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May 31, 2007

Heat, storms and bad air

Now THIS is summer on the Chesapeake. Forecasters at Sterling are predicting high temperatures today in the 90s. They're also looking for rising humidities and at least a chance at thunderstorms in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Add to that a Code Red Heat Alert for Baltimore, ozone pollution in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" zone and a notable lack of rain since mid-April, and you have just about everything one expects from summer in these parts.

Here's the Hazardous Weather Outlook issued this morning by Sterling. Here's the official forecast for the area. And here's the Code Red Alert from the city Health Department. The city has opened its cooling shelters.

And this morning's Drought Monitor map shows most of Maryland now registers as "Abnormally Dry." No drought yet, but we may be absorbed within the expanding Southeast Drought region before too many more weeks are out.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

NASA's Administrator on climate change

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was interviewed today on NPR, and the conversation turned to global climate change. He said he thought it "arrogant" to propose that certain people at a certain place or time could decide what sort of climate the planet should have. To listen to the full interview, or read a bit of it, click here.

Some might suggest the arrogance lies with those - all of us - whose daily activities contribute significantly to changes already underway. Implicit in those activities is an assertion of our right as humans to change the planet's climate for all other living things.  Now that's arrogant.

Meanwhile, President Bush seems to be out in front of his NASA administrator, proposing to convene a meeting of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emittors in an effort to do just that - set goals for emissions in order to head off just the sort of climate change Griffin seems willing to accept.

That has drawn a cool response from Eileen Claussen, President of Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

"Six years after rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, President Bush has finally offered an alternative proposal, but it falls well short of what's needed. Agreement among the major emitting countries on a long-term global goal would be helpful. But far more critical is getting binding commitments on near- and mid-term action to reduce emissions.

"From all appearances, what the president is proposing is a strictly voluntary approach that won't deliver real results. We've tried the voluntary approach, both in the United States and internationally, and it doesn't work. The bottom line is we need binding commitments from all the major economies. The president isn't offering commitments and isn't asking for commitments, and without them we won't get the job done."

The unanswered question may be whether human institutions have the capacity to derail or even slow the changes we've helped to accelerate.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

May 30, 2007

Fourth-driest May?

There's a chance we could see a pop-up thunderstorm today or tomorrow. But it's not very likely. If there's nothing before May runs out at midnight tomorrow, this month will rank as the 4th driest May on record for Baltimore.

You can sure see it in our suburban lawns. They're as brown as August. And stream flows, especially in the western half of the state, are running well below normal for this time of year.

Normal May rainfall at BWI is 3.89 inches. Here are the driest four Mays for Baltimore:

1986:  0.37 inch

1964:  0.43 inch

1957:  0.55 inch

2007:  0.94 inch

The forecast shows a rising likelihood for thunderstorms from Friday through the weekend. But that will come too late to bail out this very dry month of May. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

May 29, 2007

Like last week, only hotter!

They say Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. Well, in this case it marks the official start of summerlike weather. The holiday-shortened work week ahead looks a whole lot like last week - very sunny and pleasant - but this time about 10 degrees hotter.

The official forecast calls for daytime highs in the mid- to upper-80s all week, with mostly sunny skies. That's about normal - for July. The first clear mention of showers is for Sunday. We can thank yet another high-pressure system, now centered just off the coast.  The jet stream, and all the storm systems, are moving up along the western edge of the high and into Canada, keeping us high and dry. The only risk of an unexpected shower probably lies with isolated convection - thunderstorms - that could pop up over the mountains, or across central Virginia. 

Of course, we could sure use some serious rain. Lawns out there are starting to look August-brown. At this point we stand a good chance of ending May with less than an inch of rain at BWI. The long-term average for May is 3.89 inches.

Delaware Sea GrantAnd as hot as it may get later this week - near 90 degrees by late in the work week - we may see some cooler temperatures close to the western shore of the Chesapeake thanks to a developing bay breeze: Hot air rising off the land will draw water-cooled air off the bay to replace it. Annapolis would be a good place to be by week's end.

The same high that's bringing us this nice weather is also bringing stiff winds ashore to our south, causing serious rip currents and numerous rescues on the beaches in Florida.  Here's more on rip currents and the dangers they pose for swimmers. Rip current risks are low for now at Maryland beaches. The photo shows a crowded Delaware beach with numerous rip currents (arrows).


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:16 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts

May 24, 2007

Who knew? Snow in WV Friday

Just stumbled across this set of photos from the mountains of West Virginia, near Davis. Folks out there say they got a dusting of SNOW last Friday. And they have the snaps to prove it. Click here.

Forecasters evidently missed it, and it appears to have received no press. But then, I suspect it's not such a big deal out there. Still, those trees are in full leaf. And down here in Baltimore, it never got cooler than 53 degrees on Friday, with a trace of rain. 


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

May 23, 2007

Turn up the heat

No, not the thermostat. We're talking about the atmosphere. All this sunshine, and a more southerly flow of air around the high-pressure center that has brought us all this glorious spring weather, is pushing thermometers higher as the week advances.

We're still looking for a high in the 70s today. But starting tomorrow we're going to see the meter move into the 80s. Here's the official forecast. The long-term average high temperatures for this time of year at BWi are in the mid-70s. The average overnight lows are in the mid-50s, which is about what we've seen in recent days.

Forecasters in Sterling have also inserted a slight chance for a thunderstorm for Friday night. That would be the result of convection from daytime solar heating. But attempts by a series of cold fronts to shove into the region should be squelched, forecasters say. That leaves us with clear sailing well into next week. Should be a great holiday weekend.

But watch for an increase in humidity along with the higher temperatures next week. It may begin to feel like summer on the Chesapeake.

We're also beginning to want for rain. They've clocked less than an inch in May at BWI. That's nearly two inches below the average for the month to date. And we've had only about 1.5 inches since April 15.  We'll be watching for the new Drought Monitor map tomorrow to see whether the drought underway in the Southeast has spread any closer to Maryland.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 22, 2007

Atlantans choke on smoke

Those fires in southeast Georgia and northern Florida are still generating a pall of smoke across the Southeast, and the plume finally reached Atlanta this morning. It blocked the sun and filled the air with the acrid smell of burning brush. Here's a look at what it was like

Blame the high-pressure system that is bringing us our fine spring weather this week. The clockwise circulation around the high swept up the smoke and blew it northwest to Atlanta. It's dissipated some since this morning, but it's still looking a bit hazy down there. Here's the weather cam. The plume is still visible from orbit, too. Here's how it looked Tuesday from NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

2007 hurricane forecast is out

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued its first official forecast for the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Academic forecasters - William Gray and his team at Colorado State University - have already predicted an active season.

The feds, too, are calling for an active season, with 13 to 17 named storms, of which 7 to 10 will reach hurricane force. Of those, 3 to 5 will reach Cat. 3 strength. Last year, an especially quiet season, there were 9 named storms, 5 hurricanes, of which 2 were Cat. 3 or higher. Here's the full report.

Of course, the forecasts issued in May of 2005 and 2006 were far off the mark. The 2005 forecast fell short of the actual pace of storms by about half. NOAA predicted 12 to 15 named storms, and the 2005 season coughed up 27. The following year NOAA predicted 13 to 16 tropical storms, and the 2006 season wheezed to produce just 9. So, while it's always wise to be prepared - even a skimpy season can yield the storm that floods your house - we need to take these forecasts with a grain of salt. Only time will tell how bad it really gets.

Officially, the hurricane season doesn't begin until June 1. But we have already seen one sub-tropical storm come and go off the Southeast coast. It was strong enough, briefly, to cop the name Andrea from the 2007 list. But that's no indicator for which way this season will go.

And today's forecast discussion out of Sterling hints that forecast models are indicating the first tropical cyclone of the season could develop next week in the Caribbean. There's nothing yet from the National Hurricane Center on that, although forecasters are watching some convection in the western Caribbean, and predicting it will move west across the countries of southern Central America and into the eastern Pacific.  Here's the radar loop that shows that stormy area near Panama. Here's the tropical forecast discussion.

In the meantime, our weather continues to look quite perfect, right through the long holiday weekend. Here's the forecast.

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

May 21, 2007

A fine Sunday, more to come

NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite snapped a fine picture of the Southeastern U.S. just after noon on Sunday, showing why most of the region enjoyed clear, sunny skies and mild, dry weather. The snapshot shows some broken cloudiness over Maryland, and the persistent smoke from wildfires in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

And the picture just gets better as the week progresses. The official forecast looks a lot like the forecast for Honolulu. Maybe better. It calls for mostly sunny skies through Friday, with daytime highs in the 70s and overnight lows in the 50s. (Cooler than Honolulu, for sure, but drier.) 

Enjoy it. This is the weather you'll pine for come July.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

May 20, 2007

Out of the woods

The coastal storm that spun up the Eastern Seaboard Friday and Saturday, and swept the region with a bit of clouds and sprinkles from yesterday afternoon into this morning, is moving off into New England and the Canadian maritime provinces. Here's the radar loop. That clears the decks for high pressure to move in this week behind another cold front, with blue skies and lots of sunshine.

The forecast calls for clearing skies today, and mostly sunny days - pleasant in the 70s to near 80 degrees - through the entire work week. The next significant chance for rain is Saturday.

Looks like we had a pretty big fall of pollen overnight, too. My car, and every one around it, had a heavy dusting of grayish-green powder when I left Cockeysville for work this morning. Anyone else notice it? Any guess as to which species (tree? grass?) is to blame?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 17, 2007

April was third warmest globally

The climate data report for April 2007 is in from the National Climatic Data Center, and once again it is full of near-superlatives. For example, last month saw:

* The third-warmest global combined land and sea-surface temperatures on record for April.

* Ocean surface temperatures tied for 7th warmest of the last 128 years.

* The second-rainiest day on record in New York City

* The largest wildfire on record in Georgia.

* The 4th warmest April on record for Alaska.

* Billions of dollars in crop losses due to record cold from Texas to Illinois and Florida.

* Continuation of the driest "water year" (July to June) on record for Los Angeles.

* The warmest January-to-April period on record globally.

Finally, the report notes that global surface temperatures continue to rise at a rate of a third of a degree each decade, an accelerated rate that began in the mid-1970s. Want more? Click here.

Care to comment? Because of the amount of "comment spam" we receive, we have been forced to add a new filter to our software. If you're a real person and not a computer, when you leave a comment, be sure to type in the requested security character at the bottom of the comment form. Thanks. Awfully lonely here without your feedback.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Climate change

Weekend outlook fades

What had looked in the forecasts like a promise of clearing by Saturday, is now looking cloudier, with a persistent but diminishing chance for showers into Saturday night for Baltimore and the rest of Central Maryland. Sunday, at least, still looks pretty sunny and dry, with highs near 70 degrees.

Here's the official forecast.

Blame bad luck, or a stalled cold front to our south and east, or a tropical low near the Bahamas that forecasters expect to move up the coast to a spot off the Delmarva peninsula by Friday evening. They're all conspiring to dim Saturday's outlook. Here's AccuWeather's gloomy take on it. And here's the latest radar loop.

The clouds will also likely spoil what had promised to be a fine view of the International Space Station, which will fly over Baltimore on its way up the coast just before 5 a.m. Saturday morning. There's a chance the clouds will part enough to give us a peek. So, I'm posting details on Friday's print Weather Page, just in case. But I'm not real optimistic.

Yesterday afternoon's rain, meanwhile, left a bit more than a half-inch of rain at BWI. That still leaves us an inch below the long-term average for May thus far. And as cool as it's seemed lately, we're still running 2.6 degrees above normal for the month. The storm had a far bigger impact to our north.

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

May 16, 2007

Quick hit

The front has gone by, but not before dropping temperatures here at Calvert & Centre streets by 12 degrees in about 15 minutes - between 4:30 and 5 p.m. We recorded .34 inch of rain, most of it between 4:30 and 5.  Winds peaked at 19 mph. BWI data is running late.

Here are some other rainfall totals for the region. Here's some streamflow data. (SLide your cursor over the dots and click for details. Not much to cluck about there. Not enough rain to fill most of the creeks, which have been relatively low thanks to a month of dry weather. Herring Run up in Idlewylde, on the city-county line, appears to be running highest relative to long-term averages for the date.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

Greensburg Gallery

If you ever thought you'd be tempted, under a tornado warning, to stay outside and watch the twister or take pictures for CNN, this gallery of photos from Greensburg - the Kansas town recently erased by an F5 tornado - will persuade you of the value of underground tornado shelters. The fork embedded in the tree was enough for me.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes

Batten your hatches

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Severe storm warnings for Harford and Baltimore counties have been cancelled. Severe storm watches remain in effect across the region. Here's a map that will provide current watches and warnings.

EARLIER: Baltimore and Harford counties are under severe storm warnings this afternoon as thunderstorms roll in ahead of a cold front from the north and west. The rest of the region is under a severe storm watch. Here is the latest forecast. Here is the current storm warning. And here is the local radar. For a wider view, click here.

Where's the lightning? Check here.

Here's how Sterling puts it:


And here are some severe weather safety rules to keep in mind. Be careful out there.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

Cold front brings PM storms

Get your tour of the links finished and your laundry hung and dried before this afternoon. There's a new cold front creeping toward us today from the north and west. Forecasters say that means we'll see showers and some thunderstorms this afternoon and gusty winds into the evening as the heavier, dense cool air shoves aside this warm and increasingly humid air out of the way. You can see the front, and the rain, headed our way on this radar loop.

Before the front arrives we can expect the mercury to creep into the 80s again at BWI. It's already 80 here at Calvert & Centre streets. But things will cool down abruptly when the front and rains arrive after 2 p.m. Sterling is predicting between a quarter and a half-inch of rain this afternoon, and a bit more overnight. Temperatures should stick in the upper 60s tomorrow. Here's the official forecast.

Rain chances will linger into Thursday and Friday as a low-pressure center now over Michigan moves east, and another storm whips up the coast, offshore. But the weekend still looks dry, with highs pleasant in the 70s. So go ahead with those weekend plans. Headed over the big bridge? Here's the forecast for Ocean City.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 15, 2007

Fire danger rises

Our dry weather and increasing winds today will raise the danger of wildfires in Maryland. Forecasters say the hazard doesn't yet rate a Red Flag advisory. But it's smart to keep the risk in mind when you're tempted to toss a cigarette or burn brush out on the old farmette.

Here's how the forecasters at Sterling put it this morning:


Here's more detailed fire weather data.

As for rain, we've had less than an inch at BWI in the last month. There's some prospect for a bit more tomorrow as a cold front muscles in on the warm air that's flowing into the region from the south and southwest today. A few thundershowers are possible, but unless you're in their path, don't expect much in the way of moisture - less than a quarter-inch. Here's the official forecast.

Today will be a one-shot deal for the warm weather. Expect cooler weather again for the balance of the week, and a terrific weekend.

Here's a Cool Photo bonus. It's a shot of the Earth, photographed years ago by the Galileo mission to Jupiter as the spacecraft whizzed by Earth to pick up a gravitational speed boost. NASA spliced a string of still images together to produce this movie of the planet spinning in space. Watch closely and you can see Earth receding as Galileo headed off into the solar system.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 14, 2007

Cool today gone tomorrow

It was 52 degrees at 6 a.m. today here at Calvert & Centre streets. We've tacked on another 10 degrees since then, but it was still a crisp slap in the face on the front stoop this morning.

We're in for a high today of just 68 degrees at BWI, according to forecasters out at Sterling. That's about 5 degrees below the long-term average for this date at BWI. The low at BWI this morning was a nippy 39 degrees in the wee hours. That's darn cold for a May 14, and 13 degrees below the average, but still short of the record low for the date - 34 degrees, set in 1996.

And as the high-pressure center that brought all this cool weather - and one glorious Mother's Day weekend - moves offshore, we will come quickly into a return flow of warm, moist air from the southwest tomorrow.

Look for more clouds this afternoon. The forecast high for tomorrow for BWI-Marshall is 85 degrees. Then, at mid-week, we're looking at another cold front from the north and west. That will arrive with clouds and a chance of showers and thunderstorms on Wednesday. And behind the front we can expect another stretch of cool May days with highs in the 60s. Here's the official forecast.

For fans of the International Space Station, we will have a good viewing opportunity - good, that is, if you don't mind getting up before dawn on a Saturday morning - coming up on Saturday the 19th. I will post details on the print Weather Page on Friday morning. (Weather Page comments are accessible at, from a link under the Blog box.)  

The forecast from five days out looks good for the flyover. But forecasters are watching for a low-pressure system that could spin up the coast for the weekend. It's expected to stay well offshore, but ...  Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 11, 2007

Amazing pall of smoke from SE fires

NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite has captured an astonishing photo of the smoke from wildfires that have been burning for weeks in Georgia and Florida. The smoke has blown south and west, over Florida and out across the Gulf of Mexico. It is quite a sight. Have a look.  Thanks to the folks at Goddard Space Flight Center for the tip.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Perfect Mother's Day ahead

Maybe a little warm today - in the 80s with a chance of some scattered showers - and a little wet tomorrow. But we need the rain. We've had less than 2/3-inch since April 16. And the rain will clear the decks (and some pollen) for a perfect Mother's Day on Sunday. (You did remember it's Mother's Day Sunday, right?) Here's the official forecast.

Meanwhile, to our south, a remnant of that weird sub-tropical storm that was spinning off Georgia and Florida much of this week continues to turn off Florida. The storm was briefly strong enough, with enough tropical characteristics to win itself the first name of the 2007 hurricane season - Andrea. But it weakened as it approached the coast, and fell apart. The heavy rains Florida so badly needs to douse its drought and brush fires never materialized. 

But after the wet threat tomorrow, we're looking at high pressure shoving down from the north and west on Sunday. Expect clear, dry and pretty cool air for this time of year, with forecast highs only about 70 on Sunday. Gusty winds might toss Mom's hat around. Then things will warm up again quickly, to 80 by Tuesday.

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

May 10, 2007

Broiling summers for your grandkids

NASA scientists have published a new report on the projected impact of greenhouse gas warming on the Eastern United States over the next eight decades. By the 2080s, they say, average summertime high temperatures may be 10 degrees higher than they are now. That means the typical daytime high in July would be in the mid-90s in Central Maryland, instead of the mid-80s. Highs would rise to between 100 and 110 degrees on days when rain is scarce. 

Here's a story on the report, which is based on computer climate and weather forecasting models. The predictions also assume nothing is done in the meantime to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the average temperatures for BWI in July for the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Climate change

May 9, 2007

Season's first "subtropical" storm forms off S.C.

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season is off to an early start. The National Hurricane Center today assigned the first name of the season - Andrea - to a "subtropical" storm than has been spinning up off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina in recent days. Here's an amazing photo shot at noon yesterday from space. Officially, the hurricane season does not begin until June 1.

"Sub-tropical" means that this storm was not born from the same combination of conditions that generate tropical storms - warm water and convection at its core. Nor is it sustained by the same mechanisms. It's just a regular low-pressure system, with a remarkably tropical look. Here's the satellite loop. Pretty cool. You can see that our clouds in Maryland today are actually the outer reaches of the storm's cloud system.

Because this storm's spin is generating winds and waves with the same impact on shore and shipping as a tropical storm, it wins itself the first name of the season. Peak sustained winds at running near 45 mph, with higher gusts. Here is the first bulletin on Sub-Tropical Storm Andrea. And, for the storm geeks among us, here is the forecasters' discussion. It does not suggest this storm will strengthen, or head out way.

At 11 a.m. today, the hurricane center posted a tropical storm watch along the coast from Altahama Sound, Ga., south to Flagler Beach, Fla. That means tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area sometime during the next 36 hours. Here's the watch area map. And here's a closer weather map view of the area most affected.

The storm's center at 11 a.m. was about 140 miles southeast of Savannah and 150 miles northeast of Daytona Beach, Fla. The storm's movement was toward the west at 3 mph, with a slow turn expected toward the southwest. The heaviest rains are expected to stay offshore for the next day or so. Although Florida and Georgia badly need the rain, they aren't expected to see much through tomorrow morning.

Just in case this early start to the season makes you nervous, here's the most recent seasonal forecast from the folks out at Colorado State University. They're expecting a busy season, though not one like 2005. The National Weather Service's storm forecast is due out later this month.

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

May 8, 2007

OK, maybe a little rain

National Weather forecasters have begun to slip some rain and possible thunderstorms into their forecast for Baltimore, chopping up what had looked like a perfect, sunny week ahead.

The culprit is an odd storm system spinning off the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas - almost like a little tropical storm system, except that it doesn't have a warm core like a tropical storm would.  Here's a look at the satellite view. And here's the satellite loop. You can see the storm's outer clouds moving into southern Maryland. That swirling low will shove some clouds and drizzle our way tonight as the storm moves slowly toward the coast. 

The National Hurricane Center is watching the storm to see whether it develops tropical qualities. If it does, and it gets strong enough, it could become Tropical Storm Andrea nearly a month before the official opening of the 2007 Hurricane Season. 

The good news, I suppose, is that the clouds will keep us from getting quite as cold tonight as it was last night - 48 here at Calvert & Centre streets.

The bad news is the moisture will hang around long enough to impose a "slight" risk of thundershowers for the next few days. And more moisture will move in on us ahead of a cold front as the weekend approaches. Rain chances jump to 50 percent Friday night and Saturday. Sunday looks better from here, but there's more rain on tap for early next week.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 7, 2007

Perfect week ahead

Aside from being a tad shy on rainfall, this week is shaping up as just about the most perfect week anyone could order for May. The National Weather Service is calling for clear to partly cloudy skies, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s or 50s. That's just about the average for a May in Baltimore. And it should keep those BGE meters from spinning too much this week.

This morning's low on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville was a crisp 37 degrees. It was 41 before dawn at BWI - about 8 degrees below the long-term average. The record low for a May 7 is 33 degrees, reached on this date in 1970. So we're cool, but not record-cool.

Tonight's forecast low for BWI is 38 degrees, as clear skies allow a good deal of radiational cooling, as all the day's solar heating is re-radiated into space. They've posted a frost advisory for western Virginia and portions of West Virginia.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Frog in the washer

I'm going to stretch the parameters of this blog a bit today, just because I can, and because I have a story to tell. This story was inspired by real events over the weekend in Cockeysville, and by today's Sun, which in the spirit of a gorgeous stretch of Spring weather includes articles about crabs, whooping crane reproduction, flowers and frogs. (Did you notice the mention of "weather" there? That will stand as justification for this story.)

OK, so my wife and I are out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, hosing off the pollen and the oak flowers in preparation for the arrival of in-laws for Mother's Day weekend. We pull the vinyl covers off the deck furniture, which have protected tables and chairs from the weather all winter - or at least they did until a windstorm threw them aside a few weeks back. We never bothered to put them back in place.

We toss the covers off the deck onto the lawn below, where they rest for several hours while we finish hosing off the deck and potting some flowers.

Then, my wife gathers up one of the covers, hauls it into the house and stuffs it into the washing machine for a good scrubbing before we put it away for the season.

A couple of hours later, I'm working at the computer when I hear a plaintive wail from the basement laundry room. Now, I've been married to this person for nearly 37 years, and you'd figure I'd be able to gauge the nature of the emergency from the tone of the wail. And that would normally modulate how fast I have to scramble down two flights of stairs.

Not this time. It doesn't sound like "I've fallen and broken my leg."  But then again, it doesn't sound like "Come look at what I found!" either.

So, I choose a midling pace, taking care not to fall on the steps and break MY leg. I find my wife standing a good five feet from the washer. She appears intact, but she is looking at the machine as though the newborn monster from ALIEN had emerged from the deck table cover.

Amid the gibberish coming from her mouth I catch the word "frog!" So I begin pulling the now-twisted cover from the washer and peering deep into the machine. And there it is - a very small, very dead, but impressively clean frog. Whether he got caught up in the cover while it rested for months on the deck, or for hours on the lawn doesn't seem important anymore, somehow. So I scoop him up in a paper towel and commit his limp remains to the trash can.

Oddly enough, we should have seen this coming. A year or two ago, during the exact same Springtime ritual, a very similar cry had reached me from the laundry room. That investigation yielded a similarly clean, but very much alive toad at the bottom of the washer. He was returned to the lawn from whence he came, hopped a bit, and presumably made a fine impression on the next female toad he encountered.

The good news is that the ecosystem that surrounds the WeatherDeck is healthy enough to support a lively population of amphibians. The bad news is that some of them can't survive the wash cycle.  

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

Greensburg tornado video

The quality is not so great - it was dark, after all. But tornado chasers at managed to capture several glimpses - in lightning flashes - of the huge, F-5 "wedge" tornado that leveled Greensburg, Kan. over the weekend. And their reactions to what they were witnessing convey something of the awe and fear they felt in the face of one of the most powerful tornados to strike the U.S. in years. Click here.

For more on the Fujita Scale of tornado intensity, click here. Here's a list of the F-5 twisters that have struck the U.S., the most recent in 1999. And here's a list of the top-10 killer tornadoes in our past.

The miraculous thing about this F-5 tornado in Greensburg was that it killed so few people - fewer than 10 in a community of 1,500. Modern forecasting and warning systems have reduced the number of tornado deaths in recent years, despite increasing populations and exposure. But the devastation in Greensburg was enormous. Here are some still photos.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

May 3, 2007

Katrina costliest, 3rd deadliest U.S. hurricane

With the 2007 hurricane season less than a month away, the National Hurricane Center has updated its listing of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes to strike the U.S.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, Katrina, which struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, is ranked as the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, with damages exceeding $81 billion. Even after adjustment for inflation, Hurricane Andrew, which trashed South Florida in 1992, still comes in a distant second, at $42 billion.

In terms of deaths, Katrina ranks third, with an estimated 1,500 dead. The death toll from the 1900 hurricane that ravaged Galveston, Tex. remains the highest at some 8,000. (The true number has never been determined.) In second place is a 1928 storm that killed an estimated 2,500 in South Florida and Lake Okeechobee. 

Katrina also ranks third in storm intensity at landfall, with a barometric reading of 27.17 inches.

For the full report, click here.

It's interesting to note that the 1900 and 1928 storms were both Category 4 storms, while Katrina was a weaker Category 3 at landfall. Andrew - the second-ranking storm in terms of storm damage, does not even rank among the top 50 for storm fatalities.

The standings reflect what hurricane scientists have been saying all along - that while modern early-warning and forecasting skills are saving lives, intense development along our vulnerable coastlines is accelerating the property damage totals from comparatively weaker storms.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:10 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricane background

May 2, 2007

New views of Jupiter

NASA's Maryland-built New Horizons spacecraft, now en route to the dwarf planet Pluto, has sent back more spectacular images of the Jovian system, which it flew through a few weeks back. There are glimpses of Jupiter's faint ring system, the volcanic moon Io, the Little Red Spot and other views of the planet's weather never before seen. To see it all now, click here.

New Horizons was built by, and is being managed and controlled from the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel.

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

Cold front, a flirt with rain

Forecasters say there's a cold front draped along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border this morning. You can trace it along the clouds in this satellite shot.

As it drift south today, we could see some showers. But they expect most of the action will come later today when the front moves well into Southern Maryland. Down there, they could see some severe weather, with damaging winds and hail a possibility.

Here. we can expect some clouds today, and some clouds again tomorrow as the cold front retraces its steps and moves north again as a warm front. The rain should stay mostly to our south.

On Friday we finally get clear of this stuff, and higher pressure brings us cooler, clearer weather, with highs only in the 60s through the weekend and into next week. Here's AccuWeather's take on the fine weather ahead.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

May 1, 2007

HubbleSite wins a Webby

One of the key public Web sites operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute to disseminate news and discoveries generated by the Hubble Space Telescope, has won a Webby. HubbleSite was named the best science Web site for 2007. Webbies are the top international honors for Internet sites.

Here's the release from the HubbleSite. Here's a link to the Webby folks. And here's a link to the HubbleSite itself. And be sure to visit their amazing Gallery of Hubble images.

Congratulations to all the folks at STScI in Baltimore who have a part in putting HubbleSite together each day. It's a winner!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Georgia fires smoke Southland

The wildfires down in Georgia continue to burn and they're sending palls of smoke wafting across portions of Georgia, Florida and out over the Atlantic. The plumes are easily visible from orbit

There are actually three fire complexes. The newest is the Roundabout fire, which began Friday and has already charred 3,500 acres of land, threatening nearby homes. The Sweat Farm Road fire to the southeast has been burning for weeks across 50,000 acres. It has already destroyed many homes, and is threatening scores more, although most of the damage has been to timberland and swamp.

The Sweat Farm Road blaze has nearly merged with the Big Turnaround Complex fire, which has burned more than 26,000 acres. 

Fire fighters say there is no end in sight to these fires. The best news would be an extended period of rain. But as this Drought Monitor Map shows quite clearly, southeast Georgia is suffering through a period of extreme drought. The woods are tinder dry. Dare we wish them an early tropical storm? Here's a story on the grim fire weather outlook.

The direction the smoke takes is dependent on the wind direction, of course. Here's a photo taken yesterday by NASA's Aqua Earth-observing satellite. A pair of shots made the day before shows the smoke plume blowing out over the Atlantic.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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