ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Changes are coming to the frost/freeze program this fall with an experiment the National Weather Service in Buffalo is joining in alongside all other offices in New York State as well as New England. 

What exactly is the frost/freeze program?

The frost/freeze program goes back many decades and was designed in our part of the country to help backyard gardeners protect their sensitive vegetation that they grow during summer from frost and freezing temperatures found in the fall including unusually late frost/freezes in springtime. The program itself consists of issuing frost advisories, freeze warnings, or hard freeze warnings when cold temperatures potentially threaten sensitive vegetation and crops throughout the growing season. 

What is the growing season? The growing season is defined by the period of time between the median date of the last spring freeze and the median date of the first fall freeze. In year’s past, the ending of the issuance of frost/freeze headlines for a season was based on the occurrence of a killing frost in a weather forecast zone, or two weeks after the median first fall freeze date. 

Image: https://www.weather.gov/rnk/frostfreeze

This procedure was eventually found to be confusing for users as there was a lot of ambiguity in terms of what a killing frost was. It also didn’t account for users taking precautions to protect plants, and didn’t account for temperatures that can vary widely inside a single forecast zone or county.

The idea behind issuing an advisory is to encourage people to protect their sensitive vegetation. If those people are taking those protective measures, then it wouldn’t make sense not to continue the issuance of these advisories or warnings until a point where their vegetation couldn’t grow anymore. 

What are the changes and new end dates to the growing season?

In order to better accommodate these ambiguities, the National Weather Service offices in this experiment will be using a hard end date for each zone 10 days beyond the median end of the growing season. This means that they will continue to issues frost/freeze products regardless overnight temperatures in each zone/county until that date. 

For us here in western New York that includes the following dates:

October 11 for Wyoming, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Jefferson, and Lewis counties

October 21 for Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Cayuga, and Oswego

The National Weather Service is looking for your feedback on this once the season comes to an end. On the website there are links regarding the service change notice as well as information on how to give feedback on the experiment to the office.  

Speaking of frost, there’s a decent chance a few our our southern counties get a taste of the frosty feel as temperatures Saturday morning plummet into the mid to upper 30s for some spots.