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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Bitter Cold Truth: Frost & Freeze Warnings in May

MAY FROST!? What is the world coming to? I cannot tell you how many people have approached me with concerns of a delayed summer...all because of a little frost. The average last frost date according to the National Climatic Data Center is May 12th for Hartford, Connecticut. Today is May 18th so should we all start freaking out? No way...summer will arrive on schedule.

In mathematics, an average refers to a measure of the "middle" or "expected" value of a data set. Since the average represents your middle ground, sometimes your measurement is higher than average and sometimes it's below average.

The same is true in weather. So it's normal to see frost a bit after the 12th. There is a popular phrase in meteorology: "Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get". Everyday the temperature is either above or below average. That doesn't mean Mother Nature's playing a trick on you.

Bottom line, it's not weird to see frost at this time of year. Now if we're having this conversation in June...that will be a different story!

More on Frost and Freeze Warnings:

A FROST ADVISORY is issued during the growing season when it's cold enough for frost to develop on plants. Frost can damage plants but it will not kill them.

A FREEZE WARNING is issued during the growing season when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing for an extended period of time, regardless if frost develops. When a freeze warning is issued, it's cold enough to kill plants and crops.

So what can you do to save your turnips and marigolds?

If they're potted plants, bring them inside for the night. Or cover your plants with a light blanket. A blanket will help insulate plants so they do not lose as much stored heat from the day before. Sometimes soil can get cooler than the surrounding air temperature! Brrrrrr.....

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