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June 27, 2008

Baltimore glory

A flash from the Wedding Wormhole! Just received this photo of the June 23 double rainbow over Baltimore. Paul M. Novak Jr. shot it from the 13th floor of his building downtown. Wow!

Pretty sure that's Johns Hopkins Hospital at the end of the arcs. They oughta buy this image for their annual report. On the other hand, I believe the long, low building at lower right is the state's troubled Juvenile Justice building. Maybe there's hope for the place, or at least its residents.

Now, back into the Wormhole...

Paul M. Novak Jr.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:52 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

June 26, 2008

Blogger sucked into wedding wormhole

Your WeatherBlogger, who has been circling the event horizon for days, has finally been pulled into the Wedding Wormhole. Scientists, citing Alfred Einstein's Especially General Theory of NASARelatives, say no information can pass into or out of the event horizon.

Theorists say the blogger can be expected to be eclipsed by the glare of his daughter's happiness, emerging again on the other side no sooner than July 2. Unfortunately, his wallet will be crushed into an infinitely small singularity with zero mass.

Watch this space for further developments. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events
        

June 25, 2008

Hotter, stormier ahead

So, here we are at the peak of the early-summer thunderstorm season. And, sure enough, we're looking at a five-day forecast that sounds like a broken record (remember records?).

The prognosticators out at Sterling say the delightful high-pressure system that has been parked here for several days, delivering warm, dry, sunny days and cool nights will begin to shove off after today.

NASA photoAs it departs, we will fall into the return flow from its clockwise rotation. That means we'll be getting warmer, wetter air from the South; highs will slide into the 90s; and all this heat and humidity will increase chances for afternoon and evening thundershowers every day from tomorrow through Monday.

Of course, Saturday is the only day we care about here. My daughter is getting married (did I mention that?) and the forecast calls for a high of 91 downtown (actually a tad cooler, or less stifling than out at BWI airport) with a 40 to 50 percent chance for showers or thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening.

Shrewdly, we've planned the ceremony to be outdoors. So I'm looking at the "mostly cloudy" forecast and I'm thinking, 'OK, we don't need direct sunshine heating our guests, or our bride.'  Her mother and I were married in cloudy, muggy weather, and that's worked out fine.

And by 7 p.m. it should be a shade cooler than 91, right?. Maybe 85? We'll take 85. Rain? OK, we can handle rain if it comes early in the afternoon and leaves us time to wipe off the seats. Might even cool things off a bit. A rainbow would be a very cool bonus. MEMO TO WEDDING PLANNER: Look into the rainbow. A single arch will do. Alert the photographer. Just send me the bill.

Rain at showtime will chase us indoors, of course. That would be too bad, considering our investment in the location and the view, and the chairs and the platform. But at least we have a Plan B. Rain after the ceremony is OK. Rain with a power failure during the reception and eating and dancing, however, especially an extended power failure, is unacceptable. MEMO TO BGE: We'll need trucks and crews on standby. I'm thinking something like the Verizon network folks on those TV ads. Just send me the bill.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 24, 2008

California wildires, from space

Those lightning-sparked wildfires that have been plaguing Californians this week are producing enough smoke to be clearly visible from orbit. NASA's Aqua Earth Observing Satellite has sent back a remarkably clear image showing numerous smoke plumes drifting across the state. The hottest spots are sensed by infrared detectors and outlined in red.

NASA/Aqua

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Rainbow over Baltimore

Hope. Forgiveness. A beautiful play of refracted sunlight in raindrops. Anyway you look at them, a rainbow is a surprise and a delight whenever you spot one. Sun videographer Karl Merton Ferron captured this colorful and eerie display after a light shower in Baltimore on Monday.

 

Rainbows are so striking, and unusual, that we long remember where we were and what we were doing when we spotted them. I can recall a rainbow that appeared after my wife and I arrived in Bar Harbor, Maine, for our honeymoon. Seemed like a good omen, and we're still hitched after 38 years. I can remember a spectacular double rainbow that astonished our kids (and us) during a summer camping trip in the 1980s. We were driving south from Flagstaff, across the desert, after a visit to the Grand Canyon. We just pulled over and gawked.

Have any special memories of rainbows you'd like to share? Leave a comment.  

There was a double rainbow yesterday in Washington, and CapitalWeather.com has posted a terrific photo gallery. There's a link in the comments below.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:10 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

June 23, 2008

Storms could get severe today

Sun Photo by Kenneth K. Lam -2005

Forecasters out at Sterling are on the lookout for showers and thunderstorms today. They say conditions are ripe for some severe storms to develop as heat, humidity and an approaching cold front team up to make our afternoon and evening positively electric.

The cold front was out over the Ohio Valley early this morning. But it's headed this way, and due to crash through after 2 p.m. Showers and thunderstorms will boil up along the front or just ahead of it. This morning's discussion says "in the late afternoon/evening storms should begin to develop along/ahead of the actual frontal boundary. Damaging wind gusts and large hail will be possible within any severe storm that develops."

You can track conditions in downtown Baltimore via The Sun's own weather station, at Calvert & Centre streets.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms could even linger into Tuesday. But as high pressure works its way into the region, Wednesday begins to look like the best bet for outdoor activity this week. Temperatures will be close to normal for this time of year - near 87 degrees. But humidities should be relatively low, and sunny skies will dominate.

Then things begin to slip. As the high moves offshore, we get into the familiar "return flow," meaning that the clockwise circulation around the high begins to draw more hot, humid air up from the South. That, in turn, increases our risks for showers and thunderstorms. Forecasters put that risk at 30 percent for every day from Thursday through Sunday. Daytime highs will creep to 90 by Thursday and hang in that neighborhood right through the weekend.

Sooprise! Sooprise! Hot and humid on the Chesapeake in the summertime! What were we thinking when we scheduled an outdoor wedding for June 28? NOTE TO WEDDING PLANNER: Get more ice for the beer. Just send me the bill.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 20, 2008

Wedding weather: Into the homestretch

Alright, here's the deal. My daughter is getting married next Saturday, and we are beginning our weather-watch this weekend. The National Weather Service forecasters out at Sterling make their local forecasts a week out, which means next Saturday's date is just now coming up on the screen.

Los Angeles Times So far, the week ahead looks relatively mild, with seasonable highs in the mid-80s, and a 30- to 60-percent risk for showers and thunderstorms nearly every day and every night through Tuesday. Then things get even better. No rain, no lightning, just mostly sunny skies and mid-80s highs through Friday.

But it's Saturday we care about, folks. The wedding is outdoors, at 7 p.m. It's the evening after the latest sunset of the year, so the sun will still be quite high. But temperatures should be moderating by then. I'm looking for 80 degrees or cooler, please and thank you. There's no AC under that white gown. Thunderstorms are OK so long as they come after we've gone inside to party. (And so long as the power doesn't go out. That happened at a wedding we attended last year. Not good. Paying a DJ. Need the juice.)

We'll even welcome a few clouds. Cuts the direct sunshine and cools the guests. A nice breeze would be desirable, say 5 mph or so. Enough to push the mosquitoes away, but not enough to blow out the wedding day hairdos or knock over the flowers.

LA Times file photo 

MEMO TO WEDDING PLANNER: See above. Think you can manage all that? Very important! Just send me the bill.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:04 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Summer solstice tonight

Summer arrives at 7:59 this evening. (Misled by a typo on a reference book we use, we mistakenly said on the print weather page last week that the solstice arrived on the 19th. Just a reminder that humans produce this stuff.)

We have visitors from Sweden with us this week. For them, tonight is the night to celebrate Midsummer's Night and dance around a pole with candles in their hair. Or something. That's MID-summer's Night. Not BEGIN-summer's Night.

They conceded to us that they, too have been confused about why summer BEGINS on the date called MID summer, when the sun is in the sky longer than any other. And where they're from, it never does get truly dark at night at this time of year. 

We were visiting them one summer many years ago in Sweden, and we all went to dinner at the home of some friends. We drank. We ate. We talked alot. And each time I looked out the window it was dimmer, but still light. My wife and I, accustomed to summers living around a latitude of 40 degrees or so, figured it was, maybe, 9 p.m.

When we finally looked at the clock we were astonished to discover it was past midnight! We were dining at around 57 or 58 degrees north latitude, the equivalent of Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson's Bay. The sun was down - we weren't above the Arctic Circle. But it was still twilight. I could have read a book without a flashlight.

ShakespeareAnyway, the idea that summer BEGINS around June 20 or 21 is a recent notion. Many of our ancestors did indeed see this as MID-summer. They used "cross-quarter days" - the midway points between the equinoxes and the solstices - to mark the beginning and end of the seasons. For example, by the Celts' reckoning, our summer began somewhere between the 4th and 10th of May, on a day they called Beltane. And it will end between the 3rd and 10th of August, on Lughnasadh.

Some also find it curious that the hottest days in Maryland - the warmest long-term daily average temperatures - are in mid-July, a month after the solstice. If the days are longest, and the sun is highest, and its rays most direct and intense around the 20th of June, why does this month not also produce our highest average temperatures?

The answer lies in the oceans. Literally. It just takes a few weeks for the increased solar energy falling on the Northern Hemisphere to heat the oceans to their maximum seasonal highs. That, in turn, delays heating of the atmosphere. It's like heating a pot of water on the stove. It takes a while on HI to get the water to boil. By the time temps reach their peak, the incoming solar energy is waning, and by late July, the oceans and air finally begin to cool again.

Anyway, enjoy the long day today. From here on until Dec. 21, the days only get shorter. And don't forget to get a look at the solstice moon tonight. It rises at 10:24 p.m. in Baltimore. It's just past full, but still a gorgeous sight in the east.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events
        

June 18, 2008

Should we rebuild after the flood?

We've been watching these flood stories coming out of Iowa and some other very wet places this week. Very amazing and very sad for those affected. But I can't help wondering why we continue to allow people to rebuild in flood plains, when we know they will, eventually, be washed out again. These rivers, and the oceans, are far bigger than we AP Photoare, they they don't give a whit about our attempts to colonize their ancient territory.

Seems to me there have been some efforts to buy out a few of these places, and rebuild communities on higher ground. But it's clear we don't do enough of it. Instead, we spend our money on (ultimately) futile attempts to hold back the rivers and defy the storm tides. New Orleans is a classic example of a place that should never have been settled. Yet we rebuild, spending billions on levees that break and beaches that wash away, and flood insurance that just keeps on giving.

Consider this from Friends of the Earth:

"In 1966, a report to Congress by the Task Force on Federal Flood Control Policy gave the nation a lesson in flood control: don’t rebuild in high-hazard zones like coastlines and river deltas.  This lesson was reiterated in the 1973 Report of the National Water Commission.  Both distinguished panels found that despite the enormous flood control expenditures, flood damages were increasing. Both panels recommended that more attention be paid to relocation out of flood zones and called for greater emphasis on non-engineering solutions.  There is a growing body of evidence that healthy wetlands, in-tact dune systems and other natural ecosystems reduce storm and flood damage, but far too many tax dollars have been spent to destroy these natural systems to facilitate more development."

FOE makes the argument that global warming will make all this worse. But it's not necessary to invoke global warming here, although there are plenty of people ready to argue that more extreme precipitation and warmer, higher oceans will only increase the frequency of flooding events. Set all that aside. These rivers and shores have been flooding for eons. We're the new element there. And we're only building more costly infrastructure and adding more population to the riversides and coastlines. That's what's costing us so much more each time these events occur. And that's just dumb.

Anybody have any thoughts on this? Should we just help these people rebuild? Or should we help them move to higher ground? Leave the farm fields. Floods are good for them in the long run. But move the homes out of the rivers' path.

You can read more here.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:07 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Flooding
        

Chilly morning wasn't a record

Another chilly June morning, blessed by the silence of idle air conditioners.

It was 52 degrees at dawn on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, and 52 degrees also at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport down in Linthicum. That was not a record for the city's official weather station, but it was a nice run at one. The record low for a June 18 in Baltimore is 48 degrees, set back in 1959. We still haven't touched 80 today - only the third day this month that's happened. It was 62 this morning at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets.

The forecast low for tonight is 57 degrees, as temperatures begin to warm back toward more seasonable readings this week.

All this cool air is being delivered by a big low rotating north of Lake Ontario. That's dragging cool air in from the north and west, along with little disturbances that, with some solar heating, may trigger some showers or thunderstorms - a few perhaps with hail - as they roll by us. 

So far, however, the coast is clear. Just some cumulus clouds and patches of blue, clearly visible in the satellite image below.

They're calling for more of the same Thursday and Friday, with a risk of showers both days, and highs near 80 degrees. Saturday looks perfect for a wedding - sunny and 83 - but showers and thunderstorms become a risk again for Sunday.

NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

June 17, 2008

Almost perfect

Another fine morning in the Land of Pleasant Living. Temperatures will hang below normal for today, with even cooler weather on tap for the balance of the work week. Sunny skies this morning, growing a bit cloudier later today as some upper atmosphere changes work themselves out.

The forecasters out at Sterling say today's weather will "usher in  a period of quite pleasant weather as we approach the solstice ... Dewpoints in the 50s today, temperatures 75-80. Breezy NASA Aquanorthwest winds. Enjoy." The summer solstice occurs at 7:59 p.m. EDT on Friday - the 20th (not the 19th, as I mistakenly said in a Weather Page item last Saturday). 

And here's a bonus. The west and northwest breezes will keep away the smoke from those wildfires burning down in Virginia and North Carolina. We've been getting some reports from vacationers and residents down there who have been dealing with the smoke. Not a pretty picture.

It's not perfect. We have a "slight" chance for showers and thunderstorms tomorrow and Thursday, and again on Saturday. But they're not a big worry. Mostly we're looking at pleasant temperatures, sunny to partly cloudy days.

NASA/GoddardTonight and tomorrow evening we can also enjoy a spectacular full moon rising in the east. Astronomers say it will be perfectly full at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, so at moonrise either tonight or Wednesday night it will be almost equally full. Moonrise in Baltimore is at 8:13 p.m. tonight, and 9:03 Wednesday. It's 10 minutes earlier in OC.

This is the 4th full moon since the Vernal Equinox, and before the Summer Solstice. That presents a problem.

Names for full moons (like the Harvest Moon or Hunter's Moon) are only available for three per season. In the old days, calendar writers reserved the term "blue moon" for these oddballs, and applied it to the third full moon in a season that happened to have four, according to Guy Ottewell's Astronomic Calendar. That would have made the May 20 full moon the Blue Moon, and this week's full moon would be the Flower, Rose or Strawberry Moon. (It's only in relatively recent times - since 1946 - that Blue Moon has been applied to any second full moon occuring in a calendar month.)

I think I've already used those names here for the May moon, so I'm stuck. This will either be a second Flower Moon, or a Blue Moon. Take your pick.  Or suggest your own moon name here. Like Smog Moon, Muggy Moon or Most Heat Moon.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 16, 2008

Smoke from NC, VA fires reached MD

As I left work Friday evening I could detect a smoky aroma in the air. And looking out from The Sun's garage on Calvert Street, I noted a pretty thick haze. Maybe you got a whiff of it too, on Friday or Saturday.

Turns out, as forecast earlier in the week, we were downwind of several stubborn wildfires in eastern North Carolina and in the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia. Those fires have been burning for quite a while now, and on Friday the winds finally shifted and began carrying the smoke up from the south. It eventually got all the way to New Hampshire before more wind shifts began to sweep it out over the ocean.

This sort of thing happens from time to time. Anybody else recall a weekend in 2002 when forest fires in Quebec began sending smoke wafting our way. It smelled like smokehouse in Baltimore, and the skies were noticeably beige as a result. 

And lots more probably remember the smokey stump dump fire in Clarksville 10 years ago this month, and another in Baltimore County that began in 1992, sent smoke drifting across the city, burned for 18 months and cost $3 million to control.  

Anyway, here's how the NC and VA fires looked Saturday, from NASA's orbiting Aqua Earth Observing satellite. They're still burning. I suspect vacationers on the Outer Banks are pretty sick of the smell. Anybody reading this on the OBX?

NASA/Aqua

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:48 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Air quality
        

Sleep cheap. Cool nights ahead

Woke up cold last night. We'd shut off the AC and opened the windows as the evening temps began to slide below our thermostat settings.

By 2 a.m. or so, there was a cold breeze drifting through the house, and it was enough to demand we pull up a blanket. You can thank that little front that rumbled through Baltimore Saturday night with a brief thunderstorm. Behind it came yesterday's more seasonable temperatures and better sleeping weather. You can see the storm's impact on temperatures in data from The Sun's weather station for Saturday. 

Today there's another cold front due. Forecasters say we should expect showers and thunderstorms with it. Some may be severe. But behind THIS one is even cooler weather. Starting Tuesday we can look forward to days with highs only in the upper 70s to low 80s through the weekend. That's a couple of ticks below normal for this time of year in Baltimore.

Best of all, the nighttime lows will sink into the 60s again tonight, and then to the 50s through Thursday night. We should be able to leave those AC compressors idle at night all week long, and pocket the savings on our next electric bill. We need the break. We're running 88 percent above normal on cooling degree-days so far this month. That means the demand for energy to cool our homes is running 88 percent above the long-term average for June in Baltimore. Ouch. 

The cooler weather will provide a nice comfort zone for a pair of Swedes we know who are arriving Landing of the Swedesin Baltimore this week to attend a Fells Point wedding. A hot summer for them is 70 degrees and sunny. Venturing into a Chesapeake summer, for them, is like spending a month in the Amazon. And an extended dip in ocean water without brain freeze is a marvel.

But beware: these people change into (and out of) their swim suits on the beach. See if you can spot them. They're headed for the Delaware Shore this weekend, 380 years after Sweden's first (1638) landing in Delaware (right) in an abortive attempt to colonize the New World. This attempt will likely fail as well. We welcome them anyway.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 13, 2008

Where NOT to take baby in a flood

NOAAIndiana residents are dealing with terrible flooding. And even if your house isn't under water, just getting around when roads are flooded can be a big headache.

But if there's one thing to remember when your world goes under water, it's this: TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN. The water in the street might look shallow and fordable in a heavy car. But surprisingly little water, especially if it's moving, can strand you, or pick you up and sweep you downstream to meet your Maker. Even in hurricanes, it's inland flooding - not storm surge or high winds - that kills the most people. And most die trying to drive on flooded roads.

The couple in this You Tube video seem to think that driving around, sight-seeing during a flood, with Baby Keller in the car is a fine way to pass the time. It's not. They're fools. And I trust the kids will survive in spite of their parents.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Flooding
        

June 12, 2008

Pa. park wins "dark sky" designation

Pennsylvania's little-known, but much-beloved (by amateur astronomers) Cherry Springs State Park has been named an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. It Photo by Jeff Ballis only the second park to win that honor. The first (last year) was Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah.

The best thing about Cherry Springs is that it is so far east, perhaps the last best refuge of the natural night sky east of the Mississippi. Almost everywhere else, Baltimore included, urban light pollution has washed out the star-choked night sky that our ancestors knew so well. Few of today's children have ever seen what the night sky really looks like. Ask your kids of they have ever seen the Milky Way. Ask yourself.

While it's not exactly an easy day trip for Marylanders, Cherry Springs is only a five-hour car ride away, in north-central Pa. And there's plenty to do once you get there, even with that pesky sun in the sky. And once night falls, the view on a clear night is stupendous. And the park folks have worked hard for years to keep it that way. It's a real astro-tourist draw. The photo of the Milky Way at left was shot by Jeff Ball at Cherry Springs. A long exposure exaggerates its beauty, but you won't be disappointed.

Here's the full release on the new dark-sky kudos for Cherry Springs Park:

Tucson, AZ, June 11, 2008—Cherry Springs State Park has been designated as the second International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). The announcement was made this week at IDA’s annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

This certification recognizes Cherry Springs State Park’s exceptional commitment to dark sky protection and restoration on public lands. The IDSP program was established in 2006 by IDA, a Tucson based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the nighttime environment.

This Pennsylvania park has become a leader in night sky protection and appreciation, beckoning stargazers to seek out its celestial wonders. Cherry Springs State Park is located far from cities and among the forested plateaus of North Central Pennsylvania.

Cherry Springs is nearly as natural as it was two centuries ago. The park is not only Pennsylvania’s signature dark sky area, but offers one of the last best views of the starry sky in the Eastern United States. Cherry Springs State Park experiences almost no ―light pollution‖— the adverse effect of obtrusive light caused by improper outdoor lighting. It drowns out the view of stars, comets, meteors, aurora, and the Milky Way, but also impacts humans and the planet in other ways.

―If you’ve ever been annoyed at a neighbor’s yard light or robbed of sleep by a glary streetlight, you have experienced another side of light pollution,‖ says Elizabeth Hospodarsky, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association.

―This errant light from near and far is a problem for nocturnal wildlife and has been identified as a substantial energy waste. The leadership demonstrated by The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Cherry Springs shows that protecting the view of the cosmos also makes economic sense, preserves ecosystems, and maintains quality of life.‖

The state park has retrofitted all of their outdoor lights to be night sky friendly. Using readily available light fixtures that direct all light downward and combined with electricity saving 13-watt compact fluorescent lamps, there is more than enough light for visibility given the surrounding environment. Some areas of the park are even designated as no–light zones to protect owls, bats, and a host of indigenous mammals; and to allow astronomer’s and casual stargazer’s eyes to become fully dark-adapted.

Once adapted to the dark night, it is possible to see thousands of faint stars that would be washed out from a suburban or city location. Experience in remote parks, such as Natural Bridges National Monument, and communities, such as Flagstaff, Arizona, have shown that the night sky can indeed be restored by using smarter outdoor lighting solutions.

This designation by IDA is the culmination of a novel effort that began in the late 1990s by amateur astronomers ecstatic that starry skies were still accessible in the East. In 2000 the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) declared Cherry Springs a dark sky site in the Commonwealth. By 2002 the park was providing regular stargazing programs for visitors that proved very popular.

In 2003 Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation recognized the importance of the night sky above Cherry Springs and aided in implementing a strategic vision for the park that included telescope pads, observatories for rent, and educational materials all designed to facilitate the enjoyment of the starry sky. The light pollution free sky is also a tourism draw and benefit to the local economy.

Cherry Springs State Park is part of the Pennsylvania Wilds tourism region, a 12-county region in north central and northwestern Pennsylvania offering visitors remote, authentic and rugged outdoor experiences. The region includes more than 2 million acres of public lands, including 29 state parks, eight state forests, thousands of miles of streams and trails, and the Allegheny National Forest. Visitors to the region enjoy boundless natural beauty, unlimited recreation, and old fashioned, small town charm. ―This designation is continued validation that this region has something special to offer to our visitors,‖ said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. ―We are proud of what we have protected, and hope our visitors will enjoy the remoteness of the Pennsylvania Wilds and Cherry Springs State Park for many years to come.‖

Further information on Cherry Springs State Park is available at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/cherrysprings.aspx or by contacting park manager Chip Harrison at 814-435-5010.

The IDA is working with several other parks towards IDSP certification; criteria is available on the IDA website at www.darksky.org

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Beautiful, then storms return

Can't beat this. Sunny skies, highs about normal in the mid-80s, with low humidity. The only fly in the ointment might be some smoke. Wildfires in North Carolina, triggered by lightning, have been sending clouds of smoke out over the Atlantic. (See satellite image below) The fires aren't out yet, so if winds shift around to the south in the next day or so, as forecast, some of that smoke could blow our way.

Otherwise, it's late-spring weather that can't be beat.

Until Saturday. That's when the next cold (or at least cooler) front slides by, increasing cloudiness in advance on Friday, and leading to increased chances for scattered showers and thunderstorms on Saturday. Some could be severe, though probably not on the scale of Tuesday's storms.

High pressure moves in behind the front, dropping temperatures a bit and clearing the skies. Monday brings yet another front, another chance for showers, and a stretch of "unsettled" weather. Look for periods of showers and thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday. Daytime high temperatures could even fall below long-term averages, with highs in the 70s by Wednesday. Cool.

NASA

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

June 11, 2008

Timber falls as heat wave exits

 Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam

The heat and humidity have split, but not before toppling trees- big ones - all across Maryland and Virginia.

The list of incidents of downed trees, with associated structural damage and power outages, is impressive. There were also some lucky escapes, too. There's the story in today's Sun about Craig Cocharo, of Towson, whose 2007 Honda Accord - with him at the wheel - was crushed by a falling tree at Loch Raven Drive and Dulaney Valley Road. He escaped uninjured, but it's hard to imagine how.

Got any good storm stories to relate? Leave us a comment and share them. Here's Iver Mindel's report of an apparent microburst that raked the Lutherville park where he was attending lacrosse practice:

"At 6:00 pm June 10, 2008 I was at Meadow Wood Regional Park at the juncture of Route 83 (JFK Expressway heading south into Baltimore) and the Baltimore Beltway (695)     It is about 3 miles due south from my home.  I was with a group of 13-14 y o Lacrosse Players at a team practice.  The park is a large complex with five lighted playing fields.
"We had a VERY gusty Thunderstorm that included what I identify as a micro-burst.
"Vivid frequent lightning and thunder accompanied by a 3-4 minute period of  VERY heavy straight line winds...I estimate 60-70 mph. We were huddled in a pavilion without sides and rain and pea-sized hail was coming in horizontally.  We turned several picnic tables on their side and braced them to build a wall for protection.
"Several large sections of aluminum stands were blown over and three were tumbled across the field......moving as much as 200 feet. The "temporary" aluminium stands are about 8 feet high at the back, about 10 feet front-to-back, and maybe 20 feet long side-to-side.
"One large tree and severl medium and small trees were blown over in the park.
The light towers swayed significantly, but were undamaged.  Good engineering and construction.
"I saw no evidence of rotation, either during the storm or afterward in the debris pattern.  Straight line gusts were mostly from West-Southwest.
"Coming home up Falls Road (Md route 25) I was detoured by a downed tree.  When I got home it appeared the storm was somewhat less in intensity  but still significant, and my wife reported hail at home too."
I drove through that area about an hour later, on my way home from work. The Interstate (83) just north of the Beltway was covered in leaf debris, and just north of Timonium Road a large tree - probably an oak - had falled over the noise wall and onto the southbound lanes, blocking some traffic. Highway crews were already working to remove the tree. A good section of it was still draped over the wall this morning.
A private weather station nearby recorded wind gusts up to 30 mph around the time of this event. It seems likely the actual winds were considerably higher. This station's anemometer may be somewhat sheltered, as is mine, on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville.
  
Anyway, so long as your house, your car and your skin are intact this morning, it's a relief to be rid of the heat and humidity of the last four days. Here's a map of some high temperature readings from yesterday.
The forecast is delightful - highs in the mid-80s today, with a promise they will fall slightly each day right through the weekend. Forecasters are talking about a high of just 79 degrees by next Tuesday as more cool, Canadian air slips down our way to reinforce the cooler (but still above normal for the date) air we're enjoying today.
We may see some showers and thunderstorms again late Friday or Saturday as this next front arrives. 
Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Heat waves
        

June 10, 2008

Stormy weather ahead

Forecasters out at Sterling say the atmosphere is beginning to stir, creating the convection that will lead to strong thunderstorms later today. I can't see it on the radar. But I'll take their word for it.

Severe thunderstorm watches have been posted all across Maryland from Allegany County to the Bay. Here's the "special weather statement" issued earlier this afternoon. It gets your attention:

"A COLD FRONT WILL MOVE THROUGH THE REGION LATE THIS
AFTERNOON...BREAKING OUR HEAT WAVE...BUT NOT WITHOUT ANOTHER ROUND
OF DAMAGING THUNDERSTORMS. THE ATMOSPHERE IS FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE
THUNDERSTORMS THIS AFTERNOON...WITH DAMAGING THUNDERSTORM WIND GUSTS
BEING THE GREATEST THREAT. BRIEF HEAVY RAINFALL AND CONTINUOUS
CLOUD-TO-GROUND LIGHTNING
WILL BE COMMON WITH THESE STORMS.

"AT 1:00 PM...THUNDERSTORMS WERE ALREADY DEVELOPING OVER THE
INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR BETWEEN WASHINGTON DC AND NORTHEAST MARYLAND.
THESE THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE IN INTENSITY AND AREAL
EXTENT AND MAKE FOR A MESSY AFTERNOON RUSH HOUR FOR THE
BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREAS...AND WILL LIKELY DOWN MORE
TREES
ACROSS THE REGION TODAY."

Yikes! Be careful out there.  Here's how to prepare for bad storms.NASA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Heat wave breaks tonight

Sun photo - Gene Sweeney, Jr.

With any luck at all, tonight will see the end of this nasty late-spring heat wave. Look for increasing clouds as the day wears on, and all this hot, humid, ozone-laced soup begins to clash with an approaching cool front from the west.

This morning's discussion from Sterling says it all. "When a period of heat like this one we've been experiencing breaks ... there's usually a price to pay in the form of severe thunderstorms. This afternoon and evening may follow that idea."

Forecasters are expecting scattered showers and thunderstorms by late this afternoon, extending into the early evening. Some storms could be severe, with large hail, and damaging winds for those unlucky enough to be under them.

For the next two days, forecasters say we can expect "a couple of really nice days ... with low humidity." Baltimore traffic cop Mike Nichols, above, may be grateful for a break in the weather.

But it will stay hot until the storms blast through, with a forecast high of 98 degrees at BWI. The NWS missed its bet on yesterday's high The forecast pushed it to 99 or even 100 degrees, but the high mark at the airport was "only" 94 degrees. For all our misery, no records broken here.

But it was a good deal hotter in a few spots. Here's a map of unofficial readings from across the region. (Anybody else having problems loading the NWS/Sterling web pages? They say they're not aware of any problems. I'd bet it's just high volume swamping their servers.)

At first glance that 108-degree reading up in Pennsylvania looks bogus. It could be. But we reached 100 degrees here at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets.

Other amateur stations also boiled up over the century mark. Here's one in Odenton that reached 104 degrees just after 3 p.m.

Once the front and the storms move through, we can look forward to daytime highs in the mid-80s through the weekend, and overnight lows in the 60s. Open those windows! Kill the AC! There could be some more showers Saturday as another cool front drifts past. Then, next week, the forecast promises "dry and refreshingly cooler (weather) under the influence of a deep upper low over eastern Canada."

For now, heat advisories remain in effect until 8 p.m. today, with high temps between 95 and 100 degrees. .

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 9, 2008

Gak! More of the same, only worse

Sun Photo by Algerina Perna 

This late-spring heat wave is only getting worse today. The forecast high of 100 degrees at BWI is two degrees hotter than the record of 98 degrees, set 75 years ago today, in 1933. 

Downtown temperatures will be even hotter. It's already 95 degrees here at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets. The heat index reading - which factors in the 75-degree dew point and its effect on evaporative cooling from the skin - is 108 degrees as I write this just after 11 a.m. And the peak heating probably won't occur until 3 or 4 p.m.

Heat advisories continue throughout the region, extended until 8 p.m. tomorrow. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the heat wave. And here are some other high readings from yesterday's heat across the region.

Oh, man. This is brutal. But it's certainly not unheard of. There are seven dates in June with record highs of 100 degrees or higher for Baltimore. The highest was 105 degrees, reached on June 29, 1934. We touched 101 degrees twice, on June 5, 1925, and June 15, 1994 - not all that long ago.

Blame, once again, falls on the big high-pressure system sitting over the mid-Atlantic states. Clear skies and a clockwise circulation that's pumping hot, humid air our way from the south and west, are combining to put us in the steam bath. The sun, less than two weeks short of the summer solstice, is nearly as high and strong as it ever gets here. So being outdoors is a bad idea no matter how you cut it. That's Lindsay MacCuaig, of Baltimore, ignoring such advice in the photo above. The Sun's Algerina Perna shot the picture.

Fortunately, that high can't stick here forever. Forecasters expect that it will continue to drift eastward, allowing our next not-so-hot front to move in tomorrow. That won't provide much heat relief right away. The forecast high for Tuesday is still 97 degrees. But it will bring increased chances for showers and thunderstorms by Tuesday afternoon and evening. And Wednesday should be cooler, with highs in the mid- to upper-80s for the rest of the week and right through the weekend. That's still 5 degrees or so above the long-term averages for the date.

Hang in there, Baltimore.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Heat waves
        

June 8, 2008

Relief? Eventually, but not yet

Dang, that was hot. The temperature at BWI at Baltimore-Washington International (breathe here) Thurgood Marshall Airport climbed to 95 degrees yesterday afternoon. That was only a degree shy of the record for the date - 96 degrees set back in 1999.

But that doesn't tell half the story. I was riding around in the afternoon looking at 111 degrees on my car thermometer (it eventually cooled to 102 degrees). It was 94 on the WeatherDeck, and to 99 degrees at the Maryland Science Center. And away from the harbor, the sensors at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets soared to 100 degrees at 3:37 p.m., a pretty good indication of what it was like downtown.

What was it like? It was very humid, and the sun was relentless, turning a venture outdoors into a stroll through a runaway steambath. 

My son and I sought some quiet time together, so we headed out onto the Gunpowder in the kayaks. The river water is still quite cold, and where the hot, humid air hung over the cold water in the shade, it condensed, producing a beautiful low fog. We were very comfortable on the water, even chilly when the shade and the breeze were right. There were flocks of swallowtail butterflies, a gaggle of geese, several blue herons that flew ahead of us as we cruised from Monkton to Phoenix. Kingfishers chattered, and we spotted a deer bolting into the brush. A beautiful day, until we had to haul out and sit in the sunshine waiting for our ride out. Whew!   

While we set no new temperature record at BWI, they tied one down at Reagan National Airport, matching a 98-degree reading on the same date during the heat wave in 1999.

NOAA heat advisories

Today promises more of the same. The forecast high for BWI is 97 degrees. That would tie the 1999 record here. There's a small chance of some isolated showers and thunderstorms south of the city once things get cooking in the afternoon and the hot, humid air at the surface starts to rise. Heat index values, if you pay attention to such things, will be over 100 degrees. There are heat advisories up for the entire area, shown in orange on the map at left.

UPDATE: Looks like the high today at BWI was "only" 93 degrees.  It was 97 and change at The Sun's weather station.

But the storms, if you get one, will provide only temperary relief. Monday looks like the worst day of the lot, with a forecast high of 99 degrees at BWI. That would set a new record for that date. The old one is 98 degrees, set in 1933.

There is some relief in the cards. The big high-pressure system that has been pumping this hot, humid weather up from the south and west is moving slowly east. Behind it there's a cool front, and the collision of hot and cooler will raise our thunderstorm chances on Tuesday, and lead in slightly less-hot temperatures - in the mid-90s Tuesday, and the mid- to upper-80s from Wednesday into the weekend. Normal highs for this time of year at BWI are in the low 80s. We're still a month away from the highest average highs of the year.

Okay, so it's hot. We all know that. The important question is, "How are you keeping cool this weekend?" I told you about our paddle down the Gunpowder.

Aside from burning money in your air conditioner, how are you keeping the sweat off your brow ?  Are you among the 49,000 BGE customers who lost power in the storms south of the city yesterday? How are you coping with that?  Are you new to Chesapeake summers? Can you believe this stuff? Leave a comment and let us know how you're faring in this steam bath.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:19 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Heat waves
        

June 5, 2008

Space Station may dodge clouds tonight

Okay, Space Cadets, this is an iffy one. The International Space Station will fly high (like, 240 miles high) over Lake Superior tonight, then southeast over New York City and out to sea. That's easily close enough to be seen from the Baltimore area if the weather cooperates.

The forecast isn't great - mostly cloudy and a chance of thunderstorms.  But hey, we might get lucky. It's a nice pass and well worth looking for if we're not totally socked in. Remember - the NASAISS just got a big new module, delivered from Japan to orbit courtesy of the space shuttle Discovery, which remains docked to the station. That means the whole gigantic Tinker Toy assembly is brighter than ever as sunlight reflects off all that added surface area. So it may even be visible through haze and thin clouds.

Here's the skinny: Watch for the space station to rise out of the northwestern sky, rising above the horizon at about 9:59 p.m.  Look for a really bright, steady, star-like object. If it blinks or has multiple or colored lights, it's an airplane. Keep looking. Better yet, take a kid along. Young eyes are great at this.

By 10:02 p.m. the station will be 56 degrees above the north-northeast horizon - more than halfway between the horizon and the zenith (straight up).

From there it will slip off toward the east, passing just above the bright star Vega, apex of the Summer Triangle. ISS, Discovery and their combined crew of 10 will then slip into the Earth's shadow and disappear from view at 10:03 p.m.

If you miss this pass, or we get clouded out, there are two more almost-as-bright flybys this weekend, and the weather looks more promising. We'll have details on The Sun's print Weather Page Saturday and Sunday. (Also available at MarylandWeather.com).  And, you can calculate your own ISS flyby predictions for your location at Heavens-Above.com,  source of the map below.

See you out there.

Heavens-Above.com

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

"Seriously hot" this weekend

The first really hot (and humid) weather of the summer season is bearing down on us for this weekend. Forecasters are warning of mostly sunny skies and high temperatures around 95 degrees on Saturday and Sunday - AND Monday.

There is also some slight risk of a few showers, but forecasters didn't want to dilute the impact of what they called their "screaming message" - "It will be seriously hot ... Summer WX [weather] is here."

For now, we can expect another humid, showery day, although the risk of severe weather is diminished from yesterday's onslaught.  But temperatures will remain in the 80s through Friday.

These showers are focused along a cold front that has stalled over us this week. But the front will be drifting northward as a warm front today. That will usher in the hot weather for the weekend as we fall under a southwest flow.

Forecasts for highs around 95 degrees introduce the possibility of setting new records this weekend. Here are the record daily highs for Baltimore for June 7-9:

June 7: 96 degrees, set in 1999

June 8:  97 degrees, set in 1999

June 9: 98 degrees, set in 1933.

The highs will ease some later next week, but not by much. The AC, and power plants across the region will be cranking hard by mid-week. I confess that we finally caved in this week and switched on the AC - as much to cut the indoor humidity as to cool the house.

Yesterday's powerful thunderstorms and possible tornadoes caused a great deal of damage - and plenty of traffic havoc and scary moments - across the region. If you were out in it, you know what I mean. Here is this morning's account in The Sun. And here is how it looked at The Sun's weather station.

The National Weather Service keeps a tally of storm damage reports. Yesterday's list includes mentions of storm winds over hurricane strength and hail nearly an inch in diameter. (If this link doesn't get you to a long list of damage reports, click on the next blue numbers across the top of the NWS page that does pop up.)

On a personal note, my apologies for not having any weather comments on today's print weather page (or tomorrow's). My mom passed away Tuesday at the age of 95 after a very full and happy life. She is now re-organizing the bridge games in Heaven. You can read more, if you care to, here. 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

June 2, 2008

Showery week ahead, nice weekend

NOAA 

Couldn't order a prettier day than this one. That's a sparkling clear view from orbit. High pressure is moving across the region, bringing mild, dry air out of the north. Humidities here at The Sun have fallen from 65 percent around dawn to the 30s. Overnight lows dipping into the 50s tonight will once again bring us good sleeping weather. But like all good things, this too must come to an end.

The high will keep us sunny Tuesday, even as it moves off to the east. By Wednesday a cold front will move down and drape across our region by late Tuesday, and stall there. Combined with a flow of warm, moist air from the South, temperatures and humidities will climb as the week progresses. NOAAAs that wet air collides with the stalled cold front, we'll be in line for several days of showers and thunderstorms. The best chance for severe storms will come late Wednesday and Wednesday night. Temperatures Friday could top 90 degrees for the first tiNASAme this season.

Another high-pressure system will move in for the weekend, bringing sunshine and temperatures well into the 80s.

The showery weather at mid-week will likely obscure our view of a nice pass by the International Space Station and shuttle Discovery on Thursday. We should have better luck with another, nicer flyby on Saturday evening, and perhaps again on Sunday as the station appears to fly right past Mars and Saturn. Stay tuned for details.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:17 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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