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October 30, 2009

No surprise here: Reservoirs are full

This just in: Baltimore's reservoir system is full to the brim!

Actually, all three reservoirs - Prettyboy, Liberty and Loch Raven - runneth over in the wake of surplus rainfall in the region for five of the last seven months. Here's the straight dope, right from the Department of Public Works:Loch Raven Reservoir

Liberty: Crest elevation: 420 feet above mean sea level. Current elevation: 420.31 feet. Capacity - 36.8 billion gallons. Available: 36.8 billion gallons

Prettyboy: Crest elevation: 520 feet. Current elevation: 520.34 feet. Capacity - 17.85 billion gallons. Available: 17.85 billion gallons.

Loch Raven: Crest elevation: 240 feet. Current elevation: 240.94 feet. Capacity: 21.2 billion gallons. Available: 21.2 billion gallons.

Total system: Capacity: 75.85 billion gallons. Available: 75.85 billion gallons.

The airport has recorded 6.21 inches of rain so far in October, almost double the long-term average of 3.16 inches. It's tied for the 13th-wettest October since record-keeping began in 1871. And it's the fifth-wettest October for Baltimore since the station of record moved to Friendship Airport (now BWI-Marshall) in 1950.

And there's a good chance, with more rain Saturday, that October 2009 could leap even higher on the chart. Another inch would make it the fifth-wettest October here since 1871. Here are the rankings for Octobers since 1950:

2005: 9.23 inches

1976: 8.09 inches

1971:  6.88 inches

1995:  6.24 inches

2009: 6.21 inches

(SUN PHOTO/Linda Coan/Loch Raven Reservoir, full, August 1999).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

Worst October snow ever struck in 1925

Parts of Colorado are digging out from two to three feet of snow today, the worst October storm in years for the Denver area. And that's why we don't live there.

The deepest Baltimore snowstorm ever recorded in October struck on this date in 1925, killing at least one person and blinding the railbirds at Laurel Park through all seven races.

The storm dropped 1 to 3 inches of snow across the region, with an official 2.5 inches in Baltimore. That remains the deepest October snowfall on record for the city.

The storm was born in the Gulf of Mexico and intensified as it spun up the east coast. The coastal low left snow on the ground from Virginia to southern New England. 

"Below-zero weather was reported at several places in the Middle West, where all October records for seventy years were shattered," The Sun said. "West Virginia and Eastern Ohio experienced almost blizzard weather and a considerable fall of snow. Heavy damage to late crops was reported in most sections of the Middle West and lakes Region."

In Baltimore, the snow began falling around 1 p.m. and continued into the evening, even as surface temperatures remained above freezing. The previous day's high temperature of 46 degrees remains the coolest high temperature on record for an Oct. 29 in Baltimore.

George Holritter, a 70-year-old Baltimore scissors grinder, was walking in snow on Calverton Road, near Frederick Avenue, when he was struck by a coal truck and killed instantly. The driver "told the police that snow on his windshield prevented him from seeing the man in time to avoid the accident," The Sun reported.

Elsewhere in the city, Mrs. Annie Weinlich, 76, of the 700 block of West Cross St., slipped and fell in the slush and snow on South Hanover Street and broke her leg. She was taken to South Baltimore General Hospital.Snow at Laurel Park Jan. 2003

Down at Laurel Park, The Sun's racing reporter described a "blinding snowstorm which made it impossible to distinguish colors."

"Despite the fact that all the horses looked alike, whether they were finishing, starting, rounding around the first or lower bend, or going down the backstretch, their admirers cheered for their favorites anyway. Many didn't even know the winners until the official numbers were posted," The Sun said.

(Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club, Jan. 5, 2003)

Here's how The Evening Sun recounted the event, in its report the next day, on Saturday, Oct. 31, 1925:

This is the first October day in forty-nine years on which Marylanders found snow on the ground and ice over the milk bottles when they arose, says James H. Spencer, forecaster.

There was ice on the milk bottle on his porch, where his thermometer showed twenty-six degrees before the sun began to warm things up. That is four degrees below the official record of the lowest temperature in the last twenty-four hours.

Mr. Spencer drops into poetry when he isn't working over weather maps. He became poetic today in describing snow-covered lawns, houses and trees glistening under the sun.

He says he never before, in any climate, saw the gorgeous oranges, scarlets, purples and browns of October trees covered with the white mantle of winter.

This October, the Weather Man declares, has been freakish, and the snowstorm of yesterday was the climax of its weirdness ...

"Does all this verify," Mr. Spancer was asked, "the prophesies that this winter is going to be a record-breaker for snows and severe weather?"

"Not at all," he answered. "Nobody is able to guess now what the weather is going to be through the winter. There is no foundation for those stories."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:51 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: History

October 29, 2009

"Cold air damming" brings gloom

Forecasters out at Sterling are calling it a "hybrid damming situation," but for those of us here in Central Maryland it just looks like a long, chilly wait for sunshine to return.

Here's the deal:  There is a high-pressure system centered over Maine at the moment. Highs spin clockwise, so it's sending cool, moist air our way off the Atlantic. There is also a low-pressure system far off the Delmarva coast. Lows spin counterclockwise. So that one is reinforcing the flow off the ocean. That's the "hybrid" part - high and low combining to produce the breeze off the ocean.

So all that cool, moist air is flowing onshore, out of the east, and then running into the eastern slope of the Appalachians. That's the "damming" part. The cool, wet air gets stuck here near the surface, even though the air mass above it is relatively dry. And we're underneath it all, in chilly air, looking up at overcast skies, and occasionally getting drizzle in the face.

When we get cold air damming in winter, that can set us up for a pile of snow if a storm develops Happy Halloweento our south and rolls up the coast. But not yet.

The rub this time is that, even as weather systems shift around a bit in the next few days, NWS forecasters say we'll see little but gray clouds, and some drizzle on Friday morning. The drizzle will fade by noon, they say, and we may see some sunshine Saturday afternoon, and highs as toasty as 72 degrees. That will be a nice break for Trick or Treaters, like the weirdos at left.

But that's all in advance of another cold front sometime late on Saturday. And that will bring more clouds and showers overnight until the front passes.

Sunday may start out with showers, but things should clear off later, winding up mostly sunny and cool if the forecast holds up, with a high near 60. That'll be your day to get outside.

November looks like it will start out sunny and dry.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts

October 28, 2009

NASA: Indonesian air blast probably an asteroid

NASA officials are saying Wednesday that the blast reported in the atmosphere over an Indonesian island on Oct. 8 was probably a small asteroid - about 10 meters in diameter - that detonated in the atmosphere. The force of the blast has been estimated at 50 kilotons - the equivalent of 100,000 tons of TNT.

There is You Tube video of the aftermath of the event. It shows what is described as a smoke trail left behind by the space rock's entry into the atmosphere, and some panic among the people on the ground.

Don Yeomans and other scientists with NASA's Near Earth Object program say the detonation was detected by sensors around the world - devices set up to detect low-frequency sound waves generated by atmospheric nuclear weapons testing.

"Assuming an estimated size of about 5-10 meters in diameter, we would expect a fireball event of this magnitude about once every 2 to 12 years on average. As a rule, the most common types of stony asteroids would not be expected to cause ground damage unless their diameters were about 25 meters in diameter or larger," they said.

The real question is why the Near Earth Object searches never spotted this object as it headed for our planet. 


Scientists are now tracking more than a thousand potentially threatening near-Earth asteroids. One of them passed the Earth on Oct. 17, skidding by inside the moon's orbit - less than 240,000 miles from the planet. It's size? About 35 kilometers in diameter.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:55 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Watching

It's not snow

Western Run 

Sure, it's been raining like crazy. The airport has recorded nearly two inches since this latest rainy spell began Tuesday. Half of that has fallen since midnight. We had about the same out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville - 1.92 inches since this began, and 0.73 inch since midnight. Western Run, above, is running high and fast.

Here are some more 24-hour totals from around the region from the NWS. Here are more reports from CoCoRaHS. A number of locations on the Eastern Shore and in Anne Arundel County reported more than 2 inches. NOAA

Greensboro (Caroline Co.):  2.74 inches

Vienna (Dorchester): 2.44 inches

Ocean Pines (Worcester): 2.34 inches

Selby-0n-the-Bay (Arundel): 2.26 inches

Towson (Baltimore): 1.88 inches

At the airport, the rain has taken us to roughly 6.30 inches for the month, by my calculations. And that brings the year's total to about 43 inches - two inches more than the annual average for Baltimore, and more than in 10 of the last 20 years. And it's not yet November.

But just imagine if this were January, or February. The rule-of-thumb for converting rainfall into snow depth is 10 inches of snow for every inch of rain. Now, that's an average of some kind. Light, fluffy snow will be deeper than wet, heavy snow.  But a 1.9-inch rainstorm might have been a nearly 20-inch snowstorm had these same conditions assembled themselves here in, say, the second week of February.

And who knows? Maybe they will. How's that for a Halloween scare? 

Anyway, the bulk of the rain has moved off to the northeast. The National Weather Service is calling for mostly cloudy skies for the next few days. We may see some sunshine peek through. But the next cold front is due through here Friday into Saturday, with more showers on the menu before the month ends.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance; NOAA graphic) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

October 27, 2009

Wet, wetter, but not wettest

Sure, it seems like this month has just been way too wet. And the wettest patch of the last couple of days is still ahead this (Tuesday) evening. We'll be hearing more rain on the roof tonight.

NOAAThe radar map shows a big wad of wet weather surging into the Northeast. And the National Weather Service's Sterling forecast office says we're looking at another half- to three-quarters-of-an-inch of steady rain tonight - plus a quarter to a half inch more on Wednesday.

That could push the month's total past 5 inches before all this is over. 

But even if that comes to pass, we're still far short of the record for the month - the 9.23 inches that fell here in 2005. Now that was a REALLY wet October. We recorded 6.65 inches on Oct. 7-8 alone that month as the remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy washed through. Rain totals set new daily records on both those dates.

For the rain-weary, the good news is that the rain should begin to let up after noon Wednesday. But skies may not fully clear before another storm system arrives on Saturday - with more October showers.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:02 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers

October 26, 2009

More rain ahead as October ends wet

Fall windowAs if we haven't had enough already (another inch fell on Friday and Saturday), the National Weather Service has still more rain in store for us this week.

We'll get a few more sunny days toward the end of the week, but we're going to have to chalk this month up as seriously soggy. The bulk of that rain fell during those five days of water torture two weeks ago.

In fact, Baltimore has been running a fat rain surplus since April rains ended a very dry fall and winter. We're 11 inches on the plus side since April 1, with more to come this month.

This afternoon's forecast is calling for a chance of rain Tuesday as this coastal low begins to affect the region overnight Monday into Tuesday with some early morning drizzle and rain. (Hard to accept, given how pretty it is out there this Monday afternoon.)

That rain will ease off in the afternoon Tuesday as the coastal low moves off. Then we'll get a break until another low moves in from the southwest late Tuesday into Wednesday. This one is much wetter. 

Today's forecast discussion calls for an inch or more of rain from this second wave. But then a NWShigh-pressure system to our north will move in after the rain and dry things out, with sunny days due for Thursday and Friday.

Halloween could bring some more daytime rain the next cold front moves through. With luck things will simmer down for the evening's festivities. The low will approach 50 degrees.

The airport has already clocked 4.31 inches of rain this month (graph at right). That's 1.74 inches more than the long-term average for the month to date in Baltimore. Another inch Tuesday and Wednesday would only make a wet month wetter.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance; graphic by NOAA)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:18 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

Moon and Jupiter converge in tonight's sky

We'll be battling increasing cloudiness all day today, with rain due to settle in for the next few days as a variety of low-pressure systems slop through the region.

Moon and JupiterBut if this change in the weather holds off just long enough, we may get a look at a lovely pairing of the waxing moon and the planet Jupiter this evening. The conjunction should be bright enough to seep through a hazy sky like we have this (Monday) morning.

For more, visit Sky &

UPDATE: Here's a shot of the moon and Jupiter (tiny white dot to the left of the moon) taken around 11 p.m. Monday night. (Hey, it's a point-and-shoot...)

Jupiter has been a bright presence in the evening sky for months now in the southeast and south. It is the brightest star-like object up there and impossible to miss when the weather cooperates. The moon is on its way to full on Nov. 2, moving eastward each night, closer to Jupiter's position in the southern sky in the evening.

In addition to tonight's conjunction, the moon's trek toward its full phase will provide lots of moonlight for Saturday's little tricksters and beggars - although the forecast at this five-day distance calls for mostly cloudy skies by the 31st.

Part of our wet weather in the next day or two will be influenced by another coastal low - the sort that tends to draw moisture in off the ocean and bring us damp, chilly east winds, significant rain and - when it's cold enough - snow storms. El Nino winters like the one coming up tend to produce more such storms. And that seems to be the pattern we're already seeing this fall, with several rainy spells powered at least in part by coastal lows.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

October 25, 2009

Did you feel it? Earth tremor in Franklintown, Pa.


The Earth quivered a bit this morning up near Franklintown, Pa., about 58 miles north northwest of Baltimore. It was a small one, with a magnitude of just 2.8. recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey at 7:21 a.m. Sunday.

Here are some more details on the tremor. And here is a bit on the history of quakes in Pennsylvania.

Quakes this size are barely perceptible, even close to the epicenter. No damage would be expected. But if you're in the region and felt something, drop us a comment and describe where you were, the time, what you were doing and what you felt. You should also report it to the USGS, here

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Earthquakes

October 23, 2009

Rain arrives late Friday, departs quickly Sat.


The feature that dominate the weather map today is that big low-pressure system moving out of Missouri and headed north and east into the Great Lakes and Quebec on Saturday.

For now, we're getting into an easterly wind off the ocean, driven by the clockwise flow around a high moving over New England. That means increasing cloud cover, maybe a little rain late this afternoon and evening, and temperatures that won't move much from the mid-60s, where they are now.

But as the Midwestern low moves along, it will drag a cold front across the region on Saturday, and draw more moisture in off the ocean to the southeast. And that's what will produce most of the rain that's headed our way on Saturday. There may even be some thunder. By the time it's all AccuWeather.comover, we could have a half-inch, to as much as an inch of rain from all this.

Here's's take on the rain.

The good news in the morning discussion out of Sterling seems to be that the rain associated with the frontal passage will be relatively brief. We won;t be stuck with it for days on end like we were last week.

Skies should dry out quickly, with sunny skies in the wings for Sunday. If you're eager to get out in the woods or onto the bike trails to enjoy the fall colors, plan it for Sunday - or Monday if you've got the day off.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

October 22, 2009

Back to "normal" Friday

Wednesday's high of 75 degrees at BWI made for a delightful day if you could get out to enjoy it (I finally did). It wasn't close to a record, which would be the 90-degree reading for Baltimore on Oct. 21, 1947.  It was, however, 30 degrees warmer than it was on Friday of last week. So it sure felt like heat to many of us.

Oct. temperatures at BWIThursday's record high is only 85 degrees (set in 1979). But as nice as it will be today, we won't get nearly that high, either. Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for a high of 74 degrees at BWI-Marshall, with clouds beginning to encroach on the area as that cold front approaches from the Midwest.

And that will end this pleasant stretch, sending temperatures back toward normal highs, which at this end of October are around 65 degrees. Friday's forecast high is just 63 degrees, with showers developing late in the day.

That rain will likely get heavier overnight and into Saturday, with as much as an inch possible before the lows moving along the cold front depart and it tapers off. 

At least this next batch of rain won't linger long. By Sunday we should be back in the sunshine, but with highs 10 degrees cooler than we're seeing this week - and close to the normal range for this time of year. The next frontal system and rain chances move in after mid-week.

(Graphic: National Weather Service)

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

October 21, 2009

Perfect October weather ... until Friday

Blue skies, warm sunshine and highs in the 70s over the Maryland Penitentiary today - which is about all I will likely see of this absolutely perfect October weather, stuck in the newsroom as I am. 

(Not as stuck, fortunately, as the folks in the Pen, under the tin roofs in the background of the photo below. The yellow-brick building is Catholic Charities' Employment Center in this view from the newsroom window. The Sun's weather station is on the pole in the bottom center of the photo. Our ginkgo trees are still a couple of weeks away from their golden autumn glory.)

Maryland State PenitentiaryIf you can get outside today (and tomorrow), do it. (Some of us may even see temperatures touch 80 degrees in spots.) Because by Friday we will be under the influence of an approaching cold front.

Light rain is expected to move in after noon Friday as storms track from the Midwest into the Great Lakes. That will draw moisture in here with a warm front, just ahead of a cold front and what could be a "soaking rain" on Saturday, forecasters said.

Once the front passes later on Saturday, rain may linger a bit. But the sun will return by Sunday and we should have sunny skies and highs in the 60s going into the new week.

If you were out watching for Orionid meteors this morning, drop us a comment and let us know what you saw. Some observers are reporting rates up to 35 meteors per hour. If you slept in, and regret it, skies should remain mostly clear tonight, so you'll get another chance. Here's a gallery of 2009 Orionid meteors

Once again, find a spot with dark skies and a clear view in all directions. Counts will be declining for the rest of the week, but the meteor-watching should still be worthwhile. Best time to look? In the hours before dawn.

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

October 20, 2009

Orionid meteor shower peaks tonight

 Jefferson Teng photo

With no moonlight to interfere, this should be the best night for stargazers to get a look at the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters are calling for "mostly clear" skies tonight, with calm winds and lows in the 40s.

Observers say Orionid activity has been picking up in recent days, with a strong showing in some places, and several bright fireballs. This same shower last year produced an impressive fireball seen from Elkridge. The photo above was taken early today by Jefferson Teng, in Shanghai, China. (Used with permission.) You can easily see the constellation Orion in the top center of the photo.

"I woke up early in the morning to observe the shower through my bedroom window," says Teng. "This one was quite bright considering the light pollution in Shanghai."

This shower is active from early October through early November. The meteors arrive as the Earth, making its annual trek around the sun, passes through the dusty trail of Halley's Comet, which last passed through the inner solar system in 1986. Like bugs on the windshield, the comet dust strikes the atmosphere at high speed, heating the air as the grains streak in, causing it to glow. About half will produce persistent trails.

Here is a gallery of a few of the first 2009 Orionid meteor photos. Here is the 2006 gallery.

The Orionids average around two dozen an hour under dark-sky conditions. But since 2006, observers report the shower has produced counts of up to 60 an hour. The people who calculate these things say the increased activity is occurring because the Earth happens to be passing through several old streams of Halley's dust, left behind during some of the comet's early periodic passes through this part of the solar system - specifically, during its appearances in 1266 BC, 1198 BC and 911 BC. Orionids' radiant in Orion

We passed through the same region in 2006, 2007 and 2008, with plenty of meteors, and this year is expected to be similar.

The best time to look is after the constellation Orion (Left, NASA sky map) rises in the east, around 11 p.m. But if you can manage it, the most promising hours are those before dawn. If you miss the show tonight, try again on Thursday morning. Friday looks like it will be cloudy or rainy.

The meteors will appear to emerge from Orion, but may appear anywhere in the sky, so find a dark spot with a good view in all directions. Dress for the cold. A lounge chair and a warm sleeping bag will make things a bit more pleasant.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:01 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Sky Watching

October 19, 2009

Frost advisories up for Central Maryland tonight

Frost advisories in blueIf last night's frost didn't kill them, you'd best cover or bring those tender plants indoors tonight.

The National Weather Service has just posted frost advisories (blue area on the map) for all of Central Maryland between 2 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

With clear skies ahead, temperatures are expected to drop deep into the 30s tonight, cold enough for frost that will kill vulnerable and exposed plants. 

The record low for an Oct. 20 at BWI is 28 degrees, reached most recently in 1992. 

We're still about nine days ahead of the average first-frost date for Baltimore. The forecast low tonight for the city is 40 degrees, but we don't need to reach an air temperature of 32 degrees to form frost on some exposed surfaces.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

What cold, rain, snow? Sunny 70s this week

All those long, cold, soggy days of drizzle, rain, wet leaves and the smell of long-idled furnaces switching on are behind us, at last. Forecasters out at Sterling are making amends this week with sunny skies forecast right through Thursday, and highs topping 70 degrees by Wednesday.

Now that's the sort of October we've come to expect in Maryland.

Still, the last five days (Oct. 14-18) are worth a glance backward as we sort out the records and near-records. I'll try to get it right this time.

COLD: Temperatures during this five-day period averaged 10.6 degrees below the long-term averages for these dates in Baltimore.

The official highs at BWI were:October rain in Baltimore

Weds. Oct. 14:  50 degrees. Eighteen degrees below the average high for the date. That also matched the record-low maximum for the date, set in 1874.

Thurs. Oct. 15:  48 degrees. Nineteen degrees below average. A new record-low maximum for the date, breaking the previous record of 50 degrees for the date, set in 1876.

Friday, Oct. 16:  43 degrees. Twenty-four degrees below average. A new record-low maximum for the date, breaking the previous record of 52 degrees, set in 1940.

Saturday, Oct. 17: 45 degrees. Twenty-one degrees below average. A new record-low maximum for the date, breaking the previous record of 53 degrees, last matched in 1991.

Sunday, Oct. 18:  52 degrees. Fourteen degrees below average. This one fell short of the record-low maximum, set in 1972, by just 1 degree.

Bottom Line: Four consecutive days of matched or broken record-low maximums, the second-longest such streak since record-keeping began in 1871. Three consecutive October days with high temperatures falling short of 50 degrees. That matched the previous record, set in 1893 and matched in 1925 and 2002. But this was the earliest of the four. The rest all began on Oct. 29.

Owings Mills snowNow the precipitation:

The airport recorded 3.19 inches of rain from Wednesday through Sunday. That brought the month's total to date to 3.31 inches. Some locations in Maryland saw more. The heaviest rains fell on Saturday, with nearly 1.5 inches at the airport.

The season's first snow was reported in the Baltimore and Washington suburbs Saturday into Sunday, with a half-inch in Shrewsbury, Pa., and enough snow in the still-leafy trees to cause considerable tree damage in some locations as near to downtown as Sparks, in northern Baltimore County. We had this report today from "Patty," in Sparks:

"3 am, Sparks, Maryland, dog starts barking and we look around the house can't find what he is barking at.

"We get back into bed and I ask if there is hunting at night because I hear gunshots, not unusual in the area. I found out hunting is not allowed at night, I get up look out the window it is SNOWING! Cars are covered, ground covered, tree covered and bushes are covered. We could hear limbs snapping off the trees, and trees falling down. Incredible!"

The photo of snow and tree damage above was taken around 10:30 a.m. Sunday on Hunting Tweed Drive, in Owings Mills, by Gregory Hill. Used with permission. 

No snow was reported at the airport, the official station for Baltimore. In any case it wouldn't have set a record. The earliest snow for Baltimore fell on Oct. 9, 1903 (a trace) and Oct. 10, 1979 (0.3 inch).

So, now what?

Forecaster are calling for daytime highs to rise through the 50s today (Monday) and the 60s tomorrow, reaching the low- to mid-70s on Wednesday and Thursday as high pressure builds into the region and parks here for most of the week. Then the next cold front and showers arrive. (Those may include moisture from Hurricane Rick, now bearing down on Baja California.)

Until then, bright sunshine and south and westerly winds will warm us up quite nicely during the day. Skies will be favorable at night for most of the week for watching the Orionid meteor shower, between midnight and dawn.

Nighttime - especially tonight - is another story. Temperatures tonight are expected to "plummet," forecasters said, as clear skies allow any daytime heating to radiate back into space. "It is certain that frost/freeze products will need to be issued," they said in this morning's forecast discussion.  The forecast low for the airport Tuesday morning is 40 degrees, but the usually colder suburbs and rural areas will go much lower.

We had a low of 31 out on the WeatherDeck this morning, and we had to do some serious windshield scraping before we could head off for work. The airport low was 35 degrees, just 5 degrees warmer than the record low for the day, set in 1976.

(Top: SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis, 2005; Bottom: NOAA photo)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

October 18, 2009

The End is Near

Rug wet 

No, not the second Flood, or the End of the World. The end is near for this five-day stretch of unseasonably cold and very wet weather.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sunshine for Monday - and nearly the entire week (through Thursday) - with high temperatures climbing in to the 60s, to near 70 by Thursday. The deep low-pressure system that has brought us the latest of the cold and rain is now off Delmarva, and will soon be moving off to sea. The rain is moving into New England. That will allow high pressure to build in (the barometer is already rising) and bring us nicer, more seasonable, weather.

But it's been a long time coming. And we still face a 90-percent chance of more rain today, and a high, again, in the 40s.

WeatherDeckAs we've noted before, we expect today will mark the fourth consecutive day with highs below 50 degrees. If so, it will be the first time that's ever (since record-keeping began in 1871) occurred in October in Baltimore.  It will also be only the second time on record (the last was in 1899) that we have set (or tied) all-time record-low maximum temperatures for five consecutive days.

UPDATE: Nope. The airport high today was 52 degrees. So we had only three straight days in the 40s (not four as I stated incorrectly earlier; we touched 50 on Wednesday). That ties the record. Today's high also exceeded the record-low maximum for the 18th of October by one degree. So we had only four straight days of tied or broken record low-maximums - one fewer than the record of five set in 1899. Here are the four new record-low maximums, and today's:

Oct. 14: 50 degrees (tied), 2009

Oct. 15: 43 degrees, 2009

Oct. 16: 48 degrees, 2009

Oct. 17: 45 degrees, 2009

Oct. 18: 51 degrees, 1972 (today 52 degrees)

Earlier post resumes...

Amazing. And that doesn't even touch the snow that readers have been reporting just over the line in Pennsylvania. I suspect we'll hear from others west of the city before long. Here are some Maryland snow totals from the NWS.

We've clocked an inch of rain since midnight Sunday morning here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The total since the rainy weather began on Wednesday (as of 8:30 Sunday morning) is 3.7 inches. That's about a month's worth of rain in five days. The total for the month so far is 3.86 inches.

At BWI, the NWS has recorded 3.18 inches since Wednesday. Here are some more totals from around the region for the 24 hours ending at midnight Saturday night.

At The Baltimore Sun station, Calvert & Centre streets, the instruments have recorded 2.6 inches of rain since Wednesday.

Some other readings since midnight Sunday morning:

Bishopville, Worcester County:  2.91 inches

Ellicott City, Howard County:  1.92 inches

Columbia, Howard County: 1.77 inches

Eldersburg, Carroll County: 1.67 inches

Severn, Anne Arundel County: 1.43 inches

Jarrettsville, Harford County:  1.26 inches

(SUN PHOTOS/Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:19 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts

October 16, 2009

Ireland on the Patapsco; cold drizzle continues

The full range of temperatures here at The Sun from Thurday afternoon to Friday morning was a measly 6 degrees - from a high of 47 to a low this morning of 41. It was colder out on the WeatherDeck this morning, and out at BWI, too, where we dipped to 40 degrees and tied the coldest reading for the season so far.

The prospects aren't any better. Forecasters out at Sterling expect daytimes highs will be stuck in the 40s through Sunday. And that, as we've noted, will set a new record of four straight days in October below 50 degrees. We've had three straight October days in the 40s before, but never four since record-keeping began in 1871.

Official forecast highs for the airport:  45, 44 and 46 degrees, for Friday through Sunday.

And, there are more records set to fall, says Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer for the NWS forecast office in Sterling:

"Also, today (Thursday), broke  the record low maximum of 50 set in 1876 ! And, if we actually get three more days of sub-50 Fahrenheit ... those will all be new record low maxima. Yesterday's (Wednesday's) high of 50 degrees F at BWI tied the record low max ... Impressive early-season cold."

And wait! There's more...

"If our forecast holds...that would make  5 days of record LO-MAX readings. I'll have to look that up...and I did. The longest number of consecutive days in a given year of setting the record LO-MAX happens to be 5 in a row...back from Feb. 9-13, 1899. What a cold snap that was! (Daily high temperature) readings were 8 / 3 / 11/ 11/ 10 during that spell...and the reading of 3-above on the 10th of Feb. is the all-time lowest LO-MAX reading for Baltimore for not only the month (Feb) but for the entire year."

Then there's the drizzle. The dripping that began on Wednesday has added up to just two-thirds of an inch here at The Sun. Ditto for BWI. But it has made for plenty of headaches on the morning and afternoon commutes. Not sure why that is. I know rain flummoxes drivers in Los Angeles, but I thought it took a "wintry mix" to do that to Marylanders.

Speaking of wintry mixes, forecasters are still noting the possibility of rain AND snow for Saturday night in suburbs west and north of Baltimore and Washington, including WestminsterHagerstown and points west could see snow mix in by tonight. Garrett County is looking at some accumulating snow today and through the weekend.

State College, PA. recorded its earliest measurable snowfall, with 0.3 inch on the ground Thursday.

And then there are the high tides. The lingering low pressure off the coast is drawing more water up into the Chesapeake Bay, and easterly winds are throwing it up against the Western Shore. Coastal Flood Advisories are posted for the region.

Add to that the new moon on Sunday and we have water lapping up over the shoreline. Eric Bates checked in from Quinby, Va., this morning, with a photo of the flooding along the piers there. Anyone else have any Maryland high-tide photos this morning?

Minor flooding Quinby, Va.

Then there's this, from the Associated Press:

An autumn storm brought snow to parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, the earliest snow on record in some towns used to harsh winters.

Cornell University weather scientists say the snow that started Thursday set records for the earliest date with an inch of snow in Binghamton, Ithaca and Olean in New York and Altoona and State College in Pennsylvania.

The National Weather Service says there's 4.5 inches of snow in State College, Pa., and 2 more inches are possible through Saturday morning.

Port Allegany in northwestern Pennsylvania and Perrysburg in western New York both got more than 3 inches of snow. Most areas east of Lake Erie and parts of northwestern New Jersey got 2 inches or less.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts

October 15, 2009

Chilly weather could set odd record

Northeast radar loop 

After barely touching 50 degrees yesterday, the thermometer out at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport could be headed for a strange new record as we slosh through the weekend.

Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer out at the NWS Sterling forecast office, says it looks like the mercury at BWI won't escape the 40s again until Monday, when the sun finally comes out. The forecast highs currently are 48, 44, 45 and 46 degrees respectively, Thursday through Sunday.

If that happens, it will be the first time since official record-keeping began in Baltimore in 1871 that we've gone four straight days in October without hitting 50 degrees.

"Three times there have been three days in a row of less than 50 degrees F," Zubrick said, "all at the end of the month, starting on Oct. 29." Those events occurred in 1893, 1925 and 2002. "But never four in a row."

And here we are, barely halfway through October, and we're already threatening four straight days under 50 degrees.

Zubrick also doubts that I will be able to keep my hands off the thermostat until Nov. 1, was my plan. He's already switched his furnace on at least once this month. But I have held out. So far. My wife doesn't seem to be as committed to this goal as I am. We'll see how we do this weekend. 

AccuWeather.comAnyway, we can blame a series of storm systems, some coming out of the Ohio Valley, and others developing along the coast, that are pumping cool, wet Atlantic air off the ocean. It seems like mostly drizzle for now, but forecasters at Sterling say we could see as much as a half-inch this afternoon, and another half inch tonight.

These storms will also be dragging cold air in with snow showers or freezing rain in the mountains. Snow is forecast tonight for parts of northern and western Pennsylvania, and as far south as Garrett County, Md.

The folks at Sterling expect that will make each night through early Sunday colder than the last, sinking into the 30s and increasing the chances for a wintry mix spreading beyond the higher elevations.

For late Saturday and early Sunday, they say, "the rain/snow mix could even creep into the far northwest Baltimore/Washington suburbs."  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: By the numbers

October 14, 2009

Nasty weather for rest of the week

The average high temperature in Baltimore at this time of year is 68 degrees. But we'll be dressing for temperatures about 20 degrees colder than that by Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling. Add in rain - and overnight snow at higher elevations to our west - and we're looking at a nasty package for Marylanders as we head into the weekend.

The forecast out for Baltimore this morning calls for rain developing tonight and tomorrow as low-pressure systems converge on the region from the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, and along the East Coast. The rain chances rise to 100 percent on Thursday, with forecast highs of just 47 Rainy October in Baltimore degrees at BWI. As much as an inch of precipitation is possible at the airport.

The rain will continue Thursday night, with another half to three-quarters of an inch added in. Temperatures will remain in the 40s through Saturday, with better-than-even chances of rain continuing.

Saturday night's lows will drop into the 30s if the forecast holds up, with rain chances continuing into Sunday. Western Maryland will be stuck in the 30s, and at the higher elevations, there is a risk of snow, although no significant accumulations are expected.

(Actually, there were plenty of readings in the 30s in the area this morning. It was 38 on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville.)

So let's see... stormy weather moving into California, crossing the continent and regenerating in the South, then moving up the East Coast ... That sounds a whole lot like the El Nino Winter scenario. If it persists, a setup like this in, say, a cold spell in January or February, could deliver a pretty significant snowstorm to Maryland. 

But, I digress. As this coastal low moves off into the Atlantic, we'll still be stuck with a chance of light rain until Monday, when high pressure begins to move in, finally, with sunshine pushing daytime temperatures into the low 60s again. Still cool for this time of year, but it will be a welcome relief.

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/Baltimore 2005)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
 Cold, snowy winter ahead

If's chief meteorologist is right, Maryland is in for the coldest, snowiest winter we've seen since the memorable - and snow-choked - winter of 2002-2003.

A "fading" El Nino, and a shift to a warm phase of the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation" will combine with "other factors," Joe Bastardi said, to shift the worst of this winter's weather from the Midwest, where it was concentrated last winter, to the mid-Atlantic states.

(Others, including meteorologist Joe D'Aleo, former director of meteorology at The Weather Channel, note that this "shift" in the PDO is a temporary "spike" that will quickly reverse, and the PDO will resume its much longer "cool phase.")

Bastardi did not hestitate to predict Baltimore's winter for us. "Twenty-five inches at BWI, and 2.7 degrees below normal," he said, placing his bets on the Blizzard of 2003 in Baltimoreseason's total snowfall at the airport and the average temperature for the winter at BWI.

Bastardi's early winter forecast, out this morning, is among the first of the season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its first winter forecast on Thursday morning.

The average snowfall for Baltimore for the 30-year period from 1971 to 2000 was 18.2 inches, and we've only topped that once since the big snows of 2002-03, and even then it was by less than an inch-and-a-half.

And Bastardi isn't predicting anything like the 58 inches the airport recorded that year. But, a snow total of 25 inches this winter would seem like a lot of snow after six winters in a row with less. The last two winters combined produced less than 18 inches of snow.

On the other hand, he said, "It has the potential to get there [55 inches]; don't get me wrong."

Among the "other factors" he takes into account, in addition to El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, are the prevailing weather conditions and how they compare with past winters - winter analogs. Looking at those, he sees similarities between this year's patterns and those that prevailed during the winters of 1976-77, which was very cold, and 1977-78, which saw 34 inches of snow at BWI. 

He also saw a resemblance to the winter of 1957-58, which brought 43 inches of snow to Baltimore and very wintry weather in February and March. Another "analog" he includes in his "package" is the winter of 1965-66, with 32 inches of snow.

"There are some very heavy hitters coming to the plate," Bastardi said.

His seasonal forecast predicts that cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia will get above-normal snowfall, with 75 percent of it coming in two or three big storms. Snowfall in parts of the Appalachians could total 50 to 100 inches. Areas from Atlanta to Charlotte could also see snow this year as the storm track brings wintry weather across the South and up the Eastern Seaboard, with nor'easters from Hatteras to New Jersey.

As for when the bad weather will hit Maryland, Bastardi thinks it will get off to a late start. "I would say that we will remember more what happens in January and February than in December." He predicts a "threat of 30 to 45 days of outstanding winter weather, with two or three snowstorms and temperatures averaging more than five degrees below normal for two or three weeks in the heart of winter."

He noted that this year's early October snowfall in central Pennsylvania is a reminder of similar early snows in October 2002, and in other winters in his analog "package."

"All those winters have the same characteristics," he said.

So what was Bastardi's October forecast for last winter?

"One of the coldest winters in several years across much of the East," he said through Ken Reeves, a co-author on that forecast a year ago this month. And snowfall? "Probably somewhere in the mid- to upper-teens. Maybe around 20 inches," he said, with an early "rude slap" coming in December.

We ended the winter with 9.1 inches of snow for the season, and temperatures 2 degrees above normal. December, too, was almost 2 degrees warmer than normal, with just 0.6 inch of snow. No "rude slap."

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron/February 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:00 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Winter weather

October 13, 2009

Colder weather ahead; rain/snow mix to our west

It looks like the first forecast this fall with the words "rain/snow mix" and "winter precipitation" in it. Seems way too early, but there it is.

The forecast discussion for Central Maryland, posted this morning by the National Weather Service forecast office out at Sterling, is predicting lows in the mid- to upper-30s Thursday and Friday Snow on pumpkinnights for the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge mountains to our west. By Friday night into Saturday morning, there will be enough moisture and low-enough temperatures out there to produce a snow/rain mix at high elevations.

Down here in the lowlands, we're looking at a low close to 40 degrees by Saturday morning, with up to a quarter-inch of rain as storm systems approach from the Ohio Valley late this week, and a Georgia low moves up the coast.

In the meantime, the weather service has posted frost advisories for Washington and Allegany counties tonight, including the cities of Hagerstown, Frostburg and Cumberland, where lows are expected to dip into the 30s. There are freeze warnings up for Garrett County.

The cold weather comes to us courtesy of a slow-moving high-pressure system that is settling over the Great Lakes. The clockwise flow around the high will be drawing cold, dry air our way on north winds out of Canada. Friday's forecast high for Baltimore is only 49 degrees. If that holds up, it would be the first time since April 15 we've failed to break 50 degrees.

It was 42 degrees this morning out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The house was 68, which was enough to drive us to plug in the electric blanket. But the furnace remains silent. It's our goal to keep it that way until Nov. 1. You?  

The good news is that the US Dept. of Energy is forecasting lower prices this winter for fuel oil and natural gas. reports that the cost of heating homes nationally will be 8 percent lower this season. It's down 12 to 14 percent for natural gas and propane.


(SUN PHOTO/Doug Kapustin/McHenry, Md., October 2005)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts

October 12, 2009

Space station astronauts snap Yellowstone fire

 Yellowstone fires

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have snapped a photo of the so-called Arnica wildfire that started burning in mid-September in Yellowstone National Park. It's a striking image, shot Sept. 26 at an oblique (rather than straight-down) angle. It shows several of the late-season fires that were burning in the park, and Snow cover Oct. 12the tremendous area covered by the resulting smoke. Here's more.

By Sept. 30, the Arnica fire had consumed 10,000 acres. Then the weather began to change and parts of the northern Rockies  began to feel the chill of winter in the air.

A weekend snowstorm has pushed the continent's snow cover (left) well into Montana, Wyoming (including Yellowstone), Colorado and Nebraska, at least for now. The Arnica fire is now "under control," and the fire season there has drawn to a close.

Temperatures in the Denver area dropped to 17 degrees on Saturday. Icy roads became a hazard and a section of I-25 was closed after a fatal accident that may have been linked to icy conditions.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

Sunny Tuesday, but then weather goes downhill

Rainy October day in Baltimore 

It looks like Tuesday will be the day to beat this week. Today, we'll be stuck under this overcast for most of the day, with temperatures likely to struggle to to get out of the 50s. That's as much as 10 degrees below the long-term averages for Baltimore at this time of year.

But as a cold front slips by early Tuesday, we'll get some gusty northwest winds. Skies will clear off, the sun will shine and temperatures will climb toward 70 degrees - the high point of the week.

Then, as the high pressure system moves off the coast, the forecast takes a downhill turn. A storm system over the central plains will move our way, increasing rain chances on Wednesday. We'll be stuck in the low- to mid-50s from Wednesday through Friday as a coastal low forms to sustain our cool, rainy forecast into the weekend.

Things should begin to clear off on Saturday, with Sunday the best bet for the weekend, if the forecast holds. Look for sunny skies on Sunday, with a high near 60 degrees.

(BALTIMORE SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis October 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

Two more birds strike Sun bridge

Bird strike 2Like many other glass structures in Baltimore and elsewhere, the Baltimore Sun's footbridge over Centre Street continues to be a fatal lure to migrating birds this autumn.

My guess is these birds may be flying into the bridge because it looks like an inviting place to roost. They simply can't see the glass.  

This is an annual phenomenon. There are estimates that tens of millions - perhaps even hundreds of millions of birds die this way every year in the U.S. And based on past experience here at The Baltimore Sun, we can expect more than a dozen birds to die on the bridge in the coming weeks. Sun management has been askedBirdy 6 to look into ways to minimize the hazard.

In addition to the four birds that have already collided with the bridge's glass windows and died. two more were on the ledges this morning. One (above) appeared to be another yellow-bellied sapsucker. It was still breathing when this photo was taken Monday morning, but was evidently paralyzed by the strike.

UPDATE: At 6 p.m., when I left the building, this bird was still alive (right), sitting upright and peeping. But he had not moved from the spot where I found him in the morning.

UPDATE: AT 10 a.m. Tuesday, this bird was still alive. Another - a very small black and white bird - had apparently hit the opposite window overnight and remained on the ledge, alert but evidently unable to fly off.

UPDATE: At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, as I left the building, I noted that the first bird had expired. The second, the small B&W bird, had disappeared. Hopefully, it was merely stunned and after a nice rest, flew off.

UPDATE: Noon Wednesday. The Sun has ordered UV decals that we hope will reduce the mortality on the bridge. No new strikes today.

The other (below) was a small brown bird, some sort of sparrow, I would guess, and very dead. I'll let the birders out there venture a species identification.Bird strike

(I also noticed a tiny skeleton, probably left over from last spring or autumn.)

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says window glass collisions are rapidly becoming a significant contributor to the overall decline in bird populations. Here's more information from

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:12 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Phenomena

October 9, 2009

A change in the weather

National radar loop 

As gorgeous as this Friday has been in Baltimore, you knew it couldn't last. Sure enough, there's a pretty impressive (on the radar) cold front approaching from the north and west, and forecasters insist we're in for some rain Friday night or early Saturday.

That may seem hard to believe given the beautiful sunshine and 80-plus temperatures we've enjoyed today. Our high here at Calvert and Centre streets was 84 degrees. The airport measured at least 83 degrees at last check. Nowhere near a record. It was 94 degrees here on this date just two years ago.

But that cold front will press through here after midnight tonight, and we can expect showers into the morning hours. We're already feeling the effects of the approaching front, with strong southerly winds during the day today.

Temperatures behind the front will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than we've seen today, with highs Saturday only near 70 degrees. Skies will clear off slowly, with partly sunny but even cooler weather for the rest of the holiday (for some of us) weekend. Enjoy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Obama + Nobel Prize = Snow?!

2003 blizzard 

From the brains of archivists comes the following insight: In years past, when American presidents have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the following winters have been cold and snowy in the Northeast.

Not sure what the science behind this phenomenon could possibly be. Coincidence, maybe?

Whatever, here's the short version:

1906: Theodore Roosevelt wins the award. The winter of 1906-1907 brings a severe February nor'easter to the coast and as much as 10 inches of snow between Feb. 4 and 6.

1919: Woodrow Wilson wins the Nobel, and January 1920 brings ice, sleet and snow to the Northeast. In February, 4-7, heavy snow drops from Maine to Virginia.

2002: Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize, and the winter of 2002-2003 brings the Feb. 14-19 storm that dumped 15 to 30 inches along the East Coast. Baltimore is buried in 28.2 inches, the deepest snowfall on record for the city.

You can read the entire cockamamie release here. But why would you bother?

AccuWeather is expected to release its forecast for this winter on Wednesday. Their hint: "Preliminary reports predict a cold and snowy winter for the Northeast."

(SUN PHOTO/Algerina Perna/February 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather

October 8, 2009

Anyone remember this hailstorm?

 Hailstorm in Canberra, Australia

(No, not this one. It's a FLICKR PHOTO by marblegravy of the aftermath of a February 2007 hailstorm in Canberra, Australia.)  

But Samuel Cohen writes with a memory of one "hail-aceous" Maryland thunderstorm, one with hail so deep it's hardly believeable. Sam writes:

"I know that I did not imagine this, in the early 70's  1972-74 in July or August (I think it hit on a Wednesday or Thursday) we had a thunderstorm of which I have never seen before.  It hit right around 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and the sky was black as if it was midnight.   A deluge, in Patterson Park trees were knocked down and in the streets.  In Dundalk they had 12 inches of hail and had to bring in a snow plow to remove the hail..I read it in the papers experienced the storm and had a friend who saw the hail...Can you look this up and tell me I'm not crazy??  My friend who experienced the hail has since moved away and none of my other friends remember this storm....

To add to this at Fairmount Ave and Kenwood Aves (John's Bakery)  the cars were piled 3 cars high on each other and at the corner was Jerry Turner of WJZ with the film crew.  Every basement on Kenwood Ave was flooded and the city finally placed huge pipes there (it would always flood with any storm because of the hill coming down from St. Elizabeth's Church but this was the worse)  so it would never flood again...There were trees down everywhere on Baltimore Street..."

We're checking The Baltimore Sun's clip files. In the meantime, I forwarded Sam's question to Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer out at the National Weather Service's Sterling forecast office. Here's his reply:

"Maybe the guy is crazy? Big storms have a way of getting "bigger" as one gets older you know.

"I did not find anything that matched the reader's description in our official "Storm Data", published by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

"I initially did an online search of Storm Data. I got some hits of interest...Jun 21, 1974, Aug 14, 1974. The Jun 21 date didn't really match. See below regarding Aug 14.

"Then I searched the official NCDC Storm Data publications online (scanned copies of the original Storm Data paper copies...which we only have back to the mid 90s.). I searched  the months of July and August for 1972, 1973 and 1974.

"I found several  other event of July 6, 1974, where street flooding was reported between Balt. City and Jappatown.

"Another was the Aug 14, 1974 date (found above)...where golf ball-size hail was reported in Towson and 50 kt wind gusts reported at Martin Field.

"June 6, 1973 had a report of a line of severe storms that crossed from Frederick to Baltimore County during the evening...but with just the usual hit-miss mainly tree damage.

"Perhaps the closest report was on the evening of July 8, 1972 of "severe hail" in the "Northeastern portion" of MD...but mentioned Baltimore County (but not any of the locales your reader had). The report did mention some places where the hail covered the ground (but didn't say exactly where)...

"So...not sure any of these dates match.

"I know (from personal knowledge)...that back on April 1, 1993 (no foolin'!)...that the MD Eastern Shore town of Denton, MD ...  received a copious fall of up to golf-ball size hail stones that covered the ground...requiring local transportation resources to plow the hail off the roads...and the hail was big...up to baseball size!:

"Note: I suspect not all reports of severe weather make it into "Storm Data", especially back in the early '70s. One only has to look at the size (in pages) of the Storm Data publications I examined for this request (Jul-Aug 1972-1974)...that averaged ~20 pages or so...compared to a more contemporary Storm Data (Apr 1993)...that was 120 pages long!

"Steve Z

So, readers, does anyone else out there remember Sam's hailstorm? Can you pinpoint the date and provide verification of plowable hail in Dundalk? If so, leave a comment below. Thanks!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Phenomena

LCROSS to slam moon Friday morning; how to watch


NASA's LCROSS spacecraft and its booster rocket are on course to crash into the moon's south pole Friday morning as scientists make another bid to determine whether there is useful water ice hidden in the rocks and soil of a deep polar crater.

The idea is to blast enough of the moon into space with the booster's impact that detectors on board LCROSS itself can measure the water in the debris and send the data back to Earth before the spacecraft itself follows its booster into the dirt. (No, it won't hurt the moon.)

Plans call for both objects to target the Cabeus crater, impacting at 7:31 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. EDT. Scientists and engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center are playing roles in the the mission's final moments.

Both impacts will also be watched closely through telescopes on Earth and in orbit, in the expectation that one or both crashes will reveal the presence of water. If the answer is positive, it would be a boost to hopes that a manned base at the south pole would have access to water, for drinking and for hydrolysis, which breaks the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen.

The oxygen could help supply the base with breathable air, and the two gases - if there's really enough there - could be repackaged and used as fuel for sending rockets and people back to NASA's LCROSS missionEarth, or elsewhere in the solar system.

Previous unmanned missions to the moon have provided hints of hydrogen at the poles. And the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission now circling the moon has detected a thin, volatile "dew" of water on the lunar surface.

But lunar mission planners are especially interested in water ice at the polar craters. The moon's poles are attractive to base-builders because high elevations could provide nearly constant sunlight for solar electric generation, and shelter (thanks to the steady, low sun angles) from the extremes of heat and cold that prevail closer to the moon's equator.

And the deep polar craters, thanks to the absence of sunlight, are where scientists suspect water ice - delivered during the early bombardment of the inner solar system by icy comets - is most likely to have been preserved.

Unfortunately for people in Maryland, and anywhere east of the Mississippi, the LCROSS impacts won't be visible directly because the moon will have set. (SEE COMMENTS BELOW) In any case, you would need a telescope, with a lens or mirror at least 10 inches in diameter. But there will be ways to watch the events in your jammies via Webcast. Here are some of them:

NASA TV will Web cast the impacts beginning at 6:15 a.m. EDT. There is an onboard camera that should send back dizzying video of the fall.

LCROSS has a Twitter site, too. Follow developments minute to minute.

The mission is also on Facebook, believe it or not. Looks pretty nasty to me, but I guess you could be a friend for a few hours.

Also, the online SLOOH telescope system will provide live Web feeds of the impact. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:08 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Events

Wednesday's winds reached 50 mph

Wednesday's winds, which brought down plenty of autumn leaves, not to mention branches, trees and power lines, reached 50 mph in several locations around the region. An Eastern Shore man died when his small sailboat capsized in high winds. There were gale warnings and small craft warnings on the bay Wednesday.

Here is a rundown on top wind gusts, from National Weather Services observers:

BWI:  50 mph

Urbana HS, Ijamsville: 50 mph

Charles Flowers HS, Upper Marlboro:  50 mph

US Naval Academy, Annapolis:  46 mph

Winters Mill HS, Westminster:  47 mph

Patuxent Valley MS, Savage:  47 mph

Antietam TV, Hagerstown:  47 mph

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

For Henri, it's depression, then dissipation

TD HenriPity poor Henri. The eighth tropical storm of the 2009 season formed Tuesday in the Atlantic, and puffed up a bit, with top sustained winds reaching 50 mph. But almost immediately the storm began to weaken as it drifted closer to the northern Leeward Islands.

This morning, Henri was downgraded to a tropical depression, with top winds of barely 35 mph. And forecasters expect the storm will dissipate later today, and become just another tropical low skirting the northernmost islands of the Caribbean.

That's good news for residents, mariners and vacationers, of course. The 2009 season continues to prove a relatively mild one for the region, thanks in large measure to the El Nino conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which tend to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

Here is what may well be the final advisory on Henri. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Another one bites the dust

Bird strikes Sun bridgeAs the autumn migration season continues, another bird has flown into the glass windows of The Sun's footbridge over Centre Street. It appears to be the fourth of the season so far.

In addition to the yellow-bellied sapsucker that fell a few days ago, an unidentified gray bird (maybe a catbird?) lies in the gutter of the bridge a few yards from the sapsucker. This morning on the way in I noticed another bird lying in a puddle on an awning not far from the bridge. It has black and white spots, perhaps another sapsucker.

Here (photo) is the latest addition to the count, spotted today on the east ledge of the bridge. If you can identify the species, let me know.

This is an annual phenomenon at The Sun. Easily a dozen or more birds die in collisions with the footbridge windows each fall. Indeed, bird strikes on glass buildings are a major cause of bird mortality in the U.S. Millions die each year.  

A number of readers have sent us suggestions for inexpensive ways to make the bridge window glass more visible to the birds. I have forwarded them to management and will let you know what happens.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:43 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events

October 7, 2009

Henri stronger, but doomed

 TS Henri

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Henri, which formed yesterday in the Atlantic, was a bit stronger Wednesday morning. But the forecast still calls for the storm to weaken and dissipate by tomorrow.

The storm's top sustained winds increased from 40 to 50 mph early today, but have since faded a bit to 45. The forecast storm track takes Henri toward the west northwest at 15 mph. At last check it was about 375 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands.

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

Henri is the dense little patch of purple in the water vapor image above. To the south and east is a diffuse area of showers that also is being watched by NHC forecasters. It is given less than a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Dry, windy day ahead, with enhanced fire danger

It's going to be a beautiful day today (Wednesday), but you'll need to hang onto your hat. As the cold front moves off over the Atlantic, and high pressure builds across the region, the winds will pick up today out of the northwest and west.

WeatherDeck anemometerThe National Weather Serevice has issued a wind advisory for all of Central Maryland through 6 p.m. Wednesday. Wind speeds will rise to between 20 and 30 mph later this morning, with gusts between 40 and 50 mph before they diminish around sunset. There are gale warnings on the Bay until 4 p.m.

That sort of wind can cause minor property damage, and make driving high-profile vehicles a wrestling match. 

UPDATE: More than 32,000 BGE customers lost power Wednesday as high winds knocked down electric lines.   

We're seeing increased winds here at The Sun, - gusts as high as 19 mph so far - but our anemometer is pretty sheltered by trees and buildings.

BWI-Marshall has already clocked gusts to 24 mph.

Got your own weather station? Let us know what kinds of gusts you're seeing today. And if you snap any nice autumn-y photos of blowing leaves, send 'em in.

UPDATE: Winds seem to have peaked at BWI with gusts to 49 mph. Our highest at Calvert and Centre streets was 26 mph.

These winds will be dry. Relative humidities - now in the mid-50 percent range in Baltimore - will be falling to 30 or 35 percent. Coupled with the winds, that will raise the fire hazard. The NWS has issued a Special Weather Statement this morning noting the "enhanced fire threat." Although fuel on the ground is somewhat damp, forecasters say drying conditions could reach a point later today where they will need to issue Red Flag Warnings across the region.

UPDATE: Lowest relative humidity here at The Sun was 41 pct.

Whatever, be careful with open fires today and crush those butts.

Once the winds die down, we're looking at beautiful weather across the region tonight and tomorrow, with a forecast high Thursday of 70 degrees. Friday will bring increased clouds, with another cold front due later in the day. That will bring another chance for some showers. The weekend looks sunny but cooler, in the mid- to upper-60s. Yet another cold front on Columbus Day will drop daytime highs to near 60 degrees, with overnight lows in the 40s.

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

October 6, 2009

Eighth tropical storm - Henri - forms in Atlantic

TS Henri 

That's "ahn-Ree" for you non-French-speakers. Tropical Storm Henri formed today in the Atlantic Ocean, the eighth named storm of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.

Henri is centered about 600 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Top sustained winds are only about 40 mph, just above minimal tropical storm strength. The storm is moving toward the west northwest at 18 mph.

The forecast storm track takes Henri in the general direction of the southeast U. S. coast, but the storm is not expected to make it that far, at least not as a tropical storm. Forecasters say it will likely weaken into a "remnant low" in the next two days.

Here is the latest advisory on Henri. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:19 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Showers tonight, sunny weekend, colder next week

Autumn leaf 

The barometer has already headed south as a cold front approaches , pushing a fast-moving band of showers out ahead of it. They should reach us late tonight. That will set us up for a breezy day on Wednesday, with the dry, northwest winds likely to dry out the underbrush and raise the danger of wildfires.

But by late Wednesday, skies will start to clear as high pressure builds, dropping overnight lows into the 40s in central Maryland. Sunshine will boost daytime temperatures back into the 70s by Friday, but another cold front late Friday will bring more showers and a significant drop in temperatures as skies clear for the weekend.

There's yet another cold front due on Monday, Columbus Day, and by early next week we will be hard-pressed to get the thermometer past 60 degrees - almost 10 degrees below the seasonal norms.

Overnight lows will sink into the low 40s for another real taste of autumn ... and a test of our willingness to keep the furnace off a while longer.

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Dead birds signal arrival of autumn

northern flicker 

We've passed the autumnal equinox, and the Harvest Moon. And now the last sure sign of autumn has landed, literally, on our doorstep. Dead birds.

Each fall, Baltimore Sun employees who park on the garage in the 600 block of North Calvert Street must walk through a glass-and-steel Valley of Death. Birds - migrating birds I would guess - seem to have a fatal penchant for flying into the glass windows of the enclosed footbridge that crosses Centre Street between the garage and the Sun offices in the 500 block of North Calvert.

As the season wears on, the fluffy little bodies pile up and decompose (mostly) along the ledges on both sides of the bridge. The carnage provides a sad, some might say ghastly accounting of the species that fly through Baltimore each fall on their way south.

In years past I've counted a dozen or more on the ledges of the bridge before the maintenance crew arrives to scoop them up. I'm not birder enough to identify all of them. But one of the first to show up this month appears to be a northern flicker (above).Sun footbridge

CORRECTION: I'm told this is a yellow-bellied sapsucker, not a flicker. Thanks to all the bird watchers who set me right. 

It's not entirely clear why birds crash into glass. It seems likely they simply don't see it. There is nothing in their experience, or evolution, that would prepare them for something solid that they can see through. Or, they see only reflections of sky and clouds and trees that would seem to pose no threat. So, they try to fly through the bridge, with fatal results.

Why this carnage seems to peak in the autumn would seem to be a function of migration. There are thousands of birds passing through the city at this time of year. They're all in a hurry for a quick meal and a fast flight out of town. There are lots of them, and they're all in a hurry. The results aren't pretty.

(SUN PHOTOS/Frank D. Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:11 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Almanac

Coming and going ... Grace-fully

Back on the job this morning after a weekend break for a wedding in Ocean City. (Note to self: Yes, you can get a sunburn in October; wear sunblock), and a hectic Monday chasing Nobel prize AccuWeather.comwinners and cramming for a story on telomeres.

Somehow, during that brief period, the 2009 season's seventh named tropical storm puffed to life in the northeastern Atlantic, and was swallowed up by a frontal system headed for the British Isles.

The storm was Grace, an oddball that formed near the Azores - on the latitude of New York City - hardly tropical, some would argue. Too far north to catch the east-to-west Trade Winds for a ride across the Atlantic, Grace drifted north and east.

The first advisory for Grace was issued on Sunday. Top sustained winds reached almost 70 mph on Monday, but began to slow after that as the storm raced off to the north northeast. The National Hurricane Center issued the last advisory on Grace late Monday night.

Here is's take on the rain and wind headed for Ireland and the UK. ,

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

October 1, 2009

Coldest morning of the season at BWI (so far)

Okay, I know there will be lots of "coldest mornings so far" as we get closer to winter, and into the coldest days of January and February. But it's these first few days of chilly readings, after a Cool weather coolsummer of balmy weather, that we really notice.

The mercury sank to 44 degrees before dawn Thursday out at BWI-Marshall Airport. That was well short of the record for an Oct. 1 in Baltimore. That would be the 36-degree low reached on this date in 1947. But it was the coldest morning in the suburbs since May 22, when it also was 44 degrees.

The low here at Calvert and Centre streets was 52 degrees. We bottomed out at 43 degrees on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. There was a 38-degree reading out in south-central Pennsylvania, near Shippensburg, and a few more like that in northern Virginia and eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

But mostly the lows across the region were in the 40s. Here's a map showing many of the lows.

If your weekend starts today, congratulations. You have the nicest day of the bunch to play with. We're enjoying clear, dry, high pressure, with today's high sticking in the mid-60s. But as this high moves off to our east, and we come into the return flow, warmer, wetter air will begin to rise up from the south. That will get us into the 70s, with more clouds tomorrow.

But rain chances climb late Friday, with a 70 percent chance for showers and thunderstorms on Saturday. Your autumn Saturday at the beach looks like a washout.

But things will clear off again by Sunday after the next cold front moves through. Sunday looks fine, with a high in nthe low 70s and sunshine. We'll stay good until rain chances rise again on Tuesday.

Rain would be an especially good thing for far Western Maryland. The latest Drought Monitor map, released this morning, shows all of Garrett and Allegany counties, and the westernmost part of Washington county, are now in moderate drought, making up about 11 percent of the state. The rest of Washington and the western part of Frederick county are rated as abnormally dry, adding up to nearly 19 percent of the state experiencing unusually dry conditions.

The dry weather has been building out there since mid-August, part of a wider expanse of dry territory that includes southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. 

(SUN PHOTO/Perry Thorsvik, 1994; Hey, she looked cool and sunny... although the ice pick is kinda scary.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:14 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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