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July 31, 2008

Storms spotty across the region

Showers and thunderstorms popped up around the state yesterday, but they were by no means commonplace. The heaviest rains seem to have fallen out in Allegany County, where Cumberland reported more than an inch. Half-an-inch fell in Jacksonville and even in the Hamilton section of Baltimore City, according to volunteer reports from CoCoRaHS.

Talbot, Wicomico and parts of Arundel also reported a tenth of an inch or more. But we recorded exactly no rain here on The Sun's instruments at Calvert & Centre streets. Also no rain in the gauge on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, although there were a few drops on the deck furniture.

Some of the storms produced damaging winds. Jeff Gouger sent me some photos of tree damage in Cockeysville:

Jeff Gouger photo

"We had substantial damage yesterday in the Springdale neighborhood and a neighbor claimed to see a tornado," Jeff said this morning.

"This would be in the vicinity of Gateridge and Stillway Court. Many trees and damaged and destroyed with a lot of debris. These pictures are where it seemed to “bounce” off the ground.  It doesn’t look like straight line winds as some many of the trees are going in different directions."

Jeff said he recorded about an inch of rain. "My neighbors were saying that a lot of the rain was horizontal, and judging by the debris on the outside of the second floor of my house, I would agree." 

I'm not so sure this damage was caused by a tornado, but I've forwarded Jeff's photos to Chris Strong at the NWS in Sterling. Anyone else have some storm tales/photos to share?  

We may well see more scattered showers and storms today as a new disturbance tracks through to our south, and that cold front gets closer to the region. Once again, they could contain strong wind gusts and hail.
Beyond that, we're looking at continued highs near 90 degrees well into next week. Showers are possible Saturday and Saturday evening, but otherwise we're in the clear after today.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (4)

July 30, 2008

Heat, sunshine depress air quality

All sorts of misery on tap for today if you have to be outdoors in the Baltimore area. First, forecasters out in Sterling are looking for high temperatures in the low 90s this afternoon. Loads of humidity streaming in from the South along with the heat give us a chance for showers and thunderstorms late today and into this evening. Heat Index readings will approach 100 degrees.

AIRNOWAlong with the heat and the sunshine (and air pollution) comes bad air quality. The forecast calls for parts of the region to slip into the Code Orange zone - unhealthy for sensitive groups - this afternoon. The same thing occurred yesterday. Here, at left, is the air quality map loop for Tuesday. Click here for today's air quality map.

The good news is the long-awaited cold front, which is passing the Great Lakes today. It's due here tomorrow and, after the clashing air masses finish stirring up more showers or storms, we should clear off some of the humidity.

Temperatures, however, seem likely to remain high - near 90 - well into next week.

We've had 19 days with highs of 90 or higher so far this summer. June and July have both averaged above the long-term norm.

That is hotter than we experienced last summer through July, with just 17 days of 90 or higher during June and July.

But it has been cooler than the Summer of 2006, which brought us 24 days of 90-degree heat in June and July. In July alone in 2006, BWI reported 18 days in the 90s or higher. This year we've seen just 10 through Tuesday.

Just stay inside.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

July 29, 2008

5.8 quake rattles Los Angeles


The Greater LA area was rattled by a strong earthquake at about 2:42 EDT this afternnoon. The quake was followed by a series of lesser aftershocks. The epicenter was located southeast of the city's downtown area, near the community of Chino Hills, and about 8 miles beneath the surface.

Here are some of the details. Here are some early reports. Here is the LA Times website.

And here are some reader reports from the scene.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science

Humidity should break for weekend

Sun Photo/Kenneth K. Lam 2007

Temperatures and humidity in the Chesapeake region will be ramping up today and tomorrow as we fall under a flow of warm, wet air from the South. We can expect increased chances for showers and locally heavy thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday if all this warm, humid air gets fired up by solar heating.

They're expecting a high near 95 degrees at BWI Wednesday. Any rain we do get will be a welcome relief, as the heat index readings for Wednesday will be close to 100 degrees.

But, just in case you're planning a wedding this weekend, a cool front is expected to drift through late Wednesday or Thursday. That may trigger more showers, but it will also break the humidity for the weekend. Temperatures for Friday and Saturday, however, are expected to remain near 90 degrees under a strong sun. An evening ceremony is recommended if you're outdoors.

Headed for the beach? You've got a great weekend forecast there, too.

The tropics, meanwhile, remain pretty quiet. There are some disturbances off the west coast of Africa, and in the Gulf Coast area. But the National Hurricane Center doesn't seem to be too interested in either of them at the moment.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

July 28, 2008

Heat and humidity to return


Pretty sweet mid-summer weather today. You can see the moisture clearing out from southern Pa. and northern Md. in the water vapor image above.

The temperature is around the average for this time of year in Baltimore - mid-to-upper 80s. And the humidity is blessedly low - with dew points in the 50s to around 60. (The Sun's weather station stopped reporting during a rain storm last Wednesday afternoon. It's back on line today.)

But the high-pressure center that's responsible for the dry heat is scheduled to move off shore by mid-week, putting us in the return flow from the South. And that means more heat and rising humidity readings.

Forecasters out at Sterling are looking for highs around 93 degrees for BWI Tuesday through Thursday, with enough humidity around to set off some showers and thunderstorms by Wednesday afternoon, lingering into Thursday. Some spots could see very gusty winds and hail.

By Friday, and on into the weekend if the forecast holds up, we can look forward to more seasonable highs in the mid- to upper-80s again, and better humidity readings. 

We're technically over the hump now, with long-term average temperatures beginning to drop as we head into August. We'll likely see some more very hot days ahead, but on the whole, we should expect things to cool a bit as the days grow shorter.

Baltimore usually gets a nice cool break during August. A strong front goes through and we see daytime highs in the upper 70s or low 80s, with some really cool nights. It happened on the 18th last year, daytime and temperatures clunked, for several days, from the 90s into the 70s and 60s. I always see that as a harbinger of autumn. It's when they actually start to see color in the trees in the Adirondacks, or northern New Hampshire. A nice time of year up there.

We'll look ahead to the stats for August on The Sun's Weather Page on Thursday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Did you see Friday sky spectacle?

Just back from a week on the high seas, and I found this letter in my email inbox. Did anyone else notice this spectacle? Sounds like space junk returning from orbit, because if Jay had time to summon his family to watch, it could not have been moving at the speeds normally expected of meteors. A re-entry from orbital speeds seems more likely.
Here's a YouTube video of some space debris re-entering the atmosphere.
If you saw it, leave us a comment. Be sure to say where you were and when you saw it, and in what direction it was moving. I'll see if I can find other reports.  
"I've been a reader of your blog for a few years now and I just saw and AMAZING event.  While walking my dog in the backyard(Millersville), approximately a dozen orange balls, loosely spaced but in a group, approached from the SW and continued overhead toward Baltimore at ~2134 on 7/25. It was almost like watching 12 orange ISSes but brighter. They did not fade nor give off debris or a trail like meteors I've seen in the past. I called up to my family in the house and we were able to watch the cluster move off to the N/NE until they moved below the treeline. Has anyone else posted an account? I was so amazed and excited - plus calling my kids down to see this - that I didn't get any photos/videos. By far the most amazing/unusual meteor event I've ever witnessed. - Jay Ellwood
Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

July 18, 2008

Gone fishin'

Sun Photo/Candus ThomsonAs Baltimore continues to slog through the hottest days of the year, the Olde WeatherBlogger and his favorite schoolteacher are going to pack up a stack of books, grab some shades and broad-brimmed hats and go someplace cool to decompress.

While the WeatherBlog is dark, be sure to buy newspapers, stay out of the noonday sun, and don't drive through standing water. I'll be back on the job July 28.

Cheers,  Frank

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

Tropical weather brews off Ga. coast


Tropical Storm Bertha has begun to strengthen, but has also begun to high-tail it off toward the north east, away from Bermuda and straight toward oblivion as a tropical system.

So forecasters have turned their attention to several other regions that have been boiling up in recent days. One is an area of low pressure off the Georgia coast that could become a tropical depression in the next day or two. It began earlier this week as an area of showers and storms in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. It has since crossed the Florida peninsula and is reorganizing in the Atlantic.

Forecaster says it's producing thundershowers and gusty winds offshore, but barometric pressures are falling in the area and conditions are getting more favorable for development.

That said, there doesn't seem to be much concern that it will affect us this far north, but forecasters at Sterling say "it still bears watching." The storm is expected to drift to the north or northeast. We'll see. It could become a factor for cruise passengers headed from Baltimore to Bermuda this weekend.

Hurricane forecasters are also watching a low pressure system in the Caribbean north of the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curacao. Heavy rains and gusty winds are possible there as the storm strengthens. Reconnaissance aircraft will fly through the region today. But a tropical storm could form there by the weekend. If so, it will be the third named storm of the season - Cristobal.

Finally, there is another storm system over the western Caribbean, Honduras and Nicaragua. Forecasters don't expect it to become a tropical storm, but heavy rains and strong, gusty winds could cause life-threatening flash floods and landslides in the region.

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

Hot, hotter, then showers

SUn photo/Amy Davis 2007Looking for relief from the heat? Find a pool like Marisa Murphy did last year (left). Or, turn the thermostat on your AC down. There's no relief for Central Maryland anywhere in the seven-day forecast from Sterling.

High temperatures have camped out in the 90s for the entire period, with heat index readings topped 100 for the next few days. Here at The Sun, our instruments are already showing temps at 91 degrees, a dew point of 71 degrees (anything above 70 feels sticky), and a heat index of 98 degrees. This sort of hot spell is not terribly unusual for Maryland at this time of year, but is several degrees above the seasonal norms. Record highs are in the low 100s.

Saturday looks like the hottest day of the bunch, with a forecast high for BWI of 96 degrees. "Residents should stay well hydrated and take frequent breaks from the heat in air-conditioned building," forecasters urged in today's Hazardous Weather Outlook.

Humidity numbers, which have been fairly low in recent days under this big high-pressure system, are pushing higher. The high is moving off to our east, out into the western Atlantic. That puts us on the backside of the clockwise flow around the high, drawing warm, humid air up from the South.

The solar heating and the rising humidity will begin to touch off showers and thunderstorms in our region by Sunday, forecasters say. And the chances will persist into next week. The forecast gets more iffy after that. There's a cool front that could dip down, stall here by Wednesday, and continue the showers and thunderstorms.

If you can afford the gas, there is relief downy ayshun. Ocean City's forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the 80s. It's been a great week at the beach, with a great weekend ahead if you can dodge any showers that pop up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

July 17, 2008

Bright space station flyby due


As long as this relatively clear, dry weather holds up, Marylanders should make plans to catch a good, long look at the International Space Station Friday evening as the giant Tinker Toy flies up the east Coast.

This will be an unusually bright pass by the station, at Magnitude minus-2.4. The sun angles are nearly ideal, and the reflected light will make the station nearly as bright as the planet Jupiter, which has been brilliant the last few nights in the southern sky.

So grab the kids, bang on the neighbors' door and get everybody out to watch for the station. Those are your tax dollars at play up there, after all.

Look for the ISS to rise above the southwestern horizon at 9:48 p.m. Put the kids and their young eyeballs on the case. I'm betting they spot it first, although this flyby will be so bright I can't imagine anyone missing it. It's likely to shine right through any summer haze or thin clouds.

Anyway, the station and its crew of three will climb about halfway up the southeastern sky by 9:51 p.m., passing directly above Jupiter, which is quite low in the southeast.

From there, it will slide off toward the northeast as the station passes off the Delmarva coast and heads on up the Atlantic Seaboard (What is a 'seaboard,' anyway?) toward Nova Scotia. Watch as it passes through the Summer Triangle, the right triangle formed by the bright  stars Vega, Deneb and Altair, which hangs in the eastern sky on summer evenings.

After you've enjoyed the show, drop back here and leave a comment. Let everybody know how cool this really is. 

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

July 16, 2008

Tropics are stirring

Tropical Storm Bertha, now almost two weeks old, continues to wander the western Atlantic, zigging to the southeast just north and east of Bermuda and pestering the island and shipping, but not posing a direct threat to land. She's a bit stronger today, with top sustained winds of 70 mph.

Here's the latest advisory, and the forecast track. And here's the view from orbit.

In the meantime, hurricane forecasters are watching two other patches of the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical Atlantic that are producing wind and rain. The first is off the west coast of Florida. Folks there are looking at heavy rains for the next day or two, but the system, such as it is, is likely to move over land and is not likely to get organized. 

Satellites are also tracking an area of stormy weather in the Atlantic just east of the Windward Islands. That one is getting better organized, although conditions aren't ideal for strong development. Air Force Reserve storm chasers are being sent in for a closer look this afternoon. In the meantime, the bad weather is expected to produce locally heavy rains and gusty winds in the islands in the coming days.



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

Jupiter dominates summer sky

This fine spell of dry weather is providing Marylanders with a great opportunity for stargazing. We got home late last night after dinner with the honeymooners and I couldn't help noticing what a great show the moon and Jupiter were putting on in the southern sky.

The moon is nearly full. It will be officially full just before 4 a.m. Friday. This will be the Hay Moon, or the Thunder Moon, if you prefer, for reasons that seem clear enough. But it's already quite beautiful, low in the southern sky late in the evening.

Why so low? It's because the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun in the northern summer. By extension, that means the night side of the planet tilts away from the side of the solar system opposite the sun - the night side.  And that's where the moon is when it's full. So, we're leaning away from the full moon, placing it very low in the southern sky in summer. (In winter it's the reverse - sun low in the day, full moon very high overhead at midnight.)

Anyway, the southern sky is also where we find Jupiter this month. We're just past Jupiter's opposition on July 9. That's when it stood directly opposite the sun, rising in the southeast as the sun sets in the west. Opposition is also when Earth brings us to our closest approach to Jupiter of the year, about 384 million miles.

And that means it's the best time of the year to catch a glimpse of the giant gas bag. Which brings us back to me and my favorite schoolteacher, getting home late last night.

I stepped inside and immediately excused myself. I grabbed the 10x75 binoculars from the closet, switched off the porch light and headed back outside.

Jupiter is impossible to miss this week. It gleams big and bright in the southern sky in the late evening, the brightest star-like object out there. In the binocs, I could just make out at least two of the planet's four Galilean moons. They're tiny pinpricks of light on either side of Jupiter's disk. And Jupiter does appear as a disk in binoculars at opposition, not just a point of light, like the stars caught in the same field of view.

The moon and Jupiter will be closest together Thursday evening, a very striking pair for anyone out walking the dog or just enjoying the night air. Unfortunately, the moon will not pass directly in front of Jupiter this week, as it does in the NASA animation below. 

Weather forecasters say this unusually dry summer weather will continue through Friday. So stargazers can enjoy some particularly pleasant time outdoors under the stars. Mars and Saturn are still in view, very close together and low in the western sky after sunset.  


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

July 15, 2008

Sunny and hot all week

As befits what is, statistically at least, the hottest week of the year, forecasters say we're looking at sunny and hot summer weather all week. They're looking for highs around 90 degrees through Monday.

As they see it from here, the only weather action all week will be a small chance for showers and thunderstorms Saturday night as the high-pressure system bringing us all this heat and sunshine begins to move offshore, dragging more southern moisture in behind it. Add solar heating to all that humidity and the chances for showers rise sharply.

The high that's now centered over the eastern half of the country is clearly visible in the satellite images of water vapor over the U.S. It's that big, dark hole in the sky in these looped images.


That's what's left of Hurricane Bertha on the right. The storm, now a tropical storm, is moving away from Bermuda, but will remain a factor in the region for a while longer. Here's the latest advisory. Here's the forecast storm track. The storm, while far at sea, is having an impact on the surf along the mid-Atlantic coast. Here's a video post from Sun science writer and resident surfer-dude Chris Emery, shot at Assateague.

Just back from a long weekend in the Pacific Northwest, where they have been enjoying what natives described to me as their annual two weeks of dry, sunny weather. I think they were exaggerating. Maybe not.

USGSIt was gorgeous. Clear skies over Seattle revealed the face of Mount Rainier (left). On previous visits, folks insisted there was a big volcano on their southeastern horizon. But I never saw it. Yesterday, I did. It is impressive.

We spent a few days on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle in Puget Sound. Under clear, sunny skies, we had beautiful vistas of the snowy Olympic range to the west, the snow-topped Cascades to the east, and an almost totally snowed-in Mount Baker to the northeast. Spotted a bald eagle in the tree above our cabin, and another (or maybe the same one) flying over the Capt. Whidbey Inn around sunset. First I'd ever seen that close.

Temperatures were in the 60s and 70s during the day, dropping to what I think were the 50s, at least, at night. It was cold enough to warrant a fire in the fireplace Saturday night. Beautiful.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

July 10, 2008

Weather history made 72 years ago

In the middle of a punishing heat wave 72 years ago today, somebody up at the Northern Police Station on Keswick Road in Baltimore, had the bright idea of seeing how hot it was in the direct sunlight.

Now, it was plenty hot in the shade. The temperature had reached 103 degrees the day before -  July 9. Baltimoreans were collapsing in the streets, and at work. Twenty-eight had swooned by the 10th, as a heat wave swept much of the nation, killing 331. Most people had no access to air conditioning in those days. Hundreds moved to the city parks in search of a good night's sleep.

By the next day, the papers said, the national toll had climbed to 658 souls. By some accounts, the Great heat Wave of June and July 1936 was the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with as many as 5,000 killed. It was worst in the Midwest. In Baltimore, they counted one dead - a 10-day-old infant found in his crib - and 44 "prostrated." Frederick reported a high of 109 degrees - still the state record.

Here's the NWS account. And, for what it's worth, Wikipedia's.

BG&E offered Evening Sun readers Westinghouse electric fans "as low as $2.98." Stewart's urged customers to "step out of the heat into cool comfort" with "Misses' Chiffon Frocks with Slips" for $5.99.  

Anyway, according to The Evening Sun's account of the police experiment, officers moved the thermometer to a sunny windowsill and waited. "Up went the mercury to 100 degrees - 105! - 110! - 120! On that thermometer 120 degrees was the maximum marking, but the instrument seemed determined to go higher or bust. Well - It busted!"

Over at the Northeastern Precinct, they tested the temperature in the "cooler," and found that prisoners were enjoying a relatively chilly 83 degrees.  Out on a lamp post in front of the station it was 110 degrees.

In the 200 block of W. 29th St., the Evening Sun reported (nothing was too small to make the paper in those days) a carrier pigeon dropped from the sky. He took a drink from a rivulet emerging from a hose, rested a bit, then moved to a windowsill to spend the night. Revived by morning, he resumed his mission.

At 3 p.m., the National Weather Service reported a high temperature of 107 degrees at the U.S. Customs House in downtown Baltimore. It was a new record for the city, breaking the 105-degree mark set on Aug. 6, 1918. The new record has never been broken .

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

July 9, 2008

Shower drops temps 14 degrees

The showers that passed through Baltimore this afternoon dropped more than a third of an inch of rain on The Sun's weather instruments at Calvert & Centre streets. It fell as fast as 3.3 inches an hour at one point. Here's the radar loop.

The storm also sent the thermometer plummeting - down 14 degrees in less than an hour, from 89 degrees at 5 p.m. to 75 degrees just before 6 p.m.

You can see it all online.

We'd love to hear how the storm was where you are. Leave us a comment. Send us pictures.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:55 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

Prime time for Jupiter

Jupiter, the King of the Planets, reaches opposition tonight, its closest approach and brightest appearance of the year. Or, it would be if we could see through the clouds and murky skies we're enduring at the moment.

No matter. Planets move slowly in the sky, and the view won't change much for the next few weeks. The message here is that Jupiter is big and bright this month. Look for it low in the southeast after skies darken in the evening. If your horizon is clear and low, you can't miss it. Jupiter is the brightest star-like object in the sky.

Jupiter from Assateague/

Here's a gorgeous shot by Jeffrey Berkes (, taken late last month on Assateague Island. That's Jupiter glowing low on the horizon. Photo used with permission.

Opposition means that Jupiter is "opposite" the sun in the sky as seen from Earth, rising in the east (or, southeast) as the sun sets in the west. Looking down on the solar system, you could draw a straight line from the sun, through the Earth, and on out to Jupiter.

At opposition, Jupiter is "only" about 387 million miles from Earth, the closest we'll get all year.

NASAAt this distance, it's a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of Jupiter through binoculars or a small telescope. With a a car or a tree to steady your binoculars (and clear skies - not so easy in a Chesapeake summer), you should be able to make out as many as four of Jupiter's largest moons. They're lined up on either side of the planet's disk like tiny diamonds alongside a huge central stone.

Those are the moons that Galileo first spotted late in 1609. Watch them over a series of nights and you can see them change position as they orbit the planet. For more visit

And while you're out stargazing, look low in the west after sunset and see Mars and Saturn in close conjunction. That's Saturn at upper left, Mars less than the width of your finger (held at arm's length) away to the lower right, and the bright star Regulus a bit farther down to the right. Binoculars will help there, too.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

July 8, 2008

Bertha turns, weakens

Bertha has begun to turn slightly more northward, weakening as she moves into a region of wind "shear," which tends to limit further growth. It's beginning to eliminate the risk to the U.S. East coast from this storm. It may even get Bermuda off the hook.

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


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

PM, evening storms, more Wednesday

Chances are building today for some severe thunderstorms, with heavy rain and large hail. But they get even stronger tomorrow.

The National Weather Service forecasters out in Sterling are looking at a patch of low pressure in the upper atmosphere that they expect will kick off showers and thunderstorms across the region this afternoon and evening. As the morning sunshine heats up the air at the surface, it will begin to rise into much colder layers of air aloft. That's the definition of atmospheric "instability," and it leads to the formation of tall cumulous clouds and thunderheads. And that means thunderstorms.

There's plenty of moisture in the air to feed the storms. We're on the west side of a big high-pressure center over the western Atlantic. Highs circulate clockwise, so this one is dragging lots of NOAAwarm, humid air up from the Gulf of Mexico.

Add daytime heating and we're off to the races. Forecasters say some storms could reach "severe" levels today. Cold air aloft means hail - perhaps large hail - is a possibility. (Not this big!)

These slow-moving storms could cause a good deal of rain to fall in localized areas, leading to a potential for flooding, too.

By tomorrow, forecasters say we'll be moving into another regime as a cold front approaches from the north and west. Shove a colder, dense air mass into the warm, humid air that's here now, and you force the warm air upward. Add daytime solar heating and you set off more thunderstorms. And forecasters expect tomorrow's will be stronger than today's.

Plus, the cold front is expected to slow or stall here, causing the storms to linger and concentrate their rainfall in localized areas.

"Should be numerous thunderstorms by afternoon," forecasters say in their discussion this morning. "Once again, dual concerns severe weather and local flooding ... Strong, damaging wind gusts might prevail .... Flooding will be an increasing threat, especially since coldfront appears to stall in metro corridor Wednesday evening, making training storms more possible."

Once the storms move out, high pressure builds, offering us sunny skies and seasonably high temperatures in the mid-80s to near 90 degrees right through the weekend.

We're moving into the warmest weeks of the year, statistically. Two weeks from now the average daily highs begin to decline as days grow shorter and we head toward fall and winter.

NOAA photo


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

July 7, 2008

Big Bertha now a Cat. 3 storm

NOAAThe National Hurricane Center says Bertha's top sustained winds have reached 115 mph, making it a "major" Cat. 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. If nothing else, this will be boosting the surf along the Altantic coast in the coming days.

The primary concern for now looks like a strike on Bermuda. Here's the latest advisory. Here's the current storm track forecast. And here's the view from orbit.

More on the "What's the Deal" blog, and the "Midnight Sun" blog.

And here's's take on Bertha and where's she's headed.  The right set of circumstances, they say, could still bring Bertha on toward the U.S. East Coast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Showers and storms through Wednesday

All this tropical weather we've been experiencing in recent days - warm, humid mornings followed by showery afternoons and evenings - is expected to continue through Wednesday. The chances for showers and thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings will run 30 to 50 percent for the next few days.

Temperatures will run at or slightly above normal for the period, crowding 90 degrees right through the weekend.

Sun Photo - By Kim HairstonA cold front - or at this time of year maybe we should call it a less-hot front - will cross the region Wednesday, finally driving out this stalled system that has kept us locked into this humid, stormy pattern. The frontal passage will trigger the strongest storms of the week, with damaging winds and large hail possible where those storms develop.

The rains so far, like that which wetted visitors to Harford County's Fiore Winery Sunday (in Sun photographer Kim Hairston's image, left) have been typically spotty. Here are some measurements for those we saw on Sunday. They ranged from nothing to more than 3 inches in Abingdon, up in Harford County. 

After the front goes by Wednesday, we can look forward to continued hot weather, but it should be sunnier, and mostly free of showers.

Critters seem to be enjoying the rain, and the explosion of grass and flowers. Anybody else noticing more critters out there? I'm seeing lots of chipmunks, rabbits, birds. Even spotted an otter on the Gunpowder last weekend. Anyone else?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Bertha is back!


Tropical Storm Bertha became a hurricane early today, spinning up with top sustained winds of 90 mph. It could become a Category 2 storm before the day is out. Bertha is still far out in the Atlantic, and no immediate threat to land. But while we wait to see where the winds take her, we can amuse ourselves with coincidences.

This is not the first Bertha to come along. The National Hurricane Center notes that another Bertha formed on almost exactly this date in 1996 - also far out in the tropical Atlantic (as opposed to the Caribbean, which is more common at this time of year).

That Bertha tracked somewhat south of this year's Bertha, and came ashore near Wilmington, N.C. It caused eight deaths and $250 million in damage in the U.S. Here is the full report on Bertha 1996. It also had some impact in Maryland, including 5 inches of rain on the Eastern Shore (2.2 inches at BWI). Anybody remember Bertha '96?

There was also a Tropical Storm Bertha in August 2002 that menaced the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. The name lists are recycled every six years. Only the most deadly and destructive storms have their names retired. 

Meanwhile, Bertha '08 is steaming across the Atlantic, headed west northwest. Depending on which storm track projection you see, it could swing north and smack Bermuda, or make its turn later and affect the U.S. East Coast. Here's the latest advisory. Here's the latest storm track forecast. And here's the satellite loop

For a discussion of the forces that could influence Bertha's track, drop by

Wherever she goes, Bertha is likely to make for rough seas. A track toward Bermuda could mean extra trouble for passengers due to embark in Baltimore on Saturday for next week's Norwegian Cruise Lines voyage to Bermuda. Is that you? Read more at the "What's the Deal" Blog.

On the other hand, a more muscular Bertha could pay dividends for a certain Fells Point watering hole and its patrons. Check out Sam Sessa's Midnight Sun blog.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

July 3, 2008

New tropical storm is born

Tropical Storm Bertha, the second storm of the 2008 Atlantic season, was born this morning in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands. She sports top sustained winds of 40 mph and is tracking toward the west northwest at 14 mph.

It's pretty early in the season for such Cape Verdean storms to spin up. Not sure whether that suggests anything about what lies ahead for us, but as they say in the editorials, this bears watching.

Here is the latest advisory on Bertha. Here's the latest storm track forecast. And here's a view form space: 


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Warm pattern resumed in June

We're a bit late here taking a look back at the weather for Baltimore during the past month. Just threw out the last wedding guests.

After a cool and very wet May, June at BWI resumed the warm pattern that has prevailed here since the beginning of the year. Temperatures at the airport averaged 75.3 degrees last month. That was 3.5 degrees above the long-term average of 71.8 degrees, and made it the warmest June since 1994, and the fourth-warmest in Baltimore in 65 years.

1943:  79.8 degrees

1994:  77.2 degrees

1949:  75.6 degrees

2008:  75.3 degrees

So far this year, only May ended cooler than the norm.

Sun photo/Mauricio RubioPrecipitation was close to the June average for BWI, at 3.70 inches. The long-term average is 3.43 inches. Ten days saw measurable rainfall.

The high temperature for the month was 96 degrees, on the 10th. The low was 52 degrees, on June 18. No new records were set.

Not unexpectedly, given the warm temperatures, we ran well ahead on cooling degree-days, a measure of the demand for energy for cooling. We were up 34 percent over the average for June.

Looking ahead, July is typically our hottest month, with average temperatures peaking third week in the high 80s. The all-time record high temperature for Baltimore is 107 degrees, set on July 10, 1936. Only 7 dates have record highs of less than 100 degrees.

The coolest record daily high for the month (and therefore the easiest record to break) is 97 degrees, set on July 12, 1908 and July 24, 1987.

The record low for the month in Baltimore is 50 degrees, set on July 1, 1988 and again on July 3, 2001. The warmest record low is 59 degrees, set July 19, 1962.

The wettest July on record for Baltimore was in 1889, when 11.03 inches fell. The driest was in 1955, with just 0.3 inches in the gauge.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

July 2, 2008

Weekend fireworks, tropical stirrings

Looks like we can count on sunny skies and seasonably hot weather for the rest of the work week, but Nature will likely add thunder and lightning to the pyrotechnic celebrations over the long Holiday weekend. Also on our radar today is some storminess in the tropical Atlantic. More on that shortly.

Right now we're continuing to enjoy the benefits of the high pressure system that's brought us clear skies and relatively low humidities for the last couple of days. (Enjoyed a gorgeous day kayaking out on the Gunpowder River below Monkton yesterday - cool and dry. The river seemed a bit low, but we spotted an otter - a first for me - and plenty of geese and deer, blue herons and kingfishers. Trout seemed happy with the day, too.)

Tomorrow will be the hottest day of the week, with a forecast top of 92 degrees at BWI. 

The 90s are hot for any time of year in Baltimore. The average highs at this time of year are in the mid-to upper 80s. By Friday we'll be back down in the 80s. But the high will be shoving off to the south and east, and we'll come under the influence of a cool front slipping in from the north and west. The front will stall here Friday, and storm systems creeping along the front will mean an increased risk of showers and thunderstorms right through the weekend.

Forecasters out at Sterling say they're not expecting widespread severe storms and flooding out of these circumstances. But we could see "training" storms - thunderstorms and heavy showers that move across the region along a persistent track (like a train!). That often means large amounts of rain accumulating in some locations, while other spots see much less. It's too soon to know just where such training might occur.

In the meantime, hurricane forecasters are watching a tropical wave that's developing off the west coast of Africa, near the Cape Verde Islands. It's early in the 2008 season to see tropical weather cranking up in the far eastern Atlantic. Usually such storms - the sort that can grow to dangerous dimensions as they cross the tropical Atlantic - don't appear this early. They more typically become a problem in late August or September. Some of these "Cape Verdean" hurricanes can sweep north of the Caribbean and track up the East Coast, threatening landfalls from Florida to New England. We all remember one of them - Isabel - which struck in North Carolina and sent a storm surge up the Chesapeake. It flooded the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Bowley's Quarters and many bayside communities back in September 2003.

But my guess is this is merely a prelude. Everybody's watching for ther season to get started. So far all we've seen has been Tropical Storm Arthur, an oddball that popped up on May 31, just before the official start of the Atlantic season on June 1. It was a small storm, but deadly. Fifteen inches of rain fell in places as its struck Belize and Central America. Five people died in Belize and damages there alone came to $78 million.

This storminess off the African coast is just the first patch to catch our attention since Arthur. But stay tuned.  The tropical Atlantic is pretty warm now. Here's the sea-surface temperature map. Anything above 27 degrees C. (the tan within the brownish band) is 80 degrees F or warmer. That's premium-grade hurricane fuel.  NOAA/National Hurricane Center 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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