Be on guard for a winter storm Friday/Saturday

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Forecast map for next Saturday morning

Early morning lineup Jan 6+

Wednesday morning (and any morning the rest of this week, if it’s clear out) is great for seeing the brightest planets. Out to the southeast, you’ll see brilliantly bright Venus.  Next to it will be the planet Saturn.  To its upper right will be the Moon on Wednesday.  Then, continuing to the upper right is Mars, then the bright star Spica, and way over the upper right, to the southwest, very bright Jupiter.

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If you are up before 6:30am, it should be dark enough to see all this and the earthshine on the shadowed part of the Moon. Later, the Moon, Jupiter and Venus should still be visible even as the sky gets brighter.  Saturn will move up and past Venus, closest Saturday morning.  Compare very much brighter Venus with exquisite, but much fainter Saturn in a telescope, if you can.  Faint Comet Catalina is up above bright star Arcturus, high above this scene.  You’ll need a telescope to see Catalina.  (It’s not the comet shown on this map.)

Hot wash, cold rinse?

After the record-smashing warm temperatures of December, January has arrived with more typical January cold weather.

For the short-term, it’s depths-of-winter clothing day on Tuesday. Tuesday morning will be way colder than we’ve had in a long time, with low temperatures in the low teens, single digits a bit north and west of the NYC metro area.  Some persistent winds will keep the temperatures from dropping all the way to the dew point that’s hanging slightly below zero.  Of course, the wind will make it feel like -5 to +5, so what’s the difference?

Tuesday’s temperature will not get out of the 20s, even with sunshine.  Wednesday will start off like Tuesday, then temperatures moderate a bit toward and slightly above normal for the rest of the week.

A series of atmospheric curly-ques spinning around a polar low over Hudson Bay Canada are confusing the computer models; although it’s understandable that forecasts for the weekend would be a bit out-of-focus that far in advance.  The National Weather Service thinks any precipitation for the weekend is likely to be rain, but watch the forecast for the weekend, since some cold air may be left over.  From the National Weather Service forecast discussion Monday afternoon…..

THE RETREATING HIGH
TO THE NORTH WILL RESULT IN COLD AIR DAMMING WITH 
POSSIBILITY OF A WINTRY  A MIX OF PCPN ACROSS THE 
INTERIOR TO START. SHOULD TURN TO PLAIN RAIN AT ALL 
LOCATIONS BY SAT AFTN. THE AMOUNT OF QPF REMAINS 
IN QUESTIONS AS THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR A WAVE OF 
LOW PRES TO DEVELOP OFF THE MID ATLANTIC COAST AND 
PASS SOUTH OF LONG ISLAND ON SAT. HAVE KEPT 
LOW CHC POPS IN THE FORECAST SAT NIGHT INTO SUN...
ALTHOUGH WE MAY END UP SEEING A LULL IN PCPN BEFORE 
THE NEXT POTENTIAL SYSTEM TRACKS UP FROM THE S. THIS 
SYSTEM CURRENTLY LOOKS ARM ENOUGH FOR ALL RAIN...BUT 
IF THE UPPER PATTERN CHANGES AND THE STORM SHIFTS A 
BIT FURTHER OFFSHORE...IT P-TYPE COULD BE MIXED OR 
IN SOLID FORM. WEAK HIGH PRES RETURNS FOR MONDAY.

 

Heads UP! for the New Year

Happy (completely arbitrary start date) to the New Year!

I love calendars! But I’ve never really understood the evolution of the start date for the ‘New Year’.  January, from the god Janus who looks forward and backwards, seems like a likely month to start the new year.  But January was named when March was the beginning of the year (if I remember correctly). So, I’ve given up (for now) trying to figure this out.

Anyway, back to looking up….

January is time for holiday ‘leftovers’: a fuzzy comet from late last year, more brilliant planetary encounters, another occultation by the Moon, some meteors (which themselves are leftovers from a larger object!)……

On the morning of the first of of the year, Comet Catalina C/2013 US10, known as ‘Catalina’ to its friends, arcs past Arcturus on its way into the polar sky, getting higher above the horizon, but fading all the way. Catalina has two tails, visible in long exposures photos – one gas tail pointing outward from the Sun and a dust tail trailing the comet’s head. Use a finder chart and binoculars or telescope now and as this tiny fuzzy spot passes alongside the handle of the Big Dipper at mid-month.

After midnight on the 4th, if you like to be up and out after midnight, the Quadrantid meteors may put on a good show. This meteor shower doesn’t last long – peaking for only a few hours. At peak hours, there can be more than a meteor a minute. Sky and Telescope is calling it one of the two best meteor shows this year. But they also say the strongest stream should in the early morning of the 4th, unless it happens the night before over Europe! If you try to see this show, the rising crescent Moon won’t be much of a bother. Just keep it out of your line of sight and you’ll be fine (if the sky is clear).

Mercury tries to give us one bright planet in the evening sky, hanging low in the west-southwest through the 9th – no optical aid needed.

Flashy Venus welcomes exquisitely sublime Saturn to the morning sky. They have a close embrace on the morning of the 9th, when the two will fit nicely in a telescope’s view – not that you need a telescope to see how much brighter Venus is than Saturn. Once again, Saturn won’t offer a ring to Venus and they will go their separate ways. Saturn climbs up in the morning sky as Venus slides lower each week. Mars is already in the morning sky, much dimmer than Venus or Saturn, but easily seen without optical aid. Mars is still very small in a telescope, but that will change when the Earth pulls up across from Mars when Mars is opposite from the Sun in late May.

Getting up for these morning sky gymnastics is not so hard since it’s still dark very late in the morning, with the latest dawn occurring on the 8th.

Jupiter is highest during the post-midnight hours. In a telescope, it’s nearly as large as it gets, so it’s well worth any viewing you can manage any time it’s up.

More later this month about Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus the Bull, being occulted by a mostly full Moon on the evening of Tuesday the 19th.

Orion and the many sights of the winter sky around it are highest in the sky between 9 and 10pm in January.

Earth is a tiny bit closer to the Sun at this time of year, closest on the 2nd.

The International Space Station soars overhead in the pre-sunrise sky through the 24th.

Tired of warmth? Now for many kinds of weather, each completly different!

The chill in the air today seemed more normal.  But today’s temperatures in the 40s were still ten degrees above normal.

Sunday’s weather will remind us of summer again, but Tuesday morning we’ll have to be ready for frozen precipitation before the morning rush.

First the hot news… from the National Weather Service forecast discussion about the possibility of a new round of record setting temperatures on Sunday…

ANOMALOUSLY WARM AIR WILL ADVECT INTO THE REGION UNDER A INCREASING SW WIND. THIS ALONE WILL HELP DRIVE TEMPERATURES TO NEW HIGH TEMPERATURE RECORDS FOR 27 DECEMBER. SEE CLIMATE SECTION BELOW FOR CURRENT RECORDS FOR THIS DATE. WITH THE SW FLOW OFF THE RELATIVELY COOLER OCEAN…TEMPERATURES NEAR THE COAST WILL STRUGGLE TO RISE MUCH ABOVE THE LOWER 60S. NEAR THE NYC/NJ METRO…READINGS SHOULD APPROACH 70 DEGREES. INLAND LOCATIONS SHOULD REACH THE LOWER AND MIDDLE 60S. IF THERE ARE MORE BREAKS IN THE CLOUDS…READINGS COULD BE EVEN WARMER. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE 12Z MAV GUIDANCE FORECAST THIS WARMER SCENARIO WITH TEMPERATURES AT EWR REACHING 75 DEGREES. DID NOT GO THIS HIGH DUE TO THE EXPECTED CLOUD COVER…BUT IT IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION TO SEE TEMPERATURES WARMER THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST.

Then a real Canadian high pressure system will push into our area on Monday with the first day of the month at Central Park with below normal temperatures.  The cold air hangs on long enough to have some snow and other frozen precipitation Tuesday morning.

WITH THIS IN MIND…FOR INLAND SECTIONS HAVE FORECAST MAINLY SNOW/SLEET AT THE ONSET MON NIGHT…CHANGING TO FREEZING RAIN/SLEET WELL NORTH/WEST OF NYC…AND THEN RAIN BY LATE MORNING OR MIDDAY ON MON. AREAS CLOSER TO THE COAST SHOULD SEE MORE IN THE WAY OF RAIN…BUT BEGINNING AS A PERIOD OF MIXED PRECIPITATION. MOST LIKELY SCENARIO IS FOR ABOUT AN INCH OF SNOW/SLEET ACCUMULATION WELL INLAND…TO A COATING OF ACCUMULATION FOR AREAS JUST NORTH/WEST OF NYC AND ALONG THE CT COAST…TO NO ACCUMULATION FOR NYC/LONG ISLAND. AREAS WELL INLAND MAY ALSO SEE UP TO A TENTH OF AN INCH ICE ACCUMULATION…MOSTLY ALONG THE I-84 CORRIDOR AND ALSO IN NORTHERN REACHES OF NEW LONDON COUNTY CT.

Well north of NYC may see an inch of icy stuff, which may wash away before the morning rush, so check for updates on Monday on the timing of the slippery stuff.

Then we get a brief period of fair weather on Wednesday, followed by more wet weather later Wednesday into New Years’ Eve.  Drier and colder New Years’ Day. Maybe then we’ll have some better weather for astronomy!

Weather for Christmas

The only outside the box experience at this time of year should be when people unwrap presents!

But this Christmas is forecast to have temperatures and moisture in the eastern United States that is truly outside the box.  The amount of moisture above today us is five standard deviations above normal.  I know that three standard deviations includes 99.7 percent of all the data points – put another way, with 31 days in December a three standard deviation data point is one day in ten years of Decembers.  (Someone better at statistics can do the math for FIVE standard deviations.)

The forecast for Christmas Eve is temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s.  I’ve experienced temperatures in the 60s at Christmas a couple of times in my life.  I don’t think they happened with CLOUDY skies!  So this is truly outside the box. The forecast temperatures for the NYC area for Thursday would be the highest temperature for December 24th by 6 to 10 degrees!

MaxT2_northeast

If the extended forecast for the rest of December is close to accurate, Central Park will exceed the all-time warmest average temperature for December by EIGHT degrees.  I don’t usually like repeating stories about  ‘if we get x temperature for y days, we have [an incredible record set]’, but this time it looks for real.  For more, follow the links, below.

From weatherunderground and About forecast temperatures and forecast monthly average

Caveats:  With all the clouds, the temperature forecast for Christmas Eve is tricky.  But if this was summer with high sun and good mixing, with temperatures a mile above us at 16 degrees Celsius as forecast for Thursday, our high temperature would be in the upper 80’s.

The forecast for the weekend is uncertain as to the timing of events, including possible rain showers, so check the forecast a few times a day for updates from the National Weather Service or your favorite private weather provider.

Merry   warm and humid :(  Christmas!

Moon and Venus together…

Photos taken this morning… before dawn through high clouds (so no view of the comet, unless it’s somewhere in the haze – I’m still looking).

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Then, I found Venus and the Moon in the midday sky.  The moved next to that building (but moved behind it before the Moon moved in front of Venus – drat!!)  IMG_0732 crop blue

I deepened the blue to bring out the Moon with Venus to the upper left.  You may have to click on it see it better at full size.