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May 31, 2006

Hurricane forecast unchanged; first storm weakens

The latest pre-season forecast for the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, which opens tomorrow, was released today. And it shows no change from previous versions. The forecast team led by Phil Klotzbach and William Gray, of  Colorado State University, continues to predict a very active season, with 17 named storms, including 9 hurricanes, of which five are expected to be "major" - meaning Category 3 or higher.

In addition, the Colorado State group is setting an 82 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the United States (the long-term average is 52 percent), and a 69 percent chance it will land on the U.S. East Coast, from Florida northward - more than twice the average. You can read the whole report here.

The good news is that sea surface temperatures across the hurricane-birthing area of the Atlantic, while warmer than average, are cooler than they were at the start of last year's hurricane season. These images from May 2005 and May 2006 tell the tale.

In the meantime, the 2006 Hurricane Season for the Eastern Pacific is already underway, with the first named storm - Aletta - weakening south of Mexico's Pacific coast. Here's the latest (and last) forecast discussion. Here's the satellite view. What's left of Aletta is the mass of clouds at lower right.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricane background
        

Relief on the way

This first blast of summer-like heat and humidity has brought the hottest temperatures of the year so far. But it's on its way out. The high-pressure system out in the Atlantic, which has helped steer hot, humid air out of the South and into our laps for the past several days, will give way to a cool front from the northwest by the weekend. We can look forward to weekend highs in the 70s and 80s - and sunshine.

But first we have to get through the next couple of days, which - while they won't be as hot as yesterday or today - will likely bring us some showers and thunderstorms. And that's OK. We can use the moisture. May has only delivered 1.6 inches of rain, leaving the airport more than 2 inches short for the month, and 6 inches short for the year (due mostly to a record-dry March).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June: Better than 1972

June arrives tomorrow dragging plenty of baggage. Some of you may even remember one of the weirdest Junes on record in Baltimore - 1972. More on that in a second.

First, the new month brings the official opening of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Expect to read a lot about growing fears of a big Northeast hurricane. It's not that anyone's predicted one. It's rather that it's been so long since the last one that we've grown comfortable about the prospect, and we've moved millions of people and billions of dollars in coastal development into the path of a storm that is sure to strike, eventually, if not this summer. Those people should read up on the 1938 hurricane, and the 22-foot storm surges that swept away Long Island homes and flooded some cities on the south coast of New England.

The Wall Street Journal has an important story today (sorry, you'll need to buy a paper or subscribe for web access) about growing anxiety among insurance companies. Some, stung by losses in Florida and the Gulf Coast in the past two years, have stopped writing property insurance policies in vulnerable areas of the Northeast. That, or they're hiking premiums like crazy.

June also brings the year's first really hot temperatures. Not that yesterday's high of 95 degrees at BWI-Marshall was anything to sneeze at. But it fell short of the 98-degree record for a May 30 at BWI, set in 1991.

The record high for June in Baltimore is 105 degrees, set back on June 29, 1934, when the official station was in downtown Baltimore. The average daytime highs climb from 79 degrees on June 1, to 86 degrees by the 30th. The average lows move from 57 degrees to 64 degrees.

The coolest temperature on record for Baltimore in June was 40 degrees, set on June 11, 1972. Which brings us to the matter of 1972, perhaps the strangest June here in recent memory. That cold June morning in 1972 was followed by another record on June 12, when the low reached 46. Was it a harbinger?

The remnants of Hurricane Agnes - by then a tropical storm - began dropping huge volumes of rain across the region on June 21.  That came after five days of relatively light rain, which helped to saturate the soil and cause devastating runoff and flooding when the storm struck.

In all, it rained for 10 days straight, with terrible consequences all up and down the East Coast. Nineteen people died in Maryland alone. The totals set records for two days - 2.19 inches on the 21st, and 3.84 inches the next day. By month's end, 9.95 inches had fallen, also a record. And right behind the storm came more record cool weather, setting a new low mark of 50 degrees on June 24.

A recap of a very dry May here, tomorrow.

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

May 30, 2006

Stars, planets align

Wednesday night, if the skies remain clear enough, will provide a lovely show for evening skywatchers. The crescent moon, just three days past its "new" phase, will pass just above the planet Saturn in the western sky. Saturn itself, as it happens, is at the edge of a beautiful star cluster, called the "Beehive" cluster. You'll need a small telescope to see it all. But it's a striking sight, with the ringed planet cruising amid a crowded field of sparkling stars. 

And not far away, to the right and slightly below Saturn in the evening sky, is dim, reddish Mars. And (as they say in the TV commercials) that's not all!  For the same price, the bright stars Castor and Pollux - the heads of the twins in the constellation Gemini - are directly to the right of Mars, aligned in a straight line, with Mars, Castor and Pollux at almost exactly equal distances from each other.

Here's more, including a star map.

In the meantime, Jupiter continues to blaze in the southeast in the evening. Quite a few people have noticed, and asked me about it. Don't forget to take a look with binoculars. You can see as many as four of Jupiter's largest moons aligned on either side of the giant planet, like a tiny solar system all its own.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Summer heat and summer fans

So, all of a sudden it's summer, with a vengeance. The official thermometer at BWI-Marshall has already reached 94 degrees - 3 degrees above the earlier forecast, but not yet a record for the date. The hottest May 30 was 98 degrees, set in 1991.

The heat and humidity on Memorial Day finally penetrated our upstairs enough to push me to turn on the air conditioning for the first time this season. But by the time it dragged the indoor temperature back down out of the 80s, to the 75-degree setting we use in summer, it was already cooler than that outdoors. Whatever happened to whole-house fans - the big attic fans that used to drag cool, nighttime air in through every window in the house, and push it out through the attic?

I grew up in New Jersey, in a little Cape Cod without air conditioning. The whole-house fan would cool the house at night, and in the morning we would close the windows and blinds. That would keep the house relatively cool all day. By nightfall, when the outdoor temperatures would drop again, we'd open the house again and switch on the whole-house fan. It worked fine. And the drone of that fan would sing us to sleep each night.

When I moved my family to Baltimore in 1980 - into another Cape Cod - the first investment we made in the place was a whole-house fan. It drew cool night air in all the windows, and blew it into the attic and out the attic vents. Until we finally broke down and installed central air in 1987, my kids fell asleep every summer night with the big fan whirring at the top of the stairs, just as I did as a kid.

With electric rates about to spike in Central Maryland, I'm thinking once again about a whole-house fan for the townhouse we inhabit now. Fans draw much less juice than air conditioners and heat pumps. Maybe, before the summer is over, we'll be nodding off once more to the old summer song of the attic fan.

Any memories of keeping cool in summer before air conditioners? Leave a comment.

Some power companies offer substantial rebates to customers who install whole-house fans. Here's an example. BGE, it turns out, does not.

BGE does, however, offer its customers "time-of-use" meters. These devices meter not just how much electricity you use, but when you use it. The company charges TOU customers lower-than-market rates for electricity used in off-peak hours. But it also charges higher-than-market rate for power used during peak hours. The object is to shift demand load to off-peak hours. In periods of very hot or very cold weather, that helps the utility limit peak demand loads on the generating system.

Customers moving to TOU meters have to pay attention to when they use their power. A programmable set-back thermostat helps to reduce consumption during peak rate periods. It's also important to delay using appliances such as electric dryers until off-peak hours. But it can work, especially if everyone in the household is gone during the heat of the day, when power demands - and TOU rates - are highest.

We have had a TOU meter for nine years. We delay clothes drying until late evenings or weekends (when the TOU rates are low all day). And we have a dishwasher with a time-delay feature that allows us to delay starting the load until after the low-rate period begins. We also have a programmable thermostat, and try to run the AC hardest at night, when it's cool outside and rates are lowest, and let it stay idle during the peak-rate period. Ususally the house stays comfortable enough during the day.

And it works for us. The meter broke down for five months last fall, and BGE inadevertantly charged us peak rates all the time. I didn't notice until after BGE spotted the problem and replaced the meter in December. I had to ask for a rebate of the five months of overpayments, but in the end the company credited my bill for $79. That suggests the TOU meter was saving me almost $16 a month on average. Then BGE threw in another $25 for the inconvenience of having to ask for my money back.

All told, the credit was more than enough to bring my subsequent BGE bill to zero for the month, a one-time budget bonanza. Now all I have to do is remember to set aside the money I WOULD have paid, and hold it for the big bills coming after the rate BGE increase this summer. It's nice to spend a little more time with my money.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:12 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 26, 2006

Take a wet suit

The Memorial Day weekend may be the official start of summer, but there's nothing summer-like yet about the water temperatures at the beach. Data from the weather buoy in the Delaware Bay shows water temps not quite 60 degrees. Actually, that's about normal, maybe even a degree or so warmer than normal. But take heart; June is a big warm-up month. You could also head for Cape Charles, Va., where the water temperatures is closer to 67 degrees.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Observer reports
        

Aleutian volcano erupts

Astronauts on board the International Space Station have captured a striking photo of the Cleveland volcano, in the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska, just as it belched a plume of ash into the sky earlier this week. The space station returns to Maryland skies late next week. At least two very nice, high and bright passes will be visible for early risers. If anyone plans to be up between 4 and 5 a.m., leave a comment and I will post the details.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Humidity. Remember humidity?

Alas, the honeymoon is over. After a long, sunny, mild and dry spring, Marylanders seem to be feeling the first truly muggy weather of the season. Warm, moist, tropical air is surging northward from the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a cold front approaching from the west. Dew points have risen from the mid-30s yesterday to the mid-60s today and climbing. The moisture in the air meant fog earlier today, and now thick, cloudy skies.

Behind it all there lies the cold front, which will move through the region later today behind showers and thunderstorms, perhaps some severe ones with locally strong gusty winds and hail. The front has caused some heartache in the Midwest.

After that, we're golden. We should shake free of the storms sometime tomorrow, and the long weekend looks great. Temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and sunshine. And drier air.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 25, 2006

Tropics calm, for how long?

By now everyone knows we're just a week away from the opening of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Fewer remember that we're just two weeks away from the date, last year, when the first tropical storm of that record season popped up in the western Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Arlene was born June 8, one of the earliest storms on record and the first of a record-shattering 28 named storms last year. It tracked northward across the western tip of Cuba. and across the Gulf of Mexico. It went ashore on the Florida panhandle, near Pensacola. Arlene caused little damage, but a rip current stirred up by the storm was blamed for the death of an exchange student swimming in Miami. Arlene was the first of two tropical storms in June last year. TS Bret formed on June 28, lasted three days and killed one person when it went ashore in Mexico.

Fewer still will remember Tropical Storm Ana, in 2003, which defied the hurricane calendar and emerged in the Atlantic on April 20 - yes, April. It was the first North Atlantic tropical storm ever recorded in April. Ana wandered in the open Atlantic for five days before dissipating.

Forecasters are expecting a very active season this year, with 13 to 16 named storms. Among other factors, the sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are slightly lower than last year. It's also statistically unlikely that we would see two consecutive record seasons. On the other hand, their pre-season forecast is slightly more pessimistic - calling for slightly more storms - than last year's May forecast (which, at 12 to 15 named storms, turned out to be too conservative by half.) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricane background
        

May 24, 2006

Hughes: Hot, dry June ahead

Jim Hughes, the DC-area weather prognosticator who called our February snowstorm - the only one of significance we got all winter - pretty closely, is predicting a sharp warm-up in June. That might actually be welcome after these cool May mornings - nearly two weeks of below-normal daily averages (2.7 degrees below normal, on average, so far in May.)

But he's also saying the coming month will extend the generally dry weather that's prevailed since February. That's not so welcome.

Hughes is self-taught. He is neither a scientist nor a meteorologist. He bases his predictions on his own theories about the influence of solar events on the Earth's weather, and his reading of historical patterns. His record of successful predictions is mixed, but interesting. And he's confident enough of his methods to go out on a limb and give the rest of us something to watch for.

So, here's Jim's latest:

"This continual cool pattern will be coming to an end soon. I am very confident that June will  end up being warmer than average . Especially during the first half. I believe there is a 75% chance that the June mean temperature average, for the Baltimore-Washington area, will be at least 2.5 degrees above average. The first half should even be higher and be in the 5-7 degree range.

"I see considerable warm periods centered around June 7th-9th and the 14th-16th.  The period between June 7th-16th may very well end up being our warmest anomaly period all summer. When one compares it to the normal average. 

"The arrival of these warmer temperatures  will have an effect upon our region's growing season.  I am calling for the June rainfall to be below average. So this is definitely not good. We have been lucky up until now with these cooler temperatures. The average Joe on the street thinks May was fairly wet but our rainfall has not been as plentiful as most of us think." (Editor:  1.28 inches below normal so far at BWI.)

" The days may have been cool and cloudy and we all heard about the New England flooding but no consistent rainfall ever occurred around here. It was sporadic thunderstorms at best.   All of the local airports are  running well below average this month.  They will be running at a  1 to - 1.5- inch deficit by this weekend.  Add that to the yearly trend and we have a bleak scenario.  - Jim "

For the record, the National Climate Prediction Center says the next three months have equal chances for above-normal or below-normal temperatures and precipitation in our region. No firm guidance there. Here's the discussion for June. Not much help there either for our area.

The Hagerstown Almanac calls for a pretty hot June, with average precipitation. But then, it also called for a warm May, which hasn't happened. Jim, you're on.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:58 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 23, 2006

Movie shows comet passing Earth

Few of us have gotten to see Comet Schwassman-Wachmann 3 as it's glided within a mere 7 million miles of the Earth in recent days. But astrophotographers have done a great job observing and documenting the fly-by. The comet's largest fragments are close enough that amateur astronomers have reported being able to perceive their motion against the background stars in real time.

Here's a time-series of photos, snapped on one night, that clearly show the comet's fragment B in motion. Very cool. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Overnight low close to record

The mercury sank to a chilly 42 degrees overnight at BWI-Marshall Airport. That was just 3 degrees warmer than the record low of 39 degrees, set for this date in 1961. Tomorrow's record low is 41 degrees, set back in 1963, so we were clearly flirting in record territory.

Allegany County has freeze warnings out again tonight. The low was 38 last night, with a forecast low of 31 tonight.

Fortunately, the trend is toward warmer days (and nights) ahead. We'll likely see the 80s at BWI by Thursday or Friday. The warm-up comes with a threat, albeit slight, of showers. But the lineup for the long Memorial Day weekend looks great. The threat of showers should end by Saturday, forecasters are saying, clearing the decks for sunny, mild weather (in the 70s) for the balance of the holiday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

May 22, 2006

Freeze warning for Allegany

The National Weather Service has posted a freeze warning for tonight in Cumberland and other portions of Allegany County. Temperatures out west could dip as low as 30 degrees tonight as cold air continues to stream in from the Great Lakes and Canada, and clear skies allow plenty of the day's solar energy to radiate back out into space.

Of course, that also makes it a great night for stargazing. The big show this month remains Jupiter, brilliant in the southeast in the evening and just a couple of weeks past opposition - its closest and brightest apparition of the year. Binoculars should reveal as many as four of its moons, lined up on either side of the big planet.

If you get lucky while you're outside tonight, maybe you'll spot a fireball like this one. It was photographed from El Paso, Texas, on May 4.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

2006 Hurricane Season forecast

The National Hurricane Center has just released its forecast for the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and they think it's going to be a busy one. They're anticipating 13 to 16 named storms, with 8 to 10 becoming hurricanes, and 4 to 6 of those reaching Category 3 strength or higher.

That's all well above the average of 11 named storms, including 6 hurricanes and 2 major (Cat. 3 or higher).  On the other hand, it would be a relief after the record-shattering 2005 season, which produced an astonishing 28 named storms, with 15 reaching hurricane force, and 7 spinning up to Category 3 or more.

Interestingly, the new forecast is also higher (by 1 across the board) than the NHC forecasts for the 2005 season, released at this time last year.

Here's full report.

The NHC predictions are generally in line with those issued last month by the Colorado State University hurricane expert William Gray and his team. They forecast 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, 5 of them "major."

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season opens officially June 1, and extends through November. Here's just about everything you need to know about the upcoming season.

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

Warming up, but don't go near the water

After a chilly and changeable weekend, looks like improving weather all this week, and a nice warm-up headed into the Memorial Day weekend. But ocean water remains downright COLD. It's just 56 degrees off the Delaware beaches. Brrrrrrrr! 

There are frost and freeze advisories posted for Garrett County and portions of West Virginia and Virginia tonight. My in-laws, in Corry, Pa., southeast of Erie, reported snow in the air yesterday morning.

Which is why we don't live in Corry. Here's a nice shot of Maryland yesterday, snapped from orbit. You can see why we went from sunny to cloudy to sunny.

It was a gorgeous morning, despite the fact it's Monday. The overnight low dipped as deep as 41 degrees at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. The forecast shows clear sailing and rising daytime temperatures, except for Thursday. We could reach the 80s by then. Some serious hammock weather on tap.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

April was warmest on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says April 2006 was the warmest on record (since 1895) for the continental United States. It wasn't the warmest on record for Maryland, but it was close - the 5th warmest, according to NOAA. Here's more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

May 19, 2006

Drippy weather departing

Although we did not receive the amount of rain we really need, it seems like a relief, after all these days with clouds and piddling showers, to see clear skies in the forecast, pretty nearly uninterrupted through next week. 

In all, BWI-Marshall has received just 1.55 inches of rain this month. That's two-thirds of an inch behind the average pace for May, so we're not making up the deficit from the driest March on record. Even so, it's been drippy. Through May 18, we've seen 8 days of measurable precipitation. Only three days were rated "clear."  But then again, there were plenty of "partly cloudy" days that were sunny enough, with mild temperatures, to add to what has been a delightful spring, all things considered. Usually, it seems, we've had at least one bout of hot, humid weather by now.

Mercifully, there's been no need for air conditioning yet. (We'll need to save our utility dollars for the big BGE price hike this summer.) Quite the contrary, this May is averaging  2 degrees below normal at BWI. Today's high looks like it will stick in the low 60s - more than 10 degrees below the 75-degree normal high for this date.

And this is odd: Say what you want about global warming, but since 1970, BWI has clocked 17 new record-cold days in May, and only  7 new record highs. The record low for a May 19, for example, is 39 degrees, reached in 2003. The record for May 20 is also 39 degrees, set in 2002. The record for May 21 is 34 degrees, also set in 2002.  And the record low for May 22 is 35 degrees, also set in 2002. Eleven days in May have record lows set since 1996.

Go figure. Have a great weekend. Enjoy the sunshine. No extra charge.

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

Vietnamese fishermen missing in typhoon

Typhoon Chanchu, the earliest to affect the Chinese city of Shanghai in 80 years, has ripped through the Vietnamese fishing fleet, sinking numerous boats, killing at least 28 fishermen and leaving 150 missing at sea. The same storm killed 37 people in the Philippines, and 16 on the Chinese mainland. Here's a CNN report.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:28 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Edmund Fitzgerald wreck weather re-analyzed

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have re-analyzed the terrible weather that doomed the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald on Nov. 10-11, 1975. The ship's sinking was memorialized in Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 ballad "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Combining all the data available from the period of the ship's sinking with modern computer modeling, the researchers have produced the most detailed and reliable estimates to date of the conditions that beset the ship and its crew of 29 that night on Lake Superior. The results, published this month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, are terrifying.

The 729-foot ship, which was churning south toward the shelter of Whitefish Bay, appears to have encountered winds up to 69 mph, and gusts to hurricane force. Worse, the wind probably produced 25-foot waves - rare for the lake - running west to east, directly broadside to the ship. The conditions persisted for up to six hours. Earlier than that, or later, and the ship likely would have survived the night, the researchers suggest.

For the full report, click here, then click on "Print Version."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:16 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Research
        

May 18, 2006

Glaciers vanish from Glacier Nat'l Park

Someone told me recently that I should see Glacier National Park before the glaciers are all gone. I see now I'm nearly too late. A warming climate has erased more than 80 percent of the 150 named glaciers mapped in 1850. Most of the survivors are barely one third the size they were then. Scientists expect they'll all be gone by 2030.

Since 1997, US Geological Survey officials in Montana have undertaken a project to photograph glaciers that were documented on old pictures of the park. Carrying copies of the archival photos, photographers have found the spots where the original pictures were taken. Their images provide a dramatic comparison, and hard evidence of the glaciers' disappearance.

Here is a link to the project's results so far. And here is a brief outline of the program. Since 1997, more than 60 photographic pairs have been assembled showing 17 glaciers. Hurry, while they last.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:33 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Storms possible late today

An approaching cold front could bring us some showers, thunderstorms, and a possibility of a severe storm late this afternoon or this evening. Here are the advisories.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 17, 2006

Chanchu whacks China coast

With our weather so pleasant, so monotonously showery, so ... dull, let's have another look at Typhoon Chanchu. The weakened storm has now smacked China along the coast just east of Hong Kong. Thousands were evacuated. Here's the AP report via CNN. And the Reuter's report. Here's the storm track from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. And here's the view from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:53 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

May 16, 2006

Typhoon Chanchu skirts Hong Kong

Two weeks until the Atlantic hurricane season opens, so I thought I'd offer an overture: Typhoon Chanchu is spinning in the South China Sea between Hong Kong and Taiwan. It's the year's seventh storm on the western North Pacific name list. (Scroll down to the proper list.)

Forecasters say the Category 3 storm, last centered about 374 miles southeast of Hong Kong, appears to be weakening, with top sustained winds of 120 mph, with gusts to 149.  Chanchu is tracking toward the north northeast, and appears headed for landfall on the China coast just east of Hong Kong in 24 to 36 hours.

Here's the forecast discussion from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. And, now that you're in the mood, here's the name list for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:41 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

More showers again

The slow-moving low that has been pumping water into New England, and leaving us under clouds and occasional showers for days, will continue to bring us afternoon showers and maybe thunderstorms if enough sun breaks through to heat up the air and ignite some convection.

But the tiresome weather pattern appears to be on the move. The winds shifted overnight, from the east, around to the northwest and finally west. That suggests the center of the low have begun to move out of the Ohio Valley and up the Appalachians, bringing us into a more westerly flow on the bottom side of the storm center.

Even so, it may be the weekend, or early next week before we see a real change in the weather pattern, forecasters say.

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

May 15, 2006

Man the life boats

Pity poor New Hampshire. They usually go four years without making much news. But a persistent onshore flow of wet Atlantic air has plunged them prematurely into the headlines. Just look at the rainfall recorded at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, on the coast. Between an inch and two inches every 6 hours since at least Saturday. Here's a link to Channel 9 in Manchester, with a selection of free video and pictures.

Blame the same stalled low-pressure center still spinning to our west. Somehow we managed to get through the Mothers Day weekend without much rain. The horses even ran on a fast track at Pimlico on Mother's Day. (Mom won. I lost.) But that low keeps turning counterclockwise, drawing air in off the ocean like a sump pump and dumping it all onto many parts of New England. Streams and rivers are filled to overflowing. Check out the pictures from Peabody, Mass.

There's still plenty of water in our future, too. Here's the forecast. Thursday looks like a break for anyone who's been waiting to cut the grass. But don't wait. The "chance of showers" mantra keeps repeating into the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:19 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Events
        

May 12, 2006

Storm spins, goes nowhere fast

The big low-pressure system over the Great Lakes continues to spin, nearly in place, bringing persistently lousy weather for millions within its reach. And we're next.

Here's how it looks from space. It has the appearance of an enormous hurricane, which is not surprising since big lows all spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. (Here's a hurricane - Typhoon Chanchu, now threatening the Philippines - for comparison.)

This rotating storm center is stuck - blocked by a stubborn high-pressure system to its north and east. So it spins and spins. And the people living beneath it see cool, gray, wet weather, for day after day. The whole thing will eventually move our way, which is why the forecast looks as glum as it does. They're already suffering with it to our west. Here's Cincinnati's forecast. Temperatures are in the 50s out there, with a persistent, recurring drip.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:01 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (7)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Weather satellite $7b over budget

House Democrats are squawking over delays and cost overruns on a new fleet of weather forecasting satellites being developed by the National Oceanic and Atmopsheric Administration. Here's the Democrats' beef.

Here's more on the new system from NOAA.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Sunny break

Well, who knew it would be such a gorgeous morning? For days the official forecasts said rainy, as far as the eye could see. Now the chance of showers, while still present this afternoon, have diminished, and even tomorrow looks better. Beyond that, it's all rain ahead, as a low spinning over the Great Lakes continues to influence our weather. But this morning proves that hope is never entirely lost.

The cold front that crashed through late yesterday delivered some pretty impressive downpours. We recorded 1.3 inch in the rain gauge on the deck in Cockeysville. The instruments at BWI-Marshall clocked more than 1.1 inch.  The winner was a city gauge that reported 3.3 inches. Lake Roland saw 2.45 inches, and Ellicott City had 1.79.

The airport thermometer fell to 46 degrees at 6 a.m. today. That was 6 degrees below the average low for this date, but not close to the record low of 35 degrees, set in 1963.

Lots of storm reports this morning. There were tornado watches posted across portions of Virginia and Maryland much of the afternoon and evening. And a trained NWS weather spotter reported a funnel cloud on the ground near Spotsylvania, Va. around 6 p.m.

Update:  May 12: Here are the official reports on the Va. tornadoes.

Stream flows are up across central Maryland, for now. Here's a look at how Western Run, in Baltimore County, responded. Minor coastal flooding remains an issue today and tomorrow as winds and lunar tides combine to press bay water against the western shore.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (33)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 11, 2006

Tornado warning for Central Va.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for locations in Central Virginia where thunderstorms appear to have the capacity to generate a twister. There are tornado watches posted for much of Virginia, but Maryland is out of the cross hairs for now.

The rain that began as a light mist just before noon in Baltimore is picking up, already topping 0.13 inch at BWI-Marshall, and considerably more in places. The NWS is expecting heavy rain as the day turns to night. Accumulations are building across the region.  It's already the biggest rain event in three weeks - since April 21-23 - when 1.56 inches fell at the airport. The forecast, of course, is dismal, unless you're a plant.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:26 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Events
        

Give us your best shot

Water is photogenic. Lots of water is more photogenic. And with lots of rain, and maybe some thunderstorms and coastal flooding on the way, MarylandWeather.com invites readers to submit their digital weather photos to our Readers Photos page.

Puddles, floods, wet pets, lightning, kids playing in the rain - it's all fair game. The first priority is to stay safe. The second is to capture beautiful, amazing, surprising, unusual images of the weather.

Then, go to the Readers Photos page, sign up and upload your pictures. Remember to include information about where and when it was taken, what sort of equipment you used and how you got the picture. Keep your eyes peeled and give us your best shot.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:37 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (4)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Mushroom weather

It's all cool and wet ahead, as far as the forecasters can see. The forecast holds a strong chance for heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms after noon today and into tonight, with more than an inch of accumulation possible. That will be followed by on-again, off-again showers right through the weekend and into next week.

Blame low-pressure systems out over the Midwest. The air circulating counter-clockwise around the lows is drawing cool, moist air in from the Atlantic in east winds today. The east and southeast winds will pile Bay water up against the western shore. That, plus the approach of the full moon on Saturday, will mean unusually high tides and a chance for minor coastal flooding.

Once the cold front behind the storms drifts out to sea tomorrow, we'll still be influenced by low pressure over the Great Lakes, and we can expect showers and generally gray, drippy weather well into next week, forecasters say.

That would grow depressing and annoying if it weren't for the fact that we badly need the moisture. The new drought monitor maps are out, and they show that, while our dry conditions have not worsened, the area of abnormally dry conditions in the Northeast has grown.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:33 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 10, 2006

Cool comet photos

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 is nearing its closest "brush" by the Earth this week. Parts of the disintegrating comet's nucleus will fly by as near as 5.5 million miles. That's a very close by comet standards - the nearest in 23 years, astronomers say. But asteroids routinely blow by much closer.

In fact, there's one - 2006 JY26 - slipping past the Earth today at just a smidge farther than the moon's orbit. It's the blue circle on the diagram.

Approaching clouds and rain will likely obscure our view of Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 for the rest of the week, and into next week as well. But amateur astronomers have been snapping photos like crazy. And some of them have been amazing. Here is a sampling:

Stefan Seip, of Stuttgart, Germany, snapped this one of the comet's largest fragment as it swept in front of the Ring Nebula. In Bavaria, Thorston Boeckel assembled a time-lapse sequence of the same fragment and the Ring Nebula. SpaceWeather.com has more images.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Eat lunch outside

Take your lunch outside today. Enjoy the sunshine and mild temperatures because everything goes downhill from here. Clouds and much-needed moisture are approaching from the southwest, and we could see as much as an inch and a half of rain from late tonight through Friday. A cold front due late Thursday could produce more than an inch of precipitation.

The forecast from the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va. forecast office shows Saturday as the only day without a chance for showers. And "mostly cloudy" is the best we can expect from the day. More rain chances extend from late Saturday through Tuesday of next week.

We badly need the rain. Stream flow across the region is low. Ground water levels also have been falling. Here's the chart for a monitoring well in Baltimore County. The region remains "abnormally dry" on the Drought Monitor maps, which will be updated tomorrow.

Precipitation at BWI-Marshall in running a deficit of 4.8 inches since Feb. 1.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 9, 2006

Smoke gets in our air

When we think about weather, we usually think about clouds, rain, snow, winds and sunshine. But smoke and dust can also be significant components of our atmosphere. The fires can be caused naturally, by lightning, or by human activities. Dust storms can be seasonal events, aggravated by drought and destructive land use practices.

Springtime is a particularly smoky, dusty time for our planet, as people burn off winter debris, clear fields for planting, or throw cigarettes from the car and ignite dry leaf litter. The resulting smoke and dust can obscure the sun, and cause health problems for people on the ground who have to breathe the stuff.

Here are just a few of the smoke clouds visible this week from space. The one making the most news is the result of wildfires in Florida, especially near New Smyrna. There are also vast clouds of dust over China, more smoke over the Norwegian Sea caused by fires in western Russian, and still more smoke over the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. And that's just a sampling. For more on current fire hazards affecting the Earth's atmosphere, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:36 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Events
        

Rock slab emerges from Mount St. Helens

Like toothpaste squeezed from a tube, a huge slab of rock is rising more than a meter per day from an active crater on the  summit of the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington. Geologists have made a time-lapse movie of the event. (Click here, and after you reach the link, click on "time lapse movie.") It's short, and the movement is a little hard to detect at first. But keep playing it over and over and you'll begin to see the rock rising, and the loose debris to the right being shoved aside. This is mountain-building - or in this case rebuilding - in fast-forward.

Here's the volcano-cam view, weather permitting, from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Baltimore's latest snowfall

It seems unseasonably cool out there this morning. Actually, it's just about right. The low at BWI-Marshall was 51, a degree above the long-term average for May 9. Here are the normal lows for this time of year. But it was nothing like it was on this date in 1923, when snow fell in downtown Baltimore. That trace of snow still stands as the latest on record for the city.

The archives of The Sun contain a clipping from May 10, 1923 that recounts that miserable day:

"Reports from various sections of the state say considerable damage was caused to the fruit crops by the sudden drop in temperature so late in the spring," the story says. The thermometer dropped to 40 degrees in the city, and even lower elsewhere.

"The heaviest snow was reported from the mountains in the vicinity of Altamont, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, where a depth of three inches is said to have fallen," the story continues. "The temperature there at an early morning hour was 30 degrees. The ground at Frostburg was covered with snow throughout the day, with blizzard weather prevailing."

"The storm (in Cumberland) recalled the blizzard of May 10, 1861, when more than two feet fell and small game was driven from the mountains to the city for want of food," the writer says. There were "flurries" in many parts of Baltimore County. The city saw sleet during the storm, which was preceded by thunder and lightning.

So, all you snow-phobes, you may now rest easy. There's virtually no chance for snow again for exactly five months - until Oct. 9. That's the date of the earliest snowfall on record in Baltimore. The flakes fell on Oct. 9, 1895, and again on the same date in 1903. And lest you think that such freak events are a thing of the dim past, you'll note that the earliest measurable snow for Baltimore - 0.3 inch - fell on Oct. 10, 1979. The earliest significant accumulation was a 2.4-inch storm on Oct. 30, 1925.

The bad news is that the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season begins officially in exactly 23 days.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (20)
Categories: Winter weather
        

May 8, 2006

Cool, damp ocean air

Not exactly Chamber of Commerce weather anymore, is it? A low pressure system off Cape Hatteras is spinning counterclockwise, driving cool, moist ocean air onshore and across Maryland. It moved in yesterday afternoon, and what had been a warm, sunny day began to chill down. That turned out to be a good thing for my wife and I. We were losing money at Pimlico and when the air turned as chilly as our luck, we decided to get out while we still had the rent.

The forecast holds unseasonably cool highs for this afternoon - in the mid-50s. The winds are out of the northeast, with just enough drizzle to put the wipers on "intermittent."  It's not nearly enough to make up our growing precipitation shortage. I had just 0.03 inches of new rain in my gauge this morning, and the forecasters aren't expecting even a tenth of an inch in the showers expected this afternoon or tonight.

Tuesday looks drier and a bit warmer. But Wednesday will be the best we can hope for this week, as high pressure slips in with daytime temperatures near 75 degrees in sunshine. Thereafter, things slide downhill again, with showers and thunderstorms a possibility on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Great for growing new grass. Not so great for the Mother's Day barbecue. But Sunday's a long way off, and things could change.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:49 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 5, 2006

Northeast hurricane overdue

AccuWeather meteorologists have concluded that the Northeast is overdue for a major hurricane - one like the 1938 storm that ripped across Long Island and tore deep into inland New England. They seem to see a pattern of serious northeast storms following bad Gulf Coast storms by a year. The dense population and the value of development in the Northeast have increased so much since 1938 that a similar strike there today would have huge consequences, perhaps more costly than Hurricane Katrina, the forecasters argue.

One of the best accounts of the 1938 storm was "A Wind to Shake the World," written by the late Everett S. "Joe" Allen. He was a cub reporter on his first assignment for the New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times when the storm struck. He also wrote books about New England whaling and the history of Martha's Vineyard. He was still on the job and a colleague of mine in New Bedford during the 1970s, and one of the finest newspapermen and historians I have ever known. Great beach reading. But keep your NOAA Weather Radio handy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:12 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (14)
Categories: Hurricane background
        

Still dry; a little relief

The moderate drought conditions that settled in during March eased with the two significant rains we enjoyed in April. But those events failed to erase the precipitation deficit we accumulated during the late winter and early spring. The U.S. Drought Monitor maps still show abnormally dry conditions in Maryland.

We are in line for a little rain later today, and perhaps some thunderstorms and small hail. There could be more precip. again late Sunday and Monday. But forecasters aren't anticipating much moisture from these showers. The weekend, at least, looks pretty good.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Drought
        

Romanian dike bursts after heavy rains

NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite has captured photos of the aftermath of a broken dike in Romania this week. Heavy rains and melting snow in Central Europe have caused flooding along the Danube. The soaking weakened an earthen dike, which broke, flooding farmland and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents. That brought the number of people evacuated from flooded land to 16,000.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:30 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (16)
Categories: Flooding
        

May 4, 2006

Our luck runs out

The stretch of magnificent spring weather is about to come to a halt, as a cold front slips by with clouds and rain for later tonight and tomorrow. You can see our narrow little bubble of high pressure and clear skies being squeezed out on the satellite image.

The new regime likely won't bring much rain, but enough to throw a wet blanket over the clear, dry days we've enjoyed of late. Here's the forecast. The good news is, the weekend forecast has cleared up. It may be cooler than we've seen lately, but should arrive with sunshine. We'll take it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

La Nina ends; fewer hurricanes expected

Residents of hurricane country may catch a break in the upcoming 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. NASA says the La Nina phenomenon, a pattern of cool sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that encouraged Atlantic hurricane formation during the 2005 season, won't be a factor this year. The weak La Nina that prevailed last year has ended, and sea surface temperatures returned to normal in April. Forecasters still expect the coming hurricane season will be more active than the long-term average for other reasons. But they say it's unlikely to be as busy as the record-breaking 2005 season. To read more, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:28 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (17)
Categories: Hurricane background
        

May 3, 2006

Jupiter blazing

The giant of the solar system, the planet Jupiter, is blazing in the southeastern sky in the evenings this week. You can't miss it; it's the brightest object in the evening sky. The explanation is that Jupiter is at opposition tonight, meaning that Jupiter is opposite the sun from our perspective on Earth. The big planet appears to rise in the east as the sun sets in the west. It climbs to its highest point in the sky at midnight, and falls toward the western horizon by dawn.

Opposition also marks the Earth's closest approach to Jupiter for the year. That's not very close - something like 410 million miles. But it's a really big planet, so it appears huge and brilliant even to the naked eye.

If clouds frustrate your observations tonight, don't sweat it. Jupiter will remain relatively nearby, and a great target, for a couple of months. Here's a good discussion from Sky & Telescope, including a sky map showing you where to look.

UPDATE: Here's the latest from NASA. And here's Hubble's latest image of Jupiter, showing the new storm - dubbed Red Spot Jr. - that recently formed in the planet's clouds. Read more about Jr. here.

With a decent pair of binoculars, you can actually see the planet as a disk, rather than a dot. And with a steady hand and good eyesight you should be able to pick out as many as four of Jupiter's moons - Europa, Io, Callisto and Ganymede. They'll be spread out in a line on either side of the planet. These are known as the Galilean moons, because they were first described by Galileo in 1610.

His observation that the little moons moved each night he watched, and the realization that they were, in fact, orbiting Jupiter, challenged to ancient notion that everything, including the sun, revolved around the Earth. Look for these moons for several nights running and you'll see them move, too, just like Galileo.

A small telescope will reveal some of the colored bands of clouds at the top of Jupiter's atmosphere. The planet has no solid surface. It's a giant gas bag - a sort of failed sun with lots of hydrogen and helium like the sun, but too little mass to ignite thermonuclear fusion.

The opposition of Jupiter is plenty of reason to seek out one of Baltimore's streetcorner astronomers if you're at Harborplace or Fells Point. Or, attend an open house at one of the area's observatories. Do it soon. They may even throw Saturn and Mars into the package.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (24)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

"One dot rain"

That's how a forecaster in Ohio described the precipitation seen there from the weather system that's headed our way today. Sprinkle warnings, if they existed, would be posted today across the region, for one dot of rain is about all we'll see from this thing.

"Frankly, I think a lot of the area will see nothing beyond enhanced cloud cover," said NWS forecaster Andy Woodcock, in his morning forecast discussion from Sterling.

I did spot a few rain dots on my windshield on the way in this morning. One swipe of the wipers and they were gone. Here's the forecast. Tomorrow looks better - sunshine and highs near 80 degrees. But then things slide down hill, with more showers possible Friday and Saturday before the outlook improves. We could use the rain, of course. Stream flows in Central Maryland are slipping back into the red.

Tide levels, meanwhile are subsiding, apparently without any of the predicted minor flooding, Woodcock said. Click here and then click on MD for a look at current bay tide levels. They're still above predicted tides, but falling.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 2, 2006

Wet feet along the bay

The National Weather Service has issued coastal flood statements noting the risk of minor flooding - 6 to 18 inches above predicted tide levels - at high tide along the western shore of the Chesapeake today. Northwest winds should blow the bay water southward and resolve the problem by tomorrow. Here's a look at the tide patterns in Maryland. Just click on "MD."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:41 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (4)
Categories: Flooding
        

Between engagements

The radar image from the National Weather Service shows that our fortunate stance between storms at sea to our east, and storms on the cornfields to our west can't last. For several days, these two systems have lingered with little movement, allowing us some of the best spring weather available anywhere. But the squeeze is on, and our stubborn little bubble of high pressure between the lows looks like it's about to burst.

The forecast calls for the rain to our west to move closer, bringing us a small chance of showers tomorrow, and a little more from Thursday through Saturday. Here's part of this morning's chatter at Sterling, edited to clarify their EXASPERATING abbreviations:

"... MID ATLANTIC REMAINS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A VERY STUBBORN RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE. HAVE TO SAY...MODELS HAVE DONE A FINE JOB OF FORECASTING HOW WELL THIS RIDGE WOULD REMAIN IN CONTROL OF MID ATLANTIC WEATHER.

"TOOK A 3 AM OBSERVATION...NOTHING BUT STARS IN THE SKY...VERY
COMFORTABLE TEMPS...WOULD BE GREAT CAMPING WEATHER. IT DOES APPEAR THAT
CLOUDS WILL BEGIN TO INCREASE THIS AFTERNOON AS THE SYSTEM GENERATING LIGHTNING OVER ILLINOIS AND INDIANA MOVES INTO W.V. ... I FEEL MOST LIKELY AREA FOR THIS TO OCCUR IS IN THE WESTERN PART OF THE FORECAST AREA IN EVENING HOURS.

"FOR NOW HAVE (FORECAST) A LOW CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION IN THE FORECAST FOR THAT AREA. NOT EXPECTING ANY SEVERE WEATHER...DYNAMICS ARE NOT THERE..."

We could still use more rain. Although April saw more than the long-term average, March was so dry that we're still a few inches short moving toward summer.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:22 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

May 1, 2006

May turns up the heat

May arrived today with another in a string of gorgeous spring days - cool and dry and gloriously sunny. It will not last. May is arguably the beginning of summer in Maryland, a month that can bring truly hot weather. And humidity. Remember humidity? Here's the scoop:

The average temperature at BWI in May is 62.9 degrees. The average daytime high rises from 69 to 79 degrees by month's end. And the average overnight low climbs from 47 to 57 degrees. But more extreme weather is quite possible.

The record daily highs in May are almost exclusively in the 90s. Only May 1 and 2 still have record highs in the 80s. Few of us will remember them, but the hottest May days all reached 98 degrees: on May 19, 1962; May 22, 1941; May 23, 1925; and on May 30, 1991.

The coldest May day was on the 11th, in 1966, when the low was 32 degrees. And yes, it can still snow in May in Baltimore. The latest snowfall ever recorded was on May 9, 1923, when just a trace was noted in the city. It also snowed - a trace - on May 1, 1963.

The average precipitation in May at BWI is 3.89 inches. The wettest May on record there was 8.71 inches, recorded in 1989. The driest was just three years earlier, in 1986, when just 0.37 inch fell.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:45 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Almanac
        

April delivers

We could not have ordered up a better April than the one just ended last night. The drought that set in back in March was eased, although we're still running a deficit for the year. Temperatures remained pleasant. Our furnaces and utility bills caught a break (we're going to need it). And the sunshine was bountiful. Here are the stats:

The best news in April was that the rain returned after the driest March on record in Baltimore. Precipitation totaled 3.28 inches, which is about a quarter-inch more than the long-term average for Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International (pause for a breath) Airport. Most of the rain came in just two significant events. We recorded 0.93 inch on April 7-8, and got another good soaking on April 21-23, when another 1.56 inch fell.

There was even a trace of snow at BWI, on April 5. In all, we enjoyed only 8 days at BWI rated by the weather service as cloudy.

Temperatures were mild overall, averaging 57.4 degrees, or 4.2 degrees above the long-term averages. That was the result of an unusually mild stretch from April 11 to 20, during which daytime highs held in the unseasonably warm 70s and low 80s. The hottest day in April was the 20th, which reached 83 degrees at BWI. The coldest was the 10th, with a low of 33 degrees. Although we saw some frost and sub-freezing temperatures in some spots, the official airport temperature never dropped below freezing all month.

And that helped keep our heating costs down. Heating degree-days - a measure of heating demand based on temperature averages, ended April a sizable 34 percent below the long-term average for the month. For the season, we're running 11 percent to the good. Here's hoping our cooling degree-days look just as good after everone's electric rates jump in July.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:10 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

High wind, high surf, high water

Strong northeast winds today - plus scarce rain and low humidity - are combining to create fire danger in parts of the Eastern shore, plus high surf at Ocean City and points south, and in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Here's a Bethany Beach (Del.) webcam.

First, the fire hazard. Red Flag warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service's Mt. Holly, N.J. forecast office for much of New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and the upper Eastern Shore of Maryland:

"A RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM EDT THIS EVENING.

"ANOTHER DRY AND BREEZY DAY IS OCCURRING TODAY. HUMIDITY LEVELS
WILL FALL TO AROUND 20 PERCENT AT SOME LOCATIONS DURING THE
AFTERNOON AS DRY AIR MIXES DOWN FROM SEVERAL THOUSAND FEET OFF
THE SURFACE. NORTHEAST WINDS WILL INCREASE TO 15 TO 20 MPH WITH
FREQUENT GUSTS TO 25 MPH. GUSTS TO 30 MPH ARE EXPECTED OVER
EASTERN SECTIONS WHICH ARE CLOSER TO DELAWARE BAY AND THE OCEAN.
THESE ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS WILL COMBINE WITH VERY LOW FUEL
MOISTURE LEVELS TO FAVOR THE RAPID SPREAD OF ANY BRUSH OR WILD
FIRE.

"A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EXPECTED TO OCCUR. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS, LOW RELATIVE
HUMIDITY AND DRY FUELS WILL CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SIGNIFICANT
FIRE GROWTH."

The same winds, powered by high pressure to our north and low pressure out in the Atlantic to our east near Bermuda, are driving ocean water and Chesapeake Bay water to the south and west. That's creating 8 to 10-foot surf along the beaches from Ocean City south. See the purple areas on this map. The weather service has issued a high surf advisory for the region today. Here's the blustery report from a weather bouy in the Delaware Bay. And here's how things look at Chesapeake Light, just outside the mouth of the bay.

It's also affecting the Chesapeake Bay, where unusually high tides are expected in portions of tidewater Virginia. Coastal flood statements have been issued there, with minor flooding possible as the water rises 3 feet above mean sea level.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
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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