Weekend snow totals
As much as 3.5 inches of snow fell in parts of Maryland during Sunday's storm. Some sites in Virginia saw 4 inches. Here is the tally from the National Weather Service.
As much as 3.5 inches of snow fell in parts of Maryland during Sunday's storm. Some sites in Virginia saw 4 inches. Here is the tally from the National Weather Service.
The shortest month of the year arrives tomorrow with an impressive record of producing big snowfalls in Baltimore and Central Maryland, including the historic Presidents' Day Weekend storm two years ago that buried the region beneath more than 28 inches of snow.
That same February of 2003 was the snowiest February on record in Baltimore, with accumulations that totalled 40.5 inches at the airport. That shattered the previous record of 33.9 inches that had stood unassailed since February 1899.
The 2003 storm produced one of the snowiest days on record in Baltimore. Heavy snows on Feb. 16, 2003 added 21.8 inches to the base laid down the day before. But that still fell an inch short of the 22.8 inches that fell on Feb. 11, 1983, during another memorable February snowstorm.
On average, February has been only slightly less snowy than January, averaging 6.4 inches during the 30-year period of record from 1970 to 2000. That compares with 6.9 inches in January during the same period.
Of course, February can also be very snow-stingy. Four of the last seven Februaries produced less than one inch.
February also holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in Baltimore ... minus-7 degrees Fahrenheit, first reached on Feb. 10, 1899, and matched on Feb. 9, 1934.
Even so, average temperatures are rising throughout February. The highs climb from 42 degrees on the 1st to 48 degrees by month's end. The average lows inch from 24 degrees to 29 degrees. But it can get downright toasty. The record high for February in Baltimore was 83 degrees, on Feb. 25, 1930.
Here's the National Weather Service recollection of the February Blizzard of 1983 (written before the 2003 storm):
"The Blizzard of 1983 beat the Presidents' Day Storm (Feb. 18-19, 1979) and was the second greatest snowfall for Baltimore since records began. It covered an unusually large area of Virginia and Maryland with more than a foot of snow.
"Two feet of snow lay in a band across Washington, Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Howard and Baltimore Counties. The storm set a new 24 hour snowfall record at Baltimore with 22.8 inches.
"Parts of Northern Virginia up into western Maryland measured as much as 30 inches on the ground. Hagerstown reported 25 inches of snow (its second greatest storm behind the January 1996 snowstorm). For a couple hours of the storm, snow fall at an amazing rate of 3.5 inches per hour.
"Thunderstorms intensified the snowfall in some areas.Winds gusted over 25 mph all day on February 11 causing drifts up to five feet. The heavy snow and winds paralyzed the region. The cost of clearing the snow from roads was in the millions of dollars."
For more on historic Maryland winter storms, click here.
The Weather Blog is open for readers' comments again. We apologize to all who have attempted to leave their comments in the last week, only to be confronted with an insurmountable security barrier. The glitch was the result of a new layer of security "improvements" to this blog and others that inadvertently shut off access by our readers. Not precisely what we intended. We're sorry, and we look forward to your participation here once again.
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With clear, dry, cold skies forecast for tonight, Marylanders have a fine opportunity to watch a predicted flyover by the International Space Station just after 6 p.m. Step out and try to spot it, then leave a comment here.
According to a Heavens Above Website for Baltimore (you can go to this site and adjust the forecast for your own location), the space station will first become visible at 6:05 p.m. 10 degrees above the west-northwest horizon. Look for a steady, star-like light moving briskly toward the south-southeast. The light we see is sunlight reflected off the station.
At 6:08 it will be 45 degrees above the southwest horizon - about halfway between the horizon and the "zenith" (straight over head). The station will continue toward the south-southeast, disappearing into the Earth's shadow at about 6:11 p.m.
The space station currently has two men on board - American astronaut Leroy Chiao, the Expedition 10 commander; and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, the flight engineer. ISS is orbiting about 215 miles above the Earth's surface, and traveling at 17,228 miles per hour.
Be sure to wave. Those are your tax dollars up there.
Ed.: 6:30 p.m. We dragged 15 Sun reporters, columnists and copy editors out onto the roof of the Sun garage at 601 N. Calvert Street, in downtown Baltimore to watch the station fly over. Skies were very clear. Still pretty light to the west. Bright stars and Saturn were already out. The Space Station seemed a minute or so late (maybe it was my watch), but it finally showed up, brightened quickly and made a fine pass. The crowd seemed impressed.
School kids and teachers will have to wait a bit longer for that much-longed-for snow day. The next patch of wintry weather will arrive this weekend, with a 40 percent chance of snow, or sleet, or rain. Or nothing at all. Forecasters aren't sure yet how or where things will play out.
Here's their best guess for the moment.
The storm center is moving out of the Gulf of Mexico with plenty of moisture. It's likely to move up and over the very cold air we woke up to again this morning. But just where the precipitation falls, and whether it arrives as snow, rain, sleet, ice or some miserable combination of the above, remains uncertain.
Temperatures here will be in the mid-30s by day, the mid-20s by night. And that will seem pretty toasty. It was just 6 degrees on the Weatherblogger's deck in Cockeysville this morning. The overnight low at BWI was 10 degrees, reached just before dawn. That wasn't close to the record for the date: minus-3 degrees F., set in 1987. (The record high for the 28th is 70 degrees, in 1949.)
So c'mon, kids. Turn those jammies around. Do the snow dance. I need three snow days this winter to win a bet, and a free dinner, from one of my favorite teachers.
The proton storm that erupted from a giant sunspot last Thursday might have sickened or killed lunar astronauts had they been caught outside their habitats.
Fortunately, there are no astronauts on the moon right now. And the two-man crew of the International Space Station is well-sheltered from solar storms by the Earth's magnetic field. They were also able to take shelter in the well-shielded Russian service module Zvezda.
For more from NASA on how vulnerable our astronauts will be to nasty "space weather" when they return to the moon, click here.
Today marks the 83rd anniversary of the start of the infamous "Knickerbocker Storm" of 1922. Here's how the National Weather Service remembers it:
"January 27-29, 1922: ....(A) powerful nor'easter brought the deepest snow of this (20th) century and the storm of record to Maryland and the District of Columbia. College Park and Cambridge both set record one day totals with 24 inches of snow in 24 hours.
"Temperatures were quite cold across the area before the storm hit setting up excellent conditions for a heavy snow fall. On the 26th, Washington recorded a low of only 11°F as arctic air settled in ahead of the nor'easter. By the 29th, a maximum snow swath of 30 to 32 inches lay across southern Baltimore, eastern Howard, northern Prince Georges, northern Anne Arundel and portions of DC.
"Weather stations at Baltimore and Washington, DC recorded their all time greatest storm totals with 26.5 inches in Baltimore (Ed: since eclipsed by the 28.2-inch storm in Feb. 15-18, 2003) and 28 inches in Northwest Washington. Southern Maryland saw 20 inches, the Eastern Shore 8 inches, Washington County 12 inches and 25 inches in the Allegany Mountains highlands and 16 inches at Oakland.
"Strong northeast winds (gusting up to 50 mph) created blizzard conditions and heavy drifting blocked roads. Some remained impassable for days. The main highways were opened in two to four days.
"In Baltimore, the cost of cleaning the streets was $50,000 and losses to railroads and businesses was $60,000.
"The weight of the snow caused what the Washington Post called "the greatest disaster in Washington's history". The roof of the Knickerbocker Theater on 18th Street and Columbia in Northwest DC collapsed taking the balcony down with it. An estimated 900 people were in the theater at the time. While many escaped, 98 people were crushed to death and another 158 injured.
"A small boy squeezed between the rubble to help administer pain pills to victims who remained trapped for hours. The storm became known historically as the Knickerbocker Storm."
More frigid, arctic air is poised to descend on the region again from Canada. After a brief break today for a bit of melting, the forecast calls for highs only in the 20s Thursday and Friday, with clear, sunny skies and cold, starry nights dipping into the low teens. For the weekend, forecasters say they're only sure that moist air from the Gulf will be shoving north and east into the dome of cold air. Whether it's dropped on us as rain, snow, or freezing rain, or some miserable combination of the above, isn't clear yet. But they don't think there's much chance of a repeat of last Saturday's snowfall.
Here's a shot of the snowstorm that swept through Maryland on Saturday, snapped by NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite. Click on the photo, then rest your cursor on the larger image that appears. An icon will appear at lower right. Click there for a closer view. Thanks again to "The Smog Blog" at UMBC.
Temperatures have finally crept back up above the freezing point today, for the first time last Thursday's high of 34 degrees. The mercury at the airport reached 33 degrees sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. It was 33 degrees at the Maryland Science Center downtown a couple of hours earlier than that. Temperatures have averaged below normal at BWI for eight days through Monday.
But as cold as it's been since the 16th, January thus far is still averaging more than 3.6 degrees above normal through Monday, thanks to the balmy start we had. It was 70 degrees on the 13th, after all. The low to date was the 9-degree bottom reached Monday morning. That was at the airport, of course; it was zero on the Weatherblogger's instruments in Cockeysville.
It's hard to fathom, as hard as our furnaces have been working in recent days, but the number of heating degree-days - a measure of heating fuel demand - remains about 8 percent below normal for the season so far. On consumption, at least, we're still ahead of the game. With oil and gas prices up, of course, the bills are still higher. Less than two months 'til Spring.
Readers' storm photos have begun to trickle in. And there are some beauts, like Colleen Myers' snapshot of a cardinal snacking in a feeder in Bowley's Quarters. Have a look at it here, and then click on "Register," follow the signup process and upload your own best shots.
Temperatures in the teens and strong, biting winds remind us of the danger of hypothermia. It's a deadly risk for anyone who's outside too long or dressed inadequately for conditions, for the elderly or in households struggling with inadequate heat. To learn more from the International Longevity Center, click here.
Yesterday's intense, but mercifully brief snowstorm dropped as much as 7 inches of snow in parts of the region. But it blew through faster than expected, keeping accumulations below what was feared.
The measurement at BWI was just 4.5 inches, at the low end of the 4- to 8-inch forecast. But as the storm moved out, the temperatures sank to a bitter 14 degrees by sunrise, with winds of 15 to 20 mph, and gusts to 31 mph around 3 a.m., making this an especially arctic morning for digging out.
Total snowfall for the month at BWI is now 5.7 inches. Here are some unofficial accumulations in other parts of the region. Many were taken in the midst of the storm, so they're probably not the final tally.
Storm predictions for Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's counties, Delaware, and points north and east in Pennsylvania and New Jersey look even worse than ours. Forecasters are predicting 10 to 15 inches across that region, with snow falling at 1 to 2 inches per hour on Saturday afternoon. Things will crank up again on Sunday, threatening lighter snow, but stiff winds and blizzard conditions at times.
A blizzard is defined this way:
1) Snow and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to 1/4 mile or less for 3 hours or longer
2) Sustained winds of 35 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater.
There is no temperature requirement that must be met to achieve blizzard conditions.
Here's the bottom line for the Upper Shore and points north, from Sterling:
"SNOW IS EXPECTED TO ARRIVE INTO EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, EASTERN
MARYLAND, DELAWARE AND SOUTHWEST NEW JERSEY LATE SATURDAY MORNING
AND THE REST OF NEW JERSEY BY SATURDAY AFTERNOON. TOTAL
ACCUMULATIONS AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE WILL AVERAGE 10 TO 15
INCHES ACROSS THE ENTIRE WARNING AREA.
"TRAVEL CONDITIONS WILL BECOME DOWNRIGHT HAZARDOUS AND ALL
UNNECESSARY TRAVEL IS NOT RECOMMENDED ONCE THE HEAVY SNOW BEGINS.
FOLLOW THE DIRECTION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND POLICE IN YOUR
AREA. DRIVING CONDITIONS SHOULD START IMPROVING LATER SUNDAY
AFTERNOON AS WINDS DIMINISH.
"ANOTHER FACTOR WILL BE THE VERY LOW WIND CHILLS. AS WINDS INCREASE
SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY, WIND CHILL FACTORS WILL DROP BELOW ZERO
ACROSS NORTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA AND NORTHWEST NEW JERSEY AND THE SINGLE
NUMBERS ELSEWHERE FROM SATURDAY NIGHT AND LAST THROUGH THE DAY ON
So, if you're planning a drive north on Saturday, you should probably reconsider, or take the train.
It's official. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the region, forecasting 4 to 8 inches from tomorrow's snowstorm. Here's the lowdown. We can expect about 12 hours of snow, beginning between 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday and continuing until 7 to 11 p.m. There may even be a reprise into Sunday, with a little more accumulation.
If we do get 4 inches on Saturday, it will be the snowiest day since the Big Storm of February 2003. That is, we haven't had 4 inches at BWI on any one date since Feb 16, 2003, at the height of the record-breaking President's Day weekend storm, when 21.8 inches fell on the airport. If we get 8 inches, it would be the deepest accumulation of snow we've seen since January of last year, when 7.6 inches piled up between the 23rd and the 27th.
Where's my shovel?
This weekend's snowfall will be a great opportunity to post your storm photos on MarylandWeather.com's "Reader's Photos" site, which you can visit at the bottom of the weather page. Kids making snow angels? Neighbors helping to dig you out? Snow in the trees? Siberia-on-the-Severn? If you've got a really good, weather-related shot, register yourself on the site and upload your images. We'll look them over and post everything we can. These pictures can get hundreds, even thousands of "hits."
To register, click here, and then click on "Register." Complete the process and upload.
When you upload your picture, be sure to include the photographer's name, the location, date and time, and anything you can about your equipment and settings. Enjoy.
The National Weather Service has just issued a winter storm watch for Saturday, meaning 4 or more inches is possible in the storm approaching form the midwest. But AccuWeather has offered its "worst-case" scenario, warning of 6 to 12 inches, which it admits has only a 1-in-10 chance of playing out. Still ...
Today's pretty little snowstorm delivered 1 to 3 inches across the region. More is on the way for Saturday. Here are the unofficial reports on today's accumulations.
There's more snow due on Saturday. Here's what the NWS is saying about it so far:
"...WINTER STORM POSSIBLE THIS WEEKEND...
A STORM MOVING OUT OF THE HIGH PLAINS WILL LIKELY BRING SNOW TO THE
MID ATLANTIC THIS WEEKEND. AT THIS POINT IT APPEARS THE BEST CHANCE
FOR SNOW IS EARLY SATURDAY MORNING THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT...WITH A
LESSER CHANCE CONTINUING INTO SUNDAY.
"TEMPERATURES APPEAR TO BE COLD ENOUGH DURING THE EVENT TO KEEP ALL
PRECIPITATION IN THE FORM OF SNOW OVER MOST OF THE AREA. LOWER
SOUTHERN MARYLAND IS AN EXCEPTION WHERE THERE IS A CHANCE THE SNOW
COULD CHANGE TO RAIN LATE IN THE EVENT SATURDAY EVENING.
"THIS IS EXPECTED TO BE A MODERATE SNOWSTORM AT THIS POINT AND THERE
IS THE POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATION ALL ACROSS THE MID
ATLANTIC REGION. STAY ALERT TO THE WEATHER FORECASTS FOR THE LATEST
STATEMENTS AND POSSIBLE WATCHES AND WARNINGS AS THE WEEK PROGRESSES."
Today's snow should be notable only because it will likely be the first measureable snowfall of the season, and because it's cold enough to make it an all-snow event... and because we'll all be watching it from work, wondering how bad the commute home will be, and itching to get started. The National Weather Service forecasters say the disturbance will move quickly, and it's not a very wet system, which will hold accumulations down. An inch or two.
Much more interesting is the weekend forecast. Still cold, more moisture. More snow. Slower to move through. Here's what the NWS discussion (edited for jargon and abbreviations) is saying about today's snow:
"A PERIOD OF LIGHT SNOW IS EXPECTED TO MOVE ACROSS
THE (FORECAST AREA) TODAY. TEMPERATURES (PREDICTED)BY ALL MODELS ARE PLENTY COLD AND BELOW FREEZING, TO KEEP (PRECIPITATION)TYPE ALL SNOW. HOWEVER WITH THIS CLIPPER, SNOWFALL AMOUNTS WILL BE LIMITED BY MOISTURE AND DURATION. PREVIOUS FORECASTS CALLED FOR AROUND AN INCH OF SNOW FOR THIS CLIPPER EVENT THOUGH IT DOES NOT HAVE MUCH MOISTURE WITH IT. (WE) THINK LIQUID SNOW EQUIVALENT WILL RANGE IN 1:15 RANGE FOR THIS EVENT. THIS WOULD PRODUCE AMOUNTS IN THE 1-2" RANGE...WITH AMOUNTS HIGHER ALONG THE FAR WESTERN TIER OF COUNTIES ALONG THE WESTERN-FACING RANGE... I AM NOT EXPECTING ANY INCREASE IN MOISTURE TO BE PICKED UP BY THIS SYSTEM BEFORE IT CROSSES THE AREA.
"WE THINK THE BEST THE TIME FOR ACCUMULATING SNOWS RANGES FROM LATE MORNING THROUGH MID AFTERNOON... A LITTLE EARLIER IN WESTERN SECTIONS...LATER IN THE EAST. WE CAN EXPECT ABOUT A 2-4 HOUR PERIOD DURING THIS TIME RANGE OF LIGHT SNOW...BEFORE THE SYSTEM PASSES EAST OF THE AREA BY (7 P.M.) IT ALSO LOOKS LIKE BEST AREA FOR REACHING OUR ADVSRY CRITERIA OF 2" WOULD BE OVER MOSTLY THE NORTHERN 2/3RDS OF THE (FORECAST AREA). HENCE FOR THIS PACKAGE, WILL ISSUE A SNOW ADVISORY FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED AREAS, WHICH INCLUDE THE DC AND BALTIMORE METRO AREAS."
Here's what they're saying about the weekend:
"FRIDAY HAS SURFACE HIGH PRESSURE BUILDING DOWN FROM ONTARIO WTH INVERTED RIDGE, WHICH WILL GIVE US A COLD BUT SUNNY DAY ACROSS THE REGION. THIS COLD WILL CONTINUE FRIDAY NIGHT WITH LOWS ABOUT 10 DEG BELOW NORMAL.
"...PATTERN THEN BECOMES ENERGIZED WITH A SIGNIFICANT SHORTWAVE MOVING ACROSS THE MID ATLANTIC SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY NIGHT. SURFACE LOW CLIPPER GETS ENERGY INFLUX AS IT MOVES EAST ACROSS THE APPALACHIANS AS ... SHORT WAVE DROPS OUT OF MANITOBA AND INVIGORATES IT...DEEPENING AS IT MOVES OFF THE CAROLINA COAST. (MODEL) SOLUTION PROVIDES A LONG LASTING WEEKEND SNOW EVENT FOR OUR (FORECAST AREA) IF IT PANS OUT. WILL INCREASE PROBABILITY OF PRECIPITATION TO GOOD CHANCE FOR NOW...AND ISSUE WINTER STORM OUTLOOK (LATER)."
Here's the full discussion, with abbreviations.
With high pressure building in from the northwest, Marylanders with home barometers watched the numbers climb higher by the hour yesterday and early today. With higher pressure comes clearer skies and colder nights. The barometric pressure at BWI appeared to top out at 30.67 inches at around 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Ever wonder how high it can go? Well, forecasters at the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va. forecast office said the record high barometric reading at BWI is 31.07 inches, set on Feb. 13, 1981.
The world record barometric reading at sea level was 32.01 inches, recorded in Siberia on Dec. 31, 1968. The North American record is 31.85 inches, at Northway, Alaska, on Jan. 31, 1989.
Hard to believe we reached 70 degrees at BWI only last Thursday. The low this morning was 13 degrees, just before 7 a.m. That's well short of the record of minus-4 degrees, set on Jan. 18, 1957, but cold enough, thank you very much.
Monday's high was just 28 degrees, a peak reached just after midnight. The daytime high was just 26. Believe it or not, it was only the fourth day with a high below freezing since our meteorological winter began on Dec. 1. And January is still averaging 10 degrees ABOVE normal.
The strong high-pressure system over the eastern half of the nation is drawing bitter cold into our region, and the cold will likely continue for the next 10 days. It's also very dry. But that will begin to change tomorrow. The forecast calls for the first of a series of weak weather systems to zip by us along the jet stream. The first, during the day on Wednesday, is expected to drop 1 to 3 inches of snow the area. Another, on Inauguration Day, will deliver just a dusting. And there's a chance for more snow on Saturday and Sunday.
None of this looks very threatening. But it will look wintry enough out there, and the cold and wind will keep our furnaces throbbing.
A huge sunspot now crossing the face of the sun has erupted in a series of coronal mass ejections, raising the possibility of witnessing displays of Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in our area if skies are clear. The displays could persist into Wednesday, so if skies are clear, have a look. For more information, go to
www.Spaceweather.com Be sure to get a look at the solar images posted
on the site.
It may say Jan. 14, 2005 on all our calendars, but it's Jan. 1, 2758 on the old Julian calendar established by the ancient Romans. They counted the years from the founding of the city of Rome. But the Julian calendar began falling behind the seasons, so Pope Gregory XIII established a new one that Europeans began adopting in 1582. It skipped 11 days to get everybody back in synch with the seasons, and added our modern system of Leap Years to keep things on track.
Some countries were a bit slow to get with the new "Gregorian Calendar." The Brits and their colonies finally signed on in 1752, much to the fury of people who felt their lives had been shortened by 11 days when Wednesday September 2, 1752 was followed by Thursday, September 14. The Russians didn't accept the new regime until 1918. The old Julian calendar has since slipped even further behind, which is why it's now 13 days out of whack.
By 2101, the old scheme will be another day behind, and the Roman New Year will fall on Jan. 15.
What did you see, or hear overnight? Leave a comment! Swollen streams? Post a photo! The heaviest rainfall since last July pounded on rooftops across the region overnight, flooded some local streets and filled streams to overflowing. More than 2 inches was recorded at BWI, the most rain there since the 5-inch storm last July 27-28. The front dropped temperatures from the 70-degree high reached at about 4 p.m. Thursday to 42 degrees by 10 a.m. Friday. (The warm air lingered until well into the early morning hours. It was still 63 degrees at the airport at 3 a.m.)
Instruments in the Weatherblogger's backyard recorded rainfall rates as high as 3.45 inches per hour for a brief time between 3 and 4 a.m. The heavy rains prompted flood warnings from the weather service for Arundel, Howard, Harford, PG and Baltimore counties.
Flow rates surged in area streams. Beaverdam Run in Cockeysville jumped 5 feet, from 20 to more than 900 cubic feet per second (cfs). The Gunpowder Falls near Parkton increased 5-fold, from 120 cfs to 650 cfs. The Jones Falls at Sorrento was up 4 feet, from 20 cfs to 1,100 cfs. The Potomac River at Little Falls rose more than 8 feet, and increased its flow from 1,500 cfs to more than 10,000 cfs.
There was a tornado watch issued for southern Maryland.
A rush of warm air from the south and a dab of afternoon sunshine drove temperatures across the region into the 70s Thursday. But winter starts now. A cold front is bearing down on the East Coast, bringing back the real January, with cold rain, stiff winds and highs in the 30s before the weekend is out.
Meteorologist Roger Smith, out at the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va. forecast office, said the afternoon high at BWI was 70 degrees, reached just before 4 p.m. That was well short of the record 76 degrees for the date, set in 1932. But the warm air did break a few records across the region. "Quite impressive," he said. Here's a sampling:
Dulles Airport, Va.: 69 degrees. Old record 68, set in 1995
Reagan Airport, Va.: 71 degrees. No record.
Norfolk, Va.: 75 degrees. No record.
Hagerstown, Md.: 68 degrees.
Salisbury, Md.: Broke 72-degree mark set in 1932.
Elizabeth City, Va.: 75 degrees. Broke 70-degree record of 1963.
Philadelphia, Pa.: 66 degrees
Wilmington, Del.: 69 degrees.
The high of 70 degrees at BWI marked the first time we've seen the 70s there since Nov. 7, when the high reached 71 degrees. The normal high for Jan. 13 is 41 degrees, so yesterday's temperature was 29 degrees above normal!
We might have broken a record yesterday were it not for the heat wave back in 1932. That was the warmest January on record in Baltimore, averaging 47.4 degrees. Anybody remember that one? The highs on Jan. 13, 14, and 15 in 1932 were 76, 79 and 78 degrees, respectively. Those marks seem likely to stand for a long time.
(The normal January average is 31.8 degrees. So far, through Wednesday, this January is averaging 44.1 degrees.)
The cold front bearing down on us from the west will bring blustery winds and periods of heavy rain. Flood watches were posted this afternoon for the northern tier of counties in Maryland, from Cecil west to Washington County, including Howard and Montgomery and the District. By Saturday we'll be looking at the mid-40s for highs. And Sunday will be lucky to make the mid-30s as the core of the cold air and high pressure from Canada moves in from the Midwest. The first part of next week won't do better than the low-30s, Smith said.
Once the skies clear this weekend, it will be a fine to time to have a look at Saturn. The 6th planet from the sun is at "opposition" Thursday, which means it is "opposite the sun" from our viewpoint here on Earth. Saturn rises in the east as the sun sets in the west. It's also near its closest approach to Earth - a mere 750 million miles - and that's a fine time to see the ringed planet.
Saturn will be much in the news this weekend as the European Space Agency's Huygens probe descends to the surface of Saturn's largest moon, mysterious Titan. Huygens was released by the NASA Cassini spacecraft last month.
You can see Saturn simply by stepping outside your door on any clear night this month. It's easily visible to the naked eye, even in the city. Or, find a telescope. Even a small one will reveal Saturn's rings and Titan. Stop by one of Baltimore's streetcorner astronomers, or an open observatory night at the Maryland Science Center and have a closer look. Call the science center's Stargazing Friday hotline, 410 545-2999 for more information. The University of Maryland Observatory in College park has public observations on the 8th and 20th of each month.
There's nothing like a first-ever peek at Saturn's rings to get a child - or an adult for that matter - curious about the heavens. For more on Saturn and how to find it, click here.
Well, so much for the NWS predictions for highs in the 60s today. With all the clouds ands fog, BWI maxed out at 47 just before 4 p.m. But Thursday's highs are still predicted to reach 67 or so. Then there's a cold front due, bringing plenty of rain - 1 to 2 inches, with a threat of small-stream flooding. Then look for a return to winter, with weekend highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. They're even starting to hint at a chance for snow showers for Inauguration Day. Bundle up, Dubya.
Washington DC may be a southern city, but it's not always the best place to hold an outdoor event in mid-January. With the second inauguration of President George W. Bush coming up next week, forecasters will be keeping a close eye on the developing forecast for Jan. 20. So far next week is looking sunny and cold, with highs in the 30s. But it can turn nasty.
Many of us remember the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy as an especially wintry one. Washington had received 8 inches of snow the night before, and by the time the festivities began it was 22 degrees, with stiff winds and wind chills below zero. Everyone worried when Kennedy showed up without a hat. Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 inauguration fell on a day that saw 1.77 inches of rain. FDR rode away in an open car with a half-inch of water on the floor.
Failure to dress properly for the inauguration had proven fatal more than once. William Henry Harrison was inaugurated in 1841, and rode back to the White House on horseback without his hat and coat. He caught a cold, then pneumonia, and he was dead in a month.
And that was back when inaugurations were held on March 4 or 5. The date was switched to Jan. 20 by a constitutional amendment passed in 1932.
After the 1853 swearing-in of President Franklin Pierce, the outgoing first lady - Abigail Fillmore - caught cold. That, too, progressed to pneumonia, and she expired a month later.
The worst inaugural weather was probably that which greeted President William H. Taft in 1909. Washington got 10 inches of snow that day. The trains were stalled and the streets were clogged. Everybody went indoors for that one.
For all the inaugural weather lore you could ever want, click here. Thanks to the National Weather Service.
The Maryland-led Deep Impact mission is set for launch Wednesday afternoon from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the forecast is good. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:47:08 p.m.
NASA is spending $311 million to send the spacecraft to rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, and drop an 820-pound copper slug in its path. The impact - at 23,000 mph - is likely to blast a crater the size of Yankee Stadium, enabling scientists on Earth to measure the physical and chemical properties of the interior ices. It's believed they hold clues to the conditions that prevailed in the early solar system, 4.5 billion years ago.
Fifteen are dead in the wake of fierce storms - called the worst in 40 years - that have pummeled northern Europe over the weekend. Winds have topped 90 mph in some spots. Hundreds of thousands lost electricity. Falling trees have crushed people in Sweden and Denmark. The ferries and trains were stopped in the Baltic region. St. Petersburg, Russia and Finland saw flooded streets and subways. And roofs blew away in Latvia. Here are accounts from publications in Scotland and elsewhere.
Norwegian meteorologists dubbed the storm "Hurricane Gudrun." In Sweden, authorities shut down 5 nuclear reactors as salt water interfered with transmission equipment. In Finland, another reactor was shut down as seawater rose around it.
Here's another view of the region from space. It shows the heavy cloud cover Sunday over Maryland, and the snowcover up in New England. It's from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite. Thanks to the Smog Blog and the Atmospheric Lidar Group at UMBC. Double click on the image for a better view.
The forecasters out at Sterling are expecting highs well into the 60s on Wednesday and Thursday, but winter returns this weekend. The forecast discussion calls for highs 20 to 25 degrees above normal on the 12th and 13th, thanks to a stubborn frontal pattern that is keeping the worst of winter bottled up to our west and north.
That's making Baltimore more like Savannah this week. BWI has a shot at breaking a record Wednesday. The record high for that date is just 70 degrees, set way back in 1890. Thursday's record is 76 degrees, thanks to a three-day January heat wave in 1932 that pushed the highs to near 80 degrees. Not much chance of that this year.
But don't put away the parka. After passage of a cold front overnight Thursday into Friday, the daily highs in the region are expected to plummet into the 20s and 30s. That's 10 to 15 degrees BELOW normal for the long MLK holiday weekend. Hot chocolate, a movie and a fire in the fireplace sounds about right.
Night skies should be clear Saturday and Sunday night, giving Marylanders a fair shot at seeing Comet Machholz, now climbing the evening sky toward the star cluster known as the Pleiades, or "Seven Sisters." Amateur astronomer Tim Hickman has already photographed the comet from Timonium. Here's his picture.
You may need binoculars unless skies where you are are very dark. A small telescope would be a bonus. Here's everything you need to know.
Well, this week has been a dismal, drippy, depressing mess. But after a bit more rain Saturday forecasters are looking for sunshine and highs in the 50s Sunday, and more sun with temperatures reaching the 60s again into the middle of next week.
Did we cover up the grille and the lawn chairs too soon? So far this month, BWI is averaging 49 degrees - more than 16 degrees above normal. If the forecasts are right, by next Wednesday we'll have seen 7 days in the 60s in the 13 days from Dec. 31 through Jan. 12. What planet is this?
With all this miserable drizzle and cloudiness we can't seem to shake, I thought blog readers might enjoy a peak at the sun - and one of the most astonishing solar eruptions in memory. It's a "coronal mass ejection," photographed late last week by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which is operated by NASA and the European Space Agency. SOHO stares constantly at the sun from a spot one million miles sunward from the Earth. The white circle in the image represents the outline of the sun itself, which is hidden behind a "coronagraph" that blocks the sun's direct light and allows the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, to become visible. The bright filaments to the left are solar debris, hurled away from the sun by the eruption. Here's how Pal Brekke, of the Norwegian Space Centre, described it:
"A series of three significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs) occurred within 36 hours on Dec. 30 - 31, 2004 all of which seemed to have Active Region 715 as their source. (CMEs are large solar storms, not uncommon, that blast billions of tons of particles into space at millions of kilometers per hours.) But the real story this week lies is the second of the three CMEs. The structure of the CME is strongly defined by multiple white strands of plasma that seem to elongate and linger in the frame longer than anyone can remember seeing. The pieces appear almost like shreds of torn clothing after something ripped through it. They clearly illustrate how a CME drags pieces of the Suns magnetic field out in space. From the beginning of the event until the last strand disappears over nine hours elapse. The result is a ... a CME that ranks among the most interesting that SOHO has observed."
Back and forth on the topic all day, the National Weather Service has again lifted its winter storm watches for Maryland's western counties and replaced them with a "hazardous weather" posting for Frederick, Washington and Allegany counties in Maryland. They're on the lookout for freezing rain at elevations above 1,500 feet, beginning after 5 p.m. tonight.
At 1 a.m. this morning, Jan. 4, the temperature at Dulles Airport in northern Virginia was 62 degrees. "Utterly incredible," exclaimed a NWS forecaster at the Sterling, Va. forecast office.
We are having some crazy weather. There hasn't been any rain worth noting since Dec. 23. And after a record-warm 67-degree New Year's Day, the high at BWI Monday reached 65 degrees. But as pleasant as it was not to be fighting bitter cold, snow and ice at this time of year, Monday's high was still shy of the record of 68 degrees for the date, set on Jan. 3, 2000. With a low of 38 degrees, the day's average was 52 degrees - 19 degrees above normal for the date.
The balmy weather will vanish overnight tonight as a cold front (it's in the 30s this morning in southern NY state) slides south of us. But after a cold, wet Wednesday, with a forecast high of only 40 degrees, the front will retreat northward again. For us, the rest of the week looks more like April than January. The highs will hold in the 50s, reaching the low 60s again on Sunday. Crocuses anyone?
An amateur astronomer in Timonium has captured a nice image of Comet Machholz, which is now visible with binoculars in Maryland's evening skies. Timothy Hickman snapped the picture.
"It is almost naked eye and is easy with binoculars," he writes via E-mail. "No tail, just a blob. By the weekend it will be right next to and west of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) which is almost straight up at zenith in the early evening. It should be easy to see all month."
"By the way there is an interesting story about Machholz and how he has spotted 10 comets, the thousands of hours he puts in, and how he still found this one before the computerized searches for comets; it is in the February issue of Sky and Telescope. It's a man-beats-machine story."
Thanks, Tim. By the way, readers of the marylandweather.com weather blog are invited to submit their weather-related (or at least sky-related) photos to the weather page's readers' photo gallery, at the bottom of the page. All submissions are screened for appropriateness before posting.
The high of 67 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on New Year's Day set a new record for the date, breaking the old mark of 64 degrees set in 1985. The low for the day was 40 degrees, producing an average of 54 degrees - 21 degrees above normal for the date.
January is statistically Baltimore's coldest month, averaging 32.3 degrees during the 30-year period from 1971 through 2000. The normal daily highs slip to 41 degrees during the first week of the month, and don't begin to climb again until Jan. 30 and 31, as the hours of sunlight begin to increase noticeably. The normal lows sink to 23 degrees by the second week of January at BWI, rising again by month's end.
The record low for January at BWI is minus-7 degrees Fahrenheit, set on Jan. 29, 1963. That's also the all-time record low for any date in Baltimore. The record high is 79 degrees, reached on Jan. 26, 1950.
Average snowfall in January for BWI is just 7 inches. But a series of storms in January 1996 delivered a total of 32.6 inches, setting the new record for the month. The snowiest January date on record in Baltimore was Jan. 28, 1922 - recalled in Washington as the deadly "Knickerbocker Storm" - when 23.3 inches piled up in the Baltimore. For more on Maryland's worst winter storms, including the 1996 and 1922 blizzards, click here.
After some dramatic extremes that delivered several frigid mornings and balmy afternoons in Baltimore, December ended over the weekend only slightly warmer and a bit drier than normal, with no snow to speak of. The National Weather Service recorded the month's coldest temperature - just 9 degrees at BWI - on the 20th. That day averaged just 16 degrees, or 20 degrees below normal. It was the coldest day since last January, and the secopnd-coldest December morning since 1989.
The warmest temperature of the month was 62 degrees, reached on Dec. 7. The warmest average daily temperature (49 degrees) was recorded on the last day of December. That was 16 degrees above normal for the date.
The airport enjoyed four days with highs of 60 degrees or more. There were 11 days when overnight lows stayed above freezing. But there were also eight nights with lows in the teens or lower.
Just less than 3 inches of precipitation was measured in December at BWI, almost a half-inch below normal for the month. Heavy rains on the 23rd left more than an inch in the gauge at BWI. But it hasn't rained since. In fact, December delivered measureable precipitation on only two dates since Dec. 11. Only a trace of snow was noted at BWI on the 13th and the 19th, when arctic air invaded the region. But that was enough to make roads slippery for a time before the salt began to work.