baltimoresun.com

« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 30, 2007

Saturn "squeaks by" Venus tonight

Not really, of course. Saturn is currently about 922 million miles from Earth, while dazzling Venus is a mere 50 million miles away - 1/20th as distant.

But thanks to an unusual coincidence in the mechanics of the solar system, Venus and Saturn this weekend are almost perfectly aligned with each other from Earth's perspective. They'll make a Saturn, conquered by Amor, Venus and Hope - Simon Vouetrare and lovely sight in the western sky after sunset, provided the skies clear in time. Here's more, with a sky map

Of course, the view is even better in binoculars. And if you have access to a small telescope or one of Baltimore's streetcorner astronomers, you can have the rare privilege of seeing Saturn and his rings, and Venus in her crescent phase, all in one spectacular field of view. 

I'm sure amateur astronomers everywhere will be snapping some terrific images of the pairing. I'll post some as soon as I can. UPDATE:  Here is a link to some terrific images of last night's conjunction.

The two planets will be barely two-thirds of a degree apart this evening (Saturday). That's closer than the width of your pinky held at arm's length.

Saturn and Venus have been drawing closer together for weeks, and this weekend Saturn will be passing Venus, left to right, with Saturn just above Venus as we view them from Earth. 

The painting? That's Simon Vouet's "Saturn, Conquered by Amor, Venus and Hope."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 29, 2007

Cooler, but scant rain

The promised cold front is upon us, but all the excitement yesterday about an approaching line of thunderstorms - including severe storm watches across the state - appears to have come to very little in terms of severe weather and much-needed rainfall. What has fallen has been spotty at best. We had nothing on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville until about 8 a.m. today.

The instruments at BWI-Marshall have recorded just 0.17 inch of precipitation from this frontal passage. Our weather station here at Calvert & Centre streets checked in with 0.27 inch. There's still time to wring more moisture from this front. Here's the radar loop.

But here's the rundown as of about 10 a.m.:

BWI:  0.17 inch

The Sun:  0.27

Frederick: 0.07

Martinsburg: 0.02

DC Reagan: 0.04

Dulles Int'l: 0.62

MD Beaches: 0.10

We still need rain. Western Maryland remains in moderate drought, according to the latest Drought Monitor maps. Nearly the entire balance of the state is rated "abnormally dry."

At BWI, we have measured 2.19 inches of rain in June through Thursday. That's the driest June at BWI since 1999, when just 2.04 inches fell. (The average is 3.43 inches.)

We'll likely end the month nearly an inch below the 30-year averages for June. And that follows May's 3-inch deficit. The bottom line is that we are about 4 inches short of normal rainfall since mid-April.

The weather ahead? Looks very pleasant into next week, but not much rain in the cards.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

June 28, 2007

A noisy evening ahead

There's yet another 90-plus day ahead for Central Maryland, with dew points still in the sultry low 70s. It was already 87 degrees downtown by 10 a.m. But this sticky, suffocating day should be the last for a while. There's a cold front pressing in from the north and west, with a batch of cool, dry, Canadian air behind it. Here's AccuWeather's take.

NASA photoForecasters are looking for a high of 94 degrees this afternoon - the 10th day in the 90s so far this year. The overnight low at BWI-Marshall was 73 degrees, but downtown residents were hotter. Our sensors here at Calvert & Centre streets recorded a low of 79 degrees - for an hour. The rest of the night the air here remained in the 80s.

By dinnertime, the approaching cold front will begin to lift this warm, humid air mass and wring it out. That means thunderstorms. The storms could continue overnight and into Friday before the front clears the region early tomorrow. Here's the radar loop.

On Friday, we'll really feel the relief, as daytime highs stall in the upper 70s across the state, and readings sink in to the 60s overnight. And the weekend looks beautiful, with highs in the low 80s and sunny skies. Headed for the beach? Here's the cool forecast

Whatever rain we pick up will be more than welcome. The new Drought Monitor map is out today, and it shows that Western Maryland - 20 percent of the state - has slipped from "abnormally dry" to "Moderate Drought" since the previous week. Nearly the entire state - 98 percent - is rated at least abnormally dry. That's up from zero percent on April 3.

Here's the six-week animation of the maps.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 27, 2007

Ninety-degree days top 2006 pace

We've topped 90 degrees again this afternoon at BWI-Marshall airport. The mercury reached 96 degrees briefly there. It was 95 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets. 

Yesterday we saw 92 degrees at the airport, bringing the total of 90-plus days to nine so far this year. That's one more than last year by the end of June, and Thursday will likely add yet another. Before 2006 was out, we had clocked 39 days of 90-degree-plus weather.

Here's how the 90-plus days stacked up:

May 2006: 2

June 2006: 6

July 2006: 18

Aug. 2006: 13

May 2007: 3

June 2007: 6 (so far)

The National Weather Service is predicting a warmer-than-average summer ahead. Here's the forecast for July through September..

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Latest sunset tonight

If you're into the long, languid evenings of summer in Maryland, tonight is your night. It's plenty languid with evening lows sinking back through the 80s,  and high humidity. And tonight's sunset will be the latest of the whole year.

NASA photoIn Baltimore, the sun will set at 8:37 p.m. EDT. Over in Ocean City, it will drop below Assawoman Bay at 8:28 p.m. And out in Oakland they'll see the last of today's sunshine at 8:39 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

From here on, the sun will set a tad earlier every night until Dec. 7, when it will set at 4:43 p.m. EST in Baltimore, the earliest of the year. And then the whole cycle begins again.

For sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset predictions for your location, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 26, 2007

Small, isolated T-storm hits NW Baltimore

The National Weather Service has issued flash flood warnings for Baltimore and Baltimore County as a small, stationary thunderstorm dropped heavy amounts of rain at mid-afternoon on northwest portions of the city, Pikesville and adjacent county. The radar estimates suggest more than 2 inches in some very localized spots.

Here's the radar loop. Check out Pikesville rain totals.  This storm is mostly stationary, so it is capable of dumping lots of rain on a small area before it's drained. Ocean City is seeing a very similar storm at this time. See radar loop link above.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:19 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

Another "rare" S. Asian cyclone

Satellites have captured images of yet another cyclone brewing in the Arabian Sea, off the Indian coast. Muscat, Oman - China DailyThis one comes in the wake of Cyclone Gonu, which formed in the same region earlier this month and swept Oman, crossed the Gulf of Oman and struck Iran. The new storm formed in the Bay of Bengal, crossed India and is reforming in the Arabian Sea. Click here for more on Cyclone O3B.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Summer in the Tidewater

So you're a newcomer to Maryland? Or maybe you just got off a plane from, say, Minneapolis, and you stepped outside the terminal at BWI and could not believe you were expected to inhale this hot, gelatinous air. Well, welcome to summertime in Baltimore.

This, dear readers, is why air conditioning was invented. And air conditioning is what allows representative government in Washington to operate year-'round and still accomplish nothing.

Sun photo by Jed KirschbaumThe dew point here at Calvert & Centre streets popped above 70 degrees around 1 p.m. yesterday, and has been slip-sliding around in the low 70s ever since. And any dew points above 70 degrees or so begin to feel pretty uncomfortable. It slows our ability to evaporate sweat, which would ordinarily keep us cool. 

Temperatures are headed for the low 90s at the airport this afternoon - and for the next two afternoons, as well. And it won't dip below 70 at night. Relief?  Well, we'll get to that in a moment.

The blame for this hot, sticky weather - aside from it being summer at 39 degrees north latitude - lies with a high-pressure system spinning clockwise, as they do, just off the Atlantic Coast. That is bringing hot, humid Gulf and Atlantic air our way. 

Forecasters out at the Sterling Forecast Office say there is no strong likelihood of widespread (and much needed) thunderstorms for now. But, with all this moisture in the air, and the sun beating down, we could see some isolated boomers popping up in some spots. Parts of Northwest Baltimore got close to 2 inches of rain from one this afternoon. Ocean City saw some rain, too.

That could change late on Thursday, as another cold front approaches from the north and west. A threat of severe thunderstorms east of the mountains - and especially from Baltimore north and eastward - is being discussed.

Beyond that, forecasters are talking about a nice weekend on the other side of the cold front. Daytime temperatures could stick in the 70s on Friday and the low 80s into next week, with low humidities. Then we can inhale again.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 22, 2007

Nice weekend, hot workweek ahead

Could there be a more pleasant day than this one? Temperatures in the 70s, humidities in the 30-percent range, a nice breeze out of the southwest, a glorious weekend all laid out ahead of us. And I don't have to work a weekend shift. Hoo wah! (Sorry. Caught the Al Pacino Lifetime Achievement Award show the other night. Can't get that out of my head.)

Sun photo by Doug KapustinThe forecast calls for highs today and Saturday in the low 80s as high pressure builds in behind the little front that shot through late yesterday with those storms. Overnight lows will drop into the 50s overnight as clear skies allow plenty of radiational cooling - the loss of heat energy back into space.

So shut off the AC and open those windows and cool the house down as much as you can. You'll need that reserve on Sunday and next week, when highs are expected to climb back into the 90s.

As the high moves off the coast Sunday into Monday, we'll fall once again into the return, clockwise flow around the center, which will bring us hotter, more humid air from the south.  That will be followed Wednesday and Thursday by increasing chances for showers and thunderstorms as another cold front approaches from the north and west. What would we do without them?

Beach-bound? Here's the forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 21, 2007

Space Station flyover tonight. Again.

If you missed last night's space spectacular, you'll have a second chance tonight to watch as the International Space Station flies almost directly over Baltimore just after 9:30 p.m. EDT. We will, that is, if skies clear up in time. Here's the radar loop for these crazy thudnerstorms. They look like they were aimed right for us. Forecasters say skies will clear after 11, but we need them to do it sooner.

Those of us lucky enough to have watched ISS last night witnessed a rare double flyby as the space station was trailed by the shuttle Atlantis. The ISS - bigger and brighter than the shuttle led the way, followed by a smaller and whiter shuttle, perhaps 10 seconds behind but following along the same track. Here are some photos, snapped in Pennsylvania by Joe Cassano and posted on his blog.

I managed to round up some neighbors, and some disbelieving dog-walkers and evening strollers in our neighborhood. And I think I can say they were impressed, if not astounded by the unexpected spectacle.

Plenty of Blog readers watched, too. You can read their comments on last night's post.

For those who snoozed, the skies remain unusually clear and dry for these parts in June, and the station's orbit is even more favorable tonight for Marylanders. So we'll all get a second chance this evening to watch three brave space travelers and $100 billion our tax dollars fly over the city.

The shuttle Atlantis had been due to land early this afternoon. But bad weather has postponed touchdown until at least 3:30 p.m. If the landing is delayed until tomorrow, we may get another double pass this evening. If not, the space station flys on, and it will be soaring almost directly over Baltimore an hour or so after sunset.

LATE UPDATE: LANDING HAS BEEN SCRUBBED FOR THURSDAY.

Look for the ISS to rise above the northwest horizon at 9:39 p.m. EDT, climbing to a maximum elevation of 86 degrees - 213 miles nearly straight up - at 9:42 p.m.  From there, it will sail off toward the southeast, disappearing at 9:44 p.m.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:23 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Summer Solstice arrives

At 2:11 p.m. EDT this afternoon the sun will reach its northernmost point for the year above the celestial equator - the plane of the Earth's equator extended outward into space. The moment of the Summer Solstice also marks the traditional beginning of summer for the Northern Hemisphere (and winter in the Southern).

In some cultures, of course, today marks not the start of summer, but mid-summer, and tonight is Midsummer's Night, when the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. And for meteorologists, the statistical summer actually began on June 1, and runs through Aug. 31.

While the sunrises have been getting later since the 15th, our sunsets will continue to creep later in the evening until June 27. The real import of the solstice, however, is that from today onward until Dec. 22, the days will gradually grow shorter, and the nights longer. We have begun the inexorable slide toward winter, and into darkness, and cold.

But what am I saying? Forget about all that. The hottest days of summer still lie ahead, in mid-July on average, thanks to the air and oceans, which are slower to heat up under the high summer sun. The garden is growing and the living is easy. And the solstice is as good an excuse as any to celebrate the sunshine and raise a glass to life and warmth. Skol!

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

June 20, 2007

Rare space station, shuttle flyby tonight

Space cadets!  We may get another opportunity tonight to see the International Space Station and the shuttle Atlantis fly by, one right after the other. Last night's flyover was clouded out for us, but skies have now cleared behind the cold front, and there is one more decent pass scheduled tonight. It will be closer to the horizon than I usually bother to note here. But this tandem pass by two spacecraft is so rare that it will be well worth trying to see.

ISS from Atlantis TuesdayHere's the scoop:

The International Space Station will rise above the northwest horizon at 9:19 p.m., EDT, traveling toward the east at 17,200 mph. Once again, look for a bright, steady white (or slightly amber) light. If it blinks or has colored or multiple lights, it's an airliner. Keep looking.

The ISS will reach its highest elevation above the north-northeast - just 30 degrees, or less than halfway up the sky - at 9:22 p.m. It will then fly on toward the eastern horizon, and disappear into the Earth's shadow at 9:24 p.m.

But here's the bonus that makes this so very cool.

The shuttle Atlantis, headed for a landing tomorrow afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is still flying in close formation with the ISS, after undocking yesterday morning.

Look for the shuttle flying just ahead of the ISS (or just behind; observers last night said Atlantis seemed to be trailing the station).  The Heavens-Above Web site has just one second separating the two spacecraft. Last night's observers put the spread at 5 seconds, but the separation should be increasing with time. It might pay to step out a few minutes early. The ISS should be brighter, and perhaps a bit amber compared with Atlantis. See if you can tell which is which. You can track them in real time here.

Atlantis from ISS June 10This is a rare event. I've witnessed it just once myself. And those who saw it last night found it among the most memorable things they've ever seen in the night sky. (See earlier post).  

Remember, these spacecraft will be flying from north of the Great Lakes, southeastward toward Cape Cod. They will appear fairly low in our northern and northeastern sky. So find yourself a spot with a clear view in that direction. Good luck. And be sure to post comments here and let us know how you made out. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:05 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Clear sailing 'til Saturday

There may be a few lingering showers near the bay this morning, but for the most part the cool front has passed, and the air will be drying out before long. The forecast calls for sunny skies for the rest of the week, with the next chance for rain coming late on Saturday, with the approach of yet another "cold" front.

The beach forecast looks terrific.

Most of us got little rain out of yesterday evening's thunder and threatening skies. We recorded barely a hundredth of an inch here at Calvert & Centre streets. BWI saw less than a quarter-inch. Reagan National, in Washington, saw 0.1 inch. Dulles International got 0.04 inch. Salisbury did no better.

In fact, there's been little useful rain since June 3-4, when a bit more than 1.5 inches fell at BWI. We have 1.77 inches at BWI for June, less than a half-inch behind the average pace.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

ISS/Atlantis flyover wows many; cloudy here

Reports are coming in from observers who watched the twin flyover last night by the International Space Station and the shuttle Atlantis. Clouds associated with thunderstorms and a frontal passage spoiled the show in Baltimore - at least where I was. But lots of people around the world got a look last night as the shuttle flew in formation behind the station, and the Atlantis crew prepared for tomorrow's landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

Here is a photo one observer shot as the two spacecraft passed over his location. And here are some comments gleaned from the SeeSat satellite observers' list serve.

Hello. I captured a grainy video of this evening's pass of the Shuttle and International Space Station. You can view/download a compressed mpg of it here 22MB http://www.drdale.com/temp/shuttle1.mpg  Dale Ireland - Silverdale

Very cool to see them so close together.They were very easy to find. Even my wife had no problem in locating them in the sky and she does not have any interest in astronomy or sat watching. But I did get a big wow out of as they came flying by. Regards, Thomas Dorman - Horizon City,Texas

I had about a 16 degree pass here. Very nice. Both objects were (from my location) same color and both were about the same brightness. From visual observation, I would not have been able to figure which was the ISS or STS. As a side note, my 10 y/o son is in Florida this week. I hope that he gets a chance to see the orbiter safely landing. Together, we have several hundred ISS passes under our belt and it would be a real bonus for him to see a shuttle landing. It really amazes me just how much a small hobby like this can influence a child. It doubly amazes me just how fast the kids understand it!!!! Daniel Crawford -Crystal, MN

I saw the same pass but by pure luck. Sky was almost overcast but I went outside to watch just in case. Nothing was seen. I then got back inside the house and decided after a few seconds to get out again realising I had still about 30 seconds left before shadow entry. There they appeared at about 02:36:15 UTC for about 5 or 6 seconds through a miraculous hole in the clouds. A beautiful sight with ISS having a distinctive orange color compared to the white trailing Shuttle. No reference stars were seen, so I could not tell the magnitudes. They seemed about 2 degrees apart. Daniel Deak - L'Avenir, Quebec

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 19, 2007

Thunder in the PM

An approaching cold front will begin to cloud things up this afternoon, setting off some showers and thunderstorms - and a chance of some severe ones - as afternoon turns to evening. The storms will start to our west, over the mountains, then move our way by evening. The best chance for severe weather here looks like late this evening into early tomorrow.

They're calling for a high of 91 today. (Yesterday's max at BWI was 94 degrees. We clocked 92 here at Calvert & Centre.)  Baltimore has posted a Code Red Heat Alert again and opened its cooling shelters. But once the front pulls through this evening, temperatures will ease. The next few days look sunny and seasonable, with highs in the 80s again and lower humidities. Gotta love these cold fronts. There's another due over the weekend.

Don't look for a lot of widespread, beneficial rain from all this. While a lucky few in the path of some storms may get a good dose of rain, it's like to run off quickly. And the rest of us should expect less than a tenth of an inch, the NWS says.

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

Space Station spectacle tonight

NASA plans to undock the shuttle Atlantis from the International Space Station at 10:42 EDT this morning. If so, skywatchers under clear skies in Maryland this evening could be treated to a double flyover by the shuttle and the space station. The weather prospects are not great. Here's the forecast. But it's a rare enough event to be worth notice here, in case the clouds part somewhere, for someone.

The timing will be a bit uncertain, dependant on when the two craft undock, and how quickly the shuttle moves away. But here's the most likely scenario, at least as of this morning:

At 10:33 p.m. this evening, the space station will appear over the northwest horizon as it passes over Lake Michigan. It will zip toward the southeast, passing just southwest of Baltimore at 10:36 p.m. At that point - 70 degrees above the southwest horizon, it will move into the Earth's shadow and disappear. This is NOT a pass that will be visible from horizon to horizon. The good new is the ISS is, by all reports, brighter than it has ever been, thanks to the new solar panels added by the shuttle crew.

But here's the bonus. The shuttle Atlantis, having undocked from the station, will have begun to lower its altitude to separate itself from the station and get into position for landing. That drop in altitude will cause it to speed up relative to the station, and move ahead. It's not certain at this point how far ahead of the space station Atlantis will be by 10:30 p.m. tonight, so it would be wise to step outside 5 or 10 minutes early, just in case.

Keep your eyes peeled (bring the kids; they're great at this) for a steady, star-like object moving at a fair clip from the northwest. If it blinks or has multiple, colored lights, it's an airliner. Keep looking. If you spot something before 10:33, it's probably the shuttlle. The ISS should follow, on time, at 10:33 p.m. You should expect both craft to vanish into the Earth's shadow in the same spot - almost directly overhead. So, Atlantis first, followed at 10:33 by the ISS, which should look much the brighter of the two.

I have witnessed this kind of double flyover by a shuttle and the ISS only once before. The shuttle was only 10 or 20 seconds ahead of the station, but the tandem flyover was pretty amazing. That's 10 people soaring 220 miles overhead at 17,500 mph - three in the ISS and 7 in the shuttle.

And while you're out there, don't forget to look for Venus, Saturn and the moon, all lined up - right to left in that order - in a row in the western sky. In the southeast, you'll find brilliant Jupiter.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 18, 2007

Hot again. And again.

No need to wait for the official start of summer on Thursday to get into the heat. Forecasters expect the mercury to slip back into the 90s today at BWI after falling just short of the mark yesterday. Tuesday will likely be even hotter as this high-pressure system moves east and puts us in the return flow from the south.

The forecast calls for a high of 90 degrees at BWI today, and 93 degrees tomorrow. Neither mark would threaten the records for the dates. And humidities are not expected to be as high as they might be along the Tidewater. But we'll feel it, anyway. Two more days in the 90s would bring us to 7 for the season so far.

As I write this at 11 a.m., it's already 87 degrees at Calvert & Centre streets.

The average high temperature for Baltimore at this time of year is 83 degrees. We reached 89 degrees Sunday at BWI. The record high for a June 17 here is 96 degrees, in 1939. Today's high is expected to reach 90 degrees - hot, but also well short of the record (97 degrees, set in 1957). It was 95 degrees yesterday at the Science Center.

Tuesday's forecast calls for a high at BWI of 93 degrees, also well short of the record for the date - 99 degrees, set in 1994. Humidities will not be intolerable. Dew points will hold in the 60s. (Over 70 they begin to feel real sticky.) 

As the high moves east, a cold front will follow, boosting our chances for showers and thunderstorms, especially late Tuesday. But those chances don't look real strong for the Baltimore area. And once the front pushes through, we'll return to more comfortable temperatures for the balance of the week - in the 80s - and lower humidities.

Increasing chances for showers mean increasing clouds and humidities, which may wreck some promising stargazing this week. We were out on the street last night with our little Meade ETX telescope, gazing at the lovely crescent moon, a crescent Venus, Saturn with its rings and Jupiter with four of its moons.

Although it was hazy, with some lingering light of dusk, the seeing was remarkably good, and we managed to attract a few neighbors to share the view.

The low light angles on the thin crescent moon put the craters, mountains and plains on the moon's west limb in sharp relief until they all dropped below the tree line. It was the first time I'd seen Venus as a clear crescent - actually more of a half-Venus (like a half-moon, and for the same reason) - as it followed the moon down the western sky toward the spot where the sun had set earlier.

Saturn and its rings looked sharp despite the haze, and it wowed the neighbors as it always does.

Moving the telescope to the opposite side of the street, we could see that Jupiter was rising higher over the rooftops to the southeast. So we adjusted the tripod, swiveled the 'scope over to the opposite side of the solar system and got the giant planet in the crosshairs.

It was huge, just a few weeks past opposition. I could make out (I think) two cloud stripes, and saw all four Galilean moons splayed out across the field - two on each side of the planet. I had checked on Jupiter late last week using the 10x50 binoculars and reassured myself that you really CAN see Jupiter's largest moons with binocs, if the night is clear and you can steady the glasses on something solid. Try it when the clouds part. You'll like it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 15, 2007

Waking too early? Blame the sun

I've just about had it with the blasted birds in my neighborhood. Oblivious to the time, the little devils are waking well before the sunrise and filling the air with their glorious, tireless and VERY LOUD singing. I know they're just announcing their presence and defending their territory. It works, already. I'm awake at 5:00 a.m. these days, and I'm ready to cede my land to them and move.

The big problem, of course, is that the sun has been rising earlier and earlier since way back on Jan. 5. This morning, at last, that progression ends. This morning's sunrise was the earliest of the year, occuring at 5:39 a.m. in Baltimore (a bit earlier if you live north or east of the city - later if you're west or south of us).

From here on out the sun will begin rising a little bit later each day until next Jan. 5, when it will pop over the eastern horizon at a lazy 7:27 a.m. EST. A much more civilized hour.

The next landmark on the calendar this month will be the summer solstice, which arrives at 2:11 p.m., June 21. That's the longest day of the year, and ushers in the shortest night - just 9 hours and 3 minutes in Charm City.

Then, on June 27, we'll enjoy the latest sunset of the year, at 8:37 p.m. EDT in Baltimore. From that date forward until Dec. 7, the sun will set a little earlier each night.

Why does the sun follow such a complicated and unexpectedly asymmetrical pattern. It's a bear to explain. Here's one of the better attempts I've read. And here's a site where you can look up sunrise and sunset times for your location. Moon rise and set times, too.

Sleep fast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Tornado touched down in Baltimore County

It's official. Those thunderstorms Wednesday evening included a small tornado that touched down briefly in Baltimore County. A National Weather Service team yesterday inspected the tree falls and other forest damage north of Butler and concluded it was consistent with a small tornado - an F-0 on the "enhanced" Fujita scale. Here is the statement from Sterling. 

Here's The Sun story. And here is the link to video, shot Wednesday in Silver Spring, of a funnel cloud that was part of the same storm system. We're told the cloud never touched the ground in Montgomery County, and therefore was not officially a tornado (which, by definition, must touch down). But it sure looks like it did.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Tornadoes
        

June 14, 2007

First Messenger pix from Venus

The folks at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics lab have made their first image release from the data collected during last week's flyby of the planet Venus by NASA's Messenger spacecraft. They're photos only a space nerd can love. Venus is shrouded in clouds, and looks pretty much like a billiard ball in visible wavelengths. But scientists have much more than visible-light cameras in Messenger's tool box, and we should learn much more in the weeks ahead.

That said, the images of a receding crescent Venus as Messenger sped away are beautiful, almost cinematic. To a space nerd. Have a look for yourself. And here's more info on Venus. You can see the planet with your naked eye on any clear evening this month. It's the brilliant star-like object in the western sky after sunset.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Fifth-warmest spring in lower 48

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the spring of 2007 was the 5th-warmest on record for the lower 48 states, and the driest for the Southeast. Only Maine was cooler than normal.

Globally, May was the warmest May on land, and the months from January through May tied with 1998 for the warmest combined land and sea-surface temperatures on record.

You can read more here.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Still on the drought map

Yesterday's storms have surely helped, but as of Tuesday much of Maryland remained on the federal government's weekly Drought Monitor maps. We are not yet in an actual drought. The region is still classified as merely "abnormally dry." And the long-term prospects do not suggest our situation will deteriorate through the summer.

Here is the latest Drought Monitor map, out this morning. Here is how conditions have changed over recent weeks. And here is the outlook for precip this summer - indicating no strong trend away from normal amounts.

For now, we're looking at very cool weather today, as we remain under the influence of that stubborn storm still spinning off the Atlantic coast. It's throwing lots of cool, moist maritime air off the Atlantic and back onto the Eastern Seaboard. And the persistent easterly winds are driving tides a foot or more above predicted levels along the western shore of the bay.

But that won't last much longer. High pressure is building from the north and west, the barometer is inching upward, and we'll see more sunshine and warmer temperatures as we head into the weekend. By Sunday and Monday we should be back in the 90s.

 

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

June 13, 2007

Tornado warning expires

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: The tornado warnings for Harford and Baltimore counties expired at 6 p.m. There are some reports of storm damage in Beckleysville, northwest Baltimore County, trees and wires down in Bentley Springs and Cockeysville, and 0.88-inch diameter hail in Owings Mills. But Meteorologist-in-charge Jim Lee, out at Sterling, said there was no immediate confirmation of a tornado touch-down.

Here's a damage report list from the NWS.

"Oftentimes we see rotation on radar, and straight-line wind damage on the ground," he said. A weather service team will visit damage sites in Baltimore County on Thursday to look for signs of a tornado strike.

Here's how it looked from BWI. We recorded 0.15 inch of rain here at Calvert & Centre streets, with gusts to 24 mph. The temperature dropped from 81 degrees at 4 p.m. to 69 degrees at 6 p.m.

EARLIER: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Harford and Baltimore counties.

To read more, click here. Here's the radar loop.
If you see a funnel cloud or any storm damage, be sure you're safe first, then file a comment here and let us know about it.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:05 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Storm watches, warnings up again

Nearly all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake is under a severe storm watch again this afternoon. The National Weather Service has also issued storm warnings as the first pop-up thunderstorms of the day take shape. Locally heavy rain, gusty winds and a chance for hail are once again in the cards. Here's a map with the watches and warnings. Here's the radar loop.

Here's the storm watch statement for this afternoon, as issued by the NWS Sterling. What's wrong with this picture? 

"ISOLATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL DEVELOP ACROSS NORTHERN
VIRGINIA...MARYLAND EAST OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY AND WEST OF GARRETT
COUNTY...WASHINGTON DC AND THE EASTERN PAN HANDLE OF WEST VIRGINIA
AS WELL AS THE TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER AND MARYLAND CHESAPEAKE BAY.
THESE STORMS WILL BRING OCCASIONAL LIGHTNING...BRIEF HEAVY RAIN
AND GUSTY WINDS.

"STORMS WILL INCREASE IN COVERAGE THROUGH THE AFTERNOON. STRONGER
STORMS LATER THIS AFTERNOON WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING WIND
GUSTS TO 50 MPH AND SMALL HAIL."

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Space Station is flaring

Space Cadets!  Those among us who enjoy watching the International Space Station fly over will be pleased to learn that the addition of another set of solar panels during this week's construction visit by the shuttle Atlantis and its crew has brightened the station considerably.

Some observers have even reported flaring - brief flashes of reflected sunlight - from the station's broadening expanse of flat solar panels and other structures on the station. Read more here.

Flaring is a phenomenon most familiar to observers of the Iridium fleet of communications satellites. Iridium flares are extraordinary sights, easily visible to the naked eye. For predictions of Iridium flares visible from your location, visit the Heavens Above website, configure it for your observation spot, and click on the Iridium flare link for predictions. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Storms bypass B'more; new threat today

Seemed like a lot of hoopla for nothing yesterday. Severe storms watches and warnings, predictions of large hail. The works. But Baltimore and its immediate surroundings seemed to be in a protective bubble in the afternoon as storms drifting down - oddly - from New Jersey and Pennsylvania swept by us on either side. What are we? A traffic cone?

There was a pretty good thunderstorm in northern Baltimore County, and more storms struck Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, including one report of two-inch hail in Clinton, PG County.

Here is a compilation of some storm damage. BWI and downtown instruments recorded some gusty winds, but no precipitation at all. Washington Reagan got a bit of rain, as did Dulles Airport in Virginia and the Patuxent Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County.

We'll get another shot at some precipitation this afternoon as more storms are forecast to pop up with daytime heating. Here's the hazardous weather outlook issued this morning for Central Maryland.

We continue to linger under the influence of that stalled low off the coast. It keeps pumping moist marine air and clouds onto the Northeast states, triggering showers and storms, while drier air and high pressure waits to our north and west, clearing our skies from time to time, but unable to take charge.

That's due to end soon, with clearing skies, and warming temperatures through the weekend as the high finally pushes through, and we find ourselves in a flow of hot, humid air from the south. It will be downright summerlike by Father's Day, with highs in the 90s. And humid. Here's the official forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 12, 2007

Severe T-storm watch posted

UPDATE, 5:10 p.m.: The severe thunderstorm warning for Baltimore and Harford counties has been lifted. Watches remain in effect. Here's the latest watch/warning map

EARLIER: Thunderstorms pushing south and west out of New Jersey and Pennsylvania could reach Maryland this afternoon or evening. The National Weather Service has posted a severe thunderstorm watch for all of Central Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia, as well as the northern Eastern Shore and west to Allegany County. Large hail remains the primary worry.

Here's the radar loop. And the satellite view. Here's (as of 2:50 p.m.) where the watch was posted. Here is the forecast.  Here's a regional map of watches and warnings.

And here's a portion of the watch statement:

"THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT

"SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY THIS
EVENING ACROSS THE AREA. AN UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE OVER THE
NORTHEAST WILL MOVE TO THE SOUTHWEST THIS AFTERNOON. THUNDERSTORMS
ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP EARLY THIS AFTERNOON OVER PENNSYLVANIA AND
NEW JERSEY AND MOVE TO THE SOUTHWEST INTO THE AREA.

"THE ATMOSPHERE ALOFT IS VERY COLD AND HAIL IS EXPECTED FROM THE
STRONGEST STORMS THIS AFTERNOON. THE MOST LIKELY TIME FOR SEVERE
WEATHER IS BETWEEN 2 AND 4 PM ACROSS CENTRAL AND NORTHERN
MARYLAND...AND BETWEEN 4 AND 6 PM FURTHER SOUTH ACROSS NORTHERN
VIRGINIA THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND.
THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO WEAKEN AS SUNSET APPROACHES.

"THE PRIMARY RISK FROM SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS THIS AFTERNOON WILL BE
LARGE HAIL UP TO HALF DOLLAR SIZE."
Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Storms, hail possible this afternoon

This afternoon may offer the region its best chance for rain this week, but it may not be pretty. Afternoon heating, combined with a disturbance dropping down from the north could trigger a few severe thunderstorms, with hail a distinct possibility. Here is part of the hazardous weather outlook issued this morning from Sterling.

"AN UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE WILL DROP SOUTHWARD FROM NEW ENGLAND
AND SOUTHERN NEW YORK STATE TODAY AND SERVE AS A TRIGGER FOR
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS.

Hail damage"THE COMBINATION OF STRONG
HEATING AND RELATIVELY COOL MID LEVEL TEMPERATURES COULD RESULT IN
A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING WITH THE MAIN
THREAT BEING LARGE HAIL. THE EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA PANHANDLE...
NORTH CENTRAL AND NORTHEAST MARYLAND...AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA...
INCLUDING THE WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE METRO AREAS... APPEAR TO BE
AT GREATEST RISK."

Here's the official forecast.

If you find yourself - and your new car - in a thunderstorm today, look for a parking garage, or a gas station or an underpass where you can take refuge from any hail that might fall. The ice balls, if large enough, can do a surprising amount of damage to a car body.  Here are some amazing hail storm photos.

With luck, we won't see anything like that.

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

June 11, 2007

Stuck storm clouds our week

A storm loitering and spinning off the New England coast is throwing clouds and cool air back onto the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states. On the other side of us, high pressure and clear, dry air centered over the Great Lakes is waiting to push through. That leaves us smack in the middle. So we get seasonable highs in the 80s, periods of sunshine, and periods of heavier clouds and a chance of thundershowers for the first part of the week.

Things will brighten as we move through the week, and that stuck storm begins to drift off into the Atlantic. But for the short term we'll have to stay alert to the possibility of rain in the afternoons. Here's AccuWeather's take on the meteorological logjam. Here's the official forecast. And here's the satellite loop.

Bay Swim, staff photoOur predicament was quite apparent yesterday. Out on the bay for the 16th Annual Toyota Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, we started out with a gray overcast, punctuated by showers. Then a weak sun began to burn through, followed by more overcast skies.

The air over the water was quite cool, perfect for the swimmers crawling their way across the 4.4 miles between Sandy Point Park and Hemingway's, in Stevensville, Kent Island. But it felt like a chill wind aboard John Bruno's 47-foot Black Tie Affair, the muscle boat assigned to whisk the media out to the race. Quite a ride.

Here are today's conditions at Thomas Point Light.

 

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

June 8, 2007

Zowie! That was hot!

The mercury reached a high today of 95 degrees at BWI at mid-afternoon - just as forecast. Down at the Inner Harbor, the high was 96, with a dewpoint of 73 degrees. That makes the heat index 108. Pretty nasty. It was even 90 at Ocean City.

But the cool-off is en route tonight. Great weather ahead through the weekend and into next week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Hot town, schools stay open

So here we are, at the end of the school year, and temperatures are headed into the 90s this afternoon. Naturally, that has the kids talking on the playground. "Will they close schools early today because of the heat?"

Fay Chen writes from Baltimore County: "The playground gossip states that there's a formula the schools to use to determine whether or not to close for heat. Some say if it's 80 degrees by 10 a.m., or 90 degrees by 11 a.m. the decision is made automatically. I've searched Baltimore County's website though, and can't find a reference to an official determination schedule. Do you know if one exists, or is it just a myth? Thank you!"

The gossip is half right. Baltimore CITY schools have a policy that states they will close schools two and a half hours early on days when the heat INDEX reaches 90 degrees at the Inner Harbor by 11 a.m. In the COUNTY, however, there is no such policy. School officials there take hot days on a case-by-case basis, taking the duration of the hot spell and the conditions of the schools into consideration.

At 11 a.m. this morning, the temperature at the Inner Harbor was 92 degrees, with a dewpoint of 68. That made the heat index 98 degrees. But city school officials nevertheless decided not to close. Schools spokeswoman Edie House said the facilities folks calculated the heat index at 87 degrees. She had no information on how they reached that number. Sorry kids.

By 1 p.m., the temperature at the Inner Harbor was 95 degrees, with a dewpoint of 71 degrees. That made the heat Index 104 degrees. Twelve city schools have closed today due to power outages, according to their website.

Usually, school buildings don't heat up to unbearable temperatures until the warm weather has persisted for several days. This looks like a one-day heat wave. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:21 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events
        

June 7, 2007

95 forecast for Friday

Forecasters out in Sterling have noodged tomorrow's forecast high temperature upward by a degree. They're now looking for a high of 95 degrees as we fall under the flow of hot, humid air from the south, clockwise around the west side of the high that's given us such nice weather for the last few days before moving off the coast.

If we make it to 95 - or even if we only get to 93 - it would still be the hottest day of the year so far, and the hottest since last Aug. 29, when we topped out at 96 degrees. And if they're been too conservative with their prediction, we could threaten the record high of 97 degrees for a June 8 in Baltimore, set in 1999.  At this writing, there's been no Code Red Heat Alert for Baltimore tomorrow. Check here for updates. The state has reported its first heat-related death, in PG County on May 29.

If we really do make it to the 90s tomorrow, we will have had five days in the 90s already this year - three in May and two in June through the 8th. That's two more than at this time last year. By the end of the summer of 2006, we had tallied 39 days in the 90s at the airport. And that was the hottest summer here since 1995.

The National Weather Service has forecast a hotter-than-average summer this year for our part of the country. Just what we don't need with these painful new electric rates.

The good news, short-term as we stated in the prior post, is that this heat and humidity will be pushed out of here late Friday into Saturday as a cool front crosses the region from the north and west, heralded, perhaps, by thunderstorms. The weekend highs should be more seasonable, in the 80s, and drier. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:58 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 6, 2007

Sweaty Friday, better weekend

Weather patterns are setting us up for one hot, sweaty Friday coming up. But behind the 94-degree, high-humidity day lies a cold front, and a much better weekend. The highs Saturday and Sunday will be in the 80s, with much lower humidity.

Here's the official forecast.

At work is the high pressure now overhead. It will be moving gradually off the coast, which will put us into a return flow from the south. And with that comes hotter temperatures and higher humidities.

When the cold front moves through late Friday into Saturday, we could see some thunderstorms, possible a few severe ones, before it's all over. But that will clear the decks for a fine weekend.

Here is the shore forecast. It will be much cooler out there, only 85 on Friday. But don't look for me on the sands. I gotta work this weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Space Station and planets tonight

As we mentioned in a post earlier this week, the International Space Station will fly directly over Baltimore this evening on its way up the East Coast. Weather conditions should be fairly good, although the pass will occur before the skies are fully dark.

And do consider StarmanJER's invitation to join him beginning at 8:15 p.m. on the track at Parkville High, where he will not only be watching the ISS pass by, but will also offer telescope views of Venus and Saturn, both easy to spot now in the western sky.

Speaking of Venus, the Maryland-built Messenger spacecraft successfully zipped within 200 miles of Venus last night. Here's the release from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, which is managing the mission. Here's their Messenger Web site.

I'm not sure whether the hills near Parkville High will allow it, but this is also a good time to have a look at Jupiter, which is rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. With a good pair of binoculars, you can see the giant planet's four largest moons, laid out in a line on either side of Jupiter. A telescope is even better. Jupiter is the brightest star-like object in the southeastern sky in the late evening this month. You can't miss it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 5, 2007

Cyclone Gonu threatens Oman

Okay, it's not like Gonu is roaring up the Chesapeake. But the powerful cyclone (or hurricane) that's spinning today in the Arabian Sea has been a worry for the oil market, which affects the price at your local gas pump. Here's the storm name list for the region, where such blows are a rarity.

The big storm is headed for Oman, a largely empty country on the northeast corner of the Arabian peninsula. Beyond that, the storm appears headed for the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf.  Here's the forecast track.

In any case it's been a concern for oil industry officials who depend on tankers that ply the region. And that worry caused a spike in short-term oil futures yesterday. Those fears seemed to ease today as the storm appeared to weaken, and the direct threat to nearby Saudi oil fields waned.

Gonu is a big storm, with top sustained winds of 115 mph, gusting to 126. That makes it a Category 3 storm under the Safir-Simpson scale used in the Atlantic. Here's the satellite view. And here's a better one. Here's a recent advisory from weather authorities in the region.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

June 4, 2007

A few more showers

Looks like we could see a few more showers, and maybe some afternoon thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry lumber up the coast and a new cold front approaches from the Ohio Valley. Here's the official forecast. And here's the satellite loop.

It was a welcome relief from the persistently dry weather we've seen since mid-April. Here's last night's tally of the rain from this storm, for a few locations around the area. The amounts range from less than half an inchj at Hagerstown to just under 1.5 inches at Davidsonville, in Anne Arundel County.  We had just under a half-inch on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The Sun's gauge, at Calvert & Centre streets, reads 0.55 inch this morning. BWI had 1.18 inch by midnight.

Out on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Accomac reported more than 2 inches. Ocean City saw just under an inch.

The rest of the week, after Tuesday, looks brighter, with a chance of showers returning by the weekend. Rip currents remain a risk at the beaches.

Got an email this morning from a resident of Huntsmoor Park, in the Halethorpe/Arbutus area. She wanted to know what all that white chalky, spotty stuff was on their cars this morning. My best guess is that it's ash from the 6-alarm warehouse fire last night in Violetville, a few miles to their northeast. Winds last evening were out of the east northeast, which would carry the smoke and ash right over them.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 3, 2007

Less rain than advertised

The remnants of Tropical Storm Barry proved to be little more than a "wetter" for Baltimore. (That's what my mother-in-law calls the last sip of beer of the night.) The National Weather Service had predicted as much as 1.5 inches of badly needed precipitation from this system. But meteorlogist Jim Carufels tells me this afternoon from Sterling that the storm has about run its course for this area, with most stations reporting a quarter to a third of an inch. More is possible overnight, but not likely another inch. It just proved to be a drier system than forecasters expected.

That said, parts of the lower Eastern Shore, especially down in the Virginia section, saw more than two inches of rain from the storm. But for most farmers, especially west of the I-95 corridor, this wasn't all the relief they were looking for. The rain was slow, and cool. That's good for letting the water soak into the ground before it can evaporate. But it's just not enough.

The beaches, meantime, are experiencing rip currents and (very) cold surf, barely reaching 60 degrees, depending on whose thermometer you believe.

There are small craft advisories up for the entire Chesapeake, although gale warnings posted earlier from Calvert County to the Potomac appear to have been lifted. Still it was a very bad day to be out on the water.

Here at The Sun, we've recorded 0.29 inches of rain (as of 5 p.m.). Temperatures have been drifting downward all day. We haven't seen the 70s since 1 p.m. Winds have gusted to 25 mph at Calvert & Centre streets, and the barometer is still falling, at 29.59 inches.  Nasty. 

Here's the forecast. There's a still a shot at some thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week looks nice. Here's the view of this storm from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 2, 2007

Barry weakens, big rain coming

Tropical Storm Barry - the second named storm of this very young Atlantic hurricane season - has already been downgraded to a tropical depression. Soon it will be "extra-tropical" - just a big rainstorm. But it looks like it is delivering badly needed rain to fire-plagued Florida and parts of the Southeast. Eastern North Carolina is in for a rough go. Check out these watches and warnings.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Here's what you're missing on the boardwalk in Ocean City. The Beach Patrol reports some moderate rip currents visible and more expected. Winds are 20-30 mph out of the southeast with heavy rain. But there are few people in the water. The water temperature is a bracing 63 degrees. Here are some rainfall totals for states to our south.

We're next, with close to two inches of rain possible Sunday into Monday. This is just what the doctor ordered, at least for the eastern half of the state. Hopefully not too much, too quickly. Look for minor flooding along the Western Shore of the Bay Sunday as storm-driven high tides surge as much as two feet above normal predictions.

Barry on SaturdayHere's the latest advisory. Here's the storm track. Here's the satellite loop. And here's the radar loop. AccuWeather sees it this way

You know, there's a running joke around the Sun newsroom that as soon as we write about an emerging weather trend - like dry summer weather, or the lack of winter snow - we inevitably trigger the end of that trend. (Maybe we're just a bit late catching on to the trend?) On Friday we ran a front-page story about the seven weeks of dry weather we've had in Maryland and the growing threat to crops. Well, right on cue, there's a tropical depression on our doorstep, tracking right up the coast to Delmarva by late Sunday night.

Here's the official forecast for our area. You're welcome.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

A week of Space Station flyovers

Next week will be a particularly good one for fans of the International Space Station. A high northern sun at this time of year and favorable orbital mechanics place the station in direct sunlight for nearly every nighttime pass over Maryland.

NASA photoThat means several good opportunities - if skies are clear - for observers on the ground to watch $100 billion Tinkertoy in the sky as it flies over Baltimore with its three crewmembers.

Most of the flybys will be too close to the horizon, or too dim for easy viewing. But there are several passes that will be both high overhead and very bright. And a couple of those will be at convenient hours of the evening.

Here are the best of the bunch:

Monday evening, June 4: Look for the ISS to rise above the southwest horizon at 10:05 p.m. It will fly northeastward up the East Coast, arriving nearly overhead at 10:078p.m. It will fly right through the handle of the Big Dipper before zipping off toward the northeast horizon, disappearing there at about 10:11 p.m.

Tuesday morning, June 5: The ISS will appear above the northwest horizon this time, headed south and east toward the Atlantic. Watch for it to appear above the northwest horizon at 4:28 a.m. (I know, that's way early). It will be straight up over Baltimore at at 4:31 a.m., and hustle off toward the southeast, disappearing there at about 4:34 a.m. 

Wednesday evening, June 6: Another run up the East Coast. This time the station will appear in the southwest at 9:12 p.m., early enough for the kids to watch it. It will fly almost directly over Baltimore at 9:15 p.m., and then move off toward the northeast, disappearing there at 9:17 p.m.

Thursday morning, June 7: Another good pass, but VERY early. Look for the ISS above the northwest horizon at 3:35 a.m. It will very high overhead, flying past Cygnus, The Swan, at 3:37 a.m. Then it will fly off toward the northeast and vanish there at about 3:40 a.m.

Remember, no special equipment is needed. The station is moving too fast for a telescope, or even binoculars to be much help. Look for a steady white, or perhaps a faintly amber light (the color of its solar panels), moving at a good clip. It's actually flying at 17,500 mph, circling the planet once every 90 minutes or so. But at an altitude of more than 220 miles, it looks no speedier than a very fast jetliner. 

For more on the ISS, click here. For more on the crew, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

June 1, 2007

Tropical Storm Barry, right on time

The first true tropical storm of the 2007 Atlantic season has formed in the Gulf of Mexico on this first day of the new season. It carries the name Barry, the second name on the list for this season, because the first name, Andrea, was given to a sub-tropical storm that formed off the coast of Georgia and Florida last month.

Here's the latest public advisory for the storm, which is threatening the west coast of Florida. And here's the projected storm track, which would carry Barry (by then just a tropical depression) off our Maryland shores by late Sunday or early Monday morning. We could sure use the rain.

The season runs through November 30. We're off and running.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:52 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Warming days, starry nights in June

June is a fine month to get outside at night and enjoy the night sky. The temperatures are right, and with luck, a clear sky will reveal Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter - all easily visible to the naked eye during the month. Here's the new guide to Tonight's Sky, from the folks at Hubble Space Telescope.

June also marks the beginning of the three-month meteorological summer and the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. But first, let's have a look back at May.

As we all know by now, May was a very dry month for Maryland, the fourth-driest on record at BWI. The airport say less than an inch of rain (0.94), compared with a long-term average of 3.89 inches. The month also ended last night 2.6 degrees warmer than average, making it the third-warmest May in the last decade.

The high temperature for the month was 92 degrees, reached at BWI last Saturday. The low was 36 degrees, on the 8th. The airport recorded 114 cooling degree-days. That's 43 DD, or 60 percent, above the long-term average. With BGE's electric rates jumping this month, we can only hope that trend doesn't continue.

So now comes June. Although the meteorological summer began today, the astronomical season arrives at 2:11 p.m. on the 21st. Some would argue that the longest day and shortest night of the year actually mark the middle of summer. After that, the days grow shorter as we head toward winter. And in fact June 21 is still celebrated as Midsummer's Day in some countries.

During June in Baltimore, the average daytime high temperature rises from 79 degrees to 86 degrees. The average overnight low climbs from the 50s to 64 degrees. The hottest days of the year still lie ahead, in mid-July.

Agnes rainfall totalsAmong the weather memories we can toss around this month are last year's week-long deluge of rains, pumped northward out of the tropics between the 23rd and the 28th. Before it was over BWI had recorded almost 6 inches of rain.

This month also marks the 35th anniversary of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Agnes. The storm was only briefly a hurricane, but was nevertheless the costliest natural disaster in the U.S. at the time, causing more than $3.1 billion in damage ($14.9 billion adjusted for inflation). The storm and the resulting flooding also killed 117 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Maryland, the heavy rain and flooding caused $110 million in damage (in 1972 dollars) and killed 19 people, the third-highest state death toll, after Pennsylvania and New York.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        
Keep reading
Recent entries
Archives
Categories
About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

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

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


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

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

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

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

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

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

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

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

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

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

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

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

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

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

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

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

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