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April 29, 2005

Great views of the Space Station next week

If skies are clear on Tuesday and Thursday next week (the forecast looks best for Thursday), Marylanders in the Baltimore area will have a shot at watching two fine evening passes by the International Space Station. No telescopes are needed, only a broad view of the night sky. And the station will be plenty bright enough to see, even in the city.

The first flyby will be Tuesday evening, May 3. The station will appear above the southwest horizon at about 9:26 p.m., moving briskly toward the northeast. Look for a bright, steady "star"-like object. It will be almost directly overhead at 9:29 p.m., and disappear low in the northeast at 9:32 p.m.

The second pass will be on Thursday evening, May 5. Look for the station in the west southwest at 8:45 p.m.. At 8:48 p.m. it will be high above the northwest horizon, disappearing three minutes later low in the northeast.

There will be lots of other sighting opportunities in Maryland in the coming days. For predictions for your location, go to HeavensAbove.com . You can register, or, under "anonymous users" click "Select" to enter your location from their database. When that's done, click on "ISS." That will give you a chart of coming flyovers by the space station for your location. Explore the page and you'll find star maps showing where to look for the station, and other features.

After the flyby, drop us a comment and let us know how it went.

Posted by Admin at 7:29 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Big sunspot, if we could see the sun

Looks like we're in for a couple of rainy days, so we won't see much of the sun. But by Sunday, skies should clear up a bit, and we should get a good view (with proper safety glasses, please!) of one of the biggest sunspots to cross the sun's face in months. It's five times bigger in diameter than the Earth, and easy to see (with eclipse glasses or No. 14 welder's glass) without magnification.

DON'T try to observe the sun directly without a proper solar safety filter. Even a quick glimpse could cause temporary or permanent blindness. Projection devices can provide a safe, indirect view, too. Here's how to make one.

Posted by Admin at 6:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

April 28, 2005

Make your outdoor plans for Sunday

It looks like a gorgeous evening tonight. And Sunday looks good, too. But Friday and Saturday look to be washouts if you're planning something for the outdoors. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain Friday, with severe thunderstorms possible on Saturday. Here's the scoop from the NWS at Sterling.

Posted by Admin at 7:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Hurricane Hunters fly in to Martin State Airport

Think of the bumpiest airplane ride you've ever suffered through, and multiply it by 10. That's what the crews of NOAA's famed Hurricane Hunter airplanes do for a living. They fly their P-3 Orion aircraft into the teeth of the big storms to take meteorlogical measurements, helping to fine-tune the forecasts, watches and warnings issued by the National Hurricane Center.

One of those planes will be coming to Martin State Airport next week. It will be open to the public on Tuesday afternoon, May 3. For details, click here.

Posted by Admin at 2:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Deep Impact snaps first photo of target

The Maryland-led Deep Impact mission is on course to smash into Comet Tempel 1 on July 4. And now the spacecraft has snapped its first photo of its target. Increasingly frequent images in the next two months will help controllers navigate the final distance to the comet. University of Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn is the principal investigator. The June issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, now on newsstands, has an article on the mission.

Posted by Admin at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

April 27, 2005

Confused by NWS forecast icons?

Here's your chance to have a say in the new ones the weather service is developing. Some people who visit the NWS Web sites have said they're confused by the little graphic images the sites use to indicate the approach of rainy weather (cars on wet streets), or fog, snow, wind (wind-driven electrical generators) or cloudy skies.

Some of them are a little busy or hard to decipher. So the NWS has ginned up some possible replacements, and they're asking for public comments on the top candidates. Click here, and we'll take you to a page where you can see the options, and leave comments for the designers.

Posted by Admin at 5:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 26, 2005

Heavy rain, floods in Romania

Heavy spring rains in Romania have caused serious flooding, damaging more than 100 towns and thousands of acres of cropland. For more, click here.

Posted by Admin at 4:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Dust devils - on Mars !

NASA's Mars rover Spirit has captured pictures of a dust devil spinning across the Martian desert. It was no surprise to scientists, who have spotted much larger whirlwinds, or the trails they leave in the Martian dust, in images of the planet's surface shot from orbit.

But Spirit's pictures, strung together in a movie-like sequence, provide a curious sense of motion to the stark, still images we're used to seeing from these twin rovers.

Posted by Admin at 1:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Low of 38 no record; 1937 storm recalled

The instruments at BWI recorded a low this morning of 38 degrees. That's plenty brisk, but well shy of the record low of 32 degrees set on this date just four years ago, on April 26, 2001.

April 26 is also the date of the heaviest 24-hour rainfall in April in Baltimore. That was the 3.74-inch deluge that fell in 1937.

Evening Sun clips from that afternoon's paper report a huge storm system that covered the eastern half of the nation, with rain and gales from Virginia to New York. In Baltimore, the nor'easter sent waist-deep water through parts of Dundalk. Light Street downtown, and South Caroline Street in Fells Point were under water as the harbor flooded. Schools closed, trains were stopped by flooding and Bay steamers and shipping were disrupted by gale-force winds. A fishing schooner sank off Lewes, Del., a tug sank near Hoopers Island, and a gasoline barge broke loose from its anchor at the mouth of the Potomac.

Ocean City clocked 70-mph winds and waves crashed across the island. In Cumberland, the National Guard was called out after several downtown city blocks flooded. Martinsburg, W.Va., Richmond, Va., Johnstown and Pittsburgh, Pa. also were hit by flooding as days of rain pushed rivers and streams over their banks. Scores of residents were evacuated, and several people drowned.

Heavy rains on the same date in London, Ontario produced the worst flooding that city suffered in the 20th century. The waters of the Thames River rose 7 meters - about 23 feet - putting much of the city under water. Native son Guy Lombardo later performed a memorable flood-relief benefit concert there, and forever won the hearts of the citizens.

Also on that same date - April 26, 1937 - 25 Nazi bombers dropped a far more deadly kind of rain on the Basque village of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. More than 100,000 pounds of bombs fell, killing 1,500 residents, about a third of the population. the atrocity was a preview of far worse to come during World War II.

But I digress.

Posted by Admin at 10:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

April 25, 2005

Bill to curb NWS products causes storm

Sen. Rick Santorum , (R-Pa.) has spun up a storm with his proposed bill to limit the kind of weather products the National Weather Service can provide free to the public.

The Senator's concern is that the taxpayer-funded weather service is providing "value-added" products and services that compete with commercial weather providers, such as AccuWeather, which is based in Santorum's home state. The bill would seek to refocus the NWS on its core responsibilities: gathering comprehensive weather data, and issuing watches and warnings that are vital to the protection of life and property.

But some people who have come to rely on National Weather Service data, its routine forecasting, and its Web sites. They're worried that the bill will go too far, taking some useful NWS products off line and forcing users to purchase the same services from the commercial providers. They note that much of the raw data used by the commercial providers may well have originated with the NWS. They object to the prospect of paying a commercial firm for information they have already paid for with their tax dollars.

It's not a new issue, but Santorum's bill brings it into the political limelight again.

Here's how the Palm Beach Post reported the squall.

How do you feel? Should the government be clearing the decks for private weather forecasters to expand their business and their profits? Where should the government's role in forecasting the weather begin and end? Or is there room enough out there for the government forecasters and the weather entrepreneurs to continue to prosper and innovate as they have been ?

Posted by Admin at 11:59 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Snow dusts parts of W. Maryland

The same big low-pressure system that dumped as much as a foot of unwelcome April snow on parts of Michigan and Ohio over the weekend, left a dusting in far western Maryland and nearby West Virginia, too. Here are some reported accumulations from the National Weather Service.

The Pittsburgh forecast office reported snow in Garrett County, too. There were reports of 2 inches in McHenry and at the Savage River Dam, and an inch at Accident.

The weekend storm left a third of an inch of precipitation at BWI. That brought us close to normal for the month so far. And despite the chill in the air for the past few days, we are still running 2.8 degrees above normal for the month. We can thank that beautiful stretch of weather that graced the middle of the month.

Sunday's low was 40 degrees. That's 8 degrees above the record low for the date, set just two years ago. But, coupled with an anemic high of just 49 degrees, it dragged the day's average temperature to 45 degrees - or 11 degrees below normal for the date.

The airport reached 40 degrees again this morning, 10 degrees short of the record low for the 25th, set in 1956.

If only we could save some of this up for the days in mid-July when we're looking for a merciful break from the heat and humidity.

Posted by Admin at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

April 21, 2005

Ahhhh ... rain at last

After 12 dry days in a row, they're reporting light rain out at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It's the first precip. there since Friday, April 8. Here's the local radar loop (which will become dated pretty quickly this afternoon).

Posted by Admin at 1:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Cold front brings "dreary" weekend; but snow?

OK. It's still only April. So we really can't complain too much about a forecast for gray, cool, "dreary" weather this weekend. Especially after the glorious few weeks we've just enjoyed. But snow? Read on.

Temperatures that reached 86 degrees at the airport yesterday afternoon slipped on a banana peel and landed at 64 degrees by this morning as a cold front pushed into the region. And it's not likely to get any warmer all day. Things will likely get worse by Saturday, with a chance of severe thunderstorms (and much-needed rain after 12 dry days in a row). Overnight lows will sink into the 40s, then the low 30s by Monday. Here's the advisory from the folks at the NWS Sterling forecast office:

"THE FIRST SIGNIFICANT SEVERE WEATHER OUTBREAK OF THE SEASON IS
POSSIBLE SATURDAY AFTERNOON AS A POWERFUL COLD FRONT SWEEPS THROUGH
THE REGION. AREAS EAST OF THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS ARE AT THE
GREATEST RISK OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS. THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER
HAS PLACED THIS AREA UNDER A SLIGHT RISK OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS."

Okay. It's spring, and we expect thunderstorms from here on out. But then there was this discussion this morning on the Sterling Website, by NWS meteorologist Andy Woodcock (edited for length and to eliminate abbreviations and forecaster-ese.):

"I'VE BEEN TRYING TO COME UP WITH THE RIGHT DESCRIPTOR FOR THE WEATHER ON THE UPCOMING WEEKEND. "DREARY" IS WHAT I'VE CHOSEN...AT LEAST FOR SUNDAY...

"SATURDAY SHOULD BE AN INTERESTING DAY. COLD FRONT (PREDICTED BY COMPUTER MODELS) TO CROSS THE (FORECAST AREA) DURING THE FIRST HALF OF THE DAY. PUZZLER IS (COMPUTER) GUIDANCE HAS SATURDAY HIGHS OVER 10 DEGREES HIGHER THAN WHAT WE ARE FORECASTING. HONESTLY I'M STICKING W/ WHAT WE'VE GOT...(UPPER 50S). TO GET TO 70 WE'D NEED SEVERAL
HOURS OF SUN AND I DON'T SEE THAT HAPPENING...

"WE WERE ADVERTISING CHANCE OF RAIN OR SNOW IN THE WESTERN PART OF THE (FORECAST AREA) BEGINNING SATURDAY EVENING ... I'M PUSHING THAT BACK. ... COLDER AIR IS MOVING IN...AND WILL MAINTAIN THE CHANCE AFTER (2 a.m.)... ALTHO I'M STILL A BIT SUSPICIOUS GIVEN THE CALENDAR. REGARDLESS, THINK IT WOULD JUST BE A WET SNOW AND NO ACCUMULATION.

"THEN COMES DREARY...SUNDAY. ... LOOKS LIKE TEMPS WILL ONLY MAKE IT TO THE (LOW TO MIDDLE 50S) EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS. ONLY MID- TO UPPER 40S WEST (OF THE MOUNTAINS)...

"WHILE THERE SHOULD BE SOME SLIGHT MODERATION DURING THE FIRST PART OF THE NEW WEEK, WE'LL REMAIN IN THE DOWNWARD PATTERN. THE JOYS OF EARLY SPRING... - WOODY "

Sterling's "forecast area," by the way, goes as far west as Allegany County and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. So in this discussion, the "western" part of the forecast area does not mean Carroll County. The snow risk, if any, would be in the mountains of Western Maryland. And those folks are tough.

Posted by Admin at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 20, 2005

Eleven days with no rain

Tuesday marked the 11th straight day with no measurable rain at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It's the first time we've been dry that long since a 17-day stretch that began on Aug. 19, 2004 and ran through Sept. 4, 2004.

Not that many are complaining. The spring weather has been gorgeous - eight clear days in the last 11, low humidity and comfortable temperatures.

The rainless period looks like it's coming to an end, however, as rain chances increase this afternoon, and persist pretty much through the weekend. That should reduce the risk of brush fires, which have become a significant problem in Maryland in recent days. Here's a look at the Haines Index map for today - a guide to the likelihood that wildfires will grow in a given area.

Posted by Admin at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

April 19, 2005

Now this is pretty cool ...

Or, to be precise, it's pretty warm. It's more imagery from NASA's AQUA satellite, showing what the Gulf Stream looks like as it meanders northward off the East Coast of the U.S. It carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the North Atlantic, eventually to warm the British Isles and Northern Europe and keep them habitable.

The top photo is shot in the infrared band of the light spectrum, revealing warmer water temperatures as warmer colors. You can see the cold currents that hug the beaches, and keep the Atlantic unswimmable for Ocean City visitors at this time of year. But offshore, the Gulf Stream waters are above 70 degrees as they curl and swirl toward the north and east.

The bottom photo shows chlorophyll concentrations that indicate the presence of ocean plant life.

Posted by Admin at 7:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Summer haze invades East

It looked like another gorgeous spring day in Maryland, but from space, you could see the veil of summer-like haze and air pollution that covered most of the Eastern United States. Here are some beautiful images shot today by NASA's TERRA Earth Observing satellite. (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) Notice all the brown runoff that has swept into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. And to our southwest you can see the afternoon showers and thunderstorms building.

Posted by Admin at 7:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Thunderstorms, hail possible

Roll up the windows. The National Weather Service has issued a "hazardous weather" advisory for most of Maryland west of the bay.

"ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS ARE FORECAST THIS EVENING. BRIEF HEAVY RAIN
AND GUSTY WINDS OF 30 MPH WILL BE POSSIBLE...AS WELL AS SMALL HAIL.
NO SEVERE STORMS ARE EXPECTED.

"ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS ARE FORECAST WEDNESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY. NO
ORGANIZED SEVERE WEATHER IS EXPECTED AT THIS TIME."

Posted by Admin at 7:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Fire weather

Red Flag wildfire warnings are posted again today across much of eastern Pennsylvania, right down to the Maryland line, as the effects of low humidity, brisk winds and 11 days without rain take their toll. Maryland has slightly looser threshholds for setting such warnings, so none have been posted here. But conditions are much the same. The National Weather Service has said it may need to issue a Fire Weather Watch for counties on the upper Eastern Shore.

Rain is expected by tomorrow, with a slight chance of thunderstorms by afternoon, and a chance for rain on Thursday. That should help ease the fire danger.

Posted by Admin at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 18, 2005

Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

With springtime now firmly entrenched, some of us are going over the books to see how much heating fuel we consumed over the winter, compared with prior seasons, and how well we're doing at conserving fuel and money. Mr. Weatherblogger recently received this query from a reader:

"I just put some insulation in my house last fall. Is there some easy
way I can compare the heating degree days of last winter with the
heating degree days of this winter? Is it recorded somewhere? -Peter Wayner"

"Heating degree days" are a way to estimate the energy requirements for heating. They are the wintertime equivalent of "cooling degree days," which estimates the requirements for air conditioning in summer.

The system starts with a base of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and measures the difference between that base and the mean temperature for the day. In other words, if the day's mean temperature is 65 degrees, there are zero degree-days for that day. If the mean temperature is 35 degrees, there are 30 heating degree-days recorded for that day. In summer, if the day's mean temperature is 75 degrees, we record 10 cooling degree-days.

So, as the season rolls along, the heating (or cooling) degree-days pile up, and we eventually have a way to compare the heating (or cooling) requirements for the month, or the season.

For this past heating season (to date), BWI recorded 4,327 heating degree-days. That was 249 degree-days fewer than during the 2004 season (through April). So, all else being equal (if we didn't tweak the thermostat or experience a change in the efficiency of our heating systems) we should have consumed about 5 percent less heating fuel. Of course, April isn't over yet, so we may clock some more heating degree-days. Also, the price per unit of energy changes from year to year, so we can't really judge our costs directly by calculating degree days - only our consumption. But it's a place to start.

The National Weather Service calculates degree days daily for its major stations, including Baltimore.The Sun used to list the daily, monthly and seasonal degree-days on the weather page on the back of the newspaper's Maryland section. But no longer. It can be found, however, on the MarylandWeather.com page. Just go to the main weather page, and look beneath the "Did You Know" feature on the lower left-hand side of the main page. There you'll find a link to archived weather data for BWI. Just enter yesterday's date, and it will take you to a page listing all the weather stats for that date, including the cumulative seasonal heating and cooling degree-day totals, and long-term averages.

The same data can also be found under "Past Weather Data" on the National Weather Service's Sterling Forecast Center site. Just click on the "X" for BWI and the current month, and you will find degree-day totals for the season.

Posted by Admin at 11:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger
        

April 17, 2005

Sunny weather sticks around

Looks like we'll enjoy another three or four days of beautiful spring weather as high pressure, now centered in Ohio, remains planted over the Eastern United States. The forecast shows sunshine through Wednesday as the system moves east. Then there's a chance of showers Wednesday night, but more sun after that.

So far this month, including today (Sunday) we've seen 9 days of 17 rated "clear" at BWI. There has been no significant precipitation at the airport since April 3 - a full two weeks ago. We're going to need more rain than this before too long. But it sure has been sweet.

Posted by Admin at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Last week's snowstorm in Denver

Here's a striking satellite image of last Sunday's surprise snowstorm in Denver. The view was a whole lot whiter from the ground.

Posted by Admin at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

A cold night, but no record

The overnight low this morning at BWI was 32 degrees. That was 10 degrees below the normal low for the date, but well above the 26-degree record, set in 1962. Here are some low-temperature readings from around the region.

Posted by Admin at 10:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

April 14, 2005

Brrrrrrrrrr !

Crystal clear skies, plus radiational cooling that allows the surface heat that built up during the day to radiate into space at night, equals some cold April nights this weekend. The National Weather Service has issued freeze watches for Friday night into Saturday. It affects counties from south-central Virginia, and into to central Maryland all the way up to Harford County.

Here's ours:

"A LARGE HIGH PRESSURE CENTER OVER QUEBEC WILL BUILD SOUTHWARD INTO
THE MID ATLANTIC STATES OVER NEXT TWO DAYS. AS IT DOES...VERY DRY AIR
WILL CONTINUE TO FILTER INTO THE REGION. AS THE HIGH SETTLES OVER THE
REGION FRIDAY NIGHT INTO SATURDAY...WINDS WILL BECOME LIGHT AND
TEMPERATURES WILL FALL INTO THE UPPER 20S TO LOWER 30S IN MOST AREAS
BY DAYBREAK SATURDAY.

"A FREEZE WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR A HAZARDOUS FREEZE
EVENT IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH AREA.

"STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO AND OTHER LOCAL MEDIA FOR FURTHER
DETAILS OR UPDATES."

The current forecast calls for a low of 38 degrees at BWI tonight into Friday, slipping further to 31 degrees Friday night into Saturday. That would crowd the 30-degree record low for an April 16 at BWI, set in 1962.

The normal low for this time of year at BWI is 42 degrees. The normal high is 65. We almost got there today.

Posted by Admin at 5:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Space station, Soyuz may be visible Sat. A.M.

If all goes well with tonight's planned launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft toward its rendezvous with the International Space Station, Marylanders could get a nice look at the two spaceships early Saturday morning as they fly over the Eastern U.S.

The Soyuz, with a Russian, an American and an Italian on board, is scheduled for liftoff at 8:46 p.m. tonight (Thursday) from Russians' Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This is the Expedition 11 crew, which has trained to greet the shuttle Discovery when it arrives in May or June. One of their jobs will be to do a visual and photographic inspection, and scan the shuttle for any damage that might have occurred during launch.

If Soyuz is launched on time, the crew plans to dock with the ISS at 10:19 p.m. EDT Saturday night. Between launch and docking, the Soyuz will be flying in the space station's orbit, racing to catch up.

With luck, observers on the ground in Maryland should be able to see the two craft flying overhead just before dawn Saturday, one trailing behind the other.

I've watched once before as the Space Shuttle approached the station, and it's very cool to see them go by, one after the other. That was an evening pass. This one, unfortunately, will be before dawn. I don't usually ask people to get up early to see this sort of event, because if they don't see it, they'll be pretty grumpy for the rest of the day. I'm not much of a morning person myself. But trust me; this will be well worth getting up early to see. And the weather forecast , except for the freeze watch, looks very good. Clear skies all weekend.

Of course, everything depends on tonight's Soyuz launch. I'm not entirely sure how close the two craft will be to each other by Saturday morning. And NASA folks couldn't tell me right away either. They did say the space station will be the one in front. Here is when to look for the International Space Station. Soyuz will follow at some distance behind it.

First, make sure you'll have a clear view of the northern horizon. This will be a decidedly northerly pass from our vantage point, and not very high above the horizon. For observers close to Baltimore, the ISS will first appear at 5:13 a.m. (sorry) about 27 degrees above the west-northwest horizon. (Straight overhead is 90 degrees.)

It will look like a fairly bright star, moving briskly toward the northeast. At 5:14 a.m. it will be 36 degrees above the northwest horizon - about a third of the way up the sky. That's the highest point of this flyby. And it will disappear at 5:16 a.m. just above the northeastern horizon.

Soyuz, of course, will follow along soon after. It might be close enough to see before the space station disappears. It's smaller, and so it reflects less sunlight and therefore should appear slightly dimmer than the station. I've also noticed that the space station, thanks to its copper-colored solar panels, can reflect a slightly yellowish color.

For more precise predictions for your location, go to Heavens Above, follow the directions and enter your observing location. When the predictions come up, click on the "16 Apr" prediction link and it will give you a star map, showing the precise path of the two spacecraft across the pre-dawn sky. The course takes them right across the Big Dipper from our perspective in Baltimore.

There's also a ground-track map available, showing the path of the space station over the Eastern U.S. It will be flying northeastward, over the Texas Gulf Coast toward the southern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and then on toward northern New England. If you're going to be in any of those locations, the spacecraft will appear to fly directly overhead. For us, they will cross our northern skies.

So, set those alarms and good luck. Drop a comment here afterwards and let us know how you fared. I won't be able to post them until Sunday, but I'll look forward to hearing how it went.

Posted by Admin at 4:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

April 13, 2005

Star parties this weekend

The weather forecast looks perfect for "Astronomy Day" stargazing this Saturday. Several groups plan star parties. Stop by and have a look through a selection of amateur telescopes. It's like boats. The only thing better than owning one, is knowing someone who owns one. And you'll never forget your first look at Saturn and her rings.
Stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, star clusters - it's all there to see.

City: Greenbelt
Organization: Greenbelt Astronomy Club, Goddard Astronomy Club, Owens Science Center, Prince George's County Public Schools
Contact: Doug Love
Address: 3-D Plateau Place
Date/Time: April 16, 6-10 pm
5 talks in the planetarium, many special displays in the hallway, childrens' activities, observing if clear, and tons of door prizes and giveaways

City: Westminster
Organization: Westminster Astronomical Society, Inc
Contact: Brian Eney
Address: WAS, Inc; PO Box 1231; Westminster MD 21158
Date/Time: Two Events:
Carroll Arts Center 10 am to 4 pm
Soldier's Delight Vistors Center; 8 to whenever

* Come see the beauty of the cosmos through "Astro Art". WASI members display their Astro-photos, drawings and instruments at the Carroll Arts Center in Downtown Westminster, MD. http://ccpl.carr.org/arts for directions to Carroll Arts Center.
* Come enjoy the beauty of the universe through telescope. You are invited to a star party at Soldiers Delight Visitor Center in Owings Mills MD. Call 410 922-3044 for directions.

A brief lecture will start at 8 in visitor center and then star party follows after.
Handouts and door prizes will be offered at both events.

For more locations, click here.

For information on "Stargazing Fridays" at the Maryland Science Center, click here. It's not a planetarium show. It's a chance to look at the real sky through a real telescope. And yes, there's plenty to see, even from downtown Baltimore.

Posted by Admin at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Fire danger rising?

I noticed today that much of Eastern Pennsylvania - including all the counties that border on Maryland - has posted "red flag" wildfire warnings. The warnings note the dry conditions in the woods, low humidity, breezes and clear weather ahead.

Here's the text:

"...A RED FLAG WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA
FOR TODAY...

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOUNT HOLLY NJ HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG
WARNING FOR BERKS, LEHIGH, NORTHAMPTON, BUCKS, CHESTER, MONTGOMERY,
DELAWARE AND PHILADELPHIA COUNTIES IN SOUTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA.

"THE FIRE DANGER WILL BE RUNNING HIGH TODAY. MINIMUM RELATIVE
HUMIDITIES ARE EXPECTED TO BE LESS THAN 30 PERCENT. THE LOW
HUMIDITIES WILL BE COMBINED WITH NORTHEAST WINDS OF 10 TO 15 MPH
WITH GUSTS TO 20 MPH AND VERY LOW FUEL MOISTURE CREATING
DANGEROUS FIRE CONDITIONS, ESPECIALLY THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY
THIS EVENING.

"AS WINDS DECREASE AROUND SUNSET, SO TOO WILL THE THREAT FOR
DANGEROUS FIRE CONDITIONS.

"ON THURSDAY, WINDS OF 10 TO 20 MPH COULD DEVELOP AND ALSO OCCUR OVER
MOST OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA. THEREFORE, A FIRE WEATHER WATCH AND OR
RED FLAG WARNING MAY BE NEEDED."

There are no such warnings posted south of the Mason-Dixon line. But that's because Maryland has a slightly higher wind threshhold for posting them.

But the National Weather Service does report "moderate" fire danger today in portions of the state. That's a "5" on the Haines Index.

Monte Mitchell, state fire supervisor for the Maryland Forest Service, said today that "We're in similar shape" to Pennsylvania. "The fire danger is still high. We're certainly keeping an eye on things ... This is probably the driest stretch yet for this spring fire season."

Humidities are very low - just 26 percent at BWI at last check. (It's 41 percent in Denver.) And the forecast remains clear and dry at least through Tuesday. So be careful with your smokes and open burning this weekend.

Posted by Admin at 2:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

The East greens up for Spring

Shots this week from NASA's Earth-observing TERRA satellite show Maryland and the Eastern U.S. beginning the green up as Spring moves north. Click on the images to enlarge them and you can also clearly see a tremendous plume of brown silt washing into the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to heavy rains, snow melt and runoff in the Susquehanna watershed.

Posted by Admin at 10:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

April 12, 2005

Quakes, tsunami, an eruption, and another

As if the people living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra hadn't suffered enough from a series of huge earthquakes and December's horrifying tsunami, now one of the island's volcanoes has burst into action, forcing thousands to flee. Here's the story. And today (Wednesday) there is news of a second volcano coming to life.

Posted by Admin at 6:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Rain chances fade

So now the prognosticators are saying the week looks pretty darn sunny, after all. Storm systems to our west now look like they'll skirt by to our south for the most part. There remains some "slight" chance (20 percent) of precipitation after 10 tonight and tomorrow. But the rest of the forecast calls for sunny (or starry) skies through next Monday.

Temperatures will remain unseasonably cool, however, sticking in the 50s instead of reaching well into the 60s as the 30-year averages would lead us to expect.

Sorry guys. No more rain delays. Start your (mower) engines. And if they won't start, consider an electric. Air pollution from mower engines is far worse, per hour of operation, than that from modern automobiles equipped with all sorts of emissions controls. And all that gasoline and the tuneups cost plenty. If the power cords seem like a pain, consider a battery-powered mower. I've used one for two seasons now and - at least for my little townhouse yard - it works fine.

Posted by Admin at 11:08 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 11, 2005

On a clear day, you can see ...

... the Space Shuttle Discovery. There have been plenty of shots of space shuttles headed for space, flying in space or returning from orbit. This picture is the first one I've ever seen of space shuttle on the ground, taken from space. Astronauts orbiting aboard the International Space Station took it with an 800-mm telephoto lens.

For more of the best images shot by astronauts (spending your tax dollars) from space, click here.

Posted by Admin at 3:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Why we don't live in Colorado

We may not have the Rocky Mountains, but we're not shoveling snow and sleeping in airports in April either. Pity these poor folks.

Posted by Admin at 1:59 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Enjoy it while it lasts

Looks like we'll get this one more day of sunshine and cooler temperatures before it all fades to gray. A "backdoor cold front" has descended from Eastern Canada, eclipsing the 70-plus weather we basked in all weekend. (I know Eastern Canada. I was in Eastern Canada two weeks ago and there were still ice flows in the St. Lawrence River. It's cold up there, folks.) So today's high will stick near 65 degrees, and then it all goes south, in a manner of speaking.

A storm system will move in from the Midwest. Skies will cloud up, with a chance of rain each day through Thursday. The week's daily highs will stall in the mid-50s - a good 10 degrees below normal.

So, get the grass cut now while you can. Or, if you're more inclined to procrastination, put it off one more day and you might buy yourself three or four. "I'd love to cut it, Honey, but look, it's all wet..."

Posted by Admin at 11:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 10, 2005

Another glorious spring day

Hard to beat this one. Clear blue skies, flowers and buds everywhere. And did you notice the thermometer? The official instrument at BWI shot up from an overnight low of 38 degrees - two degrees BELOW normal for the date - to 74 degrees. That was 11 degrees ABOVE normal, and a gain of 36 degrees. I'd love to know the widest temperature fluctuation on record for 24 hours in Baltimore.

Posted by Admin at 5:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Solar eclipse wows many; don't miss Jupiter

Friday's rare "hybrid" solar eclipse in parts of Central and South America was a memorable thrill for some, or a disappointment where clouds moved in and blocked the view. For observers in the United States, it was a not-so-noticeable partial eclipse across the Southern states. Barely one percent of the sun's disk was obscured as seen from Baltimore, where skies cleared in time for the event. Here's a gallery of eclipse images.

All things considered, for those of us unable to travel to South America, these last few days of clear weather have been best for viewing the stars, Saturn, and especially brilliant Jupiter. I was outside last night with my 10 X 50 binoculars and had a clear view of the King of Planets - now the brightest object in the evening sky.

Even at 400 million-plus miles, the planet's disk was clearly visible in the glasses - no mere pinpoint of light at this time of year, close to Earth's nearest approach to Jupiter. Better still, at least two of Jupiter's largest moons were clearly visible lined up to one side of the planet.

I'm guessing, based on a chart of Jovian lunar predictions for the night, that I was seeing Ganymede and Europa. But based on the chart it appears that Europa and Callisto were very close together, and it's possible they merged as a single dot of light. My binocs were simply too weak to separate them. (And I was too lazy to haul out the telescope.) The tiny, volcanic moon Io would have been very close to, or behind Jupiter last night, and out of view.

The skies over Central Maryland should be clear again tonight, and prime for more planetary observations. Saturn is high overhead at 9 or 10 p.m. Binoculars won't resolve its majestic rings, but if you can find one of Baltimore's streetcorner astronomers (at Fells Point, or the Inner Harbor), it's well worth a look. No one ever forgets his or her first "live" view of Saturn and its rings. And don't forget to drop a donation in their hats. They're performing a valuable service to public education.

Posted by Admin at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

The Perfect Summer

Farming is s tough business. It's an annual contest of faith and hard work against the whims of weather, pests and prices. But unless they got socked by Florida hurricanes, most U.S. farmers had a pretty good year last year. And analysis of satellite images shows how the weather set the stage. Plenty of rain and sunshine at just the right times provided the best growing conditions in more than a century, scientists say. Read more here.

Posted by Admin at 10:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

April 7, 2005

Get a load of this ...

Even if it weren't raining (and it will be) Friday's solar eclipse would be barely discernible from Baltimore - with just 1 percent of the sun's disk nicked by the moon shortly after 6 p.m. You'd have to fly all the way to South America to see the real deal, and to San Juan for even a 60-percent partial eclipse.

So here's your consolation prize: Get a load of this amazing photo of a November 2003 solar eclipse in Antarctica. People paid thousands to be there, and totality lasted precisely 1 minute and 57 seconds.

Hang in there. The next total solar eclipse visible in the continental U.S. is now just 12 years away.

Posted by Admin at 5:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Check the sump pump; 1-2 inches of rain due

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Baltimore region through Friday morning. Here it is:

...THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A
FLOOD WATCH FOR THE WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE METRO AREAS EFFECTIVE
UNTIL 11:00 AM FRIDAY...

IN MARYLAND...
CARROLL...NORTHERN BALTIMORE...FREDERICK...HOWARD...MONTGOMERY...
ANNE ARUNDEL...PRINCE GEORGES...HARFORD AND SOUTHERN BALTIMORE
COUNTIES...

SHOWERS WITH EMBEDDED THUNDERSTORMS WILL DEVELOP ACROSS THE
WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE METRO AREAS LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY
THIS EVENING. THE GROUND IS ALREADY SATURATED FROM RECENT FLOOD
EVENTS...AND ANOTHER ONE TO TWO INCHES OF RAIN IS FORECAST FOR THIS
EVENING AND OVERNIGHT.

RESIDENTS SHOULD MONITOR LOCAL CREEKS AND STREAMS FOR RISING WATER
OVERNIGHT. MOTORISTS SHOULD USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING OVERNIGHT AS
SOME ROADWAYS MAY BE COVERED WITH WATER. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER
RADIO...OR LOCAL MEDIA FOR UPDATES TO THE WEATHER FORECAST AND
POSSIBLE FUTURE WARNINGS.
.

Posted by Admin at 5:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 6, 2005

84 degrees at BWI

It's not record but it is 23 degrees above normal for the date. It's also the warmest day since Sept. 23, 2004, when the high at BWI reached 86. It's about time.

Posted by Admin at 2:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

We received this question today from Susan Kenyon:

Q: "What is regarded as the hurricane season for the Maryland Eastern Shore? July through ????"

A: Thanks for your query. The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea starts June 1 and runs through November, although storms can occur, and have occurred outside that period. Peak activity is in early to mid September. The season is not broken down by affected land areas. Hope that helps.

By the way, here are the storm names lined up for the next six Atlantic Hurricane Seasons.

Posted by Admin at 12:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger
        

New weather data feature

Curious to know what the weather was like in Baltimore on the day you were born, or on that icy day last winter when some guy skidded into your car? Need to find out how cold it got overnight, or how much rain has fallen in the past few hours?

MarylandWeather.com has unveiled a new feature that finally puts that kind of information literally at your fingertips.

Scroll down to the lower left-hand corner MarylandWeather.com's home page. Beneath the "Did You Know" feature, you'll see a spot where you can enter any date back to 1949 (when BWI became Baltimore's official weather station). That will bring up a chart listing temperatures, precipitation and other weather information for that date.

More recent dates - since July 1996 - will also yield strip charts and detailed tables showing hourly conditions at BWI, including humidity, barometric pressure and more. Enter another city and state at the upper left-hand corner of the data page and you can access similar information for other major weather stations around the country.

The "Weather Data" feature can also be found on the "rails" alongside weather stories accessed from the MarylandWeather.com home page, and from any of the forecast pages.

We hope you find this new feature useful. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

Posted by Admin at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool sites
        

The day we've waited for

This is it, boys and girls. The day we've been waiting for all winter. Blue skies, afternoon temperatures well into the 70s, with a chance to reach 80 in some spots.

This not not record-setting weather, although it is unusually warm for this time of year. The normal high for an April 6 in Baltimore is 61 degrees, so today's predicted 75-degree high at BWI would be 14 degrees above normal. But the record, set in 1929, is 90 degrees. We won't go there.

If we make it to 75, it will be the warmest day we've seen since Halloween, when the mercury topped out at 76 degrees. The record low for this day, by the way, is 26 degrees, set in 1878.

Tomorrow will be nearly as warm, at 72. But rain and even thunderstorms are possible as a storm approaches from the south and west, and Friday will be rainy again, and cool, with a high around 58. Happily, the weekend looks great - sunny, with seasonable highs near 60 degrees. Enjoy.

Posted by Admin at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April 5, 2005

Great Lakes snowstorm seen from space

The effects of the April snowstorm that ate Cleveland are clearly visible in this picture shot from orbit yesterday by NASA's AQUA Earth-observing satellite. Cleveland, Ohio, Erie, Pa. and western New York State lie buried beneath the unwelcome lake-effect weather. It left a foot of snow in Erie. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Posted by Admin at 9:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Minor flooding eases on Susquehanna

Flooding along the lower reaches of the Susquehanna River was easing this morning as water from heavy weekend rains continued to move down the watershed and into the Chesapeake Bay. Here are the latest advisories from the National Weather Service.

Posted by Admin at 9:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Flooding
        

April 4, 2005

Hubble snaps galactic pileup

Astronomers wielding the Hubble Space Telescope have snapped a picture of NGC 1316, a galaxy 60 million light years from Earth that appears to be the wreckage of a collision, several billion years ago, of at least two spiral galaxies. It's the latest in the monthly "Heritage" series of memorable images from the 15-year-old observatory.

Posted by Admin at 3:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Get a look at Jupiter tonight

Now that the monsoons have cleared out, tonight should be a great night to get a good look at Jupiter. The giant gas planet is just a day past opposition, rising in the east as the sun sets in the west, and climbing high in the sky by midnight. It's also our closest approach of the year - Jupiter is "only" about 415 million miles away tonight.

You can't miss it. It's the brightest object in the sky these days aside from the moon, and it's easily visible even from city sidewalks. A good pair of binoculars should bring out as many as four of Jupiter's moons, lined up like tiny stars on either side of the planet. These are the "Galilean" moons, discovered by Galileo in 1610 - Europa, Ganymede, Io and (the outermost) Callisto.

If you miss it tonight, there will be plenty more opportunities on clear nights in the coming weeks.

Posted by Admin at 1:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

March ends cool and wet

March came in like a popsicle and, except for one freakishly warm day on the 7th, never really warmed up at all. And it was wet, exiting with more than 5 inches of rain.

The average temperature was 40.4 degrees, which is 3.2 degrees below normal. That made it the coldest March in 45 years. (March 1960 averaged 35.6 degrees.)

There were just six days with above-normal temps, including the 7th, when it reached 69 degrees at the airport. That day averaged 15 degrees above normal for the date.

But there were 20 days in March with below-average temperatures. The coldest was the 9th, when the daytime high struggled to reach 34 degrees, and the overnight low (on the morning of the 10th) fell to 17 degrees - the coldest night of the month.

There was little snow - barely four tenths of an inch on the 1st. But precipitation totaled 5.13 inches, nearly 1.3 inches above normal for March. Most of that (4.61 inches) fell during the final week of the month. Only five days were ranked as "clear."

Posted by Admin at 12:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

April arrives with record rains

Saturday's rains set a new record for the date. Instruments at BWI recorded 1.63 inches on the 2nd of April. It was the wettest day of a wild weekend that ushered in the new month with a total of 2.06 inches of rain. Passage of a deep low pressure system (the barometer on my deck sank to 29.13 inches), with a cold front and high pressure close behind it also meant high winds. Gusts at the airport reached 48 mph on Sunday.

In all, in the last 11 days the airport has received 6.67 inches of rain - two month's worth in normal times.

As wet as April's debut has been, the month has historically been Baltimore's driest, averaging just 3 inches of precipitation during the 30-year period ending in 2000. I'd argue it's also Maryland's prettiest month.

In addition to flowers and blossoming trees, April typically brings us daytime highs in the 60s, with overnight lows between 38 and 47 degrees. But the month can produce virtually anything. Record highs range from the upper 80s to the low 90s. Record lows are in the 20s and low 30s. That means snow, while a rarity, is not unheard of in April. The latest measureable snowfall in Baltimore occurred on April 28, 1898, when a tenth of an inch was recorded downtown. Traces of snow have been noted as late as May 10.

On April 1, 1924, the city was surprised by more than 9 inches of snow. And 8 inches fell on April 9, 1884. Here's how the National Weather Service remembers it:

"April 1, 1924: This April Fools Day Storm produced the largest recorded April snowfall for Baltimore. A nor'easter brought 3 to 10 inches of snow to central Maryland. Westminister, Frederick and Freeland received 10 inches of snow, Baltimore 9.5 inches, College Park 9 inches, Aberdeen 8 inches, and Chesapeake City 8 inches. Princess Anne recorded 3 inches of sleet and thunderstorms struck areas on the Eastern Shore.

"A trace of snow fell on May 9, 1923. The latest seasonal measured snowfall was 0.1 inch on April 28, 1898. On April 9, 1884, 8 inches of snow fell in Baltimore marking the latest significant snow for a season."

Posted by Admin at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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