baltimoresun.com

« November 2008 | Main | January 2009 »

December 30, 2008

New Year's sky show in the west

NASAIt's been a month since the great Dec. 1 triple conjunction of the moon, Venus and Jupiter in the western sky. The moon has orbited the Earth once since then, so it's back in the western sky for another rendezvous with Venus.

Look to the west after sunset tonight, and especially tomorrow night - New Year's Eve - for another lovely conjunction of a very slender crescent moon and the brilliant planet Venus. Tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 30) Venus will be high over the southwestern horizon. The moon, just past "new," will stand well below, to the right.

Tomorrow, the moon will have a bit more thickness to it, and it will be right above Venus. (The NASA photo above shows another close conjunction of the moon and Venus, with a different configuration.)

Jupiter is still there, too, but far closer to the horizon now and perhaps lost in the air pollution, twilight or obstructing trees and buildings. If you manage to find it, binoculars may bring out Mercury, which will be close beside Jupiter (from Earth's perspective) tonight and tomorrow night.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:04 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

December 28, 2008

Clearing and cooling ahead

It was weirdly mild in Bawlmer this afternoon. Saw lots of folks in shorts. Then again, such weather is not all that unusual around here.

The thermometer down at BWI-Marshall airport reached 69 degrees this afternoon - more than 25 degrees above the average high for the date. It was not a record. That would be the 74-degree high recorded in the city on Dec. 28, 1946.

But it does measure up as the warmest day for Baltimore since Nov. 15, when we saw 73 degrees at BWI. And, it was the mildest December day in more than two years - since the 72-degree high reached on Dec. 18, 2006.

We could have done better with a little sunshine. All but 10 dates in December at BWI have records of 70 degrees or higher.

On the other hand, our morning low at BWI was 56 degrees. That's two degrees above the record high minimum for the date, set back in 1881. If temperatures don't drop below 56 degrees before midnight tonight, that (56) could stand as a new record high minimum temperature for the date.

The weather ahead looks like it will be clearing up as a cold front passes through late today and high pressure begins to build into the region. You could already see the clear blue skies on the city's northern horizon this afternoon. Daytime highs will slide into the 50s for the next few days, and the 40s by Wednesday. There is mention of a chance of snow showers in the area for late in the week.

If today's weather seemed odd, get a load of this: My family and I were up in Erie, Pa. for the holiday. We enjoyed snow much of the day on Christmas Day. The next night included thunder and lightning as warm air moved from the southwest and into the Great Lakes. And by Saturday morning temperatures were in the mid-60s - the same Gulf air mass we had in Baltimore today.

On the ride home Saturday, we drove out of the mild air and back into the cold air and fog hugging the east side of the mountains. Temperatures dropped from the 60s to the 40s within a couple of miles.

Weird.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 27, 2008

Did anyone feel the Pa. tremor?

There was a small earth tremor just after midnight this morning, centered only about 57 miles north of Baltimore, and I'm wondering if anyone in the area felt it.

The US Geological Survey pinpointed the center of the shake two miles north northeast of a place called Salunga-Landisville, Pa. I've never heard of the place, but it's a bit north and west of Lancaster. It struck at 12:04 a.m. EST and was rated at a mere 3.4 on the Richter scale. Not much, to be sure, but big enough to be felt. I' ve had one email from Bryan in Timonium telling me he felt it there.

USGSHere is a map of the area. The orange box shows the location of the tremor. And here's a link to more maps.

Small earthquakes in this part of the country are not common, but they are not unheard-of either.  Here is a map showing where similar small quakes have been located in recent years. Today's shake was the biggest in a series this fall in the same general area. Here's a link to a list.

The seismic hazard is pretty low around Baltimore, although we have had several in recent years - including one in the Dundalk area, and another in Lochearn. I don't have those stories at my fingertips. But here's a link to the Maryland Geological Survey, which has more details.

The risk of seismic activity increases as you go up the East Coast to the New York City area. Here's a hazard map.

If you felt this morning's tremor, leave us a comment and describe what you felt.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:28 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Phenomena
        

December 24, 2008

Apollo 8: a moment in space-time

Forty years ago tonight, three NASA astronauts held the world transfixed as they transmitted a Christmas Eve message from the moon.

It was the Apollo 8 mission - the first manned spacecraft to cross the 240,000-mile gulf from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit. On board were Commander Frank Borman, Command module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders.

Their goal was not to land on the lunar surface; that would come seven months later with Apollo 11. Instead, they were to make the first crossing to the moon, enter lunar orbit and spin around the moon 10 times before heading home again. 

NASAOn the evening of Dec. 24, at lunar sunrise, the crew went on live TV and sent back eerie images of the gray, forbidding lunar surface, with the blue-and-white globe of the sunlit Earth hanging over the horizon.

Lovell observed: "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth."  The image, and that sentiment, helped to inspire a generation of people to a new kind of thinking about the planet - not as a resource to be exploited, but as a spacecraft on which all of us are passengers, sharing limited food, air and water. Break this, spoil these life-support systems, and we will have no place else to go.

Then Anders said, "For all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you."

He and his mates then took turns reading from the story of the Creation, from Genesis. "In the NASAbeginning. God created the heaven and earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep..."

For those of us who listened that night, the effect was electric. Voices, crimped and distorted by tiny microphones and the vast distance, spoke to us from THE MOON! And they spoke of our home planet, and of beginnings, and possibilities for a great human adventure. All this on a night that, for many of us, symbolized hope and our shared humanity. Who could sleep?!

It was Borman, the commander, who signed off that night: "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

To watch, and listen to the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast, click here.

WeatherBlog readers: I will be away from the Weather Control Center for a few days to pray for snow and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. The weather buttons and levers will be unmanned until Jan. 5, although I may look in from time to time to post any comments you may offer. Likewise, my mug will be absent from the print Weather Page on Jan. 1-4. My gift to you. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:31 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

December 23, 2008

Teens today, 50s tomorrow

Overnight lows dropped into the low teens across much of Maryland early today, with single digits recorded again out in the far western counties.

We had a low of 12 degrees out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. It was 19 here at The Sun in downtown Baltimore. The airport reported 14 degrees - not quite tying for the second-coldest night of the year.  

But it could be worse, as residents of many northern states could testify this morning. (That's this morning's snow- and ice-cover map below.)

The high-pressure system that delivered this arctic chill is headed out to sea tonight, and in its wake we will warm into the 50s tomorrow.

NOAAThe rub in this is that the departure of the high opens us up for the arrival of another low-pressure system now forming in the central Plains states. That low will help to draw warmer, wetter air up into the region from the South. And that will mean rain on Wednesday. Rain, that is, as soon as the incoming warm air is able to drive out the lingering surface cold air we're enjoying this morning. Until it does, some of us could see a period of freezing rain early Wednesday before everything turns to plain rain.

Forecasters say the most likely geography for freezing precip is across the northern tier of counties. Ice accumulations, if any, will be light, they say - less than a tenth of an inch. Once it turns to rain during the day Wednesday, rain amounts will become more generous, with up to a quarter-inch possible Wednesday night.

The weather service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the area. All things considered, a miserable night for flying a sleigh. The only prospect for flakes in the air on Christmas Eve will be in the mountains of western Maryland, where the arrival of colder air behind the storm may touch off some snow showers late in the evening.

Christmas Day looks quite pleasant - partly sunny with daytime highs a few degrees above the long-term averages. We should see the upper 40s as the storm moves off, another cold front moves by and high pressure returns. Briefly.

By Friday night, the next low will be moving in, with more rain scheduled overnight Friday and Saturday.

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

December 22, 2008

Mt. Washington: minus-12 with 80 mph winds

Rob Jones/Mt. Washington ObservatorySure it's cold and blustery. But at least you're not stationed on top of Mt. Washington, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The weather station at the Mt. Washington Observatory there is reporting a temperature of minus-12 degrees this afternoon, with sustained winds of 80 mpg - Cat. 1 hurricane force - gusting to 119 mph. That works out to a wind chill at the summit of minus-54 degrees. No stepping outside for a smoke today.

The place is socked in, but you're welcome to make an armchair visit anytime. Here's their website, with current conditions here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Cold and blustery, but not for long

If the forecast out of Sterling holds up, this could be the coldest day of 2008. And when you add in the blustery winds, it will feel like it's even colder.

Sun Photo/Glenn Fawcett 2007They're calling for a high at BWI this afternoon of just 26 degrees. It's 22 now at The Sun, after an overnight low of just 16 degrees. We had the same - 16 - out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning. And it was 15 at BWI.

Here are some other lows across the state this morning, with some single-digit readings out in Garrett and a few sub-zero numbers in SW Pennsylvania and in West Virginia. Be thankful you don't live farther north.

There have been only five days in 2008 when the daytime highs did not reach 32 degrees:

Jan. 3:  31 degrees

Jan 21:  28 degrees

Feb. 11:  28 degrees

Feb. 12:  31 degrees

And, if the 13-degree low forecast for BWI tonight proves accurate, that would tie for the second-coldest reading in 2008. The coldest was an 8-degree low on Jan. 21. 

Electric power producers in the region are bracing for what could be the year's highest wintertime demand for electric power this evening. Here's the word from the PJM Interconnection - the region's power grid managers:

"Today’s peak demand for electricity in the PJM region is forecast to exceed 113,000 megawatts (MW) this evening. PJM’s all-time winter peak demand was 118,800 MW on Feb. 5, 2007, at 8 p.m. eastern. Last winter’s PJM peak demand was 111,724 MW on Jan. 3, 2008, at 7 p.m. eastern."

The weather service has posted a Wind Advisory for Washington County and the northern Shore. They're expecting winds of 20 to 30 mph today, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Combined with the arctic air that swept across the region yesterday and last night, that may have pushed wind chill numbers below zero early this morning.

A Hazardous Weather Outlook has been issued for Baltimore and its suburbs through the afternoon as low pressure moves up the East Coast, and a strong arctic high builds into the Plains.

Temperatures in the 20s at this time of year in Baltimore are almost 20 degrees below the long-term averages, so they generally don't last for long. And that should be true this week. Expect a very cold night tonight, and clear skies. Temperatures will bleed away into the low- to mid-teens. Then things should begin to moderate.

Tuesday should bring us back above freezing, but between the warmer, wetter air from the South, and an approaching cold front, we're headed for more clouds and a cold rain Tuesday night and Wednesday. Some of it may begin with freezing rain early Wednesday morning before shifting to all-rain as the front moves to our south and stalls. Sounds a lot like this past Saturday's weather.

Anyway, get past the rain (and maybe a final dusting of snow showers before it ends late on Wednesday) and the drier air moves back in. Then we're looking at partly sunny skies and seasonable temperatures in the 40s for Christmas Day. Friday looks like more rain chances, continuing into the weekend, with temperatures a few degrees above the long-term averages.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 21, 2008

A thin glazing, then sunshine

There was a thin glaze of ice this morning out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The stair railing was icy, too, but the walks and the streets appeared to have been mostly spared - either because they were still too warm, or treated overnight with salt. Traffic on the way to work was sparse, but moved without difficulty. Here's this morning's ice tally from Sterling. Looks like there was even a dusting of snow to our north and west.

I guess we were spared, especially in light of the nasty weather underway in much of the northern tier of states. Best of all, forecasters out at Sterling are saying these clouds should begin to break up later today, admitting some welcome sunshine after all these days of gloom and rain. Temperatures here at The Sun have already begun to climb above freezing, although the barometer has not yet reversed its dive.

Sun Photo/Larry C. Price 1998Sunshine would also allow the Winter Solstice program scheduled for the Maryland Science Center this afternoon to include planned eye-safe observations of the sun with the historic Alvin Clark telescope (left). The solstice programs begin at noon. The observatory opens at 1 p.m. (Call 410 545-5940 for more information).

Today is, after all, the date of the winter solstice. At 7:04 this morning the sun ended its long drift toward the south and paused before beginning its return toward Earth's Northern Hemisphere. From here, days begin to grow longer, and the nights shorter. We have already passed the date (Dec. 7) of the earliest sunset. The latest sunrise occurs on Jan. 4.

For some cultures, today was not the beginning of winter, but its mid-point. From here, the days grow longer with a promise of spring and renewed life. It was a time for celebration, and merry-making. There was noisemaking to scare away the evils of winter and deprivation, and bonfires to chase away the dark and bring back light and warmth. That strategy seems to have failed in Seattle this weekend.

I prefer the notion of solstice as mid-winter. The "beginning of winter" suggests we have a long, hard slog ahead. Mid-winter suggests progress and hope. How about you?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:16 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 20, 2008

"Minor" ice and sleet back in forecast

Forecasters out at Sterling have see-sawed back and forth all week on this, so take it with a grain of road salt: They've issued a Winter Weather Advisory (blue at left) for the entire state west of I-NOAA95, calling for ice and sleet by early morning as this next storm slides along the stalled cold front to our south.

The good news is they're not very impressed with the amount of precipitation that's due, or its ability to produce a serious icing problem before temperatures warm late in the morning and it all begins to switch back to plain rain. Here's a snippet:

"I WANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT THIS IS GOING TO BE A MINOR WINTER PRECIP EVENT
WITH WINTER PRECIP POTENTIAL NOT LASTING MORE THAN 6 HRS.,"

Here's the forecast for BWI, which is east of I-95.

So sleep in 'til noon and you won't have a thing to worry about. Here's the current discussion from Sterling. And here's the advisory.

Of more interest, perhaps, is what comes in behind the rain and sleet. Cold air, and lots of it, for Monday and Tuesday. Get this:

"TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF THE STRENGTH OF THE COLD AIR THAT`LL BE
MOVING INTO THE AREA SUN NIGHT - AT 12Z (9 a.m.) FARGO ND WAS +23 F. AT 18Z
(3 p.m.) IT IS -1 F. THIS WILL BE PUSHING INTO THE REGION SUN NIGHT CREATING
PLUMMETING TEMPS AND A COLD NW WIND. BY MON MRNG EXPECT EVERYWHERE WEST
OF I-95 WL BE SUB 20 W/ WIND CHILLS 10 OR BELOW. 

"MON LOOKS BLUSTERY W/ HIGHS RANGING FROM THE UPPER TEENS FAR WEST TO MID 30S
E OF -I95."

Bundle up, campers.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 19, 2008

Best travel days: Monday, Tuesday, Christmas

Go early, or go late. That seems to be the best advice for Holiday travel next week. The 7-day forecast this morning out of Sterling calls for rainy weather for the weekend, with a risk of some Sun Photo/Amy Davis 2008icing to our north and west. And Wednesday looks like more rain. So, if you want mostly sunny skies for the ride to Grandma's house, the best days for travel look like Monday and Tuesday. Or, if you haven't far to go, make the trip on Christmas Day.

The long-range forecast from Sterling calls for a sunny Christmas in Baltimore, with a high temperature of 39 degrees under sunny skies. Monday and Tuesday should be mostly sunny, too, but cold, with highs only in the low 30s, and overnight lows Monday into Tuesday in the teens.

But there's a lot of rain ahead before the new week begins.

Forecasters are looking through today's murky weather and calling for up to a quarter-inch of rain as a low-pressure system rides quickly along a cold front now draped along the Mason-Dixon Line. We are on the warm side of the front for now, so today will be the mildest day of the next seven, with a high around 45 degrees.

That means we'll see all rain from this initial storm. You can track the rainfall and watch the AccuWeather.combarometer fall at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets. Winds may pick up late today as the low zips by just to our north and heads out to sea. Upstate PA and NY and New England will get some snow out of this, but we're looking and plain rain. That's AccuWeather.com's snow map at right.

After the low passes, temperatures will start to fall. There could be some flakes in the far western counties, but not here, forecasters say.

Saturday and Sunday will feel more like Christmas, with highs only in the 30s. The cold front will hold to our south, and the next low will track along that line to the NC/VA border and deepen offshore. That will bring us cloudy skies Saturday, and more precipitation very early Sunday morning. Forecasters insist we'll see rain, with the only risk of something frozen along the (east-west leg of the) Mason-Dixon Line, again, as well as the higher elevations to our west. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the parade of storms.

So we escape winter again, for now. Once the weekend storm clears, we're looking at colder, drier weather for a couple of days - time to make your break for Grandma's place. Monday night into Tuesday will be the coldest time of the coming week, with lows in the teens at BWI.

For Wednesday, forecasters are spotting another low, bringing a 50 percent chance for more rain. But again, no frozen precip. here. Christmas Day should be sunny and bright.

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

December 18, 2008

Wintry mix washed from weekend forecast

Sun Photo/Mark Bugnaski 1994Forecast models are now showing the air over Maryland will simply be too warm for the Saturday/Sunday storm to deliver any of the snow, sleet and freezing rain forecast earlier today.

Looks like an all-rain event for the Baltimore region. Here's the discussion.

Worse, next week's storm looks like rain, too. Forecasters are now dreaming of a wet Christmas.

Sorry about that. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Rain Friday; snow/rain for the weekend

No, it doesn't look like a snowy blowout this weekend, despite the hopes kindled by yesterday's discussion from Sterling. Sorry, all you snow-lovers. I know you have suffered through two snow-deprived winters and long now for a big storm and a couple of snow days to fill that emptiness. 

On the other hand, we won't see any bluebirds, either. Forecasters are describing a nasty weekend ahead. It will launch with light rain beginning after midnight tonight, if their forecast holds up. They seem to be backing off even a mention of freezing rain along the Mason-Dixon Line, and rain totals during the day Friday will be paltry.

But that rain will usher in the next cold front, which will drift as far south as the Carolinas FRiday night and stall. That will push our nightime temperatures below freezing and set us up for some frozen precip as another area of low pressure slides along the front. That storm will spawn a second low over Central Virginia. And as that low passes off the coast, we'll get something frozen from the sky.

Forecasters think the precip will start out as a "wintry mix" of rain and snow and sleet overnight Saturday into Sunday. We may see it turn to all rain here during the day Sunday, but as colder air works its way into the region later on Sunday, we may see it switch back to all snow before it ends.

All-in-all, none too promising for those hungry for a real snowstorm. Our next shot, as it happens, is targeted on the mid to end of next week, right around Christmas. That's a still a long way out for forecasters. But the discussion today talks of "tranquil" weather for the first part of the week. Then: "The next cold front is expected by mid to late week ... bringing another round of precipitation." 

Thin hope, I know. But it's all we have at the moment.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 17, 2008

Weekend forecast: Get outa town

Ya gotta love a weather forecaster with a sense of humor. Okay, he's not Steve Martin (a former TV weatherman, and he played one in "L.A. Story"), but he does have a wry sense of impending doom as he looks as a wintry weekend forecast:

"If you don't like winter weather," forecaster Andy Woodcock said from Sterling this morning, "might be a good time to call your favorite airline and get that ticket to Miami."

Sun Photo/Doug Kapustin Oct. 29, 2008Here's what he's looking at: A cold front is due to cross the region late Friday into Saturday, dropping temperatures here below freezing Saturday night. Then, the front stalls in the Carolinas, and a low-pressure system starts tracking along the front, reforming off the Carolina coast. That is, Woodcock says, "a very classic" setup for wintry weather in the Washington/Baltimore area. Here's more from this morning's discussion:

"KEEP YOUR EYE ON LATE SAT NIGHT INTO SUN. SIGNIFICANT WINTER EVENT MAY BE
UNFOLDING DURING THIS TIME. GFS (COMPUTER MODEL) IS GETTING CONSISTENT IN SHOWING A VERY CLASSIC PORTION FOR WINTER WEATHER IN THE METRO AREAS AND POINTS WEST. IAD (DULLES) FORECAST MAX TEMP OF 33 IS DOWN A DEGREE VERSUS YESTERDAYS MEX MAX GUIDANCE FOR SUNDAY AND IT WILL START OFF BELOW FRZG TO START THE EVENT.

"AGAIN...STAY TUNED."

So far, the 7-day forecast for BWI-Marshall is talking about rain AND snow for the Saturday night and Sunday period, with overnight temperatures at BWI in the upper 20s, rising into the low 30s Sunday. If we do get snow, it looks like wet snow, possibly changing to rain as temperatures rise. We'll see. 

AccuWeather.com, meanwhile, sees this storm as just the start of a succession of nasty storm systems that will be moving across the contiment in the next week or more - any of which could bring us wintry misery (or joy!) as the Holiday travel season begins. Here's more.

For now, we're well out of the winter weather woods today as temperatures rise into the 40s. Thursday looks mostly cloudy, with rain likely again Thursday night and Friday as the new cold front approaches.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:59 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 16, 2008

Some icing possible north and west

Although the cold front has passed to our south, dropping temperatures from the 60s we enjoyed yesterday, the cold air is taking its time rolling in. But we've probably already seen our warmest temperatures for the day. Forecasters think they'll be dropping this afternoon, and as the rain picks up, counties north and west of the urban corridor may still see some icing conditions around rush hour this evening. Here's the radar loop.

NOAA"Not quite confident that the quarter inch of ice will be realized," the folks at Sterling said this morning. But "cold air should settle right along the MD/PA border this afternoon and overnight. Think these areas have the best potential to see some icing and snow/sleet accumulation (especially during the rush hour)."

UPDATE: It's 30 and snowing at Hagerstown; 39 with light rain and falling temperatures at Baltimore at 1:30 p.m.

UPDATE 9:26 p.m.: Here are some winter weather reports from around the region.     

A Hazardous Weather Outlook is posted for the Baltimore area, noting the risk of icing in northern Baltimore County. There is a Winter Weather Advisory up for Carroll and Frederick counties, with mention of snow and ice overnight tonight. The western counties are under a Winter Storm Warning, with up to a quarter-inch of ice and an inch or two or snow on top of that. NOAA

 Wednesday should bring all-rain across the region as low pressure systems track along the front. But the precip will be diminishing. Thursday looks like more of the same, but Friday should see some warming - into the 60s again ahead of the NEXT cold front. That one, early Friday, could bring more rain or snow showers, and return daytime temperatures to the 40s, where they belong this time of year.

Saturday could bring drier weather , with some sunshine peeking through. But Sunday, forecasters say, could be "a washout," with temperatures - and precipitation types - on the borderline. If the models are correct, they're saying, "it is not going to be a pretty day."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Tremor rattles Charleston

A small earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale rattled portions of eastern South Carolina at 7:42 this morning. The quake was centered 3 miles southeast of Goose Creek, and 6 miles north of North Charleston. Here's a local news report.

A little shake like this one would not normally get much attention. But there is a fairly serious history of earthquakes in Charleston. They're not common, but they have caused terrible destruction.

The most memorable was the quake in August 1886, which has since been estimated at between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter scale. It devastated Charleston, causing the destruction of a quarter of the valuation of the city's buildings and killing more than 60 people. Aftershocks continued for decades. Some even believe the more recent tremors in Charleston are in fact aftershocks from the 1886 quake. Here's more.

Most remarkably, that 1886 quake in Charleston was felt across a vast region - as far north as Boston, west to Chicago and south to Cuba. It was even felt far at sea - in Bermuda. Baltimoreans reported the shaking, too. 

Here is a map of the Zip codes of people who told the USGS they felt this morning's tremor:

USGS 

Here is more on Maryland earthquakes.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Phenomena
        

December 15, 2008

Icy mix threatens from Carroll west

Hard to believe after today's highs in the 60s, but ... The National Weather Service has posted a nasty menu of winter weather advisories, watches and warnings for counties north and west of Baltimore as the cold air that has clobbered the Plains states with nasty weather over the weekend begins to edge into Maryland in the next few days.

Sun Photo/Nanine Hartzenbusch 2007Howard, Montgomery, Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties are under a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday morning. Freezing rain mixed with sleet is due late tonight in the Allegenies, with some ice accumulation possible.

Icing could increase to a quarter-inch on Tuesday, forecasters said, especially west of the Blue Ridge and parts of north-central Maryland. That has prompted issuance of a Winter Storm Watch for Tuesday evening through Wednesday for Frederick and Carroll counties.

Way out west in Garrett, folks are under a Winter Storm Watch issued by the NWS forecasters in Pittsburgh. They'll looking for freezing rain, sleet and snow Tuesday evening into Wednesday as the cold front moves in. 

Down here along the Chesapeake, we're told to expect much colder temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, with highs only in the 40s. But it's still a rain-only forecast for us. We reached a notable high of 67 degrees this afternoon at BWI, about 20 degrees above the long-term average for the date. Notable, but short of the record 70 degrees set on Dec. 15, 1971.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Sunshine departs for the week

If the forecast holds up, that glimmer of sunshine you see outside this morning will be the last we'll enjoy for the week. A series of slow-moving frontal systems will bring unsettled weather, with clouds and rain beginning later today and continuing at least through Thursday. Friday may bring a brief peek at the sun, with plenty of clouds moving back in until Sunday.

It's not often we see the NWS's 7-day forecast jammed up with rain icons like this one. We've had 1.78 inches of rain so far this month at BWI, a bit more than the average for this point in December. But other portions of the state - especially the Eastern Shore - are way above average, having clocked 2 to 4 inches or more last week. 

The Drought Monitor maps were already looking better even before those rains arrived. This week's precipitation will be just what we need to help recharge reservoirs and ground water levels.

The really good news is that we have come up on the warm side of the sharply defined temperature differences across the nation. Frigid arctic air has tumbled out of Canada into the Plains, bringing bitterly cold and wintry precipitation from the Dakotas to Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The East Coast remains east of the jet stream and the cold frontal boundary, so we get to enjoy unseasonably warm temperatures with our rain, for now. Highs could reach 60 degrees here today before slipping back into the more seasonable 40s tomorrow and Wednesday as a cold front drifts by. Then we'll rise back toward 60 late in the week ahead of the next cold front.

Yearning for more snow than we're seeing? Start the car. Here is the snow cover map for Sunday.

National Ice Center/ NOAA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 12, 2008

Tonight's Long Night Moon is closest in 15 years

The full moon that rises over Baltimore tonight is the last before the winter solstice, which makes it the Long Night Moon. Some also call it the Moon Before Yule.

NASABut this full moon is even more notable for the fact that it will be the closest Earth's only natural satellite has come to its mother planet in 15 years, and the nearest until 2016. If there were an easy way to compare it side-by-side with a more average full moon, it would even appear visibly nearer - and larger. Maybe you'll notice anyway. It's said to be as much as 14 percent wider and 30 percent brighter than your run-of-the-mill full moon. 

This event is called "perigee," the moon's closest approach to the Earth for the month as it moves along in its 28-day elliptical orbit of the Earth. In this case, that translates to about 221,559 miles at 5 p.m. this afternoon. That's about 25 minutes after moonrise in Baltimore. If the clouds clear off soon enough, we may actually get a look at it. 

The Maryland Science Center will be offering even closer views of the moon, 5:30 to 9 this evening, weather permitting, through their Crosby Ramsey Memorial Observatory telescope, where it is Stargazing Friday. No charge.  For information, call 410 685-5225.

For the period from the year 1750 through 2125, the nearest perigee was 221,441 miles, on Jan. 4, 1912. The farthest apogee will be 252,724 miles, on Feb. 3, 2125. So during tonight's perigee the moon will be just 118 miles farther away than the closest perigee of that entire 375-year period. Cool!

This perigee also comes just a few hours after the moon is precisely full - at 11:38 EST this morning. And when the full moon and perigee coincide, we can anticipate unusually high tides, although wind and weather conditions may blunt the effect. You can track the tides in real time here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:23 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

....or not

Looks like the forecasters out at Sterling worried us needlessly with their fretting late yesterday over where and when the rain would give way to flurries, or snow showers, and whether as much as an inch of snow might slick up our morning rush.

It didn't. At least not in the metro areas.

We never sank below 39 degrees here at The Sun. And we haven't recorded any precipitation since shortly after midnight. And that's okay. We had plenty - all rain - yesterday. We clocked in 1.42 inches here at The Sun for the duration of the storm. BWI saw 1.59 inches.

Worcester County wins the prize for the most rain, with more than 4.6 inches at Berlin and Bishopville. Rivers and streams across the region are at or near record levels for the date. (That's Western Run in Ashland below.) Here are some more readings: Western Run at Ashland/Frank Roylance

Prince Frederick:  2.53 inches

Vienna:  2.25 inches

Salisbury:  2.22 inches

Frederick:  2.22 inches

Westminster:  2.09 inches

Bel Air:  2.01 inches

Columbia: 1.98 inches

Cockeysville: 1.87 inches

Towson:  1.78 inches

It's been a tough week for meteorologists. This storm produced snow in New Orleans, and Houston, but it couldn't sqeeze out a flake for Baltimore. Listen to them squirm in this morning's discussion from Sterling:

"THE CHALLENGES JUST KEEP COMING ... ALONG THE WESTERN FRINGES
PRECIPITATION IS FALLING INTO COOLER AIR AND CHANGING TO SNOW.

MAIN PROB IS THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY CURRENTLY IN EFFECT. PRECIPITATION IN SOUTHERN VA IS THE MAJOR SOURCE OF PRECIPITATION IN THE I-95 CORRIDOR EARLY THIS
MRNG...NOT A CHGOVR TO SNOW AS COLDER AIR PULLS IN BEHIND A DEPARTING
COLD FRONT. BECAUSE OF THE PRECIPITATION TRAJECTORY BELIEVE MAJORITY OF PRECIPITATION IN MONT/HOWARD/BALT COUNTIES WILL BE RAIN BETWEEN 10 AND 14Z [7 AND 11 EST].

"ANOTHER FACT TO CONSIDER IS THAT BOTH MD AND VA ROAD TEMPS ARE IN THE UPPER 30S.
FOR THIS YR WE HAVE IMPLEMENTED LOWER ADVISORY CRITERIA IN MAJOR
METRO ROUTES DURING RUSH HRS (1"). BUT EVEN W/ THAT AM UNSURE 1" IS
GOING TO BE REALIZED...CERTAINLY NOT ON ROADS AND I`M DOUBTING
EVEN ON GRASSY SURFACES. BECAUSE OF THIS I`M PULLING THE ADVISORY FOR
MONT AND HOWARD.

"MUCH OF BALTIMORE COUNTY TO BE LIQUID AS
WELL...BUT COULD SEE A CHG TO SNOW IN NORTHERN PART OF COUNTY SO THEY
STAY IN ADVSRY.

"FURTHER WEST THE 2" ADVSRY CRITERIA REMAINS. I WISH I COULD SAY MY
CONFIDENCE OF THAT WAS HIGH...BUT IT`S NOT. HOWEVER I DON`T FEEL
CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO OVERTURN..AS COOLER AIR WILL BE ENTERING THE
AREA AND SOME SNOWFALL IS LIKELY. EVEN THERE, ROAD TEMPS ARE IN UPPER 30S
SO ACCUMULATION ON ROADS NOT EXPECTED...ONLY ON GRASS."

Straightforward enough for you?

The bottom line is we'll have to wait a while longer for our first real bout with Old Man Winter. The 7-day forecast calls for the clouds to clear out gradually today as the storm departs to the northeast and high pressure builds in for the weekend. 

The only sunshine in the forecast comes Saturday and Sunday, with temperatures warming  to near 60 degrees again by Monday as we come into the return flow around the high and winds swing back around to the south.

Then things get wet again as another cold front approaches from the west. Forecasters expect  steady rainfall across the region on Tuesday, cooling things back closer to seasonable 40s.

For snow lovers there is only bad news in the discussion: "No major storm systems highlighted on the horizon as zonal (west to east) flow sets up and these weak low pressure systems slide across the region at a fairly fast pace."

You could move to Boston.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 11, 2008

Early morning snow could slick rush hour

It won't be much. But forecasters at Sterling NOW are warning that this rain could turn to snow just before rush hour Friday morning around Baltimore. It's not likely to accumulate much on the roads. But a burst of heavy snow showers here and there could stick just long enough to slick the roads as Sun Photo/Doug Kapustin 12/5/2007commuters are heading out.

I'm betting that will spook some school systems - especially north and west of I-95 - just enough to delay openings. We'll see.

But it's a tough call. Forecasters have been struggling all week with this complex and powerful storm system. And pinning down the rain/sleet/snow line in central Maryland has always been a winter challenge.

Earlier forecasts today seemed to downplay the risk of wintry precipitation to Baltimore and Washington. The tone seems to have changed tonight.

Here's part of this evening's discussion from Sterling:

"FRIDAY MORNING FORECAST IS EXTREMELY CHALLENGING. WESTERN EDGE OF
THE RAIN SHIELD WILL HAVE MOVED EAST...BUT THE UPPER LOW OVER THE
DEEP SOUTH NOW /WHICH PRODUCED SNOW OVER LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI
TODAY/ WILL MOVE NORTHEAST ACROSS THE REGION.

"UPPER LOW WILL LIKELY WEAKEN ... BUT WILL LIKELY BRING SOME
PRECIPITATION RIGHT AROUND THE MORNING RUSH HOUR ... ALTHOUGH SURFACE TEMPERATURES ARE STILL FORECAST TO BE ABOVE FREEZING EAST OF THE MTNS. SNOW IS THE PREFERRED P-TYPE NORTH AND WEST OF INTERSTATE 95...WITH A RAIN/SNOW MIX IN BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON AND AREAS SOUTHEAST OF THERE /EXCEPT FOR ALL RAIN IN
LOWER SOUTHERN MARYLAND/.

"AM MOST CONCERNED ABOUT LIGHT SNOWFALL
NORTH AND WEST OF BALTIMORE WASHINGTON...WHERE THERE IS THE
POTENTIAL FOR AN INCH OR SO OF SNOW. RECALL THAT [Sterling] NOW ISSUES
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES DURING HIGH IMPACT TIMES /IE RUSH HOUR
TIMES/ WHEN AN INCH OF SNOW IS EXPECTED.

"AN INCH OF SNOW IS NOW FORECAST ACROSS THE NORTHWEST SUBURBS OF BALTIMORE AND
WASHINGTON ... ACCUMULATIONS WOULD MAINLY BE ON NON-PAVED SURFACES /GRASS...CARS...ETC/ WITH
TEMPERATURES MAINLY IN THE MID 30S...BUT IF THE SNOW COMES DOWN HARD
ENOUGH IN A BURST THEN ITS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION FOR A SLOPPY
ACCUMULATION ON SOME ROADS."

However it falls, it is plenty of water. Here are the storm's total accumulation estimates, based on radar returns.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

"Copious" rain today; snow risk fades

NOAA 

Forecasters out at Sterling have had a devil of a time working this week's brewing storms. But they've settled on one thing: we're going to see lots of rain in the next 24 hours.

It's also becoming more likely that any changeover to snow we may see early Friday morning will be fleeting, and unlikely to have much impact in the Baltimore region. Temperatures just won't be cold enough here. Out west, say, from Frederick west, snow, sleet and freezing rain may become more of a headache. First the rain.

"It looks like it's going to rain quite a lot today," forecaster Andy Woodcock said in this morning's discussion from Sterling.

Gulf moisture is streaming north along the east side of a cold front. The national radar loop is pretty impressive. West of the front, the cold air is driving snow as far south as Galveston and Houston and parts of Louisiana. The heavy rain will be welcome in the South - places like northern Georgia, western S.C. and N.C. and eastern Tenn., where they've been suffering with extreme drought for several years.

The heaviest precipitation should arrive here between mid-afternoon and midnight tonight. The forecast calls for up to an inch today, 1 to 2 inches tonight and another quarter- to a half-inch tomorrow before it's all over. I would anticipate a slow evening rush hour today.

You can track rainfall at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert & Centre streets, here.

With all that rain coming, the NWS has issued flood watches through Friday morning for all of eastern Maryland, from Ocean City westward to Harford, Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties. Two to 4 inches are possible, and if it rains that hard, small streams are likely to overflow their banks onto low-lying roads. 

Sun Photo/Doug Kapustin 12/13/2003Which triggers the usual reminders for the dim of mind: Do not try to drive through flood waters. Turn Around; Don't Drown. You just won't believe how little water it takes to float your car until you're sailing downstream with creek water streaming across your feet.

That said, if you see flooding and can shoot pictures safely, please do so and send them, along. I'd love to post some. 

We can expect seasonable highs in the upper 40s today, dropping to 36 overnight. Forecasters are holding open the possibility that some of the overnight rain may mix with freezing rain or snow in the early morning hours, west of the urban centers. 

But such wintry precip will be more of a headache from Frederick westward into the mountains. Winter weather advisories are up for those counties. Here's how they're calling it this morning:

"Essentially east of Rte 15 [running north and south through Frederick] will be all rain. Precipitation will experience changes west of there ...We'll have freezing rain in the western quarter of the area. In the pre-dawn hours, as colder air works into the column [of air], precipitation type will be snow west of I-81 and between 81 and 15 a mix of rain and snow. 'Wintry mix' is good wording for the zones along I-81 for the overnight hours."

"Any snowfall bands or areas that move across the mid-Atlantic are expected to be light, fairly short-lived and subject to rapid melting over the overnight rainfall activity and surface temperatures a few degrees above freezing."

The storm is forecast to spin up the coast quickly late on Friday, leaving us with mostly sunny skies through the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:07 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 10, 2008

Snow and ice west, heavy rains east

NOAA 

A stalled cold front and a developing coastal storm tracking along the front have triggered winter weather advisories for the western counties of Maryland, and flood watches on the Eastern Shore as heavy rains approach.

Here in the middle of the state, we're looking at some heavy rain of our own, and the risk of a wintry mess Friday morning, if the forecast holds up. Here's how the folks in Sterling put it this afternoon:

"LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF MOISTURE TO THE REGION. 1 TO 3 INCHES OF RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE THURSDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHT ACROSS THE OUTLOOK AREA. THIS
COULD PRODUCE MINOR FLOODING OF SMALL STREAMS AND CREEKS.

"IN ADDITION...LATE THURSDAY NIGHT INTO EARLY FRIDAY...RAIN MAY MIX
WITH FREEZING RAIN BEFORE CHANGING TO SNOW. SOME LIGHT ACCUMULATIONS
OF WINTRY PRECIPITATION ARE POSSIBLE. THE MOST LIKELY TIME FOR
WINTRY PRECIPITATION ACROSS THE BALTIMORE WASHINGTON METRO AREA
APPEARS TO BE WITHIN A FEW HOURS OF SUNRISE ON FRIDAY MORNING.

Look at it this way: If the cold front were colder and moved farther south faster, this storm could have dropped 10 to 30 inches of snow on our heads. There's something there for everyone - to celebrate, or to lament. 

Here's the water vapor loop, shot from orbit, showing the Gulf moisture cranking up to our south and west.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:28 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Heater kicks in overnight

Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees as we turned in last night. That's pretty close to the normal high for this time of year at BWI. Maybe a bit mild. (The normal overnight LOW is 28 degrees.) Then, after midnight, warm air began arriving from the South, and the heater kicked in.

The mercury out at BWI jumped from 50 to 60 degrees between 1 and 2 a.m. Here at The Sun, it leapt from 50 to 59 degrees between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. And it's been headed higher ever since - 63 at 11 a.m. The last time we broke 60 degrees at BWI was on Nov. 15.

Mild as it is, there's no record under threat today. The all-time high for Baltimore on a Dec . 10 is 72 degrees, set in 1966. The record low is 1 degree, set way back in 1876. The record high minimum is 49 degrees. So far, our low for the day is a shade warmer than that, at 50 degrees, but we can probably count on temperatures to fall late today, dipping well below 49 as a strong cold front drifts by and stalls to our south.

Sun Photo/Jed Kirschbaum 1994The forecasters out at Sterling are looking for a low tonight of 41 degrees. The front will go by late this evening, followed by more rain than we've seen so far (0.05 inch so far at The Sun), plus gusty winds. 

Thursday will bring more rain, a colder, heavier rain, with daytime highs only around 40 degrees. The driver is another low that's developing in the Gulf.  Here's the radar loop.

The storm is expected to move across the southeastern states and off the Virginia/Carolina coast. With the cold air moving in from the north and west, the low could generate mixed precipitation here early Thursday, especially north and west of the I-95 corridor, forecasters say. But it won't last long, turning to all rain in the lowlands, and an icy mix in the mountains to our west.

But as the storm pulls away early Friday, forecasters warn that the precip could switch back to snow or sleet west of I-95, at least briefly.

Behind all this soggy mess there's more high pressure on the way for the weekend. with sunny skies on tap Saturday through Monday, with highs rising through the 40s and into the low 50s by the start of the new workweek.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:51 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Phenomena
        

December 9, 2008

Weather Channel launches "Top Ten" series

Sun Photo/Lloyd FoxMy daughter used to be addicted to The Weather Channel. She switched it on as she was getting dressed, and fell under the spell of the goofy background music they play during the "Local on the 8's" segment. (An odd child... Me, I'm partial to the AccuWeather bloopers page.)

Okay, so TWC production values are a little sketchy, but when bad weather threatens, it's good to dial them up. 

This week, TWC is airing its "Top Ten Weather Events of 2008" series. They're not saying in advance exactly what they are. They want you to watch, of course. But the first - No. 10 on their list - aired last night. It was the March 14 tornado that struck downtown Atlanta. (The rest will air during the 7-8 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. hours, weeknights through the 19th.)

You know Hurricane Ike, the one that cleared parts of the Texas coast near Galveston, killed dozens and caused billions in damage a couple of months back, will be a contender (if not a shoo-in) for No. 1. TWC meteorologist Mike Bettes has his own list, which looks like a reasonable one for 2008.

How about an All-time Top Ten Weather Events list for Maryland? Here's a start, right off the top of my head. Feel free to rearrange them, or submit your own favorites.

1. Tropical Storm Agnes June 1972Sun Photo/John Makely (for sheer destructive power and lasting impact, here and elsewhere).

2. Blizzard of February 2003 (right) (For beauty, civic disruption and inspiring community spirit).

3. Tropical Storm Isabel September 2003 (For damage, surprise and surreal images).

4. Hurricane Hazel 1954 (Much like Isabel).

5. Great Hurricane of 1933 (the one that cut the inlet at Ocean City and changed everything for the resort).

6. Drought of 2001-2002 (For duration, crop losses, mandatory water restrictions).

7. The Knickerbocker Storm, January 1922 (98 fatalities in theater collapse in DC).

8. Heat wave, August 1918 (For 100+ days and sheer misery pre-air conditioning).

9. Ice storms of January-February 1994 (For the icy misery that wouldn't stop).

10. La Plata tornado, April 2002 (Top photo; for power, speed and staggering destruction).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:51 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Events
        

Sun weather station update

As some MarylandWeather.com readers may have noticed, the Sun's weather station has been very unstable in recent weeks. Instead of the reliable reports, every 10 minutes, to WeatherUnderground's Web site, the station has been dropping out. Sometimes once a day; sometimes after a few days of steady operation; sometimes after just one or two reports, the software driving the reports has simply hung up.

For a while we tried to manage it by rebooting the computer whenever we noticed the station reports had stopped. But the fixes never lasted for long. Now, guided by Davis Instruments (the station's maker), and by Steve Auerweck in The Sun's IT department, we have implemented another fix (as of 1 p.m. Dec. 9).

We'll see if this does the trick. Let me know if you notice the reports have stopped again. If we've finally fixed it, enjoy the information, which we believe is (when it works) among the best for downtown Baltimore. You can get to it using the link just below the 5-day forecast on the MarylandWeather.com main page.

Thanks for your understanding and patience. Cheers, Frank

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

No sun 'til Saturday

NOAA 

That's the actual sun up in the sky we're talking about here. The newspaper-type Sun will publish all week, I'm told, and for the foreseeable future, despite the shenanigans in Chicago. But here in Baltimore, we're in for a long stretch of clouds and rain (all that blue in the radar map above) and maybe some snow thrown in to keep it wintry. No sunshine in sight until Saturday.

Not so wintry today or tomorrow, at least. The forecasters out in Sterling guessed yesterday's maxima four or five degrees too high. And they're confessing that the forecast ahead has "numeous brain busting aspects to it," among them the strength of this afternoon's winds, and the timing of the onset of the precipitation late today. "This is a day that could be fraught with bust potential," they said, meaning they may get it all wrong and "bust" the forecast. Again. Here's this morning's discussion from Sterling.

For now, they are expecting today's temperatures to reach 50 degrees, a couple of degrees above the long-term averages for BWI. And tonight's temperatures won't dip at all, stalling in the high 40s, which is the average HIGH for the airport at this time of year.

That's because of the strong southerly flow that's going to be hauling warm, wet air up from the South, feeding several days of rain that will likely top an inch or so before it's over. The rain could start after midnight tonight, continuing throughout the day Wednesday. Temperatures will reach the 60s, if the forecast holds up. That's 10 or 15 degrees above normal for the season.

Rain chances persist into Thursday, but the passage of a strong, gusty cold front Wednesday night will send thermometers back into the cooler. We'll be in the low 30s again by dawn Thursday, with stiff north winds. There may be more rain during the day Thursday. And as temperatures drop into the upper 20s Thursday night, some of that rain could change to snow and give us another dusting. That will depend on how a predicted coastal low develops early Friday, and whether it can draw enough cold air into the region. 

Blogger Henry Margusity, up at AccuWeather.com, is at the high end of speculation, as he usually is. He thinks we could get a couple of inches.

Any snow we do see will change back to rain Friday morning. Then skies should start to clear for the weekend. It will be seasonably cold again, with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:51 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 8, 2008

Brrrrr ! BWI fails to reach freezing

Be thankful if you didn't have to be outdoors for more than a few minutes today. The mercury topped out at 30 degrees this afternoon at BWI, failing to reach the freezing mark for only the third day this year. That may say more about how mild last winter was than anything else. And it was far from the record for the date: High - 23, low 10, on Dec. 8, 1882.

But it does underscore how cold it's been in December - more than 5 degrees below normal for the month so far.

Here are the three dates we've failed to reach freezing in 2008:

Dec. 8:  High - 30 degrees; Low - 19 degrees

Jan. 21: High - 28 degrees; Low - 8 degrees

Jan. 3:  High - 31 degrees;  Low - 18 degrees

The forecast looks better for a few days, and downright balmy (63) on Wednesday. Then things get cold again, with snow and rain in the forecast for Thursday and Friday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Milder, wetter, then winter returns

What a crazoid week we have ahead of us. This weekend's wintry cold and snow will give way in the next few days. Temperatures by mid-week could reach the 60s, with a couple of days of autumn rain thrown in for good measure. But then we'll tumble back into winter, as temperatures drop 20 or 30 degrees, with a chance for more snow and rain in the air by Thursday.

Here's the deal.

Sun Photo/Karl Merton FerronThe weekend snow and cold and wind (crazies at left) are mostly behind us, now, although today's highs will remain well below the long-term averages for this time of year at BWI, which are still in the upper 40s. We probably won't leave the 30s today.

But, despite the gray skies, we are under a dome of high pressure now, so we won't see any precipitation like we saw Saturday. McHenry reported 2 inches, and Taneytown topped the list in the metro area with 1 inch. Nothing to write home about, but the dusting did slick up cold highways and caused a raft of slowdowns and accidents. 

Once that high pressure starts sliding out to sea tomorrow, we'll come under the return flow of the clockwise spin around the high. That will bring us warm, wet air from the south. Temperatures will climb above the seasonal norms, to around 50 on Tuesday, and WAY above on Wednesday. Forecasters at Sterling are looking for a Wednesday high of 60 degrees. with south winds of 10 mph or more. That won't be a record high for the date. It was 72 at the airport on Dec. 10, 1966. But it sure will feel balmy.

The southerly flow will also bring rain as a series of storms form along the boundary between cold air to our north, and the warm, wet air to the south. Rain chances rise by Tuesday afternoon, and rain is likely overnight. Wednesday could bring us an all-day rain. I'm hoping it will wash the danged Bradford pear mash off my sidewalk. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on it.

But then the next cold front finally drops by us, cutting temperatures behind the storm to a low of 30 Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Keep an eye on the forecast for the Thursday morning commute.

"Thursday [before noon] will remain as a rain/snow mix for much of the mid-Atlantic, with more all-snow chances for the western zones," forecasters at Sterling said this morning. If we escape significant snow, what will be noticed most by Thursday is the return of cold weather. Thursday's high will be close to 35, a full 25 degrees colder than Wednesday's high.

Then the skies clear out, and forecasters expect sunny skies through the weekend. Temperatures, however, will remain below the seasonal averages, in the upper 30s and low 40s.

Buckle up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 7, 2008

Taneytown wins Sat. snow sweepstakes - 1 in.

The results are still coming in, but Taneytown, out in Carroll County, appears to have won the Dec. 6 metro area snow sweepstakes this morning with a whopping 1 inch of the white death. Here is a tally from CoCoRaHS.

Photo by meColumbia, Severn, Frederick, even Hamilton in northeast Baltimore City also put in good performances with a half-inch or more. Good, that is, for a teeny first-snow-of-the-season-to-actually-accumulate. The official total for BWI on the 6th was 0.6 inch.

In case you missed it in the previous post, reader "Wayne" has made an astute observation with regard to our Dec. 5 snowfalls in Baltimore. We have been writing about the odd fact that BWI has recorded at least a trace of snow on four of the last five Dec. 5ths. The string of coincidences failed in 2004, and it appeared to have failed again this year, with no snow noted at BWI on Friday.

But Wayne noted that this is a Leap Year. so we had an extra day in February. So maybe that delayed our customary Dec. 5 flakes by one calendar day. And since 2004, too, was a Leap Year, perhaps we can apply the Wayne Hypothesis to that year, as well. In that case, we have now seen snow at BWI on Dec. 5 (or Dec. 6th in Leap Years) for six years in a row.

Actually, a longer look at the records this morning adds a seventh year to the string. BWI recorded 7.4 inches on Dec. 5, 2002. 

That's Mr. Owl on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning, at left. And here's the list of Dec. 5/6 snowfalls at BWI:

2008:  Dec. 6 - 0.6 inch

2007:  Dec. 5 - 4.7 inches

2006:  Dec. 5 - Trace

2005:  Dec. 5 - 1.4 inches

2004:  Dec. 6 -  Trace

2003:  Dec. 5 -  0.85 inch

2002:  Dec. 5 -  7.4 inches

I like that. Of course it's nonsense. Coincidence. But so what? Enjoy the dusting. And if you're headed for the stadium tonight, dress for the wind and cold.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 5, 2008

Flakey forecast ahead

Colder-than-average weather today continues to lay the groundwork for the arrival of some wintry weather this weekend, and again toward the middle and end of next week, forcasters say.

None of it seems likely to amount to much, although it may be an annoyance. And there remains considerable confusion and uncertainty among the long-range models as they try to sort out what's in store for next week.

NOAABut for the moment, the forecasters out at Sterling are calling for more cold temperatures today and tomorrow - 5 to 10 degrees below the long-term averages for BWI. That means a high today only around 40 degrees. The average for this date at BWI-Marshall is 49. Nightime lows will drop into the 20s.

The cold is the result of Canadian high pressure, which has arrived with clear skies and lots of radiational cooling at night. The high will hang around through most of Saturday, and temps will stick in the upper 30s.

But by Saturday night, the high will be moving off the east coast, making way for somewhat warmer, wetter air in the return flow in the clockwise circulation around the back side of the high.

Then the first storm moves in from the Great Lakes. We'll see clouds first, then the first shot at some snow after sunset, if the forecast holds up. Overnight lows on Saturday/Sunday will drop below freezing at BWI. Southern Maryland is more likely to see rain. But in the higher elevations it will be snow, forecasters say in this morning's discussion from Sterling.

"However, there is a chance for light snowfall accumulations to occur further east of the mountains, including the Baltimore Washington metro area," they said. They're rating the chance for snow here at NOAA50 percent Saturday night and 20 percent Sunday.

Sunday looks cloudy at first, with highs hanging in the upper 30s. Then colder air will move in with gusty winds. Skies will begin to clear and temperatures will drop Sunday night into the low 20s. If you're going to the stadium, dress for winter.

Monday's highs will hold in the mid-30s, more than 10 degrees below the average for the date.

Looking ahead into next week, the forecasters see model projections all over the place. Here's AccuWeather.com's blogger Henry Margusity's foggy crystal ball. Most of the models seem to be predicting two storms - one in the Tuesday/Wednesday time frame, the second late in the week. The folks at Sterling say "Storm A" is most likely going to bring Baltimore some rain.

"However, with the first wave, if precipitation moves into the [forecast area] late Monday night into Tuesday morning, then a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain may be possible at the onset before the bulk of the precipitation would turn to rain," their morning discussion says. The chance for precip is set at 60 percent.

As for "Storm B," they're saying, "If this wave tracks south of the area, some wintry precipitation may be possible. ... Needless to say, details will need to be resolved/fine tuned with time as we move closer to the middle of next week."

The big picture seems to be that while there is nothing especially notable about any of this, December does seem to be shaping up as a relatively cold and wet start for this winter's weather. And that is pretty much what the seasonal forecasters said during the fall: wintry December, giving way to a milder January, then shifting back to more wintry experience sometime in February.

We'll see.

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

December 4, 2008

Rain, light snow, colder weather ahead

I'm looking at sunshine over the State Pen this morning, with temperatures headed into the mild-for-December 50s this afternoon. But don't be fooled. There is rain ahead later today, with a surge of cold air plus snow showers on tap for the weekend.

The best news for snow-haters is that next week's storm is beginning to look a lot more like rain than snow.

Forecasters out at Sterling say there's a cold front headed our way later today, bringing rain and showers across the Appalachians around rush hour this evening. Higher elevations to our west could see a changeover to snow.

Sun Photo/Gene Sweeney Jr. 2005Behind the front there's more colder, drier Canadian air, s tomorrow will be sunny. But temperatures will stall out around 40 degrees in Baltimore. They'll drop to the low 20s Friday night, and may not leave the 30s on Saturday, even with some sunshine.

Another disturbance slides through late Saturday into Sunday, and depending on how strong it turns out to be, we'll see precipitation, likely in the form of snow in the Baltimore region, given the cold temperatures, forecasters say.

"Best chance of accumulations will be across the highlands, where winter weather advisory criteria may be achieved," they say in this morning's discussion. "However, there is a chance for light accumulations of snow to extend further east across the rest of the [forecast area] all the way to the Chesapeake Bay."

Sunday looks cloudy and cold, too, with a high in the upper 30s. Overnight temps will fall again to the low 20s. It will be a cold night at the stadium.

Sunshine returns Monday, with highs near 40 again. But models show the next storm system moving into the region Tuesday into Wednesday.

"This appears to be primarily a rain event," the morning discussion says. "However, if precipitation moves in early enough Tuesday morning, then some wintry precipitation is possible at the onset. Specifics will become more clear [as] we move closer in time to next week."

Here's AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity's long-range discussion of the chances for a powerful and very cold winter storm next week.

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

Wintry snow globe from Hubble

NASA, ESA, STScI/AURA 

Cram more than 100,000 stars into a cluster "only" 150 light-years wide and you get something like this - the globular cluster astronomers know as M-13. This image was assembled from Hubble data recorded during four separate observations from 1999 to 2006. It includes ultraviolet, visible and infrared portions of light spectrum.

M-13 is one of the brightest and best-known (to astronomers) globular clusters in the northern sky. If you're far enough from urban light pollution, it's even possible to spot this object with the naked eye, I'm told, only 25,000 light years away in the winter constellation Hercules

Folks at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore say the density of stars at the center of this cluster is about 100 times the density of stars in our sun's region of the Milky Way galaxy. Imagine the night sky on a planet circling one of those stars! The stars are so close together they sometimes smash into each other, creating new stars called "blue stragglers."

The red dots are older, giant stars. The bluish ones are young, hot stars.

Astronomers have counted almost 150 such clusters in a sort of halo that surrounds the Milky Way's spiral disk. They are believed to have formed before the spiral itself, and contain some of the oldest stars in the region.

Photo credits go to NASA, the European Space Agency and the Hubble Heritage Team at the space telescope institute.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

December 2, 2008

Moon, planets' show continues

Johannes KeplerOkay, so how cool was that? After the clouds blew off last evening, the triple conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon in the southwest jumped out against a very dark sky. It was hard to miss. Here's a gallery from CNN iReports.

And the show isn't really over.

The moon's orbit will carry it a bit farther east each night this week after last night's close encounter. Venus will climb even higher as Jupiter sinks toward the sunset. Watch the dancers as they shift their relative positions each night. It's Kepler's celestial mechanics on display, all week long. (That's Johannes Kepler at left.)

Here's more from SpaceWeather.com 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Colder weather ahead; storm rumors

There are words like "arctic front" and "temperatures plummet" and "significant storm" in this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling. It is December, after all. On the other hand, it does not look like we'll see snow in Baltimore on Dec. 5 - a date which has seen at least a trace in four out of the last 5 years. The 6th? Maybe.

For the moment, however, we're looking at sunshine, high pressure, and daytime highs not too far below the norms for this time of year at BWI. That would describe today and tomorrow, with highs in the mid-40s and overnight lows in the upper 20s to low 30s. Western counties with snow on the ground (that's Deep Creek Lake below) could drop into the teens as clear skies and radiational cooling allow steeper heat loss.

Then the high moves offshore, and we fall under a return flow of warmer, wetter air. Thursday's high will reach the 50s and we may see a shower or two before the next cold front arrives.

Taylor-Made Vacations web camBy Thursday night, after the "arctic front" goes by, skies should clear again and temperatures will "plummet" if the forecasters are right. Overnight lows this weekend will drop to the low 20s - 5 or more degrees below the average for this time of year.

Then, forecasters say, we could see a "clipper system" ride out along the front from the Canadian north, Saturday into Sunday. These storms don't typically bring lots of snow because they're relatively dry. But they can drop troublesome accumulations along a narrow track.

"Even a little coating could cause some impacts as surface temperatures will be very cold, in the 20s. Luckily it is going to be on a weekend and not during a weekday," NWS forecasters said this morning.

Looking ahead into next week, forecast models predict "a potential significant storm ... Uncertainty is high here, especially in timing," the morning discussion says. That's it. That's all they'll say. Just thought you'd like to know.

For your first dose of snow hype this winter, you'll have to turn to AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity's long-range forecast, hinting at a coastal storm early next week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 1, 2008

Invasion of the boxelder bugs

Photo by me 

About once a day for the past two weeks, my wife and I have been finding bugs in our house. No, not hidden microphones. Real bugs. They're small - about the size and shape of a lightning bug. They're mostly black, with red trim. Very spiffy.

They're also easy to catch. They seem to have no interest in flying. And while they're pretty active, they are easily out-maneuvered, crushed and disposed of.

I managed to snap some pictures with my new digital camera (above). A little blurry, but you can see what they look like. Then I consulted University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp's Bug of the Week Web site. Clicked on the BOW Archive, scrolled down to late November and spotted a likely match from 2005: the boxelder bug.

Here below is Mike's commentary on this late-autumn home invader. We have no boxelder trees I know of. Maybe they're also partial to Bradford pear trees. We do have one of those that's dumped a huge mess of grape-sized pears on our sidewalk. Ick.   

Mike thinks that's plausible: "I found one reference of these guys sucking on fruits of plum, cherry, apple, peach, and grape in addition to the usual maple and ash seeds. So, I feel safe in speculating that fruits of Bradford pear are fair game.

"Since Bradford pear is considered by many to be an invasive pest, perhaps our little black and red friends are providing good service by thwarting the spread of this tree."

 

Anyway, like our recent unlamented house mouse, these critters apparently are simply looking for a warm spot to spend the winter. Have you seen any of them in your house?

Now Mike Raupp, from his Web site:

"What’s this, another home invader? This one is dressed in red and black. Is there an uprising in the air, perhaps, the entomological equivalent of the French Revolution? No, these are boxelder bugs.

"Boxelder, also known as ash-leaved maple, is a rather homely native tree and one of the favorite foods of boxelder bugs. Like their other “true bug” relatives, boxelder bugs have a beak with sucking mouthparts used to remove plant sap and the contents of seeds. In early spring, nymphs of boxelder bugs hatched from eggs laid by mothers that survived the winter. During the growing season, boxelder bugs ate the sap and seeds of boxelder and other species of maples as well as ash, plum, cherry, and many other trees, shrubs, and vines. Boxelder bug nymphs have black legs and short wing pads. Their exposed abdomen is red. As the nymphs mature, the black wings grow longer and finally cover the abdomen as they molt to adulthood. During late spring and early summer, they move to the boxelder trees, especially to female trees. I’ll bet you didn’t know that in some species, trees are male or female and in other species, trees are both male and female. How strange is that? Female trees bear winged seeds and male trees do not.

"The largest bug populations tend to build up on female trees where they feed on seeds. In autumn, usually October in central Maryland, the red nymphs and the black adults collect in masses on trunks of boxelders. In the wild, adults fly to rock formations, fallen leaves, or crevices in trees to gain protection from the wicked winter. In cities, suburbs, and the country, our homes provide just the right protection from the cold. Swarms of bugs become a nuisance on sunny porches and siding and around windows and doors. They find their way into our homes through cracks in the foundation, gaps in siding around windows and vents, and beneath doors if sweeps are in poor repair or missing. On cold winter days they hide, but when temperatures warm they become active.

"Boxelder bugs are not harmful to humans or pets. They do not bite, sting, or reproduce indoors. However, if you squash them on your drapes or wall, then they will stain. To limit the number of boxelder bugs taking up residence in your residence eliminate hiding places such as piles of lumber, rocks, and branches close to the house. As with other home invaders like brown marmorated stinkbug and crickets, you should weatherproof your home to help solve the problem. Caulk and seal vents and openings where electrical and plumbing utilities enter and exit the house. Repair or replace doorsweeps and seal any openings around windows, doors, and foundation. This will help save energy and help reduce headaches when this diminutive army of red and black storms your barricades."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:42 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Weather iffy for tonight's sky spectacular

Heather McLaughlin/Foster City, CA 

I can see a few rays of sunshine warming the rock walls of the State Penitentiary this morning. And that suggests the clouds may clear enough late this afternoon to give Marylanders a peek at tonight's sky spectacular. Here's the official forecast - for "mostly cloudy" skies.

The event is a striking triple conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, with the crescent moon. They will form a beautiful triangle after sunset, hanging just above the southwest horizon. All three will be plenty bright enough to spot from anywhere skies are clear (or more-or-less clear toward the southwest), even in light-polluted urban settings.

Photographers have already been busy snapping pictures of the two planets, with the moon approaching from the lower right. That's Heather McLaughlin's shot above, taken from Foster City, Calif. (Used with permission.) Here is a gallery from SpaceWeather.com

By tonight, the moon will have moved just to the left of Venus and Jupiter.

If you're reading this in Europe, you will have an even more astonishing show to watch if your skies aren't clouded up. From your perspective, the moon will move in front of Venus in what astronomers call a "lunar occultation."

UPDATE: The clouds cleared, and we had a good look at this conjunction, around 6 p.m., from the roof of the Sun garage, looking southwest toward the Basilica. I tried a snapshot with my point-and-shoot (below). It's more than a little blurry, but you get the idea. I expect others will have better images online by morning.

Photo by me

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:24 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

November ends about as it should

November departed overnight, its meteorological numbers settling into the record books very close to the long-term averages for BWI. The only category that departed a bit from the 30-year norm was rainfall, which fell about a half-inch short.

Sun Photo/Doug KapustinFirst, the temperatures. Lots of us may remember November 2008 as being unusually cold. That's mostly because the last half of the month fell persistently below the averages. From the 17th to the 29th, only one day saw above-average temperatures. The coldest (and clearest) was the 22nd, when the mercury at BWI-Marshall struggled to reach 36 degrees, and sank to 24 degrees, for an average of 30, which was 14 degrees below normal for the date.

The cold days allowed the region its first snowflakes of the season (above). We saw traces at BWI on the 18th, 21st and 25th. That gave us an average of, well, a trace for the month. The average for November at BWI is 0.6-inch.

The cold weather also cost us a little bit extra on our heating bills, with the number of heating degree-days (a measure of heating demand) about 2 percent above the average for November.

The cold spell was offset, however, by the warm start we saw. The first week of November saw highs in the 60s and 70s, with lows only in the high 40s and 50s. The 6th and 7th averaged 14 degrees above the long-term averages for the dates.

On balance, BWI averaged 45.4 degrees for the month, just a tenth of a degree below the long-term average.

As for precipitation, most of it fell as rain from the 12th through the 15th, with a total of 1.56 inches over those four days. The rest of the month generated barely an inch more. The month's total of 2.61 is 0.51 below the average for a November at BWI.

Only one day in November (the 22nd) was rated as "clear" by the weather service. Nine were cloudy, the rest partly cloudy. 

Anybody else out there with a barometer notice how low it fell yesterday? Ours here at The Sun sank to 29.31 inches around 11 p.m. last night before it turned around. It's climbed only to 29.57 as I write.

We can thank the intense low-pressure center now over the Great Lakes, headed toward Quebec. That storm system is influencing conditions throughout the eastern half of the country, dumping snow on Chicago, rain here and up the coast, and forcing NASA to land the shuttle Endeavour in California because of bad weather at Cape Canaveral.    

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        
Keep reading
Recent entries
Archives
Categories
About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

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

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


Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

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

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

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

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

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

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

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

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

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

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

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

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

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

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

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

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