Weather and Art: “Love of Winter”

Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when chocolate treats and images hearts abound. But for me, it is George Bellows’ Love of Winter that always comes to mind as we mark the mid-point of what is usually New York City’s snowiest month of the year.

A longtime personal favorite, this 1914 painting captures the spirit of those who embrace the season. Filled with the blurred movement of skaters on a frozen pond and accented with spots of bright color that pop against the white snow, it conveys the joy of being out in nature on a cold winter day.

While Bellows is better known for depicting scenes of boxing matches and urban life, art historians say he enjoyed the challenge of painting the varied lighting conditions produced by a snow-covered landscape. In fact, he wrote a letter to a friend in January 1914 complaining about the lack of snow in the New York City area that winter. He said, “There has been none of my favorite snow. I must paint the snow at least once a year.” Then, on February 13, a blizzard hit the region. The wintry conditions inspired him to create this timeless painting.

Love of Winter is part of the Friends of American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Love of Winter”, 1914 by George Bellows. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

2018: Fourth Warmest Year on Record for Planet

Its official, 2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015, 2016, and 2017 were warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.42°F. That is 1.42°F above the 20th-century average.

2018 also marked the 42nd consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means every year since 1976 has posted a warmer than average annual temperature.

While heat dominated most of the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Record heat was measured across much of Europe and the Middle East. Here in the contiguous US, it was the fourteenth warmest year on NOAA’s books. Alaska, however, was even warmer with its second warmest year ever recorded.

The exceptional warmth of 2018 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2018 saw the cooling effects of La Niña in the beginning of the year with ENSO neutral conditions prevailing after April.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, with the last five years ranking as the five warmest on record.  The only year from the 20th century included on the top ten list is 1998, which is tied with 2009 as the planet’s ninth warmest year on record.

As greenhouse gases – the main driver of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2018 was Earth’s  4th warmest year on record. Credit: NOAA

The Folklore Behind Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the midpoint of the winter season.

On this day, according to folklore, the weather conditions for the second half of winter can be predicted by the behavior of a prognosticating groundhog. If the groundhog sees its shadow after emerging from its burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring will arrive early.

The practice of using animal behavior to predict future weather conditions goes back to ancient times. The particular custom that we are familiar with in the United States grew out of the old world tradition of Candlemas that German settlers brought to Pennsylvania in the 1880s. Today, many communities across the U.S. and Canada continue this age-old ritual with their own special groundhogs.

The most famous of these furry forecasters is Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania. He gained celebrity status after starring in the 1993 film, “Groundhog Day”. Here in New York City, our local weather-groundhog is Charles G. Hogg. A resident of the Staten Island Zoo, he is more popularly known as “Staten Island Chuck”. This year, both groundhogs are calling for an early spring.

But long-range forecasts can be a tricky business, so we will have to wait and see what actually happens. Either way, the spring equinox is 46 days away.

Credit: CBC

 

January 2019: A Month of Wild Temperature Swings in NYC

January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. It produced two arctic outbreaks and a record cold day on one end of the spectrum and a few days that felt more like early April on the other. Highs ranged from a frigid 14°F to an unseasonably balmy 59°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 32.5°F, which is only 0.1°F below normal.

In terms of precipitation, January was about average for rainfall. The city received 3.62 inches of rain, which is only .03 inches below normal. Most of that total, however, fell during a single storm.

Snowfall, on the other hand, was scarce. On average, the city gets 7 inches of snow for the month. But this year, only 1.1 inches was measured in Central Park. The cold air and moisture, which were both plentiful in the city in January, just did not coincide to produce a big snowstorm.

Credit: The Weather Gamut