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December 28, 2006

Winter delayed

Just popped in for a day to fill in for a colleague, and find myself wondering when winter's going to begin. We're averaging 42.5 degrees at BWI for December through Wednesday. That's 5 degrees above the 30-year average, and the fourth-mildest December here in the past 35 years, with four days to go. Here are the top contenders:

December 1984:  44.1 degrees

December 1971:  43.7 degrees

December 1994:  42.6 degrees

December 2006:  42.5 degrees

And here's AccuWeather's explanation. The coldest December on record for Baltimore was in 1989, when the temperature averaged 25.4 degrees. The mildest was in 1931, when the average was 45.7 degrees.

Here's what the folks out at Sterling had to say this morning about this mild late-autumn and early winter:

"NO SIGN OF SIGNIFICANT WINTER COLD THRU AT LEAST THE FIRST WEEK OF
JANUARY. IT CERTAINLY HAS BEEN A WARM START TO THE LATE FALL EARLY
WINTER SEASON. LOOKING AT THE PAST MONTH THRU HISTORY AT DC AND
BALTIMORE...NOV 26 THRU DEC 26...THIS IS IN THE TOP 10 WARMEST FOR
THAT PERIOD ON RECORD FOR BOTH CITIES WHICH HAVE TEMP RECORDS BACK
TO 1872. 2001 WAS THE WARMEST FOR THAT PERIOD FOR BOTH SITES."

And now, back to my vacation, already in progress...

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 22, 2006

Merry, Happy, to all

Your WeatherBlog will be silent for most of the next week as the Blogger takes some time for R&R with family and friends. May all your days be Merry and Bright, may everyone, everywhere, find Peace and Joy in the New Year, and may all the snow not stick to the roads. Cheers!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Snow on Christmas?

No, not here. But forecasters are beginning to speculate about the possible development of a coastal storm that could generate some snow - at least to our north and west - late on Christmas Day. (What we're most likely to see here in Baltimore is more rain.)

The problem is that the computer models are still very conflicted about whether this storm will develop, where it will go, and where (if it does materialize) the rain/snow line will be.

Prognosticators at Sterling are keeping the whole idea at arm's length. The various models are all over the place on this one.

AccuWeather touches on the possibility in this item. Their version would make some snow chances likely in far western Maryland, and all but southeastern Pennsylvania.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 21, 2006

Big rain ahead

Imagine of it were snow. Forecasters are predicting as much as an inch of rain in the Baltimore area over the next two days. It's the same storm that buried Denver and parts of the high Plains in snow, but it's pulling way too much warm air out of the Gulf region now to produce anything here but rain. Look at all this moisture that's coming our way. And look how it's swamped New Orleans.

It's not all bad. We're way behind on precipitation this month - about 2 inches. But the rain may make the long drive to Grandmother's house Friday or Saturday even longer, and slipperier. Drive with care.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:42 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

A rosey Minotaur dawn

OK, here's a second chance for everyone who slept through the dawn launch of that Minotaur 1 rocket last Saturday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, on Wallops Island, Va. Geoff Chester, of the U.S. Naval Observatory, was in Alexandria, Va. when he shot this amazing photo (click on it to enlarge)

Tacsatwide_moon_chester_c720

of the rocket's wind-tossed contrail seconds after liftoff. The rocket itself is a barely visible smudge above and to the left of the top of the smoke trail. That's the crescent moon at upper right.

The view is essentially the same as I had from the front window of my house in Cockeysville (except that I was too dumbstruck to grab my camera). The Minotaur, carrying two experimental satellites, for the Air Force and NASA, jumped up from the southeastern horizon atop a column of smoke. We were able to watch one staging event - the shutdown of one stage, a pause, and then the ignition of the next. As the wind began to contort the contrail, the rocket itself remained visible for a time as a spot of bright light, and a comet-like tail, before disappearing. It took a half hour or more for the contrail to dissipate and vanish amid the morning clouds and bright sunshine. Both satellites made it to orbit and are functioning as planned.

Boosters of the regional spaceport are hoping the success will attract more launch business,  and bigger rockets, to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, where the spaceport is located. If they realize their dream, we should be able to watch many more such launches from Baltimore and Washington. As it is, the next Minotaur is scheduled for liftoff from Wallops in April. Another is planned for October. 

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

December 20, 2006

Why we live in Baltimore

Once again, dear readers, we can give thanks for living where we do, and not in North Platte, Neb., or Pine Bluffs, Wyo., where - while they will have a white Christmas - they may never get out of the driveway.

Here, sunny and 46 degrees. A little rain due Friday and Saturday.

There ... Well, read this and thank your lucky stars. Here's more on the storm. And here's how it looks on radar, and from space. Poor Denver.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 19, 2006

That's more like it

Well, at least the temperatures in Maryland have returned to where they should be in December. But a white Christmas remains as elusive as ever.

Yesterday's crazy-warm weather found a place in the record books. New highs for Dec. 18 were reached at all three of the region's airports, knocking down prior records set on the same date in 1984. BWI made it to 72 degrees, breaking the old record of 69 degrees. Reagan National Airport reached 74 degrees, busting the old record of 72. And Dulles International soared to 76 degrees, wiping out the prior mark of 69 degrees.

Now, yesterday's lows may become today's highs. We're looking at forecast highs near 50 degrees. The normal highs for this time of year at BWI are in the mid-40s. The mild weather has been saving us money. The number of degree days accumulated at BWI this month is down 13 percent from the long-term average. That should mean we've consumed 13 percent less energy than normal. And that should help ease the bite of recent rate hikes.

For those dreaming of a white Christmas, the prospects look poor. While there is a pretty good patch of precipitation in the works for the end of the week, temperatures will almost certainly be too warm in the Baltimore region to turn it to snow.

White Christmases in Baltimore remain a relative rarity, although we had some snow in the air on Christmas Day as recently as last year (0.93 inch at BWI on the 25th and 26th). There was also a little more than an inch on Dec. 23, 2004. Here's more from a 2004 post.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

December 18, 2006

Record high at BWI

UPDATE AT 4:45 P.M.: The National Weather Service has posted an official record high of 72 degrees for the day at BWI. The mercury reached 76 degrees today at Dulles Airport in Virginia. An earlier post follows:

The mercury has reached 71 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport this afternoon, setting a new Baltimore record for a Dec. 18. The old record was 69 degrees, reached most recently on this date in 1984.

With clouds moving in ahead of a cold front, solar heating will diminish, and we're unlikely to get much warmer today. But who's complaining?

We also reached 71 during the past hour here at The Sun. Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia has also set a new record for the date.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Feels more like Easter

Can you believe this weather? It's 11 a.m. on Dec. 18 - a week before Christmas! - and our thermometer at The Sun reads 66 degrees. It's 63 at BWI. That's nearly 20 degrees above the average high for this date. The sun is bright and warm, and I ran into some sort of beetle this morning on the steps - looked like a lightning bug going about his business as if this were June!

Sixty-three?? That's already just six degrees short of the record high for this date for Baltimore. It was 69 degrees at BWI on Dec. 18, 1984. I'd guess that record is headed for the shredder this afternoon.

Seeing the 70s in December is not all that unheard of in Baltimore. The last time was - well, on Dec. 1 of this year, when it was 75. Before that? December 2001, when the daytime highs reached the 70s on three dates: 75 degrees on Dec. 5, and 73 degrees on the 1st and 6th.

So enjoy it, because colder air is headed this way from Canada. A weak cold front is descending into the eastern states from the north. Temperatures should fall off sharply late this afternoon into the evening. This is not a cold snap we're facing. More like a normal snap. We can expect more nearly normal temperatures tomorrow and for the balance of the week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 16, 2006

Wow! Wallops launch seen here

Well, that was pretty spectacular. The Minotaur 1/TacSat-2 launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility was easily seen from Baltimore, rising high in the blue eastern sky at 7 a.m. this morning. Here's some NASA video. And here's a terrific slide show from the Virginia Pilot.

The silvery contrail - gleaming in direct sunlight - rose perhaps 30 to 40 degrees above the horizon. First-stage burnout and second-stage ignition were cearly visible to the naked eye. The rocket looked for a time like a comet hovering in the east. I'll bet that surprised a lot of early risers. Let's hear your reports.

So far, the flight appears to be going well. See earlier posts for background. Here's an article on the launch from Space.com. Here's the AP.

Here's an early report, copied from the SeeSat discussion group:

"I just watched the ascent live from my back deck.  I live in Northeastern Maryland, USA (about 30 miles NE of Baltimore).  The vehicle cleared the horizon with a bright contrail, and through my birding scope I could clearly see the comet-like fan behind it.  I saw one staging event hrough the scope-the contrail stopped for a moment, and I could see the rocket itself as a reddish cylindrical object (lit by the almost-rising sun) and then a few seconds later the fan started again with a burst and it continued toward the east.

I took a couple of pictures; we'll see how they turn out later.

This was a very beautiful launch from here, and I look forward to seeing
more - Monroe Harden,Havre de Grace, MD

Here's a report from Joe Rao, a Space.com columnist:

"I will echo what Monroe wrote . . . it was a beautiful launch!   I watched the NASA webcast of the liftoff from Wallops Island, then my family and I quickly headed outside.  My home is in Putnam Valley, NY, about 50 miles north of NYC and more than 300 miles north-northwest of the Wallops Island Facility.

"We were no sooner out the front door about a minute later, when we caught sight of the rocket already clearing the treeline to our south-southeast.  We were able to clearly see the contrail rise up to an altitude of about 20-degrees, and then . . . as expected . . . it looped back toward the southeast.  At second stage separation, the trail seemed to stop abruptly . . . then resume with the third stage ignition, almost directly below the waning crescent Moon.

With the naked eye, the rocket could be seen as a very bright, pinpoint of light . . . better defined with 7 x 35 binoculars, along with a comet-like fan being emitted by the rocket in its wake.  I lost sight of it about a minute after third-stage ignition, on its descent toward the southeast horizon.  The "liftoff" part of the contrail was still visible . . . already wavy and distorted into a large "S" by high level winds.

"This was certainly a very interesting show . . . I only wish it had come about 15 minutes earlier, under a darker sky; it would probably have been even more spectacular.  Maybe next time -- joe rao"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

December 15, 2006

Wallops launch on again

The launch of the Air Force's TacSat-2 satellite from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore is now set for 7 a.m. tomorrow - Saturday. Originally scheduled to rocket into orbit on Monday, Dec. 11, TacSat-2 was delayed by software problems and a balky computer on a simulator in New Mexico.

The Air Force says those issues have now been resolved, and TacSat-2 is ready to ride into space atop a commercial Minotaur-1 rocket provided by Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va. The Minotaur is one of the largest rockets ever launched from Wallops, and - weather permitting - its rise to orbit could be visible for hundreds of miles. Joe Rao, a columnist for Space.com, estimates the launch may be seen as much as 800 miles away - from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Kentucky. For more information on the launch, click here for the Wallops Web page.

You can watch a webcast of the launch. Just click here. But if you're also planning to see if you can spot the rocket with your own eyes, from far away, don't try to time your observations by first watching for the liftoff on-line. Web communications introduce a considerable delay - 30 seconds in some cases - and you might miss the launch in real time. Instead, try to tune in one of the radio stations providing coverage. See the Wallops Web page for the station list and frequencies. They may be too far away for reception in Baltimore.

If the launch goes OK, this will be the first successful orbital launch from a pad at Wallops in 21 years. (The last attempt, in 1995, ended in a spectacular failure when the rocket malfunctioned and had to be destroyed less than a minute after launch.)

It will also be the maiden flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a joint venture by economic development authorities for the states of Virginia and Maryland. they're counting on a success to attract more aerospace and launch business to the Eastern Shore.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

December 14, 2006

A gallery of Geminid meteors

OK, so fog wiped out the view of last night's peak in the annual Geminid meteor shower. No matter. Plenty of other folks were watching under clear, dark skies. And they've contributed to this gallery of Geminid meteors. Here's what we all missed.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Fogbound

"The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."

Poet Carl Sandburg knew what he was talking about. This fog seemed to appear out of nowhere last night. It socked us in overnight, and is taking its sweet time burning off this morning. It has affected much of the Southeast, forcing ground stops at airports across the region, including BWI, while air traffic controllers wait for the visibility to improve. School systems on the Eastern Shore delayed their openings this morning. Dense fog advisories remain in effect west of the Chesapeake Bay.

National Weather Service meteorologist Luis Rosa, out at the Sterling forecast office, explained that yesterday's rain contributed a lot of moisture to the atmosphere. More humidity moved into the region on southeast breezes from the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

After the cold front passed by, skies cleared and, as night fell, radiational cooling brought air temperatures down to the dew point - saturation. That's when the water vapor in the air began to condense, forming droplets and - fog. As I look at our weather instruments here at The Sun in downtown Baltimore, the temperature (at 10:25 a.m.) is 43, and the dew point is 43. So the humidity is 100 percent. And it's still quite foggy around the Maryland Penitentiary.

What we need now is solar heating. As temperatures warm, the fog droplets will begin to vaporize, and the fog banks will "burn off." That should leave us with a sunny, mild day, and a fine weekend. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

December 13, 2006

Rain, followed by meteor shower

The rain showers we're watching out the window here should wind up sometime after lunch today. And with any luck, the skies will clear out enough this evening to give us a shot at seeing one of the year's best meteor showers.

UPDATE AT 9:00 P.M.: Unless we get fogged out. Not looking too promising out there. We have dense fog advisories throughout the area. Earlier...

We've recorded just 0.08 inch of rain at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets. The rain began here between 7 and 8 a.m., and forecasters say it should end by 2 p.m. If we get a tenth of an inch, we'll still be an inch short of normal rain fall for this point in December.

All this moisture is piled up ahead of a frontal boundary - hard to call it a "cold" front because the air behind it is not much cooler. You can look at the jet stream map on The Sun's Weather Page today and it's clear that our weather is "zonal" - that is, tracking straight across the continent at the moment, west to east. No infusions of cold arctic air this week. In fact, when the front goes by, we'll find ourselves in a high-pressure system, with sunshine and highs in the 50s to nearly 60 degrees for the balance of the week. That's about 10 degrees above normal for this time of year at BWI.

Now, if we can get this drier air in here quickly, and blow out the clouds, we may have a shot at seeing the Geminid meteor shower, which peaks tonight.

The annual Geminid shower can produce as many as 120 "shooting stars" an hour for observers in very dark locations. They’re associated with dust from asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which may actually be an extinct comet. The Geminids streak into the atmosphere at 22 miles per second. Partly cloudy skies are forecast. The waning last-quarter moon won’t rise until 1:30 a.m., so the best time to look will be between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. this evening.

Look east, toward a pair of bright stars above the eastern horizon. They're Castor and Pollux, the twins of the constellation Gemini, from which this shower takes its name. The Geminid meteors will appear to radiate from Gemini, streaking outward to others parts of the sky.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 12, 2006

High/low temperature confusion

Your old WeatherBlogger has been taking a lot of heat lately for my attempt to answer a reader's question about the meaning of the high/low temperatures in the five-day forecast printed daily on The Sun's Weather Page (and on MarylandWeather.com)

Elaine Pardoe asked me whether the low-temperature forecast for "Today" referred to the low for the night/early morning just ended (as readers pick up their morning paper), or to the night/early morning to come. If it refers to the night and early morning to come, she suggested, that low would actually occur on the next day's date. So it wouldn't really be "today's" low, would it?

The answer is that it refers to the night/early morning to come. (The high, and the following low, are printed in chronological order, our weather data vendor explained.)

Sure, most of the time the overnight low is going to occur early on the next calendar date, so it's not really "today." But the overnight low is what people need to plan for "today." Right? This morning's low they can get from their thermometer.

Anyway, I shanked my first attempt to explain how the thing works, trying to be clever and jam as much information into my reply as I could. So I had to come back around today and explain it again, simply and clearly. And I'm still getting email from readers complaining that I'd reversed myself, or that the whole system doesn't make sense.

So I'm putting it to you, dear WeatherBlog readers: Are the five-day temperature forecasts on the Weather Page (and MarylandWeather.com) confusing? If so, how could we redesign it so that its meaning is clear and intuitive? Leave a comment. Please. I didn't design the thing, so you won't hurt my feelings.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

December 11, 2006

Wallops launch delayed

TUESDAY UPDATE: NASA Wallops now says the Minotaur 1 launch will take place "no earlier than Friday." Stay tuned.

3PM MONDAY UPDATE:  Minotaur 1 will launch no earlier than Thursday, and likely sometime well after that. Mission managers said this afternoon that, in addition the software error in the TacSat2 attitude control system revealed overnight, they have become concerned about a computer aboard the spacecraft. A duplicate computer in a TacSat simulator in New Mexico has been rebooting unexpectedly. Although the spacecraft's computer has not been acting up, engineers are worried enough to want to be sure before they fly.

An earlier post follows:

CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - Well, the weather cooperated, but the software didn't. This morning's Minotaur-1 launch from Wallops Island has been scrubbed.

I was up at 3:30 this morning, time enough to catch a bagel and drive over to the media center At NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. I had to be aboard a 5 a.m. press bus to the launch site. Never bothered to check the Wallops Web site. But then, I went to bed before they made their decision.

The assembled media were greeted by news that a software error on the Air Force's TacSat-2 satellite had forced a delay in this morning's planned 7 a.m. launch. We won't know until this afternoon whether we're looking at a two-day delay, or a two-week delay. Although Wednesday is the earliest day they think they could turn this around, the forecast for Wednesday isn't promising.

The problem was discovered by engineers at the TacSat control center at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. They were reviewing the satellite's programming and discovered that it would be unable to point its solar arrays directly toward the sun after launch, robbing it of needed electrical power.

Now they have to figure out how long it will take to fix the faulty computer code, and when they can fit their launch back into the schedule of NASA work down here at Wallops.

Too bad. The weather looks great. Cold, clear starry skies. Just a few thin clouds here and there. This launch would have been visible for hundreds of miles. And I would have been 8,500 yards from the pad. Dang. 

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

December 10, 2006

Lake-effect snow, from orbit

Lake-effect snows occur when cold winds blow across the still-relatively-warm waters of open bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes before they freeze over in winter.

The winds sweep up the moisture, which then falls as snow on the lee side of the lakes, on places such as Buffalo, NY, or Erie, PA.  Sometimes the winds are strong enough to carries the snows far inland, even as far as Maryland's western counties and, occasionally, to Baltimore.

Here's a satellite image that says more about how lake-effect snow than I could say in 1,000 words. 

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

December 8, 2006

Rocket launches galore

UPDATE at 9:00 p.m. Saturday: The shuttle Discovery launched on time tonight, apparently without a hitch. That clears the way for the launch of TacSat2 Monday morning from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The weather there looks good for liftoff at 7 a.m. Earlier post follows.

I don't think I've ever had to tell readers about TWO rocket launches that might be visible from Maryland. But that's what we're looking at here over the next few days.

The launch of space shuttle Discovery, with Baltimore-born astronaut Robert Curbeam aboard, is now scheduled for 8:47 p.m. Saturday night, after its planned Thursday night launch was postponed.

Whenever it lifts off the pad, we can expect to see it crossing our sky - very low on the eastern horizon - about six minutes later. You can follow launch developments on NASA TV, which is available on some cable systems, and on the Web. There's also a Launch Blog here.

Assuming the Discovery launch goes off on schedule, we can expect the launch of a four-stage Minotaur rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility sometime after 7 a.m. Monday morning. Watch for a story in The Sun Sunday morning. The Minotaur, carrying two government satellites into orbit, should be visible for hundreds of miles in all directions. Joe Rao, a columnist with Space.com, estimates that people as far as 800 miles from Wallops Island may be able to see it, weather permitting. Download rao.minotaur.txt .

Baltimore is 115 miles northwest of Wallops. Rao thinks people from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Kentucky might get a look. We'll see.

Here again, you'll need a clear view of the southeastern horizon. Check Wallops' website for news of flight delays.

Any delay in the Discovery launch Saturday would probably force delays in the Minotaur launch Monday, to allow Wallops personnel to shift gears and help NASA track the shuttle up the coast. Here's the forecast for Cape Canaveral, and for Wallops.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:07 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

A fine flurry

Left the paper last night around 8 p.m. and drove north into a pretty nifty little snow flurry. A taste of things to come, perhaps. Nothing accumulated; it only snowed for maybe 15 minutes. But while it was coming down, it looked great, swirling into my headlights and drifting across the road in writhing skeins of flakes. That was lake-effect snow, blowing all the way down from Lake Erie with this arctic air. Winds at BWI gusted to 40 mph between 8 and 9 p.m. The Sun's anemometer peaked at 30 mph between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

Either the snow shower never made it to BWI, or it wasn't enough to qualify as even a "trace" of snow on the National Weather Service report. But, at least for me - and I presume many others who noticed it - it was delightful.

Speaking of traces of snow, I noticed this morning that BWI spotted enough flakes in the air on Tuesday, Dec. 5th, to record a "trace" of snow for that date. (Quite a few people emailed me that they, too, noticed some flurries in the region that day.)

So, we could say we have had snow at BWI on four of the last five Dec. 5ths. (In 2004, there was nothing on the 5th, but a trace on the 6th, and more in the subsequent five days.)  But I think, to qualify for a streak, the date really ought to have measurable snow. Your thoughts?

The cold front responsible for the snow also brought, well, cold. The mercury sank to 23 at BWI overnight. It was 22 on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, and 24 here at The Sun. Despite the bright sunshine, it will remain cold all day, probably never making it out of the 30s. And the wind - 25 mph - will make it seem even colder. Expect lows in the upper teens tonight, but things will then begin warming up for the weekend. We should reach the 50s, which is actually above normal for this time of year.

UPDATE: Here are some snow totals for locations out west.

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

December 7, 2006

Sunny here, snow in Garrett

The sun's still shining, but the temperature in Baltimore has begun its plunge, falling from 54 degrees at 11:30 a.m. to the mid-40s this afternoon as this big cold front pushes in from the north and west.

At this writing (3:30 p.m.) it's already 45 degrees here on the windward side of the Maryland Penitentiary, headed toward 25 tonight at the airport. And that wind is picking up, too, as the cold air blows in. It's been gusting to 26 mph this afternoon on The Sun's anemometer at Calvert & Centre streets.

The National Weather Service, meanwhile, has lowered the likelihood of our seeing any snow showers this afternoon and tonight from 30 percent ("chance") to 20 percent ("slight"). The sky looks all blue from here.

On the other hand, it's snowing in Garrett County as the stiff wind across the Great Lakes carries lake-effect snows into the mountains. Here's the wintry scene from Frostburg State.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Here comes the c-c-cold ...

Sure, it looks sunny and pleasant out there. But arctic cold is cascading deep into the Midwest and South, with its eastern edge shoving toward the Atlantic coast states today. You can watch it here in the water vapor imagery from orbit.

Snow advisories, warning of snow and blowing snow accumulating up to 5 inches in Maryland's westernmost counties are posted for this afternoon and tonight. Here's what Frostburgers are facing. Winds out there could gust to 35 mph, with wind chills to 5 or 10 degrees below zero. Snow showers in the offing for counties between the mountains and the bay.

Temperatures will drop into the 20s tonight in the Baltimore region, and further into the upper teens tomorrow night before winds shift. Then we'll begin a weekend "warm-up" - into the 50s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 6, 2006

Shuttle launch may be visible here

There are plenty of things that could interfere. But there is at least a possibility that Thursday night's launch of the space shuttle Discovery - with Baltimore native Bobby Curbeam aboard - could be visible from eastern Maryland.

The construction mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for liftoff at 9:36 p.m. If that schedule holds, the glow from the shuttle's three main engines should become visible - very low on the eastern horizon - by 9:41 p.m. as it races north and east off the Atlantic coast toward orbit. Look for it moving right to left, passing beneath the bright star Sirius.

You'll need a very good, unobstructed view of the eastern horizon. No hills, buildings or trees. Binoculars may be a good idea. We'll also need very clear skies, which seems unlikely (they're forecasting snow showers here). But forecasters are also threatening Cape Canaveral with clouds and wind, which seems likely to postpone the launch. In that case, we'll all have to wait and recompute the timing. You can check the latest from the Kennedy Space Center here.

The Howard (County) Astronomical League is planning a shuttle watch at Alpha Ridge Park off Rte. 99. You can read more about that here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Cold blast may bring snow

A new surge of frigid arctic air is pushing into the Midwest, and could bring Central Maryland its first snow of the season by tomorrow night. No need to hit the panic button. Forecasters at Sterling put the chances for Baltimore at only 30 percent. And even if we hit on the low odds, it won't amount to even a half inch.

But hey. This is still Baltimore, and this is still snow in the forecast. So let the hype begin. Forecasters are expecting several hours of snow showers Thursday afternoon as the cold front whips through the Shenandoah Valley Thursday afternoon and evening. Some of that could reach the I-95 corridor Thursday night - hence, our 30 percent chance for snow showers. West of the Blue Ridge, they could receive several inches of snow. Here's the snow advisory for Garrett County and Allegany County. Oakland could get up to 8 inches.

Here's AccuWeather's take on the clipper.

The real news, of course, is the cold. And the wind. With a forecast low of 23 degrees Thursday night, and winds 13 to 18 mph, we're looking at wind chills of 7 to 10 degrees. If you're outside waiting for a bus, that's dang cold.

But let's keep it in perspective, shall we? This ain't Duluth.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 5, 2006

Snow on Dec. 5

OK, OK, so maybe we DID get some snow today. Just flurries, mind you - nothing measurable - but snow nonetheless.  Consider these messages I received today from readers in Bel Air and Towson:

"Hi Frank!  I just want to say I really love, love, love reading your Weather in the morning Sunpaper. Also we are having snow flurries here in downtown Bel Air this afternoon. So there is snow this Dec. 5.  Thanks for all you do. Monica Beczkowski of Bel Air, MD"

"Hey Frank, After reading your bit this a.m. about snow on Dec. 5, I wanted to tell you that just now as I was walking on Cedar Ave. very near our house, 5 snowflakes hit my face.  I did wait around looking for more - alas, saw only 2 more.  But they were definitely snowflakes, with a dark cloud directly overhead. I enjoy your weather thoughts each day.  Fran Holman."

So, does this amount to the fourth Dec. 5th of the last five with snow? The criterion seems to be "measurable" snow at BWI. I'd be astonished if that comes to pass. So far, not even a "trace."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

A rare Egyptian tornado

Tornadoes are rare in Egypt. The last one was in 1981. But when astronomer Aymen Ibrahem dashed outside the Bibliotheca Alexandrina yesterday hoping to snap a picture of a rainbow, he instead encountered a rare funnel cloud dangling over the library. (Click to enlarge) The twister apparently never touched the ground.

Ibrahem1_strip

Here in the United States, tornadoes are uncomfortably common. In fact, we are the tornado capital of the world, as you can see in this global map of tornado activity between 1930 and 1985.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

Brrrrr! Then colder

The thermometer out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville sank to a fat, round 20 degrees at 6 this morning. It was 31 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets in downtown Baltimore. Out at BWI-Marshall, the official instruments read 22 degrees in the hour before dawn. That's the coldest reading there since Feb. 27.

And that's plenty cold for a Dec. 5 in Baltimore - about 8 degrees below the 30-year norm for the airport.

But there's even colder air tumbling out of the arctic and headed our way for Thursday and Friday (after a brief "warm-up" tomorrow). And if enough Great Lakes moisture makes it across the mountains, there may be some snow showers along with the cold blast to make the place feel even more like Christmas. Here's the forecast for BWI. Here's what lake-effect snow has done for Erie, Pa. this week.

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

December 4, 2006

"It Could be Worse" Dept.

So it's cold. At least the sun is shining. So cheer up. A quick scan of the weather news should persuade you that things most certainly could be worse.

You could live in Buffalo.

Or Vietnam.

Or the Philippines.

Or Pakistan.

Or California, or Missouri.

Or Scotland. Or just about anywhere else in the British Isles.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

From 75 to 35

As predicted, Maryland feels a whole lot more like December this morning than it did just three days ago, on Dec. 1, when the high temperature at BWI reached a record 75 degrees. As I sit here this morning, looking out over the Maryland Penitentiary, the thermometer beside the Sun's Big-Shot Lot reads 35 degrees - 40 degrees colder. And it's hardly budged since 7 a.m. In fact, it was warmer out there - 41 degrees - at 5 a.m. Here are the BWI readings.

You can thank the surge of cold, Canadian air that's been pouring into the region since the cold front passed through here with a lot of blustery wind and a quick shot of rain on Friday. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the coastal storm has slipped north and east toward New England, leaving Maryland will little more than some clouds and showers early today. And those have now scooted off, escaping before the cold air caught up to them and turned rain to slushy snow.

Actually, the weather service says eastern Harford County did see some sleet with their shower early this morning. The storm center is now harassing the coast of New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The cold wind is also touching off lake-effect snows to our north.

But all we need to contend with this week are cold nights - the coldest of the season so far, with lows in 20s to near 30. Our days should be pretty sunny, but cold, with highs in the 30s and 40s. That's about 10 degrees below normal for this time of year. And somehow, it finally feels right.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 3, 2006

Snow in the air tonight?

Forecasters say there's a "slight" chance we'll see some snow in the air late tonight. With a low developing off the Carolina coast, and colder air pushing into our region from the north and west, it will be a race to see whether - and where - the temperatures fall low enough, early enough, to turn the last of some forecast rain showers to wet snow. In any case, no one is predicting any accumulations.

Here's a bit of this morning's discussion at Sterling, edited for clarity:

"THE MODELS SHOW A COLD FRONTAL PASSAGE MONDAY
MORNING...WHICH WILL ALLOW TEMPERATURES/THICKNESSES TO DROP BELOW
CRITICAL LEVELS. THEREFORE...BELIEVE THE LIKELY SCENARIO IS FOR ANY
AREA RECEIVING PRECIP TO BE RAIN UNTIL THE LAST HOUR OR TWO OF
PRECIP WHERE IT COULD CHANGE TO WET SNOW. HOWEVER...WITH MOST OF THE
(MOISTURE) DEPARTING WITH THE LOW...THE COLDER AIR WILL HAVE ARRIVED TOO
LATE AND NO ACCUMULATION IS EXPECTED EXCEPT FOR THOSE WHO RESIDE IN
OUR WESTERN ZONES WHERE UPSLOPE SNOW MAY COAT THE GROUND. ALL IN
ALL...THE MAIN FLAVOR OF MONDAY WILL BE BRISK AND COLDER...AS THE
COLD FRONTAL PASSAGE IS FOLLOWED BE DECENT COLD (AIR FLOWING INTO THE REGION). WITH THE COLD
(AIR)...GOOD MIXING OF LOW LEVEL WINDS WILL OCCUR...AND WIND
GUSTS MAY EXCEED 30 KT AT TIMES."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 1, 2006

Record December heat

Strong southerly wind has pushed this afternoon's temperature at BWI to 75 degrees. That's 2 degrees above the previous record for a Dec. 1 at the airport, set just five years ago, in 2001.

The barometer here on the WeatherDeck has fallen to 29.47, where it has remained since 2 p.m., so the front has not yet  passed through the area, despite clearing skies. The temperature here is 74, but I expect to see it begin to drop shortly - headed for the 30s tonight.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        
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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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