How To Get Connecticut Snowfall Totals

Doppler Versus Snow

This time of year there’s a steady barrage of incoming messages looking for Connecticut snowfall totals. Some folks are curious. Others want to make sure their plow contractor isn’t overcharging, or they’re plow contractors who’d like to charge more!

The info isn’t easily obtained, especially for smaller towns. If you’re looking for Connecticut snowfall totals, here’s where I go.

The most complete source is the Connecticut Department of Transportation Weather Roundup. These are collected every two hours at DOT yards across Connecticut. Because of the methodology used the cumulative snowfall total is always more than what’s actually settled on the ground.

The National Weather Service splits Connecticut between three Weather Service Forecast Offices. That makes things more difficult. You’ll have to look at all three Public Information Statements to put the info together.

Shoreline counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Upton, NY.

Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Taunton, MA.

Litchfield County: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Albany, NY.

Snowfall and other weather data is often critical in accidents and contract disputes. For those more exacting cases when just numbers on paper (or a screen) aren’t enough I provide forensic meteorological services for attorneys and insurance companies.

Hurricane Sandy: NWS Assesses Itself os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdf-1

The Weather Service just released its Hurricane Sandy “Service Assessment.” Publications like this aren’t unusual. Every named or numbered storm gets some sort of after-the-fact scrutiny. Of course, Sandy is a special case, having affected so many people and so much property. This is a beefy report touching lots of bases.

The Weather Service and Hurricane Center did a good job–not good enough. There were weak points. That’s me speaking, though the report acknowledged them too.

I was on-the-air at FoxCT for Sandy. We used lots of NWS/NHC raw data and forecast products. A huge part of my job was assimilating the immense treasure trove of data available. Some of what we used was so esoteric, co-workers didn’t know it existed!

If there’s ever been a time my years of experience and nerdy curiosity came in handy, it was during Sandy.

Once Sandy moved north of Cape Hatteras the National Hurricane Center passed off much of its responsibilities to local forecast offices. That was a big mistake which served to confuse more than inform. os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdfI said it then. Even worse, I’d said it before, having complained loudly and traded emails with the Hurricane Center’s director Ed Rappaport after Hurricane Noel received the same pass-off in 2007.

This Hurricane Center policy will be changed going forward. It’s about time!

For future storms like Sandy, NHC should be the principal point of contact responsible for the event, including delivery of a consistent suite of products and a unified communications protocol within NOAA, to key NOAA federal partners, and the media. NOAA/NWS websites should consistently reflect all watch/warning/advisories on websites, regardless of organizational structure or office/center responsibility. Web page design should ensure the most important message is quickly evident.

The are other recommendations, including a some having to do with coastal flooding and the current lack of definitive storm impacts. Giving a tidal flooding range in feet is worthless to most people. More important would be to say, “Lower Manhattan will be under water,” or similar specifics.

The truth is most non-professionals need a trusted voice. There’s too much for you to wade through.

I hope I was your trusted voice, leading you in the right direction. If you were watching us on FoxCT you weathered the storm without any big surprises. It goes without saying I will miss being that voice for you in the future.

The NWS assessment and its findings and recommendations should help all of us do better next time. There will be a next time.

Cutting Off The Nose To Spite The Face


There’s an old adage that seems apropos today:

“Cutting off the nose to spite the face” is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger. – Wikipedia

This has to do with the latest sequester threat. Understand, it comes from Dan Sobien, the president of the union representing National Weather Service employees, so there’s a good chance he’s painting a gloomier picture to bolster his case.

Sobien says cutbacks to the National Weather Service might eliminate some of the weather balloon launches which happen twice a day around-the-world. These observations of the upper atmosphere help seed weather forecast models. Even the lauded European model uses our balloon observations.

This is crazy. Is this what we really want, a return to the significantly less reliable forecasts of decades ago?

We’ve had storms not show. Forecasting isn’t perfect (heaven knows). But when was the last time you were surprised by snow, like the Blizzard of ’78?

I can’t remember the last time!

Who in their right minds slashes a budget indiscriminately, as the sequester’s terms specify?

Bad weather forecasts cost money. Being able to plan and redeploy resources because of anticipated weather is a luxury business has today for the first time in history!

Is there fat at the Weather Service? Undoubtedly. Weather Service employee schedules are environmentally agnostic. As I understand it, there are as many employees scheduled for fair weather as foul in most offices . That seems foolishly inflexible&#185.

The whole concept of a sequester is pretty foolish. We elect representatives to govern, not punt. I am flabbergasted.

&#185 – I am not sure about this paragraph and welcome a correction if warranted.

Another Tornado Outbreak

I am as perplexed by this vicious season as much as anyone. I understand the atmospheric set-up. That part’s no surprise.

You will be excused if you don’t hit the Storm Prediction Center website especially on this idyllic day in Connecticut. They are expecting more doom and destruction in the Midwest. It’s scary. It’s sad.

Here’s how they set the plate. The following outlook was issued long before any watches or warnings. Consider it a general heads up!

1226 PM CDT WED MAY 25 2011





The map I’ve attached show how tornado watches stand as I type this. Obviously those will pop on-and-off through the night.

I am as perplexed by this vicious season as much as anyone. I understand the atmospheric set-up. That part’s no surprise.

The question is why are all the factors gelling so often this year?

Bad luck? Probably.

At this point I’m dismissing any tie-in between this severe weather and global warming. You can’t easily connect anecdotal events with climate.

I am closely watching our chances for severe weather Friday and Monday.

Weather’s Swiss Army Knife

I know meteorologists who don’t use this and for the life of me can’t figure out why!

I try not to talk about weather too much here. I’d rather not be in competition with my bosses business. However, there is a tool I use on a daily basis–BUFKIT.

BUFKIT is like a Swiss Army Knife for weather! It’s freely distributed by the Weather Service as is the data that feeds it. I know meteorologists who don’t use this and for the life of me can’t figure out why!

BUFKIT is a forecast profile visualization and analysis tool kit. It is targeted as a training and forecast tool for the decision makers of the National Weather Service. It is also available to anyone that would like to explore very high vertical and temporal resolution model output for specific point locations.

Weather maps show a large spatial area for one specific time. BUFKIT shows single points for an extended period of time. It’s possible to turn parameters on-and-off so you can look at the atmosphere top-to-bottom as weather systems move through.

I can’t overstate this program’s importance to me.

There’s a fresh version out and since it’s free I thought I’d mention it. If the weather interests you this is a download you’ll enjoy.

The Problem With Being Quoted

Abe Katz wrote a winter outlook story for yesterday’s New Haven Register. I was one of the ‘experts’ quoted.

Let’s just say my quotes weren’t the ones you’d put in the first paragraph.

What does this mean?

Not a whole lot, said Geoff Fox, meteorologist at WTNH. “I’m a real non-believer in long term forecasts,” he said.

My problem, however, comes with a quote deeper in the article. I’m not sure whether I was misquoted or just didn’t say exactly what I meant.

There are two problems, Fox said: The forecasts are not accurate, and people live day to day, not season to season.

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life?” Fox said

What I meant to say, or possibly did say, was:

“If someone said it would be 3 degrees below normal for three months, how would that change your life day-to-day?”

Adding day-to-day makes all the difference, because you would notice a season that’s three degrees below normal. That small temperature difference would take marginal rain days and make them snow days. Your heating bill would be significantly higher. You just wouldn’t notice it on any particular day.

It’s a tiny difference in meaning, but a significant one.

Continue reading “The Problem With Being Quoted”

Know Your Source

I feel awful for Mark Dixon and my other meteorologist friends at Channel 3. Here’s a taste of a story about a weather faux pas from today’s Hartford Courant:

False Alarm, Toto

Photograph Of Tornado Was Actually From Kansas, Not Thomaston, WFSB Says


Courant Staff Writers

July 21, 2007

A photo of a Kansas-size twister that accompanied a TV news report Thursday about an outbreak of severe thunderstorms in Connecticut actually was taken in Kansas.

WFSB, Channel 3, received the photo by e-mail Thursday afternoon from a man who said he shot it on his father’s farm in Thomaston, station news director Dana Neves said Friday. The timing of the e-mail corresponded with radar showing severe weather over southern Litchfield County and ground reports of funnel clouds and a tornado in that same area, WFSB meteorologist Mark Dixon said Friday. The totality of the situation, he and Neves said, convinced the station that the photo was legitimate.

The photo was shown on the broadcast and displayed prominently on WFSB’s website,

After verifying through the National Weather Service that the photo was shot in Kansas about two years ago, the station announced the mistake to viewers Thursday evening, Neves said. They also alerted federal officials.

I’m not saying it couldn’t have happened to me – because it could have. I tend to treat any kind of unsolicited video or eyewitness account with a grain of salt, but I’m not perfect.

Just to give you a taste of what goes on, here’s an email I received Thursday:

Hi Geoff–We had a tornado touch down in Thomaston and then again in Terryville–I don’t know about damage because I don’t live there. But local police saw it and reported it. Just thought you would like to know.


I was so busy, I didn’t see this until long after the cell had passed through Thomaston. By that time, based on an NWS report, we had sent a reporter there. He found nothing.

I wrote asking Sharon where she got her info.

Hi Geoff–

I was watching the Weather Channel when I first got home and it came across in the National Weather Service Tornado warning on the bottom of the screen. It said the tornado was spotted by local law enforcement.


Sharon didn’t mean to be bad or misleading. She was doing what she felt was right. But, she originally passed along second hand information as if she had obtained it herself.

I try my best to make personal contact with anyone who sends unsolicited material I use, but I know there are times I haven’t stridently followed my own rule. Speaking to someone usually provides to best clues to their trustworthiness.

This stuff happens all the time. Most of the time it’s a photo that someone claims comes from a friend or relative – but it doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same bogus Katrina pictures!

There’s a larger point to be made here and that gets to the crux of citizen journalism. Are we ready to trust random members of the public to provide our news coverage?

Opinionated reporters (Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Lou Dobbs, Brit Hume) may choose to report only certain aspects of a story, but you know where they’re coming from and can adjust accordingly. With random citizens, who knows what they’re trying to accomplish or maybe they’re too naive, like Sharon, to even know.

A good TV station, like WFSB, steps up to the plate and admits when they are wrong. That’s what good meteorologists and good journalists do.

On the other hand, when caught sending dubious material, I’ve found unsolicited citizen ‘journalists’ often stop responding.

This is the new world. There are aspects I don’t approve of.

They’re Doing It Again

Charlie Walsh from the Connecticut Post called a while ago. He wanted my reaction to AccuWeather’s latest pronouncement:


Prolonged Period of Cold and Stormy Weather Appears on the Way

Quickly, I went to Google and found one of their earlier predictions.

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

Sure – there’s the chance of a hurricane hitting the Northeast any year. Of course, there was none this year.

Then, in October, AccuWeather said:

Tomorrow Is Today

We’re supposed to drive Steffie back to college tomorrow. Here’s the official National Weather Service forecast:

Saturday: Periods of rain, mainly after 8am. The rain could be heavy at times. High near 71. Breezy, with a east wind between 22 and 26 mph, with gusts as high as 43 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

That’s not the kind of weather you want to experience while moving a semester’s worth of stuff from car to dorm!

We’re going today.

Officially we’re on thin ice. Stef’s roommate is already there and registered from summer school. This stuff can go in as hers.

Meanwhile, everything that could wait, can’t.

Quoted In The Norwich Bulletin

I think I’ve become the low hanging fruit of weather quotes. I was included in an article published today in the Norwich Bulletin.

Use the link above if you want to read it, though I’m attaching it to the jump should that link go stale.

Continue reading “Quoted In The Norwich Bulletin”

Flying Through A Hurricane

Back in July 1996, I flew through the eye of Hurricane Bertha. I wrote about it then, but it’s been mostly forgotten. I thought this might be a good time to repost it here:

The most common question I’ve been asked the past two days is, “Why would you ever fly into the eye of a hurricane?” Fair question.

First of all, I have convinced myself that it isn’t dangerous. Think about it. Career government employees. Not exactly a prescription for risk takers. The plane, a 31 year old Lockheed C-130 Hercules, seems incredibly sturdy and is as stylish as a UPS truck.

Second, it sounded like a great story. Interesting, informative, maybe even a little exciting.

Any time there’s a tropical system worth investigating, the Air Force flies to a forward base and sets up shop. The idea is to have two planes with almost continuous penetrations of the eye. This week, the 53rd Weather Recon Squadron USAF (reserve) was at Homestead AFB in Florida. It’s an eerie starting point, considering wreckage from Hurricane Andrew still litters the base and surrounding town.

Flight time to Bertha would be about 2 hours and we’d be in the air for anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. That meant 69,000 pounds of fuel in the wings, under the wings, and in a 10,000 pound tank adjacent to the port-a-john in the ‘cabin’. And enough noise from the four prop engines to force everyone to wear earplugs or earphones.

Being on the ground during a major hurricane will change you. They’re not surprises like tornadoes or earthquakes, yet they cause damage that’s often more widespread and impossible to prevent. And there’s the paradox of the eye, an area where the strongest and weakest winds are amazingly close. A hurricane’s eye passing overhead is so enticing that people have been known to leave shelters only to be ‘zapped’ as the storm started up again.

Leaving Homestead, we flew directly toward the storm. Miami Center didn’t need to vector us – we weren’t going to run into much company. Not many people do this as a hobby. At 20,000 feet the ride was smooth.

A little over 100 miles out, we descended to 10,000 feet and started taking readings. Temperature, dew point, barometer, wind speed and direction. The sea surface below had enough whitecaps and spray to show the wind direction, even at altitude. Intermittently there were patches of green. The Air Force manual carried by just about everyone on board said that that was an indication of winds over 40 knots. The clouds thickened. There was rain, hitting the windshield at almost 300 mph. My photographer, J.P. Coleman, and I made our way up the stairs onto the flight deck.

My commercial flight to Florida had two in the cockpit. This flight had five, and they all seemed to be working. I started to interview the pilot, a Lt. Colonel, until he stopped for a radio call and then a checklist. The radar, mounted on the plane’s dash, about where the radar detector is on my car’s dash, started showing a somewhat circular green area. This was Bertha.

The blip moved closer to the radar’s center as we approached. I started thinking about the turbulence. How the plane would pitch and roll. How my stomach would trick me into thinking I was about to die, when I was only going to throw up. There are hand holds in the cockpit and I grabbed one, but a funny thing happened. Nothing!

All right, not quite nothing but close. We shook for ten, maybe twelve seconds before settling back to smooth flight.

As it turns out, Bertha was “Big” Bertha because of size, not strength. The eye was not round, but oval. It had more holes than Albert Hall (If you understand this, Ann B. Davis is Schultzy, if you don’t she’s Alice).

The eye was where the real work would be done. In the back, a Master Sergeant prepared a cylindrical instrument pod called a radiosonde. He watched the wind speed at altitude. From 70 to 50 to 30 knots. And then to single digits. As the wind dipped he typed “launch” on a keyboard and the radiosonde slipped out the tube. We knew from the rate of descent that its parachute had opened. It was transmitting back to the plane while falling at about 1,000 feet per minute. As soon as we got the numbers, they were satellited to the Hurricane Center and relayed to the National Weather Service data feeds. All of a sudden, anyone with a computer could get the results of Bertha’s physical.

These numbers are still the absolutely best way to fix the hurricane’s location and estimate her strength. Lower pressure, higher temperature, bigger storm. There is currently no better way to know this than by penetrating in a plane.

And that’s the way the day went. Ten and a half hours in the air with hardly a bump. We flew 100 plus mile legs in a bowtie shaped pattern, passing through the eyewall four times.

So, what did I get out of it? Well, two live phoners, from the flight deck, at 6 and 11. The airchecks are nowhere to be found, but I’m told it sounded exotic and dangerous. That’s probably because we went from the plane to the ground via single sideband shortwave radio and had to say, “over” all the time. Today (July 11) , we aired two separate packages at 6 and 11. And, I’ve gotten a little more insight into the data I use from the National Hurricane Center.

I’d do it again

Hurricane Questions

After the loss of life, and confusion, following Hurricane Charley, an interesting op-ed piece was written by Bryan Norcross, Chief Meteorologist from WFOR in Miami. You can read it here now, or click the ‘continue’ link at the end of this posting.

Norcross makes some interesting points, many of which I agree with.

Though we make our own forecasts at the TV station, we respect the Weather Service’s watches and warnings (though there are times I mention them, followed by what I think will actually happen).

The bigger problem occurs when watches and warnings are contradictory. Uncoordinated watches, warnings and statements for hurricanes, severe storms… even winter weather, is a continuing weakness of The Weather Service. All hurricane watches, warnings and statements should come from one place – period.

This certainly led to the disservice done to the people for Florida.

When local offices speak, they address problems from their own perspective, which is not necessarily the public’s. And, the public and media are probably concentrating their attention on the Storm Prediction Center (Whose idea was it to change this from the much more meaningful Hurricane Center?), which is where most people would expect to find hurricane info.

I work in Connecticut, a small state served by three NWS offices. Their statements often mislead the public because each only refers to the region for which they forecast.

Here’s an example. If Boston says a watch has been canceled for Connecticut, they mean their counties. No one in Connecticut could read a statement like that and understand that half the state is still under a watch.

During the winter, Litchfield County, our ‘snowbelt,’ might be under a lesser category of alert because the Albany office uses somewhat different criteria than the New York or Boston offices. When I post a map which shows a Winter Weather Advisory for Litchfield while there’s a Winter Storm Warning for our other counties (even though Litchfield has the more wintry forecast) it does nothing but confuse.

I have been to NWS ‘customer’ conferences in Washington, and have tried to sensitize them to this confusion. As you see – no change.

Continue reading “Hurricane Questions”

Stormy Saturday

Steffie was away at Field Hockey Camp. The weather was forecast to be rotten. There were no movies worth seeing. Helaine and I decided to drive the hour or so to Foxwoods where I could play poker while wearing something other than pajamas.

The traffic was horrendous. Well, for our little part of Connecticut it was horrendous. I’m sure Californians or Long Islanders would disagree with my threshold of traffic pain. We hit the first stoppage on I-91, approaching I-95.

The new Ikea was supposed to attract more cars. Since it has opened, I have noticed much slower traffic where I-91 empties into I-95. It might be a coincidence. I hope it is. I don’t want to think this will now be the norm.

I crossed the “Q” Bridge and headed east on I-95. Since I-95 runs from Maine to Florida it’s considered a north – south road. Signs point you to I-95 north or I-95 south. Unfortunately, here in Connecticut it is entirely east – west. It is somewhat confusing in the beginning.

A few minutes later I heard what sounded like touch tones on the radio, then silence, then National Weather Service radio broadcasting a tornado warning for Northern New Haven County.

I picked up the phone and called the station. I wanted to make sure we were on it. Thankfully we were.

Gil Simmons was heading back to the studio from the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament. A crew was heading to Wolcott where we had reports of storm damage. Our automated equipment had instantly posted the tornado warning on the air.

We continued the drive – in heavy traffic on I-95. As is so often the case, we never found out why the traffic was heavy. One minute we were in bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic, the next we were cruising along at the speed limit.

Skies remained threatening, but we beat the storms to the casino. The valet parking area was fairly empty and we pulled right in. As it turned out we beat the thunderstorms by about 30 minutes.

Since July, and Las Vegas, I have spent more time in casinos than ever before. Of course I’ve been going because I’ve been winning. Somehow online poker has made me a much better ‘live’ poker player. And since I am willing to risk more in person, a good night can be very rewarding.

The poker room at Foxwoods is bigger than ever, just having added 12 tables. It was also more crowded than I’d ever seen it with long waiting lists to play. I signed up and Helaine and I left to walk around. I came back in time to play.

Recently, I had been having good luck at $10/$20 Texas Hold’em, and went there again. Foxwoods deals tables of 10 at Hold’em – and the table was full.

I bought in with $200 and was soon down around $60. The things began to turn around. By the time we were ready for dinner I had won $483.&#185

We went to the coffee shop for dinner. Foxwoods has some beautiful restaurants and one disappointing buffet. I had a French Dip sandwich, fries and a bowl of chowder. Dinner couldn’t have been nicer.

To its credit, this coffee shop is reminiscent of Vegas coffee shops. It is bright and airy, more room between tables than you’d expect. The food is very good. The menu is more limited than most Vegas coffee shops, but there’s no problem finding something good to eat.

We headed back upstairs and I got reseated for poker. Even though my dinner break allowed me to be second on the list for players coming in, it took nearly a half hour for me to sit.

I never felt I was doing that well, but before long I could see an extra few stacks of $5 chips in front of me. I was up over $200 before getting sucked into a hand that better judgment should have kept me from. I left the table up another $143.

As was the case when I played in Atlantic City, I keep waiting for my big loss. It is coming – I just don’t know when. Even a great player, and I am not a great player, can’t sustain the string of wins I currently have at brick and mortar casinos.

That loss didn’t come Saturday night.

On the way out I picked up some brochures for Foxwoods big series of tournaments which comes in October. The entries are a bit pricey, but I would consider playing in one event.

In a somewhat sobering observation I realized I am eligible to play in the Senior Tournament. All I need to do is bring proof of my 50+ age… and a lot of cash.

&#185 – When I play poker, I buy in for a round amount. When I cash out I subtract that amount to come up with my win. During the course of playing I tip the dealer after any winning hands and tip the waitress when I get a soda or coffee. Those come from my stack, so they reduce my winnings. Whether they should be part of my winnings or losses is academic. It is easier to calculate it this way, so I do.

Hurricane Pissing Match

Sometime in the next day or so, I’ll write more about Isabel. But, tonight, I saw an incredible press release from AccuWeather from earlier this summer. It’s posted on the link below.

This is the kind of sniping you seldom see between government and private industry. It’s obvious, the gloves are off.

But, should anyone who forecasts for a living ask to be judged on specific individual forecasts, as opposed to forecasts over periods of time? We all make mistakes from time-to-time. Is one event’s forecast indicitave of anything?

Meanwhile, the most interesting part is that this really is a pissing match, in public.

Continue reading “Hurricane Pissing Match”

Hot electrons, I guess

When I built my current home computer (what a geeky thing to be able to say), I installed a small applet that sits in the system tray, that little area on the lower right hand part of the screen near the clock. The applet does one thing and one thing alone. It monitors the temperature of my computer’s CPU.

I thought it might be a good idea because sometimes the room gets warm or cool and I wanted to make sure it didn’t suffer. Truth is, My AMD Athlon 1600+ is capable of running at much higher temperatures than what I subject it to. I also thought another cool readout on the screen would be… well… cool.

I was worried about heat, even in the design stages. I have so many fans in the case that it sounds like a Beechcraft 1900 taxiing out for departure.

Give me a sec… I’m getting to the point.

What I found was the biggest contributing factor to higher CPU temperatures was not environmental but actually how much thinking the computer was doing! That was weird., and it took a while to put 2+2 together.

If, for instance, I edit video (which is very math intensive and can take a long time) the CPU’s temperature starts creeping up. On a long session it can be 15-20 degrees warmer than what I normally see. If I’m surfing the net or typing email or working on this blog, it idles relatively cooly.

I’m not sure if this is because in high stress applications there are more electrons trying to move faster, making it a friction thing? The clock that runs the chip keeps a constant beat, so it’s not heating up because its little silicon heart is beating faster.

But, it is a puzzlement.

Here’s what brought this to mind. Tonight, The National Weather Service’s computer, which run the forecast models, had to be shut down because of heat. Since these machines run the same basic programs every night, I don’t think they’re experiencing the same kind of anomolies I see at home. It’s probably mechanical and will need a plumber or air conditioning expert rather than a computer expert. Still, it’s interesting to see that heat is the enemy of computers everywhere.

The link below connects to their statement on the computer failure.

Continue reading “Hot electrons, I guess”