sun than the Southern Hemisphere, while the reverse is true during the other half of the year. At noontime, the Sun appears high in the sky during Summertime, and when the Sun reaches its maximum elevation, or angle, in the sky, that’s when the Summer Solstice happens.

Summer_smallSummer was a joyous time of the year in prehistoric times for the Aboriginal people who lived in the Northern latitudes. The snow had melted, the ground thawed out, and warm temperatures returned. Flowers were in full bloom, and leaves had returned to the trees. More important, food was easier to find, and crops had been planted and would be harvested for months to come. The Full Moon is June is called the Full Honey Moon. Tradition dictates that this is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.

This time of the year, between the planting and harvesting of crops, is the traditional time for weddings because many ancient peoples believed that the grand union of the goddess and god occurred in early May. Since it was unlucky to compete with the gods, many people delayed their weddings until June. Today, June remains a favorite month for marriage.

Native Americans have constructed many stone structures linked to the Equinoxes and Solstices. Many are still standing today. One of them is called Calendar One. It is a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and other markers around the edge of the bowl. “At the Summer Solstice, the Sun rose at the southern peak of the East ridge and set at a notch at the southern end of the West ridge.” The Winter Solstice and both equinoxes were similarly marked.

I’d love to be at Calendar One a week from Saturday. The start of each of the four seasons carries more significance to this writer than New Year’s Day, which, in essence, is an arbitrary day on the calendar. The start of Summer is just a week-and-a-half away, and that is reason to celebrate in the Northern Hemisphere.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Record-Breaking Heat Wave Started Six Years Ago Today

6a00d8341c04cc53ef00e552be2a818834-800wi A surprising and record-breaking heat wave across southwestern Connecticut began six years ago today, resulting in the only Spring heat wave on record. The mercury climbed to 90 degrees on Sunday afternoon, June 8, 2008, beginning a three-day stretch of oppressive heat which resulted in the early dismissal and closing of area schools the following two days.

The normal high and low temperatures for June 8 through 10 are 75 and 58 degrees, respectively. However, high pressure anchored off the Atlantic coast helped push temperatures close to 100 degrees June 9 and 10. Although the June 8 high temperature of 90 degrees was three degrees shy of the 93-degree record set in 1999, the highs of 97 and 96 degrees the following two days were both records for the date. The overnight lows hovered close to 70 degrees each morning.

The 97-degree temperature on June 9, 2008, is the warmest ever on record for June and matched the warmest-ever Spring day (May 20, 1996) at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. The 96-degree reading the following day marked only the fourth time the mercury soared that high in June. Other than the previous day, the only other times the temperature reached 96 degrees during the month happened on June 19, 1994, and June 26, 1949.

I received notification from my hometown’s public school system informing me of the early school dismissal on Monday morning, June 9, 2008. “Due to the Heat Advisory, all public and parochial schools will close early. The buses will pick up the high school students at 12:10 p.m.; middle school students at 12:40 p.m.; elementary school children at 1:40 p.m. The P.M. PreKindergarten session is cancelled for today. Please refrain from calling the schools.” That was certainly a shocker.

Whenever the weather became oppressively hot and humid when I went to school, it was time to slow down the pace. Teachers would open the windows, close the shades, show a movie or two, and we’d visit the water fountain every 15 minutes or so. Lunch period and recess were even extended. Somehow, we survived. Sure, it was hot, but we were more excited about not having to do schoolwork rather than being bothered by the heat.

I suppose each generation has its own stories to spin. After all, we had to listen to the the exaggerated stories of our parents telling us they walked barefoot several miles to and from school uphill in four feet of snow “back in the day.” Life, it seemed, was always more difficult for previous generations. As for me, I walked to and from school in 100-degree weather without cell phones, iPods, or ‘Smoothies.’ We didn’t even break a sweat. And it never bothered us one bit!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Holy Spirit School's Fourth-Grade Weatherkids Launch Hot Air Balloon

I visited with the fourth-graders at Holy Spirit School in Stamford yesterday morning. It was my last visit of the school year. I brought the fourth-graders outside with me, and they helped launch a hot air balloon. It worked beautifully.

Holy Spirit School's Fourth-Grade Weatherkids by PaulWXman


Monday, June 2, 2014

May Was Warmer & Wetter Than Normal

It was a crazy, roller-coaster ride of temperatures last month across southwestern Connecticut. The last eight days of May featured high temperatures of 68, 75, 83, 87, 59, 63, 71, and 71 degrees, respectively. The average temperature for the month at Sikorsky Airport was 61.2 degrees, which was 2.1 degrees above normal. There were two prolonged streaks of above-normal temperatures from May 1 through May 7 and from May 15 through May 21.

The first seven days last month were warmer-than-normal. However, the average daily temperature was at or above normal all but four of the first 21 days in May. Just 10 days were cooler-than-normal, including two straight on May 8 & 9, May 13 & 14, and May 22 & 23. The last four days of the month were cooler-than-normal, including May 28, which featured a high temperature of 59 degrees just one day after a high of 87 degrees.

The total rainfall last month was exactly four inches, which was 0.2" above normal. There were 13 days with measured rain, including nearly an inch-and-a-half (1.49") May 1, and streaks of four consecutive days with measured rain from May 8 through May 11, and three straight days with measured rain from May 15 through May 17. Seven of the days had at least a tenth of an inch of rain, while three days had more than a half-inch.

Thunderstorms rolled through the region late in the morning of May 22. Lightning struck a tree five feet from a home on Surrey Lane in Fairfield. The photo of the lightning strike appears below. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Nearly three-quarters of an inch (0.73") of rain fell during the day as the high temperature didn't even reach 60 degrees (59).

Thirteen days in May featured clear skies, while 11 were partly cloudy, and seven were mostly cloudy. The hottest temperature last month was 87 degrees (May 27), and the coolest temperature was 47 (May 7). There were 134 hearing degree days, which is 71 below normal. The highest wind speed was 49 miles an hour from the West on May 4. There were four other days with peak wind speeds of at least 30 miles an hour.