Autumn is nearing…

Hello, Oswego!

It’s that time of year when many begin to get in the autumn spirit, and the weather follows suit. Here in Oswego, there are numerous indicators of change.

Sunset on Sept. 13, 2017

One of the more apparent ones is earlier sunsets and later sunrises. During the month of September, the sun rises at 6:31am on the 1st, and at 7:03am on the 30th. The sunset moves back from 7:40pm to 6:47pm through the month. The autumnal equinox falls on September 22, where the sun is above the horizon for almost exactly 12 hours. If you’re a regular sunset viewer like me, this change is noticeable almost day by day.

Wavy lake on Sept. 4, 2017

The change in weather conditions is readily apparent as well. Average highs in Oswego drop from the mid-70s to the mid-60s through the course of the month. This year, things have been a bit reversed due to a weather pattern change that left us with early-month 60s, and mid-month 70s. Things will continue to trend downward, however, despite this temporary change. Additionally, some may notice that wind begins to increase. The real “Oswego Wind” events usually don’t hit until late October or November, but nonetheless, if a cold front crosses New York, it’s going to get windy here in Oz.

The Quad in peak fall foliage on Nov. 5, 2016

Finally, leaves begin to change towards the tail end of September. Overall, peak color in Oswego generally occurs in mid-to-late October, with the on-campus oak trees being the last to change, in early November. It’s a beauty every year!

That’s just a taste of what autumn in Oswego is like. Enjoy the next week’s nice weather, as things are bound to change sometime, and before you know it I’ll be writing about lake-effect snow. Until next time!

 

Sneaky Spouts

Hello, Oswego! You’ve officially made it through the first week of classes.

As many of you know, I frequently visit the lake shore, most often at sunset. However, last week (on August 24) I went down to the rocks at about 7am. This is what I saw, 30 minutes later:

A waterspout!

Waterspouts are common on the Great Lakes, especially from late July to mid October. However, it is pretty uncommon to actually see them from the lake shore, let alone from a specific location such as Oswego. This is due to the fact that most form far enough offshore, that they can’t be seen from the shore. And the ones that do form near the shore often occur at night or in the early morning, when it’s either too dark or most people are still sleeping. Here in Oswego, spouts are visible 2 to 3 times a year, on average.

Waterspouts on the Great Lakes most often occur when relatively cold air passes over a warmer body of water. This generates a lake-effect response. Other features, such as a passing cold front, land breeze [an offshore wind], and convective circulations can enhance the “spin” within the lower levels of the atmosphere. When a circulation becomes strong enough, it generates a funnel cloud, and once that circulation hits the water (similar to when a tornado touches down) it is officially classified as a waterspout. Spouts are usually not a threat to land, however boaters must take necessary precautions if spouts are possible or occurring.

This particular spout actually started off as two funnel clouds (look closely just left of center):

The funnel on the right took over and eventually became the waterspout pictured above.

So, if you head down at the lake on a cool, breezy day, you might just get lucky and see one of nature’s secret phenomena. Have a great week!

Oswego Weather 101

Hello, Oswego!

For those of you who are new, I am Matthew Seymour, a junior meteorology student here at SUNY Oswego. I’ve always been fascinated with weather, and am an avid outdoorsman and photographer. More about me here!

Dare I say, but it’s almost the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. With new student move-in just 2 short weeks away, packing lists are being made and back-to-school shopping is in full swing.

Some of you may have heard of Oswego’s, ahem, weather. Now, while it is a myth that there were once chains put up around campus to help students push through the wind, it sure is a location featuring a lot of weather extremes. In the rest of this post, I’ll give a brief rundown of the “typical” conditions one will experience during an academic year at SUNY Oswego.

Sunset with sailboat, Sept. 3, 2016

In late August, when students return to campus and classes just start, weather conditions are usually tranquil and summer-like. Rain is relatively infrequent, but when it does rain, it’s usually in the form of a thunderstorm. September features ever-shortening daylight, slowly retreating temps, and a shift away from summer storms.

Fall colors near Hewitt Union, Nov. 5, 2016

October encompasses increasing wind and rain, pleasant temps, and the always-magnificent fall foliage show. Mid-November is the average period to watch for the first snowfall. (It has occurred on Nov. 20 and Nov. 23 the past two years.) Late November is when the real winter sets in, with mostly frozen precipitation, nearly-constant wind of some fashion, and cold temperatures.

Street outside Waterbury Hall during a snow squall, Dec. 15, 2016

December, January and early February take the lion’s share of lake-effect snow in Oswego. A normal winter sees about 140″ fall on the city. Wind remains frequent, and when combined with wintertime cold, wind chills are often below zero.

Spring buds on a tree branch, April 23, 2017

March, April and May feature the most frustrating weather. While temperatures do increase, late-season snow remains possible, and the “lake breeze” phenomenon works to hold down afternoon temps, particularly in April and May. Summer does win out, eventually, no matter what. Thanks, Sun!

For those who like numbers, here you go:

  • Aug/Early Sep: Highs 75-85. Lows 60-65. A few days with rain or storms.
  • Mid-Late Sep: Highs 65-75. Lows 50-55. A few days with rain or storms.
  • Oct: Highs 50-65. Lows 40-50. Some days with rain.
  • Nov: Highs 35-50. Lows 30-40. Frequent rain and some snow.
  • Dec: Highs 30-40. Lows 20-30. Frequent snow, some rain.
  • Jan: Highs 20-30. Lows 10-20. Frequent snow.
  • Feb: Highs 15-30. Lows 5-15. Some snow events.
  • Mar: Highs 30-55. Lows 20-35. Some snow and rain events.
  • Apr: Highs 50-65. Lows 35-45. Some rain, maybe an odd late season snow.
  • May: Highs 60-70. Lows 40-50. A few days with rain or storms.

So, there are many ways that one could prepare for such exciting weather. Hoodies and lighter jackets are perfect for that in-between fall and spring weather, however a rain jacket is a must (umbrellas will be destroyed by wind!), as well as a good set of winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and boots for when winter comes. Always bring warmer clothes and winter gear to college earlier than you think you’d need them, and always leave a couple summer outfits around for that odd warm fall or spring day.

See y’all in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, soak up those last rays of summer break!

Liquid Sunshine

The end of the semester is near! For us college students, that means hitting the books, gearing up for finals, lots of studying, and eventually getting our stuff together and heading back home. Meanwhile, for the weather, this time of year represents change. Colder temps give way to warm and pleasant weather, daylight length increases, and snow is all but history. (Usually.) It can be torture if you are stuck inside studying on a glorious 70º day…

The last week and a half has presented spring in earnest here in Oswego. It has reached 70º on campus on four different days, with two of those going above 80. Daffodils have bloomed, and shrubbery is just starting to grow leaves. Spring rain showers have been plentiful, as well.

As a matter of fact, the Great Lakes region as a whole has had enough rain this spring to cause Lake Ontario to rise a full 10″ in the past two weeks. It is noticeable from the lakeshore on campus, as some of the areas that were previously above water are now underwater, or are at least vulnerable to being splashed on by waves. Watch where you sit while you watch the sunset!

A side effect has been more dramatic crashing waves at the shoreline. I have been taking photos of these waves around sunset, creating a series of “Liquid Sunshine” shots. Take a look:

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April 8, 2017

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April 8, 2017

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April 16, 2017

All of these pictures were taken behind Waterbury Hall.

The upcoming weather pattern looks cooler this week, yet still spring-like, with high temps largely in the 50s and 60s. Probably a few windy and wavy days, as well. See ya around, Oswegonians!

“Wave” to the sky!

Hello, Oswego! Spring is finally beginning to make its appearance on campus, with grass turning green, daffodils budding, and milder temperatures making their appearance.

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Ice pile on the shore of Lake Ontario at Rudy’s Drive-in, March 25, 2017. These are long gone after last week’s warmth!

While the weather itself has been fairly inactive the past couple of weeks, that does not make for a shortage of interesting sky formations. Last Saturday night, a type of cloud that even I had never seen before made its appearance in the sunset-colored sky.

That cloud happened to be the Kelvin-Helmholtz wave cloud. It looks like a series of “ocean waves” in the sky, and is an indicator of horizontal wind shear. That is when the wind changes direction with increasing altitude. For example, the wind may be out of the west 5,000 feet above the ground, but out of the northwest at 8,000 feet. This shear produces a “rolling” motion in the air, swirling the cloud cover into that wavy pattern that we see from the ground.

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Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds at sunset, April 1, 2017.

 

This upcoming week looks to bring even warmer (and drier!) weather to the region. Here in Oswego, we may have to deal with the dreaded lake breeze, which could limit the magnitude of the warmth locally. More on that in my next post. Until next time!

Happy Second Winter!

Hello once again, Oswegonians.

The middle of the semester has been a tough one, both mentally and weather-wise! The weather has been flip-floppy, going from a mild February pattern featuring several 60º+ days to a snowy and cold March in a matter of days. Welcome back to winter, round 2!!

The weather…well, that went on spring break too, apparently. Mid last week, a large nor’easter tracked up the coast, delivering snow that was measured in feet to nearly all of New York State. Oswego measured approximately 10 inches from this event, however the wind whipped up some 3-6 foot drifts across campus. My area (Ithaca) received between 15-27 inches of snow, while some locales in the western Catskills and Mohawk Valley picked up well over 30″. Talk about snowed in!

Today, Mother Nature has delivered a fleeting shot of Arctic air to Oswego, with the high barely climbing above 20º. Classic Spring weather moves in by Friday, with lots of rain showers in the forecast right into next week. Bye bye, snow and cold. Hopefully we can add some warm, dry days to the mix in the near future.

I’ll hopefully have another post soon with more content. Until then, have a great week Oswego!

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Snow dunes at the Lake Ontario shoreline behind Waterbury Hall on Sunday, March 19. This are the result of 3 straight days of cold wind, driving freezing waves into the shore. Do not walk on them – they are often not stable and you risk falling through into icy cold water!

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Sunset on Sunday, March 19.

Summer in February

Hello, Oswego!

You’ve now survived 5 weeks of classes, and spring break is less than 2 weeks away!

Mother Nature appears to have taken her own sort of spring break this week. Normally, we’d still be in the 30s at this time of year with the threat of snow storms. However, temperatures have soared above 60º on several days, putting spring fever into full effect. Crazy!

As a matter of fact, many locations in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. have set new *all-time* February record high temperatures. A large-scale pattern shift prompted the warm temperatures. High pressure, which brings fair weather, took hold over the eastern US last weekend. The high acted to pull warm air from the South northward, and coupled with the usual heating a location receives from the Sun, produced anomalously warm temperatures as a result. Further, a storm system late this week helped draw even warmer air northward. Syracuse, NY set its all-time February high of 71º on Friday. That kind of warmth is normal for late-May!

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The sunset on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

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Thunderstorm shelf cloud as seen from Shineman on Saturday, Feb. 25. This storm was along the front that put an end to the Spring-like warmth of late. (Sad face.)

Here in Oswego, a number of interesting factors came into play while the warm spell was ongoing. Most notably, on Friday, while Syracuse and other parts of CNY basked in 70-degree warmth, Oswego remained in the 40s much of the day. This was due to a stationary front, or a separation of warm and cool air masses that (relatively speaking) does not move, that set up shop just to the south of Oswego. Later that evening, when this front lifted northward, campus warmed from 38º to 65º in about one hour!

This upcoming week looks like a roller coaster of temperatures. Midweek looks mild, while next weekend looks wintry. Hang on tight, folks, spring is just around the corner!

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“Spring is just around the corner.” Ha ha.

Snow, snow, and more snow…

Hello Oswego, and welcome to the Spring 2017 semester!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Matt Seymour, a sophomore meteorology major here at SUNY Oswego. Some may know me as the “Sassy Weatherman.” (plug: follow my Twitter @SassyWeatherman and you’ll eventually figure out why). I am active in the school’s meteorology club, and I enjoy being outdoors and taking photographs.

And what a start it has been to the semester, weather-wise. Two significant lake effect snow events have occurred in the past two weeks. Neither produced huge snow accumulation in Oswego, but the Tug Hill Plateau (northeast of Oswego) has been hammered. Redfield, NY, a small town on the southern Tug Hill, has picked up 120″ (10 FEET) of snow since January 26. Videos have been posted of people literally jumping into the snow and being buried head to toe instantly. Now that’s some powder!!!

Here in Oswego, we have been missed by the majority of these snows. I’d estimate that campus has picked up around 20-25″ of snow in that same timeframe. Why’s this? Blame the lake effect. A single band of lake effect snow often isn’t more than a few miles wide, so it is capable of highly localized snowfall. It literally could be sunny in one location, and then a mile down the road it’s snowing and blowing with drifts waist deep. In a nutshell, this is what happened to Oswego during this past week. The snow band set up (on several occasions) just to the north or south of campus. Locations on either side picked up 2-4 times as much snow as campus. However, when it did snow here, it came down fast and furious. There were even two instances of thundersnow! (For those who keep track, we have now had 8 instances of thundersnow this winter in Oswego.)

This week, a mid-week warm up looks to bring rain, wind, mild temps and melting snow. Lake effect is once again possible Thursday. Will it hit campus, that remains to be seen. Regardless, have a great week all!!!

Thundersnow!

Hello once again, Oswego!

This past Thursday night (Dec. 8), campus experienced one of the world’s wildest wonders of nature: Thundersnow.

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Screen capture from a video I had rolling during the thundersnow, around 11:15 Thursday night. It almost looks like daytime!

It is exactly as it sounds: Lightning and thunder that occurs while it is snowing outside. While rare for any part of the globe, it is about a once or twice-a-year occurrence here in Oswego.

The process that goes into creating thundersnow is very similar to that of an ordinary thunderstorm. In a nutshell, a charge separation builds up between the clouds and the ground, and a discharge in the form of lightning ensues. However, it is much harder to create this charge separation during the colder months.

Here in Oswego (or anywhere near a Great Lake, for that matter), we have a secret weapon: Lake Ontario. During lake effect snow, combinations of conditions can come together to create such a charge separation. For this event, there were three main factors. The first was the “background” ongoing lake effect snow event, which had dropped well over a foot of snow on the Tug Hill. Lake effect circulations provides lift to the atmosphere, creating tall, thick clouds capable of producing precipitation (in this case, snow). Second, an incoming cold front provided a boost to this lift. Third, small circulations known as mesovortices developed within the lake effect snow band. This created “cells” with appearance on radar similar to a summertime pop-up thunderstorm. All of these factors combined to generate enough of a charge separation for lightning in the Oswego area.

Other areas away from the Great Lakes experience thundersnow as well, however conditions aren’t usually favorable in other systems (think nor’easters) as often as they are in lake effect.

So, now you know why Jim Cantore goes wild every time he experiences thundersnow. In the upcoming week, several chances for snow exist, namely Sunday night and Thursday-ish. Keep an eye to the sky late week if you’re traveling home.

I’ll resume posts at the end of January. Have a great winter break!

Snow Day!

Hello Oswego! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break.

In the week before break, we only had one day of classes because of a snow day on Monday (Nov. 21). Why did this happen, do you ask?

Firstly, and obviously, the snow. It snowed, and snowed, and snowed, nearly constantly from Sunday afternoon into Tuesday morning. The lake effect machine just would not quit! The city of Oswego picked up about a foot and a half from this storm. Other areas of upstate NY picked up 20-30″, indeed making it a historic lake-effect event for the region. Campus, however, only received a couple inches, because it all blew away!

The wind was the other major component of this storm. While the snow did not necessarily pile up, the strong winds blew it all around, and likely this was the main driving factor in the decision to cancel classes. Wind speeds generally ranged in the 30-45 mph range from Sunday to Tuesday, with a top gust of 70 mph recorded Monday evening at the Oswego buoy!

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Angry lake on Monday, Nov. 21.

Since then, all of the snow we received melted fairly rapidly, and it has generally been mild with occasional light rain events. No major weather is in the offing in the next week. Happy almost-finals, Oswego!