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November 28, 2008

2008 Atlantic hurricane season sets records


The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season won't end officially until Sunday, but meteorologists are already taking stock of what turned out to be one of the most active seasons in the 64 years since "comprehensive" record-keeping began. That's Ike in the satellite image above, just before it struck Texas.

In all, the season produced 16 named storms, including 8 hurricanes, of which five reached "major" Category 3 status. The count was close to pre-season forecasts by NOAA and Colorado State University's hurricane experts. It was also significantly higher than the long-term average of 11, 6 and 2.

Among the superlatives being posted this week:

* Tied as the fourth most-active storm season in terms of named storms and major hurricanes. 

* First time on record that six consecutive named storms struck the mainland U.S. (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike). A record three Cat. 3 storms (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba.

* First Atlantic season to produce a major hurricane in five consecutive months, July through November (Bertha, Gustav, Ike, Omar, Paloma).

* Bertha, in July, was a tropical cyclone for 17 days in July, the longest-lived July storm on record in the Atlantic.

*Fay, in August, became the only storm on record to make landfall in Florida four times.

* Paloma, in November, reached Cat. 4 stature with top sustained winds of 145 mph. That made it the second-strongest November hurricane on record. (The first was Lenny, in 1999, with top winds of 155 mph.) 

NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster, Gerry Bell, attributed the turbulent season to several factors, including a combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that has been generating above-average seasons since 1995. Also, he points to the lingering effects of the La Nina phenomenon that ended in June, and warmer Atlantic Ocean water temperatures- about 1 degree Fahrenheit above normal during the peak of the season. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:07 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

November 26, 2008

I-95 drive will be clear; snow north and west

If your turkey trek is taking you up the I-95 corridor toward Philly or New York today, you're in luck. Forecasters say the East Coast cities will remain sunny and dry and pleasant today, on Thanksgiving itself, and on into the weekend for the return

But if your relatives are in Pittsburgh or Erie, or Buffalo - anywhere in the lee of the eastern Great Lakes - you should brace for a gray and snowy drive.

That low pressure system centered over Ontario continues to spin, driving cold northwest winds across the lakes and dumping lake effect snows to their south and east. Some spots can expect 6 to 12 inches of new snow. Here's's take.

As that lake moisture is forced up the western slopes of the Allegenies, it will drop as snow in places like Garrett (below) and western Allegany counties today. Thursday looks better, but the arrival of another front Friday into Saturday will bring back those lake-effect conditions and deliver more snow to far western Maryland.

Taylor-Made VacationsSomehow, we here in the east have lucked out. The forecast - if it holds up - promises northing but sunshine and starry nights right through the weekend. The cold front due on Friday-into-Saturday looks dry.

 Temperatures will be a bit cool for this time of year during the daytime - in  the upper 40s. Nighttime lows will drop to near freezing at BWI - about normal for this time of year.



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

November 25, 2008

Cop cruiser cam captures amazing fireball

Global EdmontonA Canadian police cruiser dashboard camera has captured an amazing video of a meteor as it ripped through the atmosphere and exploded last Thursday near Edmonton, Alberta. You can see it, and read more about it, here.

Here's more.

And more.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

"Dry slot" brings us sunshine; Garrett gets snow


Meteorologists call it a "dry slot" - an intrusion of clear, dry air, drawn into the swirling clouds around a spinning low pressure system. There's one over Central Maryland this morning. as the satellite image above shows quite well. And that dry slot is what's brought us this delightful sunny morning.

The low is centered over the Great Lakes. As it spins in a counter-clockwise direction, it is bringing winds here from the north and west. And that's going to mean more snow for the far western counties of Maryland., where the morning looks far different than ours at the moment. 

Taylor Made VacationsThe National Weather Service forecast office in Pittsburgh has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Garrett, from noon today through noon Wednesday. They're told to expect 4 to 6 inches of new snow before the storm tapers off tomorrow. Some higher elevations could see 8 inches.

Far western Allegany County, including the town of Frostburg, are also under a Winter Weather Advisory issued from Sterling. Lake effect snow showers are expected there from 11 a.m. today through 1 p.m. tomorrow. Accumulations of "up to 7 inches" are possible in some locations.

Looks like the snow is already falling at Deep Creek Lake. Here's a shot from the Taylor Made Vacation Rentals Web cam.

In the meantime, there's no dry slot over Ocean City, where it was gray and rainy this morning. Here's the Kite Loft Web cam.


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

November 24, 2008

Triple conjunction will dazzle stargazers

Whenever evening skies are clear this week, take a moment to step outside and catch a glimpse at one of the year's most striking events in the night sky.

Each night, the brilliant planets Jupiter and Venus - now dazzling in the southwestern sky after sunset - will draw closer together.

NASAThey're headed for a spectacular triple conjunction with a very young crescent moon on Monday, Dec. 1 (left). On that evening, Jupiter and Venus will stand just 2 degrees apart in the evening sky - the width of two pinky fingers held at arm's length.

Jupiter - now above and to the left of Venus - will have moved by Dec. 1 to a spot immediately above and to the right of Venus.

The crescent moon will hang just above and to the left of Venus, forming a lovely, delicate triangle.

If skies are clear, the spectacle is sure to grab the attention of anyone who happens to glance that way - evening commuters, dog walkers and folks out for an after-dinner stroll. You won't need to find dark skies. This celestial event will be visible everyplace that isn't clouded in. 

Don't miss it!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

Rain tonight, clearing for holiday travel


Maryland's weather will slide downhill late today and tonight as the high that kept us sunny and cold over the weekend moves off the Virginia coast. Winds from the south will keep temperatures relatively mild. The rain that's due late today, tonight and tomorrow morning with an approaching cold front should clear away in time for holiday travelers who set out on Wednesday for Grandmother's house.

The rainy weather headed our way is slogging east from the Mississippi Valley today toward the Appalachians. Clouds here will thicken as the day wears on, with rain arriving during the evening. Forecasters out at Sterling put the rain chances for Baltimore at 100 percent tonight, with as much as a half-inch possible. As temperatures fall with the cold front's passage, western counties can expect the precipitation to change to freezing rain, and then snow.

Central Maryland should see an all-rain event as the cold front passes by after midnight. The rain will likely linger into the morning hours Tuesday before winds shift and the air begins to clear toward nightfall.

That will put us, once again, in a northwesterly wind pattern, producing more lake-effect snow for the mountains, and colder overnight lows here. The highs will stick in the 40s all week.

Thanksgiving's forecast looks mostly sunny and bright, with highs in  the upper 40s.  Friday looks fine, too, but the next weather system moves in late Friday and Saturday. It looks like rain, but forecasters hint that snow showers are a possibility for Friday night, especially in higher elevations. There are rain chances, too, for Saturday.

A NOTE TO READERS: As some of you may have noticed, the comments function on the WeatherBlog has been on the fritz since last week. Attempts to post a comment led to a screen saying the "page could not be found." 

This problem has now been fixed. You may send comments  again, and I will post them as soon as I see them. Thanks for your patience.  Anybody see the Space Station flyby on Saturday night?   

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

November 21, 2008

Clearing skies offer view of Space Station

Building high pressure is clearing the air over Central Maryland, and while we may not beJustin Cowart Photo/Used with permission cloudless Saturday evening, skies should be clear enough to catch a glimpse at the newly enlarged International Space Station as it soars over Baltimore with the space shuttle Endeavour docked alongside.

The precise timing may be a little squishy. (Times in the print edition of The Sun this morning may be a minute too early. NASA planned to boost the ISS's orbit a few miles, as it must from time to time, and in Earth orbit, getting higher slows your speed relative to the ground, which changes the timing of these flyovers. So allow a minute or so on either side of the times we're posting here, just in case.

The good news is that this will be one of the brightest flyovers we've seen. The shuttle delivered a new living quarters  module to the station in preparation for adding three more full-time crew members (bringing total to six). And with Endeavour attached, that makes plenty of additional surface to relfect sunlight. The prediction is that ISS/Endeavour will be brighter than Jupiter, which hangs over the southwestern horizon after sunset this week, but somewhat dimmer than Venus, which stands lower and to the right of Jupiter.

Look for the ISS to rise above the southwestern horizon at 5:30 p.m., just to the right of and Jupiter (visible in the time-lapse photo at right by Justin Cowart, in Carbondale, Ill.; used with permission). The station is headed northeast, from high over Louisiana toward the skies of Nova Scotia. It will climb right through the Summer Triangle, passing very close by Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. (Print edition says Vega. Wrong again.)  At that moment - 5:33 p.m., it will be about 223 miles over your head.

Be sure to wave. That's a passle of your tax dollars flying by. Even more amazing, between the ISS crew of three and the Shuttle crew of seven, that's a small village of 10 people soaring over at 17,500 mph. 

You can generate ISS flyby predictions tailored to your location anytime by visiting   That's where the map at right came from. There's much more, too. 

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:46 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching

Snow squall gets noticed, disappears

Sun Photo/Karl Merton FerronNow that's the kind of snow we like. Flakes fill the air like soap flakes in a snow globe, everybody gets a little kick out of it, but nothing sticks to the pavement.

This morning's squall dropped light to moderate snow across the I-95 corridor, the eastern Washington suburbs and in the Baltimore region before drifting off toward the bay. But for the most part the surface temperatures were too warm for anything to stick. There were a few isolated reports of an inch or so up near the Pennsylvania border.

Meanwhile, way out west, lake-effect snow continues to drop across the higher elevations. Garrett and western Allegany counties can expect 1 to 4 more inches before things taper off late today.

The low pressure system that made it all possible is moving off, too, and it will be replaced by building pressure and clearing skies as the day wears on. That will open the atmosphere for radiational cooling tonight, sending overnight lows plunging to the low 20s.

The weekend looks sunny, but there's another storm system in the cards for Monday. It's expected to develop over the Great Lakes Sunday, drawing warm air and rain showers into our region and pushing daytime highs to near 50 degrees before the next cold front arrives late on Monday. And that will usher in more snow for the mountains. Rain or snow showers might make it as far as the metro areas Monday evening.

Then it should be clear sailing into Thanksgiving Day.

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

November 20, 2008

More snow for western counties, snow showers here

It's easy to ignore down here, but far western Maryland counties are still being hammered by lake-effect snows. Garrett is expected to get another 8 inches tonight, and a foot in some high Honi-Honi Bar/Deep Creek lakeelevations. Western Allegany County and the town of Frostburg could see another 5 to 9 inches. That's the Honi-Honi Bar at Deep Creek Lake at left. Here are some more shots of Maryland's arctic counties.

Some of that snow could spread east of the mountains. The National Weather Service is posting a 20 to 30 percent chance of snow showers for the Baltimore-Washington region beginning after midnight tonight and continuing Friday, with up to a half-inch accumulation in spots. You can read the discussion out of Sterling, here.

Although we've been enjoying relatively mild temperatures in the 40s today, the cold front pushing through behind these northwest winds will keep readings in the upper 30s on Friday. Sunshine returns with high pressure on the weekend, but there's another low due Monday, with a chance for rain or snow showers Monday night. 

The good news? Skies should clear by Tuesday, and stay nice at least through Thanksgiving.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

U.S. winter outlook released

The National Climate Prediction Center has released its Winter Outlook for the United States for the December-through February period. For Maryland, it looks like there are no strong trends toward an unusually mild or ferocious winter. But after a string of mild ones, even a firmly "average" winter could feel pretty, well, wintry.

NOAAHere is the climate forecast map for temperature. It shows a strong chance for mild winter temperatures overall across the center of the contiguous states, with the warmest outlook for the central Plains states.

The East Coast shows equal chances for above-or below-normal temperatures. Winter temperatures over the last four winters in Baltimore have averaged a couple of degrees above the long-term (30-year) averages for the area. The coldest winter in the last 30 years for us was in 2002-03, almost 6 degrees below "normal."

That year produced record snowfalls here. No one can forget the four-day blizzard in February of that year.

But to get lots of snow, you need lots of precipitation. And the outlook for the region this winter NOAAdoes not show any clear trends in that department, either. Here's the map.

Once again, the heaviest weather seems destined for the Central Plains, with generally dry conditions across the South, including southeastern Virginia and perhaps part of the Eastern Shore.

Forecasters have an easier time predicting winter weather when there is a strong El Nino or La Nina event underway in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This year, we're looking at neither. It's what they call an ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) Neutral period.

That leaves them with other climate patterns, in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, to guide them.

"These patterns are only predictable a week or two in advance and could persist for weeks at a time," said Michael Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "Therefore, we expect variability, or substantial changes in temperature and precipitation across much of the country."

So, while the formal Winter Outlook does not provide much guidance for Maryland, conditions could change as the winter goes by, and we could see some real wintry weather, interrupted by milder fare.

The Winter Outlook does not include snowfall forecasts. But given how little snow we've seen in the past two winters, there would seem to be a good chance we'll see at least more average accumulations this winter. That's around 18 inches for BWI. And that would seem like a lot to plenty of us. I make that prediction based solely on the logic of the "return to the mean," which, simply put, means "Your luck will eventually run out."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

"Light pillars" may explain aurora report

NBC10/Jeff Ceccola 

The WeatherBlog received an excited report last night from Jeff Ceccola, in suburban Philadelphia:

I believe I [saw] the Northern Lights right here in West Chester, Pa.  There was perhaps up to 100 tubes of vertical light ranging from an aqua blue to a magenta all throughout the east through the southern sky.  The lights were not moving but I am unsure what else this phenonem could have been.  I spoke to all 4 Philly news stations and they said they have had dozens of reports.  Any sightings down there? Regards, Jeff."
Before I had a chance to respond, Jeff heard from one of the Philly TV weather guys, and he (Jeff) got back to me with this explanation:
"Per Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz NBC 10 Philadelphia, he theorized the lights were merely snow flakes reflecting in the moon light.  Oh well, pretty nonetheless."
I think Glenn is close. It would be very unusual, this far south, to see the Northern Lights, especially in the eastern and southern skies.
But my guess is that the atmospheric display Jeff saw was most likely what are referred to as "light pillars." They're caused by ground lighting reflecting off flat snow crystals descending through very cold air. Because it's man-made lighting, the light will consist of any number of different colors, which would explain what Jeff saw. In the up-shining beams of light, the descending crystals appear to form colorful columns or tubes.
Here's a link to a site with some amazing photos of a variety of atmospheric light phenomena. Scroll to the bottom for images of artificial light pillars.
Jeff wrote back this morning and agreed:
"Yes, that certainly seems to be the consensus.  I fear my unbridled excitement interfered with my logic.  Nonetheless, nature once again provided a show that I will not soon forget.  It really was beautiful.  I have attached a picture that someone sent to the NBC 10, it is a perfect facsimile of what I was seeing last night."
That's the photo at the top of this post. We're always happy to get reports of unusual phenomena in the sky, aurora borealis among them.
Here's a link to a gallery of true aurora borealis images taken in recent days around the Far North. To see these spectacular displays, you need to get yourself beneath the "auroral oval" - the region around the Earth's north magnetic pole where the solar particles raining down on the Earth strike the upper atmosphere and kick off the light shows. (Yellow band in the image below.)
That oval is currently in far northern Canada. But it does occasionally expand farther south. To check on its current position, click here, and scroll down the lefthand column.
The best chance for seeing the aurorae is during periods of high solar activity. We are currently just emerging from the latest solar "minimum," so we may have to wait a while to have even a slim chance to see them this far south. The last time that happened that I can recall was in November 2004.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

November 19, 2008

Cold continues here, wintry in mountains

Stiff northwest winds are chilling the region with arctic air this morning, even as they're blowing water out of the bay. Low tides have been running 1.5 to 2 feet below predicted levels. Those are the tide levels for Annapolis in red below. Predicted levels are in blue. 

The Patapsco Data Buoy has reported 17-knot winds this morning, with gusts as high as 25 knots.

NOAAForecasters say the winds will die down this afternoon, but temperatures will stay pretty cold for the rest of the week. And if you're headed for western Maryland, dress for winter. They're calling for more snow before the weekend out there, with overnight lows in the teens. Here's the Grantsville forecast.

 For the Baltimore region, we're looking for highs in the 40s all week, and overnight lows below freezing. That's about 10 degrees below the long-term averages for this time of year at BWI. The cold spot will come on Friday, with a forecast high of 40 degrees at BWI, sinking to just 23 degrees overnight into Saturday.

I confess we've switched on the electric blanket this week. The back bedroom runs 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house. In the absence of a big dog, it helps to give those sheets a heat boost, and it sure beats having BGE heat the whole room all night. Anybody else finding toasty shortcuts for coping with the cold? Leave us a comment.

Speaking of winter, the National Weather Service will issue its US Winter Outlook tomorrow morning. We'll pass it along here. At the moment, the three-month forecast for December through February (issued a month ago) shows no strong trends in either direction for our region. But even a near-"normal" winter here would seem colder and snowier in the wake of two very mild, and relatively snow-free winters in the immediate past. 

Truth be told, we haven't seen a snowy winter here since 2002-03. Good thing or bad?

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

November 18, 2008

First snow flurries sweep Baltimore

It sure didn't last long, but downtown Baltimore saw its first snow flurries of the season this afternoon around 3:20 p.m. Temperatures at The Sun never reached 40 today - the first time that's happened since Feb. 28. And they have been sliding all afternoon, standing now at 36 degrees.

Here's how the weather service put it:


Here's the radar loop. And here's the big picture as the snow comes off the Great Lakes.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Icy queen, frigid heart

A frosty, gusty morning has chipped loose an apt bit of poetry from one the government forecasters out at Sterling. Says he:

"With cool temperatures expected today, an appropriate stanza from an obscure play likely not written by Shakespeare comes to mind:

"'O icy Queen, thy frigid heart doth slay the mortal folk who wake to toil by day.'"

Who knew they hired English majors at the National Weather Service?  Good for them. Good for English majors. A lip balm keychain to the first person who can provide the citation.

Anyway, there's more cold air rolling out of the North Country today. Lake-effect snows are still prompting Winter Snow Warnings throughout the day in Garrett and western Allegany counties. Snow showers were reported as far south as Charlottesville, Va. That's Frostburg State University's campus below.

WeatherBug.comThe low reached 34 degrees here at The Sun. It was 31 out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning. BWI Marshall reported a low of 30. But the mercury will be heading even lower tonight and tomorrow night. The forecast low overnight into Wednesday at BWI is 27 degrees, slipping to 24 degrees by Thursday morning. A 24-degree low on the 20th of November would be just two degrees short of the record low for the date - 22 degrees, set in 1951.

Daytime highs, meanwhile - even with partly to  mostly sunny skies - will stick in the low 40s for most of the week, about 10 degrees below the long-term averages for Baltimore.

The next chance for precipitation looks like snow showers Sunday night, followed by rain showers on Monday.  

With generally fair skies on tap, take a few moments as you drive home tonight, or while you walk the mutt, to seek out the planets Jupiter and Venus, now hanging bright and bold in the southwestern sky after sunset. That's jupiuter on the left, and somewhat brighter Venus on the left.

They are converging a bit each night, headed for a close conjunction witha slim crescent moon on Dec. 1. The movement will be quite obvious as the days go by, and the striking triple conjunction will catch the eyes of many who otherwise would never look up at night. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

November 17, 2008

Winter storm warnings in Garrett, Allegany

The hardy residents of Garrett and western Allegany counties - and anyone headed west on I-68 - are under winter storm warnings today and tomorrow as a storm system moves up the Ohio River valley. Garrett could see 6 to 12 inches before it's over late tomorrow. That's a snapshot of Deep Creek Lake, below, taken with the Railey Realty webcam just before noon today. And yes, that's snow in the air. Western Railey Realty webcamAllegany, and the town of Frostburg, are being told to expect 5 to 7 inches, with up to 9 inches in some locations.

The snow belt towns in the lee of the Great Lakes are  seeing plenty. Check out this video from Ohio.

Down here in the lowlands, forecasters are mentioning a "chance" of rain and snow showers as the low approaches with increasing clouds and Great Lakes moisture, and temperatures fall toward 30 degrees tonight. Just what we see will depend on the timing - how much moisture makes it this far east and how quickly the mercury falls.

"Still a small chance of seeing the first snow flakes east of the Blue Ridge tonight," the forecasters note. "Latest guidance suggests moisture will exit the area quickly this evening before thermal profiles become cold enough for snow. Will re-evaluate forecast again this afternoon."

UPDATE: There were flakes in the air in northern Baltimore County this evening, according to a teacher who worked late. Got snow tonight? Let us hear about it.

Tuesday's forecast also mentions a "slight" chance of snow showers, with stiff northwest winds. The forecast high is 41 degrees, but there is much colder air aloft, forecasters say, "so any precipitation that makes it further east will fall as snow. Amounts will be light and [we are] not expecting any accumulation at this time."

Sunshine returns Wednesday and remains in place right through the weekend. It will feel Novembery, though, with highs in the 40s and lows consistently below freezing.

For photos of snowfall in Maryland, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

California wildfires from space

The wildfires in the Los Angeles area are sending a pall of smoke westward on the Santa Ana winds, and the streamers are visible far out into the Pacific Ocean. Here is the latest NASA satellite image, snapped on Sunday:


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

November 14, 2008

More winter weather "advisories" ahead

Sun Photo/John Makely 1999 

Marylanders can expect more "winter weather advisories" in their future. It's not because winters will get worse. Rather, the National Weather Service's Sterling forecast office, which serves Central and Western Maryland and Northern Virginia, is changing its criteria for issuing the sloppy weather alerts, adding more alerts under lesser storm threats to high "public impact" areas.

Here's how it works:

In the past, forecasters have issued "Winter Weather Advisories" when they were at least 80 percent certain there was 2 to 5 inches of snow or sleet on the way within 12 hours. The advisories mean that hazardous winter weather is coming that "causes significant inconveniences ... and if caution is not exercised ... could lead to life-threatening situations."

Simple enough. Starting Monday, it gets more complicated.

In the future, ADDITIONAL "Winter Weather Advisories" will be issued for specific high-travel areas during rush hour periods when forecasters are at least 60 percent certain that there is 1 to less than 2 inches of accumulating snow or sleet en route during weekday morning or evening rush hours. Those rush hours are defined as  4 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, federal holidays excepted.

Those "high-travel areas" include the I-95 corridor from Harford County, Md. to Spotsylvania County, Va.; inside and including the two urban beltways; the I-270 corridor from Montgomery County to Frederick County; the I-70 corridor westward as far as Frederick County; the I-66 corridor from Washington to Prince William County, Va.; and the Route 50 corridor from Arundel to PG County.

Got that? There will be a quiz in the morning.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Socked in; rain totals top one inch

Sun Photo/Amy Davis 2007 

We used to call this Irish mist. Dew points are at or near the temperature readings, pushing relative humidities into the high 90s to 100 percent this morning. That means fog and drizzle across the region. The fog delayed school openings on the Eastern Shore, while wet streets and slick leaves slowed the ayem rush. 

Feels like Ireland.

Rain totals yesterday ranged from a half to one inch. The highest totals were scattered across the region, as far-flung as Thurmont in Frederick, Dunkirk in Calvert, and Brandywine down in Prince George's County.

We clocked just under a half-inch here at The Sun, after we got the station up and running again. The weather service's station at BWI-Marshall reported 0.8 inch by midnight. We had 0.6 inch out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville.

By tomorrow, the next cold front will be moving through, bringing more widespread showers - another inch, perhaps, before it's over - and perhaps some thunderstorms and gusty winds. Behind the cold front there's sunshine right through next Thursday, but also a sharp change in temperatures. Cold Canadian air will push all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, with a reinforcing cold front on Monday. The western slopes of the Alleghenies could see snow. Our temperatures by daybreak on Tuesday will be in the mid-20s.

Nothing like Ireland.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

November 13, 2008

Rain moving in


The rain gauge here at The Sun has finally begun to respond to this morning's drippy skies. It has taken so long that I suspect the funnel has become clogged with ginkgo leaves, so I've asked the maintenance folks to check, and clear it out, if necessary. Better check the gauge at home, too, come to think of it. And the gutters.

For now, the meter here in the newsroom is reading 0.06 inch. That seems like too little for the pace of the rainfall as I drove in this morning. The airport has seen almost a tenth so far.

I also discovered that the Sun's weather station has not been reporting to the Weather Underground Web site, where our data is displayed, since around 3 p.m. yesterday. I've rebooted here and the system seems to be on line again. My apologies for the outage. It's a very cool, but fragile technology. 

In any event, the Gulf moisture and rain that's been pressing in here from the south and west has finally arrived. It had already dropped about a quarter- to a half-inch in the mountain counties by 7 a.m. today. And there's plenty more on the radar loop headed our way. Can't remember the last all-day rain we've had here.

Forecasters are saying we should expect up to an inch today, with more showers, fog and drizzle in store for tonight and tomorrow. Friday night and Saturday look wet, too, with another inch in the cards as a cold front comes through. We may even hear some thunder on Saturday. But hang in there. There are sunny skies (with highs near 50 degrees) ahead from Sunday through Wednesday. The western slopes of the Alleghenies could see some snow showers as the cold air sweeps in off the Great Lakes.

Even as the rain gauge fills up, my inbox is empty. I need fodder for the print Weather Page comments this weekend. Got any weather or stargazing questions you're dying to ask? Send them along and bail me out. Thanks.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 12, 2008

Rainy and gray, then colder and darker

Sun Photo/Algerina Perna 2005

Okay, it's a gloomy forecast. It's gloomy on the news pages, and the business pages, too. But it can't be all bad. Look (as Obama likes to say before he delivers his point), my friends (this is a non-partisan blog), the forecast is okay. We can use a spot of rain. We've only had an inch and a half at BWI since Oct. 1. So rain is actually good news.

And gray skies are safer for our skin. And, um, cold weather is good because, well, it's November. It's supposed to be getting colder. And darker. The sun is now setting before 5 p.m., headed for the earliest sunset of the year at 4:43 p.m. in Baltimore on Dec. 7.

So all's right with the solar system, at least.

Anyway, here's the deal. Forecasters out at Sterling are watching a weakening storm system out over the Plains. It's dragging lots of moisture north out of the Gulf of Mexico and shoving it our way in the form of a warm front now pushing into the Southeast. It's already raining in southwest Virginia. Our clouds will thicken during the day today as that warmer, wetter air mass moves in, and we can expect rain to arrive by morning, of the forecast holds up.

The rain tomorrow could deliver a quarter- to a half-inch of water before it begins to break up late in the day. Clouds will linger into Friday, with continuing chances for showers right into Saturday.

That's when the next cold front begins to slide through, perhaps with some thunder overnight Friday into Saturday. As that front moves out to sea, our temperatures will drop, with lows in the 30s Saturday and Sunday nights. The new workweek will stay cold, with a high of only 50 on Monday, dropping below freezing at BWI on Monday night, and holding in the 40s Tuesday. But the sun will be back. So cheer up.

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

November 11, 2008

Blue skies are going to cloud up

That's not how the old song goes, but the as the high pressure system that's brought us these sunny skies slides off toward the east tonight and tomorrow, we will see increasing cloudiness ahead of a low approaching from the west. And by Wednesday night we will be starting a three-day stretch of cloudy weather with a good chance for rain and showers before sunshine returns on Sunday. Where did I leave that umbrella?

Glass-half-full types will note that these cold temperatures - about 5 degrees below the long-term averages - will begin to rise after today. We should be seeing highs in the low 60s again by Friday. Overnight lows will recover from the 30s to the 40s. I was outdoors on assignment all day yesterday and into the evening. It was 35 degrees in the woods of AlleganyNASA County and it took me all night under an electric blanket and a quilt to warm up.

Joe Bastardi, up at, says all this cool weather and storminess in some parts of the country are in keeping with his forecast of a colder, snowier winter this year as we return to a more "normal" winter pattern after several mild ones for our region. Read more here.

In the meantime, enjoy the almost-full moon tonight, if you can, before the clouds sock us in completely. True "full" isn't reached until 1:18 a.m. Wednesday morning. This would be the Hunter's Moon, the Frost or Beaver Moon, the second full moon after the Fall Equinox. Moon rise in Baltimore comes early, at 3:33 p.m. The sun sets at 4:55 p.m.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 10, 2008

Sunny day, cold night ahead

ginko tree fall

I'm off to Western Maryland today on an outdoor assignment that promises to chill my bones. Temperatures here in the I-95 corridor will barely make it into the 50s today, and the lows tonight will be the coldest of the week, about 5 degrees below the long-term average for the date.

Forecasters are looking for lows around 30 degrees tonight at  BWI-Marshall. It will be colder in the mountains, with lows out there in the upper 20s.

At least the fall colors have made the approach of winter a pleasure to watch. The trees have been spectacular, even in the city, where the ginkgoes in the 500 block of N. Calvert St. reached their peak yellow this weekend. I will post a picture as soon as I get back. (Update: That picture is posted above -- credit to Sun photographer Algerina Perna.) If you have any autumn foliage pictures you've taken in recent days, send them along and we'll put 'em up.

The week ahead looks fine for today and Veteran's Day. But clouds will start sliding in late tomorrow, with rain chances rising for Wednesday and on into the weekend as (another) coastal low forms on Thursday, producing an onshore wind with plenty of moisture. You know the drill. Sunday looks drier and sunnier in the wake of the next cold front.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 9, 2008

Watch out for these two

Dear Mr. Roylance,
   (Written with tongue in cheek.)
   My lady friend and I are concerned we may have become the harbingers of bad weather to places we have visited on vacations within the past five years. Cases in point:
   In January, 2004 on the way back from a bus trip to Florida we spent two extra days stranded in Walterboro, SC by an ice storm in the Carolinas and Virginia and a snowstorm back here.
   In June, 2004 we traveled to Halifax, NS that had experienced a hurricane that flattened most of the trees there in fall 2003 and a 3-foot blizzard in spring 2004.
   In February, 2005 we visited New Orleans, LA to spend a couple days there before boarding a riverboat for a cruise to Galveston TX. (Your are aware what happened to New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Galveston with Hurricane Ike this year.)
   In September, 2006 we traveled cross country on I-70 from Maryland to Utah. In the time since many of the areas we passed through have experienced record floods and snowstorms and deadly tornadoes. 
   In September, 2008 we took a two-week trip through the Great Plains and Canadian Rockies. Among our stops were Billings MT, Bismarck ND, and Deadwood, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls in SD - all of which recorded blizzard conditions and record snowfalls this fall and many of the highways we traveled on were closed for hours this week.
   My question: are we bad luck or is this just part of the normal weather menu and "luck of the draw" in our country?
Ted Lingelbach

FR: Just as I have stopped traveling to visit sick relatives (they seem to die), you and your lady friend must stop traveling. Period. If you promise to stay parked in Parkville, we promise not to tell the authorities about your trip to Cuba.           

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

November 8, 2008

Paloma now "extremely dangerous" Cat. 4


Hurricane Paloma is now packing top sustained winds of 140 mph, with higher gusts. Heavy rains and high storm surges are bearing down on south-central Cuba, which has been hard-hit by bad storms this season.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the storm track forecast. And here is the impressive view from space. This is an extraordinary storm, especially for this late in the season.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

November 7, 2008

Cat 2 Hurricane Paloma smacks Caymans, Cuba

Hurricane Paloma, now a Cat. 2 storm packing 105-mph winds, is battering the Cayman Islands with a direct hit, and moving toward Cuba. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.



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

One sweet November day

And that will be about it. One day with sunshine on all the autumn colors. One day with temperatures climbing into the 70s - maybe even flirting with the record of 77 degrees at BWI Marshall, set in 1975.

NOAAAnd then the next cold front drifts through. Clouds creep in from the west late today, then the chances for rain begin to climb for the wee hours and daytime hours tomorrow, if the forecast from Sterling holds up. Sunday will be your outdoor day this weekend, with mostly sunny skies in the forecast, and highs near 58 degrees - about normal for early November in Baltimore. 

As the cold air builds in late in the weekend, we can look forward to cooler temperatures on Monday and Veterans' Day. The holiday will see a high near 50 degrees after an overnight low of just 38.  The showers return with the approach of the storm system from the lower Mississippi Valley.

Be grateful we're not in the Dakotas, where they're having their first blizzard of the season. (Snow depth map below; darker blue is 10-20 inches). Here's the forecast for Rapid City, S.D. Bless them.NOAA

This morning's low temperature at BWI was 53 degrees. It seemed crazy warm when we stepped out the door. But it was far from the "record high minimum" for the date (62 degrees, on Nov. 7, 1938).

None of the rain in the forecast would seem to offer much hope for filling the streams again, or recharging the groundwater and the reservoirs. We have recorded just 1.5 inches at BWI since Oct. 1. About a third of Maryland is now rated "abnormally dry," according to this week's Drought Monitor report. Those areas include Southern Maryland and the more northern counties on the Eastern Shore.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 6, 2008

Paloma now a hurricane

The National Hurricane Center has upgraded Paloma to hurricane status. It is a Cat. 1 storm with top sustained winds of 75 mph. But it is still strengthening, and some models take it to a Cat. 3 before it reaches Cuba.

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

Paloma is the 8th hurricane of the 2008 season, which will end - at least officially - on Nov. 30. It does not appear to pose any threat to U.S. territory. But the Cayman Islands and Cuba, and to a lesser extent the Bahamas, will feel the wrath of The Dove.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Swirling storms over N. America, Caribbean


A look at the air space over North America and the Caribbean this morning reveals three swirling storms - one over the central U.S., a second just off the Delmarva coast, and a third building in the western Caribbean and threatening to become Hurricane Paloma sometime tomorrow.

From orbit, they look like the finger holes on a bowling ball.

Taking them one at a time, the big low spinning over the upper Plains states is bringing blizzard conditions to the Dakotas and thunderstorms to the Mississippi Valley. Up to a foot of snow is forecast today and tomorrow in the Dakotas. Travel on portions of Interstates 90 and 94 has been stopped or slowed. Wind gusts of nearly 80 mph have been recorded. Here's the wintry forecast for Rapid City, S.D.

NOAAThe second low is the one that's been drifting slowly up the Eastern Seaboard for a couple of days, pushing clouds, drizzle and showers inland over much of eastern and central Maryland. The forecast says this storm should begin to slip north and east late today and tonight, bringing us slowly clearing skies. Friday looks sunny and warm, with a high near 70 at BWI Marshall. But that will be a short break. Another cold front, with more clouds and scattered showers, is due on Saturday. The big Plains storm looks like it will veer north and leave us alone.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Paloma continues to strengthen in the western Caribbean. She's the third cyclonic storm on the map this morning, and the "thumb hole" on the bowling ball.

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

At last check, the center of Paloma was still about 75 miles northeast of the Nicaragua-Honduras NOAAborder. It was moving toward the north-northwest at about 7 mph, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. The forecast track shows it turning gradually toward the north, then the northeast.

A hurricane watch has been posted for the Cayman Islands. Jamaica and Cuba have been advised to watch the storm closely. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for parts of the Nicaraguan and Honduran coastline.

The chief threat appears to be heavy rain, with 4 to 8 inches likely, and isolated totals of a foot possible in the Central American nations.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Paloma is nearing hurricane strength this afternoon, with top sustained winds near 65 mph. It is expected to become a hurricane late tonight or tomorrow. The hurricane watch for the Cayman Islands has been upgraded to a hurricane warning. The tropical storm watch for the Central American coast has been canceled.

Actually, there are four cyclonic storms twirling out there - the fourth one in the North Atlantic. Here's an amazing satellite loop, showing the scene in a wavelength that captures water vapor.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Storm reports

November 5, 2008

New storm could become Hurricane Paloma


Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are watching a new tropical depression that formed today in the western Caribbean. It is strengthening, and was expected to become Tropical Storm Paloma by morning. It is forecast to become a hurricane - the season's 8th - later this week, and may pose a threat to the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and storm-battered Cuba.

Here is the latest advisory on Tropical Depression 17. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Tropical storm watches have been posted for portions of Nicaragua and Honduras. Tops sustained winds in the storm are blowing at 35 mph. Here's more from the hurricane center.

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, with 3 1/2 weeks to go, is already the second-most destructive on record (after 2005), with $52 billion in damage. Estimates vary. By some, more than 880 people have been killed. The worst was Hurricane Ike, which killed 126 people and caused $31 billion in damage - the third costliest in U.S. history. More than 200 people remain missing in its wake.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:59 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Hurricanes

Betwixt sun and storm


So we get clouds and a spit of rain, and then a little sunshine. Then more clouds. That's the drill today as we sit here between a slow-moving coastal storm and drier high-pressure air trying to press in from the west. You can see it all playing out in the satellite photo above.

Forecasters out at Sterling say the storm now off North Carolina's Outer Banks will push some measurable rain into Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore as it drifts slowly along the coast today. Then it should begin pulling away tomorrow toward the northeast tomorrow, with diminishing rain for Maryland. That will bring us mostly sunny skies on Friday, with a balmy high near 70 degrees as high pressure finally works its way in.

A weak cold front then brings us more clouds and a chance for rain late Friday and Saturday. There is cooler air and clearer skies on tap after that, with highs Sunday in the 50s and sunshine. Sunday will be your outdoor day this weekend, but Sunday night will turn cold again, with lows in the mid- to upper-30s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

November 4, 2008

Light rain moves up the bay


Early voters caught a break this morning as today's predicted rainfall held off through much of the morning. But forecasters say wetter weather is approaching central Maryland from the southeast, ahead of a strengthening low off the Carolina coast.

The Sterling radar loop shows the rain creeping north and east toward the Baltimore/Washington area. It should begin to be felt by late morning, then move inland. It won't be a gully washer - certainly not enough to chase off any voters waiting in outdoor lines. But an umbrella and rain gear might make the wait more comfortable. Temperatures are already approaching 60 degrees.

UPDATE: Light rain began at BWI before 11 a.m. Annapolis reported light rain and mist around 10 a.m.

Here's how Sterling's morning discussion put the rain threat to voters (with my edits in parentheses to clarify NWS abbreviations):



SHOULD DETER NO ONE (from) VOTING. (Precipitation) SHOULD BE ON THE (light)
(predicted) TO MOVE SLOWLY (north)..WITH (precipitation) ... WORKING ITS WAY INTO LOWER (southern) MD ... AS THE (rainfall) TRIES TO TRACK FURTHER NW IT (will) BE RUNNING INTO
THE REMNANTS OF THE (ridge, or high pressure)..AND (probabilities of precipitation) DECREASE QUICKLY. BUT W/CONTINUED (easterly) FLOW GIVEN A STRONGER LOW FORMING OFF THE SE (coast, expect) PERIODIC RAIN FALL ACROSS MUCH OF THE AREA THIS AFTN. (Northwestern)
CORNER OF (forecast area) LEAST (likely) TO (have) ACCUMULATING (rainfall).

Here's the forecast. Plenty of chances for rain continuing through the afternoon and on into Wednesday and Thursday. We'll catch a break with "partly cloudy" skies on Friday, if the forecast holds up. But then another cold frontal passage will boost rain chances again on Saturday.  Drier, cooler air will move in from the north and west late on Saturday and into next week.

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

November 3, 2008

Election Day now looks gray, rainy


Forecasters out in Sterling have changed their tune on Election Day weather. Where they saw mostly sunny skies in the forecasts issued on Friday, they now see "likely" rain for our region.

The culprit is a coastal storm that's brewing, well, off the Carolina coast. It's cranking up farther west, and closer to the coast, than originally forecast. It's the second time that's happened in the past week. Here's the radar loop.

Anyway, the circulation around the low is already bringing clouds and drizzle in off the Atlantic on northeast winds this morning, even though our barometer - far from the center of the low - is still quite high (30.51 and falling as I write this morning). 

The rain chances continue to increase overnight tonight, reaching 60 percent for Tuesday and Tuesday night. Rain chances diminish by Wednesday, but hold around 30 percent for the rest of the work week, and right into Saturday. "Sunny" doesn't appear in the forecast again until Sunday. Sorry.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 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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