« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 31, 2007

Noel strengthens, will skirt SE Florida

TS Noel - NOAA 

Tropical Storm Noel is pulling away from the north coast of Cuba after pummeling the Greater Antilles with high winds, heavy rain, deadly flooding and landslides. It appears to be strengthening as it gets away from the mountainous islands, and Florida's Gold Coast has been warned to expect high winds as Noel begins to skirt the shoreline.

UPDATE: A tropical storm watch has been issued this afternoon for Florida's southeast coast.

EARLIER: It does NOT appear that the storm will go ashore anywhere on the U.S. mainland. But as it turns northward, it will likely affect the coast with heavy surf and winds. Florida is already under high wind advisories or gale warnings, and those could be boosted to tropical storm warnings if the storm gets stronger and moves close enough to the Atlantic beaches.

Here is the latest advisory. Here's the predicted storm track. And here's the view from space.

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

A perfect day, then turning colder

They don't make autumn days any better than this one. Marylanders will enjoy sunny skies today and temperatures near 70 degrees. That's five degrees or so above normal for the end of October. The kids should have a mild night for trick-or-treating, but the moon will rise late, so it will be dark on poorly illuminated streets.

The high-pressure system that's delivered this delightful weather is moving offshore today. That's already put us into a return (southerly) flow around the west side of the clockwise circulation around the high, and that explains the warmup.

But behind the departing high there's a cold front pressing in. It got a little moisture, but most will be squeezed out over the mountains, so we won't get any rain on the eastern slope, forecasters say. But the frontal passage will drop the daytime temperatures into the 50s for the rest of the week. Lows will slip into the 30s.

The high pressure system behind the front will bring us more clear, dry air, sunny days and starry nights - perfect for observing Comet Holmes over the weekend.

There's no rainfall at all in the forecast at least through Tuesday. While we wait for more rain, here's a nifty rainfall map the NWS whipped up to show the totals from last week's deluge.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 30, 2007

New images of Comet Holmes

 Comet Homes - Sean Walker, Chester, NH

New pictures are coming in of Comet Holmes, this one an animation comparing the comet's appearance on successive nights, and showing its size relative to the size of Jupiter at a similar distance.

Here's a link to the Holmes photo gallery at

If you haven't seen it yet, step outside after dinner tonight, and look for a narrow triangle of stars below the (sideways) W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia, but above (and slightly to the right of) the bright star Capella - the brightest in that part of the sky. Holmes is the "star" on the left side of the base of that triangle.

But trust me - it's easier just to scan the sky below Cassiopeia with your binoculars. Holmes stands out because it is NOT just a pinpoint of light like a star. It's a striking gray blob, a fuzz ball. And it really is hard to miss. Or at least it has been all this week.

The Sun will run a story on the comet in Wednesday's paper. The forecast looks fairly good for continued opportunities all this week to see the comet. Don't miss it. And be sure to come back here afterwards and let everyone know what you saw and how you liked it. 

For a telescopic view of the comet, consider the Maryland Science Center's Friday open house, beginning at 7 p.m. Or, try the observatory at Johns Hopkins. Here's more from Chris Merchant:

Hi - I read your article on comet Holmes.  We are actually having a public viewing of the comet ... Wed. Oct. 31st and Thursday Nov. 1st at the Johns Hopkins observatory.

The viewings will be held from 9 p.m. until about 10:30 PM on both nights.  We'll be observing with our 20" telescope.

Info on getting here, etc., can be found from this page:

Chris Merchant"

Sky & Telescope map

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:25 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Cool pictures

Rain totals from last week's showers

No matter how you look at it, we got a bucketful of rain last week. Some locations topped off at more than 5 or 6 inches. The slow but persistent precipitation made a sizable dent in our rain deficit, according to the US Geological Survey. Water tables have begun to rise a bit. But we are not out of the desert yet. The forecast shows no rain at all, and we remain almost half a foot behind the averages in our precipitation for the year.

Here is an (unofficial) list of rainfall data from across the forecast area. And here is a summary of the rain's impact on the drought, from the USGS.

"Rain Helps, But Doesn't Cure Maryland's Drought

"The rain last week helped to alleviate the drought affecting parts of Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, but has not eliminated it entirely.  Hydrologic conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region remain abnormally dry, but are slowly recovering, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  The National Weather Service reported a total of 5.44 inches of rainfall at BWI airport from the storm, which began last Tuesday night and continued through Saturday.  The above normal precipitation last week reduced the 2007 rainfall deficit since January 1 to 5.75 inches, from what had been a deficit of 10.63 inches prior to the storm.

"USGS streamgages showed that streamflows in the region climbed to moderately high levels during last week's storm, but once the rain and runoff subsided, the flows dropped quickly back to base levels.  Soils have been saturated near the surface, and the moisture is gradually making its way down to the water table.  Water tables are still rebounding from near record lows, however, resulting in the unusually low base flows in streams.

"USGS real-time observation wells in Baltimore County show water tables leveling off over the weekend, while ground-water levels in Frederick County wells are beginning to rise.  Water tables on the Eastern Shore have also stopped falling.  Ground water usually begins to recharge in mid-October, and scientists were growing concerned as levels continued to drop into the latter part of the month.  The late-October turnaround provides a hopeful sign that drought conditions could end with a few more precipitation events.  Information on water conditions in the MD-DE-DC area is available on the web at:

"The USGS has begun more frequent measurement of ground-water levels.  Data are being collected every two weeks, instead of at the usual monthly intervals, until hydrologic conditions return to normal.  Ground-water data from the next set of measurements will be available in early November."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:21 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers

October 29, 2007

Frosts and freezes tonight

There's more cold weather on tap tonight, with frost advisories from Baltimore south along the Western Shore, and freeze warnings posted for the northern and western suburbs.

Here's the map. I may have to turn on the furnace tonight. Drat! Anybody else still holding out?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:45 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts

Smoke and rain from outer space

NASA satellites have been snapping pictures today of both the California wildfires (yes, they're still burning) and Tropical Storm Noel, now soaking Haiti and eastern Cuba and menacing the Bahamas. They're very cool and worth a look.

Notice how the winds have shifted over the California fires. Last week they were Santa Ana winds, blowing from the Great basin to the Pacific and carrying the smoke out to sea. Now, they've reversed, and onshore winds are carrying the toxic smoke inland to parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Here's another shot, taken on the next orbit, 90 minutes later.

Here's the Noel image. And here's the latest advisory, the forecast storm track and another satellite view.



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

On frost and an October comet

Had to toss the car trunk this morning to find the ice scraper. There was a pretty good coating on the windshield as I stepped outside. The low before sunrise on the WeatherDeck today was just 30 degrees, the first frost for us.

Not so cold in the city, or even out at BWI. The official low at the airport was 34 degrees. That was 5 degrees cooler than the average low for the date, but 8 degrees warmer than the record low for an Oct. 29 at BWI - 26 degrees, set back in 2001.

At the Maryland Science Center, beside the still-warm harbor water, the low was just 44 degrees.  Here are some other low readings from around the area:

Dulles International:  31 degrees

Reagan National:  41 degrees

Frederick Airport:  28 degrees

Hagerstown:  32 degrees

Martinsburg, WV:  28 degrees

Morgantown, WV:  30 degrees

For the record, the airport has now received 5.85 inches of rain this month, and it does not look like we'll have any more this week. Here's the forecast. That leaves us with a 2.99-inch surplus for the month of October, the first time since April we've had any extra rain. We're still about 5.5 inches short for the year.

The sunny skies mean starry nights. If you haven't looked already, I urge you to take a look at Comet Holmes, now visible in the evening sky. Here's our previous post on the topic. Here's one with a star map.

I had my first look last night.

It was clearly visible to the naked eye, although it looked no different than nearby stars. With binoculars, however, it was obviously very different - a swollen ball of gas and dust that looked sort of like a gray billiard ball. No tail yet.  With a small telescope it was pretty much the same as in binoculars, only bigger. And weirder. Go see it. Take the kids. Here's a photo gallery.

If you're down at the Inner Harbor, look for Herman Heyn, Baltimore's Streetcorner astronomer. He introduced plenty of people to the new comet this weekend. 

Herman Heyn and Guest


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 28, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel forms

The National Hurricane Center is watching a new tropical storm - Noel (pronounced "nol" and rhymes with "knoll") - which formed this weekend in the Carribean and is currently a threat to Haiti and Cuba. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from orbit.

Here's the forecast discussion. It does not look like this one will become a problem for the U.S. East Coast, except perhaps as a source of heavy surf.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

First frost possible tonight

The National Weather Service has posted a frost advisory for much of Maryland tonight, with portions of the western counties warned to expect a hard freeze. The frost advisory includes Howard, Montgomery, northern Baltimore County, Harford and much of the northern half of the Eastern Shore. Counties on the western shore, from Baltimore southward, are not included.

Here's the BWI forecast, which predicts a low of 37 degrees tonight. Compare that with Hagerstown.

The freeze warning includes Garrett and Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties.

A frost advisory means that a frost is possible. Sensitive outdoor plants may be killed if left uncovered. A freeze warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely. These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. 

Click here for the details.

This first frost is a few weeks later than the averages for much of the state, but right on time for Baltimore City, if it extended into the city proper, which is NOT in the forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Comet Holmes photographed from Timonium

Comet 17P/Holmes - Tim Hickman 

Tim Hickman, an amateur astronomer in Timonium, working from the back yard of his home in Timonium, has captured a nice image of Comet Holmes. The once-dim comet brightened suddenly last week and has stirred excitement among backyard stargazers around the world.

Here's what Tim had to say last night about seeing the comet:

"Frank: As you have undoubtedly heard, Comet 17P/Holmes suddenly brightened to a naked-eye comet on Oct. 24th. After several nights of rain, we in Baltimore got a chance to view it tonight. Naked eye, it looks like a new star in Perseus. Its brightness appears to be between alpha and delta Perseus (ED: two stars of the constellation Perseus) which, with it, form a triangle. It's easy to see even with the moon up. In binoculars you can see it is a fuzzy ball and not a star-like point.

"With my 12.5" Starmaster telescope it shows up as a very unusual object. It has a small, star-like nucleus with a large glowing ball around it, inside of which is an off-centered bright area which could be the beginning of a tail. I have attached a photo of it I took in my back yard in Timonium tonight at 10 p.m. Cheers, Tim Hickman."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:22 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Sky Watching

October 27, 2007

A very wet October after all

In just four days, one of the driest Octobers on record for Baltimore has become a very wet one. And it's still raining at 8 a.m. Here's the radar loop.  But then, if your roof leaks, or your basement floods, you already knew that. 

Nearly 2.5 inches of rain fell through the gauges at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday, and another 1.5 inches has fallen since midnight. That has lifted the month's total from 0.41 inches on Tuesday, to 5.74 inches at this writing. It's not close to the record. And, curiously, it barely stands out among what has become a long string of wet Octobers in recent years.

But it sure has come as a welcome surprise. Here's how it stacks up so far against recent Octobers:

2007:  5.74 inches

2006:  5.75 inches

2005:  9.23 inches (the record)

2004:  1.26 inches

2003:  5.82 inches

2002:  6.01 inches

The 30-year average:  3.16 inches

Here are some totals from around the region

The radar loop shows the fire hose that's been playing on us since Tuesday night, with a steady stream of wet, tropical air from the Gulf and the Atlantic, is moving off this morning. Once it's gone, the forecast for the rest of the weekend, and well into next week, looks a whole lot more like the first three weeks of October. Sunny and dry, and a bit cool for this time of year. 

As welcome as this has been, we are still 7 or 8 inches short of precipitation for the year. The wells and reservoirs still need more recharging over the winter if we're to avoid serious problems in the spring and summer. And the long-range forecasts still call for dry, mild weather through the coming winter.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 26, 2007

Some light reading as the rain falls

Here's a little something to read as your gutters gurgle tonight, some exerpts from Monday evening's weather forecast discussion by the NWS folks out at Sterling.

"WEDNESDAY THROUGH MONDAY: After two days of confusion, models seem to come into line regarding what will happen in the mid part of the week. Unfortunately ... a multi-day rain does not look to be in the cards as was earlier foreseen ... Models are now in decent agreement that a front will push through the region Tuesday night with high Canadian pressure moving over New England by Thursday. Could clouds linger on Wednesday if the front gets held up? Certainly. But for now will be more optimistic and go partly cloudy ... Southern low pressure, which could've given us chances of rain for much of the week ... now appears to be retrograding towards Texas. This is not something I'm used to seeing ... but that's what the model consensus is showing, so that's what we'll go with."

Oops. Rain so far at BWI:

TUESDAY: 0.01 inch

WEDNESDAY: 0.88 inch

THURSDAY: 0.43 inch

FRIDAY: 0.73 inch (through 4 p.m.)

Multi-day rain total so far: 2.05 inches 

Current discussion from Sterling:


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

And now, a flood watch

Tuesday we're writing about drought. Friday we're writing about a flood watch for much of the central portion of the state. Go figure. Don't get me wrong; we're still short of water. But forecasters say we could get up to 3 inches of rain tonight, with a risk of small-stream and urban flooding before it all goes away on Sunday. That will sure help, unless it's your basement that's wet.

Here's the deal: Warm, moist air from the Gulf and the Atlantic is streaming northward across the Eastern states. It's running up over a stalled cold front and dropping its moisture as drizzle, showers and the occasional thunderstorm. Here's the Northeast radar loop.

This is what's been keeping us damp since Tuesday. Drizzle and fizzle. It hasn't been much of a rain event in terms of total rainfall. A few inches at most in a few spots. But it has been sustained for three days now. It's cool, so there's not much evaporation. And it's slow, so what we are getting is soaking in, and not just running off. And coming after eight weeks with almost no rain at all, it is more than welcome.

Out at BWI, where the numbers are official, we've recorded 1.3 inches since Wednesday. It's the most rain in one stretch that we've seen there since Aug. 20-21 - two months. And still we're way below average for October. In all, the month has delivered 1.7 inches of rain at BWI, well short of the 3.16-inch norm. Here are some more local totals for the last 24 hours. Also check CoCoRaHS totals here.

But there's more rain in the wings. The forecast is calling for another quarter- to a half-inch of rain today, and as much as two inches overnight. Saturday could deliver still more. So, we could still end the month with above-average rainfall. If so, it would be the first time that's happened since April. 

By Sunday it will all have moved off the coast, and high pressure will move in from the north and west, bringing us dry, sunny weather from Sunday through at least Thursday.

Still not enough water for you? Well, these persistent southeast winds and the full moon are combining to produce unusually high tides along the Chesapeake and the tidal Potomac River. That could bring the water over the bulkheads at places like Harborplace, the City Dock in Annapolis and down in Alexandria. Here's how it looked this morning at Baltimore.

Tides at Baltimore - Tides Online

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

October 25, 2007

Comet Holmes now a naked-eye object

 Comet Holmes - Sky & Telescope

Marylanders won't see it until the skies clear - maybe Sunday. But backyard stargazers elsewhere are buzzing about Comet 17P/Holmes, which suddenly brightened by a factor of a million this week, becoming visible to the naked eye, even in urban areas.

The comet is visible high in the sky for most of the night. The star map above shows Holmes' location in the northeast, after sunset. The view will get easier later in the evening as the Earth turns and the stars on this map rise higher in the sky. Sky & Telescope posted this today on Holmes. Here's a photo gallery.

Unlike comets Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake a decade ago, Holmes doesn't yet have that classic comet look, with a bright nucleus and a sweeping tail. Those who've seen it describe it as a new "star" to the naked eye, and interloper in the constellation Perseus, at least for those familiar enough with Perseus to know what it's supposed to look like. But in even small backyard telescopes and binoculars, it has a broader, almost spherical appearance as compared with a star, which looks like a pinpoint of light. Holmes looks more like a billiard ball or a fuzz ball.

According to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Holmes was discovered in 1892 by an amateur astronomer named Edwin Holmes. Much as with the current apparition, Holmes brightened suddenly around the time Holmes discovered it. It later faded, then brightened again before it disappeared.

Astronomers calculate that Homes orbits the sun once every seven years. But it never gets closer to the sun than 200 million miles, twice the Earth's distance from the sun. That makes it hard to see. After spotting it again in 1899 and 1906, astronomers lost track of it until 1964.

This time, it was returning to the inner solar system as a very dim 17th magnitude object, 25,000 times too faint to see with the naked eye. On Wednesday, it suddenly perked up to a magnitude 7. And now observers are calling it a Mag. 2 or 3. Smaller positive numbers mean brighter objects, and on this logarithmic scale, that's a million-fold increase in brightness.

In practical terms it means it's about as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper, plenty bright enough to see with the naked eye, even under suburban skies if you know where to find it. But it's always better to escape to less light-polluted places.

Nobody knows how long Holmes will stay this bright, or even why. It may have broken apart, or simply thrown off a bunch of gas and dust as it got nearer to the sun and its warmth. We're sure to see more pictures and hear more speculation as we wait for our skies to clear.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:58 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching

Rain tops 2 inches in spots; more due

Water vapor image - NOAA 

The drizzle and spit continues across the region, and in some places it has produced some impressive overnight totals. More than 2 inches of rain had fallen by daybreak today in parts of Prince George's County and on the lower Eastern Shore, where they badly need rain for the winter grain crops. Here are some totals, taken from the online resources of the volunteer Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). 

Friendly, PG:  2.57 inches

Oxon Hill, PG:  2.15 inches

Salisbury, Wicomico:  2.05 inches

Pasadena, AA Co.:  1.11 inches

Ellicott City, Howard Co.:  1.00 inch

Eldersburg, Carroll Co.:  0.96 inch 

Jacksonville, Baltimore Co.:  0.9 inch

Long Green, Baltimore Co.:  0.89 inch

Cockeysville, Baltimore Co.:  0.65 inch

Officially, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has recorded 1.2 inches since the rain began, bringing the month's official total to about 1.6 inches. The average for an October in Baltimore is 3.16 inches, so we're still running very dry. 

CoCoRaHS also has makes its data available in clickable map form. Click here, pick your state and county, and hit Search. Then you can click on the colored dots to zoom in.

There's is still plenty of moisture available, sweeping north from the Gulf and the Atlantic. The image at the top of this post is a water vapor image from a NOAA satellite. There's more rain expected through Saturday.

And it comes none too soon. This week's Drought Monitor map, which shows agricultural drought conditions across the state as they stood on Tuesday, rated 6.5 percent of Maryland to be in "extreme" drought for the first time this summer. The worst conditions were found in western Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties. Two-thirds of the state was experiencing severe to extreme drought. 

Streamflow data also looks better, for now, but flows are likely to subside quickly after the showers quit. This rain has surely helped to ease the situation. But the drought is not over.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

October 24, 2007

Latest wildfire images from orbit

Wednesday's smoke - NASA 

The California wildfires continue to send huge plumes of smoke out over the Pacific today. Satellite images (below) also show how near relief might have been, had Tropical Depression Kiko taken another course. But the storm, just off the tip of Mexico's Baja California province, is headed west, out to sea. Here's more.

TS Kiko - NASA



Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Rain amounts still light, but ...

Does this gray, showery day feel as good to you as it does to me? I was out in the rain today to cover a story down at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge near Laurel. Standing around in the woods out there, it seemed like such a novelty - all the puddles and wet leaves, water trickling down my sleeve and making the ink run on my notebook. Actual rain!

The amounts haven't been too impressive yet, just 0.15 inch at BWI, a third of an inch at Reagan National and less than a quarter-inch at Dulles by late afternoon. But the forecast promises a lot more - more than three inches at the outside - before it starts to clear on Saturday.

Here are some more rain totals for the region. And the state. Streamflow has picked up in a few areas, but the numbers are likely to fall quickly again once the rain stops. Forecasters say the chances for flash flooding is nil. There is plenty of room in the stream banks for a rush of runoff. Here's the radar loop.

Once this slow-moving system pashed through this weekend, we'll set up for another big high-pressure system, and more dry, sunny weather.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

Well, we've done it again

It's a running joke in the newsroom that when Roylance writes a weather trend story - about, say, the lack of rain or snow - the trend will come screeching to a halt. I'm a regular trend-killer. Don't like the weather? Get Roylance to write about it. Game over.

One look at the forecast shows it's happened again.

Last Friday, my editors sent word (I was off; worked the previous Sunday) that they wanted a "forward-looking" story for Tuesday on the deepening drought. On Monday, I checked the forecasts for the week, interviewed the experts, and on Tuesday we ran a front page story about the drought. Forecasters saw "no relief in sight" for the region, we reported. While there were showers in the offing for late Tuesday and Wednesday, Sterling was saying they wouldn't amount to more than a quarter inch at best. That's not drought relief.

Well, the long-range forecast - for dry weather continuing through the winter - hasn't changed. But the short-term forecast NOW shows a whole lot more than a quarter inch in the cards for Marylanders. It hasn't amounted to much at this writing, just a few hundredths of an inch here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. But Sterling's current forecast for the rest of the week suggests we could get as much as three inches before this slow-moving cold front finally shoves off.

Thanks guys... The rain is being fueled by a low-pressure center to our south and west. It's pumping warm, moist Gulf air northward into the drought-stricken Southeast states, including us.

The best chances for rain - if THIS forecast holds up - come today and tonight, with a 70 percent likelihood we'll get precipitation. There's more due Friday and early Saturday, "Expect Baltimore/Washington urban areas to receive 1 to 3 inches of beneficial rainfall through Saturday," forecasters are saying this morning. Three inches would be enough, with what's already fallen this month, to give us normal October rainfall. Go figure.

In the western portion of the Sterling forecast region - down in western Virginia - they could see 4 to 6 inches of rain and urban flooding if warmer air triggers thunderstorms. The grain farmers are going to love this. It may not be the end of the drought. We are still short of water in the ground and in the reservoirs. But it is most certainly significant relief.

So, you're welcome. Now maybe I'll do a story about how little snow we can expect this winter.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 23, 2007

Space Station flyover Thursday night

I had planned to alert readers to a flyover tonight by the International Space Station. The shuttle Discovery was launched this morning, and I thought, perhaps, we might get a look at both the ISS and the shuttle as Discovery astronauts raced to catch up to the station. They will be installing another module on the station during this flight. Link to cool launch video here.

But, alas, we're in for some showers tonight, and I don't expect the skies will be clear enough to see the show. But, here's the booby prize.

On Thursday evening, the ISS - with the shuttle attached by then - will be flying over the Eastern U.S. at dinner time, tracking southeast from Chicago to the Wilmington, N.C. area and out to sea. Our skies should be cloud-free by then.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Clouds and rain may linger. See Wednesday morning post about the rain.  

So here are the particulars:

Look west at 6:33 p.m., and watch for a bright, star-like object hustling along toward the southeast. It will climb no more than halfway up the southwestern sky, reaching its highest elevation - well above Jupiter (the brightest "star" in that part of the sky) at 6:36 p.m

The station will fly on toward the southeastern horizon, disappearing there at about 6:38 p.m.

It's an historic occasion for the space program, and for women. This is the first time ever that women have commanded both the shuttle and the ISS at the same time. So get your wives, girlfriends, sisters, daughters and grandmothers out to watch and wave. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

California wildfires - from space


NASA's Earth-observing satellites have been snapping pictures this week of the devastating wildfires that have scorched southern California and burned hundreds out of their homes.

Here's one showing the smoke plumes streaming out over the Pacific Ocean.

Here's another showing how the fires blossomed in just a few hours on Sunday afternoon.

Here's one shot Monday. Amazing. The red dots show where infrared imagers spotted intense heat on the ground - fire.

And here's one shot today.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

The Endless Summer of 2007

Who remembers The Endless Summer? The movie...  Surfer dudes wandering the world searching for the perfect wave? Well, that's what we're having - the Endless Summer of 2007. Last night's low temperature at BWI was 66 degrees. That's two degrees warmer than the normal HIGH for this date. And it's the normal low for most of July - the hottest weeks of summer!

I'm looking at the temperature data for October at BWI, and I see only one day - Oct. 14 - that averaged below the long-term average for the date (by one degree). Only two hit the average smack-on. We've had 12 days in October that beat the average temperature for the date - by double digits!

With a little more than a week to go in the month, the airport is averaging 66.5 degrees - that's 9.4 degrees above the 30-year average. And if it holds, it would make this the warmest October on record for Baltimore. Here is the competition:

2007:  66.5 degrees (through Oct. 22)

1941:  65.1 degrees

1947:  64.8 degrees

1949:  64.2 degrees

1881:  63.5 degrees

1931:  63.4 degrees

But the average for the month is not going to stay that high. There's a cold front poised to blow through today and tonight, bringing a good chance for some showers. It's not drought relief, just a quarter-inch or so. That's not even enough to bring the month's total at BWI to an inch.

But the front will cut daytime high temperatures back to the 60s for the balance of the week, but still hanging just above the normals for this time of year. More showers are possible for the weekend. At this point in the game, we should be happy to get moisture from the air, even on weekends.

The problem, according to the folks I spoke to yesterday for today's story on the drought, is that the soil is very dry, and any showers will quickly be absorbed by the dirt and the plant life, which (thanks to the warm temperatures) is still using water. Very little will make it into the streams, reservoirs and the groundwater. 

Wendy McPherson, the hydrologist in the Baltimore office of the USGS, told me, "I would estimate we need 5 or 6 inches of rainfall a month to get us out of this."  Three to four inches a month is normal. We haven't even had an inch - total - since Sept. 1. 

What farmers are looking for is some sustained rainfall. Buddy Hance, a Calvert County farmer and a deputy secretary of agriculture, said what he needs is "two or three days of steady, soaking rain ... to soften the soil. Two to three days would be wonderful."

In this Endless Summer of 2007. we're still searching for the Perfect Rain. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

October 22, 2007

More showers, little relief ahead

Another gorgeous weekend behind us and another pleasant, unseasonably mild week lies ahead. If it weren't for the deepening drought, we wouldn't have a complaint to offer. There is a bit of rain in the forecast. It's another tease.

Forecasters say there's yet another cold front moving toward us from the north and west. When it arrives Tuesday it will displace the high-pressure that has delivered all this fine weather. We'll see a growing chance for showers and thunderstorms as the day goes by, with the likelihood rising to 80 percent in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, they're only calling for a tenth to maybe a quarter-inch of rain during the day, and perhaps another few hundreths overnight. This kind of rain - much like the shower systems that moved through here last week, won't end the drought. They're not even giving us normal rainfall.

What we really need is a tropical storm or two, or a complete change in the global weather patterns to get us back into the middle of the storm track. We remain 10.5 inches in the red for precipitation since Jan. 1, with more than half of that just since Sept. 1. And the long-range forecasts show no change in the pattern.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

October 20, 2007

Into every drought, a little rain must fall

Those showers last night drew some of the neighborhood kids outside, laughing and squealing as if it were a pinata that had opened up instead of rainclouds. It wasn't much - just 0.16 inch here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. That brought the total for the month here to not quite nine-tenths of an inch. Needless to say we are still very much in need of rain. This drought remains in place and it's expected to persist at least through January.

Reagan National Airport received its first measurable rain yesterday since Sept. 14 - a 34-day stretch without rain. That broke the old record of 33 days, which ended on Sept. 8, 1995.

Dulles Airport yesterday tied the record of 82 degrees for the date, set in 1963. 

Here are some other readings from the region, for yesterday's showers, and for October to date.

BWI: 0.28 inch  OCT:  0.89 inch

Reagan National:  0.37 inch  OCT:  0.37 inch

Dulles International:  0.32 inch  OCT:  0.35 inch

Here's the forecast for BWI, which shows another chance for some precipitation on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. After that, we'll be looking at much cooler daytime highs, only in the low to mid 60s.

For now, with 11 days to go, this October ranks as the 9th driest on record for Baltimore.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:54 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

October 18, 2007

Maryland drought deepens - USGS

Low flow in the Patuxent - USGS 

The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a sobering new release on Maryland's deepening drought conditions. Here it is in full:

"The drought continues to intensify in parts of Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, with many area streams reaching record to near-record low flows. Ground-water levels also continue to fall. According to hydrologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the areas most strongly affected by the drought include Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, Central Maryland, the lower Eastern Shore, and southern Delaware, although even the mountains of Western Maryland and the West Virginia panhandle are feeling the effects.

"Dry conditions in the Mid-Atlantic are part of a larger, regional drought affecting the southeastern United States, centered on northern Georgia and western South Carolina. Although declining streamflows and falling water tables are expected in late summer and early autumn, by mid-October the ground water normally begins to recharge. This year, the abnormally dry summer has been followed by an equally dry autumn, and ground-water levels continue to decline. Fortunately, normal precipitation throughout the previous winter and spring had appreciably recharged ground water, so the decline is not as severe as it could have been. If the dry weather continues through the winter/spring recharge period this year, however, ground-water levels and streamflow could be severely impacted by next summer.

"Record low flows have been measured by USGS scientists in the Monocacy River in Frederick County, the Patuxent River in Montgomery County, Piscataway Creek in Charles County, Winters Run in Harford County, the Choptank River in Caroline County and Nassawango Creek in Worcester County. Low flow in the Patuxent is breaking previous monthly records set during in 1986, and flow on the Monocacy broke a monthly record set in 1963. Piscataway Creek had no measurable flow for the month of October, and has set a new record low. Information on water conditions in the MD-DE-DC area is available on the web at:

"Several streams that did respond to a brief runoff event several weeks ago from scattered local showers, such as the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River, quickly returned to low flow conditions within a matter of hours. Reagan National Airport has recorded only a trace of rain since October 1, and BWI has recorded 0.13 inches over the same period, with less than a half inch total since September 1. Normal rainfall for the first two weeks of October should be nearly 2 inches. Rain forecast for this weekend is expected to help, but will not alleviate the drought.

"Water levels in five of the 22 observation wells monitored by the USGS in Maryland and Delaware reached record monthly lows for October, breaking previous record lows from the mid-1980's. A water-table well near LaPlata in Charles County is at an all-time low, and also set record lows in September and July.

"Prior to the last drought in 2002, there were several months in the autumn of 2001 in which precipitation was significantly below normal. This is the time of year when ground-water usually begins to recharge. Precipitation remained abnormally low throughout that winter, with only 0.36 inches of rain recorded at BWI in February 2002. By March, rainfall had returned to near-normal, but the lack of winter ground-water recharge resulted in water shortages that summer. The drought ended with significant above-normal rainfall in October 2002.

"This year, above-normal precipitation in the fall and early winter of 2006 fully recharged the ground water, bringing water tables up to normal. Both May and September 2007 were very dry months, with less than one inch of rain each. Adequate ground-water levels provided ample water supplies through the dry May, but by September, water tables had declined. September 2007 was the fourth-driest on record, and both ground-water levels and streamflows have been dropping rapidly. Water levels for October 2007 will be record-setting unless there is a major storm.

"Water supplies in the Baltimore City reservoirs and in the Potomac Basin are reported to be generally adequate. The USGS will begin more frequent monitoring of ground-water levels in response to the abnormally dry conditions, and data will be available again in early November"

You can read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

Rain clouds gather; drought persists

We may see more rain late today and tomorrow than we've seen at BWI since mid-August. The cold front that's been kicking up violent storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and southern Plains in recent days is slowly making its way east. It's shoving aside the high-pressure that's been giving us such delightful autumn weather.

By late today we can expect clouds to thicken ahead of the front as warm, humid air continues to move in from the south. We may see some showers overnight, although they're only giving it a 30 percent chance at best. Here's the national radar loop.

But Friday, as the front finally moves through, we should see the rain chances improve, with some threat of thunderstorms. They're putting the likelihood of rain at 60 percent for Friday, with a few tenths of an inch to as much as a half-inch possible before the day ends - more if you happen to be right under a thunderstorm.

It's not going to break the drought, but it may wet the flowers and green up the lawn a bit. The extent of severe agricultural drought across Maryland this week remains unchanged from last week. Here's this morning's Drought Monitor Map. The hydrological drought - low water in streams and wells - continues to spread westward. Here's the long-term outlook on drought.

The rain should be over by mid-morning Saturday. Temperatures for the weekend will be a shade cooler, but not by much. We're talking about mid-70s rather than upper 70s to near 80 degrees. The long-term averages for Baltimore at this time of year are in the mid-60s, so we're still enjoying unusually mild autumn weather. And things will warm up again by early next week to more than 10 degrees above normal. We've had just 19 days of cooler-than-average weather in the 79 days since Aug. 1.

It will be drier, however, and breezy as the new air mass moves in from the west behind the front. 

The bottom line is a wet Friday, followed by another terrific weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 17, 2007

1,000-year-old cedar topples

Western red cedar in Stanley Park -Tourism BC 

It had survived 1,000 years of bad weather. But in the end it was simply old age and rotted roots that brought down the famed giant Western red cedar in Vancouver's Stanley Park. The tree - the largest in the vast park in British Columbia, and perhaps the biggest cedar anywhere - had been featured in a 1978 issue of National Geographic magazine, and it drew thousands of tourists each year.

The magazine article reported the much-photographed tree's circumference at 45 feet back then, and its height at 130 feet. Park officials cut a path through the tree's remains where it had fallen across a path last week. But they plan to leave the rest in place, to support the next generations of forest life.

To read more, and view video reports, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

October 16, 2007

Still no rain, but metal drops from the sky

A 16-inch piece of twisted metal rod, reportedly still hot to the touch, fell from the sky in Delaware Monday afternoon and punched through the roof of a (unoccupied) car. The initial word is that it didn't come from an airplane. Space junk remains a possibility. Read on.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

September was eighth warmest in US

 Sept. temperatures, departure from normal - NOAA

September 2007 was the eighth warmest on record in the lower 48 states and the fifth warmest globally, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. In its September report, released today, the agency details the climate extremes recorded last month. Among them:

September was warm enough to set 1,000 new high temperature records across the U.S. The average temperature was 2.1 degrees F above the long-term averages for the month.

Thirty-eight of the lower 48 states were warmer than average. None was cooler.

It was the 12th-warmest September on record in Alaska, 2.6 degrees above the 1971-2000 mean. Nome was frost-free from June through September. Dry weather on the North Slope contributed to a 250,000-acre wildfire, the largest ever there.

Drought parched the Southeast. It affected 78 percent of the region, including 25 percent that was in "exceptional" drought, the most severe category. Nationwide, drought spread across 46 percent of the country.

To read the full report, click here.

September rainfall, departure from normal - NOAA


Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Midwest storms little threat/help here

Boy, you glance at the national forecast map and it looks like that big low over the Midwest and all that moisture it's drawing north off the Gulf will get here eventually and bring us some serious rain. No such luck.

We remain in a kind of bubble of high pressure and under sunny skies today. Forecasters say that by the time the bubble heads out to sea tomorrow, the low passes to our north, and the cold front sweeps through on Friday or Saturday, it won't have much rain left to offer. They're posting only a 20 or 30 percent chance of showers late Wednesday into Thursday. That increases to 40 or 50 percent chance of thunderstorms Friday before the odds fall again and sunshine returns on Sunday. I guess we'll take whatever we can get.

Throughout the period we're looking for unseasonably warm highs in the 70s, perhaps even reaching 80 degrees on Wednesday. And after things clear on Sunday, there's no more hope for rain until late next week.

And all that crowding of highs and lows as the shove by will set us up for some stiff winds Friday and again Saturday.

But enough about the forecast. Did anyone else spot that beautiful crescent moon just after sunset last night? I had an email query asking me what the bright "star" high above the moon was.  It was no star. It was Jupiter, the brightest object in the southwest in the evening these days. Hard to miss. Here's what NASA's New Horizons mission found at Jupiter last March.

And if you're up early, don't forget to look for brilliant Venus in the east before dawn. That's Saturn just to the left and slightly above Venus, and the bright star Regulus just above. Look high overhead before the skies brighten too much and you'll spy reddish Mars, which is brightening nightly toward a close approach at "opposition" on Christmas Eve. We'll be writing more about that next month.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:09 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

October 15, 2007

A mild week, but little drought relief

Looks like another mild, mostly pleasant week ahead for Maryland, with some sunshine early on, and high temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above the long-term averages for this time of year.

But if you're looking for significant drought relief, there doesn't appear to be any available. Wednesday morning and Thursday could bring a few showers if a weak cold front sets up right. But they don't appear to be offering any significant amounts. And we need inches of rain, not the tenths and hundredths we've been seeing. Friday night and Saturday seem somewhat more promising.

At the halfway mark, October has delivered just 0.13 inch of rain at BWI. That's even less than September (0.35 inch), which was the fourth-driest on record here. We should be getting better than three inches a month just to stay even. If we're going to avoid piped water from the Susquehanna, outdoor watering bans and crop failures next year, we need to start clocking some months with 1- and 2-inch rain surpluses, and piles of winter snow.

None of that is presently in the cards.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 14, 2007

Arctic sea ice set record summer minimum

Arctic sea ice minimum 2007

The sea ice surrounding the North Pole is expanding again as winter nears, recovering from the new record minimum reached last month at the end of the summer melting season. The map above shows where the 2007 minimum was, compared with the previous record minimum, reached in 2005, and the long-term (1979-2000) average. Quite a dramatic difference. For more, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 12, 2007

"Arbutus" quake was actually in Lochearn

Site of Monday's tremor - USGS 

Seismologists have now had time to study the seismic data on that little "micro-quake" that tapped Baltimore County at about 8:28 a.m. on Monday. Turns out the tremor was actually centered beneath Lochearn, off Liberty Road just west of Baltimore, and not the southwestern community of Arbutus, near the UMBC campus, as initially reported.

That's not the only revision. (This sort of reassessment and adjustment is normal after a quake as more data is evaluated. These things take time.)

It turns out Monday's event was also a tad stronger than initially stated - a twitchy 1.5 on the Richter scale, rather than 1.3.  That's not inconsiderable, but also not a lot, at a difference of two-tenths of a Richter number. Each whole-number increase in Richter measurement represents a 32-fold increase in the energy released. At 1.5, it's the energy equivalent of 392 pounds of TNT, not unlike a conventional WWII bomb.

And, the Monday tremor occurred deeper under the surface than initially estimated - 5 miles instead of 3 miles.

Finally, because it was less than a 2-pointer on the Richter scale, it was both common - more than 8,000 a day somewhere on the planet - and "unfelt" as geologists rate such things.

Maybe so, but there have been a few people who have reported sensing something of the quake. We got this email from "Cathy:"  "We heard/felt it at our law office in 'downtown' Arbutus. We thought is was either thunder or a big tractor-trailer."

At the Maryland Geological Survey, Jim Reger also told Sun reporter Dennis O'Brien yesterday he had heard from residents of Edmondson Heights, just outside the city line, between US 40 and I-70. Another person living near Lake Montebello, on the other side of Baltimore City, reported feeling or hearing the jolt.

The tremor was also detected by instruments 180 miles away, maintained by the Lamont-Doherty Cooperative Seismographic Network.

There's one other interesting note. Similar micro-quakes have been recorded recently in other parts of the Northeast. There was one, in Hackensack, N.J., measured at 1.3 on the Richter scale, at 8:48 a.m. last Friday. Another, also at Richter 1.3, was recorded 8 miles north of Lawrence, Mass. at 7:15 a.m. on Monday, just 73 minutes before the Lochearn quake.

Curiously, of you look at all three of these spots on a map (three blue dots on the following linked map), they form an almost perfect straight line. But Reger says there's no single fault line that would explain the coincidence.

Once again, if you heard or felt this little tremor, leave a comment here and describe it. Here's more on Maryland quakes.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:30 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Events

More drops in the bucket

NWS instruments at BWI clocked in a few more drops of rain overnight - a paltry 0.03 inch of the wet stuff. That brings the October total out there to all of 0.13 inch. And that's barely a third of what we had in September - 0.35 inch - which was a tenth of the normal rainfall for Baltimore in September.

Other locations - all "unofficial" - around the region, however, received more. Our gauge here at The Sun, on Calvert & Centre streets, recorded just 0.11 inch, most after midnight, bringing the three-day total to 0.49 inch. I forgot to check the WeatherDeck this morning because, quite honestly, I didn't know it had rained until I walked out to the car. 

Here are some readings from around the area. And here are some from farther afield.

But that's it for the foreseeable weather future. There is nothing in the forecast but sunshine and starlight, right into next week. All I can offer is more gorgeous autumn weather. Sorry.


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

October 11, 2007

CSU experts predict "very active" hurricane finale

Tropical Storm Gabrielle, Sept. 5 

The final two months of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season should be "very active," according to forecasters at Colorado State University. October and November should produce four more named storms, hurricane experts Phil Klotzbach and William Gray said today. Two of those will reach hurricane strength, and one will be at least a Cat. 3 storm with top sustained winds above 111 mph, they said.

As if on cue, the National Hurricane Center today began tracking a new tropical depression - TD 15 - far out in the Atlantic east of Bermuda. It's no threat to land.

Here's the full report. Click on the first item under "News" in the upper lefthand corner. Here's the updated National Hurricane Center's forecast, issued in early August.

The CSU forecast is a tad milder than the team had forecast earlier for October/November. They had predicted five named storms during the two-month period.

For the full season, the group had said on Sept. 4 that 2007 would end with a total of 15 named storms, with seven becoming hurricanes, and four reaching Cat. 3 or higher.

So far, the actual totals are 13 names storms, with four hurricanes, of which two have reached Cat. 3 or more. So they're close to the mark in the named-storms category, but look like they're falling short of their hurricane predictions by almost half.

Everybody in the hurricane game predicted an "active" season this year, pointing to a continuation of a decades-long peak in storm activity, based on warmer sea-surface temperatures and favorable atmospheric pressure and wind patterns.

And it has been fairly busy. August ended with about 130 percent of the long-term average tropical activity. September ended at 92 percent, a bit below the long-term averages, Klotzbach and Gray said.

September did produce eight named storms, tying the September record. But most were short-lived and weak, such as Gabrielle, picture above in the Atlantic on Sept. 5. 

In the coming weeks, however, Klotzbach and Gray expect more favorable conditions and an extended hurricane season, thanks to the influence of a La Nina phase in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

So far, TD 15 is the only storm being watched out there. Elsewhere, all is quiet. Officially, the season ends Dec. 1.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Wow! Saturn photographed from Baltimore

Baltimore's OTHER streetcorner astronomer, Darryl Mason, continues to do some marvelous astrophotography from well inside the Beltway. Here's what he describes as his most detailed picture ever of Saturn. The ringed planet is currently visible to the naked eye, in the eastern sky just before dawn. You can find it just to the left of brilliant Venus about an hour before dawn.

Darryl, who grew up off Liberty Road in Baltimore and began stargazing as a young boy, bought his first telescope from KMart when he was in high school, and has since graduated to some very impressive gear. He was elected president of the Baltimore Astronomical Society in 2002.

Saturn from Baltimore - Darryl Mason



Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Cool pictures

October cool, Sahara dry

Notwithstanding that little spit of rain we got last night (okay, so we got a bit more than a spit - 0.38 inch here at Calvert & Centre), the outlook beyond tonight is for more dry, clear weather deep into next week. The weird October heat wave is history, but this drought is by no means over.

Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for highs today through the weekend of about 68-69 degrees. That is precisely the average for this time of year at BWI. The overnight lows in the forecast are in the mid-40s - also exactly normal for the season. So, what may feel unseasonably cool after a few heady days in the 90s this week, is actually exactly "right" for this time and place.

In fact, through yesterday, October 2007 at BWI was averaging 72.9 degrees - a whopping 13 degrees above the long-term average for the month to date. It couldn't last, of course. The warmest October on record for Baltimore was in 1947, when the average temperature at month's end was 64.8 degrees. Normal for the full month is 55.4 degrees.

The precipitation outlook, however, is way out of whack. There is a "slight" chance for more showers tonight, forecasters say. But skies will clear by morning and then we're looking at sunny days and starry nights at least through Tuesday. There's not a drop of rain in the forecast. The driest October on record for Baltimore was in 1963, when only a trace of rain was detected. We've already got that one beat.

The new Drought Monitor map is out this morning. It shows the region of "severe" drought in Maryland has crept north into Baltimore and southern Baltimore County. The percentage of the state in severe drought now covers 61 percent of the state, up from 47 percent last week.

The average precipitation for Baltimore in October is 3.16 inches. We've had just 0.10 inch, officially at BWI, so far - all of it last night. We're now almost 10 inches behind the averages for this year.

There are no "Red Flag" fire warnings up yet. But forecasters are closely watching the low humidity and stiff winds forecast for later this week.

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

Rainless streak at BWI ends

A tenth of an inch of rain late last night at BWI has ended the long stretch of dry weather there at 24 days. The last time the airport received any measurable precipitation was on Sept. 14-15, when 0.12 inch fell. Twenty-four days is not a record. The longest span of rainless weather on record for Baltimore is 32 days, ending on Halloween 1941.

Only 0.35 inch of rain fell at BWI during all of September. Baltimore has received just 1.1 inch of rain since Aug. 22. There's not much in the forecast - just a "slight" chance of showers tonight, then clear, sunny weather through the middle of next week. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

October 10, 2007

Spectacular portraits of our planet

Using a variety of satellite data and imagery, NASA scientists and graphic artists have assembled two striking portraits of our little blue planet. It truly is a jewel. Read more here.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Rainless streak continues at BWI

If you got measureable rain from those thunderstorms last night, count yourself lucky. Instruments at BWI caught only a trace, so the dry streak that began Sept. 16 at the city's station of record continues today into its 25th consecutive day. The record for Baltimore is 32 days, ending Oct. 31, 1963.

Jim Decarufel, out at the NWS Sterling forecast office said there's a low-pressure system spinning our way tomorrow out of the Great lakes. "That might have a few sprinkles here and there," he said, "but other than that, continued dry ... The worst thing is, there aren't even any tropical storms out there, and we're gonna need a couple of them to do anything beneficial."

I figured the airport would pick up a little bit of rain from last night's storms. We had 0.33 inch out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. Jim said a private observer in Damascus, in Howard County, recorded just over a half-inch. But amounts elsewhere were paltry: 0.08 inch in Emmittsburg; 0.02 inch in Riveira Beach; a trace in Oxon Hill. We had 0.07 inch here at Calvert & Centre.

At BWI, it has taken us since Aug. 22 - that's 49 days - to accumulate just one inch of rain. 

"It's not good," Jim said.

Here are some other readings from around the region on last night's storm. And these.

We're now closing in on a 10-inch rainfall deficit for the year. Many streams are near record lows. Groundwater levels are falling. Here's some realtime data from a monitoring well in Granite, Baltimore County.

There's only a "slight" chance for some showers in the next few days as we work through another frontal passage and welcome some cooler air. After Friday, the forecast is clear and sunny well into next week. On Thursday of next week, if there's no measureable rain at BWI by then, we'll break the all-time rainless record.

BTW, Tuesday's record high of 94 degrees at Dulles International Airport broke not only the high-temperature record for an Oct. 9, but also the all-time record for any date in October.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 9, 2007


There's no data yet from BWI, but the thunderstorm passing over the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this evening has already dropped almost a third of an inch of rain in barely 15 minutes. Rain rates topped 3 inches an hour for a brief while. It's the first rain out here since Sept. 27 (0.2 inch), and the biggest since 1.37 inches fell here on Aug. 19.

Assuming BWI got a piece of theaction, it would end the official rainless streak for Baltimore at 24 consecutive days. The record is 32 days, ending Oct. 31, 1963.

You can check here for any precipitation at BWI. Here's the radar loop.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Bizarre October heat breaks records

Tuesday's high of 94 degrees shattered records all across the region Tuesday afternoon. It also marked the first time that Baltimore has recorded more than two days in the 90s in October since 1941 (when there were 5).

The high of 94 degrees at BWI broke the record for the date - 91 degrees - set back in 1939. Reagan National Airport also reported a high of 94, breaking the 90 degree record for the same date in 1939. Out in the Virginia countryside, the high at Dulles International  - also 94 degrees - also broke the record for the date - 87 degrees - set there in 1990.

It was an extraordinary October day, 11 degrees hotter at BWI than it was on the Fourth of July, and the 45th day in the 90s this year. The 67-degree overnight low this morning at BWI was only three degrees below the long-term average maximum for the date - 70 degrees.

The record high minimum temperature for the date - the warmest overnight low on record for Baltimore on an Oct. 9 - was 71 degrees, set in 1959. We missed breaking that record by just 4 degrees.

But that should be it for the heat this week, and quite possibly for the year. The cold front pushes through tonight - maybe with a passing thunderstorm or shower. Wednesday will be noticeably cooler, and we're looking for real October weather for the rest of the week, right through the weekend. Here's the forecast. Here's the radar, showing the front. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 8, 2007

Mini-quake taps Arbutus

Maybe it was my mother falling out of bed. The US Geological Survey is reporting a very mild earthquake at 8:28 a.m. today, centered 3 miles below the surface, just a mile west-northwest of Arbutus. The USGS put the epicenter just west of the UMBC campus. Here's the seismic record from the Maryland Geological Survey (red squiggles, right center of the chart.)

The tremor measured 1.3 on the Richter Scale, not even enough to be felt unless you're a seismometer. The last time we registered a quake you could feel was on Feb. 23, 2005. That tremor, centered near Dundalk, registered a whopping 2.1 on the the Richter Scale and was felt, or heard in several spots around the city.

There are thousands of these "micro-quakes" each day around the world. If you did happen to feel, or hear this one, or if your dogs went crazy ... leave us a comment.

Here's the report from the USGS on this event. And here are some links to data on Maryland's earthquake history.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

Heat record broken

The temperature at BWI reached 90 degrees in the last hour, busting the record of 88 degrees for an Oct. 8 in Baltimore, set back in 1931.

UPDATE: The official high for BWI today was 91 degrees.

EARLIER: That high mark for today is still cooler than Sunday's high of 92 at the airport, which failed to break the 96-degree record for that date. But it was the 44th day this year with a high of 90 degrees or higher, five more than last year. 

Sunday's high was the first 90-plus day in October at BWI since the 1959, according to Steve Rogowski at the NWS Sterling forecast office. And with today's high, we mark the first time since 1947 that Baltimore has experienced two October days in the 90s.

Anyway, it's 90 degrees here at Calvert & Centre streets, 92 at the Science Center, 85 at Reagan National and 88 at Dulles International.

UPDATE: New records were set today at Reagan (91), and Dulles (92). The day's high at the Science Center was 92. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Draconid meteor shower peaks tonight

If you're out late tonight on a midnight jog, leaving a party or walking the dog, keep an eye out for meteors. Tonight is the night the annual Draconid meteors peak. This is not normally a very rewarding shower - only a few slow-moving meteors per hour. But there's no moon tonight, so skies will be dark and ideal for meteor-watching if the fog holds off. And meteor watchers in 2005 were rewarded with some unexpectedly high Draconid rates.

So, keep your eyes peeled. You may catch a couple of nice ones. The meteors will appear to emerge from the Constellation Draco, high in the northern sky. The peak will be around 12:30 a.m., but it may be worth watching for them in the evenig hours, too.

The Draconid shower is associated with the dusty debris from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which last rounded the sun in 1998.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

Heat could threaten record today

With the clouds burning off early around Baltimore today, we may have a shot at beating the record-high temperature for an Oct. 8 in Baltimore. The record is a relatively easy one for the first half of October, just 88 degrees, set in downtown Baltimore in 1931. The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies after the fog burns off, and a high of 85 degrees. I'm betting we'll bust the record.

The 88-degree mark is, after all, the coolest record high for Baltimore in the first (nearly) two weeks of October. On the other  hand, it's still a full 18 degrees above the long-term average high for this time of year.

The early-autumn heat won't last much longer. We'll have one more hot day on Tuesday - pushing 90 again. But the high-pressure system will finally move off the coast and a cold front now in the Midwest will move across the state late Tuesday. That may bring us a bit of rain, but not much. There's a 50 percent of thunderstorms on Tuesday night. It's now been 23 days since the last measureable rain at BWI. The record is 32.

Behind the front they're looking for cooler weather on Wednesday, with highs around 80 degrees - still 10 degrees above normal. But that's it. From Thursday well into next week we're looking for highs in the 60s, and lows in the 40s. That's a few degrees below normal, for a change. We haven't had a below-average-temperature day at BWI since Sept. 20.

For the record, tomorrow is the 104th anniversary of the earliest snowfall on record for Baltimore - a trace on Oct. 8, 1903. Guess we won't break THAT record this year.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 7, 2007

Darn hot, but no record

Man, that was one hot October day. The high at BWI-Marshall this afternoon was 92 degrees, and it felt more like August than October. Even so, it wasn't a record.

The hottest Oct. 7 on record for Baltimore was 96 degrees, set downtown on this date in 1941. Had we experienced today's weather on Oct. 1, 2, 8, 9 or any other date after the 11th, we would have set a new record. Just not today. It was a high mark to match.

There weren't any records set today in Washington or out at Dulles International, either. But Friday's high of 88 degrees at Dulles did set a new record, besting the 87-degree high there back on Oct. 5, 1967. It was 93 today at the Maryland Science Center on the Inner Harbor.

We'll have a couple more days in the 80s this week, but after a cold front passes on Wednesday (with a slight chance for some badly needed rain), we'll be looking at much cooler, more seasonable days in the 60s, with lows in the 40s. Here's the forecast.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

October 5, 2007

Return of the Space Station

 International Space Station - NASA

As promised, the International Space Station will make an encore appearance over Baltimore Saturday evening, reprising its bright and beautiful pass on Thursday. The forecast should be OK.  Here are the details:

As with Thursday's pass, look for the station to rise above the southwest horizon, this time at about 7:06 p.m. It will fly just west of Jupiter - the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky. Climbing higher and flying almost directly over Baltimore at 7:09 p.m., it will fly through the bright stars of the Summer Triangle - almost the identical trajectory as Thursday's pass.

From there, the station will fly off toward the northeast, soaring out over the tip of Long Island and Cape Cod at 17,500 mph, disappearing from our view at about 7:13 p.m. as it flys more than 200 miles above Nova Scotia.

Once again, come back here after the flyby and record a comment with your thoughts and observations. Enjoy.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:31 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Sky Watching

State urges Marylanders to conserve water

Drought regions - MDE 

 The Maryland Department of the Environment has taken official notice of the deepening drought in Maryland. The MDE today issued a "Drought Watch" for communities in the Central and Eastern regions of the state - indicated by the deep blue and yellow colors on the map above. They extend from Frederick County east to Cecil, south to Howard and Baltimore, and the entire Eastern Shore.

Excluded from the watch are communities served by the Baltimore City and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission water systems (green and light blue on the map). The two systems' water reserves are still considered "adequate."

The drought watch is the first stage in the state's Drought Management Plan. It does not impose any mandatory water bans, but steps up public oversight of water supplies and urges residents to monitor their own water use and conserve "whenever possible."

If the dry weather continues, the governor could issue a "Drought Warning," or declare a "Drought Emergency," which would impose mandatory restrictions on water use across all or parts of the state. 

Some localities in Maryland have already imposed local water restrictions because of diminishing groundwater reserves from the dry weather, which began in mid-April. AT BWI, precipitation totals are now more than 9 inches below normal for the year.

During the last major drought in Maryland, in 2001-2002, dropping water supplies caused then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening to declare a Drought Warning in January 2002 for 15 counties in Central and Eastern Maryland. Baltimore began drawing water from the Susquehanna River to preserve its own reservoir supplies. In April, with rain fall 13 inches below normal since the previous September, he declared a Drought Emergency in Central Maryland but excluded communities served by the Baltimore and Washington water systems.

In August 2002, the Baltimore reservoirs were at their lowest levels in history - 47 percent of capacity. The governor tightened water use restrictions and expanded them to include the urban regions. Some Maryland communities began planning to truck water in, while others imposed bans on new construction.

In October 2002, six inches of rain fell on the region, the wettest October in seven years. The wet weather continued, bans were lifted and by June 2003, the city's reservoirs were back at capacity.

Here's the Drought Monitor map for Maryland, showing that almost half the state is now in a "Severe" agricultural drought. And here the hydrological drought map, showing where stream flow has been most severely affected. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

"Aerolite" shower terrorizes Baltimore

One hundred years ago tonight, Marylanders - and Baltimoreans in particular - were rattled and amazed by what seemed like a fiery bombardment of a sort not seen seen since the British attack on Ft. McHenry in 1814.

Headlines in The Sun the next morning pulled no punches: "FIERY BALL HITS CITY; Brilliant Shower Of Aerolites Turns Night Into Day; ONE FALLS IN BELAIR MARKET; Heavens Appear White With Heat And Electric Lights Are Dimmed By Dazzling Vapor."

The event occured just before 10 p.m., so from the start, our reporters were racing to gather the facts in the face of a looming deadline. They seemed hard-pressed to resolve the conflicting reports they were hearing that evening.

THE SUN: "Each of the individual observers from whom reports were received only saw one of the aerolites, but from the multiplicity of the accounts, of their direction and the descriptions of their light, it is evident there were many of them," the story asserted.

"At about the same time the one landed in Belair Market, another was seen near Govanstown ... Other meteoric manifestations were observed at Reisterstown, Lawyers Hill, Howard County, East Baltimore street and South Baltimore, all of which seemed to be near the earth and going in various directions."

WEATHER BLOGGER: It seems likely now that all the observers in 1907 saw the same object - what is now more often called a "bolide," or a "fireball." These are unusually large, bright and persistent meteors. Here's a video of one that fell over Mexico last year. 

Observers commonly describe them as coming in "just over the trees," beyond nearby buildings or hilltops. It's almost always a gross underestimate of their distance, which is more typically tens or hundreds of miles away. And that means plenty of people will be reporting the fall, each describing it as a nearby event. (Anyone recall the "Glen Burnie meteor"?) And I don't lend much weight to the fact that various observers differed in their descriptions of the "aerolites'" direction of flight. Lots of people are directionally challenged.

What seems quite accurate in the 1907 descriptions is the brilliance and color of the object.

THE SUN:  "Unlike the thousands of shooting stars that may be seen at the right time and place every night ... the intensity of the 'shooting stars' last night was such that its light outshone electric lights along the streets of the city and made its rays noticeable in brightly illuminated rooms. The glare from the sky, which attracted  hundreds of eyes heavenward ... had a distinct duration, which observers ... set at several seconds.

"Mr. J. Louis Brown, 21 Kenwood avenue, said he was walking on Kenwood avenue, near Baltimore street, when the sky became suddenly brilliant. He looked up just in time to see an aerolite flying through the air at a rapid rate. He said it moved from east to west. The light from it preceded it for a great distance, he said.

"A resident of Lawyer's Hill, near Relay ... said it looked like an immense flash of lightning only that the light cast by it was of a greenish color and much slower than lightning. At Reisterstown one of the aerolites was seen by several persons, who say it gave forth the brightness of day for several seconds.

Two Baltimore doctors saw the object from the 2100 blocks of Calvert and St. Pauls streets. They agreed that "the light of the 'star' with its trail of brilliant fire was the most wonderful sight they had ever beheld."

"The light seen down town was of a greenish blue and had an intensity and a distinction from the ordinary 'yellowness' of incandescent electric lights that made it observable in offices to persons who didn't have their eyes directed toward windows at the time," The Sun reported.

WEATHER BLOGGER: The color is not unusual for meteors. The green is produced by the excitation of oxygen molecules high in the atmosphere as the meteor streaks through the air and heats up. Here's one from Australia.

THE SUN: "The aerolite which fell in Belair Market created a furor among the hundreds of persons there. It appeared to be about one foot in diameter and had a tail of sparks about three feet long."

WEATHERBLOGGER: That's a fascinating detail. Clearly the meteor was many miles away, but the estimates here allow one to imagine how big it appeared in the sky. Wow!

THE SUN: "The market people and women who were making purchases were in a high state of fright when it loomed up before them and blinded them ... and while they were standing terrorstricken it fell on the market roof at Ensor street. An explosion followed, and upon investigation later it was found that in all probability the burning mass had been transformed into vapor and passed off."

WEATHERBLOGGER: The story also says they looked on the tin roof and they found nothing. No damage, no scorching. Obviously they misjudged the object's distance. It dropped below the roofline from where they stood and, believing it was much closer than it was, they assumed it fell on the roof. The explosion? Maybe a coincidence. Perhaps someone dropped a box of fish. More likely it was a sonic boom, which can accompany a bolide's fall. But you could not have convinced anyone who witnessed the event.

THE SUN: "Patrolman Charles L. Fields, of the Central district ... said, " 'Did I see the ball of fire? Yes I did, and I will never forget it as long as I live ... When I saw it first it was far off, and the first thing I knew was that the entire market space seemed ablaze. Never before was I under such a strong light ... The women and market people took fright and stared vacantly for several minutes after the ball fell on the roof. The moment the ball fell on the roof, its fiery appearance ceased. and small clouds of smoke were seen to pass off."

WEATHERBLOGGER: Sun reporters immediately sought scientific opinions about the event.

THE SUN: "Mr. Justice Stahn, secretary of the astronomical section of the Maryland Academy of Science, said last night there are such phenomena as balls of fire falling to the earth and vanishing in vapor or a quantity of froth ... 'There are various theories regarding their origin. Some suppose that the earth ages ago ejected the masses when the volcanic action was much greater than now, the force being so great as to throw them beyond the earth's attraction and after traveling about for ages they again come in contact with the earth.'"

Stahn continued: "It is also assumed that the moon ejects the matter from the lunar volcanoes. Their source is also supposed to be from comets, while others entertain the theory that during  the early ages some planet exploded and we are now gathering in the debris.'"

WEATHERBLOGGER: Well, Stahn wasn't all wrong. Volcanoes on Earth can't and never could hurl debris fast enough to reach orbit. And there are no lunar volcanoes. But comets, comet dust and rocks - from the impacts on the moon or Mars, or the unconsolidated debris of asteroids do contribute to the variety of objects that mankind has long witnessed in the night sky.

THE SUN: Stahn continued, getting better as he went along: "Other observers came to the conclusion that the stones of meteors came somewhere from space and gradually the theory was advanced that when they reached the earth's atmosphere, traveling with a velocity of almost 40 miles a second, the heat generated by the friction was so great as to cause them to become luminous."

"In fact, the heat in many cases has been so great that the bodies have exploded. I have seen such phenomena during the night, and on one occasion during daylight distinctly saw the trail of smoke left behind ... Astronomers frequently hear of the falling of such balls of fire. It is not strange that the mass of fire and smoke vanished into vapor when it fell on the roof. This frequently occurs."

 WEATHERBLOGGER: Bolides can explode as they fall, vaporize and leave no trace. But in the rare instance when a meteor actually strikes the ground, it can (though not always) strike with sufficient force to punch a hole in a roof, or a car, or blast a crater in the Earth's surface. Here's a video of a fireball that landed on a car in Peekskill, NY in 1992.  It's safe to say nothing struck the Belair Market on that evening a century ago. 

Thanks to Sun researcher Paul McCardell for alerting me to this curious anniversary.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: History

October 4, 2007

Half of Md. now in "severe" drought

It's been 19 days since any measureable rain has fallen at BWI, and nearly half the state is now in "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's up from less than one percent last week.

The latest USDA Drought Monitor map is out this morning, and it shows only Garrett County enjoying normal moisture, based on measures of rainfall, soil moisture, stream flow and satellite data on damage to vegetation.

Ninety-three percent of the state is experiencing at least "abnormally dry conditions. "Moderate" drought or worse persists across 86 percent of the state, and 47 percent - from southern Frederick, Howard Montgomery, Arundel and all of Southern Maryland to most of the Eastern Shore south of the Bay Bridge - is in "severe" drought.

Our drought is an extension of even more severe conditions that continue to parch the Deep South, especially from Kentucky and Tennessee, to the Carolinas and Alabama.

Stream flows and groundwater levels in Maryland have begun to reach record lows, and much of the state, on both sides of the bay, is in a "severe" hydrological drought, according to the US Geological Survey.

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

October 3, 2007

ISS to buzz Baltimore on Sputnik's 50th

Space Cadets! You've been waiting for a nice pass by the International Space Station at a convenient evening hour. If the clouds part in time Thursday evening, this may be the one. And it comes on the 50th anniversary of the Oct. 4, 1957 launch of the world's first artificial Earth satellite - Sputnik 1.

Now, how can you resist stepping outside with the kids to watch this salute by the biggest (482,345 pounds) satellite ever constructed to orbit the planet, to the first (185 pounds)?

The forecast isn't perfect. We'll likely have clouds and fog in the morning, especially near the Bay. But they're calling it "partly cloudy" for the rest of the day. If they're right, that should be good enough. This should be a very bright, very high pass. If skies are clear, and you don't see this one, you need an appointment with the eye doctor.

Here's the scoop: Look for the ISS to appear in the southwest at 7:55 p.m. Thursday evening. It will look like a steady white star, moving briskly toward the northeast. If it has multiple lights, colored lights, or it it blinks, it's an airplane. Keep looking.

The station will appear to fly just west of Jupiter - the brightest star-like object in the southwestern sky in the evening this month - then climb toward the zenith (straight up). High overhead at 7:58 p.m., the ISS will fly straight through the bright stars of the Summer Triangle - south of Vega and Deneb, and north of Altair. At its highest over Maryland, it will be 218 miles above observers in Baltimore.

Then, at 7:59 p.m., just as the $100 billion contraption and its crew of three head out over the Atlantic and Long Island, it will vanish abruptly from sight. We can only see the ISS when it is in full sunlight. That's all reflected light you're watching. So, when it enters the Earth's shadow - the start of a 45-minute "night" on board the station - it disappears from view.

If you spot it, leave a comment here and report what you saw, and what it was like for you and those with you. Share the experience. If you miss this flyby, there's an other good one on Saturday evening. Watch this space.

Or, you can get your own flyby predictions - plus sky maps and much more - by going to the Heavens Above Web site, and punching in your location. Try it. You'll like it.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:09 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching

A slow burn-off

The clouds and fog that have socked us in this morning will likely burn off by the end of the day, forecasters tell us. Partial sunshine will return for most of the region, but then the folks at Sterling add a caveat to their morning discussion: "If there is an area that may not break up ... it would be near Baltimore." Thanks, guys, but I can already see sunshine on the State Pen.

The moisture is being hauled in here off the Atlantic by a southeast breeze, the back side of the clockwise circulation around that high pressure center still lingering off the northeast coast.

After the sun peeks through this afternoon, we can expect more moisture to roll in overnight, leaving us with more overcast skies and morning fog in spots on Thursday, especially nearer the bay. That should burn off later in the day.

With luck it will be clear enough by nightfall Thursday to give us a decent view of the International Space Station as it cruises up the East Coast, and across the Chesapeake Bay just south of Baltimore. Watch for details here, or in the dead-tree editions of The Sun on Thursday morning.

From then on, through the weekend and into next week, we're looking for sunny skies and warm temperatures, with daytime highs in the low 80s, and overnight lows in the 60s. That's 10 degrees or more above the long-term averages for Baltimore at this time of year.

The only risk appears to be a chance for showers in Southern Maryland or the lower Eastern Shore by Friday if there's enough moisture shoved up the coast from a storm system in the Gulf of Mexico that's struggling to become a tropical storm.

Rain? Here? Show me ...



Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 2, 2007

Margusity sees ice storms coming to mid-Atlantic

Could we have ice storms in our future this winter? So far, the long-range forecasts for this winter in the mid-Atlantic states have predicted a relatively mild winter, with warmer and drier conditions than the long-term averages would suggest.

AccuWeather blogger Henry Margusity - never one to shy away from a scare headline in winter - says he doesn't disagree with that outlook. But he sees cold-air outbreaks in the north and west, and a storm track out of the Southwest, and predicts a collision in the form of ice storms in the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic states. That's us.

Ice, of course, is the one thing Marylanders fear more than snow. And living where we do, between the cold interior and the warmer Bay and ocean, we see more than our share of "wintry-mix" storms.

Who can forget the repeated ice storms of January and February 1994? Of course, the weather was much colder during that period than we're likely to see this winter.

Sun Staff Writer 
David Michael Ettlin 
Feb. 10, 1994
   Marylanders took another beating from the weather yesterday as a continuing ice storm disrupted travel, knocked out electrical power and forced school systems to shut down again.Across the state, hundreds of accidents kept the police and towing companies on the move as public works crews on overtime duty plowed, salted and sanded major routes.


    "An ice storm is worse than a snowstorm," said Westminster's city streets superintendent, Donald A. Gross. "You've got to keep fighting it all the time. There's no letup unless the sun comes out."


    Warmer air expected to arrive from the south and bring a change to rain instead stalled, then was pushed back by a more powerful surge of cold air. The results anticipated for today are lower temperatures, only a cameo appearance by the sun, and then a return of snow, sleet and freezing rain.


    Accidents yesterday forced periodic closings of sections of Interstates 70 and 95, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the Severn River Bridge. Roads that seemed only wet to motorists suddenly turned icy, sending cars spinning into guardrails or each other.


    Red and blue flashing emergency lights were everywhere, it seemed.


    A sergeant at the Golden Ring state police barracks was too busy to talk about the accidents. "I'm sending troopers out as fast as I can get them unhooked from the previous accident," Sgt. Sam Washington said.


    The problems included an 11-vehicle chain-reaction crash on I-95 at the Beltway, near Middle River, about 12:30 p.m., and another 11-vehicle tangle on eastbound I-70 at the Beltway's inner loop -- all blamed on freezing rain.


    On northbound I-95 near the Winters Run bridge in Edgewood, a tractor-trailer struck a guardrail and turned onto its side, spilling more than 130 gallons of diesel fuel as its tanks ruptured. The driver appeared to have minor injuries, authorities said.


    The accidents have kept body-and-fender shops busy. But Daniel J. Hicks, owner of the Baltimore Body Shop on Sisson Street, a few skids away from the Jones Falls Expressway, expected the boom to come in the spring.


    "There's a lot of small dents that people aren't fixing," he said. "The only things we're fixing are cars that are really hard-hit and have to be towed in. There is a backlog on insurance companies estimating them. The wait has gone from three days to six days to get started, the insurance guys are so backed up."


    More than 50 people were treated at Sinai Hospital's emergency room yesterday for injuries related to falls on the ice. Johns Hopkins reported treating at least 15 for weather-related injuries from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Howard County General received 20 patients from falls and three others from ice-related auto accidents from midnight to 4 p.m. yesterday.


    "We anticipated more than this," said John Walker, a spokesman for Howard County General. "I guess people learned it's better to stay indoors in icy conditions."


    The ice storm's second day made another dent in area salt supplies.


    "We're running out of materials," said James M. Irvin, Howard's public works director. "We only have enough to do the roads one more time. If this continues, we're going to have real problems. We're right on the edge."


    Jay Nave, administrative assistant in the Carroll County Bureau of Highways, said workers were spreading "anti-skid," a mixture of salt and stone dust, to give motorists some traction.


    He said a barge loaded with 30,000 tons of road salt arrived at the port of Baltimore Tuesday but that the supplier had orders for 120,000 tons to fill. "Nobody's going to get a full delivery," he said.


    Baltimore's public works director, George G. Balog, said the battle against snow and ice since Dec. 23 had cost the city about $1.7 million -- much of it for the purchase of 25,000 tons of salt that had been spread on the roads through Tuesday.


    Though the work has been a strain on the road crews, Mr. Balog said, public appreciation has helped his department get along.


    "We're all tired, but the employees are in good spirits," Mr. Balog said. "They're proud of what they're doing. People recognize their good work, and that makes them work harder."


    School systems throughout metropolitan Baltimore were closed because of icy roads -- and most were facing the prospect of shortened spring breaks or extending the school year in June to make up for the lost time. State law requires public school students to attend classes for 180 days a year.


    For Harford County, which had set aside four days for weather-related closings in the school calendar, yesterday was a region-high 10th day lost to winter. It has already cost students and teachers their scheduled holidays for Presidents Day and spring break, and an extension of classes to June 10.


    "The parking lots were like skating rinks," said Donald R. Morrison, a spokesman for the Harford schools.


    Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County schools will be closed again today, officials said.


    "We just can't get the lots cleared, much less the sidewalks or side roads," Arundel spokeswoman Jane Doyle said.


    Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said power outages, caused mostly by ice, had affected nearly 35,000 customers by late afternoon -- 33,778 of them in or south of the Annapolis area. "Reports we're getting down there are of much thicker ice," said spokesman Arthur J. Slusark.


    "It's been miserable," said Jay Mason, a spokesman for Delmarva Power & Light on the Eastern Shore. He said more than 3,000 of the company's 375,000 customers had been affected, the largest numbers in Talbot County -- and that crews were having a difficult time with repairs.


    "Whole trees were coming down," he said. "What the customers are experiencing is intermittent power all day long. As soon as one line is fixed, another tree comes down."


    In Garrett County, where about an inch of snow fell yesterday and several more inches were expected overnight, the biggest problem appeared to be flooding along the Youghiogheny River and the North Branch of the Potomac that prompted voluntary evacuations in low-lying sections of the towns of Crellin, Kitzmiller and Shallmar.


    One-hundred to 150 people left Crellin -- a town on the "Yock" southwest of the county seat of Oakland -- said Gary Mullich, Garrett's director of general services.


    Volunteers in Friendsville in northwest Garrett were busy yesterday evening placing sandbags around the town's wastewater treatment plant to prevent flooding from the Youghiogheny.


    The water levels of both rivers were receding last night, Mr. Mullich said.


All content herein is © 2007 The Baltimore Sun and may not be republished without permission.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

More clouds and drizzle ahead

It doesn't look like it this morning; the weather for now looks beautiful. But this persistent east or southeast breeze is expected to bring us more low-level clouds late today, more moisture and even drizzle by early tomorrow morning.

The gray weather is being brought to us by the clockwise flow of air around a high-pressure system that has moved off the Northeast coast. That flow is coming off the Atlantic and it's trying like crazy to get us wet. Whatever we get from this setup, it won't be nearly enough.

Forecasters out at Sterling say we should expect areas of drizzle between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. tomorrow and mostly cloudy conditions for the balance of the day.

Once that's done, we're looking for sunnier skies for Thursday and straight on through the weekend. Look for highs near 80 and lows in the low 60s - once again well above the averages for this time of year.

Beyond the weekend, they're hinting at a stronger cold front and a more significant shot at some rain next week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Stellar "jewel box" is Hubble's latest


A striking cluster of diamond-like young stars, nestled in a colorful gaseous nebula first discovered in 1834, is featured in the latest "Hubble Heritage" photo released by NASA and the European Space Agency.

The cluster, designated NGC 3603, is a relatively close neighbor of ours, located just 20,000 light years away in the Carina spiral arm of our own Milky Way galaxy. The crowded, star-forming region of the galaxy was photographed by Hubble in 2005, and the image was released this week as part of the Hubble Heritage project, a collection of the best images from the 17-year-old observatory.

For more, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:57 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

October 1, 2007

Md. streams, wells touch record lows

Real-time streamflow - USGS 

The deepening drought sent flow rates in four Maryland streams, and levels in three groundwater monitoring wells to record lows in September, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The red dots on the map above show where stream gauges are recording record-low flows today. The data on the new Maryland records should be posted on the agency's Maryland Web site on Wednesday. Here are the highlights:

Gauges on the Monocacy River at Bridgeport in northern Frederick County, hit a 64-year low last month, with an average flow of just 1.8 cubic feet per second. That broke the previous record low of 2.3 cf/s, set in 1943. The average September flow there is 21.1 cf/s.

On Nassawango Creek, near Snow Hill, the average flow last month was 1.3 cf/s, breaking the record low of 1.6 cf/s, set there in 1980. The average September flow since records began in 1949 is 8.3 cf/s.

The Patuxent River gauge near Unity, in Montgomery County, set a new record of 2.9 cf/s last month. That broke the prior record low flow of 3.8 cf/s set there in 2002. Record keeping at that gauge began in 1944. The average flow there in September is 16.2 cf/s.

And on Winters Run, in Harford County, the USGS gauge recorded a new low flow of 9.9 cf/s, busting the old record opf 10.4 cf/s set in 1986. The average flow in September there is 27.9 cf/s.

Three groundwater monitoring wells in Charles, Carroll and Wicomico counties also reached record September lows last month, according to USGS hydrologist Wendy McPherson. 

In Charles County, groundwater dropped to 11.48 feet below ground level, breaking the odl record of 11.05 feet, set in 2002. The average is 9.12 feet.

In Carroll, the well water dropped to a record 4.62 feet below the surface, just breaking the old record of 4.59 feet, also set in 2002. The September average is 3.71 feet.

In Wicomico, water in the the USGS well fell to 8.86 feet below the surface, breaking the previous record of 8.60 feet, set in 1995. The average there in September is 6.61 feet.

Nearly 90 percent of the state was in moderate or severe agricultural drought last week, according to the Department of Agriculture's Drought Monitor.  Here's the USGS map for hydrological drought, which shows both the Eastern Shore and the Western Shore in severe drought. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

Pleasant week, lots of clouds

We'll see sunshine this week, but east winds will allow for plenty of moisture and clouds to barge in off the ocean. Daytime highs will hold in the high 70s, rising to about 80 by mid-week. The nights will be cool and pleasant, too, in the 50s. No need for heat or AC this week. You might even try a fire in the fireplace in the evening.

Those temperatures are actually 5 or 10 degrees above normal for this time of year. 

September ended, as expected, with only 0.35 inches of rain at BWI, the fourth-driest September on record for Baltimore. (Average Sept. precipitation is 3.98 inches.) It was also the fourth-warmest since 1980. Here is the rundown on the warmest average September temperatures for that period:

1980:  72.2 degrees

2005:  72.0 degrees

1998:  71.8 degrees

2007:  70.6 degrees

30-year average:  67.4 degrees 

The NWS forecasters out at Sterling note that BWI recorded only four days of measureable rainfall in September. That ranked as the fifth lowest total on record. There were six days with maximum temperatures of 90 degrees or more. That was the 12th highest number for a September since record-keeping began in Baltimore in 1871.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Dawn launch spectacular


Last week's launch of NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid Vesta and "dwarf planet" Ceres came, coincidentally, at dawn on the East Coast. The weather was perfect and the liftoff made for some spectacular photography. This mosaic image is a good example. 

Dawn is now en route to the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Mission managers plan a 2011 rendezvous with Vesta, where Dawn will pause and orbit for six months. From there, it will push on to Ceres. Scientists hope to learn more about the chemistry, minerology and natural history of the two tiny worlds, and from that they expect to learn more about the formation of the solar system.

The flight - 4 billion miles around the solar - system is being powered by an ion propulsion engine. The fuel consists of solar power and 72 gallons of xenon gas. Amazing. Somebody asked me this morning why NASA can't provide that kind of gas mileage for the rest of us here on Earth. It would be nice, but you wouldn't like the acceleration - zero to 60 in four days.



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

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

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


• 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 news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected