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!

Winter is Coming

Hello, Oswego! Who’s ready for some snow? I think I am. I’m writing this blog while it is 62º outside, with a lake effect snow warning in effect for tomorrow and Monday. Oh, Upstate New York.

What goes into an Oswego winter, do you ask? Many things, that is. Being right on the shore of Lake Ontario, lake-effect is a huge factor in Oswego winter weather. Nor’easters, as well as other storm systems, also contribute to the piles of snow around here (those familiar with the blizzards of 1966, 1993, and 2016 will know all too well).

Our main driver of snow in Oswego involves Lake Ontario, in the form of lake-effect snow. In late fall and winter, cold air masses passing over the relatively warm waters of the lake aid in developing clouds, and eventually, snow. Lots of snow. Several other conditions must be met, however, to achieve maximum snow potential. Generally, to get heavy snow here in Oswego, we want the wind to be coming from the west. This would mean the wind would travel down the long axis of Lake Ontario, maximizing the amount of moisture added into the air. These winds must not be too strong nor too weak (15-30 mph is a good range), and also remain relatively constant in direction, or else a given area will not experience snow for a sustained period of time. Additionally, the air must not be too dry, or else all the moisture that would go into producing snow, will just evaporate.

In a typical season, Oswego will receive around 140″ of snowfall. Roughly 1/2 of this is lake-effect related. Last winter, this number was much lower due to persistent very mild conditions. I’m no expert on long-range forecasting, but I have a feeling we’ll see more snow this winter than last. Stay tuned!

P.s. Here’s some pictures of the lake at sunset last night. Don’t expect it to look like this come Monday.

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The End of Autumn is Near!

Hello again, Oswego!

Last weekend, daylight saving time ended, leaving us with an extra hour of sleep. Hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope it did not mess up your internal clock! For me, it means getting new weather model data an hour earlier. #MetMajorThings

The past week-and-a-half has not featured much active weather here in Oswego. There has been a decent uptick in the wind this week, which generally has blown down all the beautiful fall foliage that was found across campus just this time last week. I managed to grab some pictures over last weekend of the fleeting tree color:

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These trees are now bare, thanks to the strong winds of the past few days. Just this morning, we had several gusts of 50 mph recorded either on campus or at the Oswego buoy station, located near the Lighthouse.

We have also experienced an unusual abundance of sunshine relative to November standards this week. Normally, for about 4/5 of all days in the month, Oswego would experience mostly cloudy to cloudy conditions. This week has featured only 1 such day.

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Lake Ontario at sunset, Nov. 9

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Sun rays (scientifically: crepuscular rays) bursting through the clouds, Nov. 9

As we head deeper into November, the temperature will continue to decrease. Whether you’re ready or not, snow in Oswego will be a thing once again over the coming months. It may be delayed a bit this year, however, as the overall weather pattern in the Northeast U.S. looks to trend warmer than average for the second half of the month.

My next post will focus on the (sometimes dreaded, sometimes beloved) Oswego snow, and what goes int0 the making of an Oswego snowstorm. Have a great weekend!

Fall Foliage Fun

Happy November, Oswego!

The season of fall has progressed quickly, and is now 2/3 over, from a meteorological standpoint. Meteorological seasons are a little different from regular seasons – for example, fall runs from ~Sept. 21 to ~Dec. 21 on the calendar, but meteorological fall runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. The reasoning for this is that meteorological seasons are based around times of temperature change (spring and fall) or non-change (summer and winter). It also is easier to keep track of!

Anyways, here’s an update to what’s happening in the trees around campus! Lots of colorful leaves have blossomed over the past couple of weeks, and I had a chance to check out the color a couple days ago.

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Maple trees adorn in yellow along the road to Hidden Fields. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

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Maples in front of Culkin Hall, Oct. 30. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

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Trees near Littlepage and Glimmerglass, Oct. 30. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

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Oak tree in the quad, Oct. 30. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

Foliage conditions on campus were generally mixed. About 1/4 of all trees were bare and prepared for the long winter ahead, while another 1/2 had leaves in fall colors, and the last 1/4 were still mostly green. The area around the Lakeside dorms generally had the most green trees left, while Central Campus, The Village and Hidden Fields (the athletic fields near the Village) held the most fall-colored foliage.

While these conditions are similar to what Oswego experienced during autumn last year, I continue to be surprised by the longevity of the foliage season. I am originally from the Ithaca, NY area, which is typically on its tail end of fall foliage season at this time. Oswego’s season, in my opinion, is peaking right now, and if not will peak later this week.

Lake Ontario, in part, helps locally change the timing of foliage emergence on campus. The lake typically keeps nighttime temperatures from dropping too low. Trees require cool nights, in combination with mild days, in order to produce maximum color. Additionally, the overall weather pattern has been mild. Until about a week ago, nights were generally mild to warm, prolonging the foliage season. The recent colder weather has finally jump-started the trees’ preparation for winter.

Weather conditions this week will generally be drier and warmer than last week, but not perfectly dry nor perfectly warm. Every day this week, except Thursday, should offer plenty of dry time to get outside and check out nature’s beauty. Have a great week, Oswegonians!

Blown Away!

Hello Oswego! Midterms week is finally over. Can we say, relief? In more ways than one, too. I’m typically a fan of cooler weather (just wait till it starts snowing…), and the recent trend downwards in temps has been more than welcome. Two major weather stories occurred this week, so let’s get to it!

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On Oct. 17, a noisy thunderstorm passed through campus during the early evening hours. Before the storm hit, I was able to (safely) capture a few shots of lightning flashes, as well as a shelf cloud, over Lake Ontario. It was quite an unusual storm given the time of year, frequency of lightning strikes, and organized structure. What a “shocker”!

The other big weather story of the week began last Thursday, Oct. 20. A large storm began to affect the Northeast, bringing with it a slug of rain. Nearby official rain gauges reported 2 to 5 inches of rain over the course of 48 hours. Definitely something to put a dent in the lingering drought from this past summer.

The bigger story, especially here in Oswego, is the wind. As the storm wound up, winds howled out of the north across the wide open waters of Lake Ontario. The Oswego buoy station reported winds of over 30 mph at times Friday (10/21), Saturday (10/22), and Sunday (10/23). The weather station atop Shineman Center even reported a wind speed of 51 mph early Sunday morning. A few small tree limbs fell on campus, as a result. Now doesn’t that just blow you away!

Why the strong winds? Two main reasons. 1) The storm system that generated the weekend rain created a tight pressure gradient between itself and an area of high pressure over Canada. When a tight pressure gradient is present, wind speeds increase as they attempt to counteract the pressure imbalance. 2) The wide open surface of Lake Ontario provides little in the way of obstructions that the wind must encounter (hills, trees, etc.), hence locally increasing the wind speeds along the shore.

Looking ahead, a chance for a few snowflakes is coming Thursday morning (Oct. 27). Currently I don’t expect accumulations, but a slushy coating cannot be ruled out. Keep your eye to the sky, and have a great Halloweekend!

Weather or not, here I come!

Hello everyone! What a week it has been. We all could use a break from midterms, right?!

As always, there’s been some excitement here in Oswego, weather-wise. Let’s get to it.

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Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

Saturday, Oct. 8, ended on a brilliant note. As the sun set, the clouds lit up like fire. The surrounding landscape glowed of yellow as the sky became very bright. As the sun continued to set, the color morphed from yellow, to bright orange, to deep pink. It was a surreal experience to stand at the lakeshore and look at the best sunset of the semester so far.

Thank (in part) Hurricane Matthew for the extreme sunset. The clouds from the system, well to Oswego’s south at the time, streamed north, but the edge of the clouds ended just below the horizon as seen in the photo above. This allowed the setting sun to briefly illuminate the clouds from underneath, creating an effect known as afterglow. Afterglow is fairly common among most sunsets, however this intensity is probably only a twice-a-year occurrence in Oswego.

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Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

Then, on Oct. 13, a weather system moved through the Great Lakes, bringing with it some morning rain showers. Later in the afternoon, the dreaded Oswego wind moved in. Large waves ensued as the wind blew out of the northwest, some of which likely exceeded 5 feet in height. As the waves came in, some would crash into the rocky shoreline and have nowhere to go but up. Not a good day for boating!

Don’t be fooled, however, waves around here can (and have) reached 10-15 feet in height. Come wintertime, I’ll probably come back to this topic for one reason or another.

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Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

The night of Oct. 13, Oswego had a chance to see the Aurora Borealis. I walked down to the lake around 9:50 pm to snap some shots with my camera. While I did not succeed in photographing the aurora, I did still walk away with this cool view of Lake Ontario at night. However, aurora were sighted and photographed around nearby Rochester, as well as several other locations in the Great Lakes region.

Why the lack of visible aurora here in Oswego? A couple reasons. 1) The nearly full Moon added a lot of light pollution to the sky, making it harder to spot the relatively dim aurora. 2) There may have been a “substorm”, or brief uptick in auroral activity, that initiated the flurry of aurora sightings in the region. At the time, Oswego had cloudy skies, with clearing taking place shortly after the time of those reports. Substorms normally do not last more than an hour or two, so Oswego may have just missed the viewing window. Tough luck on this one!

The upcoming week looks like pretty typical fall roller-coaster weather, with near-daily rain chances, warm temps to start the week (chant enough and we might reach 80 on Tuesday!), followed by cooling as the week progresses. Until next time, Oswegonians!!!

The Perfect Oswego Sunset

Whether it’s hot, cold, windy, or even sometimes cloudy, the Oswego sunset is always a fascinating sight to see. As a SUNY Oswego student for a little over a year, I have witnessed hundreds of sunsets so far. Being a meteorology major, sunsets come as second nature to me. I’ve had countless memorable sunset runs, many of which I had my camera in tow.

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I’ll start with the basics – shown here is the sunset from Sept. 20, 2015, taken from the lakeshore behind West Campus. Calm waters, still-warm temperatures, and a crystal clear sky made for a relaxing evening. When the lake’s very calm, the sun can take on an appearance that it is “melting.” Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

 

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Dec. 6, 2015 – the Sunday of finals week during the fall 2015 semester. The temperature was unusually warm for the time of year, and the sky was fairly cloudy. All of a sudden, the clouds exploded into color like a fireball. Students came rushing down to the lake to capture the beauty of the pink post-sunset sky. Several of these type of sunsets occur each year, but this one was particularly notable for its intensity and duration of strong coloration. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

 

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March 16, 2016. The day before St. Patrick’s Day. A bright rainbow, or should I say THREE rainbows, appeared in the sky opposite the sun. It’s a sight I had never before seen. The third rainbow (the fainter one in the middle), known as a “reflection rainbow,” is formed when sunlight bounces off the (calm) lake water first, then refracts through the falling raindrops. [P.S. I assure you there was a sunset here, despite the actual sun not being in the photo.] Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

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Finally, one of my most recent sunset photographs, from Oct. 6, 2016. Photo credit: Matthew Seymour

As you can see, no 2 sunsets are alike!

So, you’ve seen and heard about the sunset. You ask now, where on campus can I see this for myself?

Based on my experiences, anywhere where you can see the lake as far out as possible is a great sunset-watching spot. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Anywhere along the lakeshore. Now, if you prefer flat stones (with a few large boulders sprinkled in) as your shoreline choice of rock, head to East Campus behind the lakeside dorms. Round cobblestones, head to West Campus. (Either way, it rocks!)
  • The 3rd and 4th floors of Shineman Center have great vantage points.
  • If you’re lucky enough to live in the upper floors of a high-rise dorm, these spots offer more-than-adequate views of the famous sunset.
  • Off-campus: Areas such as Breitbeck Park, Rudy’s, and the Oswego Bluffs are excellent choices.

That does it for me today. Happy sunset chasing!!!