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January 31, 2007

Think sloppy, not snowy

Funny how a minor winter storm gets amplified in the public imagination when we've had such a snow-free winter. You can hardly navigate on the National Weather Service's Sterling Web site this afternoon for all the heavy traffic they're getting from folks in the Baltimore-Washington region interested in tomorrow's snowfall.

Well, forecasters are still trying to figure out how this complex system is going to affect our region. They're watching the approach of what may well be the coldest temperatures of the winter, plus two low-pressure systems - one in the Gulf states and the other moving quickly out of California. They were supposed to merge and produce a bigger storm. But that doesn't appear to have happened.

Now it's looking more and more like we're going to see some snow in the air, followed by plenty of messy wintry mix as warmer air surges in from the south. Wet and slushy, and not too terribly much of that, would be my guess from what's being tossed about on the weather sites this afternoon.

Here's the official forecast from Sterling, if you can get the site to respond. Here's AccuWeather's take on the storm. And here's their meager snow forecast.

The real news in the next few days may turn out to be the cold that's pushing south from Hudson's Bay behind this storm. Check out Churchill, in Manitoba. Our heaters are really going to be laboring. Tuesday's forecast high and low at BWI?  23 and 8 degrees!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:49 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 30, 2007

Snow squalls tonight

If you're out tonight, you may encounter some heavy snowfall. It may be impressive, dropping a quick inch of snow under your tires, or feet. But it shouldn't last long. These are snow squalls accompanying a new blast of arctic air. Here's the latest from Sterling:

"SCATTERED SNOW SQUALLS ARE MOVING QUICKLY ACROSS CENTRAL MARYLAND
AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA THIS EVENING...IN RESPONSE TO AN ARCTIC
WEATHER SYSTEM MOVING THROUGH THE REGION.

THESE SNOW SQUALLS WILL BE CAPABLE OF DROPPING A QUICK INCH OF
SNOW AS THEY MOVE ACROSS ANY LOCATION. THE SNOW WILL REDUCE
VISIBILITIES TO AS LOW AS ONE-QUARTER MILE FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF
TIME...AND WILL CAUSE SOME SLICK SPOTS TO DEVELOP ON ROADWAYS.
PLEASE USE CAUTION IF YOU ARE OUT AND ABOUT THIS EVENING."

Some spots are already measuring snow.

In the meantime, the forecast for Thursday's snowfall seem to be getting a bit colder, with no mention of mixed precipitation for the metro area until Friday morning. AccuWeather is still looking for 1 to 3 inches.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

A wintry mix?

Overnight the NWS seems to have moderated its predictions a bit. Now they're calling for warmer temperatures in the I-95 corridor as this Thursday snowfall approaches. What will start as snow, they say, now looks as if it will change over to, or mix with rain. That would hold accumulations down, perhaps to barely an inch.

What's uncertain in all of this is exactly when the low, which will form over the Gulf states, will cross the coast to our south and head out to sea, and where the cold air pushing down from the north and west - and freezing temperatures - will be as the low goes past. It seems clear that places to the north and west of Baltimore will get more significant snow, while those to our south and east get a mix, and rain. The issue, as it so often is in these parts, is where to draw the line.

Here's AccuWeather's view. Here's our official forecast from Sterling.

And here's a clip from this morning's discussion at Sterling (edited by me for clarity):

"EXPECT PRECIPITATION TO SPREAD NORTHEAST
ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA THURSDAY AFTERNOON...WITH HIGHEST POPS (PROBABILITY OF PRECIPITATION) MOST
LIKELY THURSDAY NIGHT. PRECIPITATION TYPES WITH THIS SYSTEM WILL BE
INTERESTING TO WATCH OVER THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. WITH THE VARYING
TRACKS OF THE LOW...TYPE FORECASTING HAS BEEN MORE OF A CHALLENGE.
...A CHANGE OVER FROM
SNOW TO FREEZING RAIN IS A POSSIBILITY ACROSS THE CENTRAL FORECAST
AREA...AND SWITCHING FROM SNOW TO RAIN IN THE FAR NORTHEAST. HAVE
ADDED THE MENTION OF SNOW AND FREEZING RAIN TO THE GRIDS FOR
WASHINGTON DC WEST TO THE BLUE RIDGE AND SOUTH THROUGH THE
SHENANDOAH VALLEY...WITH A RAIN AND SNOW MIX ACROSS BALTIMORE.
CONFIDENCE WITH PRECIPITATION TYPE IS LOW GIVEN VARIANCE OF RECENT (COMPUTER FORECAST)
MODEL RUNS...SO THIS WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE OVER THE NEXT 24 TO 48
HOURS."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 29, 2007

Snow chances increase

The chances for a significant snowfall late this week appear to be growing. The National Weather Service folks out at Sterling have boosted our odds for the season's first considerable winter storm to 60 percent, and they also appear to be leaning toward a colder event, meaning a smaller likelihood we'll see rain. The forecast high for Thursday at BWI-Marshall at this writing is just 32. That's 10 degrees below normal for this time of year.

Here's the forecast from Sterling

And here's a taste of their afternoon discussion, (edited by me) for clarity:

"LATEST ENSEMBLE PLOT (A CONSENSUS OF COMPUTER MODELS) ALSO SHOWS GOOD CLUSTERING (MEANING THEY'RE IN PRETTY GOOD AGREEMENT)
WITH THIS LOW INCREASING CONFIDENCE ON A WINTER PRECIP EVENT
ACROSS THE AREA THU-THU NIGHT. THIS IS ABOUT 24 HRS FASTER THAN
(COMPUTER) RUNS FROM 24 HRS AGO. TREND IN THE MODELS IS ALSO FOR A FURTHER
EAST TRACK AND TO HOLD THE COLD AIR AT THE SURFACE LONGER RESULTING IN
A MOSTLY FROZEN PRECIP EVENT. WILL CONTINUE TO USE GENERIC
RAIN/SNOW WORDING AS THIS EVENT IS STILL MORE THAN 72 HRS AWAY AND
THERE IS STILL PRECIP TYPE ISSUES. LOW IS WELL OFFSHORE BY 12Z
FRI. (7 AM)"

"REST OF THE EXTENDED...CONTINUED COLD PATTERN AND MAINLY DRY AS
SVRL SURGES OF ARCTIC AIR MOVE SOUTH FROM CANADA."

A storm moving that fast isn't going to produce a lot of snow. But it's beginning to feel like our first multi-inch event in this remarkably snow-free winter. Pretty pathetic, if you like snow.

AccuWeather seems to favor a wintry mix for us. But it's still pretty early for anyone to sort that out reliably. On the other hand, one of their bloggers is already talking 1-3 inches for our area.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 28, 2007

Winter returns

Hope you enjoyed yesterday's breath of spring, because winter will be pressing back into the region today. Yesterday's high of 54 degrees at BWI-Marshall was 13 degrees above the norm for this time of year. But it pales next to the 64 degrees we enjoyed on the 16th, not to mention the 71-degree day on the 6th of January. You forgot that already?

Forecasters are watching a cold front that is sliding across the state from west to east as the day progresses. If you're driving west, you can expect rain, then snow, with a couple of inches of accumulation as day gives way to night. Here on the coastal plain we should see some showers turning to snow. They're listing a 40 percent chance snow tonight. Here's the forecast from Sterling.

What forecasters are really watching as the new week begins is the growing potential for a coastal storm to develop by Friday. The storm track remains uncertain at this distance, but the right trajectory could turn this into a real snow-maker for our region. If not, we get rain. Or ice. Or our old nemesis, "Wintry mix." Here's part of this morning's discussion from Sterling (EDITED FOR CLARITY):

"MODELS NOW CONVERGING THAT A SOUTHERN (JET) STREAM SYSTEM WILL IMPACT THE AREA
ON FRIDAY ALTHOUGH THEY DIFFER SIGNIFICANTLY ON THE TRACK OF THIS
SYSTEM WHICH MAKES FOR A DIFFICULT PRECIPITATION TYPE FORECAST. WILL INCREASE POPS
(PROBABILITY OF PRECIPITATION) AND CONTINUE TO USE GENERIC RAIN/SNOW WORDING AS DETAILS STILL
VERY UNCERTAIN. BOTH 00Z GFS AND EURO (MODELS) INDICATE A TRACK FURTHER
INLAND WHICH INCREASES THE THREAT FOR SOME MIXED PRECIPITATION."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:35 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 26, 2007

Why we don't drive on ice

Common sense says, when it's slippery, stay home. If it's slippery underfoot, it's probably slippery under tire. Don't drive. Curl up with the newspaper. Take a snooze. Wait for the salt trucks to pass. If you don't, this could happen to you: Click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

January 25, 2007

Bigger snow next week?

Are the stars aligning for a significant snowstorm next week across the Northeast? AccuWeather is beginning to hype the idea. Have a look.

It's always a possibility, when arctic air masses begin surging down across the Northeast like this one today. All you need is a stubborn mass of cold air here, followed by a low-pressure system that cranks up over the Gulf States and begins to slide up the Atlantic coast. Warm, wet air collides with an entrenched blanket of cold air, and ... snow falls. Sometimes we call it a nor'easter because the winds tend to blow from that direction. Baltimoresnow206 And they often arrive in the first few weeks of February. How many "Presidents' Day Weekend" storms can you recall? This shot was taken last Feb. 12.

Now, AccuWeather is famous for hyping this stuff, so you have to take it with a grain of road salt. But after the puny winter we've had so far here east of the mountains (there's been plenty of snow in the western counties), it's still fun to look forward to a little white weather before the season ends. Right?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:11 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Bundle up

So who left the door open? Cold air - really cold air direct from Hudson's Bay - is headed our way today as one of the winter's coldest blasts pours in from the Canadian arctic.

Temperatures, now in the 30s, will fall into the 20s as the day slides by, and winds will pick up. We may even get a dusting of snow as the northwest winds bring lake-effect snows down from the Great Lakes. Locations in the Maryland mountains could pick up several inches in some brief but intense periods of snow.

We can expect lows in the teens tonight, with stiff winds sending wind chill readings well below that. Bundle up, campers.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 24, 2007

Snow snarls London

Seems like Londoners deal with light snow about as well as Baltimoreans. Check this out.Londonsnow_1 

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

January 23, 2007

Sun's back; more winter ahead

Northwesterly winds this morning drew a bit of light snow across parts of the region. But drier air is moving in behind it, clearing the skies and bringing some welcome sunshine.

Temperatures are just about normal for this time of year in Baltimore. But there's a "quick shot" of arctic cold headed our way later this week. Forecasters say there will be a chance of flurries arriving with the colder air late on Wednesday and into Thursday. The daytime highs may not rise to the melting point on Friday, followed by an overnight low around 20. Then we should return to more seasonable temperatures for the weekend.

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

January 22, 2007

The most beautiful comet we'll never see

Comet McNaught is putting on a fabulous display for the Southern Hemisphere. If you have deep pockets, it would be worth spending the money to fly to Australia for a look. Check this out.Mcnaught1_1

McNaught was visible from the Northern Hemisphere a few weeks ago, and some people in Maryland managed to catch a glimpse. Others tried and couldn't find it (me). But no one saw a display like this. Some say it's even visible in daylight. Wow. Here's a gallery of McNaught photos.

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

Snow at last

An inch of snow and Baltimore responds with its customary aplomb - traffic jams, fender-benders, spin-outs, school closings and delays, and our personal favorite: liberal leave.

It was a classic wasn't it? I was leaving Catonsville just after 3 p.m. to meet the family for a movie, and the Beltway (west side) was already bumper to bumper, both directions. White had appeared on the road surface and almost immediately we had rear-enders, tow trucks and flashing lights. We left the Senator theater, had dinner and left to drive home. City streets: ice and snow-covered except for patches of salted pavement at intersections. Hit the city/county line: completely salted, leaving wet pavement only.

So here's the unofficial rundown of accumulations across the region. Severna Park appears to be the winner locally, at 2.3 inches. We had just a half-inch this morning on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. BWI-Marshall, the station of record for Baltimore, recorded 0.9 inch.

This is officially the first measurable snowfall for Baltimore since the 13-incher last Feb. 11-12. (Other communities had much more. I think we had 17 inches on the WeatherDeck.) It's also only the second measurable snow here since December 2005.

Some may be wondering how it was that this precipitation turned to drizzle and rain even as the mercury hung in there at 27 or 30 degrees last night. The answer is that warm air aloft was moving in atop cold air at the surface. The precip fell as rain, fell out of the warmer air and through the cold air, freezing when it reached the surface. Hence, all that scraping this morning.

Thinksnow12107

Now, the warm air has won out, but the cold snow and ice is causing the moisture in the air to cool and condense as fog. It should all thin out today, with some clearing by tonight. The week ahead looks pretty sunny, seasonable and snow-free, but growing quite a bit colder by week's end.

Check out the new readers' weather photos at MarylandWeather.com   Feel free to add your own. Here's today's weather story from The Sun.

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

January 19, 2007

Snow in the mountains, then here

OK, so all those hints of snowflakes in Baltimore overnight never amounted to much. But that doesn't mean Maryland isn't getting any. "Upslope" winds in Western Maryland are turning places like Deep Creek Lake and the WISP ski resort a whiter shade of pale today. Cold air whipping in from the north and west is bringing Great Lakes moisture. Forced upward by the mountains' western slopes, the moisture is condensing and falling as snow.

Don't believe me? Check out these web cams.  And here's the very snowy forecast for McHenry, out in Garrett County.

Unfortunately for kids and teacher sand other lovers-of-snow in the metro areas of the state, most of that moisture is being wrung out of the air as it traverses the Appalachians. We're left here in a "snow shadow," looking at cold and wind, but no precipitation here until Sunday.

Ah, Sunday. That's when the NWS is offering us a 30 or 40 percent chance of snow as a storm system that's cranking up over New Mexico and West Texas slides east charges into the Carolinas. AccuWeather is predicting a real icy mess in North Carolina and into southern Maryland. Baltimore and Washington can expect all snow, but only a couple of inches. Still, any measurable snow would be the first since February of last year, and only the second for BWI since December 2005.

4:30 P.M. UPDATE:  The NWS is now anticipating that Sunday afternoon's light snow will likely change to a freezing rain or drizzle overnight into Monday as warm air overrides the cold air in place now:

"... TRANSITIONING TO EITHER VERY LIGHT FREEZING RAIN OR FREEZING DRIZZLE. PRECIP SHOULD END EARLY MONDAY MORNING. GIVEN THAT SUFACE TEMPS WILL ONLY BE IN THE MID 20S,
ANTICIPATING THAT ROADS/HIGHWAYS WILL BECOME HAZARDOUS. TEMPS CLIMB
ABOVE FREEZING BY MIDDAY MONDAY."

Delayed openings?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 18, 2007

Snow: "No headlines"

There may be mentions of snow in the forecasts for the next few days, but it doesn't look like anything for us to fret about. The really big snow will be well to our northeast.

The National Weather Service says this evening's precipitation may include some wet flakes. But most of them will fall to the south and east of Baltimore, and none of it will amount to much. Here's a snatch of this evening's discussion from Sterling:

"SINCE TEMPS NEAR FREEZING...MOST OF IT WILL BE JUST FLURRIES. ONLY CHANCE FOR GREATER INTENSITIES WOULD BE SOUTHERN MARYLAND, PG, ANNE ARUNDEL ... CLOSEST TO LOW TRACK...AND THAT WOULD END BY APPROXIMATELY 1 AM AS LOW MOVES NORTH OF AREA. EVEN THERE... IF ACCUMULATIONS WERE TO OCCUR..AMOUNTS WOULD BE TRACE. THUS...NO HEADLINES."

The forecast gets more interesting for Saturday and Sunday. Expect strong, blustery and cold winds out of the northwest Friday and Saturday as tonight's low moves off toward the Canadian Maritime provinces. Temperatures will stall out near 40 Friday, and 36 Saturday, but stiff winds will make it feel much colder.

On Sunday, another storm center will develop over the Gulf of Mexico and head east, bringing us what the NWS describes as "a quick shot of light, fluffy snow." Maybe an inch, tops. The evening hours may turn that to a freezing drizzle. The rest of next week looks snow-free, but colder than normal for this time of year. A meager, late, and sputtering start to winter.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Heck breaks out in Europe

And you thought California and the American midsection were having a rough patch of winter weather. Have a look at what's been going on in Britain and Europe in recent days. Click here. And here for the BBC report.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 17, 2007

"Blowout" tides on bay

Strong winds out of the northwest today are causing "blowout" tides on the Chesapeake. These wind-driven tides are the opposite of the storm surges that push water up into the bay - and sometimes over the bulkheads - when winds are strong from the south or southeast. The blowout tides blow the water out of the bay and result sin tides well below normal. They've been running up to two feet below predicted levels today. Here's a tide chart. Click to enlarge:

Blowouttides

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Comet wows Southern Hemisphere

Comet McNaught, which many people spotted last week from Maryland (although I never found it), has zipped around the sun and is now a spectacular sight Mcnaught1 and a public sensation in the Southern

Hemisphere. It's so bright it has even become visible in daytime. Here's a gallery of photos from down under. And here's a beaut from New Zealand.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

First snow Friday?

Cold, at last. It was 19 on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning. The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets registered 24 degrees just before dawn. It was 22 at BWI.

So now that real winter temperatures have finally settled back in, we can begin our watch for the kinds of storms that typically bring snow to the Chesapeake region when the air gets cold enough. And the first one appears to be on tap for late tomorrow into Friday.

The National Weather Service is watching for the development of a coastal storm that should bring us rain by late afternoon, changing over to all snow before it ends here Friday morning and heads for New England. Accumulations, if any, should be small, but they would be the first for this slacker of a winter season. So far we've had only a trace at BWI.

Before that storm arrives, clear skies tonight should bring some of the coldest temperatures of the season so far. Forecasters are looking for lows in the mid-20s in the urban areas, and just 15 to 20 degrees in the far suburbs. I'd bet they go lower than that.

Looking a bit deeper into their crystal balls, the prognosticators out at Sterling can see another storm center developing in the Southwest that could bring us the next storm by Tuesday. It would get cranking over the northern Gulf, and move off the Carolinas late Monday. That would affect our region by Tuesday. No word yet on whether we'll still be cold enough by then to expect snow.

Here's how AccuWeather is hyping the storms.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 15, 2007

Winter's half over; where's the snow?

Only a trace of snow has fallen at BWI so far this winter. It's also been one of the warmest starts to a winter since record-keeping began. Here's the rundown from the National Weather Service:

METEOROLOGICAL WINTER...THE 90 DAY PERIOD ENCOMPASSING THE MONTHS OF
DEC-JAN-FEB...IS NOW HALF OVER. FOR THE PERIOD 01 DEC 2006
THROUGH 14 JAN 2007...HERE ARE A FEW ITEMS OF INTEREST.

AT DCA (REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT)...THE AVERAGE TEMP OF 45.4F DURING THE 45 DAYS (DEC 1-JAN 14)
MARKING THE FIRST HALF OF WINTER RANKS IT 2ND WARMEST ON RECORD...
SINCE 1872. THE WARMEST FOR THIS 45 DAY PERIOD WAS IN THE WINTER
1889-90 WHEN THE AVERAGE TEMP WAS 46.6F. ONLY A TRACE OF SNOW HAS
FALLEN SO FAR IN WASHINGTON DC SINCE DEC 1ST...TYING IT WITH 10
OTHER SIMILAR FIRST HALF OF WINTER PERIODS...4 WINTERS IN DC HAVE
REPORTED NO SNOW IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE WINTER PERIOD. TOTAL
PRECIPITATION OF 3.62" FOR THIS PERIOD IS ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF
THE NORMAL RAINFALL OF 4.53".

AT BWI...THE AVERAGE TEMP OF 43.5F DURING THE 45 DAYS (DEC 1-JAN 14)
MARKING THE FIRST HALF OF WINTER RANKS IT 4TH WARMEST ON RECORD...
SINCE 1872. THE WARMEST SIMILAR 45 DAY WINTER PERIOD WAS ALSO DURING
THE WINTER 1889-90 WHEN THE AVERAGE TEMP WAS 46.6F. ONLY A TRACE OF
SNOW HAS FALLEN SO FAR IN BALTIMORE SINCE DEC 1ST...TYING IT WITH
10 OTHER SIMILAR FIRST HALF WINTER PERIODS...INCLUDING LAST WINTER.
TOTAL PRECIPITATION SO FAR OF 4.18" FOR THIS PERIOD IS SLIGHTLY BELOW
THE NORMAL RAINFALL OF 4.95".

That said, this April-in-January weather is about to come to a screeching halt. Take your winter coats to work tomorrow, and send the kids in something warm. After a balmy start to the day, temperatures will start to fall during the day, leading us into one of the coldest days (WEDS) of the season so far. And it will barge in with plenty of wind behind it. The rest of the week will feel every bit like January. No snow in the cards yet, but the ducks are lining up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 12, 2007

Purple rain

Every time I look at the National Weather Service forecast for Saturday's football game, the rain chances seem to creep up another notch. They're now calling for a 60 percent chance of showers on game day. That's up from 20 percent earlier in the week. And the rain could well begin to move in later today.

At least the temperature forecast is headed in the right direction. They're looking for a high of 58 degrees by Saturday afternoon. That's 17 degrees above the long-term average for Baltimore at this time of year. After sunset, the mercury can be expected to slide, headed for a low of 42 overnight. But it shouldn't get that cool while fans are in the stands.

So bring the rain gear if you're headed for the stadium. Purple passion will keep you warm. Or, stay home by the fire and watch it all on TV. Now there's a plan.

As for the rest of the weekend, can you say, "washout?" Plan on gray, with showers, right through MLK Day on Monday as we get stuck beside a mostly stationary cold front, and beneath mild, wet air sloshing in from the Gulf and then the Atlantic. Parts of the country to our west could see up to 6 inches of rain under this system. We could see as much as an inch in showers.

Then the cold front finally kicks through here, and the weather Tuesday and beyond will begin to look and feel like January. A real January, maybe even a few degrees colder than normal for this time of year. They're talking about daytime highs in the upper 30s, and two-dog nights with temps in the low 20s.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:20 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 11, 2007

Long, wet weekend ahead

A good weekend to watch football, party, take a nap, read a book or catch up on all those newspapers piled in the corner. Looks like we can count on gray skies and a fair chance for rain from Friday through Monday, a holiday for many. Too warm for snow. Just rain. And gray. 

Blame a slow-moving pattern that's bringing mild, wet air up from the southwest and the Gulf. It's being drawn here by the return flow around the high-pressure system that brought us last night's starry skies and the very cold overnight temperatures.

That warm flow will bring temperatures back up above seasonable norms in time for Saturday's football game. But it's running into cold air to our north and west. That will bring us clouds Friday, and increasing chances for rain through the weekend.

By late Monday, the cold front will push through, and we'll return to real January temperatures.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:27 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 10, 2007

Coldest day in a month

Looks like today's high temperature at BWI will stand at 37 degrees. It's the first day we've failed to reach 40 since Dec. 8. And tonight looks to be very cold as high pressure and clear skies settle in to allow plenty of radiational cooling. The forecast low at BWI is just 22 degrees. That's the coldest we've seen since Dec. 9, when it was 18 degrees at the airport. Finally, some winter weather. 

It won't last long, however. We should be back into the 50s by Friday. Then the cold comes back. Here's AccuWeather's take on it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Comet search, 5 p.m. tonight

JAN 10 UPDATE:  I looked for McNaught this morning without success, although Jupiter was very bright in the eastern sky. Will try again this evening, right after sunset. Here's the latest from SkyTonight.com    They're now calling this one of the brightest comets in decades. I wonder what a comet, in the sky just days before the Raven/Colts smashup, portends for purple power.

6 P.M. UPDATE: Nearly froze to death looking for this thing. Saw nothing. Anyone spot it tonight?

JAN 9 POST: There's a relatively bright comet in the sky this week. I've hesitated to say much about it because it's likely to be hard to find, especially from urban areas with lots of light and air pollution.

But the weather forecast for Wednesday looks pretty clear, and the comet - already very close to the horizon - will become even harder to see in the coming days as it gets even lower, and rain moves in. So maybe it's worth a mention before seeing it becomes utterly impossible. 

The comet is called C/2006 P1 McNaught. Some amateur astronomers, including some in this area, have spotted it after some considerable searching. Here's a gallery of photos. Discovered last summer, it has been growing brighter ever since, and is now considered a "naked eye" object. But binoculars are advised.

It's about to whirl around the sun and head back to the outer solar system, so it's currently very close to the sun from our perspective. That makes it visible in the western sky immediately after sunset, and also low in the east just before sunrise.

Here's an article from Space.com, and a sky map for tracking it down in the evening sky - your best shot.

Once McNaught is too near the sun to see in the star's glare, you can pick it up in the images sent back by NASA's SOHO orbiting solar observatory. It should be within SOHO's field of view by Friday, Jan. 12. Click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

A Hubble spectacular

The Heritage team at the Space Telescope Science Institute has released a beautiful image of a cluster of young stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud - a small galaxy in the southern sky that orbits our own Milky Way Galaxy. Here's the image. Click on it to enlarge.

Starnursery

Here's the caption that explains what we're looking at. And here's the Hubble Heritage Web page. Enjoy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

New headshot for column

Several readers have complained about the little photo of me that accompanies this blog. Several said I need to get my glasses out of my mouth. Unsanitary, they said. I admit it's not much to look at. So how about this one, instead?  Seems fitting.

Windbeard_1

(With apologies to Frank Zamfino and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

January 9, 2007

Flakes could accumulate

The National Weather Service says we could start seeing flakes in the air this afternoon - after 3 p.m. - as an Alberta Clipper zips through. Don't look for anything on the roadways, but we could get a dusting on the grass, less than a half inch. If anything accumulates at BWI, it will be the winter's first measurable snowfall, and the falling flakes are sure to get a lot of attention.

Two to four inches are possible well to our west. Here's the snow advisory for Western Maryland.

We'll warm up a bit later this week for the big game, but there may be some real winter weather ahead - finally - starting next week. Here's what AccuWeather is predicting.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

2006 America's warmest year

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States, edging out 1998 for the title by 0.07 degree.

The National Climatic Data Center, in Ashville, N.C., calculates that the average temperature for the year was 55 degrees. That's 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century mean. Seven months were warmer than average, and December was the fourth warmest since records began in 1895.

The data come from a network of 1,200 observing stations. The numbers are adjusted to remove "artificial" influences such as instrument changes and "heat island" effects in urban areas.

Mild weather during the 2006 heating seasons cut energy demands for heat by 13.5 percent relative to the long-term average.

NOAA attributes the mild weather to the influences of global warming linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, as well as the El Nino event now underway in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean. The rate of warming has accelerated during the past 30 years, at a rate three times faster than the century-scale trend.

The past nine years in the U.S. have all been among the 25 warmest on record, a streak "unprecedented in the historical record," NOAA said.

For the full release, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

January 8, 2007

Snow late Tuesday?

I bet that got your attention. Unfortunately (or unfortunately), the National Weather Service forecast calls for only a chance of snow showers in the metropolitan parts of Maryland as an Alberta Clipper busts through here Tuesday. It's arriving in the flow of much colder air that's streaming down from Canada behind the departing low that brought us all this rain.

Most of the real snow will fall in the mountains to our west, and in western Maryland. We're likely to see no more than rain and maybe snow showers as temperatures fall toward evening, with little or no accumulation. Still, if there's any accumulation at all, it will be the first of the winter for Baltimore.

The forecast high for Tuesday is just 45 degrees. That's still above average for this time of year. But it would be the coldest high we've had since Dec. 31, and tied for the coldest since Dec. 9.

Here's the morning discussion from Sterling:

"A FAST MOVING ALBERTA CLIPPER WILL BRING SNOW SHOWERS TO THE
ALLEGHENY FRONT AND POTOMAC HIGHLANDS TUESDAY AFTERNOON. THE SNOW
SHOWERS COULD INTENSIFY FOR SEVERAL HOURS TUESDAY NIGHT. MODERATE
SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WILL BE POSSIBLE BY WEDNESDAY MORNING FOR
LOCATIONS ALONG AND WEST OF THE ALLEGHENY FRONT. COMMUNITIES EAST OF
THE ALLEGHENY FRONT TO THE BLUE RIDGE MAY RECEIVE LIGHT SNOWFALL
ACCUMULATIONS."

Here's how our forecast shapes up. And here's how AccuWeather is framing it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 7, 2007

Get outdoors this morning

If you have outdoor plans today, get to them this morning or in the early afternoon. Skies will cloud up as the day progresses, and there's some heavy rain due in late today and into tomorrow. The National Weather Service has posted flood watches along the western shore of the bay, with rain totals in the 1 to 2 inch range before this ends. Here's a piece of this morning's discussion (with my edits for clarity):

"POSSIBLE HEAVY RAINFALL. MODEL ... SUGGESTS A WIDESPREAD
1 TO 2 INCH RAINFALL EVENT...WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBERS NEAR THE URBAN
CORRIDOR. WHILE TERRAIN IN OUR WESTERN CWA (forecast area) CAN POSE FLOODING
PROBLEMS...BELIEVE THAT AREAS EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS ESPECIALLY NEAR
THE URBAN CORRIDOR WILL BE MORE VULNERABLE TO A FLOOD THREAT GIVEN
HIGHER PRECIPITABLE WATER VALUES AND A GREATER RISK OF HEAVIER
RAINFALL RATES IN CONVECTIVE/BANDED ELEMENTS. THEREFORE...WILL ISSUE
A FLOOD WATCH FOR AREAS EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS EXCEPT FOR LOWER
SOUTHERN MARYLAND WHERE ... SANDY SOIL ... (poses) LESS FLOOD RISK."

And here's AccuWeather's take.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 6, 2007

Record highs in Va., DC

T-shirt weather in January. Go figure. Today's gorgeous weather set new records in Washington, D.C. and out at Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va. It was perfect in Baltimore, too, but a degree shy of the record for the date.

The afternoon high, under blue skies and warm sunshine, was 73 degrees at Washington's Reagan National Airport. That eclipsed the record of 72 degrees, set on this date in 1950, according to the National Weather Service.

It reached 71 degrees at Dulles, which shattered the record of 66 degrees set there on this date in 1998. But then, it's easier to break records at Dulles, because the record-keeping doesn't go back very far.

In Baltimore, where temperature records have been kept since 1871, the record for a Jan. 6 is 72 degrees, set back in 1950. The high today at BWI-Marshall Airport was 71 degrees. Close, but no cigar.

Downtown, at the Maryland Science Center, the high this afternoon was 76 degrees. That would have set a new record if the city's station of record were still downtown.

No matter. It was a fabulous day to sit out side, let the sun shine on your winter-pale skin and let it manufacture gobs of vitamin D.

The weather ahead (that's an AccuWeather link; their "Baltimore" temperature record data is actually for Dulles) isn't nearly as balmy. We're headed back into the 40s and 50s - still well above the long-term norms for the area, but no records will be threatened.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

January 5, 2007

April showers

Wait, sorry. It's still January, though you'd never know it. Forecasters are watching these showers drift through, and keeping an eye on the possibility of some thunder this afternoon to our south and east. Crazy.

And for tomorrow they're looking for a high at BWI close to 70 degrees. Here's how this morning's discussion from Sterling put it: (My edits for clarity.)

"APRIL IN JANUARY ..." MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES YESTERDAY AND TODAY IN LINE WITH WHAT SHOULD BE SEEN THREE MONTHS HENCE. AND LOOKING AT (ATMOSPHERIC) STABILITY INDICES INSTEAD OF SNOW POTENTIAL ... UNUSUAL."

We've already reached 56 degrees at 11 a.m. at the Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets. And we've recorded a tenth of an inch of rain. The overnight low at the airport was 43 degrees. The normal HIGH for this date is 41.

How weird is it to have 70-degree weather in Baltimore in January? Not as weird as you might think. The last time was on Jan. 13, 2005, when we reached 71 degrees. In fact, three of the last five Januaries have seen 70-degree temperatures at BWI:

Jan. 13, 2005  ... 71 degrees

Jan. 4, 2004 ... 72 degrees

Jan. 30, 2002 ... 77 degrees

The record high temperature for January in Baltimore is 79 degrees, reached on Jan. 14, 1932. Of the month's 31 dates, 21 have record highs of 70 degrees or higher.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 4, 2007

Space junk re-enters on live TV

This is so cool. A morning TV crew in Denver broadcast live images today of a spent Russian rocket body as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. Surprised and startled, the anchors and a traffic 'copter pilot described it as a "meteor shower." But it was way too slow and dense to be a meteor shower. Click here to link to the video. Then, click on the thumbnail image at the bottom.

Since then it has been identified as the spent booster from a Russian rocket used to launch the French COROT space telescope on Dec. 27.

The debris train reminds me of the images of the shuttle Columbia as it broke up on re-entry Feb. 1, 2003. Meteor showers are never this dense and always much faster. There were no reports of any injuries from the falling debris. It's possible little if any reached the ground, but authorities are looking for some pieces in Wyoming. Here's the ground track for the rocket's final orbit.

Rocket

Click it to enlarge.

Observers in New Mexico saw it, too. Here's one of their reports, from a satellite observers' list serve:

"The decay was visible from Albuquerque as well. My husband viewed it on his way to work this morning at 6:15 and said it was spectacular and unlike anything he's ever seen before. Other traffic stopped to watch it along I-40. - Becky Ramotowski"

And speaking of stuff falling from space, click here for more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Warm and warmer

Just when you thought this mild January weather couldn't get any milder, the folks out at Sterling began posting forecasts for highs of 64 at BWI on Friday, and 65 on Saturday. The record high for Friday's date in Baltimore is 69 degrees, set in 1997. On Saturday and Sunday the records poke into the 70s. We're not likely to go there.

Statistically, this is the coldest time of the year in Baltimore, with average highs of 41 degrees and lows of 24 during the 30-year reference period of 1971-2000. Yet we've had only six days since Dec. 10 when lows have dipped into the 20s. And half of those have come this week as crystal clear skies have allowed rapid radiational cooling (as well as one brilliant full moon).

We're not alone in our wonder. Here's a bit of this morning's discussion from a forecaster at Sterling (edited for clarity):

"I WAS LOOKING AROUND NORTH AMERICA - ON JAN 4 AT 2 AM IN ONTARIO I COULD
ONLY FIND 1 OBSERVATION POINT BELOW FREEZING. GRANTED - THE OBSERVATION NETWORK IS SPARSE, BUT IN A PROVINCE ALMOST TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS...?  IT'S 36 ON THE WESTERN SHORE OF JAMES BAY. PHENOMENAL."

Our mild weather comes to us courtesy of a persistent jet stream pattern that is holding the cold arctic air at bay to our far north and west. We are in a pattern that is drawing mild air from Southwest to Northeast. There will actually be a warm front pushing through here in the next couple of days, which will bring us the 65-degree weather and rain.

We can expect this morning's sunshine to give way to increasing clouds, perhaps with some light rain developing overnight. The real rain isn't due until after 7 a.m., continuing into Saturday.

Then comes the "cold" front, which really will bring much colder temperatures, but it is still likely to leave us somewhat above the seasonal norms, with highs next week in the mid- to upper-40s. The rain will persist into Monday.

Sorry kids. Not even the Hereford Zone has any snow days on the horizon. It's interesting to note that BWI hasn't had any measurable snow since the 13 inches that fell last Feb. 11-12 - the only measurable snow in all of 2006.

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

January 3, 2007

How warm was 2006?

The National Weather Service forecasters out at Sterling have published their year-end wrapup on 2006 statistics for Baltimore and Washington, and it was a warm one. Here's the skinny: (The boldface is mine.)

THE YEAR OF 2006 WAS A VERY WARM YEAR AS COMPARED WITH PREVIOUS
YEARS IN THE 135 YEAR RECORD OF BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON WEATHER.

WASHINGTON...

THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR WASHINGTON FOR 2006 WAS 59.2 WHICH
MAKES IT THE EIGHTH WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD. THE WARMEST EVER WAS
1991 WHICH HAD A 60.3 DEGREE AVERAGE. WITH THE ADDITION OF 2006
FIVE OF THE TOP EIGHT HAVE OCCURRED SINCE 1990...THE YEARS OF 1990
1991 1998 2002 AND 2006.

THIS PAST YEAR WAS BOOKENDED BY THE TWO EXTRAORDINARILY WARM
MONTHS JANUARY AND DECEMBER BOTH OF WHICH WERE IN THE TOP TEN
WARMEST FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE MONTHS. APRIL AND AUGUST WERE BOTH
VERY WARM. APRIL WAS THE ELEVENTH WARMEST APRIL... WHILE AUGUST
WAS THE 8TH WARMEST AUGUST ON RECORD AND THE 22ND WARMEST MONTH
EVER IN WASHINGTON.

WASHINGTON ALSO HAD QUITE A BIT OF PRECIPITATION. THERE WAS 47.77
INCHES OF PRECIPITATION IN 2006. THAT WAS ALMOST EIGHT AND A HALF
INCHES ABOVE NORMAL AND QUALIFIED FOR THE 25TH WETTEST YEAR ON
RECORD SINCE 1871
. MUCH OF THAT SURPLUS CAME IN JUNE WHEN
SLOW MOVING THUNDERSTORMS DROPPED OVER TEN INCHES OF RAIN IN THREE
DAYS PRODUCING WIDESPREAD FLOODING. THE REMNANTS OF HURRICANE
ERNESTO ALSO BROUGHT A GOOD SLUG OF RAIN OVER LABOR DAY WEEKEND
WITH OVER TWO AND A HALF INCHES OF RAIN...40 MPH WINDS...AND
TIDAL FLOODING.

THERE WAS ONE SNOW EVENT WITH MEASURABLE SNOW FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR.
THAT OCCURRED ON PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND FEBRUARY 11TH AND 12TH.
NEARLY NINE INCHES FELL. THE SNOW DISAPPEARED NEARLY AS QUICKLY AS
IT CAME AS TEMPERATURES WARMED INTO THE 50S AND 60S JUST THREE
DAYS LATER.


BALTIMORE...

BALTIMORES STATISTICS FOR 2006 WERE NOT QUITE AS SPECTACULAR AS
WASHINGTON'S. THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR BALTIMORE FOR 2006 WAS
57.4 MAKES IT THE SIXTEENTH WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD. THE 30 YEAR
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR THE YEAR IS 54.6 DEGREES. THE WARMEST EVER
WAS 1931 WHICH HAD A 59.3 DEGREE AVERAGE.

JANUARY...APRIL...AUGUST...AND DECEMBER WERE ALL IN THE TOP 15
WARMEST FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE MONTHS.

MARSHALL BALTIMORE WASHINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DID NOT GET
NEARLY AS MUCH RAIN AS WASHINGTON DURING THE LATE JUNE
THUNDERSTORM OUTBREAK... WHICH WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR MUCH OF
WASHINGTONS SURPLUS. THE AIRPORT RECORDED JUST UNDER FIVE INCHES
OF RAIN DURING THE SAME THREE DAYS OF JUNE 25 TO 27TH. THERE WAS
43.25 INCHES OF PRECIPITATION IN 2006. THAT WAS JUST ABOVE THE
NORMAL OF 41.94 INCHES. THE REMNANTS OF HURRICANE ERNESTO DID
BRING A GOOD SLUG OF RAIN OVER LABOR DAY WEEKEND WITH OVER THREE
AND A HALF INCHES OF RAIN...35 MPH WINDS...AND TIDAL FLOODING.

THERE WAS ONE SNOW EVENT WITH MEASURABLE SNOW FOR THE ENTIRE
YEAR...ALTHOUGH IT WAS QUITE A STORM. THAT OCCURRED ON PRESIDENTS
DAY WEEKEND FEBRUARY 11TH AND 12TH. JUST OVER THIRTEEN INCHES
FELL. THE SNOW DISAPPEARED NEARLY AS QUICKLY AS IT CAME AS
TEMPERATURES WARMED INTO THE 50S AND 60S JUST THREE DAYS LATER.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
        

January 2, 2007

No winter this week

So, how great is this? The jet stream continues to sweep across the northeastern portion of the country, just to our north. That's keeping snows and lows locked up where they belong. And we're left in a west to east flow that's keeping our weather mild and, for now, dry.

Yesterday's LOW at BWI-Marshall was 44 degrees. That is two degrees WARMER than the normal HIGH (42 degrees) for a New Year's Day in Baltimore. And the rest of the week looks to stay mild for this time of year.

The next storm is due in late Thursday night and Friday. But it, like the last two, will be a liquid event. And temperatures behind that storm will look pretty much like we're seeing today.

December's weather made it the fourth-mildest for Baltimore in the last 35 years, after December 1984, 1971 and 1994. And that may lead you to wonder what happened during the REST of the winter during those years. Well, I did a little research, and here's what I found:

1985: A very cold January, with almost no snow. A mild February with 9 inches of snow. (Average February snowfall at BWI is 6.4 inches.) Seasonal snow total: 10.3 inches. (Average is 18.2)

1972: A mild January with no measurable snow. A cool February, with only an inch of snow. Seasonal snow total: 14 inches.

1995: A very mild January with less than an inch of snow. A cold February with 7.5 inches of snow. Seasonal snow total: 8.2 inches.

The bottom line: Aside from a scarcity of January snow, there's no clear pattern for the weather that has followed the mildest Decembers of the last 35 years. But if you take all three winter months together, those winters with the mildest Decembers of the last three decades have all, as you might expect, produced below-average seasonal snow totals.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 1, 2007

Skies clear for space station

The rain is over and the forecasters are predicting clear skies Tuesday evening for an interesting flyover by the International Space Station.

Observers in the Baltimore region should watch for the ISS to appear in the northwestern skies around 6:31 p.m. as it soars over Michigan and Ohio. It's humming along at 17,500 mph, circling the globe once every 90 minutes or so, at an altitude of about 220 miles.  There are currently three crew members on board - two Russian men and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.

The station will pass over Washington, D.C. at around 6:34. From Baltimore, it will appear about 73 degrees above the southwestern horizon. (Zero degrees is low on the horizon; 90 degrees is straight up. So 70 degrees is more than three-quarters of the way up from the horizon to a spot directly overhead, called the zenith).

That's when this gets interesting. At 6:34 the station - which we see only because of the direct sunlight it reflects from its solar panels, radiators, science and residential modules and other reflective components - will pass into the Earth's shadow (night). From our vantage point on the surface, in the dark, it will appear to simply disappear, high overhead in the Great Square of the constellation Pegasus. And all we're left with is stars. Kind of looks like the ISS turning on its Star Trek cloaking device.

On board, the bright sunlight stops streaming in through the station's windows. The "night" lasts about 45 minutes.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:24 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching
        
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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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