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November 30, 2006

Buckle up, batten down

There are high wind watches up across our region. We're being told to expect sustained winds over 40 mph across most of the state tomorrow afternoon, with gusts above 58 mph, as this stormy cold front crosses the region. They're calling for high water along the bay shore, too - 1 to 2 feet above normal tides. They're already rising this afternoon, as this chart shows. (Click to enlarge.)

Thursdaytides

Also expect brief, heavy rains in thunderstorms and rapidly falling temperatures.

It was nearly 72 degrees here this afternoon at The Sun's monitoring station at Calvert and Centre streets. BWI reported 71 degrees this afternoon, too. The record for a Nov. 30 in Baltimore is 74 degrees, set downtown in 1933. The overnight readings are forecast to fall to 37 degrees by tomorrow night, and to 27 degrees by Monday night.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

First flakes?

Today's Weather Page says "Chance of Snow" for Monday. But National Weather Service forecasters at Sterling aren't very encouraging on that topic. This morning's discussion is preoccupied with the intense storm and cold front that's headed our way, with the likelihood of damaging winds and high water late tomorrow as the storm crashes by. Here's all the NWS has to say on the subject of Monday snow:

"A (Southwest) TROUGH DIVING FROM THE
LAKES REGION WILL CROSS THE AREA ON MONDAY AND COULD PRODUCE THE FIRST SNOWFLAKES OF THE SEASON ... HOWEVER...THIS DOES NOT WARRANT
MORE THAN A 20 POP (PERCENT CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION) AND ANY MEASURABLE PRECIP WOULD BE VERY LIGHT IF ANY."

Still, if we could please manage a little snow - maybe on Tuesday rather than Monday - we could continue the little streak that began in 2002: snow on three of the last four Dec. 5's. (And the fourth, in 2004, was followed by several days of light snow after the 5th.)

But enough about a little snow. We have some pretty wild weather coming in tomorrow. High wind watches are up for almost the entire state. They don't seem to think we'll get much, if any, thunder and lightning. But high winds will be a real issue tomorrow. Here's part of the advisory:

"A HIGH WIND WATCH IS IN EFFECT FROM FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH
FRIDAY EVENING. A STRONG COLD FRONT WILL CROSS THE REGION LATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON AND WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY A LINE OF HEAVY SHOWERS AND POSSIBLE THUNDERSTORMS WHICH WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS. THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS INCLUDED MUCH OF THE EAST COAST UNDER A SLIGHT RISK OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS.

"WINDS BEHIND THE FRONT ARE ALSO EXPECTED TO BE QUITE STRONG.
SUSTAINED WINDS OF 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 60 MPH ARE ALSO
POSSIBLE ESPECIALLY OVER THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS AND AREAS CLOSER
TO THE PENNSYLVANIA BORDER."

And here's AccuWeather's take.

In the meantime, we're looking at some really strange temperature swings. Tonight's forecast LOW for BWI is 55 degrees. That's four degrees HIGHER than the average HIGH temperature for Dec. 1 at the airport.

Tomorrow, before the front arrives, we'll see a high of 67 degrees - only a few degrees below the record high for the date. Then we get the frontal passage, and the overnight low for Friday into Saturday sinks to 35 degrees - a 32-degree plunge for the day. How cool is that?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

New Horizons mission spots Pluto

Still more than 8 1/2 years from its encounter with the planet - er, make that "dwarf" planet - Pluto, NASA's New Horizons mission has captured its first image of the tiny world. It's not too impressive, barely a dot in a dense field of stars. But because the dot moved against that starry backdrop as astronomers predicted Pluto should, they're convinced they've gotten their first glimpse of their mission's target, still some 2.6 billion miles away.

New Horizons was designed and built at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel. It was launched last Jan. 19, and is already approaching a February flyby of Jupiter. Its scientific encounter with Pluto is expected in July 2015. I plan to watch from my rocker.

No point trying to spot Pluto from the back yard. It's way too small and distant to be visible without a good telescope. And besides, it's currently in the daytime sky.

But Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury are slowly emerging from the sun's glare, and will soon be visible again - Venus low in the west after sunset, and Jupiter, Mercury and Mars in a tight cluster in the east before dawn. Saturn is rising after 10 p.m. More on this as they become easier to see.

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

November 29, 2006

Jet contrails and weather

One of the most striking effects of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 was the rapid grounding of all air traffic over the United States. For a day or two, the skies were absolutely clear of jet contrails, and a remarkably clear blue. Some data suggested that overnight cooling increased measurably after 9/11 as the clear air allowed more heat to radiate back into space. Daytime solar heating also increased.

Last Saturday, NASA's Terra earth-observing satellite captured an image of Midwestern skies, as holiday air traffic crisscrossed the region leaving a web of lingering jet contrails. It's easy to see in the photo how persistent and spreading contrails could impact temperatures - either by trapping heat beneath them, or reflecting incoming solar radiation.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Damaging winds Friday

Forecasters now say damaging winds, with maybe a "quick inch" of rain, will be the main worry during Friday's frontal passage. And, because the winds will be strong out of the south, people with property along the upper Chesapeake can expect yet another brush with high water. Here's the forecast from Sterling.

The culprit is the same surge of cold air that's brought deep snows to the Rocky Mountains, and is now threatening the southern Plains with severe storms and tornadoes.

The violent weather stems from the clash of the arctic outbreak with warm air in place across much of the eastern half of the nation. Deep low-pressure centers are forming along the front, and steep pressure gradients between those lows and nearby highs are what will generate the strong winds as the front makes its way east.

Here's some of this morning's discussion from the National Weather Service at Sterling:

"AS FOR ANY FLASH FLOODING THREAT...COULD EASILY SEE A QUICK INCH OF RAIN WITH THE FRONT BUT AT THIS TIME LOOKS LIKE DAMAGING WINDS  WILL BE THE MAIN HAZARD THIS TIME. WILL ALSO HAVE TO WATCH FOR WATER LEVELS ON THE POTOMAC AND CHESAPEAKE BAY AS WINDS WILL BE BLOWING STRONG OUT OF THE SOUTH FOR ABOUT 24 HRS.  IN THE GRIDS CAPPED WIND GUSTS AT 30 KTS (34 mph) BOTH OVER LAND AND OVER WATER HOWEVER THESE LIKELY WILL NEED TO BE RAISED IN LATER PERIODS."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 28, 2006

Out like a lamb, then ...

It looks like November will go out like a lamb for Baltimore, while December comes in like a lion. Just like last year.

Weather forecasters say the cold and storms intensifying in the Rocky Mountain states and the Great Plains are headed this way. We should stay hazy and mild for the next couple of days. Daytime highs could approach 70 degrees Thursday and Friday. That would come within 5 or 6 degrees of the record highs for those dates.

Then the cold front comes through on Friday, along with a rainstorm, dropping Saturday's highs to the 40s, maybe 50 degrees.

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar - apart from recalling the seemingly weekly storms we've seen this month - it may be because it mimics the pattern of last year's passage from November to December.

The last week of November 2005 saw highs in the 50s and 60s, and the month ended 2.6 degrees above normal. Then December rolled in, with highs in the 30s and 40s - 10 to 12 degrees below normal for the dates. With it came snow. We saw 3.5 inches during the first week of December last year.

Could we see snow during the first week of December 2006? Can't say for sure yet. But Some forecasters are noting the cold arctic air that will settle into the U.S. next week. And they also see the possibility of a new coastal storm developing early next week. Here's the National Weather Service discussion:

"LATE IN THE WEEKEND...MODELS ENSEMBLE
DATA SHOW POTENTIAL FOR A COASTAL STORM TO DEVELOP OFF THE SOUTHEAST
COAST. AT THE MOMENT...MAJORITY OF GFS ENSEMBLE MEMBERS KEEP THIS SYSTEM WELL SUPPRESSED TO THE SOUTH AND TAKE IT OUT TO SEA WITH NO IMPACTS TO OUR AREA. HOWEVER...SOMETHING TO WATCH OUT FOR AS IT LOOKS WILL BE IN A COLD PATTERN NEXT WEEK."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 27, 2006

Peekskill meteor remembered

High school football games under the lights remind me of the night, just before 8 p.m. on Oct. 9, 1992 when a huge meteor swept across the Middle Atlantic states. The spectacular fireball was noticed and captured on video tape by many people who were attending local football games from Virginia to New York State.

Better still, a fragment of the meteor the size of a bowling ball was recovered - after it smashed into the trunk of a parked car in Peekskill, N.Y., doing more than a little damage. The video record - and the recovered meteorite fragment - were a bonanza for scientists. Fourteen years later the video images remain some of the best documentation of a large meteor's entry into the Earth's atmosphere ever captured. If you ever see one of these "bolides" in person, you'll never forget it.

Here is a description of the event. And here is a collection of amazing video clips of the meteor in flight. I recommend the ones from Anne Arundel County, Md., Johnstown, and Saltsburg, Pa.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Snow? What snow?

AccuWeather has dialed back its snow hysteria meter. The cold, arctic air is still headed this way. You can expect it to end this delightfully balmy autumn weather by the end of the week. But the snow threat they were hyping late last week looks like it will end somewhere west of the mountains. Here's their report. And here's their storm blogger, Henry Margusity.

In the meantime, we will be reading and watching a lot of reports from the Western states this week as the cold air sweeps down from the Yukon. It's already pretty danged cold in the northern Rockies. That air mass will eventually displace the high that is off Delmarva this morning, spinning clockwise and pumping mild air into the region from the South.

As it passes on Friday, the cold front will bring rain. But the feared changeover to snow as the cold air whips in will likely be confined to the western portions of the eastern states, such as Pa. and N.Y., forecasters say.

Here, we can expect rain and a switch to more seasonable temperatures, or a shade below. At this time of year, seasonable for Baltimore means highs in the low 50s and lows just at freezing.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Catching up with record rain

We're back in the saddle this morning, carrying a few extra pounds of turkey and stuffing and catching up with the weather stats. Looks like BWI broke a record for rainfall last Wednesday - barely. The storm that preceded Thanksgiving dropped 1.26 inches at the airport. That was one hundredth of an inch more than the previous record for a Nov. 22, set in 1985.

In all, the airport has recorded 6.25 inches of rain so far this month. That's more than 3.5 inches above the norm for November in Baltimore. And that makes this November the 5th wettest on record for BWI, which began official observations in 1950.

The forecast suggests we could get a little more rain before the month ends at midnight Thursday. A bit more than 0.8 inch would put this month in second place. Until then, here's how the data stack up:

NOVEMBER    PRECIP

1952           7.68 inches

1972           7.05 inches

1963           6.85 inches

1962           6.50 inches

2006           6.25 inches

Speaking of the Thanksgiving week storm, check out the photos of beach erosion at Bethany Beach, Del. from that storm. They're posted on WeatherTalkRadio's Web site. Thanks to Tony Pann and Justin Berk for posting them, and for having me on their Sunday WCBM radio program back on the 19th. (If the link above takes you to a French weather site, just click refresh and it should get you to WeatherTalkRadio. I have no clue why it's doing that.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

November 25, 2006

Snow on the way?

There shall be snow, and rumors of snow...  What's percolating all the snow talk is a large and VERY cold mass of arctic air sitting up in western Canada. It has already begun to spill over into the U.S. Northwest. But some forecasters are warning that the cold air will head east this coming week, reinforced by even more - and VERY much colder - air behind the initial blast. And behind a very sharp change in temperatures, from the delightful balminess we're having this weekend, may come a front, with rain, followed by accumulating snow from the Carolinas to New England. Or not.

Most of this chatter is coming from AccuWeather, which has a reputation for getting out front with this stuff and hyping it (see Nov. 16 post) for all the snow-phobes in our part of the country. But it doesn't hurt to see what they're saying and keeping the possibilities in mind.

So, for what it's worth, here is the AccuWeather take on the coming cold air. And here is one of their bloggers going out on a limb. Keep in mind it's still a long way off.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

November 22, 2006

Wet T'giving, then sunny

Forecasters say the coastal storm that's stalking up the Atlantic beaches is moving faster than they'd expected. That means we'll start to see the rain here later today, with the heaviest showers overnight and into Turkey Day.

The good news is that, once the storm departs, a clear, dry, high-pressure ridge shoves in from the west. That will mean nice weather for the big post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend.

In the meantime, the forecast calls for as much as an inch of rain here in B'more before it's all over. The worst of the storm will be felt out along the beaches. Here's the O.C. forecast again. Here's a look at the Inlet. And Rehoboth.

And here are their watches and warnings. Not a pretty picture, except for wild weather buffs. Tides are already 2 1/2 feet above normal at Lewes: (Click to enlarge)

Lewestides

Looking farther ahead, well into next week, the prognosticators see much colder air moving into the region and setting up for the first week in December. Will we see yet another Dec. 5 snowstorm? Stay tuned. 

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

November 21, 2006

Storm blowing in OC

The slow-moving coastal storm that's already brewing off the Carolinas is going to produce some big wind, water and waves for Thanksgiving along the Delmarva Coast, including Ocean City and the Delaware beaches.

Forecasters are looking for winds to build out of the northeast today, rising to 20 to 25 mph by tonight as Maryland's coastline falls under the storm's influence. Here are the current conditions at OC. Looks pretty darn windy aleady.

Tomorrow - Wednesday - the winds will increase to between 30 and 40 mph, and rain chances will rise, with up to a half-inch possible. Another half inch or more is expected Thursday. The satellite loop shows the water vapor, already surging ashore in the Carolinas and Virginia under the storm's influence.

High surf advisories are up for Wednesday and Thursday. The strong winds will build the waves to well over 10 feet, forecasters say. And that will mean some ocean "overwash," and some significant beach erosion. We're also just past the new moon, which will add an astronomical influence to the high tides, on top of the onshore winds.

And that will likely lead to coastal flooding. No flood watch has been posted yet, but if you have property on the beach, or along the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, be prepared for another bout of high water.

Here are the advisories for OC. And here's AccuWeather's take on the storm.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 20, 2006

Coastal storm on tap ... again

Get your holiday traveling done early this week, for there is trouble ahead come Thanksgiving Day, at least along the coast. Forecasters are watching for the development of yet another powerful storm this week off the southeastern coast. It's expected to bring us rain by Thanksgiving. But communities along the Atlantic coast can expect a cornucopia of rain, high winds, battering waves and beach erosion. Friday won't be much better.

The bad news is that the storm's winds will drive water onto the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay once again, threatening bayside communities with more waves and high water. The good news? This particular nor'easter won't arrive with temperatures cold enough for snow.

Here's the Baltimore forecast. And here's the outlook for Ocean City. The weekend, at least, looks fine for travelers.

And here's the advisory issued today from Sterling:

A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM DEVELOPING OFF THE SOUTH CAROLINA COAST IS
FORECAST TO GRADUALLY TRACK NORTH TO THE DELMARVA COAST FRIDAY.

RAIN WILL BE SPREADING NORTH FROM NORTH CAROLINA INTO SOUTHEAST
VIRGINIA LATE WEDNESDAY OR EARLY THURSDAY...AS WINDS BEGIN TO
INCREASE ACROSS THE MID ATLANTIC. THIS WILL PROMPT SMALL CRAFT
ADVISORIES OVER THE TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER AND CHESAPEAKE BAY TO BE
RAISED TO GALES ON THURSDAY.

THE MAJORITY OF IMPACT FROM THIS STORM WILL BE THURSDAY AND FRIDAY
AS IT NEARS THE DELMARVA. SEVERAL DAYS OF NORTHEAST FLOW WILL CAUSE
TIDAL DEPARTURES TO INCREASE WITHIN THE POTOMAC RIVER AND CHESAPEAKE
BAY. WATER LEVELS MAY BEGIN TO CAUSE COASTAL FLOODING BY FRIDAY.

THURSDAY INTO FRIDAY IS ALSO THE TIME PERIOD WHEN PRECIPITATION IS
MOST LIKELY. TEMPERATURES WILL BE TOO WARM FOR ANY SNOW ACROSS THE
REGION. RAINFALL MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES...ESPECIALLY EAST OF
INTERSTATE 95 WHERE SEVERAL INCHES OF RAIN ARE POSSIBLE.

THERE WILL BE MANY MOTORISTS ON THE ROADS WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY. BE
SURE TO TAKE THE WEATHER INTO ACCOUNT AND PLAN EXTRA TIME INTO YOUR
TRAVEL PLANS.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:27 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 17, 2006

Clear skies and meteors

Now that all of yesterday's unpleasantness is behind us, we appear to have nothing but sunny skies and fine, cool autumn weather ahead of us for at least a week. Here's the National Weather Service forecast.

The arrival of colder air from Canada will be noticeable. The big question is whether the coastal storm that's expected to be set loose off the Southeastern coast will drift off to sea, or turn and travel up the Atlantic Coast and spoil the Thanksgiving Week party.

In the meantime, don't forget to take advantage of the fine, clear weather and step outside this weekend for a look at the Leonid Meteor Shower. This annual event is forecast to peak sometime between 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. But you have a fair shot at seeing an unusually large number of "shooting stars" in the wee hours of any night this weekend.

The best time to look is after the constellation Leo has risen in the east (around midnight). But if you want to optimize your time outdoors and loss of sleep, try the few hours before dawn, when Leo is high but before twilight begins.

Leo's presence is necessary because, at this time of year, Leo is in the part of the sky toward which the Earth is rushing in its orbit around the sun. So as we plow through the dust left behind (in 1932) by the comet Tempel-Tuttle, Leo appears to stand where the dust grains strike the atmosphere, glow and make themselves visible. Think of them as snowflakes caught in the headlights of a speeding car. They appear to be rushing toward the Earth's "windshield."

Anyway, before midnight, Leo is below the eastern horizon, so we won't see many meteors then. After Leo rises, we're in a better position to see the meteors as they strike the air.

Dress warmly. Bring something to sit in (or better yet, lie down on). And a thermos of something warm will help, too. Let me know what you see.

And don't forget the International Space Station, if you're up early on Saturday. The ISS and its crew of three will rise above the southwestern horizon at 6:11 a.m. By 6:14 it will be passing Saturn, high over the southern horizon before heading off toward the northeast at 17,500 mph. If you're in Ocean City, it will pass directly overhead.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Whitecaps on the JFX

That was one amazing photo from yesterday's powerful rainstorm - cars sloshing up the JFX in Baltimore, through deep water even on the elevated section of the highway near Monument Street. You hear about flooding on the JFX and you wonder, "Where the devil does the high water come from?" Now you know. It just piles up in heavy downpours, and doesn't drain fast enough.

Whitecaps_1

Anyway, it was a heckuva lot of rain in barely two hours. We clocked 2.07 inches here at The Sun. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport saw 2.35 inches. We're now running 2.8 inches ahead of the normal pace for 2006, and more than 1.5 inches above the average for November - with two weeks to go.

Here is the link to the National Weather Service storm reports. Just click through all the little numbered reports at the top of the page. It's quite a record of flooding, stranded motorists, downed trees, drowned intersections and other disruptions.

And get a load of these tides: (Click on the graph it if you can't see it all.)

Tides111606_1

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

November 16, 2006

Snow next week?

It doesn't seem quite possible, what with temperatures today in the 60s and more liquid water around than we can use. But at least one forecaster at AccuWeather is hinting at the possibility of a coastal snowstorm next week.

The National Weather Service is forecasting highs next week in the upper 40s and 50s. Their forecast lows don't even dip below freezing.

But AccuWeather says the cold air dropping down from Canada behind the cold front that's due in behind today's storms, coupled with energy from the powerful jet stream that has plunged into the Deep South, could trigger a big coastal storm.

Depending on how far off the coast the jet stream shoves the storm, they say, we could see snow from Virginia to New England  -  or sunshine. I'll bet on the sunshine.

Anyway, here's the skinny from AccuWeather.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Cats and dogs

Whooo dogies, is it ever raining. Flash flood warnings are up for Baltimore City and county.

We're looking at rain rates as high as 5 inches an hour on the instruments here at The Sun just before 3 p.m.. We've clocked over an inch already, most of that in the last half hour. Wind gusts to 27 mph. The good news is that the barometer appears to have bottomed out at 29.45 inches. It's all uphill from here.

We welcome your reports. Just leave a comment.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

Tornado watch for Maryland

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for all of Maryland east of Washington County. The same stormy cold front that brought flooding to Florida and deadly tornadoes to the Deep South overnight is on our doorstep this morning.

So far, the rain has been spotty, but there's more to come. The National Weather Service is still warning of 1 to 2 inches of rain in places, all falling in a relatively short period. That can lead to street flooding where drainage is poor. Wet leaves can make the streets slippery in spots, too. 

Winds are already gusting as high as 18 mph here at Calvert and Centre streets. There's been little rain - barely two hundredths of an inch here. But that will change. Here's the radar loop. And here's the forecast for BWI-Marshall.

Strong south and southeast winds are holding water in the bay today, and high tides are running well above predicted levels. Coastal flood warnings are up along the west shore of the Chesapeake. Here are the links to the real-time tide gauges. Just click on "MD" and then the gauge of your choice.

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

November 15, 2006

Rake out the storm drain

With last weekend's raking efforts ruined by subsequent leaf falls, and heavy rain on tap tomorrow as a strong low-pressure system approaches from the Deep South, forecasters are advising Marylanders today to make sure their storm drains are clear of leaves. They're expecting 1 to 2 inches of rain to fall in the next 24 hours, enough to make the creeks rise and cause minor flooding where drainage is poor.

AccuWeather expects less than an inch here. Here's the radar loop.

The storm system, thanks to its counter-clockwise rotation, will also be pulling strong winds out of the south or southeast and straight up the Chesapeake Bay. That will blow the water up the bay and hold it there after high tide, causing those tides to run at least a foot above normal. Minor coastal flooding might be the result. Here's how they're running now - already a foot or so above predictions at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. (Just click on "MD" and then the gauge station of your choice.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Flooding
        

Whole lotta shakin'

That was one powerful earthquake this morning in the Kuril Islands north of Japan, complete with tsunami watches and warnings all around much of the Pacific basin. Many of those were later canceled, including those for Alaska, British Columbia and the state of Washington. The tsunami wave heights in the Far East turned out to be pretty small. Here's our story.

Here is the USGS report on the magnitude 8.3 main quake and the subsequent large tremors.

Here is a list of the largest quakes of 2006. It lists today's Kuril Islands quake at 7.8 on the Richter Scale. That has since been revised upwards to 8.3, making this one a "Great" quake, and certainly the biggest of the year to date.

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

November 14, 2006

Snow in the Rockies

Deep snow in the Rocky Mountains is not terribly unusual at this time of year. But for us lowlanders, it's always an unsettling time - or exciting, depending on your attitude toward snow - when we start seeing stranded cars and shoveling homeonwers on TV. They're getting plenty more of it this week in Colorado. But as this snow-cover animation shows, there has been some snow in the western mountains for some weeks now.

We can also see the seasonal snow cover - pretty much permanent from now through the winter - creep toward the U.S./Canadian border. There's also the odd lake-effect snowstorm that whitens the ground on the lee of the Great Lakes, and the occasional autumn snowstorm in the upper Mississippi Valley.

We're facing another strong, cyclonic storm on Thursday - the same deep low that brought record rains to the Northwest coast a few days ago, and this snow to the Rocky Mountains today. It follows on the heels of the low that brought us our weekend rains, and which is now pounding the New England coast.

This parade of strong storm systems, if accompanied by cold air from Canada and infused with moisture from the Gulf and the Atlantic, would be just the formula to bring us significant snowfalls over the winter if it continues. It's what we might expect during an El Nino winter. The question is whether it will persist.

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

November 13, 2006

Stormy weather ahead

Forecasters at Sterling are sounding more concerned about the weather due here with the arrival of another cold front from the west late Wednesday into Thursday. We're talking heavy rain, wind and a chance for some coastal flooding. Here's a bit of their discussion, edited for clarity:

"THIS SYSTEM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A SIGNIFICANT 
EVENT FOR OUR AREA WITH SEVERAL HAZARDS, FROM COASTAL FLOODING TO FLASH FLOODING AND POSSIBLY SEVERE WEATHER. THE SYSTEM WILL HAVE PLENTY OF GULF OF MEXICO, AND ATLANTIC MOISTURE TO WORK WITH ... COULD EASILY SEE WIDESPREAD TWO INCHES OF RAIN IN A SHORT
PERIOD OF TIME THURSDAY. WIND FIELDS ALSO FORECAST TO BE QUITE STRONG WITH OVER 50 KNOTS (57 MPH) JUST ABOVE THE SURFACE ...

"SEVERE WEATHER IN THE FORM OF MAINLY DAMAGING WINDS ALSO A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY. LAST BUT NOT LEAST...STRONG SOUTHEAST WINDS OF 20KTS (23 MPH) WED NIGHT-THU COULD CAUSE SOME MINOR COASTAL FLOODING AT TIMES OF HIGH TIDES ON THE POTOMAC AND CHESAPEAKE BAY. FRONT (PREDICTED) TO CLEAR THE AREA BY 7 P.M. THURSDAY."

One can only imagine what we'd be facing if this were January.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Rain departs, clouds linger

So the rain held off on Saturday, and gave me and the neighbors a beautiful day to rake up the leaves. And then Sunday came, with wind and rain, and now the yard looks just the same as it did on Friday, only wetter. And there's still another load of leaves hanging on in the trees. Welcome to autumn.

The rain didn't amount to much. More like an Irish mist. We had less than a quarter inch in the gauge on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The Sun's gauge appears to be clogged with ginkgo leaves again; only 0.01 inch registered over the weekend. Looks like there's a ladder in my future today. The airport clocked almost a half-inch (0.45)

Forecasters out at Sterling, Va. say the nor'easter that's been lurking off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, pumping Atlantic moisture onshore all weekend, should be pulling out today, headed up to New England. Here's AccuWeather's take. Gotta love their graphics.

That will mean some drying out for us. But the morning discussion at Sterling seems to suggest the clouds will linger. We may not get any sunshine until tomorrow afternoon. Here's the forecast. Southwest winds will keep temperatures fairly mild - in the mid-50s to lower 60s Tuesday.

Then there's another cold front expected, bringing clouds and a chance for showers on Wednesday night into Thursday. We'll dry out again on Friday, with sunshine returning. The weekend looks cooler and drier behind the front, with lots of sunshine, if the forecast holds up.

Maybe we can get the last of the leaves raked up next weekend. At least we're not facing the record rains and flood damage they're dealing with in the Pacific Northwest. Here's a good reason to avoid riverfront property.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 11, 2006

Record temperature tied

Warm enough for you? Today's high temperature of 77 degrees tied the record for a Nov. 11 at BWI-Marshall, set back in 1949.  Let's see, 77 on 11/11 ... Might be a lottery ticket in my future.

They set a new record for the date out at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. It was 78 degrees there, besting the old record of 76, set in 1976.

And to think ... back on this date in 1987 is was snowing like crazy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

November 10, 2006

Can you find Mercury?

Rain clouds over Maryland blotted out the transit of Mercury on Wednesday, but telescopes elsewhere captured the event. Here's a terrific image of the sun during the transit. Can you find Mercury's tiny silhouette?  Here's a whole gallery of transit images.

I read a description today from a Messenger scientist (Messenger is the Hopkins-run NASA mission now en route to Mercury), who said that during the five-hour passage of the solar system's innermost planet across the face of the sun, we all stood in Mercury's shadow. The sun's light was dimmed by some tiny but measurable amount. Like a partial eclipse. Here's the rest of it :

A MESSENGER Science Team Member recounts Preview of Discoveries to come (A report on Mercury transiting the Sun, by Clark R. Chapman, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.) Mercury is a very difficult planet to see in the twilight or dawn skies, because it stays so close to the Sun. This innermost planet, and the smallest one (if you accept the recent demotion of Pluto), is occasionally easy to see, by special means, when it passes directly between the Earth and the Sun. These events, called "transits of Mercury," occur about a dozen times a century. They are visible from somewhere on the Earth, but require a small telescope, equipped with special filters, so that the observer isn't blinded by the Sun. They can also be viewed by projecting an image of the Sun onto a white card.

I had the good fortune to be in Tucson, Ariz., on November 8, when the most recent transit occurred with the Sun high in the cloudless Arizona skies. This was the best Mercury transit opportunity in North America since I saw my first transit of Mercury in 1960. My wife and I visited famed comet discoverer David Levy

Levy is one of the co-discoverers of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which famously split into about 20 fragments — each of which crashed into Jupiter — during a one-week period in 1994. Although he has discovered many comets in earlier years (21 to be exact) professionally operated search programs are claiming most of the comet discoveries these days ... 

On Wednesday, Mercury started to cross the face of the Sun around mid-day, Tucson time. We arrived mid-afternoon to find the planet already two-thirds of its way across the Sun. Looking through a telescope equipped with a hydrogen-alpha filter, I was startled by the deep red color of the Sun's chromo sphere, mottled by the gas jets called spicules. Then I noticed the solid-black disk of Mercury, perfectly round in shape, silhouetted in front of the Sun. From minute-to-minute, it slowly crawled from spicule to spicule ...

Levy provided commentaries during the five-hour event while live images of the transit were being net cast on AOL. As Mercury approached the end of its transit, he interviewed me about MESSENGER. I told the audience about MESSENGER's recent pass by Venus

One of the most beautiful features of the Sun, when viewed through a hydrogen-alpha filter, are the enormous, wispy "prominences" projecting beyond its edge. The looping structures visible on November 8, confined by the Sun's magnetic field, were larger than Earth. As Mercury slowly approached the edge of the Sun, it became apparent that it might pass in front of a particularly large prominence just after leaving the edge of the Sun.

Levy described to Slooh.com listeners the optical illusion called the "black-drop effect," just before the leading side of little Mercury's disk reached the edge of the Sun. And then, suddenly, Mercury became a notch in the solar profile, rather than a complete disk. The notch dwindled in size and, at about 5:10 p.m. MST, the transit was over. 

Or was it? Maybe we could watch the planet's disk faintly framed by the prominence. But, unfortunately, the Sun was lowering toward the horizon, and the telescope was now peering through branches of a desert Palo Verde tree, so the viewing was obscured.

A few minutes later, we watched for the "green flash" as the top edge of the Sun finally blinked out behind a distant mountain range, but I saw nothing special as the light began to fade and the air quickly cooled. Later, as the group enjoyed supper at the Levy's home, we talked about the miracles of shadows. In a sense, we had just been in Mercury's shadow, as cast on Earth. But, like the "shadow" of a stratospheric jetliner, Mercury's shadow only infinitesimally dimmed the sunlight on Earth. But by using the proper telescopic equipment, we were rewarded with a good view of the entire circumference of the planet, which will soon to be orbited (in 2011) by the MESSENGER spacecraft.       

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

California, without the earthquakes

You just can't get better weather than this, anywhere, at any time of year. Clear, sunny, dry and warm enough to sit outside for lunch. Even the forecasters out at Sterling couldn't resist some commentary:

" ANOTHER SPECTACULAR DAY WITH SUNNY SKIES AND HIGHS IN THE LOW 70S ... ANOTHER BEAUTY ON THE WAY....WE EXPECT HIGH
TEMPERATURES TO CREST IN THE 70 TO 75 DEG F RANGE WITH THE ONLY
EXCEPTIONS (65 TO 70 DEG F) IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS AND LOCATIONS
RIGHT NEAR THE BAY WATERS DUE TO AN AFTERNOON BREEZE. ALL IN ALL...A
GORGEOUS WEATHER DAY FOR NOVEMBER 10."

There's some chance we could topple a record this afternoon, although that would seem to be a bit of a stretch. It's 70 degrees here at The Sun as I write (at noon), and 71 at BWI. Update: The high at BWI today was 74 degrees.

The record high for Nov. 10 at BWI is 75 degrees, set just seven years ago in 1999. The record low for the date was 24 degrees, reached only three years ago, in 2003.

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

November 9, 2006

Monster hurricane ... on Saturn

Imagine a hurricane 5,000 miles across - two-thirds of the diameter of the Earth - with top sustained winds of 350 mph. That's just about what NASA's Cassini spacecraft spotted as it flew over the ringed planet's South Pole. Here's the news release.

But it's not exactly a hurricane, because it's not driven by heat from an ocean below. Saturn is a frigid gas planet and has no land, much less oceans. And whatever it is that's fueling its circulation, the storm does not appear to be going anywhere. Scientists say it's stuck over the pole.

Here's a link to a movie (click here, then on "play movie"), made by animating a series of still photographs. It shows the weird storm's clockwise circulation (the opposite of Earth's hurricanes).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Why we live in Baltimore

This kind of autumn weather is what makes it worthwhile to endure the stifling heat and humidity of summer in Baltimore. Highs today in the upper 60s or low 70s, bright sunshine, trees looking like a box of Trix corn puffs. What's not to like?

It can't last, of course. But more on that in a second. For today and tomorrow, we're looking at sunshine and highs near 70. That's 12 degrees above normal for this time of year. Here's the official forecast.

Look for starry skies tonight across the region as we continue to be influenced by high pressure moving here from the Ohio Valley. The deep low that brought us all that rain yesterday is moving off the Atlantic coast, putting us in the path of a return flow of air around the left side of the low. That's drawing in dry air from the north and west. Should be pretty breezy today.

On Saturday it all comes to an end as a new cold front approaches from the west. Look for rain developing Saturday and continuing into the evening as we fall under a southerly flow until the front passes through.

By Sunday we'll be looking for highs only in the mid-50s - a few degrees below normal. But skies will clear again, and we'll have a new pile of wet leaves to scrape up and haul away.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 8, 2006

Rain held off

There was some light rain late in the voting yesterday, but not enough, it seems, to dampen turnout. But it picked up nicely overnight, after the polls closed.

They've recorded 1.49 inches at BWI-Marshall so far. We had over 1.5 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville by the time I left for work. The gauge here at The Sun appears to be clogged with ginkgo leaves, or something. Not a drop registered. Now I get to go out on a ladder, in the rain, to scoop them out.

Anyway, the rain is slated to continue into this evening. Here's AccuWeather's take on it. Here's the NWS forecast.

Speaking of ginkgoes, The Sun's ginkgo grove, on Calvert and Centre streets, is reaching its full golden autumn glory this week. If you're downtown, take a drive by. It won't last long. (That last link isn't a photo of our trees, just a hint at what we're seeing outside our office windows.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

November 7, 2006

Pineapple Express soaks NW

Have you been reading about all the heavy  rain and flooding out in the Pacific Northwest? Several people in the U.S. and Canada have perished in the high water, and the bad weather and flooded roads may well affect voter turnout there today.

The torrential rains are a phenomenon that folks out in that part of the country are familiar with, and they call it the "Pineapple Express." Meteorologists call it the Madden-Julian Oscillation, and it's especially active during a weak El Nino cycle such as the one we're currently experiencing. (El Nino is a warming of the surface waters of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which can have impacts on weather around the world.)

During an MJO event, high pressure over the Pacific Northwest, which tends to block storms from the Pacific, shifts toward the west. That opens the door for a low-pressure system to replace it. At the same time, heavy rainfall in the eastern Pacific begins to migrate eastward. It passes across the Hawaiian Islands (where the "pineapple" part of the name comes from) and sloshes on toward the northwest coast of North America, where the low invites it right in.

As this moisture-laden tropical air strikes the mountainous coast, it is lifted up and cooled, and relieved of its moisture. The result is torrential rain, terrible flooding, landslides and plenty of hardship for residents of the region.

Here is an extended explanation of the Pineapple Express phenomenon.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

Mercury transit a washout

The forecast for Wednesday calls for rain, so it looks like our afternoon view of the transit of Mercury will likely be a washout. Not to worry. If you're reading this you have access to a computer and the Internet. And there will be several places there to watch the transit from the comfort of your home (or office).

If you didn't catch it in the paper, or on line, here is today's story about the transit - the passage of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun. The celestial show begins at 2:12 p.m. and ends, for us, at sunset (just before 5 p.m. in Baltimore). It's the last Mercury transit until 2016.

The Maryland Science Center's SpaceLink display will offer views via the Internet (and via sun-safe telescopes should the clouds part). Other Webcast options can be found through links at the following sites. Most will also provide commentary and added features.

The Exploratorium, San Francisco's museum of science. Click here.

NASA. Click here.

The University of Hawaii. Click here.

Finally, here's a simulation of what we'd see through filtered telescopes. Mercury's trek across the sun is represented, in time-lapse,  by the tiny black dots scattered in a line across the sun's disk, from about 7 o'clock on the disk, to 3 o'clock.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

November 6, 2006

Vote early or get wet

Marylanders who plan to vote in tomorrow's general elections should plan to vote in the morning, or else bring an umbrella. The National Weather Service is predicting rain after noon and into the evening as we come under the influence of a low-pressure system in the Gulf states.

Air circulating counter-clockwise around the departing high and the approaching low will bring winds around from the south, then east - off the ocean. That means wet weather ahead. They're calling for less than a quarter-inch Tuesday afternoon, and  0.10 to 0.25 inch over night. We could get a bit more rain Wednesday before the low moves off and things begin to clear off. Here's AccuWeather on the Election Day forecast.

The rest of the week looks fine, but there may be showers in the cards for the weekend as the next cold front approaches.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Space Station flyover tonight

Just a reminder for those who don't get the print editions of The Sun: the International Space Station will fly over Baltimore tonight just before dinnertime.

Look for the ISS and its crew of three to rise above the northwest horizon at 5:52 p.m., moving at 17,500 mph toward the southeast. When we first catch sight of it (assuming we don't get clouded out), it will be high over Michigan. Its orbit will then carry it southeast over Washington, D.C. and out over Virginia's Eastern Shore and out to sea.

From Baltimore's perspective, the station will pass close by the bright star Vega and then nearly overhead (75 degrees above the southwestern horizon) at 5:55 p.m. before zipping off to the southeast.

Veteran satellite watchers have been noting recently how orange or coppery the station has been appearing since astronauts installed a new set of solar panels. The space station also seems considerably brighter than expected. I know it sure seemed extra-bright on the last good pass we watched from Baltimore. If you see it, let me know how it appears to you.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

November 3, 2006

WeatherDeck Photo test

OK boys and girls, we are going to try something new here today. I am going to attempt to insert a photograph directly into the WeatherBlog. No need to link.

As much fun as it's been writing this part of MarylandWeather.com, the page does look a little gray. So, I am going to try to brighten things up here this afternoon by inserting photos of the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. That's the Davis Instruments Vantage Pro 2 weather station we installed on the back deck almost two years ago. I snapped a few shots of the thing after a snowstorm last winter, and thought I'd try to share a couple of them, if I can figure out how to pull this off. Let me know how it looks. Here goes:

Here's the rain gauge, solar cell, wireless transmitter and the housing for the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure sensors.

Batchonefamily_390_1

And here's the anemometer and wind vane.

Batchonefamily_395_2

Woo hoo! Sort of jammed up down here, but I'd say score one online TD for an old print guy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Button up; deep freeze tonight

High pressure and cold, clear air are settling into the region, and the weather service is predicting near-record cold tonight across the Baltimore region. There are freeze warnings up all along the Maryland shore of the Chesapeake. It will be even colder to our west and north, but those areas have already seen a hard freeze this fall, so they no longer get such warnings. Out there, whatever plants might freeze if they're left outdoors have already frozen. This will be Baltimore's first deep freeze of the season.

The forecast calls for lows tonight near 26 degrees at BWI-Marshall. The next few nights will get gradually warmer - or less cold anyway. The record lows are 25 degrees and 22 degrees for the 3rd and 4th of November, respectively, at the airport.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

November 2, 2006

150 years of hurricanes

With one more month to go in this year's unexpectedly quiet Atlantic hurricane season, it's fascinating to consider this map. It represents all the tracks of all the tropical storms and hurricanes recorded around the world for the past 150 years. And they're even color-coded by their strength on the Safir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Here's the text.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Quake rattles SW Virginia

The U.S. Geological Survey today is reporting a "minor" earthquake, registering 3.2 on the Richter scale, in southwestern Virginia. The tremor occurred at 12:53 p.m., about 7 miles north northwest of Raven, Va., near Richlands.  It was centered a little more than 7 miles below the Earth's surface, making it a relatively shallow quake.

Here's a grab bag of facts and figures about earthquakes in the U.S. And here's more on Virginia quakes.

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

November 1, 2006

Rain delay

That rain the weather service promised we'd see with the passage of a weak cold front late Tuesday into Wednesday has obviously not turned up. Now they're calling for it to pass by late tonight into tomorrow. In the meantime we can enjoy another day of too-perfect autumn weather in Baltimore.

The official forecast calls for highs today in the upper 60s. But with this gorgeous sunshine (and the fact it's already 69 here at The Sun) I'm not going too far out on a limb to say we're likely to see the 70s yet again today.

Anyway, the passage of this front tonight will bring not just a chance for rain, but also a change in the atmosphere. Look for daytime highs to drop from the 70s today to the low 50s on the other side of this frontal divide. The nighttime lows will also sink into the 30s - even the upper 20s in cooler spots. There's even a mention of snow showers west of the mountains.

Behind the front is a high-pressure system. They rotate clockwise, so as it moves by us over the weekend, we'll move into the return flow around the center of the high. That will bring us warmer, wetter air. Temperatures will moderate and become more humid, introducing a chance for more rain as the next week begins.

Note to readers: Problems at Type pad, our blog host, have prevented us from posting earlier today. This one was written before noon, but we're just getting it up now - at 10:30 PM.  Our apologies.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        
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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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