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January 30, 2009

"Cool" satellite image of Maryland snow cover

NOAA Aqua Earth Observing satellite

The "Smog Blog" out at UMBC has posted this very cool satellite image of the snow on the ground yesterday in the Northeast. With any luck (good or bad), we could see this snow field expand and deepen next week.

For a zoomable version, click here.

And here's an animation of the shifting snow and ice cover over North America for the past month.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Groundhog Day storm track favors rain, then snow

Forecast models overnight have been moving the projected track of next week's storm farther to the east. If that trend continues, it would increase the chances the Baltimore and Washington would see a significant snowfall Monday night into Tuesday. But only after some initial rain.

As is so often the case around here, nobody's really sure yet where that track will finally decide to go. A drift to the left might take the storms along the Appalachians to our west, or directly over us, and that would give us a heck of a rain storm, but little significant snow.

AccuWeather.comInland locations from the Great Lakes to New England seem to be in line for a big snow no matter what happens. Some locations could see blizzard conditions. And big rains and winds in coastal regions could trigger all sorts of runoff and flooding problems.  

What snow lovers here want to look for is a storm path that drifts right, and takes the low out to sea to our south, and then up the coast to our east. That would allow more cold air to drop down, start the changeover to snow sooner and allow it to pile up higher before the storm goes away.

For now, all the prognostication seems to have very cold air moving into Maryland tonight, with some snow showers possible and an overnight low in the teens. Saturday's high will stick in the mid-30s, with sunshine. As the high departs on Sunday, it will draw warmer air in from the South, pushing daytime highs into the 40s, and maybe even some 50s. Great for Super Bowl parties; not so much for snow.

But the show really starts on Monday. The National Weather Service is currently predicting the storm center will move off the coast Monday, bringing us rain first . But the storm's passage will also draw  that big surge of cold air down from the north and west Monday evening. The changeover to snow - if it comes - will depend on the timing. If the cold air arrives in time, the rain will change to snow.

The NWS discussion this morning says: "Rain expected by Monday afternoon [in] all areas except along the Allegheny Front, where cold air invades by late afternoon. Expect cold air to advance eastward Monday evening, with snow spreading to the Blue Ridge by late evening, and perhaps asSun Photo/Weyman Swagger 1983 far as the metro areas by morning."

On the other hand, one of the models - the GFS - takes the storm right through Washington, DC, which would mean heavy rain - an inch or two for the cities overnight, forecasters said.

Even so, they add, "regardless of the storm track Monday night, cold air should spread across the region by Tuesday morning, and any precipitation Tuesday/Tuesday evening should be snow" as the storm pulls away.

Not the definitive forecast we'd like, but things should become crystal clear by Sunday. So prepare to flip between the Super Bowl and the Weather Channel.

And if you snow lovers need some hype to keep your hopes up, here's AccuWeather.com's Hypster Extraordinaire, Henry Margusity, who's calling the current storm track forecast "a great track now to dump heavy snow in D.C. and Baltimore."  (That's the 1983 storm in the B&W photo above.) 

Here's AccuWeather.com's lead story on the storm.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 29, 2009

Next week's big storm: snow or rain?

Everybody seems to be talking about it now. Forecasters are looking at computer models that predict a powerful storm will spin up out of the Gulf of Mexico early next week and track into the Northeast. The big question appears to be where that track will go. Into the Ohio Valley and we get Sun Photo/Karl Merton Ferron 2003lots of rain. Up the Atlantic coast and we get a big snowstorm.

Wherever it goes, some meteorologists believe it signals a change in winter weather patterns and a harbinger of a snowier February. Only time will tell, and this event is still assembling itself in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It's still four days out. In the meantime, here's a sampler of the meteorological opinions:

The National Weather Service discussion out of Sterling, noting the disagreement between the two main forecast models (GFS and ECMWF). (I am spelling out the NWS shorthand abbreviations for clarity):

"ALTHOUGH BOTH DEVELOP STRONG SURFACE CYCLONE BY LATE MONDAY AFTERNOON, GFS YIELDS A COASTAL SYSTEM, WHILE ECMWF DEVELOPS CYCLONE INLAND ... WILL FAVOR GFS EVOLUTION [FOR NOW].

"SURFACE LOW PRESSURE DEEPENS AS IT MOVES NORTHWARD ALONG COAST. STRONG WARM AIR ADVECTION MONDAY WILL INCREASE TEMPERATURES AND DEWPOINTS... ESPECIALLY IN THE EASTERN HALF OF THE FORECAST AREA. AS
SURFACE LOW PRESSURE APPROACHES, COLD AIR WILL BE DRAWN IN SURFACE AND ALOFT. PRECIPITATION TO COMMENCE AS RAIN LATE MONDAY AFTERNOON... EXCEPT HIGHER TERRAIN WHERE COLD AIR WILL INVADE.

"REGARDLESS OF WHETHER GFS OR ECMWF [PROVE CORRECT] IF EITHER/...PRECIPITATION EXPECTED MONDAY NIGHT ... WITH SNOW SPREADING EASTWARD ACROSS FORECAST AREA MONDAY NIGHT IN GFS, AND RAIN CONTINUING MONDAY NIGHT IN ECMWF. BY TUESDAY, COLD AIR INVADES...AND ANY WRAPAROUND PRECIPITATION SHOULD BE SNOW."

Here's AccuWeather.com's main piece on the storm, which the eager beavers there are already calling the "Groundhog Day Storm."

Here's AccuWeather.com's snowstorm blogger, Madman Henry Margusity, who is now calling it the "Big Daddy" storm, and comparing it to the 1993 "Superstorm." Sigh...

Accuweather.com's John Kocet is calling it "big, and perhaps even colossal" inland, but just rainy for us along the coast.  

Here's AccuWeather.com's Frank Strait, with his more cautious predictions. And Joe Lundberg, with a lengthy discussion of the big-storm possibilities, including a heavy rain event that will melt snow along the east coast and threaten flooding.

The Weather Channel keeps the storm track to our west, leaving us in rain.

The Capital Weather Gang takes a cautious line, too, calling a big snowstorm here "a long-shot."

So, what's your preference? Had enough winter yet?

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:46 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Ice lingers; rain and snow next week

Finally got my favorite teacher out of the cabin and back to work today. Schools had a delayed opening, but that didn't stop her being there at the regular hour. Now if the kids will just settle down...

Welcome sunshine today should help melt the remaining glaze off steps and walks. But the daytime high won't impress at 35 degrees. The barometer finally turned upward yesterday afternoon, marking the passage of another cold front, which halted the rising temperatures as they passed 40 degrees or so. The overnight low here at The Sun was 28 degrees.

Sun Photo/Amy DavisAs the cold, high pressure air mass moves off the coast late today, we'll watch for the next cold front moving our way from the Upper Midwest. That could bring snow showers to the mountains, with only a slight chance we'll see some here. Expect clearing skies and a colder night Friday into Saturday, with a low of 19 or so.

The weekend looks mostly sunny, with temperatures warming by Sunday and Monday into the 40s.

From there, forecasters expect a strong coastal storm to develop, and as it moves northward up the coast it will draw warmer, wetter air into the region. That should mean rain for our area to start. But counter-clockwise circulation around the low will eventually drag colder air down from the north as the storm moves along.

Forecast models differ on whether that will mean more rain or a change to snow for us Monday afternoon. One computer sees snow spreading eastward across the area Monday night. The other  calls for rain.

Here's AccuWeather.com's assessment. And here is AccuWeather.com's blogger Henry Margusity, with his customary hype.

Sterling's discussion says that in either case, "by Tuesday, cold air invades, and any wraparound precipitation should be snow." How much? They can't say yet. But the track record for this season so far is none too impressive.

Snow totals at BWI for this most recent storm came to 1.9 inches. For the season: 2.7 inches. Clearly some of us have seen more. And the western counties have had plenty. And this week's ice storm caused plenty of consternation, even at the White House. But if we're going to break out of the snow-starved pattern of the past two years, it's probably going to have to happen in February.

Remember that five of the 10 biggest snowstorms in Baltimore have occurred between Feb. 11 and 18.

128.2 inches ... Feb. 15-18, 20031114.1 inches ... Dec. 11-12, 1960
226.5 inches  ... Jan. 27-29, 19221213.1  inches ... Feb. 11-12, 2006
322.8 inches ... Feb. 11, 19831313.0  inches ... Mar. 5-7, 1962
422.5 inches ... Jan. 7-8, 19961412.3 inches ... Jan. 22, 1987
522.0 inches ... Mar. 29-30, 19421512.1 inches ... Jan. 30-31, 1966
621.4 inches ... Feb. 11-14, 18991612.0 inches ... Feb. 16-18, 1900
720.0 inches ... Feb. 18-19, 19791711.9 inches ... Mar. 13-14, 1993
816.0 inches ... Mar. 15-18, 18921811.7 inches ... Feb. 5-8, 1899
915.5 inches ... Feb. 15, 19581911.5 inches ... Dec. 17-18, 1932
1014.9 inches ... Jan. 25, 20002011.5 inches ... Mar. 21-22, 1964

Here's an interesting pattern: Among the top-20 storms, we see them in 1993, 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2006. That's every three or four years for the past 16 years. Aren't we due? 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:48 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Schools close in ice or snow. So what else is new?

So how tired are we of hearing this from people who move here from snow country? "Schools are closed? Because of some ice?"

I know. I moved here from Massachusetts. I said it myself. But after living here for 29 years, it does get tiresome coming from new arrivals. Here's how the Associated Press covered the latest exclamations from a new arrival:

 Sun Photo/Doug Kapustin   President Barack Obama, steeled by many snowy Chicago winters, expressed disbelief Wednesday when his daughters woke up to find that their classes had been canceled for the day.
    Schools in Washington and the surrounding suburbs either opened late or scrapped all their classes because of icy conditions.
    “Can I make a comment that is unrelated to the economy very quickly?” the new president told reporters at a gathering with business leaders. “And it has to do with Washington. My children's school was canceled today. Because of, what? Some ice?”
    The president said he wasn't the only one who was incredulous.
    “As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled,” Obama said to laughter. “In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So, I don't know. We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness.”
    Asked if he meant the people of the national's capital are wimps, Obama said: “I'm saying, when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don't seem to be able to handle things.”
    Obama's daughters attend the private Sidwell Friends School.
    Malia, 10, is a fifth-grader at the middle school campus in the District of Columbia, while younger sister Sasha is in second grade at the elementary school in Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington.

It's just the way it is, kids. We close because we can. Snow and ice don't happen much here. It's safer. And it's fun to get an unexpected holiday and spend it sledding, or sleeping, or just catching up. Go with it. Enjoy. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Events
        

January 28, 2009

How bizarre is this: 64 degrees in Richmond

That's right. I couldn't believe it either. I just had email from Steve Zubrick, the science officer for the National Weather Service office in Sterling. He's down near Richmond and reported a temperature of 59 degrees.

Huh?! It's 34 here at The Sun, and it's been hovering near freezing most of the day. And it's 25 degrees warmer in Richmond? But I checked and it's true. Actually, at last check it was 64 degrees!! Thirty degrees warmer than Fredericksburg, just 53 miles away!

It's also 62 degrees this afternoon at Salisbury, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. And 51 at OC.

The warm air mass that has been pulled north off the ocean into the mid-Atlantic states by this big low has pushed hard into south-central Virginia. But it hasn't succeeded yet in displacing the cold, dense air in place at the surface just to the north of Richmond, or across most of Maryland. The snow and ice cover is helping to keep things cool at the surface. It's also cooling the warmer, wetter air aloft and condensing the moisture into fog.

Here are some current temperature readings along a line from Baltimore south:

Baltimore: 32 degrees

Washington National:  32 degrees

Fredericksburg, VA:  34 degrees 

Richmond, VA: 64 degrees

Williamston, N.C.:  72 degrees

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Driving tip: Push the ice from your roof first!

Sun Photo/Amy Davis

Finally made it to work after scraping the car and sliding down the street on a sheet of ice. Once on the main roads, at least, the traction was fine. The main roads are just wet. But here's a tip:

Before you get on the main roads, scrape or push the snow and ice from your car's roof. There is probably an icy crust on top of the snow up there. And once you hit highway speeds, the wind will get under the ice and launch it into the air. And where it comes down, nobody knows.

I got onto I-695 in Towson this morning and saw at least a half-dozen cars loft ice sheets 10 or 15 feet into the air as they accelerated. These sheets - some the size of, well, car roofs - floated into the air, rotated a few times, then crashed (fortunately) onto the pavement. They could just as easily have landed on the next guy's windshield.

Okay, it's beautiful to watch. I tried (and failed) to find a You Tube video of flying ice. But do us all a favor. Get the snow off your car before you leave your parking space.

Thanks. The Management.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:53 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Worst icing seems over; sunny meltdown due

There will be plenty of scraping and sliding out there this morning. And the freezing mist that's still falling is adding to the glaze on walks and trees. The Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until noon from Arundel north and west.

Sun Photo/Doug KapustinBut the radar loop suggests that the worst of the freezing precip may be over here, and what's still falling is keeping mostly to our north. Best of all, there is sunshine and a promise of above-freezing temperatures in the forecast for tomorrow.

Actually, it's already 30 here on the Weatherdeck in Cockeysville. And we should rise into the upper 30s later today, allowing for some slow melting and giving the road salt a chance to work. In the meantime, school kids and teachers across most of Maryland north and west of Arundel get another day off.

You can watch the thermometer rise on The Sun's weather station. Just click here. Doesn't look, at this hour at least, like the barometer has turned upward yet. That will signal the departure of this low and the approach of drier air. For now, the entire Northeast is socked in.

In the meantime we will be shoveling and scraping and walking like penguins on this crusty glaze.

The National Weather Service will be posting overnight low temperatures, and precipitation amounts, and snow and ice accumulations later this morning. Be sure to check the date to make sure they're today's readings. You can also consult CoCoRaHS. The good news is the ice does not seem to have affected the power grid so far.

So far, it appears Waldorf and Bel Air got the most frozen precip in the state, though none of it is too impressive:

Waldorf:  3.3 inches

Bel Air:  3.1 inches

Prince Frederick:  2.8 inches

Long Green:  2.6 inches

Towson:  2.0 inches

Easton:  2.0 inches

Frederick:  1.8 inches

Mt. Airy:  1.7 inches

THE OFFICIAL TALLY FOR BWI:

December: 0.6 inches 

January so far:  2 inches (including 1.8 inches on Tuesday)

Season so far: 2.6 inches

Seasonal average for BWI, 1971-2000: 18.2 inches

Last time we had average snowfall or more: 2005-06:  19.6 inches

So, drop us a note and tell us what you're dealing with on your doorstep, or along your commute this morning. Kids driving you crazy yet? 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:58 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 27, 2009

Forecast: This storm's not over

It sure looks like it's stopped. But forecasters at Sterling say there is another, more intense low-pressure system rolling into West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania tonight. It is expected to bring us more snow tonight until warming temperatures aloft begin to change the precipitation to sleet and freezing rain.

The bottom line is that as the snow and sleet resume, we could catch another 1 to 3 inches on topSun Photo/Frank Roylance of the slop already on the ground. Add a coating of ice from any freezing rain we receive, and you get a pretty comprehensive sampling of everything wet that winter can throw at Maryland - except deep snow.

Here's the latest radar loop. And here's the official forecast.

And, here is an initial report on accumulations - up to 3 inches in parts of Charles and Calvert counties.

In the discussion out of Sterling this afternoon, forecasters continue to scratch their heads about what kind of precipitation we're likely to see, where we're likely to see it, when and for how long.

The problem seems to be high pressure over New England, which is preventing a layer of cold air over the mid-Atlantic states from drifting away and allowing warmer air to settle in.

Temperatures at The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets have been steady near 28 degrees all day. And it's this layer of cold air at the surface that keeps us in line for snow when the precip resumes. Once that cold layer erodes, or slips away, we start to see freezing rain, sleet and, eventually, all rain.

Here's a bit of what they're saying:

"LATEST GUIDANCE SUGGESTS
THAT THE COLD AIR WILL BE DEEP ENOUGH FOR A PERIOD OF SNOW AND
SLEET TUESDAY EVENING. EVEN ACROSS THESE AREAS...THERE WILL BE
ENOUGH WARM AIR TO WORK ITS WAY INTO THE REGION FOR FREEZING RAIN
TO MIX IN OVERNIGHT.

"LATEST GUIDANCE STILL DIVERGES ON HOW LONG THE COLD AIR WILL REMAIN
IN PLACE AT THE SURFACE OVERNIGHT TUESDAY INTO WEDNESDAY. THIS WILL
HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HOW MUCH ICE ACCUMULATION THERE IS FROM
FREEZING RAIN. HAVE LEANED TOWARDS THE COLDER SOLUTIONS ...

"HAVE ALLOWED FOR FREEZING RAIN FROM NEAR THE
CITIES OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE AND POINTS NORTH AND WEST
WEDNESDAY MORNING BEFORE A GRADUAL TURN OVER TO RAIN ACROSS MOST
LOCATIONS BY WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. HOWEVER...POCKETS OF FREEZING
RAIN MAY HOLD ON ACROSS LOCATIONS WEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE AND NEAR
THE MASON DIXON LINE. HAVE KEPT THE HIGHEST ICE ACCUMULATIONS
AROUND ONE QUARTER OF AN INCH NORTH AND WEST OF THE CITIES WITH UP
TO TWO TENTHS OF AN INCH IN THE CITIES WITH LESS SOUTH AND EAST OF
THE CITIES."

Remember, freezing rain is what makes walks and handrails and roads invisibly icy, and may bring down tree limbs and power lines. So if the freezing rain comes, expect plenty of power outages overnight and into tomorrow morning. You can check on the status of BGE outages here.

Whatever happens, all of this mess should be clearing out late Wednesday, with a bit of snow as a farewell flourish. Thursday should be sunny, in the upper 30s. More light snow is possible late Friday, and Monday. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Yeeoweee! My January BGE bill is in

Have you seen yours, yet? Well, brace yourself. January 2009 is winding up almost 3 degrees colder than the long-term averages for the month at BWI, and it will do serious damage to your utility bills this month.

Mine topped $300 for only the second time since we bought the place 12 years ago. The first Sun Photo/Amy Davis 2005time was in February 2007, when temperatures averaged 29.1 degrees. That's about where they stand so far this month - at 29.3 degrees. The 30-year average for January at BWI is 32.3 degrees.

Heating degree-days so far this month are running about 10 percent above the long-term average for January at BWI. Degree days are an estimate of demand for heating energy based on temperature readings. But if you've tried to conserve by turning down the thermostat, or adding insulation, or turning off the lights when you leave a room, you may be doing better than that. 

I'm dealing with what is probably inadequate insulation. My next-door neighbor, whose house was built at the same time as mine, discovered after years of high bills that the builder neglected to install any. Where were the inspectors? I also have a low-efficiency heat pump (more cost-saving by the builder). After this BGE bill, I may need to tackle both of these issues. And soon.

The good news is that temperatures should be returning to seasonal norms by Sunday.

Drop us a comment and tell us what your utility bills are looking like, and what you're doing to save energy, and dollars. Have you switched to compact fluorescents (right)? Has it made a difference?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Snow and sleet could reach 3 to 5 inches

Salting on I-83/Sun Photo

The Winter Storm Warning posted for communities north and west of Baltimore (purple on the map)today says those areas could see 3 to 5 inches of snow and sleet before the air warms tonight and tomorrow and turns the stuff to rain. They may even get a quarter-inch of ice on top of the whole mess.

NOAA winter storm advisory zoneHere's how it reads:

"A WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING SNOW TO THE AREA TODAY...WITH
ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES. AFTER A BRIEF LULL IN THE SNOW
THIS AFTERNOON...A SECOND STRONGER WAVE WILL BRING A WINTRY MIX OF
PRECIPITATION TONIGHT AND WEDNESDAY. PRECIPITATION WILL BE MAINLY
IN THE FORM OF SNOW AND SLEET THIS EVENING...BUT A CHANGE OVER TO
FREEZING RAIN IS EXPECTED OVERNIGHT AS WARMER AIR IS DRAWN INTO THE
SYSTEM. TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN IN THE LOWER 30S WEDNESDAY...
ALLOWING FOR THE RAIN TO FREEZE ON SOME SURFACES.

"TOTAL SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT WILL BE 3
TO 5 INCHES AND TOTAL ICE ACCUMULATIONS FOR TUESDAY NIGHT AND
WEDNESDAY WILL BE AROUND A QUARTER OF AN INCH."

Things are not a whole lot prettier for communities south and east of the city (dark blue), where a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect. Here's the meat of it:

"A WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING SNOW TO THE AREA TODAY...WITH
ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES. A SECOND STRONGER WAVE WILL BRING
A WINTRY MIX OF PRECIPITATION TONIGHT INTO WEDNESDAY. PRECIPITATION
WILL BE MAINLY IN THE FORM OF SNOW AND SLEET THIS EVENING...BUT A
CHANGE OVER TO FREEZING RAIN AND RAIN IS EXPECTED OVERNIGHT AS
WARMER AIR IS DRAWN INTO THE SYSTEM. TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN IN
THE LOWER 30S WEDNESDAY ALLOWING FOR THE RAIN TO FREEZE ON SOME
SURFACES.

"TOTAL SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT WILL BE 2
TO 4 INCHES AND TOTAL ICE ACCUMULATIONS FOR TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH
WEDNESDAY MORNING WILL BE ONE TO TWO TENTHS OF AN INCH."

Here's the regional radar loop. All things considered, if this forecast holds up, I'd guess that today's snow closings may be extended another day, at least in the northern and western suburbs, primarily because of the ice forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:27 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 26, 2009

"Annular" eclipse photos show "ring of fire"

NASA annular eclipseAcross the Indian Ocean today, from South Africa to Indonesia, the sun and moon put on a spectacular display. It was an "annular eclipse" of the sun, where the moon is too far from the Earth to completely cover the sun's disk. That leaves a blazing "ring of fire" shining around the moon as it passes in front of the sun from Earth's perspective. Here's more.

Farther outside the path of totality it looked like a bizarre crescent sun. Sunlight filtered through leafy trees left thousands of little crescents projected onto the ground and buildings. Here's a remarkable gallery of photos from today's eclipse.

Cue Johnny Cash.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:09 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Winter storm will start Tuesday as snow

This morning's snow flurries and showers demonstrate that the weather pattern that has set up around us is capable of delivering some snow. And it will in the next two days.

But this is not our ideal snow-making scenario. Temperatures will slide past the freezing mark as the events unfold. Accumulations throughout this period will be small, and what starts as snow late on Tuesday will morph into freezing rain and finally rain by lunchtime on Wednesday.

But it will look enough like a real winter that the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for all of Maryland north and west of Baltimore and Washington, including their Arundel, PG and Montgomery county suburbs. The watch begins around 6 p.m. Tuesday and continues into the early evening on Wednesday. It calls for  the familiar, and always popular "wintry mix." 

Here's the official forecast for BWI. Here's how AccuWeather.com sees it. AccuWeather.com

More immediately today, light snow showers are expected to continue off and on as weak disturbances track along the jet stream track that is flowing west-to-east along the stalled boundary between cold air to our north, and warmer, wetter air to the south. Nobody expects any accumulation out if this early phase of the week's winter weather. We may even catch a few glimpses of sun and sky between the clouds.

The next of these little stormlets will barrel through later tonight, with more light snow after midnight. This one will be a bit stronger than today's, so we may get an inch - maybe two - on the ground during the day on Tuesday. The overnight low at BWI is forecast at 24 degrees. Tuesday's forecast high is 30 degrees

Late on Tuesday, and into Wednesday, the pace picks up a bit more, but so does the temperature. Forecasters think the next low to roll along the frontal boundary will track to our north and west, from West Virginia into southwestern Pennsylvania. A secondary low is likely to form off the Delmarva coast. That will draw more warm, wet air into the region from the south, raising temperatures aloft and - depending on how much cold air hangs on at the surface - changing our precip from snow to freezing rain and plain rain during the day on Wednesday. The forecast high for BWI is 34. Here's a clip from this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling:

"The exact details of of the timing and track of this system are not exactly certain at this time," the forecasters caution. "And that will play a significant role in [precipitation] type. The main threat appears to be snow and ice near the Mason Dixon Line, with snow and ice changing to rain near the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas into Central Virginia."

However it works out for us, the storms should move off the coast late on Wednesday, drawing colder air from the north in its wake. That could end the event with more snow showers. Thursday looks sunny, but temperatures will continue to run below seasonal norms, as they have since mid-month. The next cold front passes by on Friday, kicking up a coastal storm that forecaster don't believe will affect us.

Sunny but cold is the prescription for the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:20 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 25, 2009

Cold enough, and wet enough, but ...

The outlook for snow in the Baltimore region this week is pretty good - good, that is, if you like snow, or at least miss it after almost three years with little worth mentioning. A whole generation of Baltimore kids, after all, has grown to toddlerhood without having experienced a romp in snow worthy of the name.

Anyway, forecasters out at Sterling have put the probabilities for snow at BWI on Tuesday and Wednesday at 70 to 90 percent. Chances have been rising as the forecast intensity of the storm system developing to our west has increased, and its track just to our south has looked more and more favorable for snow. A Tuesday high forecast at 31 degrees should keep the city just barely in all-snow as the storm begins after noon. And a low in the upper 20s on Tuesday night should keep things going as snow. And, there should be plenty of moisture dragged into the system from the Gulf to keep it coming.

But by Tuesday night into Wednesday, things begin to warm a bit, and the likelihood of seeing some rain mixing in seems to grow. Here (in capital letters) is a snippet from the discussion from Sterling forecasters (not me):

"HOWEVER...AS
THE SYSTEM HAS LOOKED INCREASING STRONG...IT IS LOOKING INCREASINGLY
LIKELY THAT [PRECIPITATION] TYPE WILL BE AS ISSUE...ESPECIALLY AS A COASTAL LOW
DEVELOPS WEDNESDAY OVER VIRGINIA COAST BY LATE TUESDAY NIGHT. WARMER
TEMPERATURES SHOULD KEEP SNOW RATIOS LOW AND ALLOW FOR SOME RAIN TO
MIX IN WITH THE SNOW. THIS SHOULD LIMIT THE PROBABILITY OF
SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATION ACROSS THE ENTIRE [FORECAST AREA]...BUT THE
POTENTIAL DOES EXIST FOR SEVERAL INCHES OF SNOW IN THE NORTHWEST
PORTIONS OF THE AREA. WILL MIX IN RAIN FOR THE SOUTHEAST HALF..."

That said, if the forecast holds up, it does seem likely that Tuesday's snow may affect area schools. Wednesday, too, may be affected if the Tuesday accumulations are significant and Wednesday looks like a sloppy mess.

Clearly, locations north and west of the city will face more snow and less rain. Here the Westminster forecast. And here's the much messier Easton forecast.

And here is AccuWeather.com's take on the forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 24, 2009

Will it be snow? Will it be rain?

Or will it be something in between?  Forecasters out at Sterling haven't figured it out yet, so we'll just have to give the computers more time to chew on the forecast for the coming week.

The one thing they seem sure about is that the single-digit cold ... even the temps in the teens ... appear to be behind us for the time being. Instead, we're looking at cold air descending from the north and west, with warmer, wetter air to our south.

In between, we're icing in the Oreo cookie, looking at a series of fast-moving disturbances, tracking along the jet stream path that marks the boundary between the two.

What we get is some cold air, with quick little storms passing by. But only the depth and intensity of that cold air, and the amount, duration and track of the storms will determine whether we get snow, or rain, or some nasty mix. Here's how a struggling meteorologist at Sterling put it in its discussion earlier today, referring to the Wednesday/Thursday forecast:

"ANY PRECIPITATION THAT FALLS WILL BEGIN ITS DESCENT AS SNOW.
QUESTION WILL BE IF LOW LEVEL TEMPS ARE ABOVE FRZG IN A LAYER DEEP ENUF TO
CAUSE A CHANGE TO RAIN. A CHANGE WOULD BE MOST LIKELY TO OCCUR SE OF DC.
ANOTHER QUSTN IS...IF DAMMING DOES SET UP...COULD THERE BE SOME FREEZING RAIN
ON WED AND WHERE? I WISH I WERE GOOD ENUF TO NAIL THESE PROBLEMS
DOWN NOW...BUT W/ THESE EVENTS SVRL DAYS AWAY I`M GOING TO REMAIN IN
SOMEWHAT OF A BROAD BRUSH MODE...AND LEAVE POPS [PROBABILITIES FOR PRECIPITATION]IN THE 20-40 [PERCENT] RANGE."

Anyway, here's the forecast. And here's how AccuWeather.com sees it. Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 23, 2009

Cold returns Saturday, snow next week

Looks like we can count on today's sunshine to continue right into next week. But the mild temperatures - a high of 50 or more today - will disappear by tomorrow. Another cold front, now draped across the Midwest, swings through late tonight, with Canadian high pressure moving in behind it. You can watch The Sun's barometer bottom out and turn higher, signaling the front's NOAApassage.

And with cold air back in place, we're in line for more wintry precipitation when the next storm system arrives with sufficient moisture. And that, according to forecasters at Sterling, could happen as early as Tuesday night, with a repeat performance possible Wednesday or Thursday as disturbances track along the front. Here's a clip from this morning's forecast discussion:

"AS OF NOW IT APPEARS THAT THE ATMOSPHERE
WOULD BE COLD ENOUGH FOR MAINLY SNOW TUESDAY AND TUESDAY NIGHT WITH
SNOW OR RAIN POSSIBLE WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY."

Even an inch of snow at BWI would more than double the season's total so far. I know, points north and west have seen more. But there are lots of snow-lovers in and around Baltimore just ACHING for a real snowstorm. It's been nearly three years since our last snowfall of 5 inches or more at BWI.

AccuWeather.com's long-range weather expert Jack Boston thinks he sees a major shift in the winter weather pattern over the U.S., one that he believes will send more storms our way. 

"If you snow lovers in the Northeast have been waiting for your chance, you probably will get your opportunity next week. This can even include the big cities in the I-95 corridor. And yes, I know New Englanders have had plenty of snow, so I guess the upcoming pattern will just be more snow on top of what you have already had, at least for southern New Englanders. Northern New Englanders may get some more snow later next week as well."

Here's AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity on next week's storms. He sees more snow and ice ahead, too, like December's weather. Here's more.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 22, 2009

Stars tonight, sunny, 50 on Friday

Sunny skies and more southwesterly component to the winds will drive temperatures back into the seasonable-plus range today and tomorrow. The forecasters out at Sterling are looking for a high at BWI near 50 degrees on Friday. That would be close to 10 degrees above the long-term average for the date.

If we make it to 50, it would be the first time we've seen that country since Jan. 5.

But it won't last long. The high-pressure system we're enjoying will yield overnight Friday-into-Saturday to another cold front trailing a new clipper system that will be crossing the Great Lakes on Friday. Behind the front there is more wintry air. It may bring rain and snow to the western slopes of the mountains. And it will hold our highs in the low 40s on Saturday, and the 30s on Sunday and into the early part of next week.

The next chance for precipitation in Baltimore comes in the middle of next week as some Gulf NASA/Hubblemoisture makes its way in behind the departing high. But it's too soon for forecasters to venture a guess on what kind it will be.

In the meantime we will enjoy some fine nights of star-gazing. Venus remains brilliant, high in the southeastern sky well into the evening. And the bright winter constellations now grace the southeastern sky throughout the evening - Orion the Hunter, the Gemini twins (Castor and Pollux) and Taurus the Bull. The Great Bear (also known as the Big Dipper) stands on its handle in the evening in the northeast.  And W-shaped Cassiopeia rests in her throne in the northwest.

Go out tonight and get re-acquainted. Skies should be clear and crisp all evening. Here (left) is a Hubble image of the Orion Nebula, a young, star-forming region below Orion's familiar three-star "belt." With a good pair of binoculars you can see the nebula. It looks like a pale white smear of starlight. Hubble, of course, shows far more color and detail. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (2)
        

January 21, 2009

WISP avalanche !

How did I not hear about this one? Early snowfall out in Garrett in November, followed by busy snow-making at the WISP ski resort, led to an autumn avalanche - okay, a snow slide - perhaps the first ever recorded at the resort. Best of all, it was recorded on video and posted on You Tube.

Fortunately, it was small, and no one was hurt in the incident, which is described by Jon Bell, on his Deep Creek Real Estate blog. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Cool satellite image of inaugural crowd

Sunny skies yesterday allowed a passing satellite to snap a photo of the crowd on the Mall in Washington for the presidential inauguration.

Not sure what time of day the picture was taken. But I was surprised to see that the crowd did not totally fill the Mall, as it appeared on TV. They seem to be clustered around the Jumbo-Tron TVs, with plenty of space in between. Maybe it was very early, and the space was not yet packed.

Nevertheless, it's a very cool image - of a very cold crowd. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

A cold January, but thaw is coming

After a Sunday high of 35 degrees here at The Sun's weather command center , the thermometer dipped below 32 degrees a few hours after nightfall, and it's been in the freezer ever since. But after a low 18.7 degrees for the week, reached this morning, we're finally headed for a forecast Sun Photo by Jerry Jacksonhigh of 42 degrees tomorrow at BWI, and near 50 on Friday.

That should get rid of the rest of this snow and ice. The creeks were looking pretty solid this morning.

Sunshine will also dominate the forecasts this week and on into the weekend as high pressure builds in. But temperatures will drop below the long-term averages again by Saturday after the next arctic cold front rolls by. Sunday is the coldest day on the horizon, with a high around 32 degrees, and an overnight low of 21.

The weekend looks dry, but forecasters are watching computer models that predict a coastal storm off the Carolinas early next week. If it develops, they expect it will move northeast, keeping any precipitation to our south.

So far, with 11 days to go, January 2009 is shaping up as unusually cold for Baltimore. The airport is averaging 29.3 degrees through last night, about 3 degrees below the long-term average. The high for the month so far was 50 degrees, reached on Jan. 5. The low was 2 degrees, reached on Saturday, the 17th.

But even if that average temperature were to hold to the end of the month, this would still not rank as cold as January in 2003 and 2004. Baltimoreans in 2004 endured 23 days of below-average temperatures, including 16 days that never rose to the freezing mark, and three mornings in single digits.

The average high for BWI on Jan. 21 is 41 degrees. The goods news is that we are again on the upslope for average temperatures. The longer days are beginning to work their magic, and solar input begins to have an impact. The average high and low temperatures for BWI begin to show some noticeable upward movement next week.

But we are still paying for the cold. Can't wait to see that BGE bill. Between the heat pump and the electric blanket, our budget is toast. You?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 20, 2009

Space Station replay tonight

If you missed the International Space Station when it passed over Baltimore Sunday evening, you may get a second chance tonight, if skies remain clear as the giant tinker toy passes just north and west of the city.

Actually, some observers did manage a glimpse of the station Sunday. There was a layer of thin clouds over the region, and no stars were visible. But Venus could just barely be seen through the haze. And if you can see Venus in the southwest after sunset, you will likely be able to see the ISS. They're just about the same brightness these days. And sure enough, we did spot the station as it passed just right of Venus and crossed the sky from southwest to northeast.

Tonight's flyby will follow a very similar track, offset just a bit to the north and west. 

Look for a bright, steady, star-like light to rise over the west southwest horizon at 5:40 p.m. It will pass well to the right of brilliant Venus and reach its maximum elevation - about two-thirds of the way up the northwestern sky - at 5:42 p.m.  Then it will pass by the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia and zip off toward the northeast, disappearing at 5:46 p.m.

You can get ISS flyby predictions for your location - and much more - at Heavens-Above.com

 Heavens-Above.com

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Wind chill a factor on the Mall

Although temperatures are moderating a little today, and we'll see more sunshine than we saw yesterday, conditions for inauguration-goers spending the day outdoors today will remain very cold.

So, if you're home by a fire, watching the events in Washington on TV with a cup of hot java in your hands, be thankful.

Forecasters out at Sterling say temperatures may rise to 30 degrees in Washington today, but winds by late morning will be blowing from the northwest at 10 to 15 mph, and gusting to 20 mph, driving the wind chills into the teens. Pedestrians on the Mall may also see a few snow flurries as a low-pressure system off the Carolina coast tries to push a few snow bands north and west into southern Maryland. 

Photo by meWednesday will be sunnier, but a replay of today as far as temperatures go in Baltimore and vicinity. The rest of the week looks much warmer, with highs reaching into the 40s on Thursday, and 50 degrees by Friday. Sunshine will dominate.

In the meantime, weather observers are toting up the snow accumulations from yesterday's storm. A place called Wolfsville, in Frederick County, appears to have won the snow lottery east of the mountains, with 3 inches. Frostburg saw 4. But closer to Baltimore it was the stretch from Towson to Hunt Valley that took the prize, with 2 inches or more. We measured 3 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville (left).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 19, 2009

1 to 2 inches possible north and west

As the snow continues to pile up, forecasters out at Sterling have issued a Winter Weather Advisory until 10 p.m. for those sections of the Baltimore area in blue on the map. They're now calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow today before things taper off after dark. Says Sterling:

NOAA"THIS IS THE FIRST MEASURABLE SNOW OF THE SEASON ACROSS MUCH OF THE
AREA. WITH TEMPERATURES AROUND FREEZING...SNOW WILL BE ABLE TO
STICK ON SOME ROADS. THIS WILL CAUSE SLIPPERY AND POTENTIALLY
DANGEROUS TRAVEL."

UPDATE: We have 2 inches on the WeatherDeck at 2 p.m. in Cockeysville, and it's snowing hard. 

UPDATED UPDATE: At 2:30, snow has mostly stopped here ... for the moment. Temperature stands at 30. 

UPDATING THE UPDATED UPDATE: 3 INCHES EVEN ON THE WEATHERDECK AT 3:10 P.M. STILL SNOWING LIGHTLY.

Here is the official forecast. Here is the radar loop. And here is the Winter Weather Advisory:

LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING A PERIOD OF LIGHT SNOW ACROSS THE EASTERN
WEST VIRGINIA PANHANDLE...NORTH CENTRAL VIRGINIA...MUCH OF THE
MARYLAND AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY
THIS EVENING. SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF AROUND ONE INCH CAN BE
EXPECTED IN WASHINGTON...WITH 1 TO 2 INCHES OF SNOW TO THE NORTH
AND WEST OF WASHINGTON INCLUDING ALL OF NORTHERN MARYLAND.

Towson has already reported an inch on the ground. Here are some more reports. It's the first measurable snow at BWI since Dec. 6, when they recorded a whopping 0.6 inch.

UPDATE: Here's a 2 p.m. Winter Weather Message from the NWS:

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 PM EST THIS
EVENING.

LIGHT SNOW WILL TAPER OFF LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY THIS
EVENING. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WILL BE AN INCH TO LOCALLY TWO
INCHES.

WITH TEMPERATURES AROUND FREEZING...SNOW WILL BE ABLE TO STICK ON
SOME ROADS. THIS WILL CAUSE SLIPPERY AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS
TRAVEL.

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW
WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS
AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES...AND USE

Not everyone is getting this snow. Here's the radar image showing where it's been falling. And the regional radar shows it's nearly over.

So how's the driving where you are? Are the streets getting salted? Have you stuck a ruler in the stuff? 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:42 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Pretty snowfall won't amount to much

Photo by meBig fat flakes are falling onto the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville (left) this morning. The temperature is 27 out there at 10:44 a.m., and it's a lovely little snowfall. But unfortunately (or fortunately for some) forecasters don't expect it to amount to much.

The street and walks up here are now snow-covered after about an hour of accumulation. It seems to have leaped ahead of the official forecast, which called for a 70 percent chance of snow, mostly after noon. In all, they're expecting no more than an inch.

Here's the radar loop

Here's a clip from this morning's discussion:

"TOTALS GENERALLY AROUND ONE HALF INCH EXPECTED. HOWEVER...MODELS DEVELOP SMALL AMOUNTS OF INSTABILITY THIS AFTERNOON OVER
EASTERN ZONES...VICINITY CHESAPEAKE BAY AND POTOMAC. NEAR DC AND BALTIMORE
METRO AREAS...MAY SEE ACCUMULATIONS SLIGHTLY HIGHER THAN ONE HALF
INCH...DURING AFTERNOON COMMUTE."

Not much, but after so many disappointments this winter, snow-lovers ought to be delighted with seeing flakes in the air, and some whitening on the ground. The neighborhood dogs sure seem happy with it.

In the meantime, that coastal storm that is expected to develop tomorrow off the Carolinas does not appear to be a threat to the urban centers. The storm is forecast to head out to sea, and any snow that's spun off the the north and west is not likely to get beyond the extreme southern and eastern portions of Maryland.

Drop us a comment and let us know what you're seeing out your window. How are the driving/walking conditions? 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 17, 2009

Two degrees at BWI

The coldest morning in years.  BWI was reporting 2 degrees this morning. It's not a record. It was minus-7 degrees on this date in 1982 - equaling the coldest reading on record for Baltimore on any date. But it was a remarkable low - the lowest in many years.

Here (as soon as Sterling gets around to updating it) will be a low-temperature map of the region. We can say that BWI saw a low of 2 degrees. National Airport was 9 degrees. Dulles Airport touched 1 degree (as did the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville). Charlottesville, Va. reported minus-1 degree.

Here's the forecast. And here's this morning's weather discussion from Sterling.

I will be on the go today. Will try to post your comments ASAP. Bundle up!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:02 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers
        

January 16, 2009

Friday's high a feeble 18 degrees; Saturday now 22

They said we would struggle make 20 degrees today, and they were right. The high recorded this afternoon at BWI-Marshall was a mere 18 degrees. It was also 18 just after midnight. The overnight low this morning was 10. We'll likely go lower tonight, but maybe not before midnight.

The Science Center high was also 18 degrees.

The record low for a Jan. 16 in Baltimore is 1 degree, in 1893. The record low maximum for the date is 14 degrees, set on the same day in 1893. So no record was broken.

Here at The Sun's weather station at Centre and N. Calvert streets, our high this afternoon was 17 (after a high for the date of 18, after midnight). The low was 13 degrees. Again, we may see a lower minimum before the day ends at midnight. It's only 16 as I write this at 5:10 p.m.

Send me your readings. Be sure to say where you are. I'll post them as soon as I see them.

BTW, the Sterling folks have also trimmed their forecast for Saturday's high temperature. Once predicted to reach 30 degrees, the high is now expected to go no higher than 22 degrees - just 4 degrees warmer than today. If you're headed to the ObamaRama at City Hall, bear that in mind. It will be frigid.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:04 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Sunday-Monday snow chances rising

The chances for the Baltimore region to get some measurable snow this weekend have been increasing this afternoon as forecasters in Sterling, Va. work to sort out the disagreements between their various forecast models.

NOAAOfficially, the current forecast calls for  a "slight" chance of  snow after midnight Sunday morning. The snow chances bump to 50 percent during the day Sunday, mostly after noon. And they jump again to 60 percent Sunday night and Monday morning. (Sorry kids. It's a holiday anyway. No snow days for you.)

The problem with the forecast is that it's a hedged bet. The computer models are in disagreement, and so forecasters increased their rating of our snow chances as a way to split the difference.

The facts of the case are this: Some models show a developing coastal low off the southeastern coast as the weekend rolls along. With plenty of cold air still in place in the Northeast, that's always cause to think snow. One model sends the storm up the coast, bringing us an increased chance for snow east of the mountains Sunday into Monday. 

But other models don't see it. They predict little or no precipitation from the low, at least for us.

"The diverging solutions add to the uncertainty of this forecast," the Sterling discussion laments. "After much consideration and collaboration, we have decided to increase chances of snow across the [forecast] area ... If [the pro-snow models] are correct some snow accumulation is likely. On the flip side, if the [no-snow models] win out, then little or no snow may occur. We will need to keep a close watch on this system and adjust details as model guidance becomes in better agreement."

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Pittsburgh forecast: bitter cold and snowy

Somebody clue me in: Who plays better in 20-degree cold and snow? The Ravens or the Steelers? And whose fans can best tolerate a frigid night in the stands, with snow?

The question occurs because of the forecast for the AFC championship game Sunday night is SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron 2008pretty darn wintry. The NWS Pittsburgh forecast office is calling for a high Sunday of just 30 degrees, with a 80 percent chance for snow during the day, before game time, with winds of 9 to 10 mph.

After sundown (the game begins at 6:30 p.m.) temperatures will be dropping toward an overnight low forecast to reach 15 degrees. The winds won't diminish at night, and the snow chances drop, but only to 50 percent after 4 p.m.

Sounds brutal to me. Can the Ravens benefit from a cold night in Pittsburgh?  Can Baltimore fans take it?

Full disclosure: That's not a Ravens game these crazy fans are braving in the snow. It was the Maryland State Football Championships (River Hill and Eastern Tech) at Ravens' stadium back on Dec. 6. Karl Merton Ferron snapped the shot.

Speaking of brutal weather, the football game and the inauguration seem to be playing a role on weather-related searches on Yahoo. The Yahoo folks have been tracking them, and post this this finding:

According to Yahoo! the top spiking weather searches are for:
1.       Cleveland – searches are up 1,076%
2.       Washington D.C. – searches are up 931%
3.       Chicago – searches are up 898%
4.       Dayton, OH – searches are up 774%
5.       Milwaukee – searches are up 760%
6.       Des Moines, IA – searches are up 621%
7.       Pittsburgh – searches are up 619%
8.       Sioux Falls, SD – searches are up 592%
9.       Indianapolis – searches are up 487%
10.   Cedar Rapids, IA – searches are up 428%
SOURCE: Yahoo!
(*All searches are for the past 7 days)
Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:42 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Brrrrr !! And colder tonight !

That was bracing! Overnight lows ranged from around minus-8 degrees out in Garrett County, to about 11 degrees in Aberdeen. Here is a map with National Weather Service observer reports.

We recorded a low of 10 degrees out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The mercury here at The Sun's weather command center was 12.4 degrees, which held pretty steady until 10 a.m. The low out at BWI Marshall Airport was 10 degrees, reached just before 7 a.m.

And as if that weren't enough, the forecasters at Sterling say we're in for even colder lows tonight, after a day that will struggle to top 20 degrees - about 20 degrees below the long-term average for the date. The forecast low for BWI tonight is just 7 degrees. That would be the coldest since an 6-degree morning back on Jan. 10, 2004. 

NOAAThe good news is that skies tonight will be crystal clear under this huge, dry arctic high-pressure system parked over the eastern half of the country (left).Last night's sky was crammed with bright winter stars, and the evening commute home was graced by the brilliant planet Venus, high in the southwestern sky. Venus is near its highest position this winter, setting a full three hours after the sun. Turn to the east and you can admire the bright stars of the constellation Orion, with his familiar three-star belt. I went up the street to get the mail last night, turned and headed back to the house while gaping at the night sky. Got so distracted I walked right past my own house. Beautiful.

From here the weather will warm a bit - rising nearly to the freezing mark Saturday afternoon in advance of the president-elect's visit to Baltimore. If you're going, dress warmly, then add another layer. Hours of standing in the sub-freezing cold will take a toll on you, and in that crowd, it will not be quick or easy to get to someplace warm.

Going to the ObamaRama tomorrow, or to the inauguration on Tuesday? ? Here are some cold-weather tips from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:

Use the Layering Principle

* Base Layer: Wear fabrics that keep your skin dry and prevent a

clammy feeling.

* Insulating Layer: Wear a vest or shirt made of fleece or wool.

This may be added or removed depending on how cold you feel.

* Windproof and Water-Resistant Outer Layer: Wear a jacket,

preferably with a hood, to help protect you from the elements.

* Briefs: Wear briefs made of synthetic fabric, preferably nylon

or polyester. Cotton or cotton-blend fabrics should be avoided since they hold moisture and do not dry quickly.

* Tights or Thermals: Wear tights, winter-weight hose or thermals

when temperatures are below 30 degrees Fahrenheit or when it is windy.

Silk or polypropylene long thermal bottoms are best. Tights or hose can also help prevent chafing and chapped skin on the thighs and calves.

Hands

* Gloves or Mittens: Keep your hands warm for cold weather comfort

and protection. Mittens are warmer than gloves. If you keep your fingers together, they warm each other.

Socks and Shoes

* Hiking Socks: Protect your feet from the elements when you are

walking in cold weather. Wear a hiking sock offering a wicking polypropylene liner sock under a wool over sock. Be careful that you don't wear a sock so padded and bulky that it crowds your toes in your shoes.

* Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes: Wear light hiking boots or trail

running shoes that are waterproof. Be sure the shoes have a flexible sole.

Protect Your Eyes, Lips, Skin, Neck and Face

* Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from sun glare.

* Sunscreen: Wear sunscreen. Keep in mind winter*s sun

radiation is more intense.

* Lip balm: Prevent chapped lips. Balms with sun protection are

even better in the outdoors.

* Hats, Hoods and Scarfs: Protect your head, neck and ears leaving

only your face exposed. A scarf can be pulled up to cover your nose.

Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness are signs of hypothermia. Babies with hypothermia have bright red, cold skin, and very low energy. Seek immediate medical attention for if you experience any of these conditions.

For more information on public health and emergency preparedness for the inauguration, click on *Inauguration Tips* at
http://dhmh.state.md.us.

Health o also offer food tips for residents attending the inauguration:

Many residents are preparing to attend the upcoming inaugural events, and due to expected large crowds and long lines, some may plan to bring food. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends the following examples of small, pocket-size packs of simple, easy to carry, healthy and non-perishable food items:

* Dried Fruit - Dried Apples, Raisins, Cranberries, Apricots,

Peaches, Blueberries or others

* Nuts - Almonds, Brazil Peanuts, Cashews, Macadamia ,

Pistachios, Pecans, Soy and Walnuts

* Seeds - Shelled pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

* Food Bars - Energy and granola bars

* Crackers - Plain and flavored

* Cereal/Granola - Breakfast-type cereals and trail mix,

* Cookies - Graham Crackers, Oatmeal , Gingersnaps

* Chips - Pretzels, Bagel chips, Baked Chips, Pita chips,

Air-popped Popcorn

For more information on public health and emergency preparedness for the inauguration, click on *Inauguration Tips* at:

http://dhmh.state.md.us

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:10 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

January 15, 2009

Cold invades today, worse tomorrow

The coldest weather of the winter so far is tumbling into the region today, with even colder arctic weather on tap for Friday. With blustery winds building up today, wind chill factors will be dipping into the single digits across Baltimore and Washington through Saturday morning, with sub-zero wind chills possible in the northern and western suburbs.

This is not cold and wind to be trifled with. On the other hand, while flurries will continue to be a possibility into next week, there are no suggestions in the forecast of any serious snowfall through the period. This arctic air mass is simply too dry, and there are no coastal storms, for now, available to juice things up.

Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacatiosn webcamThe folks in Sterling are calling for highs today only in the upper 20s to near 30 degrees, and they will be falling in the afternoon as the really cold air piles in. Western Maryland may get some snow showers today as the cold air runs up the western side of the Appalachians. That's Deep Creek Lake today at left, where lows tonight and tomorrow will be below zero.

So there's a winter weather advisory out there through 4 p.m. today. But on this side of the divide, our flurries - or at least our worries about any accumulation - are over.

One factor determining how much snow Maryland gets as this frigid air streams down from the north and west is the icing on the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is freezing up quickly. Once they're iced over, there is less moisture available to make snow downwind. Here's the ice report. And here's an animation of recent snow and ice cover for North America. At the moment, only western New York seems to be getting lake-effect snow.

Tonight the mercury will sink into the low teens at BWI, and won't recover much tomorrow. Friday's forecast high is just 22 degrees. And Friday night's low will be in the single digits - 8 degrees are forecast for the airport.

We're not likely to set any records. These are the coldest weeks of the year, statistically speaking. The record low temperature for a Jan. 16 in Baltimore is 1 degree above zero, reached in 1893. The record low for Jan. 17 is minus-7 degrees, in 1982. Minus-7 is the lowest temperature on record for Baltimore, reached four other times: Jan. 22, 1984 and Jan. 29, 1963, and on Feb. 9, 1934 and Feb. 10, 1899.

Anyone going to see Barack Obama downtown Saturday will need to dress to spend hours in sub-freezing cold. It should be sunny, with light winds, but the day's high will stall in the mid-20s and fall during the 4 p.m. event. Sunset is at 5:10 p.m., but the sun will disappear behind the city's taller buildings well before that.

Saturday night and Sunday will bring a chance for snow as a bit of Gulf moisture gets swept up in the draft behind the departing high. But there is too much uncertainty about the strength and timing of these events to warrant any serious concern about snow, at least for now, forecasters say. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 14, 2009

Or not ... Tuesday now looks cold, sunny

The forecast for Tuesday's Inauguration Day festivities continues to shift as forecast models adjust to new information. This morning's offering calls for noontime temperatures in the upper 20s, with mostly sunny skies and increasing afternoon winds.

Sun Photo/Doug Kapustin 2004But that all depends on the timing of what forecasters see as a series of weak storms that will be tracking out of the Great Lakes and out to the Atlantic with flurries and snow showers. We could see some of that during the day on Tuesday. For now, however, they're going for sunny and cold. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on Tuesday's weather.

The more immediate concern is for the approach today of the coldest temperatures Maryland has seen in years. Barack Obama's visit to Baltimore on Saturday will be sunny, but uncomfortably cold.

Canadian high pressure is already rolling into the region today (infrared satellite image below), which explains today's sunshine, rising barometer and temperatures that are unlikely to climb above freezing.

The instruments here at The Sun dipped under 32 degrees around 2 a.m. this morning and are unlikely to rise above freezing again until Sunday - four-and-a-half days of freezing weather.

"Winter has definitely settled into the mid-Atlantic," the morning discussion from Sterling observes. "Two straight nights of sub-zero and single-digit wind chills are close at hand."NOAA

The first in this series of weak little storms that are expected to barrel through the region over the next week or so is most likely to pass to our north late tonight. Forecasters have posted a 30 percent chance for snow here. But they don't seem very impressed. No more than a half-inch dusting is forecast early Thursday morning, if that. Not much, but a half inch would nearly double our pitiful snow total for the winter (0.6 inch at BWI).

Behind the clipper comes the truly arctic cold air. Thursday will be windy and dry, with temperatures falling after a high in the upper 20s. Wind chills will be driven far lower by gusting above 30 mph. Overnight lows Thursday into Friday will sink to the lower teens - and single digits to the north and west. Friday's high will struggle for 20.

Be thankful the inauguration isn't on the 16th.

Friday night into Saturday will be the coldest period of the week, with lows in Baltimore in the single digits. Thankfully, winds will be light.

As the high moves out to sea, we'll start to get a return flow of air from the South, which will raise humidities and boost temperatures into the upper 20s for Saturday, and above freezing - barely - on Sunday. That's still 10 degrees below the long-term average for this time of year.

Small chances for snow also return with the next in the week's series of weak storm systems out of the Great Lakes. The best chance for flakes is Sunday, but it sounds like more flurries and snow showers, if that.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 13, 2009

Inaugural weather forecast - 33 and snow (maybe)

The National Weather Service's first long-range forecast for Inauguration Day next Tuesday is in, and it's a wintry one.

White House 1911/Library of CongressLooking a week down the road, Sterling is calling for a high of just 33 degrees in Washington, with a 30 percent chance of snow. Coming off an overnight low of just 22 degrees, that likely means temperatures in the upper 20s around the time the swearing-in occurs at noon. 

That would make this Inauguration Day at least 10 degrees colder than the average Jan. 20 . On the other hand, 33 degrees might feel downright toasty after the lows we're expected to experience on Friday and on into the weekend.

The overnight low now predicted for Baltimore (BWI) on Friday night into Saturday morning has slipped again to just 1 degree above zero. The last time BWI reported 1 degree was 12 years ago, on Jan. 19, 1997. We haven't been below zero at the airport since Feb. 5, 1996, when it was minus-1 degree Fahrenheit, according to the folks at Sterling.

Saturday and Sunday, too, will likely remain below freezing all day long. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday looks like the warmest day in the forecast, with sunshine and a high of 35 at the airport.

In the meantime, forecasters now expect more chances for snowfall this week as a series of "clipper" systems and arctic cold fronts spill down out of the Far North. The first snow threat runs from Wednesday night into Thursday night, with no more than a 30 percent chance of flakes as the system struggles to push the moisture past the mountains into our part of the state.

A second, and much colder front goes past late on Wednesday into Thursday, bringing more risks for light snow or snow showers in western and northern counties, as well as bitter cold. Another weak storm system will pass through on Sunday, with a 30 percent chance of leaving something white behind. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Into the deep freeze... single digits Friday night

Forecasters out at Sterling are warning of bitter cold by the end of this week as cold air from the Yukon rolls in. They foresee temperatures in the single digits in parts of the Baltimore region by Friday night or Saturday morning.

The official low-temperature forecast for Friday night at BWI has been shifting over the last 24 hours, from a low of 11 degrees early yesterday, to 5 degrees by the end of the day, to 10 degrees in this morning's version. 

If we do touch single digits at BWI Friday into Saturday it will be the first time that's happened since an 8-degree low on Jan. 21 last year. That was the only single-digit reading the airport reported last winter. There was just one date in single digits in 2007; none in 2006; one in 2005 and six in 2004.

The coldest reading in the last five years was a 6-degree low at BWI on Jan. 10, 2004.AccuWeather.com

This morning's forecast discussion urges Marylanders to enjoy today's weather, with a comparatively mild high of 46 degrees expected this afternoon. From there on things only get colder. We won't likely see the liquid side of 32 degrees again until Sunday afternoon.

Overnight low temperatures will drop into the low 20s tonight and tomorrow night at BWI after the next cold front passes through. Wednesday night could produce a few snow showers as cold air streams in across the Great Lakes. Extreme western Maryland will likely see snow chances all week, and sub-zero cold by week's end.

High temperatures Wednesday and Thursday will stall around 30 degrees. But a second, reinforcing wave of frigid air from the arctic will roll in later on Thursday (above), driving overnight temperatures at BWI into the low teens. There's little moisture in this air mass, but there may be a few isolated snow showers, especially in western or extreme northern sections of the state, forecasters say.

The front comes with stiff winds, which will mean gale warnings on the bay and wind chills to zero or below. Forecasters may need to issue wind chill advisories or warnings for Thursday night or Friday morning.

President Taft's inauguration 1909Friday will be the coldest day of the week, with a high struggling to reach 20 degrees at the airport. Winds during the day will ease, but it will still be extremely uncomfortable outdoors. And the overnight low could reach single digits, or even lower.

Even colder lows are expected to our north. New York City on Friday night is forecast to experience its first sub-zero temperatures since January 1994.

So enjoy today's "balmy" weather, "the one day warm weather lovers can spend outdoors before the mid-Atlantic ventures into the deep freeze," forecasters quipped.

Comedians, those guys. 

Looking ahead, forecasters think the cold will ease some in time for Tuesday's inauguration, but there is a chance for light snow in the District the night before. Here's AccuWeather.com's Inauguration Day forecast. That's President Taft's stormy 1909 inauguration scene, above.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:19 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 12, 2009

Arctic Express headed this way

All that "wintry mix" silliness has been wiped from the forecast for this week. And there are no hints of snow, at least for Central Maryland. In its place, we're looking for sunshine, blustery winds and the coldest weather of the season so far.  Make sure your oil tank is full, and public officials will need to keep the homeless in mind, and put their cold shelters on alert.

SUN PHOTO/ John Makely 1998By mid-week, thermometers across the region will be hard-pressed to reach 30 degrees during the day. Friday may not see 25. And overnight lows will sink through the 20s each night, to 11 degrees by Friday night at BWI, with even colder temperatures in  the normally colder suburbs and rural valleys.

EVEN COLDER UPDATE: Forecast revisions this afternoon have added a chance of snow showers Wednesday night ahead of colder air. Friday's high may not top 20 degrees, and Friday night could sink to single digits. Brrrrr!  Earlier post resumes below:

Barometers are rising today as high pressure air builds in from the north and west. Temperatures this afternoon will be about right for this time of year, when we're approaching what is, statistically, the coldest time of the year for Maryland. Average highs at BWI are 41 degrees. We're looking for 39 this afternoon at the airport. And as the air dries out, the skies will get clearer.

Temperatures Tuesday could reach the mid-40s before the first wave of arctic air begins to pile in behind the cold front. Look for a cold, windy night Tuesday into Wednesday, with wind chills nearing zero degrees. Sterling forecasters expect Wednesday's temperatures will stall somewhere short of the freezing mark. And that's all before the REALLY cold air arrives.

On Thursday, the Great Lakes will see yet another Alberta Clipper storm. Western Maryland will get some more snow off the lakes, too. But the biggest effect will be from the intensely cold air that will barrel down out of the Yukon behind the storm. Highs at BWI on Friday may get no higher than 23 degrees, with an overnight low of 11 degrees if the forecast holds up. (It will be fascinating to watch conditions up on Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire later this week.)

The weekend, from here, looks sunny and cold, with highs near 30 degrees. Time to put away the shorts, kids.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 9, 2009

Snow north, rain south, slop in between

Chicago Tribune Photo/Phil Velasquez

Saturday's storm is shaping up to be a classic Maryland wintertime dance with the "rain/snow line."  The Clipper system is rolling across Chicagoland (above) and the upper Midwest along a narrow track that will drop snow across Pennsylvania and southern New England.

But the farther south you look, the wetter the precipitation gets. Snow north. Rain south. But that's where the forecasters out at Sterling begin to waffle.

"There will be a transition band in between," they note in this morning's discussion. "Have limited confidence on exactly where that will be."

For now, the forecast for York, Pa. calls for a snowy night tonight, a snowy morning tomorrow with some rain mixing in later in the day. They can expect 1 to 3 inches.

Westminster is looking at snow after midnight and early tomorrow. Sleet mixes in later AccuWeather.comcontributing to an inch of stuff on the ground. Add rain, change it to snow in the evening.

Down in Salisbury, however, the storm is forecast to generate only rain, beginning on Saturday and  continuing with showers into the evening. A quarter-inch tops.

Baltimore, in the middle of all this, is slated for slop. Rain and sleet in the morning, then freezing rain, then rain after noon. "Little or no ice accumulation," they say. "Little or no snow accumulation."

Just a lousy, cold, wet day.

Uncertainty about where that rain/snow line falls, of course - or, for that matter, where the storm track finally goes - makes much of this a crapshoot. We'll just have to live through it and see.

What we do know is that there is colder air behind the storm. Look for highs in the 30s Sunday and Monday, with sunshine. Then another Clipper will  brush by us with snow showers on Tuesday, if the forecast holds up. Then there's more arctic air to be swept down behind the storm, with Wednesday topping out below freezing, but sunny. Yet another Clipper drops by on Thursday with snow showers, followed by even colder air behind that.

These Clippers make the winter more interesting, for sure. But they typically don't pack a lot of moisture, and consequently don't drop much snow, even if they run right over you. What snow-lovers need is a lot of cold air, followed by a nice coastal low, full of Gulf moisture.

Nothing like that on tap yet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        

January 8, 2009

More "wintry mix" ahead; real winter next week

It appears that snow lovers in Central Maryland will suffer more teases and disappointments this weekend, as forecasters reprise their "wintry mix" forecasts in Saturday's predictions. But there is real winter cold in store for us next week, if the long-range forecast holds. And that could set the stage for actual snow late next week. More in a minute.

Frostburg StateFor now, we're looking at a few flurries across parts of the Baltimore region. We saw saw flakes on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning, even though air temperatures at the surface were above freezing. Frederick and points north and west also reported some flurries and snow showers this morning. That's Frostburg State at left.

But that will be it for now. The forecasters' real focus is more on Saturday's weather. Today's sunny breaks and blustery winds signal the arrival of high pressure as the recent two-day rain departs to the northeast. That will bring us more sunshine, colder temperatures and gusty winds tomorrow.

But once that high begins to move off the coast late on Friday, clouds will return ahead of the next storm system. The timing remains uncertain, but if the expected "clipper" system arrives early, it will likely start as snow, especially in the usual northern and western suburbs. On the other hand (there's always another hand), temperatures will once again be marginal, so there's a good chance all we'll see will be freezing rain - except, again, near the Mason Dixon Line. Sound familiar?

Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the clipper, which is expected to deal more harshly with Philly and NYC. And here is AccuWeather.com blogger Henry Margusity.

Best to expect that old "wintry mix" on Saturday. But as the low departs and colder air moves in, whatever is falling could switch back to snow before it all ends late Saturday night. Sterling has posted a very tentative "Hazardous Weather Outlook" for Baltimore and its suburbs, noting that "a wintry mix of snow and rain may be possible," changing to rain.

In Western Allegany and Garrett, it's a "Winter Weather Advisory," alerting residents there to the possibility of 1 to 2 inches of accumulation from TODAY's snow showers.

Sunday we start to see more serious cold moving into the region. High pressure moves back on Sunday and Monday, with highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s. With the cold air, a clipper-type storm could pass by to our north on Monday or Tuesday and leave us a bit of snow, forecasters say. And behind that, even colder air moves down from the arctic. Wednesday's highs may not leave the 20s.

"Cold air will be around through the end of the week," this morning's forecast discussion says. "So any approaching systems would most likely produce snow across the area. Right now, one such system could approach on Friday."

Margusity hinted at a snowstorm "from Virginia to New England." Okay, it's a long way off, an eternity in forecasting terms. But it's the only shred of hope - or fear - Sterling has to offer. 

So let Sterling hear you: Do we want some real snow for the first time in years, and some snow days this month? Or would you rather stay home with a pencil in your eye? 

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

January 7, 2009

Rain, rain ... enough already

Now people are asking ME to make the rain go away. Hey, I just write this stuff. If it were up to me, it would be snow! It's been way too long since our last real winter wonderland - I'd say almost three years, since the 13.1 inches that fell on Feb. 11-12, 2006. The story I wrote in December 2007 - "Why snow shoveling is bad for you" - is still holding, waiting for a shovel-worthy storm.

Sun Photo/RoylanceAnyway, today should see the last of the rain for a while as this low-pressure system linked to an approaching cold front moves out. For now, the barometer is still dropping - an impressive 29.28 inches and falling now at Guilford and Centre (left; thanks to the Crime Blog for the loan of Peter Hermann's window on the world).

Forecasters out at Sterling say we should be done with the rain by midnight, with partly sunny skies due on Thursday and seasonable highs near 41 degrees and gusty winds. Friday looks even sunnier, but a little colder and windy again as cold, dry air piles in behind the cold front.

A clipper system on Saturday could bring some showers, but another blast of cold, arctic air behind that will clear things out for Sunday and Monday, with highs only in the upper 30s.

The next chance for precip comes mid-week next week, but with temperatures trending warmer, it's likely to be more rain. So far this winter BWI has reported traces of snow on 13 dates from November through yesterday, but just one day with measureable amounts - 0.6 inch on Dec. 6. Pitiful.

But we've clocked plenty of rain from this two-day drip. We've recorded 1.15 inches on the gauge here at The Sun since the rain began yesterday. BWI has reported 1.45 inches. Here are some more precipitation totals from across the region.

Herold Harbor, (AA Co.):  1.68 inches

Bowie (PG): 1.58 inches

Severna Park (AA):  1.55 inches

Dunkirk (Calvert):  1.42 inches

Ellicott City (Howard):  1.3 inches

Towson (Baltimore Co.): 1.06 inches

Taneytown (Carroll):  1.05 inches

Kingsville (Harford):  1.03 inches

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Storm reports
        

January 6, 2009

Rain and sleet as temperatures sag

You have to feel for the folks in Sterling this morning. This is the kind of complex and difficult forecast that triggers migraines.

NOAACold air has been pushing into the region since we touched 50 degrees at The Sun yesterday afternoon. There's also warmer, wetter air moving up from the southwest, overriding the cold layer. It's colder still farther west, and at higher elevations. So what falls from the sky today depends entirely on where you are and how the cold air, warmer air, moisture and temperatures interact in three dimensions. It's no day for amateurs at Sterling.

UPDATE AT 4 P.M.: Temperature has reached 32 at The Sun, 33 at BWI. Here are some regional icing reports. Earlier post resumes below.

The steady temperature slide has gotten us to 36 degrees this morning here, and 34 at BWI. So far. That's why forecasters are still warning about the possibilities for sleet and freezing rain today north and west of Baltimore. That's before the colder air at the surface begins to erode and we go back to all rain late today. South and east of the city there's only rain in the forecast.

Eventually, the warmer air above the colder surface layer - and the rain it's dropping through that colder air - will overwhelm the cold and plain rain will prevail. And they expect plenty of it once it gets rolling.

Radar suggests there is lots more moisture to our south, and that's expected to move our way before this day is through. As much as an inch or two of rain is possible and the rain picks up later today and tonight. The rain will continue tomorrow, with another half- to three-quarters-of-an-inch in the cards.

Sunshine returns on Thursday and Friday, with colder, windier conditions. Another cold front (with showers) on Saturday will usher in even colder weather, with sunshine and highs only in the 30s Sunday and Monday.

No snow in sight for Baltimore. Total for the season so far (at BWI): 0.6 inch.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:56 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

January 5, 2009

And you thought Dec. 31 was windy ...

Sure, there were some pretty brisk winds in Maryland on New Year's Eve. They forced the postponement of the fireworks at the Inner Harbor.

NOAA Photo LibraryBut the peak gust at BWI was 51 mph. Imagine a gust to 132 mph, and average winds above 90 mph. That's what they recorded on top of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Here's how Mike Clark, the blogger at the Mt. Washington Observatory described it:

"Well, perhaps windy is an understatement. For 21 hours yesterday, a wind gust of at least 100 mph was recorded with the peak for the day being 132 mph. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that for 9 hours, the average wind speed for those hours exceeded 100 mph with a peak hourly average wind speed for the day of 111 mph.

"Remember, that is not a wind gust, that is an average wind speed for an entire hour. The average wind speed for the entire day was 92.3 mph. That average would have probably been 100 mph if winds hadn't diminished to around 70 mph for the last 3 hours of the day. Also impressive was the overall gustiness of the wind, or the difference between peaks and lulls. For most of the day, winds would lull to around 40-60 mph and then gust over 120 mph in mere seconds."

NOTE: The world's highest recorded surface wind speed was clocked at the observatory on April 12, 1934 - an astonishing 231 mph.

"It was also darn cold yesterday, although not record breaking. We reached a low for the day of 27 below zero sometime between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Temperatures for a good portion of the day remained near 20 below, making for wind chills of 60-80 below zero. Because of this, nobody from the staff went outside yesterday with any skin exposed.

"In those kind of wind chills, exposed skin will freeze and become frostbitten in a minute or two. We also did not venture very far from the building, even to do our hourly observations. Being fully exposed to winds that are that high and especially that gusty will very quickly take you off of your feet and slide you to the other side of the deck. Once that has happened, pretty much your only option is to crawl back to the door. Even though that sounds simple, in conditions like that it can take 5-10 minutes or even more. Additionally, all it takes is one small mishap, such as losing a glove or your goggles, and you're in big trouble.

"Out of the 2 years of non-consecutive time I have spent working on this mountain, yesterday [Dec.31] was quite possibly the overall most extreme day I have experienced. It was not quite the highest wind gust however. That was 137 mph back in February of 2006. I don't recall the winds with that storm being quite so gusty, however the temperatures were even colder."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Sleet maybe, but no freezing rain in city

If I've learned anything doing this weather blog, it's how much the forecasts from Sterling change from hour to hour.

So it shouldn't surprise me that Sterling has taken another look at the forecast. They've folded in new data and computer projections and concluded that conditions tomorrow may be ripe for snow, sleet, freezing rain and a nasty cold rain, but they say now that it won't be as troublesome as they feared this morning.

NOAAAt least, that is, if you live south of the Mason-Dixon Line. That's where Sterling's turf ends, and forecasters north of the line - in Philly and State College - are always on their own wavelength on these forecasts. 

The PA folks still have Winter Storm Watches posted across much of the state - north of the MD Line. They're looking at enough snow and sleet, changing the rain and freezing rain to cause "significant" problems.

But south of the old boundary (and north and west of Baltimore), we may see similar conditions, but less of it, with mere "travel difficulties". So we get only a Winter Weather Advisory.

Baltimore and the southern portion of Baltimore County have also been removed from the advisory zone. No freezing rain there, they say now (or for points south and east), just rain and sleet, changing to all-rain later in the day Tuesday. Piece of cake.

But still Sterling is hedging its bets. "IF LATER MODELS COME IN COLDER THERE IS STILL TIME TO UP THIS TO A WARNING," they said. Here's how AccuWeather.com sorts it all out.

Here's the radar loop. Headed for New York? Looks like conditions will be better along I-95 than on the western route on I-83 and I-81 through Pennsylvania to I-78 or I-80.

All this, of course, could change as the hours tick by.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December ends mild, snow-free

 Sun Photo/Lloyd Fox 2008

December ended with a windy, frigid flourish that (mercifully) postponed the New Year's Eve fireworks at the Inner Harbor until the next night (above). Sustained winds on Dec. 31 peaked at 38 mph at the airport, with gusts to 51.)

But on the whole, the month was a bit milder than the long-term average for Decembers at BWI-Marshall Airport, with even less than the scant 1.7 inches of snow that is the December average. Traces were noted on seven other dates. Western Maryland saw far more from storms blowing off the Great Lakes.

That's not to say we didn't have our wintry cold snaps. After a mild start, December sank into a four-day cold spell in which daytime highs got stuck in the 30s for three days (Dec. 6-8). Lows reached the high teens, with the month's low of 18 degrees touched on the 6th. That period delivered the only measurable snowfall for the month, the meager 0.6 inch that fell on Dec. 6.

Things warmed up after that, with highs of 66 degrees at the airport on Dec. 10, and 67 degrees on the 15th. There was more cold weather just before Christmas, with temperatures averaging 12 or 13 degrees below the long-term norms, on the 22nd and 23rd.

But readings warmed into the 50s and 60s on six dates beginning on the 24th. The month's high was 69 degrees, recorded on Dec. 28.

So, on average, the month ended 1.8 degrees above the long-term norms. Precipitation was slightly below. Twenty-seven dates were rated as cloudy or partly cloudy. But we saved a bit of cash on our heating bills, with heating degree-days ending about 6.2 percent below the average for BWI.

January is our coldest month, with average highs of just 41 degrees before they begin to rise again on Jan. 30. The average low sink to 23 degrees from the 11th through the 26th before they begin to climb again toward spring.

The average snow total for a January in Baltimore is 7 inches, our snowiest month over the long haul. But we've had that much snow or more in January only four times in the last 20 years:

January 1996: 32.6 inches

January 2000: 23.1 inches

January 2004: 8.4 inches

January 2005: 7.6 inches

That's about one in four years. Seems like we're due, no?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:46 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Storm watch threatens ice, no snow

The Winter of 2008-09 continues to disappoint snow lovers in Central Maryland. The forecasters out in Sterling are warning of sleet and freezing rain during the next two days, but none of the sort of snowy winter weather (below, in 2003) that delights school kids (and some teachers), but which has eluded us so far this winter.

Sun Photo/Karl Merton Ferron 2003There is a Winter Storm Watch posted north and west of the I-95 corridor, including Baltimore but not Washington, beginning early Tuesday morning and continuing through Wednesday morning. Here's the setup:

There's a low-pressure system - a storm - brewing across the Tennessee Valley that's predicted to move north into the Great Lakes tonight. The counter-clockwise flow around the low will draw a lot of wet air north from the Gulf into our region. Here, it will overrun a layer of cold air near the surface. Depending on how cold that surface layer is, and how thick, the rain falling through that colder air will either freeze as it falls, landing as sleet; or, it will freeze on contact with the surface, which we call freezing rain.

Forecasters aren't sure yet how much of which form of precipitation we'll see, or who will get what. But there is at least a potential for as much as a quarter-inch of ice forming on surfaces such as tree branches, utility lines, windshields, railings and sidewalks. "Preparations should be made now for a potentially high-impact winter weather event Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning," the folks in Sterling said.

South and east of I-95, we're likely to see mostly rain or all rain.

However it falls, the moisture will apparently be abundant, with the equivalent of up to an inch of rain possible.

By Wednesday night, forecasters expect we'll be overrun by the next cold front out of the Great Lakes. That will mean clearing skies by Thursday, but it comes with colder temperatures and blustery winds. Thursday night will be the coldest of the week, with lows in the mid-20s.

The next storm system doesn't offer snow lovers much more hope. It's expected to deliver something by Saturday afternoon into Sunday, and the best guessers for the moment are calling it a rain-snow mix.

Sorry, kids.      

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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