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November 30, 2005

Chance of snow Saturday

The National Weather Service has put the chance for snow Saturday night into Sunday at 50 percent. Snow is more likely in the northern counties, with rain in the south. Looks like it will change over to rain for everybody on Sunday.

Here's the chatter. Here's the forecast. This type of storm, if it materializes, does not typically produce large accumulations. Our biggest snow-makers are coastal storms and nor'easters that develop in the South, or off the southeast Atlantic coast. They come north with lots of moisture and run into entrenched cold air. And we get buried.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Epsilon gets stronger

Tropical Storm Epsilon, the 26th named storm of this record-breaking hurricane season, has been strengthening out in the Atlantic east of Bermuda. Its top sustained winds have now reached 65 mph. It continues to drive strong surf onto Bermuda, but is otherwise not a threat to land. In fact, it's expected to turn north, then northeast in the next few days.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from space. (It's in the upper right-hand corner.)

Officially, the 2005 hurricane season ends at midnight tonight. Unofficially, you never know. In any case, the folks in New Orleans have just six months to rebuild their levees before the 2006 season opens.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Meteorological winter starts tomorrow

December arrives after midnight tonight, and with it comes the start of the meteorologists' three-month winter season. It's a month when the average high temperatures for Baltimore drop from 51 degrees on the 1st to 42 degrees by the 31st.  The average daily lows, meanwhile, sink from 31 degrees to a seriously cold 24.

Of course, the potential extremes are, well, extreme. The warmest December day on record for Baltimore was 77 degrees, set on a balmy Dec. 29 in 1984. The coldest saw the mercury bottom out at minus-3 degrees, way back on Dec. 30, 1880.

Those old 19th century records are remarkably stubborn, expecially considering that they kept records for only 29 years in that century - beginning in 1871. There are still 5 record-cold 19th century days on the books for December in Baltimore, and 3 record-warm dates.

December also brings the region its first serious chances for significant snowfall. Although the average accumulation for December is a mere 1.7 inches, bigger snowfalls are quite possible. The snowiest December on record for Baltimore was in 1966, when more than 20 inches fell. The snowiest day in December was Dec. 17, 1932. Whoever stuck a foot-long ruler into the snow on that date almost lost it: 11.5 inches had fallen.

The average snow accumulation for an entire winter season in Baltimore is just over 18 inches. We've already had an official half-inch of snow this season. That fell on Nov. 23. Here is a list of the biggest winter storms in the history of Baltimore and Washington. The folks at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling., Va. need to do some updating, however. The chart does not include the President's Day Weekend storm of 2003, which dumped 28.2 inches at BWi over four days. For the season, the airport recorded 58.1 inches of snow that year, including the snowiest February ever, with 40.5 inches. The snowiest winter in Baltimore was 1995-96, when 62.5 inches fell.

Global warming theory, by the way, predicts more such extreme precipitation events. The fact that the two snowiest winters on record for Baltimore have occured in the last decade may tell us something.

The official start of winter comes with the arrival of the Winter Solstice, which occurs this year at 1:36 p.m. on Dec. 21. That marks the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. Sunrises continue to come later during December, moving from 7:07 a.m. on the 1st  to 7:26 a.m. by month's end. But there's good news for victims of Seasonal Affective Disorder: in December the sun begins, at last, to set a bit later in the afternoon. After reaching a early limit of 4:43 p.m. between Dec. 3 and 11 in Baltimore, sunsets advance by month's end to 4:53 p.m.  It's not much, but it's a harbinger of longer days to come, and a promise of spring. Eventually.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac

November 29, 2005

Rain's here, more coming

That cold front that has triggered wind, rain and snow across much of the country's midsection will finally reach Maryland today. There's no snow in our forecast, at least not until Thursday night. But the National Weather Service says we should expect strong winds, showers and at least a chance of a severe thunderstorm as the front passes through later today and tonight. While we wait, we can enjoy mild temperatures in the 60s. That will save us a few bucks in heating costs. Once the front passes, we'll be back to more nearly normal temperatures, but nothing as frigid as we had last week.

2:30 p.m. update:  The rain has begun, although we may get a break before the worst of it passes through. Here is a nice national radar loop that shows the whole storm. Here's the regional loop. You can see that most of the rain so far has been to our west, where flood watches and warnings are in effect.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Winter blasts the Plains

Eight-foot drifts, closed Interstate highways, and plenty of reasons not to live "out there."  That's what you get when winter comes early to the northern Plains. Here is the AP account of the storm, which is now headed into the Great Lakes states.  They're also having winter in northern California and Oregon, and in Minnesota. Here's yesterday's snow-cover map.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Now it's TS Epsilon

Just two days left in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and we've chalked up another tropical storm. This one is Epsilon, named this morning. It's the 26th named storm of the season - 21 from the original list (which tied the record) and an unprecedented 5 named from the Greek alphabet. Never having memorized all the Greek letters, I'll need a reference work from here on out. Or Google. Next on the list:  Storms Zeta, Eta and Theta.

Epsilon is swirling in the open Atlantic, 845 miles east of Bermuda. It has top sustained winds of 45 mph, and is moving toward the west at 8 mph. It's expected to strengthen some as it continues on this course over the next 24 hours. It is a threat only to shipping. And fish.

And maybe surfers on Bermuda, if there are any. Here's a clip from the latest advisory:





Here is the latest advisory. Here is the storm track. And here is a satellite image. (At the upper right corner of the image.)

And don't assume that once we pass Nov. 30, that we're done. Despite the official end of the hurricane season at midnight on the 30th, tropical storms can and do form out of season. Just two years ago, during the 2003 season, Tropical Storm Odette formed on Dec. 4 - the first named storm to form in the Caribbean in December. And on Dec. 7, TS Peter spun up in the Atlantic. It was the first time since 1887 that two tropical-storm-force storms are known to have formed in December.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

November 28, 2005

TS Delta heads for Africa

With just three days to go in this year's Atlantic hurricane season, the oddities continue to accumulate. Tropical Storm Delta is headed for Morocco. The 25th named storm of the season, and the fourth named storm to spin up since the National Hurricane Center resorted to the Greek Alphabet to supplement its exhausted name list for 2005, Delta nearly reached hurricane strength over the weekend. But then it weakened, merged with a frontal system off the northwest coast of Africa, and headed east. Its gale-force winds and rain are aimed at the Canary and Madeira Islands, and later the coast of Morocco.

Here is the advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is a satellite view. (It's the cloudy smudge in the upper right-hand corner.)

Delta is the second storm this season to go the "wrong way."  Last month, Tropical Storm Vince formed in the far eastern Atlantic, dawdled a while, then headed northeast toward landfall in Portugal on Oct. 11. It was the first Atlantic storm on record to do that.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Dust storm in West Texas

The cold front that's headed our way and due here late tomorrow swept through West Texas yesterday, kicking up a dust storm that was visible from space. Have a look at this article on the Smog Blog. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. Then rest your cursor over the image until the square "enlarge" button appears. Click on that for a better view. Here's how the same weather front looked in Jonesboro, Ark.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Warmer, rainy, then cold again

Fall and winter continue to clash across the eastern part of the country and we're whipsawed between warm, moist air from the south and intrusions of cold, dry air from Canada. Remember last week's bitter cold and that dash of snow on the night before Thanksgiving? And the high winds that cut power in some neighborhoods? Well, now we're headed for highs in the 50s and 60s, with rain today and tomorrow as warm, moist air pushes up from the south. That could produce some high water around the western shore of the bay as the southerly wind drives water into the Upper Bay and up the creeks and rivers. No flood advisories yet.

Then, a cold front plows through Tuesday afternoon or evening, with a chance for thunderstorms - possibly severe. And then we're back to more seasonable highs in the 40s and 50s, and lows around freezing. Here's the forecast. And here's a satellite-loop look at the low swirling over the northern Plains that is powering the approaching cold front.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 23, 2005

Yet another tropical storm

The National Hurricane Center has announced the formation of Tropical Storm Delta - the season's 25th named storm and another record. Delta is in the open Atlantic, 1,150 miles southwest of the Azores and a threat only to fish. It is the fourth tropical storm to form in the Atlantic basin since the NHC ran through the names on its primary list of 21 for the year. They're now being named after the letters of the Greek alphabet.

Here is the advisory. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from space (Delta's in the upper left-hand corner). The 2005 season ends officially a week from today. The new season opens June 1, 2006.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)

4-8 inches of snow for Garrett

A winter storm watch has been posted for Garrett County, with 4 to 8 inches expected between this evening and Friday afternoon. Allegany County could see 2 to 6 inches from the clipper system headed their way.

Down here in the I-95 corridor, we can expect a dusting, but little in the way of accumulation. But it will become very windy tomorrow, and darn cold. Lows will sink to near 20 degrees, with lower wind chills. Here's the forecast. The coldest Nov. 24 on record for Baltimore reached 17 degrees, a mark set just 16 years ago in 1989.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Which way the wind?

Rick Dimont writes with this question:

I am looking at some of your charts and just want to be clear on definitions. When it says "wind direction" is that the direction the wind is headed or from where it is coming from; i.e. wind is out of the SSE means it's headed NNW.  Is that what wind direction means?

Good question. It can be confusing. The wind direction designations mean that the wind is COMING FROM the cited direction. "North winds at 24 mph" means the wind is from the north at that speed. Similarly, "westerly" winds are blowing out of the west. Ditto for "easterlies," such as the "easterly" trade winds." And just to confuse matters, weather vane arrows point to the direction from which the wind is coming, not where it is going.

Early weather observers once assumed that storms were coming at them from the same direction as the winds. But as communications improved, they began to realize that storms sometimes reached City B after they struck City A, even though the wind was blowing from the direction of City B .

As we have all learned during the past couple of hurricane seasons, the winds around cyclonic storms blow in a counter-clockwise direction (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). As hurricanes approached the Gulf Coast from the south, communities on the east side of the storm's center got their strongest winds from the south, off the Gulf. But towns west of the storm center were getting pounded from the north - inland. In the absence of modern satellites and communications, they might well have concluded the storm itself was coming at them from the north.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:51 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

November 22, 2005

Snow in the air

Not yet, but soon. The National Weather Service has issued a statement warning that a light snowfall Wednesday night into Thursday could complicate holiday travel plans. Accumulations of 1 to 3 inches will be limited to the higher elevations to our west, especially in Garrett and Allegany counties, where they hardly notice such things. That could affect holiday travelers through that region. The metropolitan areas could see snow in the air and on colder grassy areas, but pavements should stay wet only.

Look for cold weather to persist after the Thanksgiving clipper blows through, with daytime temps sticking in the 30s Friday through the weekend, with overnight lows deep in the 20s - cold enough to put the beer and leftover turkey on the porch for a few hours if the fridge is full. But don't let the coyotes get it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Atmospheric oddities for Thanksgiving fliers

If you're headed out of town by airplane this week, and you're dreading the long hours in the air, here are some atmospheric phenomena to look for as you stare out the window. They'll make the trip more interesting for you. And, you can amaze the kids (or your parents) with your knowledge of atmospheric science.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

Rain ending with bluster

The coastal storm that brought so much rain the region overnight is moving off the coast this morning. The rain should come to an end shortly, as the local radar image reveals. The new weather system moving in to replace it will bring cool, blustery conditions. And we could see snow showers late tomorrow or Thursday as another, faster and weaker low - called a "clipper" - tracks through from the northwest.

The shift in the weather is clearly visible on the weather charts. The barometer, which had been falling all day yesterday, hit bottom at an impressive 29.20 inches just before 7 this morning, then turned and started up again. The winds shifted to the northwest around 6 a.m. with gusts as high as 23 mph, according to the National Weather Service instruments at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

There was 0.86 inch of rain on my gauge in Cockeysville this morning, almost identical to the reading at BWI ((0.87 inch). But some locations in the region saw more than an inch.

Note the gale warning on the Chesapeake until  7 p.m. today, and small craft advisories through tomorrow afternoon. Boaters can expect winds from 20 to 25 knots, and gusts to 35. Off the Maryland/Delaware coast, a weather bouy operated by the National Data Bouy Center reported gusts to 35 knots this morning, a low barometer reading of 28.99 inches, and waves to 11 feet.

And the snow advisory remains in effect for western Maryland as lake-effect snow showers are expected there, and in portions of eastern West Virginia and western Virginia. As much as 3 inches of snow is expected, and it could cover ther roads enough out there to complicate holiday travel plans.

Welcome to November.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 21, 2005

Snow advisory for Allegany

The National Weather Service has issued a snow advisory for Allegany County. Several inches are possible tomorrow as cold air rushes in from the northwest behind the coastal rainstorm that's tracking  our way today. And the forecast says there's still a chance for snow showers here on Wednesday into Thursday.

In the meantime, we're getting rain from the coastal storm. Many spots in the region have clocked a quarter-inch or more. It's only the second significant rainfall this month at BWI (the first was on the 16th).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Winter driving - on the left

Looks like a cold and wintry start to the season in the British Isles. Click here. The Met Office - the equivalent of our National Weather Service, has forecast a bitter winter over there.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Our Sunday, from space

The clouds have moved in overnight as a new coastal storm approaches from the Gulf Coast region, with rain today and tomorrow, and snow to our west. (There's also a chance for snow showers here late on Wednesday into Thanksgiving as another low moves through from the north and west). But yesterday was wonderfully clear. Here's how our blue skies looked from above, looking down. Note the silt that was washing into Lake Erie, and the lake-effect snow on the ground in the lee of the lake. Cool.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

November 20, 2005

Snow could complicate travel

Yes, it's that time of year again. As gorgeous as it is today, the barometer is falling, and the National Weather Service is warning that a rainy coastal storm forming over Georgia, and an infusion of cold air behind it later this week, could produce some snow in the mountains to our west just as people are beginning their holiday driving. If you have plans to drive west from Baltimore this week, read this from the NWS. And then keep an eye on the forecast. Snow showers are possible in town Thanksgiving night.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 17, 2005

Leonid meteors tonight may disappoint

Tonight is the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower. Skies will be clear, but unfortunately, the moon is just past full and up all night. Its brilliant light will overwhelm the faintest of the night's "shooting stars."  And astronomers are not expecting anything like the Leonid "storms" many people were privileged to witness between 1999 and 2002. It's likely to look more like the more typical Leonid showers, with 10 to 15 meteors per hour. The best times to look for them are from 11 p.m. through the early morning hours. Here are some viewing tips.

Leonid meteors occur each year as the Earth, in its annual journey around the sun, passes through the dust trail left by the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The dust grains enter the atmosphere at high speed - 44 miles per second- and flare as they heat the air around them and vaporize. More than half will leave persistent trails. The shower, such as it is, will continue for the next few nights, with diminishing intensity. Good luck, and dress warmly.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

Space station passes this weekend

This crisp, clear new air mass will give Marylanders a perfect opportunity to watch the International Space Station fly over the region this weekend. There will be two fine passes, one Friday evening and another, nearly identical, on Sunday evening. In both flyovers, the station will cruise from northwest to southeast at 17,500 mph, passing just south of Baltimore, and more than 200 miles up.

There are two crew members on board - Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev. Be sure to wave. It's a hundred billion of your tax dollars at work.

In the first pass, the station will appear above the northwest horizon at about 6:10 p.m., headed toward the southeast. Look for what appears to be a bright, steady, moving star. (If it winks, or sports more than one light, it's an airplane.) The light you see is actually sunlight reflecting off the high-flying station.

At 6:13, the station will reach its maximum elevation of 71 degrees above the southwest horizon. (That's a bit more than two-thirds of the distance from the horizon to the zenith - the point directly over your head. It will move on toward the southeast, fading from view at 6:14 p.m., and 28 degrees above the horizon, as it flys out of the sunlight and into the Earth's shadow.

The weekend's second opportunity will start at 5:27 p.m. on Sunday evening, when the space station appears, again, above the northwest horizon. It will reach it's maximum elevation of 60 degrees at 5:30 p.m., and disappear at 5:33 p.m. above the southeast horizon.

While you're out there, have another look at the planet Venus, the brilliant "star" over the southwesat horizon, and Mars, the bright, reddish object shining above the eastern horizon.

To get predictions for future flyovers by the International Space Station and other satellites as well as sky maps, go to Heavens-Above. You can register, or simply click on "Enter," then "online database," "United States," and enter your town. There's plenty of other fascinating information at the site, too.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

45 degrees in 18 hours

Well, that was some ride. The official temperature at Baltimore-Washington International Airport dropped 45 degrees in 18 hours overnight - from 76 degrees just before 1 p.m. yesterday to 31 degrees just before dawn today. You can track it here. The official, 76-degree high yesterday tied a record set in 1928.

At the same time, the frontal passage ended the barometer's plunge. From a low of 29.83 inches at 3 p.m., it has rebounded as high pressure and fair weather moved in from the west, rising to 30.25 inches by 9 a.m. today.

But be thankful you don't live in the lee of the Great Lakes. Parts of north-central Pennsylvania are getting their first big lake-effect snowfall of the season today - places like Warren and McKean counties. Here's the hazardous weather warning issued today for them:





And here's the view on French Street, in nearby Erie, Pa., my wife's charming home town.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

November 16, 2005

The Storms of November

Today's frontal passage, which is powered by a deep storm center over Eastern Canada, is a reminder of the severe November storms that can make the Great Lakes a lethal region for shipping.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have recreated, in a computer simulation, the famed 1975 storm that sank the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, with a loss of 29 lives. The wreck was later immortalized in a song by Gordon Lightfoot. Here is an account of the UW study, from Science Daily. And here is how the accident played out, according to a case study by UW professor Steve Ackerman and Lightfoot's ballad.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Winds of change bring autumn temps, snow

This morning's balmy temperatures (it was 70 at BWI around 10 a.m.) and stiff south winds (gusts to 31 mph) won't last much longer. A cold front is bearing down on the Baltimore region, and will likely pass by shortly after noon. Look for showers, or possibly a thunderstorm as the denser cold air drives under the warm air and forces it to rise up and out of the region. Any sunshine we manage this morning could destabilize the atmosphere and increase the danger of a severe storm.

It's the same front that triggered dozens of tornadoes in the Midwest during the past 24 hours. But so far there are no severe storm watches posted for our region.

You'll know the front has passed when the wind shifts - an abrupt change in direction from south or southwest to north or northwest. Temperatures will start to slide right away, reaching the upper 50s by the evening commute, (did you forget your coat?) and continuing on down to the upper 30s overnight as the new, colder air mass moves in. Behind the front, in Morgantown, W.V. and Garrett County, MD, temperatures have already dropped into the 40s. It's still in the 60s in Cumberland at this writing. But not for long.

And so, it finally feels like autumn. And, for the record, the 2005 growing season in Maryland is officially over. Saturday morning's widespread freeze across the eastern and southern parts of the state finally capped it, according to the National Weather Service. No more frost or freeze warnings until spring. There's even a chance for snow in western Maryland tomorrow.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 15, 2005

Where the lawns are

I've never understood why we feel a need to surround ourselves with lawns. They're a pain in the neck, all that mowing, raking, patching, seeding, fertilizing, killing grubs. They're especially mystifying out in the country.

There's no way I want to spend two hours on a lawn tractor to manicure some vast sweep of a 5- or 10-acre lawn that looks like spillover from my plush pile from Carpetland. Lawns crave water, and fertilizer - barrels of the stuff. The nutrients wash off my acreage and make trouble for oysters and rockfish. A lawn whines for grub killer, which also kills the stuff fish eat. And it hates those dry stretches in August or September, turning brown and splotchy and not at all like a carpet. A lawn is a "monoculture" that hates variety and succumbs wholesale to disease.

Please, if I live in the country, give me a country setting. Surround me with a meadow. Send me native wildflowers and grasses (even dandelions) that have evolved to survive on whatever Maryland weather and Mother Nature send along. And let them grow. Scrap the mower. If I live in a forest, I want trees. Pine cones. Acorns. A cushiony carpet of last year's leaves. Low maintenance. Smells good, too.

Anyway, our lawns are changing the landscape, and not always for the better. You can even see them from space. Here's proof (and the image that set me off).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:56 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Cool pictures

Stormy weather

The seasons continue to battle it out in the East this week. A warm front moving through Maryland today and tonight from the South will keep things mild, but tomorrow will bring a cold front whipping through, with a risk of severe weather and thunderstorms east of the mountains.

Once it's past, the new air mass will knock 20 degrees off our daytime highs, dumping us from the 60s into the 40s on Thursday. But sunshine will make it all very pleasant through Saturday, with more rain chances on Sunday.

It's all being driven by a strong low, spinning counterclockwise well to our north over Canada.

Here's the forecast. Here's the weathermap.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 14, 2005

Moon meets Mars

If the skies clear off, look for the moon and Mars in close quarters above the eastern horizon after sunset tonight, barely 2.5 degrees apart. Unfortunately, it looks like clouds, maybe rain. Better luck next month.

Actually, we could use a little rain, if only to reassure us that we haven't entered a new, extended period of dry weather.

Aside from the deluge last month when the remnants of hurricane Tammy blew through, we have had very little rain since the first of September. That month delivered just 0.67 inch of rain at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. October, if it weren't for Tammy, would have dropped just 1.58 inch. And so far in November, we've had just one-hundreth of an inch of precipitation at BWI.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

Susquehanna Flats, from orbit

Here's a nice satellite image of the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay, including the mouth of the Susquehanna River and Havre de Grace. It was shot by NASA's Landsat-7 satellite. Sun outdoors columnist Candy Thomson wrote a terrific story about that section of the bay earlier this year, describing how dry weather had limited runoff and sedimentation and given a boost to aquatic life in the area. Here it is.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Tropics stirring again

Like a B-movie monster you thought was dead - but isn't - the 2005 hurricane season has come back to life. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center yesterday announced the formation of the season's 27th tropical depression.

The stormy weather in the southeast Caribbean continues to strengthen and could become the 24th tropical storm of the season sometime today or tomorrow. If so, it would be dubbed Tropical Storm Gamma - the third storm since the hurricane center, having exhausted its primary name list, turned to the Greek alphabet for more names for the first time in its history.

At last check, TD 27 was about 175 miles west of St. Lucia, moving to the north northwest, and away from the windward islands at 7 mph. Its top sustained winds were about 35 mph, just 4 mph shy of tropical-storm force. Advisories were warning of windy weather and 5 to 8 inches of rain in the windward islands, and 3 to 5 inches in Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The storm track has the storm heading west, toward Central America. Here is the view from space.

Forecasters' discussion says easterly trade winds in the Caribbean will continue to steer the storm. But just to the storm's north, the winds are from the west. That's producing "shear" that is limiting the speed of the storm's development. If it should bump to the north, the storm would be torn apart. But, based on computer modeling, forecasters expect TD 27 will stay the course, stay south of the westerlies, and continue to grow slowly. It could still become a hurricane later in the week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

November 11, 2005

Freeze warnings expected

Forecasters at the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va. office seem likely to issue a freeze warning tonight for portions of the state that have not already seen freezing temperatures this fall. That includes communities along and east of I-95. The freeze probably would not affect the central cities and communities close to the still-warm waters of the Bay and the Potomac.  Calm winds and clearing skies will open us up to radiational cooling - a loss into space of whatever daytime warmth we accumulate today.

The low early at BWI nearly dipped below freezing this morning. It was 33 degrees. I had a low of 30 degrees in Cockeysville, and frost on the windshield. The average temps for this time of year at BWI show highs of 57 or 58 degrees, and lows of 35 or 36. So we're looking at slightly below-normal temperatures today and tonight.

The forecast shows a warming trend for Saturday, with a high in the low 60s and a low about 45 degrees. Rain chances increase as we move into next week. There's even a mention of a chance of SNOW showers Wednesday along the Allegheny front - in the mountains. The rest of is would see rain showers.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Thursday's wind readings

They sure knew the wind was blowing yesterday on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. That tarp, put up to shelter construction workers, turned violent in the winds over the outer harbor. It forced authorities to close the bridge to traffic for hours while workers scrambled to get things under control and clean up debris. Here is a rundown of top wind observations yesterday across the region.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

November 10, 2005

The latest from Hubble

The latest photo spectacular from the Hubble Space Telescope was released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and the European Space Agency. It shows a vast and intricate region of young star formation in the Small Magellanic Cloud, an irregularly shaped galaxy - visible to the naked eye from the Southern Hemisphere. The SMC is actually a neighbor and satellite of our own spiral Milky Way galaxy, and astronomers say it is headed our way, moving toward a collision, or merger, with the Milky Way in the distant future.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

Those darned crickets

Now that colder weather is moving in, so are the crickets. I nabbed one in the kitchen sink this morning, a day after scooping one out of the tub. As the days get colder, experience tells me we will be finding them all around the house, especially in the basement.

They're probably "camel crickets," named for their humped backs. They are amazing leapers and hard to catch if they're strong and alert. They're looking for warmer places to spend the winter, and a dark basement is perfect for these bugs, also known as cave crickets.

University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp wrote about them recently in his regular "Bug of the Week" column. Have a look.  I may have to spend some time this weekend caulking up some gaps where the heat-pump hoses pass through the brick wall. I suspect that's where they're getting in. I know I'll score points with my wife. These bugs really creep her out.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool sites

A change in the weather

The well-predicted frontal passage blew through right on schedule overnight, and it sure had the leaves and trash swirling this morning.

The change in the weather was marked on my backyard weather station in Cockeysville around midnight by an abrupt shift in the prevailing winds from southwest to north and northwest. Velocities peaked at 12 mph around sunrise. That's high for my sheltered deck, but far lower than the actual speeds. BWI clocked gusts to 36 mph around the same time.

The high winds tore up some tarps and construction materials on the Key Bridge in Baltimore, closing the bridge in both directions for a time during morning rush hour. Lanes were gradually reopening during the morning.

Here are some hourly observations around the region.

My thermometer peaked at 66 degrees around midnight (it was 70 at the airport), then headed down toward the low 50s by morning. It's not likely to get much higher than that today before turning colder overnight tonight. Lows will reach the mid-30s for the next two nights, according to the NWS. But daytime highs will rebound to the 60s with plenty of sunshine.

The barometer went the other way, turning from a low of 29.60 inches at midnight and heading higher all morning.

The National Weather Service instruments at Baltimore-Washington International Airport showed the same pattern. Click here for a look. 

The forecast calls for high winds all day, diminishing around sunset. The next few days will be clear as high pressure builds in from the west. Look for cold temperatures at night, with a risk of frost east of the mountains. Rain becomes a possibility again by late Sunday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

November 9, 2005

Cold front has blustery history

The powerful cold front bearing down on Maryland tonight has already left a wake of high winds, rain storms, downed trees and power outages in its path. Here's a sampling:

From Flint, Mich.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Duluth, Minn.; Lansing, Mich.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Hold on to your hats

There's a powerful cold front moving our way, and the National Weather Service is warning of wind gusts up to 60 mph late today. We could also see large hail and perhaps a severe thunderstorm. Here's what the weather map will look like after the front passes. It's the blue line sweeping from the northeast to southwest. And here's the advisory:



The good news is the big blow will likely bring down most of the remaining leaves. We'll all get a weekend of heavy raking and be done with it.

The bad news is the Pitsburgh forecast office is warning counties in its forecast area - including Garrett County, Md., that the frontal passage could spark a tornado. Here's AccuWeather's description of the weather systems on the move today.

Behind it all is a large area of high pressure, which will mean dry, sunny (and starry) skies through the weekend, with cooler temperatures. Here's the forecast.

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

November 8, 2005

Auroral display seen from Space Station

Displays of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, can be spectacular when seen from the ground. But imagine what they must look like from space. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station see the displays quite often. They have even flown through them. Here's an amazing photograph from 2003 that includes both an aurora display over northern Canada, and the frozen ring of lake water in Canada's Manicouagan meteor impact crater. Enjoy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Rain chances small, then windy, clearing

Sounds like the Almanac, doesn't it?  The boys and girls at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling don't think much of the rain chances for tonight and tomorrow, as a warm front moves through the region toward the northeast. But it will at least be cloudy and mild until the next cold front blows in.

Update: 3:25 p.m. Tuesday:  Looks like rain is en route after all. Here's the latest from Sterling:


When that front passes late Wednesday night, perhaps with snow showers west of the Alleganies, look for a really windy and cooler day on Thursday, with winds to 20 mph or better. That will bring a return to more seasonable crisp, sunny daytime skies, with highs only in the 50s, and crystalline nights for stargazing. Mars - just past its opposition on Monday - is still a prime target. See previous posts for details. Wear a coat. Nighttime lows will sink to the 30s and 40s. 

Here's part of today's NWS discussion of what's in store for the next few days.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 7, 2005

The high cost of Chinese goods

The sticker prices on Chinese goods may be low, but here's an appalling view of what the rapid development of China's market economy is doing to their air quality. All that coal, oil and gasoline consumption is pumping tremendous volumes of pollution into the air. Here's what it looked like last week from space. Ick.

Not that we're innocent. Our pollution controls are more stringent, but our economy is still far larger than China's, and we still put more bad stuff into the air than they do.  The bottom line is that we all live on the same planet. Whatever any of us pumps into the atmosphere eventually affects all of us. The pollutants circle the globe, and we all breathe each other's exhaust.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Sunday's high ties record

The high temperature at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Sunday afternoon tied a record for the date set in 1978. The region's official thermometer at BWI reached 77 degrees before a cool front moved through. The overnight low was 47, producing an average of 62 degrees for the day. That was 14 degrees above the 30-year norm. It was a tad warmer at the Inner Harbor - 79 degrees at the Maryland Science Center.

Normal highs for the airport in the beginning of November are around 60 degrees. The lows are about 37 degrees. There's more mild weather on tap - 60s and 70s all week, with rain in the forecast for late Wednesday into Thursday. Here's a bit from AccuWeather on why the cold weather is being held up along the Canadian border. You can thank the jet stream.

Sunday's balmy temperatures and the evening thunderstorms that accompanied the cool front made for quite a day.  There was a terrific lightning display to our north after dark, even as the crescent moon and a brilliant Venus continued to shine in the southwestern sky. Here's how we looked from space yesterday as the weather moved in. (Click on the photo, then on the enlargement box.)

Baltimoreans had a very different experience on the same date 52 years ago - on Nov. 6, 1953 - when the city received 5.5 inches of snow.  November is a transition month in our latitudes, a time when warm air from the south and cold air from the north can each invade in turn and produce their own brands of "late-summer" or "early winter" weather. The collision of these air masses can also wreak havoc, as the weekend tornadoes in Indiana and Kentucky remind us.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

November 4, 2005

Bathtub water in the Chesapeake

Did the waters of the Chesapeake Bay seem especially warm to you this summer?  They were, at least according to this from NASA's Aqua Earth-observing satellite. Water temperatures this year were close to the highest they've been in 20 years of monitoring, scientists say. And because warm water holds less oxygen, it's been a contributor to this year's extensive "dead zone," and a threat to wildlife.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

November 3, 2005

Seen any fireballs?

Astronomers say the Earth is passing through a river of space pebbles that have been producing spectacular fireballs - brilliant meteors - around the world. It's apparently an unusual version of the normally tamer Taurid meteor shower. The shower returns every year in late October and early November, rising and falling over a period of several weeks. But every now and then, the stream of dust left behind by a passing comet shifts from fine dust grains to larger pebbles, ramping up the show from the usual meteors to unusually bright fire balls as the debris enters the Earth's atmosphere and burns up. This appears to be one of those years.

With clear skies tonight and into the first part of the weekend, it might be a good time to keep your eyes peeled for them. For more, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:42 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Watching

Clear skies, Mars gleams

These crisp, clear days and nights leave little weather to blog about. But it's a great time to talk about the objects that shine through the crystalline air - or as close to crystalline as urban, humid Maryland is likely to get. The most striking these past few nights have been Venus and Mars.

Venus is the brilliant, star-like object that pops out right after sunset, shining above the southwestern horizon even in the half-light of dusk. Its cloud cover gives it a white color. A slender crescent moon - just a few days past new - will join Venus on Saturday evening. You might even get a glimpse of it tonight or tomorrow, very low in the west after sunset, and very skinny. For Muslims, the first glimpse will mark the end of the month-long observance of Ramadan.

In the eastern sky after sunset, Mars rises and climbs toward the zenith by midnight. The planet's iron-rich soil and rock give it a slightly reddish or coppery hue. Mars is especially bright now because Earth is making its closest pass in about 26 months - coming within 43 million miles. On Nov. 7 Mars will be at "opposition" - or, opposite the sun, rising in the east and the sun sets in the west.

Mars is beautiful with the naked eye, and even better with a small telescope. Imagine what a really big telescope would reveal. Better yet, click here to see what astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have been seeing this week as they aim the orbiting observatory at Mars during this close pass.

We lured a batch of reporters and editors onto the roof of The Sun's garage last night to watch the International Space Station fly over at about 5:45 p.m. Even got some innocent passers-by to look, and introduced them all to Venus and Mars. "Get out!" said one. It's all up there for everyone to see. Just get out and look up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

November 2, 2005

Hard to beat this

Clear skies, mild temperatures, sunny days and starry nights dominate the forecast through the weekend. The prognosticators at the forecast office in Sterling, Va. say clouds may start to build back in by Sunday, with showers due Monday or Tuesday.

But if you can snag some mental health days, do yourself a favor - take the rest of the week off. Walk in the woods. Ride the bike trail. Stroll the beach. Paddle down the Gunpowder and watch the leaves turn. Or just sit beside the harbor, read a newspaper and sip on a beverage. This is Maryland weather at its best.

Here's the forecastAverage temperatures for this part of November are 60 or 61 degrees. We're looking at the high 60s and low 70s this week. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 1, 2005

October ends, the wettest on record

We can all dry off now, having made it through the wettest October on record in Baltimore. The 10th month ended last night after dropping a total of 9.23 inches of rain on the city. That swamped the previous record of 8.09 inches, set in October 1976.

The vast bulk of that rain - 6.64 inches - came down in just two days, on a Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8, as the remnants of Hurricane Tammy swept through. The precipitation on the 7th and 8th were both new records for the dates.  More significant rain - a total of 1.03 inches - fell on the 24th and 25th.

October followed one of the driest Septembers on record here.

Temperatures for October peaked at 79 degrees on the 2nd. The low was 32 degrees on the 29th. October was relatively warm, finishing with an average temperature of 57.8 degrees, 2.4 degrees above normal. All that rain left 6.07 inches of surplus above the long-term average for the month.

There were 8 days in October rated "clear," and 15 rated "cloudy," including a 9-day streak of unbroken cloudiness from the 6th through the 14th.  The first 13 days of the month all saw fog or mist at the airport.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

We have a winner!

Our fabulous hurricane-naming contest has come to a close. The judges have carefully waded through the many, many creative and imaginative entries. And after difficult overnight deliberations, they (or more precisely, I) have declared a winner.

But first a quick review. Each year the National Hurricane Center in Miami names the tropical storms that form in the Atlantic basin, using a list of 21 names. The names are drawn from the languages of the region, and alternate by gender. There are six lists at any one time, for use in the current, and upcoming five hurricane seasons. The lists are recycled every seven years. Names are retired and replaced when a storm by that name causes severe damage and deaths.

This year, for the first time ever, the NHC reached the 21st name on the list (Wilma). Following predetermined policy, it began to name subsequent storms after the letters of the Greek alphabet. We have so far had tropical storms Alpha and Beta.

That seemed to us to lack some imagination. So, in the spirit of the last storm on the primary list - Wilma - we asked WeatherBlog readers to submit a list of 21 storm names drawn from cartoons. We asked that they follow NHC rules and alternate genders and skip Q, U, X, Y and Z (although we offered extra credit if they could fill those slots).

Many readers who, like me, wasted way too much time in front of the TV as kids, responded with some terrific proposals.  Unfortunately, Not everyone followed the rules. Others offered only one, or a few names. A reader named Laura Sue, who goes by the handle "The Silver Nightingale," suggested a place on the list for Joe Btfsplk, from Li'l Abner.

"Who could be more perfect," she said. "Since hurricanes usually have just one name, I suppose Btfsplk would be the designation. Wouldn't it be fun watching the broadcast media trying to pronounce that, especially the reporters out in the storm."

Well, speaking as a print reporter who has actually been out in the storm, I know they need no more headaches as they try to do their jobs. I also can say that print reporters wouldn't want to have to type Btfsplk very often, either.

But Laura Sue's suggestion brought to mind another character, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the bad boy from the old Superman comics I used to devour. As Laura Sue reminded me, he showed up from another dimension every 90 days to harrass Superman, and stayed until Superman could trick him into saying his name backwards - Kltpzyxm! What a great way to get rid of hurricanes! Maybe he could provide the NHC with TWO names. But then nobody would be able to pronounce either one of them.

Now we get to the contenders. Authors of these entries will receive lip balm key rings, for those bitter cold days on the ski slopes, or clearing space in the snowbanks for the old kitchen chairs.

David Sullin, of Hanover, ignored the rules and submitted a list of Civil War generals and officers (and a President), reasoning that they "were involved in the destruction of the country, just like hurricanes."  It was a clever list, but he skipped "I" and "V" names. If anybody wants to see it, email me.

June L. Czarnezki submitted a complete list of mostly evil-sounding names, such as Adolph, Hagar and Ivan. Many were cartoon names, but others included her sister and her piano teacher - "She was weird," June said.

Francesca Smith submitted a great list of cartoon characters, from Atomic Ant (a popular "A" name) to Wally (Wally Gator). But she slipped up on the alternating gender rule.

Which brings us to our runner-ups, each or whom will receive an official rain pancho.

Mitch Hooper, of Ellicott City, had a fine list, also starting with Atom Ant and ending with Wally Gator. He included a couple of puppets that later made it into cartoons, such as Lambchop.

Bill Tamburrino, wins a pancho for originality. He pretty much ignored the rules, too. But his approach was unique. His list of second-season names required that each name contain at least two of the required letter: Aaron, Babette, Cecil, Deidre, Eirene, Fifi, Gigi, Hannah, Idi, Jojo, Lirk, Lulu, Mame, Nana, Orlando, Pepe, Quoqui, Robert, Susan, Tatanya, Ursula, Vivien, Willow, Xiam Xu (he could have used Xerxes), Yoyo and Zsa Zsa.

J. Yap, of Florida wins the pancho in the Foodstuffs category. His name list contained only cheeses (several of which I will have to take his word on):  Athersley, Brie, Cheddar, Dorset, Edam, Feta, Gouda, Havarti, Iberico, Jartsberg, Kernhem, Limburger, Mozzarella, Neufchatel, Orkney, Parmesan, Quark, Ricotta, Swiss, Trempherbe, Vincent and Wensleydale.

Annette Altland and her sister (whom she did not name) submitted two wonderful lists of comic Superheroes and Supervillains, both male and female, and therefore sufficient for two years of second-season names. Because they're comics, not cartoons, they fell short of the first prize. But it's pretty impressive anyway. (Being too old to have encountered many of these characters in my mis-spent youth, I rely again on my readers' honesty): 

The women: Aurora, Belladonna, Callisto, Destiny, Elektra, Falcona, Gazelle, Hela, Icis, Jubilee, Karmilla, Lorelei, Mystique, Namora, Oracle, Phoenix, Rouge, Storm, Tarot, Vamp, Wasp, Xorn, Yellowjacket, Zaladane.

The men: Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Daredevil, Exodus, Firelord, Gambit, Hellstorm, Immortus, Juggernaut, Kro, Loki, Mentallo, Nightcrawler, Osiris, Punisher (great hurricane name), Quicksilver, Roughouse, Spiderman, Thing, Unicorn, Venom, Wolverine, X-Man, Yukio, Zaran.

And now, the winner: Aileen Kammer, of Cockeysville, who will receive a digital time and temperature alarm clock with a wireless outdoor unit that reports the outdoor temperature to the indoor unit. It's from The Sharper Image.

Aileen's list, as nearly as I could determine, followed all the rules, included Q, U, X, Y and Z names for extra credit, and included only one comic name that she believes may never have appeared in a cartoon. Here it is:

Atom Ant, Betty (Rubble), Captain Caveman, Daphne (from Scoobee Doo), Elmer (Fudd), Flora (from Sleeping Beauty), Goofy (can you imagine Hurricane Goofy?), Holli Would (from Cool World), Ichabod (Crane), Joie (and the Pussycats), Kenny (McCormick, from South Park), Lola Bunny (Baby Looney Toons), Magilla Gorilla, Nancy (and Sluggo), Oliver (& Company), Penelope (Pitstop), Quick Draw McGraw, Rita (The Galloping Ghost), Snagglepuss, Trixie (Speedracer), Underdog, Vixey (The Fox and the Hound), Wile E. Coyote, X-23 (Uncanny X-Men; this is her 'stretch'), Yogi Bear and Zelda (The Legend of Zelda).

Congratulations to all our winners. And thanks to everyone who entered.

Before we can mail out your prizes, I will need mailing addresses from Aileen, the Altland sisters, Bill Tamburr, J. Yap, Mitch Hooper, Francesca Smith and June Czarnezki. You can email them to me at

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
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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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