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February 28, 2006

March promises spring. Or snow.

OK, this much is certain: Spring will arrive in March, which begins at midnight tonight. The Vernal Equinox arrives at 1:25 p.m. on Monday, March 20, and winter, officially, will end. Bulbs will flower, trees will bud, grass will green. It's a simple matter of celestial mechanics. But March can be cruel. More on that in a minute.

The good news is that average daytime highs in March climb from 49 degrees at the start of the month, to 59 degrees by the end. Overnight lows slip back up and over the freezing mark, from 29 degrees to 38.

It can get downright hot. Record highs in March have reached the 80s, and even 90 degrees on a single date - Mar. 29, 1945. The record lows range from 5 degrees on Mar. 4, 1873, to 21 degrees on several dates.

On the other hand (and there's always another hand), it can snow in March. In fact, it has snowed on every date in March, in Baltimore, since they started keeping track here in 1883. The average snowfall for March in Baltimore is just 2.4 inches. But there have been some serious exceptions.

The snowiest March day was on Palm Sunday, Mar. 29, 1942, when astonished Baltimoreans found 22 inches of snow on the ground, and the city at a halt. Here's the Weather Service account:

"The Palm Sunday Snowstorm dumped the state's heaviest March snow on record in Maryland. The storm began as rain but changed over to a wet heavy snow. The snow stuck to power lines, trees and shrubs damaging them under its weight. Many of the fruit trees had begun to blossom. Over 20 inches fell over northern Anne Arundel, Howard, Southern and western Baltimore County, Carroll County, eastern and northern Frederick County, and north-central Washington County.

"Maximum amounts reported were 31 inches at Clear Springs (just 12 days earlier the temperature had reached 79 F here), 32 inches at Westminster, 30 to 36 inches at State Sanatorium (Frederick County) and 36 inches at Edgemont (Washington County). Baltimore City received its greatest snow in 20 years with 22 inches measured. Hagerstown and Westminster reported 22 inches in 24 hours. Frederick had 17 inches in 24 hours. Washington, DC received a total of 11.5 inches of snow."

Baltimore has seen snowfalls of 10 inches or more on five other dates in Marches past. The most recent March snowstorms to set daily records in Baltimore were on Mar. 30, 2003 (2.6"), Mar. 31, 1997 (1.4") and Mar. 13, 1993 (11.3").

Could it happen again this year?  Well, there have been just two entirely snow-free Marches since 1945.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:10 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Almanac

5 inches of snow in Frostburg

Or is it 5 inches of frost in Snowburg? Whatever, most of the Baltimore area escaped the snowfall that dusted parts of the state overnight. It was slippery enough in parts of northern Baltimore County this morning to delay the school bells in the Hereford Zone. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport saw just a trace. But out west it was a different story.

Frostburg, in Allegany County reported 5.5 inches this morning. Cumberland and Hancock saw an inch each.  Here are the snow reports from across the region.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Winter weather

Hubble's galactic spectacular

The Space Telescope Science Institute and its affiliates this morning released the latest blockbuster from the Hubble Space Telescope. It's an image of the giant "Pinwheel Galaxy," or M101. It was assembled from 51 Hubble images taken over a decade, and a number of ground-based images to fill in the gaps.

The image totals an astonishing 16,000 by 12,000 pixels, making it the most detailed image of a spiral galaxy ever released by the Hubble folks. The galaxy - 25 million light years from Earth - is twice the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. It contains an estimated one trillion stars, of which 100 billion are comparable to our sun.

It lies in the constellation Ursa Major, the "Great Bear," which includes the Big Dipper. The dipper is currently visible in the evening sky, standing on its handle in the northeast. The Pinwheel Galaxy lies just to the left of the last two stars at the end of the handle. You'll need a telescope to see it, but you'll never get a view like this one.

It's already become the background for my Windows desktop.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

February 27, 2006

17 this morning, 65 Thursday

How's that for contrast in the forecast?  This morning's official low at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was 17 degrees. It was one degree colder than that on the deck in Cockeysville - one of the coldest mornings of the winter. But the National Weather Service forecast for the week ahead shows a 65-degree high on tap for Thursday. Then look for another cold front for the weekend. Sorry.

Don't let the snowflake icons on the forecast throw you into a panic. Any snow today and this evening will get some attention as it drifts by the window. But they're not expecting more than a dusting here. That may not apply to our west. Allegany County is under a snow advisory for 1-3 inches by tomorrow morning.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Forecasts

February 25, 2006

Big snow March 12-16?

Back on Jan. 26, after more than a month of unseasonably mild and snow-free weather in these parts, amateur weather prognosticator Jim Hughes stuck his neck out. Based on his theories about solar activity and atmospheric heating over the arctic, he predicted some "wild" winter weather for the Baltimore-Washington area for February 14-16.

He almost nailed it. The region got its first big snowstorm of the season on Feb. 11-12. And the storm was still raging to our north and east on the 13th.  Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport received 13.1 inches, but some locations to the west and north saw 15, 17 and in a few spots more than 20 inches. Thankfully, the streets were cleared quickly, and the snow was gone in 3 or 4 days.

Since then, a few readers have asked what Hughes' forecast might hold for the rest of the winter. And now Jim has offered a late-winter forecast. He's left himself some wiggle room in his language, and expanded his target zone to 5 days rather than 3.  But let's see how he does on this one. Here's his latest:

"Everyone should know by now that this winter has had its ups and downs. Especially more recently. The amplitude of the jet stream has been rather strong at times and this has shown up in our  weather patterns around the Baltimore -Washington metropolitan area.
"So what lies ahead?   Our climatological history tells us that we do not see much snow during March, but we have occasionally seen some big storms along the East Coast during this time frame.  The March 12-13th, 1993  storm comes to mind immediately.
"That storm pummeled  most of the East Coast. A  great deal of the larger metropolitan areas had accumulations in the 12-24" range, while some areas,  at higher elevations,  received  upwards of 48" inches.  The  barometric pressure of this storm was also unbelievably low.
"Could this happen again? I guess we could possibly see a very large storm considering how the dynamics are right now but only  a fool would call for another super storm this far out. So lets see what happens . My advice... Pay heed to what the models are saying. Especially if they are calling for a big storm ahead. 
"I have always given out a three day outlook in my prior forecasts over the years but I am making this forecast a five day outlook. My time period for the snowstorm is March 12th-16th . I am adding the extra two days because of my near miss last month, and I also think that this is just fair.
"Most long-range outlooks, whether it be from the government or private sector,  give out 5-7 day extended periods or even longer. So I think I should be able to forecast  by the same set of rules.  We all have a level playing field now...  Jim Hughes"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

February 24, 2006

Fire danger

Stiff winds, low humidity and a promise of more to come have prompted the National Weather Service to post a "Fire Weather" Watch for most of Maryland west of the Chesapeake. There's plenty of fuel out there, too. Here's the latest Haines Index map, which shows relative wildfire hazards across the country. We're listed as "moderate."  And, there's no new precipitation in the forecast until Wednesday. So crush those smokes.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:59 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Watches and warnings

Space Station is back

Clear, cold skies tonight make this a good evening for those of us in the Baltimore area to step outside for a good look at the International Space Station, which you and I have spent $100 billion building. The ISS is currently in an orbit that will take it over parts of the East Coast each evening for the next week. Some nights will be better than others, however. And tonight is one of them.

Such flyovers aren't uncommon. But many occur in the pre-dawn hours, when not even I am apt to watch. Cloudy skies interfere with many other opportunities. And still others are simply too close to the horizon, or too brief, to be worth watching. But when the seeing is good, it is always a kick to see this spacecraft fly over. It's flying at 17,500 mph, more than 200 miles high. On board are one U.S. astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut, spinning around the planet once every 90 minutes.

So get out there with a kids and have a look. It should be easy to spot, even from most light-polluted locations. Here are the two best chances to see it this weekend:

Tonight: The weather forecast is promising for clear skies. The ISS will be flying up the East Coast from northern Florida to the Outer Banks and out over the ocean. It will appear at 7:02 p.m., just above the southwest horizon. Look for a steady, white, starlike object moving briskly toward the east. At 7:05 p.m. it will be 49 degrees above the southeastern horizon - about halfway between the horizon and straight up. It will move straight through the lower portion of the constellation Orion, just below the three stars of Orion's belt. Then it will move on, fading out as it enters the Earth's shadow, and disappearing near the planet Saturn, high above the eastern horizon.

Sunday night: See forecast above. The station will fly almost the exact same course as on Friday (tonight). It will appear first at 6:15 p.m. over the southwest horizon, flying toward the northeast. It will pass through Orion again, this time just above his belt and right past the bright, reddish star Betelgeuse on Orion's upper left shoulder. At 6:18 p.m. it will be 52 degrees above the southeast horizon, before flying on past Saturn. At about 6:21 p.m. it will disappear low in the east northeast sky.

For more predictions for ISS flyovers near your location (and lots of other cool stuff), go to Heavens, sign up, enter your town and click on ISS. There's no need to register if you're shy. Stay anonymous and just click on "select" to enter your location.

Oh, and one more thing: If you're going outside tonight, or Sunday, step out at about 6:30 p.m., look toward the west and see if you can spot tiny Mercury, the only star-like object visible there at that hour (if skies are clear enough), just above the western horizon. It's one of the best chances this year to see the elusive planet. For more info, see my post earlier this week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

February 23, 2006

The Katrina Report

The White House today released the Bush Administration's critical assessment of its own performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last August, and the lessons learned (we hope).  Here's a link to the full report.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (9)
Categories: Hurricane background

Fog flees, then mild, then frigid

Some of the densest fog in recent memory slowed the early commute today, and delayed school openings on the Eastern Shore. But west winds are quickly clearing all that out, and we can expect unseasonably mild weather for a couple of days before winter's hammer falls again.

High pressure is building across the region, forecasters say, and temperatures this afternoon should poke into the 50s.  Tomorrow will be sunny and mild, as well. We may still be in the 50s on Saturday, but then the wind will shift and an arctic cold front will barrel in, dropping daytime highs by 20 degrees or more. The reason is something called the "Greenland Block," which is preventing this cold air mass from moving anywhere but into our laps.

Sunday will get no higher than 34 - maybe not even that toasty, forecasters warn. Expect sub-freezing highs Monday through Wednesday, too, despite the more optimistic icons in the official forecast from Sterling. Those number, they say, are likely to be revised - downward.

Note to readers: The Web site for the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office has been experiencing technical problems for two days now. It has been loading very slowly, if at all. Late this morning, it seems, they took it down altogether.

So, I will be linking to alternative sites as needed. Sterling has acknowledged the problem, and folks there say they're working on it. But they have given no estimates for when it will be fixed. Computers. You gotta love 'em.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 22, 2006

Snow? What snow?

OK, sure. There were flakes in the air for a time this morning. But it was barely enough to wet the pavement. Right?  Not exactly. This morning's dusting was actually a brush with more winter weather to our south. Here are some of the accumulations recorded in Maryland and Virginia during today's "blizzard." It managed to coat the grass in some spots, and even slicked some roads near Washington. But there was no new snow for the books at BWI.

It seems a low-pressure system was skirting across Virginia this morning, and we got the northern edge of it just before it all turned to rain. That'll be it for a while. Skies will clear for a couple of days, the stargazing will be good Thursday night, then everything will start to cloud up again as a cold front approaches, bringing more frigid arctic air by Sunday. Look for highs early next week in the 20s, with lows in the teens and single digits. Brrr!!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Winter weather

February 21, 2006

A chance to spot Mercury

For the next week or so, we'll all get one of our best opportunities this year to spy the planet Mercury, in the western sky just after sunset. The planet closest to the sun is small and, well, close to the sun, so it's a hard one to see with the naked eye. The sun's glare, and haze and humidity near the horizon make it a real challenge. Plenty of active sky watchers have never, or only rarely, seen it.

UPDATE: Weds. Feb. 22: Five of us trooped to The Sun's garage roof last evening and spotted Mercury - the only "star" visible above the western horizon - at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It was surprisingly bright, thanks to remarkably clear air. Based on the twilight, and the speed with which the planet descended toward the horizon, I'd advise going out to look between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m. this week (after the clouds clear out).

Here's some background, and here's a diagram that illustrates why Mercury is visible for the next few days. And here's the forecast for the next few days. If skies are clear, get out where you have an unobstructed view to the west, with a nice, low horizon. Look for a faint "star" almost exactly due west. (A compass may help. And binoculars if you have them.) The planet is setting about 90 minutes after sunset, which is 5:50 p.m. today in Baltimore. So, the best times to look might be between 6:30 and 7:15 p.m. (See update, above.)

NASA's Messenger spacecraft is en route to Mercury. It was designed and built, and is being managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Here is the mission's Website.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:48 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (4)
Categories: Sky Watching

Sunlight to rise and shine by

Have you noticed? It's not pitch-black anymore when the morning alarm clock goes off. OK, maybe it is if you get up very, very early. Or, maybe you have the luxury of sleeping in EVERY day.  But for most of us, the slow advance of morning daylight into the early hours is becoming noticeable, a welcome sign that spring is on the way, with a promise of longer days, and lingering evening daylight.

The sun is rising in Baltimore now at about 6:51 a.m., EST, and the sky actually begins to brighten around 6:23 a.m. That's more than a half-hour earlier than back in the beginning of January, when the sun didn't appear until 7:27 a.m.  The moment of sunrise is advancing a minute or two each day at this time of year. By mid-June, Sol will pop above the horizon, like it or not, at a bracing 5:39 a.m. EDT.

Sunset is occurring later each day, as well. The earliest was back on Dec. 7, at a depressing 4:43 p.m. EST. But at this time of year we have a shot at going home from work in daylight, because the sun is setting now around 5:50 p.m. By late June and early July, we'll have sunshine until 8:37 p.m.

For the complete sunrise-sunset tables for Baltimore, click here. All times are Standard Time, so you'll have to add an hour for dates in Daylight Savings Time.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: By the numbers

Coldest air of season due

Think it was cold last weekend? The National Weather Service says the arctic air due in this weekend will be even colder, with daytime temperatures Sunday through Tuesday sticking in the 20s. In the interim, we're looking at a "dusting" of snow, at best, here Wednesday, followed by seasonal highs in the 40s. Until the Ice Man cometh on Sunday. Here's how this morning's forecast discussion reads:



Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:33 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Winter weather

February 20, 2006

Landslides a familiar hazard in Philippines

Torrential tropical rainstorms and unstable geology, coupled with deforestation and seismic activity, make parts of the Philippines vulnerable to disastrous landslides. It's happened before, sometimes with even more calamitous results than Friday's disaster in Leyte. A slide in typhoon season in 1991 killed 5,000 in Leyte.

Here's an accounting of recent slides, from the Associated Press. Parts of the islands can exceed 200 inches of rain in a year. Much of it falls in summer typhoon season, but not always. The Pacific trade winds soak portions of the country at this time of year, too.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Sunday in the sky, with jets

Ever wonder how much of the sky is clouded by the condensation trails (contrails) that aircraft engines etch across the blue? Here's a satellite view of the Middle-Atlantic states, taken yesterday, showing offshore clouds where cold air meets warmer Atlantic waters, and clear skies over the coastal states - except for the web of jet contrails over our region.

University of Wisconsin scientists recently studied the effects of contrails on average temperatures by examining what happened after 9/11, when all flights were grounded for several days. They found the days were warmer, as more sunlight reached the ground, and the nights were colder, as more heat radiated back into space through the clear skies. Read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:30 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

Milder, for a while

Temperatures should ease back toward normal this week as the arctic cold and high pressure move off to sea. "Normal" for this part of February means the mid-to-upper 40s during the daytime, and upper 20s at night. The snow that had been forecast for Presidents' Day has been held to our south, although I did spot a few flakes in the air this morning, before the sun came out. St. Mary's got a dusting.

There are snow icons on the Weather Service forecast for Wednesday, indicating a 40 percent chance of snow. But with highs rising into the 40s that day, it's hard to imagine there's much to worry about.

The forecasters are also starting to anticipate a new mass of arctic air that could move into the region on the weekend, along with a chance of snow, or a rain/snow mix - "this subject to adjustment as timing very uncertain at the moment," they said. The models just don't agree on precisely what's ahead.

It's been a roller coaster of a month so far, with a high of 66 degrees and a low over the weekend of just 12 degrees. We've had days that averaged as much as 21 degrees above normal (on the 3rd), and others as much as 15 degrees below normal (on the 19th). The average through Sunday is 36.7 degrees - 2.3 degrees above normal. So, despite 13 inches of snow and some very cold nights, February still looks mild.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Forecasts

February 19, 2006

59 degrees today ... in my bedroom

With the afternoon mostly over, it looks unlikely that the temperature today will break the freezing mark. It is 28 degrees at the weather station on my deck in Cockeysville as I write, about the same at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. That would make this only the second day this winter that has failed to rise above the freezing mark. The other was Dec. 14, when the high was 25 degrees.

The culprit is a mass of clear, dry arctic air that pushed through the region yesterday, the coldest of the season. At daybreak today, it was just 12 degrees here - and at BWI, too, the coldest day there since Jan. 29, 2005, when it was 10 degrees. The gas furnace in the basement is keeping the temperature in most of the house at 70 degrees. Except, that is, for the bedroom, where it is currently 59.

The outfit that built this place, like most home builders today, went for the cheapest, least-efficient heat pump available to handle the heating and cooling in the upstairs zone of the house. And it simply can't keep up when the mercury outside falls below, say 35 degrees (or rises above 90). I'll get rid of it one day, when it croaks, or I when fall into some money. I'll buy something better-sized for the upstairs of my house, and more efficient to operate.

But for now, in winter, the rear bedroom is often 10 degrees colder than the hallway, where the programmable thermostat sets back to 66 degrees at night.

For years we piled heaps of blankets on the bed, and "ran" our legs beneath the sheets to warm them up before we could go to sleep. Then, finally, a few years back, we caved. We bought an electric blanket. It now lies sandwiched between the sheets below, and the cotton blanket and bedspread above. And oh, man, what a difference.

Anyone with a cold bedroom who has resisted buying an electric blanket is SO missing one of life's pleasures. Our bed now warms up quickly when we switch it on. We let it toast for an hour or so, by which time it's warm enough in there, supplemented by our body heat, to sustain us through the night. Or, on really cold nights, we'll leave on on low all night, the thermostat in the control box ticking, reassuringly, on ... off ... on ... off ... beside my head until the radio comes on to bring us back to reality.

When my daughter moved, a while ago, into old apartment, in an old, uninsulated house on a cobbled street downtown, she complained about how cold the back bedroom was on winter nights. This past Christmas we gave her an electric blanket. It has changed her life. Or at least her winter nights.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Winter weather

February 18, 2006

137 mph on Mt. Washington

And you thought it was cold and windy here overnight? You shoulda been at the 6,280-foot summit of Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire's Presidential Range yesterday. Here's the blog entry from the Mt. Washington Observatory:

02:26 AM Sat Feb 18, 2006 EST

Whenever windy weather dominates the headlines during the evening news programs you know that it was a good day on the summit! Indeed, it was one of those days that will be talked about for a while, or at least until the next big wind maker. The day began very tranquil with temperatures in the lower 30s, overcast skies, and an increasing southwesterly wind. However, my walk to the
precipitation can just after sunrise would tell of what was to come. Faint sunshine over Maine made visible a line of low clouds as black as midnight hanging over the western horizon. Rain moved in around 8:30am and changed to snow shortly after as the fringes of the dome of arctic air nudged toward the summit. It was just after 10 o’clock that things got interesting…

Brian was heading out to check for snow drifts around the fire exit doors when the fog lit up around him and the silence of the summit was shattered by a deafening bang. A bolt of lightning hit the Cog tracks a mere eighth of a mile away. Realizing that he was standing on a metal grate under the Observatory’s tower, Brian quickly came to the conclusion that this may not be the safest location on the summit at that moment. He ran for the door and was back in the weather room in seconds

That brief thunderstorm ushered in the arctic air and wind. Temperatures quickly plummeted to around 0 degrees as the sustained wind speed jumped to 80 mph, then 100 mph with higher gusts. Brian and Dan took advantage of a sustained wind speed just over 100 mph with hardly any gusts, not to mention an observation deck still free of rime ice, to attempt the famous walk around the deck know as the Century Club. Seven minutes later they became the newest inductees! Shortly after they were back in the confines of the weather room the sustained wind speed increased to 125 mph with a peak gust of 137 mph!

The excitement of the storm is beginning to diminish along with the winds. The winds are still strong, averaging 75 mph with gusts close to 100 mph. However these values seem rather ho-hum next to what was witnessed only hours ago. The temperature still continues to drop, and will do so through Sunday morning, before the core of arctic air slides offshore. Right now the temperature reads -12 degrees and should drop to between -25 and -30 before rebounding late on Sunday. Wind chill values are around -50 degrees, and will continue to fall as the hurricane-force winds continue and the temperatures drop. Travel above treeline is still not recommended through the remainder of the weekend!

Interesting fact about yesterday’s whacky weather: The summit broke the old record high of 33 degrees set in 1984 with a reading of 34 degrees. Crazy!

Tim Markle - Chief Observer

To explore the observatory's Web site, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:38 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Winter weather

February 17, 2006

More outages ahead?

The Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. is warning that high winds today and tonight could bring more trees and limbs down on power lines, putting many customers back in the dark just days after their power was restored in the wake of last weekend's snowstorm. Here's their release.

Winds today at BWI have been blowing as hard as 36 mph, and gusting to 45 mph.  So far (knock on wood), the power company at last check was reporting only an unremarkable 375 outages. Maybe all the limbs that were set to come down came down with the snow. So flick on the lights and give thanks.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:54 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Winter weather

All downhill from here

The temperature graph is going to look like a downhill slalom course today. It's an amazing 60 degrees out there (at BWI) as I write. The temperature has been rising since yesterday morning as warm air races in from the southwest.

But the wind will shift later today as this cold front passes through before noon and heads out to sea. You can see it on the national radar loop. And the new air mass will be really cold. It's already 38 degrees in Elkins, W.Va., just 176 miles west of BWI. And it's 49 in Cumberland, where the winds at my last check were blowing at 31 mph and gusting to 45. Temperatures here will drop shortly, and high winds will make it seem even colder than it is. Gale warnings are posted for the Bay.

The forecast for the weekend is cold. We'll struggle into the mid-30s during the daytime, and plummet into the teens at night. And there's snow in the forecast. The chances are just "slight" for light snow Saturday, but the chances rise a bit to 30 percent for President's Day and Tuesday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 16, 2006

President's Day snow

That has a ring to it, doesn't it?  "Presidents' Day" and "snow" in the same breath? We all remember the Category 4 "Presidents' Day Weekend Storm" of 2003, which buried the region on 28 inches of snow and ranks as the biggest storm in Baltimore's record books. Then there was the Category 3 "President's Day Blizzard" of Feb. 18-19, 1979, which left 26 inches in parts of Maryland. Well, there's snow in the forecast for this coming Monday - Presidents' Day 2006.

There's only a 30 percent chance of snow on Monday posted at this point. But it's a reminder that more winter weather is still ahead of us. This new cold front - the coldest of the season - will begin to push into the region tonight, with a chance of thunderstorms in the wee hours. (I think this would be the fourth time we've heard thunder this winter.) Look for high, gusty winds ahead of this new air mass, too.

Temperatures will begin to fall sharply after that, with daytime highs Saturday and Sunday in the 30s and overnight lows in the teens. Then snow, or at least a 30 percent chance of it, for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

Forecaster takes a bow

Jim Hughes, the amateur forecaster from the DC area who stuck his neck out here on the WeatherBlog three weeks ago and predicted "wild" winter weather during the period of Jan. 14-16, is taking a bow this morning for a (nearly) dead-on prognostication.

As we noted here at the time, Hughes has no formal training in meteorology, space science or solar science, from which he formulates his predictions. And he has scored some hits and misses in the past. It could also be argued that forecasting "accumulating snow" for mid-February is not a bad bet. Eight of the biggest 25 snowstorms ever recorded in Baltimore have occurred between the 10th and 20th of February. It's a snowy time of year.

But in a winter with very little snow, writing in a month with none, he came remarkably close to calling what is likely to be the biggest snowstorm of the 2005-06 season - and he did it 16 days before the snow started flying. It might well have been chance, or luck. But I figure he's entitled to a few bytes here to toot his horn:

"You have got to admit that the weather this week seems more like March than February, with this wild roller coaster ride... down ...up ..down...sort of sounds a little like what I wrote about a few weeks ago.

"I read your piece about the snowstorm...Maybe NWS and the Baltimore OCM's forecasted this storm well but our locals did not. ALL of them downgraded their totals late Saturday afternoon into Saturday night. Bob Ryan went from like 6-12 3-6 in some areas. Then they acted like they nailed the storm on Sunday when people were calling in about 14-22 inch storm totals. The Washington Post even ran a time line story on Monday. Pointing out exactly when they changed their numbers and what they said on air. Tony Kornheiser even went on a little rampage Monday morning on his daily radio show ... about their miscues and not admitting it ...

"I would like to point out, Frank, that 70-80% of the snow...even precip... fell on Sunday at DCA...So mine was a 2 day miss....Plus let's not forget that space weather data is all in Universal Time....So I have a five-hour time difference to work with....7pm Sunday was the 13th (in UT).....DCA was officially experiencing heavy snow at 7am Sunday.....36 hours before my data time frame. The locals OCM's said that this was going to be a Saturday storm (90 % of it) on Thursday. It was not.. So they missed it by 6-10 hours.... some 72 hours in advance and I missed it by 36-48 hours..... 18 days in advance....The math says mine was just as a good or better.... they get an A- to B - rating.... Capital ...MET's run it... gave them this.

"What do I get ? Nothing from them.....Local ABC ... OCM Doug Hill told me not a bad call in an e-mail Tuesday night...Montgomery County Gazette also ran a small piece about my forecast yesterday but the MET's as a whole are quiet...once again. This just goes to show that it is the messenger here. They want one of their own to get credit for any kind of finding and not some amateur ... BTW I really appreciated your public comments about my forecast. Thanks. Jim"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (6)
Categories: Forecasts

February 15, 2006

Weekend storm ranked #20

It's preliminary, but official. The storm that blew through here last weekend has been ranked No. 20 on the list of the worst snowstorms to strike the Northeast since 1948.

The National Climate Data Center has rated the storm on the new Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. It was given a NESIS index number of 4.10, which places it near the bottom of Category 3 ("Major") on the five-step scale. That's about where the scale's inventors expected it to fall. You can read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:57 PM | | Comments (0)

Gurgle: 58 degrees at BWI

Just three days out from one of the coldest days of the winter - and certainly the snowiest - Baltimore enjoyed an afternoon high today of 58 degrees. You can hear the snow gurgling down the gutters and drains all across the region. It was no threat to the records. It was 76 degrees on this date in 1954.

The next two days should be just as mild as today. It could even burst into the 60s on Friday. And it's all good. The more snow and ice we get rid of now, the less there will be to refreeze this weekend and on Presidents' Day next week, when we're likely to see temperatures as much as 10 degrees below normal for this time of year. The coldest air of the winter is en route from the arctic. The transition will be sharp and quick enough to crack your teeth.

Not really.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Ask Mr. WeatherBlogger: What about Blizzard of '66?

I guess everybody has a recollection in their head about a snowstorm that struck when they were young that just had to be about the worst ever. Snow to your hips; blinding whiteouts; roads clogged for a week. Mine may be the Blizzard of 1947, which until Sunday was the record snowstorm for New York City.

I don't remember it myself. But it was always a legend in my family, because it struck at the end of the very snowy December in New Jersey into which I was born.

For my kids, it's probably the 22.8-inch storm that struck Baltimore on Feb. 11-12, 1983 - precisely 23 years before this past weekend's snow. They were 8 and 5 then, and when we tried to walk three blocks to the 7-Eleven for milk, they bogged down in the drifts on our unplowed street. They still talk about it.

For Sun reader "Walter," it was the Blizzard of 1966. He wrote us yesterday to ask why his storm wasn't on the list of the top 10 biggest snowfalls on Baltimore's record books:

"Re: top 10 snowstorms for Baltimore...Wasn't the "blizzard of 66" also one of the top storms? I remember we were out of school the whole week,and there were drifts well over 4-5 feet..I would have thought we had gotten between 15 and 20 or more inches then.. Can you elaborate as to where that storm fits in? Thanks! "

The Blizzard of '66 was a ferocious storm, as the following account by the National Weather Service attests. Lots of snow, high winds and very cold temperatures. And it came at the end of a very snowy month, which added to its impact.

But the storm itself dropped only 12 inches of new snow on the official weather station at BWI. It now ranks No. 13. This week's storm, at 13.1 inches, is No. 10.

It is a perfect example of why there was a need for an index, like the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale we wrote about in yesterday's story, to measure the real impact of these storms. They are very complex, dropping dramatically greater snows in very localized areas, while letting other locations - including official weather stations - off relatively easy. The NESIS system, while it may not account for high winds and low temperatures, at least it provides a way to capture the extent of deep snows across a broad region, and its population, and to objectively compare that from storm to storm.

Here's how the NWS recalls the 1966 blizzard:

"January 30-31, 1966: A blizzard struck Maryland and the Northeast US. It began following morning lows of subzero in some portions of the state. Temperatures remained in the single digits as the wind and snow increased. Gusts of 50 to 60 mph caused white-out conditions over portions of western Maryland and into the Baltimore and Washington areas.

"Hagerstown reported 15 inches of snow on top of 12 inches already on the ground and some drifts as high as 20 feet. One to two feet of snow covered a large part of Virginia and Maryland. Washington had 14 inches (added to a previous snow, the depth on the ground came to 20 inches). Drifts were up to 10 feet deep in some areas.

"Baltimore had 12 inches, Conowingo Dam had 11 inches and Bel Air had 17 inches. Easton recorded 25 inches on the ground by February 2 and a January monthly snowfall total of almost 27 inches. Baltimore recorded over 21 inches for the month. Intense blowing and drifting snow continued and kept roads closed for several more days crippling transportation lines and causing a food shortage and rationing. Baltimore and Washington airports were closed for two to three days."

To read more about Baltimore's biggest snowfalls, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

February 14, 2006

Escape to Florida? Not so fast

Snow got you down? Thinking of a Florida getaway? Think twice. The sunshine state is cold. And when it's in the 30s or 40s, or even the 50s in Florida, it really feels cold. Here are some news reports from the subtropics.

There were freeze warnings overnight in South Florida. Farmers scrambled to protect their crops, and lows in the 20s were expected in Orlando and Daytona Beach.  West Palm expected 39 degrees early this morning.

They were scraping the ice off windshields this morning in East Manatee.

On the other hand, Floridians weren't meeting their neighbors unexpectedly in whiteouts like this one in Michigan.

So, just be patient. It will be in the mid-50s here for the next three days. The snow is going to go away. Fast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (4)
Categories: Winter weather

Lincoln's Birthday Storm from space

Here is a look at our recent snowstorm as it appeared from orbit on Saturday.  The picture was snapped by NASA's Aqua earth-observing satellite.  You can see how the storm had evolved by Sunday, when the satellite shot this photo.  And here is another graphic representation of the snow accumulations, this one assembled by the National Weather Service. I think AccuWeather's map works better.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

February 13, 2006

Snowfall map

Here's AccuWeather's snowfall map for the Blizzard of '06, or the Lincoln's Birthday Storm of 2006. You can see why there was such variability in the snows measured in Maryland - from nothing on the lower Eastern Shore, to 18 inches or more in the I-95 corridor.

And here's the latest snow-cover map.  It's even better when you animate it.  You can see the snow retreat during January's mild weather, then snap back with this weekend's storm.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Winter weather

Cold, then mild, then really cold

After reminding WeatherBlog readers last night to be careful when they stepped out this morning onto what were sure to be ice-glazed steps and sidewalks, I stepped out my door, slipped immediately on the ice and hit the deck.  No damage, fortunately. I had a hand on the railing. But it looks like melting snow and dripping icicles above the front steps will be turning my stoop into an micro-Olympic skating rink for a few days. I see kitty litter in my future...

It was 10 degrees at the snow-covered weather station on my deck in Cockeysville at daybreak today, and 14 on the car thermometer. The official low at BWI was 16 degrees.  That's the second-coldest reading at the airport this winter, and the coldest since a 15-degree reading on Dec. 14. We haven't visited the 'teens at all since Dec. 22, when it reached 19 degrees.

The forecast suggests it won't get quite that cold tonight, but it will reach the low 20s for sure, so everything that melts in today's bright sunshine will refreeze.

But this snow will melt quickly over the next few days as mild air pours in from the southwest along the back side of a big high-pressure system over the Deep South. Daytime highs Wednesday and Thursday will reach the 50s for sure.

Then, if the forecasters are right, a new cold front is expected to push back in, bringing rain or snow showers for Friday and the weekend. And by this time next week, we'll be back in the deep freeze, with daytime highs only in the 20s, even with full sunshine. As one forecaster at Sterling put it so eloquently in this morning's discussion, "Brrr."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 12, 2006

Storm drops up to 22" in Md.

The official total from the (may I propose a name?) Lincoln's Birthday Weekend Storm of 2006 will be 11.2 inches, recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Monday closings, click here.

UPDATE:  BWI now reports 13.1"  If that holds, this will rank as Baltimore's 10th heaviest snowstorm. Here's a NWS list of top snowstorms for Baltimore, which has not been updated to include the February 2003 storm.

But lots of places got much more than that. Or less. Here is the latest list of storm totals. The winners (or losers, if you're inclined that way) are Randallstown and Columbia Hills, which both received 22 inches. Cumberland saw the least, with 3.5 inches.

Now the weather service is warning area residents that snowmelt during the day today (and tomorrow, I'd wager) will freeze after dark as temperatures drop into the low 20s or teens. That will make roads, and especially steps and sidewalks dangerously slippery. And by midweek, as temperatures rise into the 50s, a rapid meltdown will fill creeks in the region, posing a risk of flash flooding. So watch your step in the morning, and if you see a flooded roadway, don't try to drive through it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Heavy snow snaps power lines

More than 80,000 BGE customers were without electrical service this morning as a result of the heavy snow. Bowed branches snapped cables all across the region, but especially in northern Anne Arundel County. The 47,700 total in Arundel at 9:30 a.m. represented 20 percent of BGE's customers there. To check on the latest outage count, click here. But then again, if you're reading this, you have power. Or at least a generator.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:59 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Winter weather

Where are the doubters now?

Good morning, Baltimore!  I would have to say the forecasters performed admirably on this one. I am looking at 17 inches of dense snow on my deck in Cockeysville, and it's still snowing lightly. However, the barometer turned the corner at about 4 a.m. It bottomed here out at a respectable 29.56 inches of mercury, and is rising now, slowly. So after a few more hours of snowfall, we should begin to see this storm move away.

Here is the latest from Sterling. And here's their chilly forecast. They say the snow should end by 10 a.m., with 10-16 inches before it's all over. Here are some storm totals from around the region. They're reporting 11.2 inches so far at BWI. Added to the 6.5 inches prior to this storm, in November and December. that brings the season's total to 17.7 inches. The average for BWI, based on a 30-year norm, is 18 inches. So we will probably hit our mark before the snow stops today.

I'm afraid I slept through the thundersnow mentioned in comments to the previous post. But it had been predicted, at least by the NWS forecast office in Mount Holly, NJ (the official station for the Philadelphia area). Thunder during a heavy snowstorm is rare, but not extremely so. I can recall hearing it in Baltimore during the February 1983 storm, and a handful of others since. And, we wrote an explainer here in a post late last month.

Anyway, latest radar shows this storm is about over. Except for the shoveling. Remember this is pretty heavy stuff. Take is slow. You have all day, and I suspect the kids will get the day off tomorrow, too. Take pictures before the wind picks up and blows everything out of the trees.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:22 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather

February 11, 2006

Now it's 6" to 12"

Latest from the boys and girls at NWS Sterling puts the total accumulation from this storm at 6 to 12 inches. That's a couple of inches below their earlier prognostication. The temperature continues to drop here in beautiful downtown Cockeysville - down from a high of 40 degrees at noon, to 34 at 3 p.m.

There's no cause for giving up on this storm already, snow fans. It's just getting on its feet. The humidity is up from 52 percent at 11 a.m. to 88 percent now. The barometer continues to drop, too, and the snow has begun to stick to the grass and cars, at least up here north of the city.  The streets are just wet, so there's still time to stock up on videos and Cheeze-Its.

While it may appear from the radar imagery that there isn't much of this storm left to our south and west, the forecasters continue to argue that this storm will intensify late today and overnight as it hits the ocean, temperatures will drop and accumulations will accelerate as we fall into the wetter, colder backside of the low. And AccuWeather still has us in the 6-12-inch band once it's all said and done. Ditto It seems certain that NY and New England will see the worst of this storm. But we'll all find out soon enough if they've called this one correctly for us - or blown it.

Keep us posted on what's happening where you are. Even if you're in Las Vegas.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:25 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Winter weather

Snow at last

After a couple of hours of stop-and-start flurries, it finally seems to be snowing steadily in Cockeysville. The surface temperature remains pretty warm - 38 degrees on the back deck here. So it's not surprising that the snow appears to be melting soon after it lands.

The radar still has it appearing as rain, and the Weather Channel is calling it "light drizzle." But it's all snow in the air here.

And as this storm moves off the coast and intensifies, we can expect it to get colder and lots snowier. The barometer on the deck has been falling off a cliff since 8 a.m. The humidity has been climbing, too - a good sign for snow. And the National Weather Service is still calling for heavy snow late today and overnight - 8 to 14 inches before it's all over tomorrow morning. Here's what they were saying late this morning:




Leave us comments as the storm develops. Let us know what you're seeing in your location. We may as well have some fun with this. It may be the only big storm we get this year. And don't forget to send your best digital storm photos to's "Reader's Photos" gallery. You can find it at the bottom of the main page.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:43 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Winter weather

February 10, 2006

Heavy snow warning issued

The National Weather Service has refined its snow forecast for tomorrow, issuing a "Heavy Snow Warning" for the Baltimore area, including Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, and Southern Maryland. Those areas, they say, can expect 4 to 8 inches of snow, with as much as 10 inches falling in some spots.

To the north and west, in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties, the weather service has downgraded the Winter Storm Watch (which implies 4 inches or more is on the way) to a "Snow Advisory." They can still expect 3 to 5 inches.

The warnings and advisories extend from 6 a.m. tomorrow to 6 a.m. Sunday, after which the storm should pull away to the Northeast and pummel New England.

AccuWeather expects the storm to be slow to develop, so that New England may get the worst of it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:49 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather

Snow forecast now 5" to 10"

The official predictions for tomorrow's snowstorm, continue to get deeper. The National Weather Service is now warning of 5 to 10 inches in the metropolitan areas of Baltimore and Washington. While the precip may mix with rain south of Washington, it looks like all snow here in the Baltimore area. Here is the advisory just issued this morning:





Winter Storm Watches have been posted from Tennessee to Massachusetts, and they include all of Maryland except for the lower Eastern Shore. Here are the definitions for Winter Storm watches and warnings.

AccuWeather has us square in the 6-to-12-inch section of their map. And you can see the storm on their radar, already gaining strength in the lower Mississippi Valley.

It's a classic Nor'easter, with plenty of moisture on tap from the Gulf and the Atlantic, and lots of cold air in place in the Northeast, with more moving in Saturday on stiff north winds. The low intensifies off the coast and ... WHOMP!  We get buried.

And, because this storm looks like it will affect the densely populated cities and urban regions of the Northeast, and may exceed 10 inches in places, it could become the first new storm to be ranked, when it's all over, on the Weather Service's new, five-step Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale.

The system considers snow depth, geographic area affected, and the population living within it. Storms are then scored, and ranked on a five-point scale analogous to the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity. The scale includes Categories 1 through 5: Notable, Significant, Major, Crippling and Extreme.

The scale's inventors have already gone back through the archives and identified 70 Northeast storms between 1948 and 2003 that scored high enough to be ranked. The worst were the March 1993 "Superstorm," and the January Blizzard of 1996, both Category 5's. The Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in February 2003 was rated a Category 4 - "Crippling" - for the Northeast. It was Baltimore's worst ever, with 28 inches falling over four days.

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

Send us your snow pix

As always, welcomes readers' digital photos of any extreme or unusual, or just beautiful weather events, including the approaching snowstorm.

So, visit our Readers' Photos gallery at the bottom of the main weather page, register, log in, then follow the instructions for submitting your pictures. Send us only your very best, and please bear in mind we need to screen these pictures for appropriateness, and that can take a little time.

So, stay safe, enjoy the snow this weekend, and take your camera.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Readers' weather photos

February 9, 2006

Frozen puppies

Temperatures in Baltimore dropped into the mid-20s Tuesday night, more than cold enough to freeze six pit bull puppies that someone left outdoors overnight in the 3000 block of Spaulding Ave., in Park Heights near Pimlico Racecourse.

A city animal control officer called to the scene found them in a red plastic storage container that had been set outside the front door of an apartment building. "They couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old," said Robert Anderson, director of the city health department's Bureau of Animal Control. "They were frozen solid."

He said the litter included three brown puppies and three that were darker, almost black.

"This was deliberate," Anderson said. "They left them outside just to get rid of them."

It also appears, based on reporting Thursday by The Sun's Nicole Fuller, (click here for her Friday story) that someone did call Animal Control, asking them to pick up the puppies Tuesday night. But the agency did not record the call as one needing immediate attention, and the officer didn't show up until morning. Why anyone would think it a good idea to leave the puppies outdoors in 20-degree weather to wait for Animal Control, and who was responsible for that decision, remains a mystery.

The bureau's investigation elicited no useful information from neighbors. "They're not talking. Nobody will point fingers at anybody," Anderson said. "We're hoping the reward will loosen some lips."

Humane organizations have come up with $1,500 to offer anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who set the puppies outside that night. Intentional animal cruelty can be prosecuted as a felony, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

But given the confusion about the call at Animal Control, it seems unlikely the dogs' owner, if found, will face that kind of punishment. There was an effort, however ill-considered, to do the right thing.

Any informants "don't have to leave their real names," Anderson said. "They can say they're King Kong."  And if the information leads to a conviction, they'll collect the reward without ever having to provide their real name.

Anyone in Baltimore with an animal they don't want can simply call the city's 311 non-emergency number, and the Bureau of Animal Control will come by and take it.

"During the winter, we get a lot of frozen or dying dogs," Anderson said. "But usually they don't leave puppies out."

Anyone with information about these puppies is asked to call 410 396-4698 and ask for the Animal Control Supervisor on duty. If you want to donate money to support reward offers for the arrest of animal abusers, make checks or money orders payable to Director of Finance, Baltimore City, and mail them to Director of Animal Control, Municipal Animal Shelter, 301 Stockholm Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:49 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Events

Big snow? Or a mix?

Some sort of wintry weather is on its way to Central Maryland this weekend. That much seems certain. But will it be snow, rain, or some sloppy, nasty, icy mixture? The National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va. - which covers most of Maryland from Allegany County to the Bay, is still reluctant to make the call.

It all hangs, as usual, on where, precisely, the storm center tracks. And here the forecast models still don't agree.

Most - the consensus - predict the storm center will move out of the lower Mississippi valley, riding along the southern jet stream, and track off the Carolina coast. Our air stays cold and the low pressure intensifies and brings us all snow. "This low pressure system has the potential to produce heavy snow across the Mid-Atlantic Saturday and Saturday night," the discussion from Sterling says. In meteorologists' parlance, "heavy" snow is 4 inches or more in 12 hours, or 6 inches in 24 hours.

But some models suggest the storm will track farther to the north and west, and allow warmer air to move into our region. That would mean more snow to our west, but more of a mix for us.

For now, the forecast says there's a 30 percent chance of light snow starting after 1 a.m. Saturday morning. The chances climb to 60 percent for "steady" snow after 1 p.m. and then decline to 40 percent into the evening. Any accumulation at Baltimore-Washington International Airport would be the first there since Dec. 15.

Other forecast offices in the region are already making accumulation predictions. The Charlestown office says West Virginians could see 3 to 6 inches in the eastern "lowlands," with 6 to 10 inches in the higher elevations. Blacksburg, Va. is expecting mixed precipitation at first in NW Virginia, then "moderate to heavy" snows, mainly in the mountains.

AccuWeather, as usual, is hyping the forecast more than anyone, and predicting heavy snow - up to a foot in a swath from northern Virginia to New England.

Finally, while this storm comes a bit ahead of his schedule, Jim Hughes, an amateur forecaster from the DC area, is feeling pretty good about the recent wintry turn in the weather and the approaching storm. He predicted something like this, albeit for Feb. 14-16, a few weeks back, based on solar activity and a warming over the Arctic.

Here's his comment:

"I started hearing more and more about this storm the night before last. It looks like it's the true deal. Although some people are now talking about it hugging the coast even more. So the coastal areas may get mix if they are right.

"I guess I missed the timing of this wave. It looks like it will come about two days before my first date. You can not deny the amplitude was  there though. How many organizations could even tell you 3 weeks out that a particular 4-7 period will be snowy?

"Maybe I can get lucky and have a smaller one come through our region. Will not be the same.....I wanted to nail this big one just like I did last year.   - Jim" 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

February 8, 2006

"Significant" snow this weekend?

Update:  The National Weather Service is warning that a "significant" snowstorm could affect the region this weekend. Here is the statement issued at 2:43 p.m. today:



Earlier post: The forecasters out at Sterling haven't posted anything yet, but they tell the WeatherBlog to watch for an updated "hazardous weather outlook" after 4 p.m.  Dave Manning, the warning coordination meteorologist, says forecast models are showing stronger possibilities for a "significant winter storm" for our area over the weekend. He declined to hazard a guess on amounts. In fact, the whole scenario remains a bit iffy, and he said "we gotta get a few days closer" before anyone will hazard a prediction on accumulations. But with no measurable snow since Dec. 15 at BWI, any accumulation at all would be news.

AccuWeather, always a bit edgier, has begun to suggest the same thing, at least as a growing, perhaps even "scary"  possibility.

So watch this space. Or watch the forecast page from NWS Sterling.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

January warmest ever in U.S.

It's official. January 2006 was the warmest on record for the contiguous 48 states. Everybody saved on their heating bills. Read more about it here.

In Central Maryland, as we have noted previously, it was only among the warmest. The 11th warmest, to be precise, since record-keeping for Baltimore began in 1871. We averaged 41.5 degrees, 9.3 degrees above the 30-year-norm.  The warmest ever here was in 47.4 degrees, in 1932.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

February 7, 2006

Hubble's latest

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore has released a gorgeous image of a face-on spiral galaxy. It's called NGC 1309, and it resides 100 million light years from Earth. The vast pinwheel of stars is one of 200 galaxies in the Eridanus Group of galaxies. Scientists say this one's important because just one of its billions of stars exploded about 100 million years ago. The light from that blast reached the Hubble Space Telescope in 2002, brighter than all the rest of the galaxy combined. It provided cosmologists with a "standard candle" they can use to measure not only the precise distance to NGC1309, but the rate of the expansion of the universe.  All that aside, it is one beautiful picture. Read more here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:45 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Sky Watching

Flurries, best we can do

Skiers, school kids and teachers who have been pining for more snow this winter will have to wait a while longer. While there are flurries in the forecast, that's all the snow we can offer for now.

The National Weather Service is hinting at a "chance" for flurries in the next few days as more seasonably cold weather settles in. Mostly, the air is too dry to produce much in the way of precipitation. But there are a couple of weak lows scheduled to drift through the Northeast, dragging some moisture from the Great Lakes and enough energy to trigger some snow showers or flurries. No one, however, seems to be anticipating any accumulations east of Maryland's mountains.

The first flakes could come Wednesday night. The prospects improve on Friday, with a stronger system moving  out of the northern Great Lakes toward the east. But all we'll get is a new chance for more flurries, and perhaps some snow showers Friday night into Saturday.

Temperatures have actually slipped below the seasonal norms for the first time since December. Daytime highs this week will stick in the upper 30s Thursday and Saturday, and around 40 Wednesday and Friday if the current forecast holds. The overnight lows will settle in the lower 20s.   The long-term averages for this time of year put the highs around 43 degrees and the lows about 25.

BWI airport received 6 inches of snow in December, but we've had nothing to measure since Dec. 15. January, which produces 7 inches on average, saw only a trace. And February hasn't produced any yet, against an average of about 6 inches.

The average annual snowfall for BWI is 18 inches. So far, this is shaping up as one of the most snow-free winters since the official weather station for Baltimore moved to BWI in 1950:

1949-1950:  0.7 inches

1972-1973:  1.2 inches

2001-2002:  2.3 inches

1997-1998:  3.2 inches

1958-1959:  4.0 inches

1991-1992:  4.1 inches

1980-1981:  4.6 inches

1950-1951:  6.2 inches

2005-2006 (so far):  6.5 inches.

On the other hand, it's been snowing in Turkey, of all places. Have a look.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:59 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather

February 6, 2006

"It-Could-Be-Worse" Dept.

In case you were tempted to complain about the cold and wind today, the WeatherBlog offers these weather consolations:

From Colorado: High winds and flying plywood. Click here.

From Seattle: High winds, rough "seas" on Lake Washington, and more. Click here.

From Fiji: Heavy rain and landslides torment island paradise. Click here.

From Florida:  And you thought deer were a road hazard. Thunderstorms bring out the worst from Florida's swamps. Click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:33 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Events

Moon, Mars and Seven Sisters

Sure it's cold. But the skies should be fairly clear this week, making it a good week to step outside after dinner and have a look as the moon passes through one of the most beautiful regions of the winter sky.

Last night, the waxing gibbous moon drifted past Mars. The Red Planet hung just below the moon, high overhead, as my wife and daughter and I got out of the movies around 10 p.m. and faced south. NASA's twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity are now beginning their third year roaming the planet and sending back data and images.

By tonight, the moon will have moved a little farther east in its orbit, passing through the realm of the Pleiades, a cluster of relatively young stars about 415 light years from Earth. Look a bit to the right of the moon. With good eyesight, most people can see six or seven of the stars without magnification, although the bright moon may make that more difficult tonight. Come back to it in a few days. With binoculars, many more stars of the cluster become visible. A telescope reveals hundreds. And you can still see Mars tonight, just below and to the right of the moon as you face south. The similarly bright, reddish star below and to the LEFT of the moon is Aldebaran, the eye of the "Bull" in the constellation Taurus. It is about 72 light years from Earth.

Each night this week, the moon will move a bit farther east, passing above the bright stars in the familiar winter constellation Orion, identifiable by its trio of three stars in a line, which form Orion's belt.

By Friday night, if you face the east in the evening, the moon will stand just below Castor and Pollux, which form the heads of the twins in Gemini. And just below the moon will be yellowish Saturn, where NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to orbit and send back spectacular images.

So, go look. And take the kids.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

Sunny and ... well, normal

The week ahead looks thoroughly free of precipitation, and almost perfectly normal for this time of year. That shouldn't be news, but it qualifies this year because temperatures haven't approximated the long-term averages for the region since sometime back in December.

We've been enjoying a remarkable spate of mild, even balmy weather that just had to come to an end.

The forecast highs will slip to 43 degrees tomorrow, and a few degrees below the averages for the rest of the week. On Thursday we could be looking at a high of just 38 degrees - 5 degrees below average for the date at BWI.

Since winter began officially on Dec. 21, BWI has recorded only three days with highs colder than 40 degrees, and none that stuck in the 20s:

Dec. 21:  36 degrees

Jan. 7:  38 degrees

Jan. 16:  38 degrees

We've had just two days that failed to rise above the freezing mark since the meteorological winter began on Dec. 1:  Dec. 13 (with a high of 21 degrees) and Dec. 14 (25 degrees). And nothing in the forecast suggests it will get that cold for now.

The lows, meanwhile, have already dropped to the mid-20s, and promise to slide further - to 21 degrees - by the end of the week. That's a few degrees colder than the long-term averages.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 3, 2006

Winter storm watch west

The National Weather Service has posted a winter storm watch for far western Maryland -including Garrett and Allegany counties - beginning Saturday afternoon and extending to late Sunday. Accumulations in excess of 6 inches are possible in some spots. And counties in PA and WV to the north and west could see up to 8 inches. Here's the skinny:



Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

It's official: La Nina is born

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says water temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific have cooled enough to declare that a new La Nina weather pattern has officially begun. La Ninas are the opposite of the more familiar El Nino, which occurs when those same surface waters become warmer than normal. Both phases of this see-saw phenomenon have impacts on weather and climate around the world.

La Nina's typically develop once every 3 to 5 years. They are characterized in North America by cooler weather in the American West and the Northern Plains in winter. The Northwest Coast becomes unusually cold and wet. And the Southeastern U.S. is unusually warm and dry in winter. Click here for a map of typical La Nina trends.

Although there are no clear summer trends for a La Nina year in North America, the phenomenon is associated with increased Atlantic hurricane activity in summer. Like we need more hurricanes. More information and forecasts are expected from NOAA on Feb. 9. The government's hurricane season forecast isn't due until May.

The last two La Ninas began in 1998 and 2000. Both years were marked, in our region, by very dry weather in the summer or fall.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Forecasts

"Spring" temps threaten record

With skies clearing off a bit and more sunshine getting through, the National Weather Service has bumped up its predictions for today's high for the Baltimore area to 65 degrees. And that threatens a 74-year-old record high for this date. It was 66 degrees in Baltimore on Feb. 3, 1932.  "We might come close," said NWS meteorologist Calvin Meadows. Sixty-five, 66 ... whatever works.

But alas and alack, it cannot last. Colder air is moving in. The forecast highs suffer a sinking spell for the next few days, dropping to 54 degrees Saturday (still more than 10 degrees above normal for this time of year), and skidding to 49 on Sunday and 42 (about normal) on Monday.  Worse, there's another storm system brewing in Louisiana. We can expect it to bring us more rain after midnight tonight, and chances for rain or snow through the weekend before the sun breaks out again next week.

If you're heading for western Maryland or West Virginia, this storm could throw down some accumulating snow, so forecasters say to be prepared for that. But if we see any here, east of the mountains, it will likely be in the air, at night, and not on the ground. Just too warm.

But hasn't this weather been great?  The overnight LOW at BWI last night was 43 degrees. That's the normal HIGH for a Feb. 3 in Baltimore. And it appears to be the warmest overnight LOW for a Feb. 3 for Baltimore since 1909, when the low for Baltimore hung up at 44 degrees, Meadows said. The warmest low temperature on record for a Feb. 3 in Baltimore was 51 degrees, on this date in 1880.

The 43-degree low for today could be eclipsed if it gets colder than that before midnight tonight, Meadows cautioned.

Meanwhile, the rainstorm that blew through while we slept was pretty vigorous. It left more than half-an-inch behind. Here's how the morning forecast discussion from Sterling saw it:


If you use the rule of thumb that equates an inch of rain to 10 inches of snow, with colder temperatures we might have gotten a nice 5-inch accumulation out of our overnight storm.  Instead, we're now 50 days into our current snow-drought at BWI.

You want snow?  Go to Tokyo.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 2, 2006

Chance of snow

Now don't freak. It's just a chance of snow. And it won't amount to anything significant. But it's in the forecast for this weekend. And if anything at all accumulates, it would be our first measureable snowfall at BWI since Dec. 15. Daytime temperatures in the 40s won't support frozen precipitation, but the chances rise as temperatures fall to freezing overnight Saturday into Sunday. Here's the forecast.

The prognosticators are also watching a storm system that should move our way by Tuesday, also with a "chance" of snow or rain. As the editorial writers say, this bears watching. On the other hand, if you want a sure thing, go to Hawaii. There was no snow here in January, but they're snowboarding on Mauna Kea.

In the meantime, we're looking at sunny skies now, and more mild weather. But there's rain on its way for later today. So take the umbrella tonight, and keep it handy all weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Happy Imbolg

Or, if you prefer, Happy Groundhog Day, Happy Candlemas, Happy Cross-Quarter Day, Happy First-day-of-Spring.  "What on Earth is he talking about?" you may ask....

In fact, today is all of those things, or at least has been over the long reach of time since the Celts. Today is the half-way point in the astronomical calendar between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.  Our observance of Groundhog Day is a silly and feeble remnant of what was once a very important day for the ancestors of many European-Americans. Other peoples had parallel traditions.

This was a time of year when the days were growing rapidly longer. There was a growing confidence that the warmth of the sun would return, green and growing things would come back to life, and flocks would soon increase. It was a time of portents and anticipation.

To read more about the ancient traditions that have trickled down to us as Groundhog Day, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

February 1, 2006

January's global extremes mapped

Here's a very cool map of January's very mild (or very cold) weather around the globe. It shows very clearly the extremes of temperature both in the United States' lower 48 states, and in Russia and Alaska, which have both seen fiercely cold weather.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:52 PM | | Comments (0)

Ashfall advisory for Clam Gulch

I just had to write that headline. Imagine living in a place like Clam Gulch, Alaska, where such weather warnings really mattered. The fact is the Mt. Augustine volcano, on an uninhabited island in Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage, is in almost continuous eruption now. Volcanic ash is falling on parts of the surrounding countryside, and on the Kenai peninsula. Here's what residents up there are hearing from the National Weather Service. Otherwise, the weather looks fine in Kenai.

Here's a map showing the island and its surroundings. And here is what the volcano looked like a few days ago. The ash cloud has limited air travel, which is critical in a place like Alaska. The volcanic grit can damage and choke engines in flight.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Events

Crummy weekend ahead

OK, at least it won't be cold, with ice and snow. But the weekend coming up is looking wet, with rain or showers in the forecast from late Thursday through Sunday. Temperatures will remain well above average for this time of year - upper 40s and 50s - as we wait for the predicted change in the weather - back to normal or worse for the balance of February.

Forecasters say the first spate of rain will come as a low forms in the Midwest and draws moisture and mild air in from the Gulf of Mexico. Then, on Saturday, another low forms off the coast. It will still mean rain for us, but cooler temperatures to our west could raise the possibility for snow, or a rain/snow mix, in the mountains. Ick.

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