baltimoresun.com

« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

September 29, 2006

Arundel damage laid to F1 twister

The National Weather Service has determined that the wind storm that caused significant damage yesterday in Anne Arundel County was, indeed, a tornado - an F1 on the Fujita scale, meaning its winds fell into the range of 73 to 112 mph. The Fujita Scale runs from F0 to a never-yet-observed F5.

Here is a link to a rather incomplete and disorganized, but interesting NWS page with links to reports on past Maryland tornadoes.

Here's the full text of today's report:

"...A TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN IN CENTRAL MARYLAND THURSDAY EVENING...

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CONDUCTED A STORM SURVEY IN SEVERNA
PARK AND PASADENA MARYLAND TODAY. FROM THIS SURVEY... INTERVIEWS
WITH EYEWITNESSES... NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SKYWARN SPOTTERS...
AND DOPPLER RADAR IMAGERY... IT WAS DETERMINED THAT A TORNADO
TOUCHED DOWN AROUND 6:30 PM IN CENTRAL MARYLAND IN THE AREA OF
SEVERNA PARK... AND TRAVELED TWO MILES BEFORE LIFTING IN PASADENA
MARYLAND AROUND 6:40 PM. AT ITS MAXIMUM THE STORM WAS 250 YARDS WIDE
WITH WINDS OF 90 MPH WITH A RANKING OF F1 ON THE FUJITA SCALE WHICH
RUNS FROM F0 TO F5. 33 HOMES WERE SEVERELY DAMAGED BY FALLING TREES
WITH 13 OF THOSE HOMES RENDERED UNINHABITABLE.

"INITIAL MINOR DAMAGE WAS LOCATED NEAR THE INTERSECTION OF RITCHIE
HIGHWAY ROUTE 2 AND MCKINSEY AVENUE. A HARDWARE STORE HAD ITS SIGN
BLOWN DOWN AND A SMALL TREE WAS DOWNED NEAR THE SEVERNA PARK
MARKETPLACE SHOPPING CENTER. A FEW TREES WERE ALSO DOWNED
IMMEDIATELY BEHIND THE SHOPPING CENTER ALONG LEELYNN ROAD.

"THE TORNADO GATHERED STRENGTH AS IT PROGRESSED THROUGH WEST RIDGE
AND TOWARDS CATTAIL CREEK OFF OF THE MAGOTHY RIVER. FIVE LARGE
HARDWOOD TREES OF ONE TO TWO FEET IN DIAMETER WERE UPROOTED... AND
SEVERAL OTHERS WERE SNAPPED OFF ALONG WHITTIER PARKWAY. TWO OF THE
LARGE TREES HAD FALLEN THROUGH HOUSES. THESE TREES... AS MOST OF THE
TREES WERE IN THE SURVEY... WERE BLOWN DOWN NEARLY PERPENDICULAR TO
THE PATH OF THE TORNADO... KNOCKED DOWN TOWARDS THE WEST.

"THE TORNADO THEN PASSED OVER A NORTHWEST EXTENSION OF THE MAGOTHY
RIVER CALLED CATTAIL CREEK... AND REACHED ITS MOST INTENSE AND
WIDEST EXTENT AS IT PASSED THROUGH THE COMMUNITY OF LOWER MAGOTHY
BEACH. IN THIS AREA WINDS WERE ESTIMATED TO HAVE REACHED 90 MPH. AT
ITS MAXIMUM THE STORM PASSED THROUGH A VACANT LOT BETWEEN NORTH
DRIVE AND SOUTH DRIVE. IN THAT AREA NEARLY EVERY TREE WAS UPROOTED
OR SNAPPED OFF AND BLOWN DOWN TO THE WEST. MANY OF THESE TREES WERE
LARGE TWO FOOT DIAMETER HARDWOOD TREES THAT WERE 60 TO 80 FEET TALL.
IT WAS EVEN NOTED THAT A SMALL SHRUB OF THREE FEET TALL WAS
UPROOTED... AN INDICATION THAT THE CIRCULATION REACHED ALL THE WAY
TO THE SURFACE. LEAF SPATTER WAS NOTED ON THE SIDES OF HOMES AND
VEHICLES. SLIGHT SIDING DAMAGE WAS NOTED ON ONE HOME. SEVERAL HOMES
HAD DAMAGE FROM TREES OR LARGE TREE BRANCHES FALLING INTO THEM. MANY
WIRES AND TELEPHONE POLES WERE KNOCKED DOWN IN THIS AREA. THE WIDTH
OF THE TORNADO AT THIS POINT WAS 250 YARDS.

"THE TORNADO THEN BEGAN TO WEAKEN AS IT PASSED JUST WEST OF HAMILTON
HARBOR MARINA AND CROSSED OVER THE COMMUNITY OF STEWARTS LANDING
BEFORE CROSSING OLD MAN CREEK INTO RIVERDALE. DURING THIS TIME MORE
TREES WERE BEING SNAPPED OFF THEN UPROOTED AS THE TORNADO WAS
BEGINNING TO LIFT OFF THE GROUND.

"IN THE RIVERDALE AREA... A FEW TREES AND SEVERAL LARGE BRANCHES WERE
DOWN. A SMALL GARAGE WAS DESTROYED BY A TREE. DAMAGE BECAME MUCH
MORE LIMITED AS THE TORNADO CONTINUED NORTH ACROSS NORWITCH ROAD AND
INVERNESS ROAD IN RIVERDALE. BY THE TIME THE STORM CROSSED THE
MAGOTHY FOR THE FINAL TIME AND TRAVELED OVER THE COMMUNITY OF
BEACHWOOD PARK... ONLY LEAF LITTER AND SMALL DOWNED BRANCHES WERE
NOTED."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:07 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

October opens window to snow

October arrives Sunday, and with it the possibility - however remote - for snow in Baltimore. No, there's none in the forecast. But the 10th month is the first for which Baltimore has a recorded history of snowfall.

The earliest recorded date for snow in Baltimore is Oct. 9.  Just a trace fell on that date in 1895, and again in 1903, according to the National Weather Service. The earliest measurable snow was 0.3 inch, which fell on Oct. 10, 1979.

There have been traces of snow on five other occasions, all between 1930 and 1977. The only other date with measurable snow on the city's weather books is Oct. 30, 1925, when 2.4 inches was recorded downtown.

The 27-year hiatus between the last October snowfall (1979) and today is the longest on the record books, although there have been two 22-year gaps (1903-1925 and 1930-1952). Snow fell twice during October 1952, and three times during the 1970s.

Generally speaking, October is a delightful month in Baltimore. The average daily high temperature slips from 73 degrees on the 1st,to 62 degrees by Halloween. The overnight lows sink from 50 degrees to 39.

But it can still be quite warm. The record highs range from 97 degrees (Oct. 5) to 80 degrees (Oct. 25). The record lows range from 25 degrees on the 24th, to 36 degrees on the 1st.

On average, the month at BWI-Marshall sees 3.16 inches of rain, but we saw 9.23 inches only last year - the wettest October for Baltimore since 1871, thanks to the remnants of a tropical storm. The driest October on the books was in 1963 - an infamous drought year, when only a trace of October rain was recorded at BWI.

The snowiest month here, on average, is January (7 inches). The latest date for snow in Baltimore?  May 9 - a trace, in 1923. Seems a very long way off.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Become a weather spotter

Some of the first damage reports to the National Weather Service during the storms Thursday evening came from trained Skywarn weather spotters. If you're interested in weather, you, too, can become a NWS Skywarn volunteer. Classes for the fall are starting up next week, so check out the schedule and other information HERE, and see whether this weather thing is for you. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

NWS to survey storm damage

The National Weather Service is sending a storm-damage assessment team to Anne Arundel County this morning to survey wind damage. They will determine whether it was, indeed, a tornado that tore through the area last evening, and if so, how powerful it was. Here's The Sun's story. Here's this morning's NWS statement:

"SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS SPAWNED A TORNADO IN THE VICINITY OF SEVERNA
PARK MARYLAND IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY. DAMAGE HAS BEEN REPORTED IN
THE AREA. A SURVEY TEAM OF NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS
IS CURRENTLY EN ROUTE TO THE AREA TO INVESTIGATE THE DAMAGE IN THAT
AREA.

"PRELIMINARY TORNADO ASSESSMENT INFORMATION WILL BE RELEASED FRIDAY
AFTERNOON BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIA A PUBLIC
INFORMATION STATEMENT. THIS PRODUCT WILL BE ISSUED BEFORE 5 PM."

The WeatherBlog will post the statement when it becomes available. We're also happy to have readers upload any photos they have of the storm damage. Just go to our Reader's Photos page, at the bottom of the main MarylandWeather.com page, register and follow the directions for uploading your images. We've made it a bit easier than it used to be. Try it.

In the meantime, here is a rundown on some of the damage reports received by the NWS at Sterling.

Here at The Sun, our new weather station recorded 0.94 inch of rain from about 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. The temperature dropped 15 degrees in an hour with the frontal passage - from 75 degrees at 6 p.m., to 60 degrees an hour later. (The overnight low was 56.) The barometer bottomed out at 29.65 inches at 5 p.m., then began a swift climb to 29.90 inches - and still rising - at 11 a.m.

Here are some rainfall tallies:

Annapolis:  1.11 inches

Reagan National: 1.04

BWI: 1.03

Science Ctr.: 0.83

Dulles Int'l.: 0.67

Philadelphia: 0.27

Hagerstown: 0.19

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

September 28, 2006

Isaac forms in the Atlantic

The season's ninth named tropical storm has finally gotten up to speed in the central Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac, like most of its brothers and sisters this year, poses no threat to any land.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the predicted storm track. And here is the view from space.

The new storm's moniker will remind many of the book "Isaac's Storm," written by Erik Larson, about the great hurricane of 1900 that devastated the city of Galveston, Texas, and killed more than 8,000 people - still the deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history. Some regard it as one of the best books ever written about a hurricane.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:16 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Something wet this way comes

So it's another beautiful morning in Charm City, 73 degrees and sunny here alongside Bruce Willis's trailer park in Hollywood-by-the-Patapsco. But the barometer has been falling for at least 24 hours (from 30.02 to 29.82 inches), and trouble is on the way.

Forecasters say the weather will start to go downhill later this afternoon as a new cold front pushes east from, well, the west. It's shoving its way into the warm, moist air in place all up and down the East Coast. That forces the wet air to rise, which cools it down and condenses its moisture, which then falls as rain. Here's AccuWeather on the topic. You can watch the front approach on radar here.

The forecast calls for a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. But the chances jump to 90 percent for tonight, between 9 p.m. and midnight. We could get as much as 3/4-inch out of this frontal passage, plus winds gusting to 30 mph. Or so they say. The last front through here was mostly dry.

The showers could continue, off and on into the morning. But look for clearing tomorrow, but cooler, with highs only in the 60s. 

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

September 27, 2006

Inhabited planet spied

The Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting the ringed planet Saturn, has spotted an inhabited planet orbiting a distant star. Here's the image.

OK. Don't freak. It's Earth, of course, a pale blue dot, 917 million miles away and barely visible in the Cassini photograph, just to the left of Saturn's outer rings. That one small cluster of pixels captures all the life we know of in the universe, everyone and everything we love, all of human history, and all the hopes we have for our children and grandchildren.

An enlargement of the photo shows a fuzzy extension on the little planet. That's the moon, nearly merged with its parent planet by the blurring and merging of their light at such a distance.

Looking back the other way, we can see Saturn this month, briefly, in the early morning sky, rising in the east between 3 and 4 a.m., a few hours ahead of the sun.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Ho hum ... more perfect weather

Another gorgeous day in Charm City. Highs in the 70s, cool, starry nights. Anybody get out to see Jupiter and the slender new moon last evening? Crisp, clear. Perfect. But nothing lasts forever.

The forecast calls for the spell to be broken tomorrow. Look for increasingly cloudy skies as moisture moves in from the South and off the Atlantic ahead of a new cold front. Showers and thunderstorms are in the cards for later Thursday afternoon and Thursday night. Here's AccuWeather's take on the next few days.

Then more fresh, new Canadian air follows, with more beautiful weather Friday and Saturday. The highs will hold in the 60s, with a real chill in the air overnight. Another cold front, with more showers, will follow on Sunday. That's typical fall (and spring) weather. Warm, moist air from the South battling cool, dry air masses from the North. And we get them both, one after the other, punctuated by rain.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 26, 2006

Get outside this evening

Skies should be clear enough this evening to give everyone - city and country alike - an opportunity to see a beautiful conjunction of the giant planet Jupiter and a very young crescent moon.

It's easy. Just push yourself away from the dinner table, or the TV, and step outside. Get out there between, say, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Find a spot with a good view toward the southwest. And, clouds permitting, you should easily spot the crescent moon, just four days past new.  Then, just above and to the right, you'll spy a bright, star-like object - the brightest in that area. That's Jupiter, the giant of the solar system, 11 times as wide as the Earth. It looks tiny compared to the moon, but that's because it's 563 million miles away - 2,270 times farther than the moon, which is now 248,000 miles distant.

If you have 'em, put some binoculars on Jupiter. If they're powerful enough, and you can hold them steady, you may be able to make out as many as four Jovian moons, lined up on either side of the plant like a tiny solar system. These are the Galilean moons, first spied by - you guessed it - Galileo, on Jan. 7, 1610. They are: Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 25, 2006

Chilly weekend ahead

Enjoy this very pleasant September weather, because there's a heap of cold air en route. As this high-pressure system, with its clear skies and mild temperatures, begins to move out on Thursday, it will be chased off by another cold front, with another chance for significant rain on Thursday.

Behind it lies much colder Canadian air (those pesky Canadians again). Look for highs only in the 60s for the weekend, with overnight lows in the upper 40s to low 50s. That's all a bit cooler than normal for BWI. The average highs at the end of September and the beginning of October are around 73 or 74. The average lows dip to 50/51 degrees. Fireplace weather.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Gorgeous. And not California

Hard to beat this weather. The forecast calls for a few clouds, but mostly sunny skies, growing even sunnier as the day wears on. And the nice weather continues for most of the week. Highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s and 50s - great for sleeping. And the AC and the furnace are both silent.

Best of all, we don't live in Los Angeles, where smoke from the big Day Fire to the north of the city is dimming the sun and messing with everyone's air. Here is a shot from orbit of the smoke as it was blowing out to sea a week ago. And here's another, taken last Wednesday, with the wind blowing it straight into L.A.

Our air got a good scrubbing yesterday afternoon as the cold front passed through. Not much rain on the gauge - just 0.04 inch here at the paper, and 0.03 at BWI-Marshall.

But the temperature sure took a plunge, and it got a whole lot drier, too. Out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, the mercury dropped from 80 degrees to 70 degrees in the hour between 2 and 3 p.m. The overnight low was 53.

The Sun's new weather station recorded a drop from 84 degrees to 72 degrees between 3 and 4 p.m. The low early this morning was 62.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Atlantis rising

It was a beautiful day on Sept. 9 when the space shuttle Atlantis was launched toward orbit, on a mission to deliver a new structures to the International Space Station to enhance it's solar-power generating capacity. Here's a remarkable photo snapped by reader Jessica Hanson's cousin. He was on board an airliner flying from Spain, and was not far from Cape Canaveral when Atlantis blasted off. That's the shuttle's smoke and steam trail rising beyond the end of the aircraft's port wingtip. What a thrill for those passengers. If you've never witnessed a shuttle launch, I recommend that you schedule a Florida vacation around one, before they wrap up the whole program. You'll never forget it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 23, 2006

Space station flyover early Sunday

The weather forecast for tomorrow morning isn’t promising. In fact, it looks like a loser. But, on the off-chance we get a break, and skies clear enough just before dawn, Baltimoreans who are awake and vertical for some unfathomable reason will have a good opportunity to watch the International Space Station as it soars up the East Coast.

It will appear first well above the southern horizon, at 5:42 a.m. Look for a steady, white "star" hustling off toward the northeast. If it blinks, or has multiple, colored lights, it's an airplane. The station will fly through the constellation Orion and reach its peak above the southeastern horizon at 5:44 a.m., then set in the northeast at 5:48.

If clouds interfere, there's another opportunity on Monday morning, although the forecast isn't any better. But, should we get lucky, look for the space station to appear low in the west at 6:05 a.m., racing toward the northeast. It will reach its highest point at 6:06 a.m., just less than halfway up the sky above the northwestern horizon. From there, the station will move off toward the northeast, disappearing at about 6:09 a.m.

Speaking of space station flyovers, an amateur astronomer in Britain has proven that the station is now big enough, and bright enough, to photograph (with a telescope) flying overhead in broad daylight. Have a look.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 22, 2006

Today's eclipse seen by few

Don't feel bad that you missed today's solar eclipse. Hardly anybody got to see it. The path of the moon's shadow began in Guyana, and headed immediately offshore and out over the South Atlantic. Even so, a few photos are beginning to show up on the Web. Here's one taken from Barbados, where the eclipse was partial.

Actually, this eclipse was not "total" anywhere. It was an annular solar eclipse. That means the moon - currently close to its farthest distance from the Earth of the year, appears too small to cover the entire disk of the sun. So, those lucky enough to be in the path of the moon's shadow still saw plenty of sunlight, gleaming from the edges of the moon's disk. That's why these events are sometimes called "ring" eclipses.

The next total eclipse of the sun is not until 2008. The next one visible in the continental U.S. is in 2017.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

September 21, 2006

Cold, wet end to winter?

AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi has released a preliminary winter forecast for the nation. He's predicting that the weak El Nino that has developed in the central and eastern tropical Pacific will mean a mild December in the Northeast, followed in January and February by colder temperatures and storms or nor'easters for the East Coast. Whether that precipitation falls as rain or snow, he says, will depend on timing - whether cold air is in place when the coastal storms develop.

That forecast differs from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center's long-term forecasts to date, which now show a likelihood for warmer-than average temperatures for the same December-to-February period, with no strong trend apparent either way on precipitation.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Objects passing across the sun

A very clever, well-informed, well-equipped and lucky photographer in Normandy, France, has captured an extraordinary photo of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Atlantis Sunday as they passed in front of the sun as seen from his vantage point. The shuttle had just undocked from the space station and moved a few hundred yards away.

Tomorrow, a somewhat larger object - the moon - will pass in front of the sun in the year's final solar eclipse. This one will be an "annular" eclipse - one in which the moon is slightly farther from the Earth than during a total eclipse. That makes it appear smaller than the sun's disk, leaving a ring of sunlight shining around the edges of the moon's dark silhouette. The bad news is that unless you are reading this while on board a ship in the South Atlantic, you won't get a chance to witness the event. Here's more on the eclipse, and the path of the moon's shadow across the Earth.

The next total eclipse of the sun will occur Aug. 1, 2008. Unfortunately, the path of totality will begin in the high Arctic reaches of Canada and Greenland, then cross to Russia and China. Your best shot at seeing a total solar eclipse from the good ol' USA?  Live another 11 years, until Aug. 21, 2017. Here's the map. Make your reservations early.

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

A bracing morning

Those blankets on the bed felt just fine last night as the region enjoyed its first hint of fall temperatures on this, the second-to-last day of summer.

The overnight low reached 46 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, our first excursion into the 40s since June 11, and the coldest morning here since May 24.

It was 44 on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville and 53 degrees here on The Sun's Big-shot Lot. The prize for the lowest temperature I could find in the region this morning goes to Frederick, where it was 39 degrees at the airport there.

Elsewhere, it was 52 degrees at the Inner Harbor and at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Morgantown, W.Va. reported 43 degrees. It was 40 in York, Pa.

I stepped outside this morning - (OK, I stepped to the window on the 3rd floor; it was cold, and EARLY) - to try to get a glimpse of Venus and the crescent moon, low in the east just before sunrise. I had pitched the event on The Sun's Maryland Weather page on Wednesday. The sky was perfectly clear, but I was unable to see either Venus or the moon.

I was afraid that might happen. I did get a look early Wednesday morning, and spied a very, VERY slim crescent moon (but no Venus), and realized that this morning's moon would likely be much slimmer - too slim, and too near the sunrise, to see under all but ideal conditions. Venus was likewise lost in the glare of the approaching sunrise.

My apologies to all who looked today and saw nothing. I get wind of these events from Guy Ottewell's fabulous "Astronomical Calendar." It's a terrific resource, and I recommend it highly. But he is sometimes so mathematically precise that he ignores the sorts of real-world conditions most of us have to contend with in our backyard astronomy. What looks like a very slender moon and a bright planet on paper may well be invisible to anyone who isn't out on the Mohave Desert with binoculars.

I will make a mental note to hedge a bit in my future tips, reminding readers that these events can sometimes be elusive.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

September 20, 2006

TS Gordon heads for Britain

Vacationing in Great Britain this week? Take the foul weather gear. The islands are being pounded by heavy rain and wind - the remnants of Hurricane Florence. And tomorrow they're expecting the arrival of what remains of Hurricane Gordon. Gordon bashed its way across the Azores overnight. It's been downgraded since to tropical storm strength, but it's making a turn toward the north and promises heavy rain and winds for the Atlantic coast of France, and then Ireland and England.

Here's AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi and his take on the approaching storm. He says it will be one of the worst in years. The Brits are already worried about Gordon's effect on events there, although this article mistakenly attributes the most recent bad weather to Gordon. It's really Florence. Here's a satellite view. That's Gordon west of Portugal.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Frost on the pumpkin

The cold front that blew through town yesterday never did produce the rain here that National Weather Service forecasters predicted. But it sure cooled things down. And there's frost in the forecast for tonight for the Potomac highlands and other normally colder valleys to our north and west, where thermometers could slide into the 30s.

Instruments on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville dipped to 57 degrees overnight. The new weather station on the Big-shot Lot at The Sun in downtown Baltimore saw a low of 63 degrees just before dawn. It was 55 early today at BWI-Marshall Airport. But that's just for openers.

The forecast for tonight calls for lows around 47 degrees at BWI - the first excursion into the 40s there since June 11. There's no threat to the record. The coldest Sept. 21 on record at BWI was in 1962, when the low was 37, one of the coldest September days since record-keeping began here in 1871. It could be even colder early Friday - a forecast low of 45 degrees at BWI.

After that, the high-pressure system that's moving into the region today will have moved farther east, putting us into the clockwise return flow around the center of circulation, and bringing in milder air from the south. Could be close to 80 by Saturday - the first day of autumn.

For now, our air is coming from the north and west. The flow of cold wind across the still-warm Great Lakes is bringing lake-effect rains to Erie, Pa. and Buffalo, N.Y. It's the same phenomenon that dumps lots of snow onto the lee of the lakes in winter. It's just not cold enough yet for the precip to fall as snow. Erie has picked up a couple of inches of rain this week.

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

September 19, 2006

Hurricane Gordon will strike Azores

A weakening Hurricane Gordon is still expected to remain at hurricane force as it makes landfall in the Azores today. From there, it will merge with non-tropical weather systems and make a second landfall in northwestern Spain. Here's the current discussion by forecasters.

Gordon was speeding eastward at 31 mph, with top sustained winds of 85 mph. Here is the current advisory. Here's the forecast track. And here's the view from space. (Gordon is the little swirl between the hurricane (Helene) in the south and the big low swirling in the North Atlantic.)

Helene, meanwhile, remains very large and powerful, but no threat to land.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Just another sunny day...

... at Beagle Crater. Here's a very cool 360-degree panoramic photo of Mars' Beagle Crater, shot by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. Hit the enlarger button and scroll around. Here's a link to caption material. Kinda like hanging out at the neighborhood rubble dump.

Speaking of amazing pictures, ever wonder what happens to the smoke from those California wildfires we keep seeing on TV? Have a look here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

September 18, 2006

Gordon now threatens Azores

After making a U-turn in the mid-Atlantic without posing a danger to either the West Indies, the U.S. mainland or Bermuda, Hurricane Gordon is now making a bee-line, due-east toward the Azores, a Portuguese possession in the eastern Atlantic. It's an odd turn of events for an Atlantic hurricane to turn back on the Old World. Most either crash ashore someplace in the Western Hemisphere, or turn north and exhaust themselves in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Gordon remains a Category 1 storm, with top sustained winds of 90 mph. He's not expected to maintain hurricane force for his arrival in the Azores. But tropical storm conditions do now seem likely later this week. Gordon reminds me a little of Tropical Storm Delta late last November, which turned back on the Canary Islands, went ashore in Morocco and expired over Algeria.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the predicted storm track. And here's the view from space. Gordon is the storm at the upper right-hand corner of the screen, headed east. That's Helene just below him.

Helene doesn't pose a threat to any land for now, but she is a strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 125 mph. Here's the latest advisory. Here's the storm track. Helene is headed due west for now, but is expected to take a sharp dogleg to the north before too long, posing some concern for Bermuda, but not the U.S. And here's the satellite view.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Summer on the run

Enjoy this day, Maryland, because it's going to be the last day of real summer weather before autumn begins, officially, early Saturday morning. The high today at BWI could reach 86 degrees in bright sunshine. That's still five degrees short of the record for this date - 91 degrees, reached most recently in 1978. Here's how we looked yesterday from space. Click on the upper left-hand photo, then on the enlargement box when it appears.

But there's a strong cold front pushing its way eastward after bringing snow last week to the higher elevations of the Cascade Range and the northern Rockies. Added to the brew is a dose of tropical moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Lane - the Pacific storm that smacked the west coast of Mexico last week. It's all being swept up in this frontal system. And we can expect the clouds to come rolling in after midnight tonight.

By morning, it's going to look pretty gray out there. Rain will follow, with some chance for thunderstorms during the course of the morning, and maybe a half-inch of rain. The front should have passed over the Chesapeake by 2 p.m., forecasters say. Temperatures by Wednesday will struggle to reach the 70s. The overnight low Thursday morning will be only in the 40s - our first dip into the 40s at BWI since June 11, when the low was 49. And forecasters are talking about mid-30s - even some "patchy frost" - in the higher elevations to our west.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 15, 2006

More rain ahead?

It looks like this rainy period is going to top out at about an inch in the Baltimore area. Here on the Sun's Big-shot Lot, our new rain gauge finished clocking the precipitation at about 7 p.m. last night. The final total was 0.98 inch. Up on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville we recorded 1.01 inch. And out at BWI the official NWS instruments reported 0.92 inch, the largest rainfall since Sept. 5, when a post-Ernesto storm dropped 1.78 inches.

But while the rain seems to have stopped for now, the weather service says there's still some (30 percent) chance for showers as the day wears on. The problem is that stubborn, slow-moving low-pressure system off the Atlantic coast, that is keeping us in clouds. There is clearer, drier air to our west (click here, and then on the satellite photo on the right to see how the clouds looked yesterday) but it may not break through to us today. The forecasters do say that, after gradual clearing tomorrow, we can expect some really nice weather by Sunday. Here's the forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 14, 2006

A nice little rain

The rain that started in the small hours of the morning has dropped 0.86 inch so far on The Sun's new weather station just off Centre Street downtown. Instruments at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have recorded 0.78 inch. Annapolis has seen 0.77 inch.

Blame a storm center off the Carolina coast, which has been kind of pokey in moving out of the region. That's kept this cool, wet flow of air coming at us from off the Atlantic. Here's AccuWeather's take on it. Once it decides to clear out, the skies should clear for the weekend.

Be thankful you're not a merchant seaman, bucking the Atlantic out where Hurricane Gordon is spinning. Gordo is a Category 3 storm at last check, with top sustained winds over 120 mph. It's the first major (Cat. 3 or higher) storm of the season. He's moving harmlessly off to the northeast, but he sure is good looking.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Hotter future for Maryland?

Environment Maryland, which describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan environmental advocacy organization, has produced a report on rising temperatures in the U.S. and Maryland, which it attributes to global warming.

The report, released today and citing data from the National Climatic Data Center, notes that the first seven months of this year were the warmest January-to-July period on record for the continental United States. In Maryland, the same period was 2.8 degrees above the average for that period during the 20th century. Since 2000, the report said, Baltimore has averaged 0.9 degrees warmer than the average for 1971 to 2000.

The group is calling on Maryland's representatives in Congress to support passage of the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642) "to harness clean energy solutions and reduce U.S. global warming emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050."

For the report's executive summary, and a link to the full report, click here. Read it, then leave a comment here.

There's almost no credible scientific debate anymore about the reality of global warming. It's happening. You can explore the temperature trends for Maryland, the region and the nation for yourself, using this tool from the NCDC.

The remaining questions are about how big a role human activity is playing, and whether its potential consequences warrant individual, national and global action to reduce the emission of "greenhouse" gases, and whether such action would make a significant difference in our future in any case. Your thoughts?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change
        

September 13, 2006

Cold winter ahead?

Just what we need, right? Electric rates are high and headed higher, and now the Old Farmer's Almanac - and amateur climate prognosticator Jim Hughes - are both talking about a really, really cold winter coming up.

The Old Farmer is forecasting a cold winter for much of the U.S., as much as 8 degrees below normal, and snowy in the Upper Midwest and Northwest. Hughes is looking at something here approaching the Winter of 1976-77 - one of the coldest on record in Baltimore. Snow fell in Miami that January.

Here's a Bloomberg News story on the Old Farmer's Almanac forecast, just out. Here's a link to the Old Farmer himself.

And here's email I received from Jim Hughes back in June. He bases his forecasts on observable cycles in space weather phenomena and what he sees as their influence on global weather patterns. You'll notice that he accurately forecast reduced hurricane activity in the Atlantic this season. We'll see how he does with his winter forecast. I expect he'll update it in a few weeks.

"Coldest Winter in 30 years ahead?

"I have been doing some research lately in regards to the space weather effect upon weather / climate patterns. Especially in regards to global warming and how this might all fit together.  I have been looking at things from all directions and not just from the troposphere/atmosphere.

"I believe things happen for a reason, like our current warmth cycle.  So I am trying to find out why all of this is happening and what's the possible triggering mechanism. (Besides the contribution of the CO2 rise)  More later about GW .

"Some of this research also revolved around the recent increase in tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin during the past decade.  So I am hoping that I can get together a seasonal outlook for the upcoming hurricane season in the upcoming days.

"( This summer's space weather will be less conducive for major hurricanes to develop so I feel very comfortable in saying that we will be seeing less major hurricanes this season and the overall strength of the season will be considerably lower.  But this does not mean that the season will be quiet due to the positive effect of the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation). The positive AMO still favors an overall increase in the total number of storms compared to average.  )

"My main reason for this e-mail discussion is about this upcoming winter.

"I wanted to go on record now about this upcoming winter for the Northeast. I am going to be talking about some possible relationships in some weather forums during the upcoming weeks and these forums are visited by numerous meteorologists on both the national and local level.

"Now  I have no idea when their own winter outlooks will be coming out. So I did not want anyone to think that I was jumping on a bandwagon here.  I actually expect the exact opposite to occur within good time.

"There is a very good chance that  a good deal of the USA , especially the Northeast , is going to experience one of its coldest winters in quite some time. My current research and space weather methodology  keeps pointing me towards the winter of 1976-77.

"Some of you might recall that the winter of 1976-77 was one very cold winter and you have to go back to 1963 to find a colder one for the Washington DC area. And many other places for that matter.

"I believe only a major volcanic eruption can keep this  winter from being considerably below average.  Indonesia's  Mt. Merapi has been making the news lately about its sizable eruptions.  Some of these have been fairly large but none of them have been extremely large. Only an eruption like Pinatubo(1991)  or El Chichon (1982)  can play a role here.

"So I feel extremely confident that the upcoming winter will be very cold if a major volcanic eruption does not occur between now and then ...  - Jim Hughes"

For the record, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction are forecasting winter temperatures above the long-term averages for most of the continental U.S., with equal chances for above- or below-normal temperatures along the East Coast. As for precipitation, the feds say we have equal chances for above- or below-normal rain and snow this winter. The Southeast will likely be dry.

Here's what U.S. precipitation trends are like during El Nino winters. And here are the temperature trends. (We are entering a weak El Nino period, according to climate experts.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Hurricane update

Hurricane Florence has been carried off to her reward after giving the island of Bermuda a good blow. Florence is now "extra-tropical," meaning, basically, that it is being absorbed by more routine weather systems across the North Atlantic. Top sustained winds remain at 75 mph, however, and Atlantic Canada is taking some bad weather today. Next stop: Ireland.

In the meantime, the tropical Atlantic continues to kick up storms. Hurricane Gordon, now at 90 mph appears doomed to spin its life away far at sea, which is just fine with Bermuda and with us. And now a depression that will likely become Tropical Storm Helene has begun its existence in the far eastern Atlantic.

So far, these storms have spent their energies primarily at sea, swept to the north and east after leaving the tropics by steering winds around strong high pressure over the central Atlantic. That high spins clockwise, and it is hauling these storms around the west side of its circulation - from "six o'clock to 12 o'clock," if you will - before they can approach the U.S. east coast. Had that high been situated farther west, we might be seeing these hurricanes sweeping up into the Carolinas.

We may have El Nino to thank, in part, for that. The episodic warming of  surface waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific shifts weather patterns around the globe. Shearing winds and displaced circulation tends to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

Here's the final advisory for Florence, her last predicted storm track and the rather impressive view from orbit.

Here's Gordon's latest advisory. Here's the storm track. And here is the satellite view.

And finally, here's the scoop on what should become Helene. Here's her predicted path. And here's how she looks from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 12, 2006

A new tropical depression

The 2006 Atlantic season is really picking up. The National Hurricane Center says a new tropical depression has formed this morning in the far eastern Atlantic, right off the African coast about 185 miles southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. Top sustained winds are just 30 mph, but the storm is expected to become the season's eighth tropical storm (39 mph) later today or tomorrow, and a hurricane by Friday. If so, its name will be Helene.

Here is the satellite view. Here is the first advisory. And here is the expected storm track

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:11 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Take the rain, plan the weekend

OK, so it's beginning to look like a cool, drippy week. Forecasters are calling for gray skies and an increasing chance of showers until Friday. But think of it as a down payment on the weekend. Once the gray skies move out, we're looking at sunshine and highs in the upper 70s through the weekend and into Monday. Here's the forecast.

In the meantime, onshore breezes will continue to shove water onto the Western Shore. Winds at the Sun's Big-shot Lot are blowing out of the east at about 5 mph this morning, gusting to 9 mph. The same wind is kicking up rough surf at the beaches, and there could be minor flooding at high tides. Here's the Kite Loft beach cam.

And look where Hurricane Florence's storm-force winds may be headed in the next week or so. Ireland.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 11, 2006

Tropical Storm Gordon is born

The seventh tropical storm of the season was born today. Gordon is spinning in the Atlantic about 425 miles northeast of the Leeward Islands. It's a threat only to shipping and fish. But it is expected to strengthen in the next 24 hours and reach hurricane strength sometime Wednesday - the third hurricane of the season.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the predicted storm track. And here is the view from space.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence passed over Bermuda today with plenty of rain, wind and surf, but evidently with little serious damage. Here's the Royal Gazette's account.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

A little rain gives way to sun

Some portions of our region managed to register a little bit of rain this morning. The new gauge beside the Big-shot Lot here at The Sun registered 0.05 inch. I suspect I will have more than that on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, where it was raining pretty steadily for a time this morning. BWI shows less.

We should see some brightening this afternoon, maybe even a peek at the sun. But it looks like more rain is due Wednesday and Thursday. And that's OK. We need it. In the meantime, there are coastal flood statements up along the Western Shore, and out along the Atlantic beaches (along with high surf advisories, a consequence of Hurricane Florence). Looks for some minor flooding at high tides today. Here is the coastal hazard statement.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 10, 2006

Big surf, rip currents

Hurricane Florence will not be a direct threat to Maryland's coastline, but forecasters say we should expect rough surf - 8 to 10 feet high - rip currents and minor flooding at high tides at the beaches early this week.

Florence has already begun to batter Bermuda, located about 700 miles southeast of Baltimore. The storm could become a Category 2 hurricane before passing the island on Monday. Here is the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Here is the predicted storm track. And here is the view from Space.  This is the link to the Bermuda Gazette.

And here is the high surf advisory for Maryland's beaches:

...HIGH SURF ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM MONDAY TO 12 PM EDT
WEDNESDAY...

...MINOR COASTAL FLOODING POSSIBLE AROUND TIMES OF HIGH TIDE
MONDAY AND TUESDAY...

A PERSISTENT NORTHEAST WIND...ALONG WITH SWELLS FROM HURRICANE
FLORENCE...WILL COMBINE TO PRODUCE HIGHER THAN NORMAL WATER
LEVELS ALONG THE COASTS OF THE LOWER MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA
EASTERN SHORE...AND NORTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA MONDAY THROUGH
TUESDAY. ALSO SUBJECT TO MINOR TIDAL FLOODING WILL BE AREAS ALONG
THE LOWER PORTION OF CHESAPEAKE BAY...INCLUDING THE TIDEWATER
REGION AND LOWER PENINSULA.

THE HIGHER OF THE TWO DAILY HIGH TIDES WILL OCCUR ALONG THE MID
ATLANTIC COASTAL WATERS AND LOWER PORTION OF CHESAPEAKE BAY BETWEEN
10 AM AND NOON ON MONDAY...AND AGAIN BETWEEN 11 AM AND 1 PM ON
TUESDAY. IT IS DURING THESE TIMES THAT MINOR TIDAL FLOODING MAY
OCCUR...AS ASTRONOMICAL TIDES REMAIN ABOVE NORMAL FOLLOWING THE
RECENT FULL MOON PHASE. IN ADDITION...ASTRONOMICAL HIGH TIDES ARE
ALSO NEARING MAXIMUM LEVELS FOR THE YEAR...AS THEY PEAK WITH THE
NEXT FULL MOON IN OCTOBER. THE ABOVE NORMAL TIDES AS A RESULT FROM
BOTH MONTHLY AND YEARLY PEAK PHASES WILL ALLOW FOR AN INCREASED
RISK FOR MINOR TIDAL FLOODING...EVEN WITH RELATIVELY MINIMAL TIDAL
DEPARTURES OF 1 TO 2 FEET.

IN ADDITION...INCREASING LONG PERIOD SWELLS FROM DISTANT HURRICANE
FLORENCE WILL GENERATE ROUGH SURF AND POSSIBLE MINOR BEACH EROSION
ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC COASTS BEGINNING MONDAY...AND LIKELY
PERSISTING THROUGH MID WEEK. WAVES ARE EXPECTED TO BUILD BETWEEN 8
AND 10 FEET IN THE NEARSHORE WATERS MONDAY THROUGH EARLY WEDNESDAY.
A HIGH RISK OF RIP CURRENTS CAN ALSO BE EXPECTED MONDAY THROUGH
WEDNESDAY.

RESIDENTS IN LOW LYING AREAS ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC COAST AND
LOWER CHESAPEAKE BAY SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF
MINOR TIDAL FLOODING...DURING TIMES OF HIGH TIDE FROM THE LATE
MORNING THROUGH EARLY AFTERNOON HOURS MONDAY AND TUESDAY. IF YOU
LIVE IN AN AREA THAT RECEIVES TIDAL FLOODING...TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO
PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY. MOVE YOUR VEHICLE TO HIGHER GROUND BEFORE
THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE.

A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN
THE ADVISORY AREA...PRODUCING RIP CURRENTS AND LOCALIZED BEACH
EROSION.
.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 8, 2006

Florence a threat to Bermuda

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting that Tropical Storm Florence will begin a turn toward the north shortly and the center of its forecast track plows right across the island. While Flo's top sustained winds remain at just 50 mph - well below hurricane strength - it is still expected to strengthen to hurricane force (74 mph) - perhaps even Category 3 strength (111 mph) - before reaching Bermuda Monday morning.

Here is the latest advisory. And here is the view from space. Here is AccuWeather's take on the threat to the former British colony. And here is the Bermuda Weather Service link.

And finally, here is the link to the Royal Gazette, in Hamilton. The young lady in the photo (if she's still there when you go looking for her) will point you toward the Florence story.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Clear sailing ahead

Looks like more hazy/sunny days ahead for the weekend, with highs comfortable in the low- to mid-80s. We should get some newer, fresher air in here by Monday, when a cold front moves down from Canada and delivers more September-like weather.

High temperatures starting Monday will slip a notch, into the 70s for the start of next week. But there's no significant rain in sight, continuing the long-term dry trend that's prevailed since at least May. It was interrupted, of course, in big ways, by late June's week-long torrential rainfall, and by Tropical Storm Ernesto as September got underway last week. That Ernesto rain, by the way, did knock out the moderate drought conditions that had developed by late August in much of Maryland. Here's the new Drought Monitor map, released yesterday. But the default trend for our region, when tropical moisture isn't involved, appears to be very dry.

Here at The Sun building on Calvert Street, meanwhile, we are beginning to work with our new Davis Vantage Pro 2 wireless weather station. It was installed Wednesday alongside the executive parking lot - the Big-shot Lot. I think the wind vane still needs some calibration, but otherwise it appears to be working well. We can now read, record and track - from the newsroom - outdoor temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, wind chill, heat index, dew point and rainfall.

For the record, the overnight low for any overworked exec who felt obliged to sleep here in his car last night was 65 degrees between 6 and 7 a.m. Yesterday's high was 81 degrees between 3 and 4 p.m. Yesterday's high at BWI was also 81 degrees, but the low this morning sank to 59.

Our goal, as we begin to accumulate a database, is to make the information available on the MarylandWeather.com Web site as a supplement to data provided by National Weather Service stations across the region. We're hoping it will provide us with a useful record of the weather in downtown Baltimore.

The unofficial NWS station at the Maryland Science Center does provide some limited information for urban residents. But because of its location alongside the science center, that data does not include wind speed and direction. When the harbor taxi capsized a few years back, and later when the tourist balloon on President Street malfunctioned in windy weather, the nearest reliable record of changes in wind speed was at BWI. A station here at The Sun might have been useful to our reporting of the event.

If nothing else, the new instruments here on Calvert Street will provide us with more fodder for the WeatherBlog and the Weather Page on the back of the Maryland section of the paper, and another point of comparison for readers watching the weather out their own back door.  More on the new weather station as we get it up and running, we hope, in the coming weeks.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 6, 2006

Green aurora over Michigan

Just about the only reason I can think of for wanting to live in the far northern regions of the United States (and I've lived there, so I know) is the opportunity to watch the Northern Lights. One of these day's I'll sweet-talk an editor into sending me and a photographer to Minnesota, or Alaska, or Iceland to do a story on the Aurora Borealis. Here's why: a photo of an eerie green aurora last week over Lake Superior and the upper peninsula of Michigan, complete with a few clouds for atmosphere, and a gorgeous dark-sky splash of stars. It's the kind of scene you never forget if you see it in person.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:20 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Florence expected to strengthen

Tropical Storm Florence remains a factor to consider in our weather future. The sixth named storm of the season continues to drift west northwest across the open Atlantic, with top sustained winds of just 45 mph. Little Flo seems to be having some difficulty getting her act together, and is being buffeted by wind shear that could prevent further development. But forecasters for the moment still expect the storm to get better organized and strengthen as the days go by, becoming a hurricane by Friday.

After that, there's a good chance the storm will curve more toward the north, getting whipped around the west side of a high-pressure system at sea. That would spare the East Coast and Bermuda. But this morning's discussion by folks at the National Hurricane Center seemed to suggest some lingering chance that Florence could delay that turn and remain a potential threat.

Here's the latest advisory. Here's the predicted storm track. And here's the view from space, with Florence just beginning to show up on the right side of the screen.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Showers possible today, then "glorious"

Radar is showing a few showers drifting by to our north and west. The forecasters at Sterling say some of that moisture could affect the northern and western suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, but the rest of the area looks good to go for what one Penn State forecaster quoted in today's newspaper called "glorious" weather for the balance of the week.  Sunshine and highs in the 80s. Late summer and early autumn in Baltimore is one of the best times of the year, although I remain partial to April myself.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 5, 2006

September is a gusher

The rain that began this morning in Baltimore continues to fall, and forecasters are warning of the possibility for localized urban flooding. More rain is on tap for tomorrow. But once we get through tomorrow, skies clear and the temperatures warm into the 80s. Clear sailing ahead. But meanwhile...

The instruments at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall (pause for breath) Airport have clocked almost 1.7 inches already today. That comes on top of the 3.63 inches that fell as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto blew through. Do the math, and it comes to 5.32 inches for the very young month so far. The average September at BWI produces 3.98 inches. The accumulation so far makes this the wettest since September 2003, when Tropical Storm Isabel (and another heavy rainfall a few days later) came through town, leaving 7.47 inches of rainwater behind.

Even more impressive, the rain that fell  with Ernesto alone (3.63 inches) was more than the airport received during all of July and August (3.31 inches) combined. The tropical torrents that fell in the final week of June, and the heavy rain we got from Ernesto, stand together as very wet bookends for a very dry summer in Baltimore.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:57 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Tropical Storm Florence is born

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Depression #6 has finally reached tropical storm status, thus becoming Florence, the 6th named storm of the 2006 Atlantic season. The storm's top sustained winds have reached 40 mph - just above the 39 mph threshold for tropical storms. It remains a threat only to shipping for now. But forecasters will be keeping close watch on the new storm, which is predicted to become a hurricane - the season's second - by Friday morning. If it holds together, it could become a threat to the East Coast next week.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

We're approaching the peak of the Atlantic season. And if it's beginning to feel like a relatively quiet one, that may be because it is. Famed hurricane forecaster William Gray, at Colorado State University, late last week scaled back his forecast. He and his partner Phil Klotzbach had been predicting a more-active-than-usual season, though not a record-breaker like 2005. But they have steadily scaled back their predictions as the summer wore on.

In their latest forecast, Klotzbach and Gray are predicting a slightly quieter-than-average season. With 13 named storms, of which 5 will become hurricanes, two of them "intense," meaning Category 3 or higher. If they're right, this would be the calmest Atlantic hurricane season since 1999.

Their new forecast is down from the 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 intense hurricanes they predicted on Aug. 1. It's down even more from their forecast, published May 31, for 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, 5 of them intense.

Klotzbach and Gray concede "we significantly over-estimated August activity" in their earlier forecasts. "We now anticipate that the 2006 Atlantic basin topical cyclone season will be considerably less active than the seasonal activity we anticipated in our earlier forecasts."

The reason, they say, is an "unexpected increase in tropical Atlantic mid-level dryness (with large amounts of African dust) and a continued trend toward El Nino-like conditions in the eastern and central Pacific."

El Ninos - unusually warm surface waters in the eastern and central tropical Pacific - tend to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic. So does airborne dust blowing off the African deserts and drifting out over the hurricane-forming regions of the Atlantic.

For the record, the last time we had a Tropical Storm Florience was in November 2000. The storm wandered in the Atlantic for a time, grew to a Cat. 1 hurricane for about a day, passed within 65 nautical miles of Bermuda, then weakened and ran off toward Newfoundland and out of the picture. There was no damage associated with her, but three people died in Florence-related rip currents on North Carolina beaches.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 4, 2006

The Mississippi on the move

Here's a cool image - actually a map, coupled with a photo - that has little to do with the weather, unless you consider that nearly every raindrop that falls between, like, Waterford, Pa. and Yellowstone Park, has to drain, eventually, down the Mississippi River. It shows the results of a 1944 geological study of river sediments on the Mississippi to identify a variety of ancient river beds, reflecting the constant movement of that bed over the centuries, until man-made levees began to rein it in. The photo was taken from orbit in 1999.

Anyway, it's very cool, and I thought you'd enjoy it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Florence in the wings

Here we are, still cleaning up after Ernesto, and the National Hurricane Center is already watching a new tropical depression in the central Atlantic. It's Tropical Depression No. 6 for now, but with a little strengthening, it will soon )perhaps later today) become Tropical Storm Florence - the sixth named storm of the season.

Forecasters say TD6 this morning was still far from any landfall - 1,345 miles east of the West Indies, moving toward the northwest at about 12 mph. Top sustained (1-minute duration) winds were estimated at 35 mph. At 39 mph TD6 would become TS Florence.

We are now approaching the peak of the hurricane season, although some of our worst experiences with these storms have come in late September (Isabel in 2003) and October (Hazel in 1954 and the big storm of 1933).

Here is the latest advisory on TD6. Here is the forecast storm track, which shows the storm becoming a hurricane by Friday. And here is the view from space. TD6 is the cloudy smudge on the left.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 2, 2006

Latest Ernesto rain totals

Here's a pretty impressive list of Ernesto rain totals from up and down the east Coast. Five to 10 inches for the Maryland sites they list. Lots of us had much less. But a gusher of rain nonetheless. Remember, BWI got 5.9 inches over seven days back in June. This 5-incher dropped in two days.

Just back from a day in downtown Baltimore, where the sky appeared to be clearing off. But it was still dripping from Towson north. Bye bye Ernesto.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Some rain totals

The rain's not quite over for Baltimore, but here are some preliminary Ernesto rain totals from around the region as of late last night. BWI has seen 3.22 inches as of this morning, about where they expected in forecasts late Friday morning. Here is a more comprehensive list.

We've had just 1.31 inches here at 7 a.m. at the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. It's still raining at about a tenth of an inch per hour, and the barometer is still near its low of 29.81 for this storm, but it does appear to have turned this morning, and is headed back up. The wind shifted from east to west at about 6 p.m. last night, so we're surely on the trailing side of the low. The peak wind here was just 17 mph, around 1 a.m., but my anemometer is sheltered by the house.

If you have a rain gauge, leave a comment and let us know how much rain you've seen. And don't forget to post your photos on the Readers' Photo Gallery on the main page of MarylandWeather.com.

This storm sure didn't live up to the forecasters' earlier 5- to 10-inch predictions for rainfall  - at least not around Baltimore. I wonder how much the experience of the past two years in Florida and the Gulf has affected their "better safe than sorry" genes, resulting in more cautious, "worst-case scenario" forecasting.

It's also quite possible that they mean what they say when they tell us that meteorology has vastly improved the accuracy of storm-track forecasts (which they got right with Ernesto), while forecasters' skill at predicting the intensity of these storms lags way behind. They did seem to get the rain right 24 hours out. Somebody said recently that intensity forecasting for tropical systems is about where track forecasting was in the 1950s. Ernesto may be a case in point.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:25 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 1, 2006

Creeks are rising

The National Weather Service has posted coastal flood warnings along the western shore of the Chesapeake. Persistent winds from the east are continuing to push water across the bay and up into the rivers and creeks. High tides could rise 2 to 3 feet above predicted levels. This is about twice what they were forecasting yesterday. The switch from coastal flood "watches" to coastal flood "warnings" means that this flooding is occurring now, or imminent.  Here's the skinny:

"THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VA HAS ISSUED A COASTAL FLOOD
WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 AM EDT
SATURDAY. THE COASTAL FLOOD WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

THE REMNANTS OF ERNESTO ARE MOVING NORTH FROM SOUTHEAST VIRGINIA.
WITH STRONG ONSHORE WINDS...WATER LEVELS ARE CONTINUING TO RISE ON
THE WESTERN SHORE OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND TIDAL POTOMAC. TIDES
ARE EXPECTED TO BE 2 TO 3 FEET ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL PREDICTIONS. A
FEW LOCATIONS MAY SEE WATER LEVELS 4 FEET ABOVE PREDICTED ASTRONOMICAL
TIDES TONIGHT IN SMALLER BAYS AND INLETS ON THE WESTERN SHORE OF
THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...UPPER TIDAL PATUXENT RIVER...AND UPPER TIDAL
POTOMAC RIVER.

THE TIDES MOST LIKELY TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH FLOODING AT A FEW
SELECTED LOCATIONS ARE...

ALEXANDRIA VA          302 AM EDT SAT
WASHINGTON CHANNEL DC  254 AM EDT SAT
BOWLEY BAR MD          254 AM EDT SAT
HAVRE DE GRACE MD      514 AM EDT SAT
BALTIMORE MD           203 AM EDT SAT
USNA ANNAPOLIS MD     1225 AM EDT SAT
SOLOMONS ISLAND MD     918 PM EDT FRI
INDIAN HEAD MD         228 AM EDT SAT
COBB POINT MD          913 PM EDT FRI

A COASTAL FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS OCCURRING OR IMMINENT.
COASTAL RESIDENTS IN THE WARNED AREA SHOULD BE ALERT FOR RISING
WATER...AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:49 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Ernesto downgraded

Ernesto was downgraded late this morning from a tropical storm to a tropical depression, with top sustained winds under 38 mph. 

The fifth tropical storm of the season was born as a tropical depression on Aug. 24 just east of the southern windward islands, north of the South American coast. It grew to tropical storm strength the next day and was named Ernesto. It crossed the eastern Caribbean and reached hurricane strength early on Sunday, Aug. 27 - the first hurricane of the season. But it was beginning to run into the island of Hispaniola, and by 5 p.m. that same day it was downgraded again to a tropical storm. It's been a plucky, long-lived storm. But it never did regain hurricane force.

The National Hurricane Center has issued its final advisory on Ernesto, and handed off the forecasting and warning responsibilities to local forecasting offices.

Here's the last advisory. Here's the storm track, which hasn't changed visibly. And here's the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

High water for Maryland beaches

Here is an advisory from the NWS for folks along the beaches today:

...HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM EDT SATURDAY...

...MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING POSSIBLE AROUND TIME OF HIGH TIDE
THIS AFTERNOON...

EASTERLY WINDS OF 30 TO 40 MPH WILL CONTINUE THIS AFTERNOON AS
THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION ERNESTO TRACK INLAND ACROSS
EASTERN AND VIRGINIA...AND STRONG HIGH PRESSURE BUILDS ACROSS
SOUTHEAST CANADA AND NEW ENGLAND.

THE STRONG ONSHORE FLOW WILL RESULT IN HIGHER THAN NORMAL WATER
LEVELS ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC COAST TODAY...WITH TIDES EXPECTED
TO BE 3 TO 4 FEET ABOVE NORMAL AT THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE
THIS AFTERNOON. GIVEN THE FORECAST TIDAL DEPARTURES...HIGH TIDE
FRIDAY AFTERNOON WOULD BE 6 TO 6.5 FEET MEAN LOWER LOW WATER. AT
THESE LEVELS...MINOR TO MODERATE TIDAL FLOODING WILL OCCUR...
THOUGH WITH TIDES OVER 6 FEET MEAN LOWER LOW WATER...MODERATE
COASTAL FLOODING WOULD OCCUR.

THE FOLLOWING ARE THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE THIS AFTERNOON...AND THE
EXPECTED WATER LEVEL MEAN LOWER LOW WATER...

AT OCEAN CITY FISHING PIER...HIGH TIDE WILL OCCUR AT 2:22 PM...
WITH THE EXPECTED LEVEL AROUND 6 FEET MEAN LOWER LOW WATER.

IN ADDITION...THE STRONG EASTERLY FLOW WILL GENERATE ROUGH SURF
AND POSSIBLE MINOR BEACH EROSION ALONG VIRGINIA BEACH AND THE
NORTHERN OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA. A HIGH RISK OF RIP
CURRENTS CAN BE EXPECTED FRIDAY.

RESIDENTS IN LOW LYING AREAS ALONG OR CLOSE TO THE ATLANTIC COAST
SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF MINOR TIDAL FLOODING
THIS AFTERNOON. IF YOU LIVE IN AN AREA THAT RECEIVES TIDAL
FLOODING...TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY. MOVE YOUR
VEHICLE TO HIGHER GROUND BEFORE THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE.

A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN
THE ADVISORY AREA...PRODUCING RIP CURRENTS AND LOCALIZED BEACH
EROSION.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

August, and summer, are history

Almost unnoticed as we all focused on Ernesto, the (meteorological) summer ended at midnight last night, along with the month of August. Here's the rundown:

August ended with an average temperature of 78.4 degrees. That made it 3.9 degrees above the 30-year average. It wasn't as hot as July, which averaged 79.8 degrees at BWI-Marshall. But when compared with the monthly averages, August saw a greater departure from the norm than July: 3.9 degrees, versus 3.3 degrees.

August was also the driest month of the summer. The airport recorded just 1.45 inch of rain in August. That was 2.29 inches below the 30-year norm.

As for the Summer of 2006, despite the moderate agricultural drought that developed in the season's closing weeks, the summer averaged out close to normal. That's because of all the torrential rain that fell at the end of June.  We had 7.32 inches of rain in June, leaving a surplus of 3.89 inches to work from during the balance of the summer. July was dry, with just 1.86 inches of rain. That drained 1.99 inches from the surplus. August tapped 2.29 inches more and wiped out the June surplus entirely. In the end, the summer finished with a rain deficit of just 0.39 inch at BWI. Practically average in the end, despite all the rather extreme weather along the way.

Temperature-wise, the Summer of 2006 ended on the hot side. The average temperature was 77.1 degrees, or 2.8 degrees above the 30-year norm. That makes it the hottest summer since 1995, which averaged 78.7 degrees. The airport counted 37 days (June through August) with daily highs of 90 degrees or more.

September is a transitional month. The astronomical summer ends this year with the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at 6 minutes after midnight on Sept. 23.

September is still very summery in Baltimore. But the weather does get much more pleasant. At BWI, the average high temperature slips during September from 82 degrees on the 1st, to 73 degrees on the 30th. The average daily lows drop from 61 degrees to 51 degrees.

It can still be very hot. The record maximums remain solidly in the 90s, with a few 100-plus daily records on the books. But there can be a real touch of fall. The record lows range from 67 degrees (on the 4th) to just 49 degrees (on the 28th).

Average rainfall in September is 3.98 inches. (It's never snowed in Baltimore in September - at least not since record-keeping began in 1871.) The wettest September was in 1934, when 12.41 inches fell. The driest was in 1884, when the city received a scant nine hundredths of an inch.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Patience and rain

Already I'm getting questions. "So what's the big deal? Where's the rain?" Well, it is raining. And it will rain more. The sprinkles on the WeatherDeck began at 7:30 a.m. And while the official instruments at BWI-Marshall haven't seen much yet, a few locations around the region have recorded up to a half-inch.

That said, the weather service has once again scaled back its rain predictions for the state. Here is the latest:

"THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL STORM ERNESTO WILL MOVE NORTH OVER THE
  MID ATLANTIC REGION TODAY AND TONIGHT. RAIN WILL CONTINUE TO
  FALL OVER THE REGION THROUGH LATE TONIGHT. THE HEAVIEST RAINS
  ARE EXPECTED TO FALL ALONG AND EAST OF INTERSTATE 95 WHERE
  RAINFALL TOTALS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES ARE LIKELY. 1 TO 3 INCHES OF
  RAIN IS EXPECTED WEST OF THIS LINE. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS OF
  RAINFALL ARE POSSIBLE ALONG EASTERN FACING SLOPES OF HIGHER
  TERRAIN."

To help put 6 inches of rain in perspective, BWI recorded 5.97 inches of rain during the June deluge, but it fell over SEVEN DAYS. Here's the current radar loop for the Northeast.

Meanwhile, the storm center is still in North Carolina.

And that means the rains will be falling, and the winds will be blowing onto the Western Shore of the Bay, and up into the rivers and creeks, all day long. Even at last night's high tide, the harbor water was lapping over the low portion of the ferry dock at Harborplace. (And not at "Constellation Dock" as our Web story said this morning. I have no idea how that got into the story. The sloop of war is docked at Pier 1, which is considerably higher than the ferry dock. If Pier 1 went under the waves, we'd have serious problems down there. We don't.)

Here is a link to some real-time tide data. Here is the local forecast. Looks like the bulk of the rain will come tonight as the storm's center goes by.

Anyway, Ernesto's center was still spinning this morning in North Carolina. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the predicted track. And here is the view from space this morning as the sun came up.

Finally, if you see flooding, or other weather impacts today you think are newsworthy, don't hesitate to email me. And remember you can upload and post your pictures on the MarylandWeather.com readers' photo gallery, at the bottom of the MarylandWeather.com main page.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        
Keep reading
Recent entries
Archives
Categories
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
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts
SKY NOTES WEATHER

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected