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December 31, 2009

Two inches slicks up roads north, west of I-95

Just when we'd gotten rid of the snow pack from the Dec. 18-19 snowstorm, Mother Nature dropped another two inches across much of the region this morning. Accumulations were little more than 2 inches from Baltimore north and west, with only a fraction of that to the south and east. Here's a sampling from CoCoRaHS:New Year's Eve snowstorm Baltimore

Sykesville, Howard Co.:  2.7 inches

Towson: Baltimore Co.:  2.5 inches

Columbia, Howard Co.:  2.2 inches

Kingsville, Harford Co.:  2.1 inches

Jarrettsville, Harford Co.:  2.0 inches

Hamilton, Baltimore City:  2.0 inches

Mount Airy, Carroll Co.:  1.5 inches

Severn, Anne Arundel Co.:  0.3 inch

Bowie, Prince Geeorge's Co.:  0.1 inch

It wasn't much, but it seems to have fallen on cold pavement, with most of the old salt washed away by Christmas rains. The result was a slippery snow pack that hardened to ice beneath the weight of morning traffic.

North Charles and St. Paul streets were alternately snow-covered, icy or slushy this morning along much of their northern ranges. In the county, too, it looked like road crews got a late start at salting and plowing the rutty slush to the side.

There were lots of reports of early accidents. But if you cut your speeds and started braking early before lights and intersections, the commute (mine, at least) did not seem terribly problematic. Light traffic, with schools, some government offices and and businesses closed, certainly helped. Feel free to comment on road conditions and your commuting experience this morning.

Temperatures have moved up through the melting point again, and forecasters out at Sterling expect any further precipitation today will fall as rain or sleet. The highs should reach 40 degrees. More rain showers are possible tonight, and could threaten the fireworks displays. But that should end sometime Friday morning, with a chance we'll see sunshine before the afternoon is out on New Year's Day.

Then we're headed back into the freezer. Lows Friday night into Saturday will drop to the mid-20s. The highs Saturday into the middle of next week will remain stuck in the 30s, and lows overnight will fall back to near 20 degrees.

(SUN PHOTO/East Lombard Street/Jed Kirschbaum/Dec. 31, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Arctic explorer stuck in Maryland snow

This is just too perfect, and wonderfully written, to require any elaboration by me. From the archives of The Baltimore Sun, Dec. 31, 1909, just as it appeared exactly one century ago (with thanks to Sun Librarian Paul McCardell):

Commander Robert E. PearyHeadline: PEARY STUCK IN SNOW

Sub-heads: Explorer Finds Rural Maryland Like the North Pole; HAD TO DIG OUT THE TAXICAB; Host's Ears Frozen And Is Rushed Away From Dinner To Have His Ears Rubbed In Snow

Washington, Dec. 30 - Commander Robert E. Peary, one of our leading discoverers of the North Pole, had the liveliest kind of an Arctic experience last night in Maryland within six miles of Washington.

With Mrs. Peary and her sister he was sledding in a taxicab briskly along Bradley lane to keep an 8 o'clock dinner engagement at the home of Ralph P. Barnard, son of Justice Job Barnard, at Drummond, Md., just across the District line. The taxicab suddenly paused, dashed forward, halted again, jumped off the road, and finally came to rest in six feet of snow. The engine snorted a couple of times, backfired once and stopped.

After the first surprise was over the explorer picked up the speaking tube dangling at his right hand and hailed the bridge.

"Stuck," said the chauffeur, "and stuck good. I guess you'd better take command of this expedition. I hain't no Eskimo."

(PHOTO/Robert Peary/National Geographic Society/No date)

Commander Peary discontinued his whispered scientific observations.

"This is quite reminiscent," he remarked, without particular enthusiasm.

About 10 minutes later, after the chauffeur had decided there wasn't a ghost of a show of getting the taxi out of the drift without assistance, Commander Peary, who was in evening dress and wore low shoes of the pump variety, started across country for Mr. Barnard's home in Drummond.

The intrepid discoverer didn't care to talk of his trip today. He plowed more than a mile across country in deep snow and sometimes in drifts up to his shoulders, before he reached his destination.

The Commander, recalling the picture of Mrs. Peary and her sister sitting in a snowbound taxicab in the middle of Bradley lane didn't waste much time in explanations.Commander Robert E. Peary

"Infernal cab got stuck," he told his host. "Ladies in it. Come on get 'em out. Never saw worse weather in latitude 90."  And a few minutes later the Commander, still in evening dress, but with a pair of rubber boots replacing the pumps, and accompanied by Mr. Barnard, his host; Josiah B. Callahan and Dr. Charles P. Kiefer, started on the back track to effect the rescue.

It was a job getting that taxicab out of the drift, and all the ropes and poles and shovels and chains carried by the party were utilized before the machine gained the road again. Then they all piled in and after very careful running landed back at the Barnard home in time to sit down at 10 o'clock to that 8 o'clock dinner.

Naturally, everybody supposed that all troubles were over then. But the soup had no more than been served when Commander Peary jumped out of his chair, grabbed Mr. Callahan with one hand and Dr. Kiefer with the other and rushed them outside.

"Ears frostbitten," he told those astonished gentlemen, as he picked up great handfuls of snow and began to massage their faces. After about an hour of this rough treatment the Commander decided their ears would be saved for future use and all tramped back into the house.

That dinner party wound up long after midnight, and as the cars had stopped running, the Pearys came into town in an open automobile, although the temperature was hovering around near zero.

"I ab nod zure," said Commander Peary today, "bud I thig I toog gold."

"We'd like to know," said Messrs. Barnard, Callahan and Kiefer, in chorus, "if our ears were really frozen."

(AP Photo/Peary and his huskies in 1939)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:12 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: History
        

December 30, 2009

Winter Weather Advisories posted

The National Weather Service has posted Winter Weather Advisories for the entire state west of the Chesapeake Bay for early Thursday. That means we're in for "periods of snow, sleet or freezing rain [that] will cause travel difficulties" as the next storm approaches.

Ice storm in BaltimoreFrom I-95 south and east, they're calling for snow and sleet accumulations of up to an inch beginning after 4 a.m. Thursday, plus a "few hundredths of an inch" of glazing from the freezing rain.

Ick. Sounds worse than it did earlier today. I suspect they're being cautious. The good news is it should all turn back to rain by 10 a.m.

To the north and west of the urban corridor, the picture is a bit more, well, wintry. Out in Westminster, for example, the Winter Weather Advisory calls for 1 to 3 inches of snow and sleet on the ground before temperatures rise enough to change it back to rain late in the morning.

There is still a lot of uncertainty about all this, and about just what sort of precipitation will fall, where and for how long. But here's how they put it in this afternoon's discussion:

"WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR FREEZING RAIN IN THE MIX...HAVE GONE FOR A WINTER
WEATHER ADVISORY FOR ENTIRE [FORECAST AREA]. A FEW HOURS OF FREEZING RAIN ARE
POSSIBLE PARTICULARLY ALONG I-95 CORRIDOR /MET AND MAV [COMPUTER MODELS] SUGGEST SUBFREEZING TEMPS AT [PATUXENT NAVAL AIR STATION] SO A GLAZE IS POSSIBLE FOR MORE INLAND SECTIONS OF FAR SOUTHERN MARYLAND/. TOTAL [MOISTURE POTENTIAL] OF AROUND A QUARTER OF AN INCH IN A MIXED BAG OF WINTRY PRECIP INCLUDING ENDING WITH
RAIN. THUS...THE POTENTIAL FOR A MORE SIGNIFICANT EVENT IS LOW."

I'll go way out on a limb here and predict that area schools will be closed.

(SUN PHOTO/Gene Sweeney Jr./January 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:55 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Threat eases from New Year's storm

Forecasters don't seem very worried about the winter weather threat from the New Year's Eve storm that's brewing to our south. Despite the mention of freezing rain and snow in the forecast, it looks like most of the precipitation in the Baltimore area on Thursday will be in the form of rain.

New Year's fireworks, Baltimore 1995The official forecast out of the NWS forecast office in Sterling calls for only a 30 percent chance for light freezing rain and sleet, beginning after midnight tonight. The wintry stuff will linger longer along and west of I-95. But temperatures will gradually warm, and the precipitation is expected to become all rain during the day Thursday, with highs in the 40s.  The chances are put at 60 percent.

But forecasters, in their discussion this morning, seemed a little doubtful about the frozen stuff:

"We are currently advertising a "chance" of a wintry mix after [1 a.m.] across the majority of the [forecast area] ... I considered cutting back on the northern border of that, but see that the northern [forecast] offices also have "chances," so we'll leave as is ... There certainly is the possibility of .01 inch of freezing rain late tonight. But temperatures may actually do a little rising late tonight in the eastern part of the area, where the best chance of precipitation should be, which could negate the freezing threat."

Overnight lows on New Year's Eve are not expected to drop below the upper 30s, so any precipitation during the festivities will fall as rain. And most of that, forecasters say, will come after midnight. So maybe they'll be able to squeeze in the fireworks displays.

On New Year's Day, as the coastal storm moves north of our latitude, intensifies and threatens New England with serious snow, we'll be looking at more rain, perhaps changing back to light snow as the passing storm to our east drags more cold air south into our region, and temperatures drop. 

The sun comes back for the weekend and early next week, but temperatures will remain cold, even for this time of year, with highs only in the mid-30s, and lows near 20 degrees. The mountains to our west could see a prolonged period of lake-effect snow through the weekend.

Cold weather across much of the East is expected to push oil prices higher.

(SUN PHOTO/Thomas Graves/Jan. 1, 1995)

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

December 29, 2009

High winds buffet cars, cut power

Woke up Monday and again Tuesday to the sound of wind roaring through the trees. And when I went to the drive-up ATM machine this morning, the wind caught the receipt as it emerged from the machine, and before I could grab it, the thing soared high into the swirl of leaves and trash around me and out of sight. The cash, happily, stayed put.

The cause is a "tight pressure gradient" - close proximity between a deep low-pressure center in the Canadian Maritime Provinces and a high in the Midwest. That is funneling a gusher of Canadian air into the Northeast, and we get stiff winds. And it's cold. Temperatures were dropping all night after the passage of a cold front, and seem to be struggling to reach the freezing mark at mid-day Tuesday. The wind chills are in the low 20s. Look for a low near 20 degrees tonight. Windy weather

The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for Central Maryland through 6 p.m. Tuesday, warning of sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph, gusting to 45 or 50 mph. Such winds can make driving difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. Gale Warnings are in effect for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, and the tidal Potomac River.

Here are some peak wind gusts around the region. Some have reached 50 mph.

Winds down at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport have been steady at more than 20 mph this morning, and gusting to 38 mph. BGE is reporting more than 13,000 customers have lost power since the windstorm began. More than 8,000 of those have already been restored.

Instruments at the Thomas Point Light are recording winds of 29 knots, gusting to 36, with falling temperatures.

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/January 2000)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events
        

December 28, 2009

Another dance with the snow/rain line ahead

The snow icons are back in the National Weather Service forcast for the end of the week. But then, so are the rain icons. Looks like the next coastal storm to flirt with the mid-Atlantic region could bring us more snow AND more rain before the weekend arrives.NWS

It's still too early to know for sure where this storm will go, and how its eventual track up the coast will affect Central Maryland. The models aren't in agreement yet and the forecasters are still being cautious.

The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, for now, is calling for snow on Wednesday nioght and again Thursday night, with a changeover to rain during the day on Thursday and rain and snow showers on Friday.

For now, the forecast discussion from Sterling has the storm developing off the Carolina coast by Thursday, with precipitation developing ahead of the storm, spreading into our region as snow late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. It would change over to rain during the day Thursday east of the I-95 corridor, changing back to snow Thursday night into Friday as colder air is drawn into the system from the north.

Several computer models then bring a second low into the picture from the Great Lakes, with another round of snow or rain showers on Friday.

Mr. Foot and his team seem pretty confident we'll see some wintry mix out of this storm system, but less confident that it will amount to a major (4 inches or more) event. On the other hand, they say, we remain in a pattern of coastal storms and cold air invasions that will have us dodging snowstorms for much of the winter.AccuWeather.com

AccuWeather.com keeps the serious snowfall well to our north (right), in the snow belt from the Great Lakes to New England. 

Snow lovers can take heart. We still have a lot of time this winter for more powder. January and February are our snowiest months, and I always count on the middle of February - especially the second week of February - for our biggest snow of the season.

Sorry I was away for the big Christmas rain. We clocked 1.5 inches here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. It managed to wash all the salt and grime off my car, which I cleverly had detailed just before the storm. And it thankfully melted all the snow and ice we had piled behind our (vacationing) neighbors' cars. NOAA/NWS

The airport recorded an official 1.75 inches on the 25th and 26th.

That added rainfall broke the all-time record (going back to 1871) for Baltimore precipitation in December. The total through Sunday is 7.67 inches, breaking the previous record of 7.44 inches, set in 1969. (Thanks to Fred Weiss for alerting me to the new record.) Here are the stats:

2009:  7.67 inches *

1969:  7.44 inches

1936:  7.10 inches

1901:  7.07 inches

For the year, we have now recorded 55.18 inches of precipitation, 13 inches above the average for an entire year, with another storm to come. (The surplus is in dark green on the chart. Vertical line are months.)

The total is still well short of the wettest year on record, which was 62.66 inches, in 2003. But 2009 promises to finish in the top six, even after a very dry start:

2003:  62.66 inches

1889:  62.36 inches

1979:  58.98 inches

1996:  58.31 inches

1952:  56.57 inches

2009:  55.18 inches *

* Through Dec. 27 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 23, 2009

Dreaming of a wet Christmas

Looks like Friday's bout of freezing rain and rain will not get rolling until just a few hours before dawn in Central Maryland. Forecasters out at Sterling are putting the chance of freezing rain Thursday night at just 20 percent after a sunny day leading to Christmas Eve. So travelers who head out Thursday should be okay.

But by Friday morning the precipitation chances rise to 80 percent. And with temperatures at the surface on Friday morning well below freezing, the rain that falls from the warmer air aloft will freeze on the way down, or on contact with sidewalks, streets, cars and railings. So be careful if you're stepping out on Christmas morning.

What's less clear is how long it will take the falling rain to "erode" the cold air dammed up at the surface, and turn the precipitation over to all rain. Forecasters say it will begin to mix at BWI-Marshall Airport between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and become all rain after that. But depending on Christmas traffic in rainwhere you are and how the event unfolds, the actual script may be different for you.

West of the Blue Ridge, freezing rain may be a factor all day. So if you're driving west on I-70 and I-68, be advised.

Sterling is expecting a pretty sizable volume of water, with up to a quarter inch of rain during the day Friday, followed by another quarter- to a half-inch Friday night. There's an 80 percent chance for more rain on Saturday, although the NWS has not attached an accumulation amount to that one yet.

Rest assured, coming on top of still-melting snow and ice, there will be lots of water on the ground, looking for a low spot to fill up. Watch for street and stream flooding, and be sure the storm drains around your place are clear.

Sunshine returns on Sunday, but temperatures will be colder, with highs in the 30s early next week, and lows near 20 degrees. Normal highs are in the low 40s at this time of year at BWI. The average lows are in the mid-20s. 

The good news, of course, for many, is that we will not be on the snowy side of this storm, which is going to pile up deep numbers across the northern Plains, from Kansas to northern Michigan.

But that doesn't mean we're done with big snow this winter. Mr. Foot's Forecast includes this warning today:

"If you are an HSA [the state High School Assessment] planner in Maryland, we hypothesize conditions in mid-January will turn around and warm up - just in time to get state testing completed. After that? Let's just say the Empire Strikes Back - as in the empire of Old Man Winter. The January 20 to February 15 period might be a time that tries men's souls (and ladies too of course!)" 

Europeans are enjoying a wintry patch, too. Snow in Madrid? Read more here.

For more on the weather history of Christmas in Baltimore, from the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va., read on.

(SUN PHOTO/Kenneth K. Lam/Christmas Eve 2003)

                         *** BALTIMORE ***

EXAMINATION OF WEATHER RECORDS GOING BACK TO 1872...SHOWS A TYPICAL
CHRISTMAS DAY IS PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A FROSTY EARLY MORNING LOW OF 28
AND AN AFTERNOON HIGH OF 43. BUT THE YEAR-TO-YEAR WEATHER CAN BE
ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE IT COLD...

THE COLDEST...1983 WHEN THE TEMPERATURE HIT ZERO DEGREES F/-18C.
THAT ALSO PRODUCED THE COLDEST HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR THE DAY...A
FRIGID 12 DEGREES F/-11C THAT AFTERNOON. THE FIVE COLDEST LOWS WERE:

          1983 - 0  DEGREES F          1980 - 7  DEGREES F
          1989 - 7  DEGREES F          1960 - 12 DEGREES F
                        1998 - 13 DEGREES F

HOW ABOUT A WARM CHRISTMAS?

THE WARMEST...A TOASTY 72 DEGREES F/22C IN 1964. THAT DAY ALSO PRODUCED
THE WARMEST LOW TEMPERATURE...48 DEGREES F/9C.  THE 5 WARMEST CHRISTMASES:

          1964 - 72 DEGREES F          1932 - 67 DEGREES F
          1982 - 70 DEGREES F          1893 - 67 DEGREES F
                         1965 65 DEGREES F

RECENT PAST CHRISTMAS DAY WEATHER:

LAST YEAR...2008...A COLD FRONT SWEPT ACROSS THE REGION SHORTLY
AFTER MIDNIGHT. A TRACE OF RAIN WAS RECORDED IN BALTIMORE WITH THE
FRONTAL PASSAGE. THE DAILY HIGH OCCURRED JUST PRIOR TO THE FRONTAL
PASSAGE. THE DAYTIME FEATURED PARTLY SUNNY SKIES WITH DAYTIME HIGHS
IN THE MID TO UPPER 40S.

      2008 -->  HI 59  LOW 32   PARTLY SUNNY HIGH OCCURRED AT MIDNIGHT
      2007 -->  HI 50  LOW 30   PARTLY SUNNY AND MILD
      2006 -->  HI 50  LOW 30   CLOUDY WITH AFTERNOON AND NIGHT RAIN
      2005 -->  HI 42  LOW 24   CLOUDY WITH AFTERNOON RAIN
      2004 -->  HI 31  LOW 17   SUNNY AND COLD
      2003 -->  HI 41  LOW 28   MOSTLY SUNNY AND BLUSTERY
      2002 -->  HI 38  LOW 32   RAIN WITH SOME SNOW/SLEET
      2001 -->  HI 40  LOW 23   PARTLY SUNNY AND COOL
      2000 -->  HI 27  LOW 17   SUNNY BREEZY AND COLD
      1999 -->  HI 32  LOW 14   MOSTLY SUNNY AND COLD
      1998 -->  HI 33  LOW 13   SUNNY AND COLD
      1997 -->  HI 56  LOW 41   PARTLY CLOUDY WITH RAIN SHOWERS.
      1996 -->  HI 38  LOW 24   SUNNY AND COOL.


FOR SNOW LOVERS...

A WHITE CHRISTMAS IS SOMEWHAT OF A RARITY IN BALTIMORE. SEVEN YEARS
AGO IN 2002 A GENERALLY RAINY CHRISTMAS MORNING CHANGED TO SNOW AT
DURING THE LATE MORNING. THERE WAS ENOUGH SNOW TO YIELD AN INCH OF
SNOW. HOWEVER...OF THE PAST 116 YEARS SINCE 1893 WHEN SNOWFALL HAS
BEEN MEASURED IN BALTIMORE MD...ONLY TWELVE TIMES HAS THERE BEEN
MEASURABLE SNOW THAT FELL ON CHRISTMAS DAY. THAT AVERAGES OUT TO
ABOUT 1 EVERY 10 YEARS...OR 10 PERCENT.

THE 6 HIGHEST SNOWFALLS OCCURRING IN BALTIMORE ON CHRISTMAS DAY...

     1909 ... 9.3"
     1969 ... 6.1"
     1902 ... 3.0"
     1962 ... 2.9
     1935 ... 1.2"
     2002 ... 1.0"

IF YOU INTERPRET A WHITE CHRISTMAS TO MEAN MEASURABLE SNOWFALL OR
SNOW ON THE GROUND...AT LEAST ONE HALF INCH...THAT IMPROVES THE ODDS
SOME. TWENTY NINE TIMES SNOW WAS ON THE GROUND CHRISTMAS DAY
THAT EITHER FELL THAT DAY...OR WAS ON THE GROUND FROM A PREVIOUS
STORM. THAT GIVES ABOUT A 23 PERCENT CHANCE...OR ABOUT ONCE EVERY
FOUR YEARS.

HOWEVER...IN THE PAST 20 YEARS THERE HAVE BEEN ONLY TWO CHRISTMASES
THAT HAD SNOW FALL THAT DAY...1993 AND 2002. BOTH YEARS FEATURED AN
INCH OR LESS. FURTHERMORE...THERE WAS ONLY TWO YEARS IN THE PAST 20
THAT HAD MORE THAN AN INCH OF SNOW ON THE GROUND ON CHRISTMAS. THE
MOST RECENT OF WHICH WAS DURING THE VERY COLD DECEMBER OF 1989...
WHEN NEARLY 2 INCHES OF SNOW WAS ON THE GROUND FROM PREVIOUS
SNOWFALL THAT MONTH.

PRECIPITATION OF ANY SORT (RAIN INCLUDED) IS MUCH EASIER TO COME BY
OF COURSE. THIRTY EIGHT CHRISTMASES HAVE HAD PRECIPITATION. THAT
TRANSLATES TO ABOUT 30 PERCENT PROBABILITY OF MEASURABLE
PRECIPITATION...OR ROUGHLY ONE THIRD.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!
Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:40 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 22, 2009

Ice or flooding on Christmas; take your pick

As much as we may be enjoying this very white (and very rare for Baltimore) lead-up to Christmas, it does not look like our luck will hold through the holiday itself. 

National Weather Service forecasters are beginning to make increasingly worrisome noises about freezing rain and sleet on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day if temperatures at the surface stay cold enough. And if they don't, we can still count on plenty of rain - as much as an inch as things look now - on top of a still-pretty-hefty snow pack. And that will mean lots of melting and urban flooding where drainage is slowed by snow, ice and blocked drains. Ice storm Dec. 2002

For now, high pressure is dominating our weather. We have a pretty stubborn cloud cover, but the barometer is rising, and temperatures look like they may flirt with 40 degrees today. We may begin to see some breaks in the clouds late in the day. 

Once the skies clear, and the cold air arriving from the northwest begins to be felt, we will see temperatures drop again. The overnight low Tuesday night is forecast to reach the teens. Wednesday is expected to be sunny, with the high not much better than freezing. Wednesday night will be even colder, forecasters say, with a low at BWI near 17 degrees.

So you'd think, with all this cold air arriving, that the storm headed our way for Thursday night and Friday would bring snow for Christmas. But noooooo.

Forecasters at Sterling believe the powerful low forecasted to move out of the Missouri Valley on Thursday will pass by to our west as it heads into the Great Lakes region. The counter-clockwise flow around the low will draw mild, wet air into our region from the south. Once here, it will be forced up over the cold air ensconced at the surface (called "cold air damming"). And depending on how much of that cold air is in place over your head, the precipitation will fall as sleet, freezing rain or rain by Christmas morning.

Here's a snippet from this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling:

"Models depict surface temperatures rising above freezing by late Friday morning most areas, though high pressure at the surface looks strong enough  to hinder erosion of cold air damming. Potential for significant rain on FRiday, with up to 1 inch. Still have [high temperature forecast] in upper 30s Friday. But depending on strength of the cold air damming, icing could be an issue through most of the day, especially west of the Blue Ridge. If temperatures warm enough, then melting snow combined with rain pose flood risk as well."

Nice. AccuWeather.com

Mr. Foot's student forecast team is even gloomier about the prospects: "All travelers, public safety officials, emergency managers, airport officials and anyone else with "plans" for 12/25 need to monitor this situation extremely closely."

Here (and at left) is AccuWeather.com's take on the ice storm. The red dots are where they believe the risk of power outages is high.

On Saturday, forecasters expect a cold front to move through behind the storm, with falling temperatures and possibly a changeover in whatever precipitation remains to snow.

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/Ice storm Dec. 11, 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

View from orbit: Snowstorm paints region white

Saturday's record-breaking snowstorm has left a mark on the mid-Atlantic states that is clearly visible from space. Here is the image taken on Monday by NASA's Terra Earth Observing Satellite.

The photo-like image was acquired by the satellite's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. Here's a link to a better view, snapped on Sunday. Enjoy.

NASA/Terra Dec. 21, 2009

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

December 21, 2009

Okay: NOW it's winter; solstice arrives at 12:47 p.m.

It may have looked like winter to you for several days. But officially, if you buy the tradition, winter arrived today - Monday, Dec. 21 - at 12:47 p.m. - with the winter solstice.

Winter solstice - AP PhotoThe winter solstice is the moment when the "sun stands still" - from the Latin "sol" and "stistere." That is, it's the time when the sun stops its apparent drift southward in the sky, and begins to rise and set a bit farther north each day, headed toward spring and the summer solstice in June.

In fact, the solstice occurs at the moment in the Earth's annual orbit around the sun, when the Northern Hemisphere reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun - 23 degrees, 26 minutes from the perpendicular. At the same moment, the Southern Hemisphere is enjoying its Summer Solstice, its longest day and the start of the southern summer.

In many cultures, the winter solstice was celebrated as mid-winter, not the beginning. And it made sense. Today is the day with the shortest period of daylight. From here, the days get longer, and brighter. We have already passed the date of the earliest sunset (Dec. 7), and on Jan. 4 we will note the latest sunrise. But from this moment, on balance, the days are getting longer. It's all good from here.

So cheer up and shovel.

(AP PHOTO/Chris Young - English Druids celebrate the 2005 winter solstice at Stonehenge)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:14 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events
        

Forecasters: An icy week, then a rainy Christmas

What we saw this morning - lots of yesterday's melt water turned to hazardous ice - is pretty much what we'll see this week, until things finally warm a bit, and leave us with a rainy Christmas.

The good news is that daytime temperatures will, at least, get above freezing each day this week - into the mid-30s at BWI. And that, with sunshine, will help the melting process, especially on southern exposures.

Cleaning up snow in Baltimore(I pity my neighbors across the street, whose front walks face northwest. When my steps were drying in the sunshine Sunday, they were spreading ice-melt on theirs. On the other hand, I apparently have pretty poor insulation, and the icicles dripped all night, leaving an ice rink on my stoop this morning.)

The real problems will come overnight, with forecast lows in the teens at the airport, and colder in the usual cold spots. That will mean refreezing by morning, slippery walks and steps, and "black ice" on some roadways. So be careful out there.

So far this month, the airport is running more than a degree colder than the long-term average for December. We're also running well above average on moisture, with 5.92 inches of melted precipitation, which is 3.78 inches above the norm for the month to date.

But as the week progresses, a storm system now over the Pacific Northwest is forecast to move Icicles in Fallston 2006inland, toward the southern Rockies and the Southern Plains by mid-week. From there it will likely curve toward the northeast again, passing to our west as it heads into the Great Lakes.

That will put us on the warm side of the counter-clockwise circulation around the low, dragging warmer, wetter air out of the South. They're expecting the inland storm to generate a secondary low over the southeast Atlantic coast. That could trigger a "wintry mix" of precipitation here Thursday night, with freezing rain the biggest threat.

But the mild air from the south is expected to turn all of it to rain by morning, with a 70 percent chance for rain in Baltimore on Friday, Christmas Day. Highs will reach the 40s, if the forecast holds up.

Depending on how much snow is left on the ground by Thursday, and how much it rains, we could see some local flooding as rain and melting snow and ice  - on top of frozen ground - combine to leave a lot of water around. Make sure you clear any blocked storm drains.

Many will recall the heavy rains that followed the February 2003 storm by a week. I was out there in boots, scrambling to shovel a channel to the storm drain behind our homes so the rain and rising meltwater could flow down the swale and away from our back doors. What a torrent I created. I was soaked, but jeez it was fun.

So the storm is behind us now, but it will remain in our memories and in the record books. Here are a few more superlatives from the National Weather Service:

BWI: the storm of Dec. 18-19, 2009 broke a series of records at BWI.

The 20.5 inches on Dec. 19, 2009 broke the record for snow on any Dec. 19 since record-keeping began in 1883, and for any date in December. The old record was 11.5 inches, on Dec. 17, 1932.

The 20.5 inches on Dec. 19 also was the fifth-deepest snowfall on any calendar date in Baltimore.

The storm total of 21.1 inches at BWI for Dec. 18-19, 2009 was the 6th biggest two-day storm total on record for Baltimore, and the 7th-deepest accumulation for a storm of any length.

Finally, the snow total for the month so far - 22.2 inches - is already the most snow on record for any December since record-keeping began. The previous record was 20.4 inches in 1966.

Also worthy of note: February 2003 was the snowiest February on record (40.5 inches) for Baltimore. That's two record monthly snow extremes in less than seven years. And the snowiest January was only 14 years ago, in 1996, with 32.6 inches.

(SUN PHOTOS/Shoveling- Karl Merton Ferron, 12-20-2009/Icicles - Kenneth Lam, 2-13-06) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 20, 2009

Storm breaks (nearly) all December records

December storm 2009

The snow that you'll be tackling with shovels and back muscles on Sunday broke nearly all official December records, not just for Baltimore, but also for Washington's Reagan National Airport, and for Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.

Here are some storm totals from across the region. Here is a quick breakdown of the fallen records (from National Weather Service data):

BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON INTERNATIONAL THURGOOD MARSHALL AIRPORT: Records (for Baltimore) go back to 1883.

Dec. 19, 2009:  20.5 inches.

Two-day storm total: 21.1 inches. (This now ranks as Baltimore's 7th-biggest snowstorm on record, and only the second December storm in the top 20. See below)

Total, December to date: 22.2 inches.

Old Baltimore record for a Dec. 19: 7.6 inches in 1945.

Old record for any date in December: 11.5 inches on Dec. 17, 1932.

Old record for total snowfall in December: 20.4 inches in 1966.

 

REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT: Records (for Washington) go back to 1887)

Dec. 19, 2009:  15 inches.

Two-day storm total:  16.4 inches.

Total, December to date: 16.6 inches.

Old Washington record for a Dec. 19:  7 inches in 1945.

Old record for any date in December: 11.5 inches on Dec. 17, 1932.

Old record for total snowfall in December: 16.2 inches, 1962.

 

DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Records go back to 1963.

Dec. 19, 2009:  16 inches.

Two-day storm total:  18 inches

Total snowfall, December to date: 21 inches

Old Dulles record for  a Dec. 19:  3.1 inches in 2000

Old record for any date in December:  10.6 inches on Dec. 12, 1964

Record for total snowfall in December:  24.2 inches in 1966. This record still stands.

Top 20 Snowstorms in Baltimore: (1891-2006)
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

 

This is already the snowiest winter at BWI since 2002-2003, and snowier than the last two winters combined:

Long-term average:  18.2 inches

2009-10: 22.2 inches

2008-09:  9.1 inches

2007-08:  8.5 inches

2006-07:  11.0 inches

2005-06:  19.6 inches

2004-05:  18.0 inches

2003-04:  18.3 inches

2002-03:  58.1 inches

Here's NWS science officer Steve Zubrick's car, at Sterling on Saturday night:

NWS Sterling 12-19-2009

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:54 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: By the numbers
        

December 19, 2009

Snow tops two feet in Va., one foot in Md.

Snow accumulations across the region were moving toward record territory just before noon on Saturday. Some locations in Virginia had reached two feet, which 12-inch counts were posted for parts of Maryland.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.: Looks like the Blizzard Warnings have been lifted across the region. We remain under a Winter Storm Warning, in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday, with total accumulations of 12 to 18 inches expected.

UPDATE 8 p.m.:  BWI staffers have remeasured their snowfall for this storm. It now comes to 16 inches, making this the deepest December snowfall on record for Baltimore, going back to the start of official record-keeping in 1883.

At BWI, the station of record for Baltimore, the measurement was 9 inches at 11 a.m. And the storm, forecasters said, was just starting to intensify as the low approached the Virginia coast.

Here are some samples from the accumulation reports posted by the National Weather Service.WeatherDeck snow 3:30 p.m.

Fishersville, Augusta Co., Va.:  24.5 inches 

Covesville, Albemarle County, Va.:  22.3 inches

Huntingtown, Calvert Co., Md.: 12 inches

Taneytown, Carroll Co.:  12 inches

Owings Mills, Baltimore Co., Md.:  11.5 inches

Annapolis, Anne Arundel Co.:  10.5 inches

Garrison, Baltimore Co.:  9.9 inches

WeatherDeck, Cockeysville: 9 inches

Jacksonville, Baltimore Co.:  7.0 inches

Baltimore City:  7.5 inches

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: The snow on the WeatherDeck (photo) has now topped 14 inches. 

The snow has turned to heavy rain down at Ocean City, where residents are under a Coastal Flood Warning, a Hazardous Weather Outlook, a Winter Weather Advisory and a High Surf Advisory. The rain will change back to snow before ending, forecasters said.

Corine Schramke sent us this photo. She said: 

"Here is my 18 in ruler, about to disappear into the snow on the table
on my deck.  4:30 pm, Ellicott City
."

Ellicott City, Md. Dec. 19, 2009

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Blizzard Warning up from Arundel, south

A potentially record-breaking December snowstorm is expected to escalate to blizzard proportions in Southern Maryland today, including Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Calvert, Charles and St.NWS/NOAA Mary's counties.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m.: The Blizzard Warning (orange on map) has been expanded to include Harford, Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery counties and Baltimore City.

The National Weather Service issued Blizzard Warnings early this morning for that region, meaning that forecasters expect low temperatures, strong winds and blowing snow will combine to whiteout  conditions that will make travel "extremely dangerous":

"Do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle."

Some will have no choice. At BWI this morning, where they were reporting 6 inches on the ground:

"BWI has had all hands on deck since last night," said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.. Dean said dozens of flights were canceled starting last night, though a few are taking off and landing.
Airport crews are plowing runways and working to clear roads and access points, he said. The airport encourages travelers to check with their airlines before starting to drive to catch a flight, he said.
"We don't want people on the roads unnecessarily."
The storm has postponed the Ravens/Bears game. Seems the Bears' flight from Chicago was cancelled. There's more at the Ravens Insider Blog.

The National Weather Service's definition of blizzard conditions includes sustained winds of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 500 feet in falling or blowing snow, all lasting for at least three hours. Temperatures aren't an official part of the definition, but when all the other criteria are met, temperatures are likely to be below freezing anyway. And it's enough to issue a warning.Weatherdeck in Cockeysville The decision to issue the warning reflects the strong winds near the bay, not heavier snow, forecasters said.

Snow accumulations had already topped 8 and even 10 inches by daybreak today in parts of Charles and Anne Arundel counties. here's a sampling:

Bryan's Road, Charles Co.:  10 inches

Annapolis, Anne Arundel:  8.8 inches

Garrison, Baltimore Co.:  6 inches

Tracey's Landing, Calvert:  7 inches.

You get the picture. We have over 5 inches now on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. And the forecast has the snow continuing overnight Saturday into Sunday. The heaviest snow rates are expected between  8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Accumulations across the region are forecast to reach 1 to 2 feet before it's all over in the Baltimore-Washington area. That would break all December records for both cities. The record snowstorm for Baltimore was a two-day snow that dropped 14.1 inches in 1960. The snowiest December in Baltimore was in 1966, when 20 inches fell.

Here's more from the weather service:

"HEAVIEST SNOWFALL AREA WILL MOVE FROM THE CENTRAL SHENANDOAH VALLEY UP TOWARDS DC/BALTIMORE...WHERE IT WILL CONTINUE TO SNOW HEAVILY THROUGHOUT THE DAY. TOTALS NEAR 2 FEET POSSIBLE WES OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, WHERE 15" WAS REPORTED AT 1 AM...AND BY THE END OF TONIGHT NEAR 20" IN THE I-95 CORRIDOR.

"BELIEVE SNOW WILL BECOME LIGHT TONIGHT IN THE SOUTHWEST...BUT EXPECTED TO CONTINUE AT A MODERATE PACE IN I-95 CORRIDOR DURING THE EVENING HOURS. TEMPS OVERNIGHT IN 20S ACROSS THE [FORECAST AREA] - WIND CHILLS IN THE TEENS."

This storm is not to be trifled with. That National Weather Service reminds us all:

1. Travel is not recommended on Saturday. Avoid traveling alone, take a survival kit and let someone know where you're going and the route you plan to follow.

2. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle. Run the motor 10 minutes every hour for heat, but open the window for fresh air. make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and ice.

3. If you use a portable generator, keep the area around it well-ventilated. Do NOT use it in the house or in an attached garage.

4. Do not try to shovel snow unless you are physically fit. Hydrate yourself often with water and take frequent breaks.

5. Make sure your pets and livestock are sheltered and have plenty to eat and drink.

6. Listen to NOAA Weather radio. Stay informed.

Here's a snow forecast map from WeatherBug.com:

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance/WeatherDeck station)

WeatherBug.com

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:20 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 18, 2009

Storm Warning bumps again: 1 to 2 feet

Forecast creep has pushed the National Weather Service's storm forecast upward again. The latest Winter Storm Warning out of Sterling calls for snow totalling one to two feet by Sunday morning.

Here's the latest forecast discussion. And here's the forecast for BWI

Foot's Forecast, meanwhile has settled on a storm total of more than 24 inches. Mr. Foot tells me he February 2003 snowstorm Baltimorethinks that may prove to be too little. This is a very "juicy" storm, and some computer models predict accumulations closer to 29 inches, he said. That would be the storm of record for Baltimore.

Just thought you'd like to know.

I had some conversations with forecasters at Sterling this afternoon for the story we're running in the print editions on Saturday. Their best estimate at the time was 14 to 17 inches before it's all over.

No matter which of these forecasts proves accurate. we're in for a pretty good ride, the end of nearly three years of meagre snows in Baltimore. I notice the barometer has been on the skids all day, and the winds are out of the northeast. Let the wild nor'easter begin!

I will be blogging from home for most of the day Saturday, so be sure to check back here for more updates. Send me your reports and photos if you like. I'll try to use as much as I can manage. Blog traffic today, judging from the comments, has been phenomenal.

(SUN PHOTO/Jed Kirschbaum Feb. 17, 2003)

Here's the snow forecast map that Sterling published just before noon on Friday.

NOAA/NWS

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:27 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Storm warning bumped to 10 to 20 inches

No sooner do I get the last post - about "forecast creep" in the accumulation predictions from Sterling - and the National Weather Service bumps its accumulation forecast for the coming storm to 10 to 20 inches. Sheesh.

A noon update to the Winter Storm Warning issued overnight for the state calls for the snow to begin  between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. tonight, with snow continuing throughout the the day Saturday and into early Sunday. The heaviest snow is expected to fall between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday. So much for the Christmas shopping.

Temperatures will stick in the upper 20s to low 30s throughout the day, so we should expect an all-snow event for the most part. (There has been some talk of an injection of warmer air into the storm as it cranks up, but I don't see that in the forecast.)

Add all that up and they're now talking about 10 to 20 inches of snow for Baltimore before it all ends. The special bonus will be the winds - 10 to 20 mph, with gusts of 25 to 30 mph, which will keep the snow moving around after its plowed and reduce visibility. Travel, as they say, will be "extremely treacherous."

Did I mention coastal flooding? The deep low-pressure system and prolonged northeast winds will drive Chesapeake Bay water onto the western Shore. Expect some minor coastal flooding in the usual low spots. Nothing like they're seeing from this storm in Florida today.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:27 PM | | Comments (52)
Categories: Winter weather
        

NWS: 5 to 10 inches, maybe more

As often happens just before Maryland's biggest snowstorms, the National Weather Service's snowfall predictions continued to creep upward on Friday. The first predictions were issued with Thursday's Winter Storm Watch, and they mentioned "more than 5 inches." Feb. 11-12, 2006 Baltimore snowstorm

The Winter Storm Warnings issued overnight for the entire state advise residents to prepare for 5 to 10 inches, with "locally higher amounts possible, mainly in or near Southern Maryland."

The forecast for BWI during the daytime on Saturday now calls for 7 to 11 inches. Add in the 1 to 2 inches expected before dawn Saturday, and you get 8 to 13 inches.

Looking back, it seems to me that is a pattern for the forecasters out at Sterling. They tend to be cautious and conservative with these snow predictions, as they should be, given their responsibilities. As the really big storms close in, and our fate becomes inevitable, they begin to adjust their forecasts, and you can see the numbers begin to climb. Perhaps that's appropriate caution. Perhaps it's driven by sound science.

But it sometimes also seems to leaves them lagging behind some of the commercial and amateur forecasters, who seem to revel in the possibilities on the high side. It's good for ratings. It's good for click counts. It becomes the buzz.

And that's what seems to be playing out this morning. As Sterling weighs each model run, and forecasters add in their own knowledge and experience, their accumulation numbers begin to creep higher. Elsewhere, in the meantime, some broadcasters and commercial forecasters are AccuWeather.comtalking about one to two feet of snow.

AccuWeather.com's headline this morning (if you can get to it; the site is very slow) warns of "a very disruptive Mid-Atlantic Blizzard." Its snow map (left) shows Baltimore in the 6 to 12-inch band. But blogger Henry Margusity is calling for 12 to 18 inches in Washington (and presumably Baltimore). Some of the computer models last night were even scarier, suggesting an historic dump of 24 to 36 inches.

Baltimore, at least, has never had a 36-inch snowstorm, so I think we can dismiss that as likely fantasy for us. In the mountains, maybe. Southwestern Virginia could see two feet in spots. But not here.

That said, it does look like we are in for a memorable storm. It could well be the biggest since the Feb. 11-12 snowfall in 2006 (photo above) that left 13.1 inches at the airport. If some of the higher predictions prove accurate, it could become the biggest snowfall since the record storm in February 2003, that piled up 28 inches at the airport and paralyzed the region for days.

Even a foot of snow, on top of the inch (officially, at BWI) that fell Dec. 5, and this would become the snowiest December since 1966, when 20.4 inches fell at the airport, still a record for the month. It would also become the fifth-snowiest December since record-keeping began in 1883.

December isn't often a snowy month in Baltimore. The long-term average snowfall in December is just 1.7 inches. Our snowiest months, on average, are January (7 inches) and February (6.4 inches). Here are the "snowiest December" numbers to watch as the snow piles up Saturday on your sidewalk:

December 1966:  20.4 inches

December 1904:  17.1 inches

December 1960:  15.6 inches

December 1932:  14.7 inches

(SUN PHOTO/John Makely/Feb. 12, 2006)

Top 20 Snowstorms in Baltimore: (1891-2006)
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
Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 17, 2009

Winter Storm Watch posted; Sat. snow will top 5 inches

There doesn't seem to be a way around this anymore. The National Weather Service has posted a Winter Storm Watch for the entire state of Maryland, plus Delaware. Forecasters now expect at least 5 inches of snow in Baltimore on Saturday, with some other forecasters putting the totals at more like 8 to 12 inches.

NOAA"A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT
SNOW THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST
FORECASTS."

The storm is already cranking up in the northern Gulf of Mexico, dropping some big rains from Texas to Alabama.

From Sterling, NWS science officer Steve Zubrick told me this afternoon the storm looks pretty "impressive" on radar. "The upper level jet [stream] is starting to align better, to keep the low closer to the coast than what we were thinking a few days ago. The radar is showing a lot of moisture along coastal sections. There's precipitation already, and it covers all of the southern third of Mississipppi, all of Louisiana and most of southeast texas. It's a pretty solid [rain] shield even right now."

He expects the Sterling office will begin forecasting accumulations by Friday morning.

On Friday, the storm will emerge off the southeastern Atlantic coast, where it will intensify and begin a Saturday run up the coast, pumping Gulf and Atlantic moisture into the cold air in placeSnow tie along the I-95 corridor, where it will fall as snow.

Here's the latest forecast discussion from Sterling.

Here's the AccuWeather.com take on the storm

And here's the latest from Mr. Foot.

If it does snow, you can blame me. I wore my snow tie today.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:18 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Weekend snowstorm now looks likely

The National Weather Service forecasters out in Sterling have finally come around, raising the snow chances for Central Maryland to 80 percent for Saturday. They're still uncertain how much moisture, and therefore how much snow, the storm will produce here. But, apparently, snow it will. Winter weather advisories, or watches, could begin to appear in the forecast this afternoon.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: The National Weather Service has posted a Winter Storm Watch for all of Maryland, from late Friday night until late Saturday night. At least 5 inches of snow is expected, with more possible. AccuWeather.com is calling for 8 to 12 inches from Washington to Dover, Del. The earlier post resumes below.

Snow fans and school kids should check out Mr. Foot's forecast. He's talking about 8 to 12 inches, with some impact on school schedules on Monday.

As we've said, there will be plenty of cold air in place. There's a low-pressure system parked over AccuWeather.comNova Scotia, and the counter-clockwise rotation around that low is pulling a steady stream of cold air around the western side and pumping it into the Northeast. That will make it cold enough for this storm to be all snow here, with a rain/snow line - this time- well to our south and east.

The real snow-maker will be the low that is cranking up over the Gulf of Mexico. It will track east, providing another drenching for the Deep South. Then it will emerge off the southeast Atlantic coast early Saturday and begin to head north and east.

Circulation around that low will begin to pump Gulf and Atlantic moisture our way. The main snow band on the AccuWeather.com maps (that's one possible scenario, above) runs from western North Carolina, straight up the I-95 corridor to Boston. Here's another from AccuWeather's Henry Margusity, showing that he believes 3 to 6 inches could fall here.

The snow is likely to start falling here in the wee hours of Saturday morning, if the forecast holds up. Highs on Saturday will hover near freezing, so we should see some snow all day, continuing into early Sunday morning.

It's supposed to stay cold early next week, and there is some chatter about a Christmas storm. Could we have a rare Baltimore white Christmas? Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:17 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 16, 2009

Weekend snow forecast still uncertain

The National Weather Service has posted the flakey icons on its main page today, a recognition that forces are aligning to bring some sort of wintry storm to the region as early as Friday night, continuing into Sunday. Sterling forecasters this afternoon have been expanding their snow (or snow-and-rain) window. But just how significant the snowfall will be remains an open question.

Here's the setup so far:

The high pressure system building over the region today, and bringing us the blue skies and bright sunshine, will begin to move away on Friday. But while it remains, we will be getting brisk northwest winds in the clockwise flow around the high - an open door to cold air from Canada. We're running something like 8 degrees below normal today at BWI.

The clear skies will mean lots of radiational cooling overnight, and lows in the low- to mid-20s. So, as the high begins to slide away, we will have plenty of cold air in place as the weekend opens.Computer model ensemble snow probabilities

The next shoe to drop will be the development of another coastal low, the latest in a series this autumn that are typical of our weather during an El Nino winter. The Pacific Ocean phenomenon sends the sub-tropical jet stream across the lower portion of the continent, grabbing plenty of moisture from the Pacific, then the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and packing it into storm systems that skirt the Gulf Coast, and then come marching up the East Coast.

(New Orleans is having a record-wet December - 22 inches! BWI has already topped 4 inches for the month, and nearly 52 for the year. The 1.41 inches of rain that fell on Dec. 9 set a new record for the date, breaking the old mark of 1.08 inches, set in 1991.)

When those storms reach the mid-Atlantic during an arctic outbreak, the resulting precipitation can mean snow. And sometimes it means lots of snow.

But as we're told every winter, everything depends on how cold the air in place is, and where the storm's center actually goes. And at this point, forecasters and their models remain somewhat uncertain about the storm track. The map above shows where the highest Sunday snow probabilities are, for now, in the forecast model ensemble.

Forecasters are beginning to lean toward a path that moves the storm's center off the coast sooner, rather than later. Here's some of today's discussion from Sterling. Brackets are my translations of weather-ese:

AccuWeather.com"[Computer models) ARE STARTING TO COME INTO BETTER AGREEMENT WITH THE
TRACK OF THE SYSTEM...BUT CONSIDERABLE SPREAD/UNCERTAINTY STILL
EXISTS. LATEST THINKING IS THAT THESE SYSTEMS [the coastal storm and a reinforcing disturbance from the Midwest] WILL PHASE BUT
LATER THAN SOONER...RESULTING IN A TRACK FURTHER S/E AND AWAY FROM
THE COAST. THIS COLDER SOLUTION WOULD PROVIDE A GLANCING BRUSH OF
WINTRY PRECIP DURING THE SAT THRU EARLY SUN. TIME FRAME."

And from an earlier NWS discussion: "The cold air that will be reinforced for the latter half of this week will be ample throughout the column for snow across much of the area, and a mix closer to the bay, Southern Maryland and adjacent areas overnight Saturday and into early Sunday. This activity will be forced off the mid-Atlantic coast into the late morning, early afternoon hours."

We'll just have to wait and see how far inland the snow reaches. Officially, Sterling is rating our snow chances at 30 percent. The forecast low for Sunday morning at BWI is 26 degrees. The Sunday high is 37.

AccuWeather.com offers two possible scenarios for the weekend. Both bring us some snow, but one (map above) brings a more "substantial" storm, smack-dab on the I-95 corridor. But their snow blogger, Henry Margusity, seems to have some doubts about the impact of this storm. He does drop a hint about a Christmas storm, however.

Here's Mr. Foot's offering on the weekend snow.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 14, 2009

A (mostly) sunny week will get colder

Looks like we will have a very pleasant and unseasonably mild start to this week, with a high near 50 degrees today and in the mid-50s on Tuesday. But a cold front is due to pass by late on Tuesday, dropping daytime temperatures into the low 40s by Wednesday - about 5 degrees below normal for BWI at this time of year. The lows will sink into the near-normal mid-20s.

The good news is that skies will remain sunny for pretty nearly the entire week, if the forecast holds up. The only smudge on the forecast is the "mostly cloudy" forecast for Tuesday as the front passes. But there is no rain at all expected from the frontal passage, or right through the weekend.

And that will be a nice break, indeed. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has recorded 51.86 inches of precipitation so far this year. That is nearly 10 inches of surplus beyond the 41.94-inch average for an entire year. (The surplus is the dark green area in the chart). It is very close to becoming the fourth-wettest year in the past 30 years at BWI.NOAA/NWS

2003:  62.66 inches

1979:  58.98 inches

1996:  58.31 inches

1989:  51.88 inches

2009 (to date):  51.86 inches

Average (full year): 41.94 inches

Average (to Dec. 14): 39.96 inches

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 11, 2009

Crows work together in winter scarcity

Cold weather brings scarcity for many, both human and avian. And we all need to look out for each other in hard times.

Crow roost BaltimoreA story I wrote for last Sunday's Sun, about a big crow roost near Loch Raven Boulevard and The Alameda (left), caught the attention of Sun reporter Fred Rasmussen. Fred spent some time this week watching a pair of crows working together to keep themselves fed for another day. Here's his tale:

"Frank: I loved your crow piece. While I was off earlier this week, I observed several crows who had found three ears of corn, tied together, that had been used as a fall door decoration.

"One crow kept dropping it in the street until its kernels started to pop off, which they ate with vigor. Then they separated the ears - so each crow could munch on their own ear. It was an incredible performance. Birdbrain? I don't think so. Cheers! Fred."

Anyone else have a good crow story?

(SUN PHOTO/Kim Hairston)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:59 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Cold, clear night may offer glimpse of early Geminids

The cold, dry air that has moved into the region will keep Baltimore temperatures in the 30s on Friday. Radiational cooling tonight will drop the lows into the single digits in the Potomac Highlands, and into the teens in the northern and western suburbs of Baltimore and Washington.

This morning's low of 22 degrees at BWI (it was 24 here at The Sun) was the coldest airport reading since March 5, when the low was 18 degrees. Tonight's forecast low for the airport is 19 degrees. Bracing.

Constellation OrionFor stargazers, all this cold, clear air is great news. It's an open window to the bright winter constellations - Orion (left) most prominent among them - now coming into view in the evening. Jupiter is still bright in the southwest in the evening, too, and Mars is becoming amazingly bright and red in the east late in the evening as it approaches opposition late in January.

The annual Geminid meteor shower - arguably the best of the year if it weren't so darn cold - is also on tap for Sunday night into Monday morning, peaking around midnight EST. The Geminids have been gaining steadily in their activity in recent years (see chart), now topping 130 per hour at their peak under ideal dark-sky conditions. 

UPDATE: Well, if the skies are cloudy, you can try listening for the Geminid meteors. You can actually hear them on the radio. Here's a tip from Herman Heyn, Baltimore's Streecorner Astronomer:

"In the east it looks like the clouds won't allow
them to be seen. But here's an idea. You can try hearing
radar pings from them on your computer. Go to
<www.spaceweather.com> and click on
"Spaceweather radio". The later in the evening
the better, I believe.** They peak around midnight
our time (Dec. 13/14). For an update on the shower,
itself, click on "Geminid meteor shower".
Best regards,
Your Street Corner Astronomer"

Earlier post resumes:

But the weather forecast for Sunday night is not promising. The day will likely start with some mixed wintry precipitation, changing over to all-rain by late morning. The overnight forecast isn't much better.

So, if you want to catch of glimpse of the Geminids this year, tonight may be your best shot. The shower is active betweNASA/Bill Cookeen Dec. 7 and 17, so the activity is already ramping up toward Sunday's midnight peak. Reader Corine Schramke is thinking along the same lines:

"Frank: As I stepped outside to call my dog in last night, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. Looking at the forecast, tonight might be the best time for sky watchers in our area to bundle up and go out to look. It's a shame that the peak meteor showers this year seem to have all occurred during cloudy nights. But then, with all the rain we've had, maybe that isn't a surprise, either!  Happy sky watching!"

Bundle up, indeed. In addition to the lows in the teens and 20s, winds will be blustery, especially earlier in the evening. The meteors will appear to radiate from the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, rising in the northeast after 8 p.m. The best time to look may be around midnight when Gemini is high above the eastern horizon.

If you miss the show tonight, the next clear night in the forecast is next Wednesday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 10, 2009

Cold has already claimed 4 lives in Md.

Four Marylanders have died already this autumn under circumstances in which cold weather has played a role.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled that hypothermia - low body temperature - was a contributing factor in the deaths of a Baltimore woman on Nov. 21; a Montgomery County man a week later; an Anne Cold and homeless in BaltimoreArundel County man on Nov. 30, and a Baltimore County woman on Dec. 4.

There was no information on the other circumstances surrounding these deaths. But in past years, health authorities have said that most deaths involving hypothermia also involve such factors as advanced age, alcohol consumption, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

These four deaths were the first, but more are sure to follow. Last year the state counted 54 deaths involving hypothermia.

"Just a little preparation and common sense will keep you and your family safe and warm during the days and nights of sub-freezing temperatures this winter," said Maryland Health Secretary John M. Colmers. "We can save lives in severe weather by keeping our eyes open and checking our friends and neighbors, especially seniors.

Deaths from hypothermia do not require extremely low, or even freezing temperatures, only exposure to the cold, even indoors due to inadequate, failed or unused heating systems. The days on which these four Marylanders died were not particularly cold for this time of year. Here are the highs and lows at BWI for each of the deaths.

Nov. 21:  High 58  Low 39

Nov. 28:  High 50  Low 34

Nov. 30:  High 58  Low 38

Dec. 4:  High 48  Low 34 

The average highs for these dates are in the low 50s; the average lows are in the low 30s.

This weekend promises the coldest weather so far this season, with a low of 19 degrees forecast for Friday night into Saturday morning.

(SUN PHOTO/Kenneth K. Lam 1994) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 9, 2009

High winds could bring down trees late today

There is a wind advisory posted for the region late today as deep low pressure  to our north (the barometer in Baltimore is currently a low 29.24 inches) drags a cold front through the area. Here's the scoop:

"A WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 AM EST THURSDAY.

"A DEEP LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM TO THE NORTH WILL BRING A COLD FRONT
TO CROSS THE AREA LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. STRONG AND
GUSTY WINDS FROM THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST WILL DEVELOP BEHIND THIS
FRONT. GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH WILL OCCUR. THE GROUND WAS SATURATED BY
HEAVY RAINS OVERNIGHT...AND DOWNED TREES WILL BE LIKELY"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

First hurricane forecast for 2010 is out

The 2009 hurricane season has been over for exactly 9 days and already an intrepid band of forecasters has issued its predictions for 2010.

Phil Klotzbach and William Gray, at Colorado State University, say the El Nino event that was blamed for suppressing hurricane formation during the 2009 season (and influencing this stormy autumn we've had) will wane by next summer.

That, they say, will take the brakes off the underlying conditions - warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic - that have been sending us unusually active Atlantic seasons, on average, since 1995.

Calvert County damage Ida So, nearly six months out, the CSU team expects to see 11 to 16 named storms next season. Of those, 6 to 8 will reach hurricane force, with 3 to 5 of those reaching Cat. 3 strength (111 mph).

The long-term averages are: 9.6 named storms; 5.9 hurricanes; 2.3 "intense" (Cat. 3) storms.

Their December forecast predicts a 40 percent chance that at least one major (Cat. 3) storm will make landfall along the East Coast, including Florida's Atlantic coast. The long-term average is 31 percent. 

It's the first time Klotzbach and Gray have used number ranges in their initial forecast. They say they will list specific numbers in their next update, in April.

The CSU forecasts are based on 58 years of data on hurricanes and air and water conditions in the Atlantic basin. They claim their system has correctly forecast above- or below-average seasons in 44 of those 58 years.

Time will tell. In the meantime, here's an interesting take on the surprising amount of Maryland damage done by Ida, the Gulf hurricane remnants that stalked the U.S. East Coast in November. That's the Calvert County shoreline of the Chesapeake above, where a storm surge driven by Ida's passage eroded many feet of beach.

(Photo by Karl Hille, for NASA)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Next up: coastal flooding, colder temps, "brief" snow

 Loch Raven Dam

Woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the roof and, soon after, a forecast of more rain, and more snow chances for late Saturday into Sunday. Nothing dull about this autumn's weather so far.

Loch Raven DamSo I drove out to Loch Raven Dam (above, and left), where the water was roaring over the top and flooding portions of the valley below. (Many thanks to the very nice Baltimore County police officer who did not give me a parking ticket.) The Jones Falls (below) was over its banks, too.

More immediately, we're looking for minor coastal flooding as southerly winds and heavy runoff push high tides as much as two feet above the predicted levels. Then there will be gale-force winds, a chance for thunderstorms (and more rain) in parts of the state this afternoon as a cold front passes behind the storm. And once the front passes, we'll see plummeting temperatures ahead of the weekend snow.

Where to start on this storm, which has clobbered much of the country with rain, wind and snow.?

The rain. We measured about 1.5 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville overnight. BWI airport reported 1.71 inches, which is almost exactly what we had in our gauge here at The Sun, North Calvert and Centre streets. It fell at rates exceeding 1.1 inch an hour at times. 

For the month, the airport has seen almost 4 inches of rain, well above the 3.35-inch average for the entire month at BWI. The total for 2009 is now about 51.5 inches. That makes this the fourth-wettest year in the last 20 years, after:

2003:  62.66 inches

1996:  58.31 inches

1989:  51.88 inches

Many locations on the Eastern Shore reported well over 2 inches of rain overnight. Here are the totals from CoCoRaHS.  Closer to Baltimore, the rain totals ranged from 1.08 inches in Ellicott City, to 1.76 inches in Sverna Park, to 1.96 inches in North East, up in Cecil County.Jones Falls

As the cold front approaches today, we will remain on the warm side of this storm, with persistent winds from the south pushing water up the Chesapeake Bay and holding it there. That is going to mean minor coastal flooding along the western shore. The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory from Harford to St. Mary's counties, forecasting high tides two feet above normal levels. (Annapolis tide graph below.)

A Gale Warning is also up today for the lower tital Potomac River and lower portions of the Chesapeake Bay.

Then there's the snow. Forecasters say once the cold front blows through this afternoon, temperatures will drop as "modified" arctic air pours in. The overnight low forecast for Baltimore on Friday night into Saturday morning is 21 degrees. A quick-moving disturbance will pass to our south, strengthening a developing coastal low. There's a 30- to 40-percent chance that will bring us "accumulating snow" late on Saturday into Sunday. No depth predictions yet, but the storm is described as "brief."

Beyond the weekend, forecasters see more arctic air arriving early next week.

NOAA Tides Online

(SUN PHOTOS by Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:23 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 8, 2009

Huge El Nino surf dwarfs surfers on Maui

Some of the biggest surf in decades -30 to 40 feet - is rolling onto the north shore of the Hawaiian Islands. And surfers - crazy? brave? suicidal? You tell me - are all over them. Here is some jaw-dropping footage shot today at Pe'ahi and posted on You Tube by Billabong (www.BillabongXXL.com).

 

Surf News put it this way: "Sean Collins, head forecaster for Surfline.com, said this swell ranks in the top five biggest ever experienced on Oahu's North Shore, comparable to historic El Niño-fueled episodes in 1998 and 1969. The extreme surf is expected to continue for several days with High Surf Advisories issued for all north-facing shorelines of the entire Hawaiian Chain. The swell is so powerful forecasters expect it to significantly impact the West Coast of North America in the coming days, reaching California on Wednesday and Mexico on Thursday, working its way south throughout the Pacific until finally reaching Chile over a week from now."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:40 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures
        

Ice, rain, flooding tonight; more snow Saturday?

Oh my. What a forecast Sterling has dished up today. Don't let the sunshine this morning fool you. There's a real mess headed our way late today and tomorrow.

Depending on where you are, there may be a Flood Watch, a Winter Storm Watch or a Winter Storm Warning posted for your area. And forecasters are already watching the next round of wintry weather - another coastal storm with a 30 percent chance for snow here on Saturday.

California snowAre we having fun yet? (The school kids are. Here's the discussion at Foot's Forecast.)

First on the menu is that huge storm system that came ashore in Southern California (left) yesterday. It's now grinding across the continent with heavy snow and rain, and deep cold in the northern Plains. (It was 33 degrees BELOW zero this morning in Havre, Montana.) Some mountain locations are expecting 3 to 4 feet of snow.

The storm should begin to affect us late today as the storm's center moves toward the Great Lakes, staying to our west and keeping us on the warmer, wetter side of the circulation.

Forecasters say it should begin around dinnertime here, with snow and sleet for the I-95 corridor. That will change to rain and sleet during the late evening, and then to all rain before midnight as surface temperatures rise.

The rain, fueled by copious moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, could be moderate to heavy at times. Widespread amounts of 1 to 2 inches are expected, with some locations receiving as much as 3 inches. A Flood Watch has been issued for all of the Western Shore, from Harford to St. Mary's counties, westward to Frederick and Montgomery, and for the Lower Eastern Shore. Watch for small streams to overflow their banks, and for more standing water in poorly drained and urban areas.

Farther north and west, including Baltimore's northern and western suburbs up to the Mason-Dixon Line, the cold air at the surface and frozen precipitation will linger longer, posing more of a hazard to travelers. A Winter Storm Watch is posted for Carroll, Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties, where freezing rain could accumulate up to a quarter-inch of ice. 

The most significant ice accumulations are expected still farther west, in Allegany County, where temperatures at the surface may stay near freezing for most of the night, increasing the risk of freezing rain. The NWS has posted a Winter Storm Warning for Allegany until  7 a.m. Wednesday.

Had enough yet? Wait. There's more.

NWSAfter this storm moves off, temperatures in its wake will drop sharply. High temperatures will slip through the mid-30s for the rest of the week, with overnight lows falling to 20 degrees by Friday morning.

With that cold air in place, the next system could deliver another Saturday snowstorm. It's too soon for guessing accumulations. Chances for snow in Baltimore are put at 30 percent for now. But forecasters do expect higher amounts this time will be in the southern counties, closer to the coastal low that's expected to develop.

And winter is still two weeks away! 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Monday)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 7, 2009

Tues/Weds storm will bring us mostly rain

 NOAA/NWS

"Desperate" as we are for more rain, the forecasters out at Sterling are cooking up a pretty good helping for late Tuesday into Wednesday.

The source this time is a big Pacific storm, now moving into Southern California (map), that will be making its way across the country over the next 48 hours. The powerful low will generate snow and some blizzard conditions across parts of the country's midsection, rain farther south, and there's a potential for some severe weather in sections of the Deep South.AccuWeather.com

But as the center of the low swings north and east into the Great Lakes, we will be on the warm and very wet side of the circulation. That should mean all rain for Baltimore (AccuWeather.com map, right), with more of a "wintry mix" changing to rain in the western counties.

UPDATE: The national Weather Service today issued a Winter Storm Watch, calling for an ice storm, Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, from Carroll and Montgomery counties westward to Garrett County:

"PRECIPITATION IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN TUESDAY AFTERNOON IN THE
CENTRAL SHENANDOAH HIGHLANDS AS A PERIOD OF SNOW...MOVING NORTH TO
THE PENNSYLVANIA BORDER EARLY TUESDAY EVENING. PRECIPITATION IS
EXPECTED MIX WITH SLEET...BECOME HEAVIER TUESDAY EVENING AND
CHANGE TO RAIN. HOWEVER TEMPERATURES AT THE SURFACE WILL STAY
BELOW FREEZING...SO RAIN THAT FALLS WILL FREEZE ON IMPACT.
FREEZING RAIN IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGHOUT TUESDAY NIGHT
BEFORE WARMER AIR MOVES IN WEDNESDAY MORNING.

"ONE QUARTER INCH OF FREEZING RAIN ACCUMULATION IS POSSIBLE. THE
MOST LIKELY PLACE TO RECEIVE THAT MUCH WOULD BE IN THE COLDER
LOW LYING AREAS OF THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY AND ALLEGHENY HIGHLANDS.

"A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT
SNOW...SLEET...OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL.
CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS"

Earlier post resumes:

Here's how they expect it to play out:

We'll continue to enjoy some sunshine today, and get rid of most of the snow and ice that remains. Cold air moving into the western counties is triggering some lake effect snow showers and flurries in the higher elevations into this evening.

The clouds will move in tonight and tomorrow ahead of the mid-week storm, which will be cranking up in the southern plains on Tuesday and move toward the Great Lakes by Wednesday morning.

The counter-clockwise flow around the low will drag lots of warm, wet air north from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, which will fuel our rain. Up to an inch is possible Tuesday night.

What's less certain is how long it will take this warmer, wetter air to "erode" the cold air that's now in place. Overnight lows on Tuesday/Wednesday will be close to the freezing mark. That could mean we start with freezing rain or sleet.

"Current feeling is that precipitation will begin in the form of a wintry mix late Tuesday afternoon/Tuesday evening before gradually changing over to all rain early Wednesday morning," the forecasters said. 

Western counties have the best chance for any of the frozen stuff to accumulate. "And the best chance for significant icing from freezing rain will be from the Blue Ridge mountains westward," forecasters said. That seems to leave the Baltimore-Washington metro areas mostly in the clear as far as ice. That is, if the forecast holds up.

Here, they said, "precipitation will likely be in the form of rain south and east of I-95, with a wintry mix north and west of I-95 changing to rain. The best chance for any significant snow/ice accumulations will be across north-central Maryland near the Mason-Dixon Line."

Up to a half-inch of additional rain is possible here during the day on Wednesday as another cold front blows through behind the storm. That will bring clearing, but colder weather, with daytime highs in the 30s, and lows in the 20s, from Thursday through the weekend.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:36 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Official snow total for Baltimore: 1 inch

 NOAA/NWS

The official measurement on Saturday's snowstorm for Baltimore came to a whopping 1 inch. The National Weather Service's station of record for the city is at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which was on the rainier, warmer side of this very varied storm.

But the snowfall map issued Monday by the forecast office in Sterling shows what we all already know - that the totals north and west of the airport were considerably deeper. Some locations within Sterling's forecast area reported as much as 8 or 9 inches of snow.

Parts of Carroll and Montgomery counties measured 6 and 7 inches. Locations closer to Baltimore ranged from an inch near the city, to 5 inches in the western suburbs of Baltimore County. Here are some more reports from across the region, from CoCoRaHS. Be sure to change the date to Dec. 6, and click on "New Snow." Some highlights:Gregory Hill, Owings Mills

Clarksburg, Montgomery Co.:  7.5 inches

Sykesville, Howard Co.:  6 inches

Mt. Airy, Carroll Co.: 5.5 inches

Ellicott City, Howard Co.: 4.1 inches

Cockeysville, Baltimore Co.:  3.1 inches

Severn, Anne Arundel Co.:  2.5 inches

Bowie, Prince George's Co.:  2.5 inches

Hamilton, Baltimore City:  1.1 inch

The distances between hardly any snow and considerable accumulations were often quite small. We had less than 2 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, but when we went to see friends for dinner in May's Chapel Saturday evening, they had what looked like 4 inches on their front yard.

And that's pretty much what forecasters had led us to expect. In fact, the forecasting on this quirky storm seems to have been quite good as it approached - from the timing, to the predicted accumulations, to the sharp differences in snow totals across small distances. Well done, Sterling.

(Photo courtesy of Gregory Hill, Owings Mills. Taken Sunday morning.)

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

Small quake Sunday southeast of Atlanta

USGSThe U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a small earthquake at about 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday 13 miles from Milledgeville, Ga., southeast of Atlanta. The very shallow tremor was measured at Magnitude 3.2.

Eastern Georgia and especially South Carolina have been the sites of numerous small, and a few very big earthquakes over the past few centuries.

An 1886 quake in Charleston, S.C. killed scores of people, did tremendous damage and was felt as far away as Boston, Bermuda, Chicago and Cuba.

Here are some details on last night's tremor. Here are some more maps.

And here is some information about the history of earthquakes in Georgia.

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

December 5, 2009

Snow is winding down

NOAA 

Well now, wasn't that a nice little snowstorm? With the snow winding down across the region, the coastal low moving off, and the barometer bottoming out, it looks like we're about done. There's about 1.75 inches out on the WeatherDeck. The grass is white but the walks and roads around Pumpkin in snowhere are just wet or slushy.

All the same, there were kids out on the hill at Greenwood, on North Charles Street. The sledding looked a bit sticky and slow, but hey ... you take what you can get around here.

Here are some snow measurements from around the region, some of them taken earlier in the day. The local winner appears to be Woodlawn, with 5 inches. Feel free to send in comments with your own reports.

Skies should begin to clear off tonight, and we'll have sunshine on Sunday. This stuff should be gone quickly.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:31 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 4, 2009

A little snow, a little rain, a little snow on Dec. 5

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory from the Western Shore to Allegany County. Expect 1 to 2 inches of snow Saturday in Baltimore. Points north and west of the urban corridor could see 2 to 4 inches; to the south and east, little to no accumulation. Earlier post below. 

Another storm spinning up in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is expected to be off the Carolina coast by Saturday morning, raising the chances for some snow in Baltimore on Dec, 5. That would be the sixth time that's happened in the past eight years (or the seventh, if you factor in the Leap Year in 2008, when a trace of snow was noted at BWI on the 6th).

The forecast this morning calls for a "slight chance" for rain at BWI after 3 a.m. Saturday morning, changing to snow by dawn, then "rain and snow likely" between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The precipitation would change back to all snow by late afternoon, continuing into the evening - if the AccuWeather.comforecast holds up. The chances, for now, are put at 80 percent.

AccuWeather.com, as we've come to expect, puts an edgier spin on the forecast, calling for 1 to 3 inches west of I-95, with travel delays, wet-to-slushy highways. (Map at left.) For a calmer analysis, check out Mr. Foot's forecast. He sees an inch. Maybe.

From there - Sunday through Tuesday - things look sunny, with highs in the 40s and lows near freezing.

Once again, precisely what happens Saturday, where it happens and when, will all depend on a delicate balance of timing, the storm track up the coast, and the interplay of temperatures aloft, where the snow will form, and near the surface.

Forecasters say it will "definitely" be cold enough to form the snow aloft as the counter-clockwise spin of winds around the storm draws cold air into our region from the north. But temperatures at the surface will range from the middle 30s in the western suburbs, to the lower 40s in Southern Maryland. On balance, expect flakes in the air west of the cities, and a rain/snow mix east of the urban corridor. For BWI, forecasters are predicting "less than one inch" of accumulation.

Nothing to worry about; just another Dec. 5 with flakes in the air, and perhaps a hint of snowier days to come.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Winter weather
        

December 3, 2009

BWI rain tally for 2009 nears 50 inches

Rainbow/Ocean City/Novak 

Paul M. Novak Jr., of Baltimore, sent me this beautiful photo he shot over the weekend. He said:

"I was in Ocean City this weekend and caught and unexpected shot of a rainbow over the Ocean. It was a very blustery day, and just a real brief shower had passed through the area. I looked out of the hotel and here is what I managed to capture !"

Also in my mail this morning was this sort-of-related note, from Kevin Manning:

"As we approach 50" of rain for the year, can you inform us on the historical records for yearly rainfall? We are nearly 10" above the long-term average, so far this year."

The precipitation total for the year at BWI-Marshall Airport has nearly topped 49 inches. The long-term average for the airport for an entire year is 41.94 inches. So, after a bit more than 11 months, we are already nearly 7 inches above the yearly average. With just average precipitation in December we should have a 10-inch surplus for the year.

(Year-to-date for Seattle, Wash.: 35.69 inches. That city's reputation for rain is misunderstood. While they have many gray, damp days, the accumulations are generally small, summers are dry, and annual totals are modest.)

But remember that as wet as it's been in Baltimore since April, we began the year very dry, and ended March in drought. So, we are still a long way from record territory, and we'll need a deluge in December just to break into the top five wettest years on record (since 1871) for Baltimore:

2003:  62.66 inches

1889:  62.35 inches

1979:  58.98 inches

1996:  58.31 inches

1952:  56.57 inches

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:03 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: By the numbers
        

December 2, 2009

Umbrellas, please; rain today, a "mix" Saturday

Clouds are thickening overhead as a Gulf storm moving north and east along the Appalachians begins to affect our region. (See radar loop, below.) By this afternoon, we should see the rain begin to fall, delivering as much as an inch before it races off to upstate New York and we begin to dry out on Thursday.

We'll be on the east side of the storm's center, which means we'll see the milder, wetter portion of this weather event. Forecasters out at Sterling are even suggesting we'll hear some thunder after midnight as the mild air gets unstable and triggers a few thunderstorms.

NOAAThe winds from the south will also drive more water up the Chesapeake and hold it there. That will mean some high water at high tides into Thursday. But there are no flood warnings yet.

Once this storm blows away, we'll get some 25 to 30 mph winds from the west, and clearing skies on Thursday and Friday. Rain on the western slopes of the Alleghenies will change to snow overnight into Friday, however, with "up to a couple inches of snowfall expected for some prime upslope locales," forecasters said.

Here on the east side of the mountains, we can expect colder temperatures, from the mid-30s to near 40 degrees overnight into Saturday. And that will set us up for the next event.

On Saturday morning, another coastal storm will be cranking up off Hatteras. The counter-clockwise flow around that low will send plenty of ocean moisture into our region. And with fairly cold air in place, forecasters still think that could produce some sort of wintry mix. Here's how they phrased it in this morning's discussion:

"Broad cyclogenesis off the Carolina coast expected Saturday morning. Some areas of banded precipitation extending northwest into the [forecast area] expected. Temperatures cold enough for snow except over the bay. Included some low chances [in the forecast] for snow or rain/snow mix. Impact potential looks low at this time, though the situation will continue to be monitored closely."

Here's a very impressive analysis of the approaching winter weather by Mr. Foot's panel of area science students. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

December 1, 2009

Rain returns Weds.; "slight chance" for snow on 5th

Enjoy all this sunshine today (Tuesday) because the rainy weather we've come to know and love this fall will move back into the region after lunchtime on Wednesday, as a Gulf storm moves inland and rides north and east along the west side of the Appalachians.

Then, if you wear your jammies inside-out, and put a spoon under your pillow, we might - just maybe - see snowflakes sometime on Saturday - the 5th. If we get at least a trace, it would be December snow Marylandthe sixth time in eight years Baltimore (BWI) has seen snow on Dec. 5th. More on that shortly.

First, we can bask in the late-autumn sunshine as high pressure moves across the region today before moving offshore tonight. Temperatures will reach the low 50s, which is about average for this time of year in Baltimore.

But as the Gulf low moves closer, clouds will begin to increase, and the rain could begin sometime after lunch on Wednesday, forecasters say. The low will pump plenty of mild air and Gulf moisture into the region on south winds, with up to an inch of new rain possible late Wednesday into Thursday. That will come on top of the 1.8-inch surplus from November in a very wet year.

Colder, drier air moving into the region once the storm rolls into upstate New York will bring upslope snow to the western counties on Thursday. Temperatures here will drop from the 60s to the lower 50s on Thursday. Forecasters say it will be cold enough Friday for all-day snow showers in the high elevations of the Alleghenies.

Then, on Saturday, another coastal low is forecast to develop off Hatteras. "Banded precipitation, certainly cold enough for snow, could expand into our [forecast] area," forecasters said Tuesday morning. "Timing and position uncertainty with this low still fairly high ... Slight chance for snow for the Balto-DC metro areas and west with chance for rain/snow for southern Maryland for Saturday ... Struggling to reach 40 [degrees] F for areas east of the Blue Ridge."  

For now, the official forecast calls for a "chance of showers" and a high of 42 at BWI. Here's AccuWeather.com's take on the prospects for Saturday.

UPDATE: Here's more from the NWS afternoon discussion:

"NEWEST GUIDANCE RETREATING A BIT FROM
EARLIER RUNS THAT HAD MORE OF A WINTRY SYSTEM FOR MID ATLANTIC ON
SAT/SUN. TRENDS NOW SHOW A WEAKLY FORCED AND REGIONAL-SCALE AREA OF
LIGHT PRECIP SPREADING OVER THE MID ATLANTIC AS THE SURFACE LOW SPINS WELL
OFF THE ATLANTIC COAST SAT INTO SUN. FOR NOW A LOW CHANCE EVENT W/ A MIX
OF RAIN/SNOW FOR LATE SAT /MAINLY RAIN DURING THE DAYTIME HOURS AS
TEMPS ARE EXPECTED TO TOP-OUT IN THE UPPER 30S-LOW 40S."

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/Dec. 6, 2005)

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

Top 10 science-related Yahoo searches in 2009

Hubble/NASA

This just in from Yahoo:  For more, click here.

Top 10 Science-Related Searches for 2009

   1. Swine Flu/H1N1
   2. Solar Eclipse
   3. Perseid Meteor Shower
   4. Conficker Worm
   5. NASA Space Shuttle
   6. Tsunami
   7. Stem Cell
   8. Bermuda Triangle
   9. Climate Change
  10. Hubble Space Telescope

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:48 AM | | Comments (1)
        
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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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• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

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

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

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

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

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

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

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

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

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

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

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers

• NASA TV:
Watch NASA TV

• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

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

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

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

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

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
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