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January 31, 2010

Baby, it's cold out there

It's 8 degrees out on a very snowy WeatherDeck this morning. That's the same low reading they reported this morning from BWI-Marshall Airport.

It's not quite a record for the date. The coldest Jan. 31 on record for Baltimore is 4 degrees, last reached on this date in 1966.  But it's plenty cold. The last time we reached single digits at BWI was more than a year ago, on Jan. 17, 2009 when we awoke to a 2-degree reading.

Here are some other lows from around the region this morning:

Washington DC:  16 degreesPolar Bear Plunge

Dulles International:  15 degrees

Annapolis:  19 degrees

Martin Airport:  10 degrees

Maryland Science Center:  18 degrees

Baltimore Sun:  16 degrees

The forecast calls for temperatures to warm up a litte bit each day this week, but it will stay well below the seasonal averages, and we may not reach the freezing mark today (Sunday). There is a chance for snow showers on Tuesday, and more rain or snow as the weekend approaches.

Weathervan, Trappe, MDOh, and there's snow on the ground this morning. You may have noticed it falling yesterday. The total at BWI-Marshall came to 5.5 inches, bringing the month's official total to 7.5 inches - just a half-inch more than the average for a January in Baltimore. For the season, we stand at 30.7 inches. That's a foot above the average season here and the most since 2002-03, when 58.1 inches fell.

Lots of us saw a bit more than the airport. We had 6 inches on the WeatherDeck. Here are some other early reports from around the region. As forecast, the higher totals are coming in from the southern counties. Here's a sampling:

Leonardtown, St. Mary's County:  11.5 inches

Friendly, Prince George's Co.: 8.1 inches

Waldorf, Charles Co.:  7.0 inches

Bowie, Prince George's:  6.9 inches

Long Green, Baltimore Co.:  6.8 inches

Columbia, Howard Co.:  6.1 inches

Here are more totals from the National Weather Service. Generally speaking, totals ran from 3 to 8 inches in the Baltimore area, with up to a foot in the southern counties. If forecasters had stuck with their original predictions, they would have looked brilliant.

(TOP: SUN PHOTO; Bottom, A snowy weathervane in Trappe, Talbot County; Jim Dawson. Used with permission.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:23 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: By the numbers

January 30, 2010

Snow possibilities on the rise here

With computer models trending more northward, the possibilities for more significant snow seem to be on the rise for the Baltimore area today.

UPDATE: The snow continues to fall, and the Winter Storm Warning is creeping farther north into the Baltimore area. Here's the latest from NWS Sterling:noaa



Earlier post resumes:

The National Weather Service has issued Winter Weather Advisories for Central Maryland, with 2 to 4 inches of accumulation possible later today. The lower amounts are predicted for the northern part of the forecast area (from the Mason-Dixon Line southward) to 4 inches in Arundel and PG counties.

Farther south, the NWS has issued Winter Storm Warnings, with those folks bracing for a big AccuWeather.comsnowstorm. Lexington Park, down in St. Mary's County, is forecast to get 5 to 10 inches. The Lower Eastern Shore is in the same boat, with up to 10 inches due there.

It's already (10 a.m.) snowing in Washington, D.C. Here's a webcam view.

Temperatures will not be a problem with this one. It's pretty darn cold out there, with forecast highs for BWI only in the mid-20s.

The heaviest snow from this storm is predicted for central and southern Virginia , with a nasty mix now due in the Carolinas, with a foot or more possible there. Here's on the prospects.

The snow here should get started around mid-day, but it will be a hard start. The air here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville remains very dry. The dewpoint is at 1 degree, with a relative humidity at 46 percent. (It's around 5 degrees at The Sun). We will need a lot more moisture here to start the snowmaker.

If you want a line on how close we are to the start of the snow, keep an eye on the dewpoint on The Sun's weather station at North Calvert and Centre streets, When the dewpoint begins to approach the actual temperature, you can start to watch for flakes. But remember that it's the dewpoint upstairs, where the snow has to form, that matters. It may still be drier at the surface.

UPDATE: Flakes on the WeatherDeck at 11:15 a.m. Dewpoint at the surface now 0 degrees, 44 pct rel. humidity; temp 19 degrees. Must be some much wetter air at altitude. 

Anyway, kudos to Mr. Foot and his students for being among the first to see the storm's northward trend in the models over the last 24 to 48 hours. They have been all over this shift.

And as always, once the snow gets going, feel free to post your thoughts and observations here. I will check back during the day and post them as fast as I can (between Honey-do List chores).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:45 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Forecasts

January 29, 2010

Lorton meteorite falls into ownership fight

You knew this had to happen: The Lorton, Va. doctors whose office was drilled by the meteorite that fell from the sky Jan. 18 are now in a battle with their landlord over the ownership of the Lorton meteoritespace rock.

The docs donated the meteorite to the Smithsonian, and according to this morning's Washington Post, the Smithsonian gave them $5,000 as an expression of their gratitude (and recognition that the stone is worth far more on the commercial market).

But now the landlord is asserting his rights as the owner of the land where the meteor fell. He claims the rock is his, and he may have the law on his side. For now, the Lorton meteorite remains at the Smithsonian.

Four-and-a-half billion years drifting in space, and it ends in an all-too-human scrap over property and money.

(PHOTO/Sally Sennert/Smithsonian Institution)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching

Real snow stays south


Looks like the worst of the wintry weather will stay well to the south of the Baltimore area, though we will likely see some flakes, and maybe enough to whiten the ground.

Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va., sent along the map above, which shows the geography of all the watches and warnings posted today for the storm that is moving east after slicking down portions of Texas and Oklahoma.

Here's his note:


"I found this image impressive...showing the east-west swath of winter storm warnings/watches for the southern track storm system moving east currently. Haven't seen that wide and consistent a swath in a long time. Thanks El Nino!

"The heaviest precip associated w/ this storm will stay to the south of the Balt area...but still some snow possible but amounts will be on the light side.

"A strong confluence zone over the Mid-Atlantic aloft.

"That's why this one is staying south...and limiting the northward push of moisture. - Steve Z."

The morning discussion continues to keep the worst of the weather well to our south, although Southern Maryland could see 3 to 5 inches by Sterling's way of thinking. On the Eastern Shore, Berlin could see 1 to 3 inches, and  Snow Hill could see 2 to 4. Those lower counties are under a Winter Storm Watch Saturday through Sunday morning.

Even so, Mr. Foot and his students see some hints of some northward creep in the forecast. Here's their take on the prospects for snow in the Baltimore area. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

January 28, 2010

Torrential Peru rains strand 1000s at Machu Picchu

Here's a weather story that has not received as much press as it deserves: More than 2,000 tourists, including many foreigners, including Americans, remain stranded by heavy rains, flood waters and mudslides Urubamba River near Machu Picchunear the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu, in the Peruvian highlands northwest of Cuzco.

The railroad that brings most tourists to the archaeological site from Cuzco has been washed out by a mudslide. Roads and bridges have been damaged, and the Peruvian government is cooperating with the U.S. and others in an effort to bring the tourists out by helicopter. It's not going well.

Food and water and other supplies are running short. So are some tempers. Crowds are being sheltered in hotels, hostels and public buildings. Some tourists are pitching in on sandbagging duty while they wait for a flight out. Some vacation.

More importantly, thousands of Peruvians are homeless or dealing with damaged homes in the wake of building collapses and other rain-related damage. Crops also have been inundated.

I have seen little of this in the big media. You have to drill down some to find CNN's report. And it says little or nothing about the damage and hardship being suffered by Peruvians.

These rains are the heaviest in many years in Peru. I suspect they can be attributed to the El Nino event underway in the tropical Pacific.

(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:15 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events

Weekend snow ... or not

UPDATE: A Winter Storm Watch is up for central and southern Virginia, with 5 inches of snow or more possible for Charlottesville. Three to 8 inches are possible across the watch area, including the Virginia Eastern Shore. Farther north, in Maryland, there are no watches or warnings, just a Hazardous Weather Outlook.  

This morning we have a pretty good demonstration of why forecasters at the National Weather Service decline to make snow accumulation predictions more than 36 hours in advance of the event.

Early this week, as and began chirping about a 6-to-12-inch snowfall (or more) in Baltimore by Friday and Saturday, the NWS was content to post 60 percent chances for some sort of snow on the weekend. It was too far out to be confident about such things, they insisted.

The federal forecasters took some heat from WeatherBlog readers for their reticence. After all, Accuweather's bloggers were all aflutter about the storm. Mr. Foot acknowledged his team's stance was "bold," but stuck with

Until today.

Now the computer models - which all agreed on Monday that we'd see a pounding by the weekend - now all agree that the storm track will send the low across the Carolinas and out to sea. 

The NWS this morning predicts no more than a 30 percent chance for snow in the Baltimore region Friday night and Saturday, with North Carolina and Southern Virginia looking at the best chances for snow. Accumulation forecasts, if any, should be out this afternoon.

Maryland may not get off scot-free. "Accumulating snow will still be possible, especially the southern zones," Sterling says in its morning forecast discussion. "But at the moment, [moisture] appears insufficient for more than 1 to 3 inches in southern portions of the forecast area ... Some light snow may approach the Washington, D.C. metro ... but any accumulations should remain light." began shifting its snow track south (map) on Wednesday, with Southern Maryland and the Lower eastern Shore still in the bullseye.  "MeteoMadness" blogger Henry Margusity has scaled back his prognostications, but this morning still manages to make it sound scary for the urban corridor: "I know folks in Baltimore-Washington are watching this real closely. You're going to be pretty close to the heavy snow area."  And then, "It could be a case where DC gets maybe 4-5 and Baltimore gets 1 to 3. It's a real tough call."

Mr. Foot, too has had to back down. "The polar vortex is in charge," he concedes. "We will have to remain patient for a fantastic February."

UPDATE: Mr. Foot's team of student meteorologists has been watching developments. One Sparrows Point 10th grader has authored an update suggesting the storm track has moved north again, a bit. See below: 


Ryan K. Grade 10 (01/28/10: 12:15PM)

So the waiting game continues here in Central Maryland to see what happens with the previously expected snow event. Things went away, but the trends definitely point to one thing: this is coming back north. Precip is back into the area, and if this occurs, say only 50-75 miles more north which is definitely possible, we could get a decent hit. At this point, the amount of snow only looks to be 1-2 inches, but as I said in last nights e-mail things could change (and that has already begun to occur.) All of the afternoon models so far have pointed to that farther north solution, leaving DC in a good area for snow and our area on the northern fringe.

The most aggressive model at this point is the Canadian model which at its latest run gave the area 4-6” of snow. This model has led the models on their trek northward, and in the 12-19/20 blizzard, this model led the way. Also, the ECMWF (European model) which has been the best model according to statistics, trended north last night. In my opinion, if this trend is one that continues this afternoon with the 1PM run, then we will have a legitimate risk for a nice snow event.

Thoughts at this point:

---Currently model runs depict a 1-3’’ snowfall in our area

---The storm is currently trending north and certainly has the potential to continue that trend, giving us the formidable snow threat

---The storm’s timing is steadily moving back so at this point an overnight Friday into Saturday threat would be the time when the storm (if things come to fruition) arrives.

Things to watch: The way the media outlets present the storm and the way they present the storm, as well as the emails we send out. If you want to do basic observations, simply check out the way the storm is moving on radar and nowcast a bit.

Indicator of threat:

This map (12z GFS snow output) shows how close we are to the good snows, the 1-2 is here now, but the slightest shift, 25-50 miles puts us in 3-4’’ with any more than that giving us a 6’’ snowstorm. The chance is definitely there, so stay alert.

Next Update: This afternoon and a possible frequent updates tonight and tomorrow. Will have a snowfall map done as well to be sent out.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Forecasts

January 27, 2010

Storm slows, could take southern track

Forecast models seems to be diverging in their storm track predictions, with most now sending our weekend storm on a more southerly path. That would decrease the amount of snow we'd likely see in Baltimore, and focusing it more on Southern Maryland this time.

The timing has slipped a bit overnight, too, with no snow expected to fall until early Saturday morning.

That said, forecasters out at Sterling are still looking for a snowfall here. They put the chances at 60 percent for Friday night into Saturday, subsiding to 40 percent Saturday night.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.: Now the snow chances for BWI have slipped to 30 percent for the Friday-Saturday period. This fish seems to be slipping away. Earlier post resumes below.

There are no official accumulation predictions from Sterling yet. Says Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer: "Our office policy is to only post snow totals out through 36 hours from the present. If we expect snow starting Friday night, the first forecast to have snow totals from us would be from the forecasts starting during the day Thursday."

Zubrick has said unofficially he expects 4 inches or more., too, has moved the snow southward (map), with the storm cruising through the Carolinas and out to sea.

"Too early to call this one," Zubrick said. "But stay tuned ... these models can change quite a bit ... especially this far out."

Others have jumped right in with both feet, of course. Mr. Foot, of, dropped me a note this morning about the impending storm, saying:

"The situation seems to resemble the lead-up to Feb. 2003. Even six hours before thre storm, projections were for most precip to stay south of DC. I was in Altoona, Pa. without net access on Sat. 2/16/2003 - and my dad in Philly said all the TV forecasters were saying just that. Went to bed at 11 p.m. Awoke to 3 inches of snow in Altoona - 1 hour north of the turnpike. So much for south of DC."

Looking at all the indicators he and his team consider with these storms, he still sees all the ducks in a row. Said Foot: "That's why we're fairly confident on the 6-to-12 [inches] and given [snow to liquid ] ratios, could easily go much higher ... Will fortune favor the bold? We shall see!"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:36 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Forecasts

January 26, 2010

Maryland streamflow setting records

Runoff from recent heavy rains and melting snowpack is setting new daily streamflow records USGS(black dots on the map), especially in the western parts of the state and nearby Virginia and West Virginia.

The North Branch of the Potomac, for example, was running at 11,400 cubic feet per second near Cumberland just after 3 p.m. Tuesday. That's more than 10 times the median flow for a Jan. 26.

The South Branch of the Potomac, near Springfield, WV. was running at 18,500 cf/s. The median for the date is 1,100 cf/s.

USGSNear Paw Paw, W.V. (USGS photo in quieter times) the Potomac was at 44,800 cf/s, or 16 times the median flow for the date.

At Point-of-Rocks, Md., the Potomac was moving at 123,000 cf/s, or more than 13 times the median for the date. Minor flooding was reported there.

Records are being set along stretches of Bear Creek, Wills Creek and Fishing Creek, as well as the Youghiogheny and Savage rivers.

If you have high-water photos of this event, send them to me at

Monday morning's storm also packed terrific winds. Here's a list of top gusts (and rain totals) recorded around the region. A resident near Smithsburg, in Washington County, reported a trampoline was picked up and blown nearly a mile. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Mt. Washington, N.H. loses world wind speed record

Summit Mount Washington 

A panel of the World Meteorological Organization, a part of the United Nations, this week certified a new official surface wind speed record (not related to tornadoes) that eclipses one held for nearly 76 years by the weather station at the summit of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington.

The Mt. Washington mark of 231 mph, set during a winter storm, had stood since 1934. The WMO panel of experts, after a thorough review, concluded that the new world wind speed record is 254 mph, set at Barrow Island, Australia during a tropical cyclone (hurricane) called Olivia, on April 10, 1996. Barrow Island is off the country's northwest coast.

I suppose that means the N.H. record actually stood for just 62 years.

A wind speed reading of 236 mph - higher than Mt. Washington's - was reported from Guam in 1997, during a Typhoon named Paka. But that report is in dispute.

Here is part of the WMO statement:

Geneva, 22 January 2010 (WMO) - According to a recent review conducted by a panel of experts in charge of global weather and climate extremes within the WMO Commission for Climatology (CCl) the record of wind gusts not related to tornados registered to date is 408 km/h during Tropical Cyclone Olivia on 10 April 1996 at Barrow Island, Australia. The previous record was of 372 km/h, registered in April 1934 across the summit of Mount Washington, USA.

Here's how the folks at Mt. Washington responded on their Web site:

It was bound to happen, but it’s definitely quite a shock to hear that news,” says Scot Henley, Executive Director of the Mount Washington Observatory. “While we are disappointed that it appears that Mount Washington may have been bumped from the top, at our core we are all weather fans and we are very impressed with the magnitude of that typhoon and the work of the committee that studied it.”

(SUN PHOTO/Ernie Imhoff/Mount Washington summit, January 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:10 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: By the numbers

Friday-Saturday snowfall could reach 12 inches

Much still depends on the final track and timing of the storm, but forecasters seem to be converging on a major snowfall for the Baltimore-Washington region, beginning here sometime NOAAFriday afternoon.

The low-pressure system is still closing on California this (Tuesday) morning (left). It's the latest in the series of Pacific storms that have been dumping heavy rains on California in recent weeks.

The low is forecast to move across the continent this week to the Carolinas. There, forecast models predict it will intensify off the Atlantic seaboard, and draw in more Gulf and Atlantic moisture.

With cold air surging into the region out of the Canadian arctic, and being held in place by a "blocking" low over eastern Canada, we should be seeing the classic setup for a snowstorm to swing around the edge of the cold air and give us quite a storm. But how much?

The National Weather Service forecasters out at Sterling are always cautious this many days out. Too much depends on the final track the storm takes, the amount of moisture it makes available, and the temperatures in the mid-Atlantic

Officially, Sterling is calling for a 50 percent chance of snow at BWI by Friday, rising to 60 percent Friday night and Saturday. Their morning forecast discussion offers no accumulations guesses, only a "later Friday through Saturday night" timeframe.

Uncertainty doesn't phase some other folks. Assessing the likely impact from Texas eastward, says: "The winter storm threatens to cause substantial disruptions to travel and daily routines. Schools will likely be cancelled Thursday into Friday. Residents and visitors to the mid-Atlantic may be forced to alter their weekend plans." Here's more.

"This is going to be a good snowstorm for you folks down in Baltimore-Washington, probably a good 6 to 12 inches the way we see it right now," said blogger Henry Margusity. "Not a blizzard. Just your normal February heavy snowstorm."

Mr. Foot and his legions are just as excited about this one. Low temperatures and high snow-to-water ratios, they say mean that snow totals "could easily exceed 12 inches by midnight Saturday." But, for now, they're going with 6 to 12 inches, too. As we get closer, and the storm's start time becomes more clear, school districts will have to decide whether to close, order an early dismissal, or hope to get the buses off before the driving gets dicey.

A 12-inch storm at BWI would place this one - just barely - among the top 20 on the record books for Baltimore, according to the NWS.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:22 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Forecasts

January 25, 2010

Airport hits 66 degrees

The official temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport today touched 66 degrees during the lunch hour. That was 9 degrees short of the record of 75 degrees, set on this date in 1967. But it was the warmest reading of the year, so far, and the warmest since Nov. 29, 2009, when we reached 67 degrees.

It was 67 degrees at Washington's Reagan National, and 65 out at Dulles Airport.NOAA 

This breath of spring can't last, of course. The barometer is climbing again, and forecasters say the cold front that passed by with this morning's storm will eventually usher in colder air. Temperatures will fall for the balance of the week, dumping us back below normal - in the 30s - by Friday, with a forecast for snow, and weekend lows in the teens and 20s.

Today marks the 12th day in a row with above-average daily temperatures at BWI. The warm stretch followed a string of 12 days in a row of below-average temperatures (Jan. 2 to 13).

Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va., has looked at the data and found that these runs of 10 or 15 days of above- or below-normal temperatures in January are not uncommon here. 

But he agrees we're headed back into the cold cellar this week. Read his comments below.


According to the latest preliminary climate data for Baltimore MD (as measured at BWI Airport)...


counting today (Mon, Jan 25)...where the daily avg temp is sure to be above the normal calendar day average since the day's high so far is 66F!, since Jan 14 (2010) Baltimore (as measured at BWI) has had 12 days in a row of above normal daily average temperatures (the 21st eek'ed by a slim +1 degF). The monthly average temperature in Baltimore (at BWI) through the 24th is +0.7F above normal.

Contrast this warm spell with the below normal readings from Jan 2 -13, 2010...that featured 12 days in a row of below normal average daily temperatures.

"Runs" of 10-15 days of above normal and/or below normal are not unusual in January.

In Baltimore, last January 2009, there was a "run" of 11 consecutive days with below normal daily average temps (Jan 12-22, inclusive). Jan 2008 featured a 14-day stretch of at or above normal daily average temps (Jan 6-19, inclusive).

Longer runs of warm or cold are possible in January. The warm, snow-less January of 2006 at BWI had only 1 day that averaged below normal (Jan 7, 2006) and the monthly average was +9.3F above normal!

The flip-flop from consecutive days of warm followed by consecutive days of cold conditions in January is not unusual.

January 2005, kind of a mirror opposite of this Jan 2010, featured the first half of the month much warmer than normal; then the second half was cold and had only 1 day above normal. That month (Jan 2005) ended up above normal for the month (+1.8F).

In January 2000 (the year of a big snowstorm on the 25th; BWI had 15"), the month started out very warm from the 1st-13th. It hit 70F on the 4th! Then the fridge door opened. The rest of the month (14th-31st) had below normal daily avg temps; save for the 24th (a measly +1F above normal). Overall, Jan 2000 average monthly temp ended up +0.7F above normal, but had over 3 times the monthly average snowfall (23.1").

January 1977 has been discussed by some weather-folk recently since it was very cold. January 1977 was -10.5F below normal! The month featured 29 out of 31 days with below normal average temps (the 4th and 25th being the only days to average above normal...perhaps they represent the "January thaw" for that month ;). There was 8.5" of snow that month (slightly above the normal of 7" for January in Baltimore).

Like it warm in January??

It's not unusual to see 70F readings in January. It came within 4 degF of that today! Six out of the last ten years have had a least 1 day of 70F or greater in January in Baltimore. In January 1950 there were five 70+F days!

But is has never (since records began in 1871) hit or broken 80F in January in Baltimore. The closest was 79F (twice; Jan 14, 1932 and Jan 25, 1950). January 1932 still holds the record for the warmest January on record (see below).

We likely will not hit 70F this January. Cooler conditions are forecast for the remainder of the month.The latest (as of Jan 24) 6-10 day (Jan 30-Feb 3) and 8-14 day (Feb 1-7) temp. outlooks both call for below normal temps for much of the U.S. (including the entire Mid-Atlantic region).

And finally, Baltimore has measured just under 2" of snow (1.8") through Jan 24. There's snow in the forecast for late in the work week. To me, it looks like this month (Jan 2010) will end up with below normal snowfall.

Regards, Steve Z

PS...found this in an old Jan 1932...


Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Storm packs plenty of wind; snow next

The cold front approaching the region from the west this morning brought plenty of rain, although perhaps not as much as forecasters had warned about. A few places, including Thurmont, reported in excess of the 2 inches advertised over the weekend as a regional average. But most of the heftiest rain reports this morning were between an inch and two inches, with many locations reporting less than an inch.

But while area streams are pretty nearly at the brim, the bigger problems seem to be the high winds. Combined with saturated soils, the gusts to 40 mph  in spots brought down plenty of trees, limbs and utility wires. More than 70,000 BGE customers were in the dark at some point this morning, and many commuters had to dodge the downed trees and wires.High winds whip flag The utility said it expects to have most service restored by Tuesday evening.

There are lots of watches and warnings on the board this morning:

UPDATE: Flood warnings are up this afternoon for parts of Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties as streams there spill out of their banks. There have been road closures. Do not drive tthrough standing or flowing water. For more, click here.

Got flooding photos? Send them along in an email and I'll post the best.

The strong southwest winds are driving water up the Chesapeake, and its rivers and creeks, as well as the coastal bays. Coastal Flood Warnings were posted until 6 p.m. Monday from Harford to St. Mary's counties. High tides could exceed two to three feet above normal levels along the Western Shore. High tide at Baltimore today is at 2:10 p.m.. It's at 12:40 p.m. in Annapolis.

There is a Wind Advisory posted across the region until 1 p.m., with winds in excess of 45 mph expected. That could bring down more trees and wires, and make driving difficult. 

Flash Flood Watches are in effect until 1 p.m. across the region, too, as more moderate to heavy rain threatens to push rivers and streams over their banks. Urban flooding is also possible. Turn Around. Don't Drown.

Here are some rain totals from CoCoRaHS this morning:Sinkhole swallows car near Lynchburg, Va.

Thurmont:  2.3 inches

Towson:  1.58 inches

Jarrettsville:  1.47 inches

Cockeysville:  1.25 inches

Ellicott City:  0.77 inch

Columbia:  0.69 inch

Severa Park:  0.68 inch

Taneytown:  0.61 inch

La Plata:  0.48 inch

(The photo at right by Leonard Harville shows a minivan that was driven into a sinkhole near rain-soaked Lynchburg, Va. The driver was trapped for a time, but survived with non-life-threatening injuries.)

Temperatures at BWI-Marshall hovered - actually, they climbed all night - in the 50s. Forecasters said they could top 60 degrees before the front passes and the mercury heads down again late today. And that will set us up for some snow this weekend.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance/Jan. 25, 2010)

Actually, the western mountains could see upslope snow showers Monday evening, with an inch or two accumulating. 

Here in the lowlands, Tuesday and Wednesday will see some sunshine return, but the daytime highs will return to seasonable norms - in the mid-40s. A reinforcing cold front arrives Thursday, sending thermometers even lower for the weekend, with highs only in the low 30s.

That sets us up for some kind of snow risk over the weekend. Forecasters see a storm brewing in Texas that could gather up some Gulf moisture and track to our south and east. The forecast for now is for a 30 percent chance of snow on Friday, with highs near 34 degrees.

The snow chance rises to 40 percent on Friday night and back to 30 percent Saturday. The low Saturday night will sink into the teens, forecasters said.

UPDATE: Henry Margusity, the "MeteoMadness" blogger at, looks at forecast models he says are "in line" and says in his video post today: "Baltimore, Washington, you could pick up a foot of snow out of this snowstorm. Not a 20-inch snowstorm but probably a good 8 to 10 inches, maybe a foot of snow." Then again, I can't recall Henry ever playing down an impending snowstorm.

Mr. Foot is predicting a foot of snow, too: "Those in school systems across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania need to closely monitor this storm, as the onset time of mid-morning to noon Friday may cause considerable problems with regard to early dismissals."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts

January 23, 2010

But first, big rain


Nice day today, but our weather will start downhill in a big, wet way Sunday. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for all of Central Maryland as an approaching cold front loaded with rain heads our way (radar loop, below) after inundating California. The rain forecast map above makes it pretty clear who's in the way of this hosing.

Forecasters out at Sterling say we should expect an average of 2 inches across the region, with up to 3 in spots before this storm ends NOAAaround sunrise on Monday. Make sure those storm drains are clear.

Then we can anticipate some river flooding, as well, as the runoff reaches the main channels. No chance this will change into something frozen, as temperatures Sunday and Sunday night will stall near 50 degrees, if the forecast holds up.

Temperatures on Monday could reach 60 degrees before the cold front finally gets by us. Then we'll sink back to the seasonal norms for a few days - low-40s for highs. Colder weather will follow on Thursday or thereabouts as a (dry) clipper system from Central Canada blows through.

Our next storm threat will emerge at week's end, as another Gulf and coastal storm brews up. Forecasters aren't sure yet whether this one will spin far enough north to affect us.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts

January 22, 2010

AccuWeather's Bastardi calls for 15 inches more snow

I couldn't resist this one: Joe Bastardi, the winter weather prognosticator up at, says Baltimore should expect another 15 to 20 inches of snow in the weeks ahead as the winter of 2009-2010 turns cold again in February.

"I believe the physical drivers are all there for a major cold month, much like this December was," AccuWeather.comBastardi said.

Especially in the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and the mid-Appalachians, he said, winter will come back with renewed vigor. "It may very well turn into a blend of February '07 and February '03, which were the most extreme Februarys we've had in the last 15 years, " he said.

As for Baltimore, we should expect above-average snowfall in February, and below-average temperatures. We're already well above the average for the seasonal snowfall at BWI. But Bastardi says we should see another 15 to 20 inches on top of that.

Although January is, statistically, our snowiest month, eight of our top-20 snowstorms have clustered around the second and third weeks in February. (See table below)

Bastardi's forecast counts on a return of arctic air masses to the eastern United States as early as next week, combined with the active, El Nino-driven southern storm track that has repeatedly produced West Coast and Gulf storms that have swept up the east coast. That can be a formula for snow in Baltimore.

UPDATE: Mr. Foot, too, is taking note of impending cold weather. His site notes a near-record high barometric reading in Mongolia - 32.00 inches, with low temperatures of 50 to 70-below zero. "If a piece of that air to were to work across the pole, someone better tell Tom Hanks to fire up the Polar Express once again!" he writes. Earlier post resumes below...

Last fall, Bastardi predicted the coldest, snowiest winter in Maryland since the snow-choked winter of 2002-03. He's already right about the snow. At 25 inches, we've bested the seasonal totals for the last six years, and matched precisely his autumn forecast for the entire season in Baltimore. The 30-year average is 18.2 inches.

On the other hand, Bastardi also forecast that this winter would get off to a late start: "I would say that we will remember more what happens in January and February than in December," he stated back in October. Oops. December was the snowiest on record for Baltimore.

But he could still be right about February. We'll just have to wait and see. 

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center, meanwhile, shows no clear trends for February's weather, either temperatures or precipitation.

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 4:29 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Forecasts

Glug... Wet weather swamping records


We already know that December brought Baltimore it's biggest December snowfall (Dec. 18-19), and it's snowiest and wettest December on record. Now the U.S. Geological Survey is adding to the most impressive statistics that piled up during 2009.

The year ended with 55.57 inches of precipitation at BWI, making it the 6th wettest year since record-keeping began there in 1871. The record is 62.66 inches, set in 2003.

December streamflow in Maryland was above normal in 90 percent of the USGS monitoring stations. Seven rivers and creeks struck new monthly mean streamflow records, including the Chicamacomico, Choptank, Nanticoke, Nassawango, Piscataway, St. Clements and St. Jones.

The new December record on the Nanticoke (graph above) broke one that had stood since 1948. And it marked the second straight month of record streamflow there after five months of increasingly high rates.

Groundwater levels have also been responding to the wet weather.  Levels in 81 percent of the USGS monitoring wells were above normal. Five set new records for December, all in Southern Maryland or on the Eastern Shore, including Kent County, Del., Somerset, Charles, Queen Anne's and Wicomico counties in Maryland.

The well in Kent County, Del. (graph below) topped records for the second-straight month, topping the 1967 record by four feet.

The reservoirs that serve Washington and Baltimore are in good shape, of course. But there is one curiosity: Liberty Reservoir stands at just 85 percent of capacity, according to the USGS. Not sure yet what's up with that, but we're trying to get an answer. Some sort of maintenance work, perhaps. Or maybe all these water main breaks have drained it. We'll see. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Kurt Kocher, at the city Department of Public Works, says the USGS figure on Liberty Reservoir is incorrect. "The reservoir has been full since September." he said.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:48 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

"Wintry mix" forecast a fizzler

Cockeysville's watchmen 

For days we've been looking at nasty forecasts predicting rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow overnight and into Friday. But the setup was complicated and the results were never very certain.

 And so, as gloomy as it was this morning, except for a few sprinkles, and a few flakes, I didn't see any of the bad stuff on my drive to work this morning. Neither did many others. (Maybe the neighborhood buzzards were waiting to feast on the defunct forecast.

The National Weather Service has backed away from an earlier Winter Storm Watch and replaced it with a Winter Weather Advisory for western counties from Carroll out to the mountains. But a check The Boxon reports from out there finds little that looks like wintry weather worth a worry.

Even Mr. Foot is wearing a cardboard box over his head this morning, and manfully discussing his team's errors.

Forecasters at Sterling are pointing to cold, dry air flowing in from the north, driven by a high in Central Canada, and the low moving off Delmarva and out to sea more quickly than they anticipated. That all seems to have dried things out and cut off the precipitation before it ever really got started.

We have recorded a mere 0.05 inch here at North Calvert and Centre streets. BWI is reporting barely a tenth of an inch.

There's more wet weather ahead, however. After some sunshine on Saturday, clouds move back in with showers in store for Sunday and Monday morning. Highs will be in the low 50s - almost 10 degrees above the averages - so we don't need to worry about frozen stuff for the moment.

And by Tuesday the skies should clear for the balance of the week, but temperatures will cool back toward the seasonal norms

Speaking of averages, we have now passed the date of the coldest average daily temperatures for Baltimore. From here on, the averages begin their slow climb toward spring and summer.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

January 20, 2010

Monday's meteor fell on Lorton, Va. doctors' office

A Washington DC television station is reporting an apparent meteorite fall in Lorton, Va. The space rock, which has been taken to the Smithsonian Institution, crashed through the roof of a doctor's office at around 5:45 p.m. on Monday, narrowly missing patients and staff.

NOTE: An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to the office as a dental office. Although there is a dental office in the building, the doctors who found the meteorite are in a family medical practice. The Weatherblog regrets the error.

Lorton meteoriteThe reported time of the fall matches closely the time that scores of people from New Jersey to southern Virginia reported they saw a bright meteor fall, leaving a writhing smoke trail in the twilight sky. The Baltimore Sun's WeatherBlog has received more than 100 reports of the fall from observers.

The story on the Web site of WUSA9 in Washington says the mango-sized meteorite crashed through the roof and acoustical tiles of the Williamsburg Square Family Practice office in Lorton. Dr. Frank Ciampi told the station the crash was so loud he thought bookshelves had toppled.

Experts at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, interviewed by the station, confirmed the fractured meteorite was a stony "chondrite" meteorite, with a dark fusion crust formed by the heat of its passage through the atmosphere.

Professional meteorite hunter Steve Arnold says he is on his way to Virginia. "I hope to find some other pieces," he said in email to the WeatherBlog. Arnold, TV's "Meteorite Man," also took part in the apparently unsuccessful hunt for fragments of the meteor that fell somewhere along the Mason-Dixon line north of Baltimore last July 6.  That fall was accompanied by a sonic boom that startled residents in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The Smithsonian museum's Linda Welzenbach said the Lorton meteorite is believed to be only the fourth confirmed meteorite fall in Virginia's history.

UPDATE: Meteorite hunters have been using readers' comments to the WeatherBlog to calculate the entry path of the meteorite. They've been scouring the comments, especially, for descriptions of the altitude and angle of the meteor's arrival last Monday evening. Not everyone included that information in their comments. There's still time. Here's a note I received Monday, Jan. 25 from Rob Matson. You can contact him directly at :

"Hi Frank,

"I've been following the posts on your blog by witnesses to the
Lorton fireball in the hopes of finding someone, *anyone*, who
viewed the fall "from the side" as opposed to roughly inline
with it (someone that wasn't NNE or SSW of Lorton). It's a
shame that not one of the witnesses from well east or well
west of the meteor made mention of the *slope* of the meteor's
path relative to the horizon. This is a critical piece of
information as far as reconstruction of the 3D track. I was
really hoping that one of the easternmost observers (e.g.
Rehoboth Beach, DE; Ocean City, MD) would have commented
about the slope since it most definitely did not fall
vertically toward the horizon from these vantage points. Even
better would have been a single picture of the smoke trail
from one of these side-viewing vantage points. Surely in
this age when everyone has a cell phone camera, someone must
have taken such an image?

"If you have any images or even sketches of the bolide's path
(or its smoke trail taken as soon after the fall as possible),
I would love to see them. Even one such image where the path
wasn't vertical would allow a crude reconstruction of the
entry angle, aiding in the recovery of additional specimens
from the fall. - Best wishes, Rob"

This request for help was answered by several readers. Matson has since sent the following:

 Hi Frank,


Thanks very much for posting my message on your blog. As a result, I've already received one image from one of your readers (Columbia, MD vantage point) which is the most useful along-track view of the smoke trail I've seen to date, as it contains both the track and the crescent Moon. Used in conjunction with the smoke trail image taken from Silver Spring (would love to know the precise location for that image, btw), I can construct a crude 3D track solution.

But I'm still holding out hope for an image from the Chesapeake or anywhere along the DelMarVa peninsula.


Thanks again,





Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:01 PM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Sky Watching

Rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow ahead

A quarter-inch of ice or five inches of snow or sleet. Take your pick. That's what's in the cards for Western Maryland - from Washington County west - under the Winter Storm Watch posted today Wintry mixby the National Weather Service.

The bad weather out west will start late Thursday and run into Friday. The watch forecasts temperatures from the upper 20s to the lower 30s for the watch area.

So far, that watch does not extend into metropolitan Baltimore or Washington. But that only means we're not facing the dangerous travel conditions the western counties can expect. Yet. But the weather will turn very crummy Thursday night.

The forecast for Baltimore and its suburbs calls for rain, snow and sleet to begin Thursday evening, changing to rain and sleet after 1 a.m. Friday.  After 1 a.m., the rain and sleet shifts to rain and snow, then to all snow  after 1 p.m. Friday. Nice, huh?

Well, forecasters seem to be dealing with a lot of uncertainty, so we could see anything as a new coastal low develops and moves off Cape Hatteras. The storm is expected to draw colder air in as it departs, which is why they're expecting snow to top off the event. Here's the discussion:



Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

January 19, 2010

Putting our recent cold weather in perspective

Just came across a very calm and rational discussion of the meaning of the cold, snowy weather we and some others experienced in December and early January. (Remember cold weather? We hit 58 today at The Sun...) It comes from "Earth Gauge," an initiative by the National Environmental Education Foundation and the American Meteorological Society, and it's worth a read.

Here's a taste: 

"Patterns of periodic warming and cooling over the North Atlantic in the past – linked to periodic strengthening and weakening of the circulation that brings warm waters into the Atlantic basin from the south – suggest that the Atlantic may cool slightly over the next decade. As this happens, average surface temperatures in North America and Europe may stop their rising temperature trends or even cool slightly.

"Looking at long-term data (50+ years), which includes periods of both warm and cool North Atlantic temperatures as well as warm and cool periods of other major natural oscillations that help drive our weather, suggests that the extreme cold experienced over the past few weeks is becoming less common for the United States as a whole."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather

Mild, sunny January days won't last

Flower bulbsI spotted the tips of a few young flower bulbs poking through the mulch this weekend, fooled, no doubt, by the mild temperatures and warm sunshine.

But it's not springtime yet.

Forecasters out at the NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va. say today will bring us the last of the 50-degree-plus weather for this week. A weak cold front will slip through the region today, dragged along with a low-pressure system over the northern Great Lakes.

That will slide our temperatures back to the more seasonable mid-40s by Wednesday, and send overnight lows back below freezing at BWI. But there's worse to come.

After another sunny day Wednesday, light precipitation and colder air will move into the area late Wednesday into Thursday, forecasters say. The cold air will be in place Thursday, dammed up against the eastern slope of the Appalachians. Highs Thursday and Friday will hold in the 30s.

So, when another coastal low develops, it will begin to send moisture into the mid-Atlantic states, falling through the cold air at the surface to produce a cold rain from the urban corridor eastward. North and west of the cities, forecasters say, we'll likely see a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow.

The messy weather will persist into Friday. But that will be followed by high pressure for the weekend, with mostly sunny skies on Saturday and seasonable temperatures.

(SUN PHOTO/John Makely/2000)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Twilight meteor reported Monday in Maryland

UPDATE: This meteor appears to be the one that drilled through the roof of a Lorton, Va. dental office Monday evening. Read more here

The Tuesday morning mail contained the following report from a reader in Reisterstown, Md. He and his wife spotted a bright meteor to their south after sunset on Monday evening. The crescent moon and planet Jupiter were visible in the southwest.

Here's his report, including a meteor photo he says resembles what he saw. If anyone else spotted the same object, please leave us a comment and describe what you saw. Please include the time, your location, the direction you were looking, the direction of flight, the object's approximate height above the horizon (in degrees, if possible; zero degrees is on the horizon, 90 degrees is straight up) and anything else you can remember.


"Hi Frank,
"My wife and I believe we saw a fireball meteor yesterday. It was at 5:38 Monday afternoon, January 18. It was twilight and only the moon and one planet were visible in the sky, which was still blue and not yet black. For about 3 to 5 seconds, the meteor descended down in the south, looking from Reisterstown, MD towards the BWI area.
When I saw it, I said to my wife, "Look there!" And she quickly turned her head and was able to see the trail. "What was that?" she said, astonished. Usually, meteor don't last that long.
"We weren't sure if it was some space debris, a meteor or a firework. The smoke trail last about four minutes.
"I have enclosed a picture I found on the web that looks like what I saw. I too saw a brilliant bluish area that shed off secondary streams of light. Again, this is not my picture, but represents what I saw.
"There was no sonic boom as in your report from a year or two ago. Have other people seen this? - HenryJan. 18, 2010 meteor Simoni-Wastila"
Thanks, Henry. I don't think this was space debris re-entering the atmosphere. It seems to have been moving too rapidly. And while it may have appeared to be descending over BWI, the meteor was probably much higher and much farther from the observer than it seemed. So it's likely observers in Southern Maryland, Virginia and perhaps even North Carolina saw the same thing, slightly higher above the horizon.
So, if you saw this thing, drop us a comment. Thanks.
UPDATE: Here (right) is a photo of the smoke trail left by last night's meteor, used with permission from the photographer, Anthony Nugnes, of Silver Spring, Md. (I increased the contrast a bit to make the trail more clearly visible.)  He writes:
"I consulted with William E. Smith (astronomy buff) of Bowie, MD and he stated the following: 'Good shots of the trail. Looks like you've witnessed a bolide, a possible member of The Coma Berenicid meteor shower which peaks tonight. (1/18)'"
Property owners in Maryland with security cameras that face toward the west or southwest may want to check their tapes to see if they caught the fireball. If so, send the video files along and I'll post them.  Thanks.

Meteor smoke trailHere's another photo of the meteor's smoke trail. The snake-line shape is due to high-altitude winds blowing the smoke around.

It was taken by Tom Cinelli's wife (Tom, you need to give us her name!). He said it was taken  "using a zoom lens from our home in Lothian, Md. at about 5:40 p.m. It was traveling west at say about 35 degrees above the horizon. Any idea of where it landed, or did it burn up?" Tom asks.

No, but readers in southern Virginia say they saw it to their northeast, which - since most observers in Maryland, Pa., and NJ put it to their southwest -would place the meteor somewhere in northern Viginia, I would guess.

Most of these things burn up as they come down, and nothing is ever found. But clearly not all.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:20 AM | | Comments (188)
Categories: Sky Watching

January 15, 2010

This morning's solar eclipse captured

Annular eclipse

I was going to say, "...caught on film," but I suspect few these days are using actual film. Anyway, there was an eclipse of the sun this morning. It was an "annular" or ring eclipse. The moon, being unusually far from the Earth at the moment, on the far end of its lopsided orbit around the Earth, appears smaller in the sky and its disk was unable to completely cover the sun's disk.

So, along the path of "totality" - from East Africa to Burma and China - it appeared as a ring of sunlight around the rim of the moon's disk.

Outside the path of totality, across a wide swath from Central Europe, to Central Asia and South Africa, it was a partial eclipse, with the moon blocking a slice of the sun.

There are lots of photos here, with more coming. 

The American Southwest will be treated to a similar annual eclipse of the sun in May 2012.

(AP PHOTO/Alexander F. Yuan/Annular eclipse from Kaifeng, Central China/1/15/2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

January thaw, then a hard rain

Feels like spring, doesn't it? We've already topped 50 degrees here at The Sun this (Friday) morning, and the airport is forecast to reach 55 degrees by this afternoon as sunshine and a southwesterly breeze drive temperatures to their highest marks in about a month.

Chesapeake Bay 1/12/10Increasing cloud cover late today will put a lid on the temperatures, and Saturday won't be quite as mild. There's a cold front moving our way from the Midwest. As long as we're on the east side of the front, and in westerly winds, we'll stay mild. But after the front passes this afternoon, we'll be cooler. We could even see some drizzle tonight.

High pressure behind the front will give us partly sunny skies on Saturday. But the high will move offshore quickly, and clouds will start to move in ahead of the next storm.

The new low will develop in the lower Mississippi Valley. Clouds and precipitation will begin to move into the region late Saturday. Forecasters say the storm will redevelop and intensify off Delmarva Sunday, pumping lots of Atlantic moisture into the region.

Although there may be some mixed precipitation at first north and west of I-95, it will quickly turn to all rain. Forecasters are describing it as a soaking rain, with three-quarters to an inch of water falling on Sunday, and another tenth to a quarter-inch Sunday night. Chances are put at 100 percent for Sunday, and 90 percent for Sunday night.

A switch back to some frozen precip is possible late Sunday as the departing storm system heads for New England. But the risk is in the higher elevations of Western Maryland.

The rain should be enough to flush the road salt that has been been swirling in dust clouds over the interstates and major roadways this week. No word yet on any flooding concerns here. The Monday holiday looks better than Sunday, with mostly cloudy skies. The middle of next week looks to be mostly sunny, with seasonable highs in the 40s, lows near freezing.

No wintry weather in sight.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/MODIS imagery/Jan. 12, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

January 13, 2010

Haiti suffered in 1842 quake, too

Situated as it is on the edge of an active joint in the Earth's crustal plates, Haiti is no stranger to earthquakes. Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell has pulled some clips from the Sun's archives of stories we published in the wake of the great quake of May 7, 1842.

Some of the accounts read just like the dispatches we're seeing from Haiti today. Others are firmly, and quaintly rooted in the 19th century. Here are some highlights:

Headline: Great Earthquake in the Island of Santo Domingo; Great Destruction of Life and Property.

Haiti quake"May 30, 1842: The New York papers of Saturday morning contain all the particulars received of the great earthquake at Cape Haitien, which occurred on the 7th inst. and destroyed an immense deal of property and thousands of lives. It is a singular fact that at Bayou Teche, Louisiana, an earthquake was experienced on the same day, and the waters of the river and lake rose suddenly about six feet...

"There were two very decided shocks, the first was not as long as the second; the latter was the most violent and lasted about three minutes. All abandoned their houses, and the streets were filled with the afrighted population ... There is scarcely a single brick or stone house which has not suffered damage. They are all more or less damaged. Some, it is said, are scarcely habitable. The facade of the Senate House ... were detached from the edifice and broken into pieces by the fall...

"During these latter days it appears to us as if the earth on which we were walking was constantly quaking.

[The photo above is from the American Red Cross, Matthew Marek, via AFP Getty Images, shot Wednesday. The 1842 accounts resume below.]

"Sainte Mare - A letter from this town, which has been communicated to us, informs us that there too the earthquake of Saturday  last was felt with the greatest violence; many houses have been so much shaken that they threaten every instant to fall down. On some plantations in the neighborhood of the town very great damage has been done...

"Gonaives - We write these hurried lines in the street. The whole population has passed the night in the middle of the streets. Of the merchandize, which the merchants have been obliged to pile up in the public square, a great part has been stolen.  ... The church, the prison, the national palace, the treasury, the arsenal, and the house which was getting ready for the colonel commanding this district, are now nothingCap Haitien 1994 more than a heap of ruins...

"It is now 8 o'clock in the morning. Not half an hour has passed since we had another violent shock. The number of persons killed and wounded is not yet known. All the prisoners who were not buried under the ruins of the prison, have escaped...

"Cape Haitien - Most deplorable news his spreading throughout the city ...Cape Town has entirely disappeared and with it two-thirds of the population. The families which have escaped this disaster have taken refuge at La Fossette, where they are without shelter, clothes or provisions.

"One letter says that at Cape Haitien but one person was saved, all the others being drowned or crushed to death. The Cape itself was one mass of ruins. The town of Cape Haitien contained 15,000 inhabitants."

That's a shot of Cap Haitien above right, in 1994, as residents cheered their support for deposed President Aristide while a U.S. Marine helicopter flew over. (AP PHOTO/Hans Deryk) 

Here's a story that reflects the scientific understanding of earthquakes in 1842, at least among newspaper folks. It's quite remarkable.

Headline: Range and Severity of the Late Earthquake

"June 1, 1842: The earthquake which has recently desolated a large portion of St. Domingo, was one of the most severe that has occurred in any part of the world for many years; and perhaps more extensive in the sphere of its operations than any since the earthquake which destroyed Lisbon, in 1755.

"It appears that on the same day, and very nearly the same hour, the effects of this recent earthquake were felt at various places ranging from Port-au-Prince to the base of the Rocky Mountains. The greatest explosion from the force of internal pent up fires was felt at Cape Haytien, St. Domingo, on the 7th instant; here they had three successive and violent shocks; and previous to the first of them a shock of the earthquake was felt at Porto Rico, on the morning of the 7th of May, which as far as we have yet learned, was the most easterly point that the effects of it were felt.

"The internal fires, it seems, then took a northwesterly direction, struggling to escape from their prison house, and ultimately tore the ground asunder and broke out at Cape Haytien. It stretched clear across the breadth of St. Domingo and was felt at Port-au-Prince on the same day and at nearly the same hour.

"It also traveled and was felt at Mayaguez [Puerto Rico] at the same time; then at St. Martinsville [Louisiana]and one or two other places in Louisiana; thence to Van Buren, Arkansas, and clear up to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where it was also felt on the same day.

"It thus travelled at least 1,500 miles, and perhaps was felt even further. It is a sublime and awful thought; here we have proofs of the existence of a body of internal fires 1,500 miles long and probably as many deep."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: History

Va. well reacts to Haiti quake; aftershocks continue

The US. Geological Survey continues to monitor seismic events in Haiti in the wake of last evening's terrible 7.0 quake just outside the capital of Port-au-Prince. At last check, the country had sustained at least 34 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 to 5.9.

Other faults in the region have also been active. There was a magnitude 2.5 tremor early today in the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. And the Virgin Islands reported a 3.2 shake late last night.

The powerful quake in Haiti registered strongly in a water well in Christiansburg, in southwestern Virginia, operated by the Va. Department of Environmental Quality and monitored by the USGS.

The well is very sensitive to seismic waves passing through the Earth, and water levels will rise and fall sharply in response to large quakes around the world. Here (below) is the tracing of the well's water levels in the past few days. The Haiti quake is reflected in the sharp spike - more than 9 inches - on Jan. 12.

USGS officials in Baltimore said they have seen no similar response to the quake in water wells monitored in Maryland or Delaware. (No word from dog owners. Here's how one pooch reacted seconds BEFORE the recent quake off the Northern California coast.)

USGS well in Christianburg, Va. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Earthquakes

Next storm for Baltimore will be rain

There is a storm in the forecast for Baltimore. The National Weather Service says we have a 60 percent chance for precipitation on Sunday as another storm crosses the southeastern U.S. and January rain in Baltimoretracks up the coast.

This time, with temperatures in the mid-Atlantic expected to be above freezing - in the upper 30s - we should get rain.

UPDATE: Well, now the latest NWS forecast is admitting the possibility of snow showers (at least west of I-95) as the storm begins, changing to a cold rain, then back to snow showers as the system pulls away. Earlier post resumes below. is calling for "heavy" rain Sunday as the coastal storm cranks up. Here's how Mr. Foot and his team see it.

If so, this will be the first precip to fall as rain in the city since New Year's Day. That was also the last time the mercury has topped 40 degrees at BWI Marshall Airport. We could cross that mark again on Thursday, with forecast highs in the lower 40s. On Friday we could reach 50 for the first time since Dec. 27.

(UPDATE: Looks like BWI has already touched 40 degrees this afternoon. )

The warming trend will help us clear away the scattered remnants of the big December snowstorm. With any luck Sunday's rain will also rinse my car of its salty crust. The lines at the car wash have been too long, so the car remains a two-tone, green-and-gray job.

And if the forecast holds up, we could get through Saturday or Sunday nights without dropping below freezing. If so, it would be the first night that's happened since Dec. 26.

Until then, the NWS forecast office at Sterling says we should expect the cloud deck we're under this (Wednesday) morning to thin this afternoon. We should see stars tonight and sunny skies and rising temperatures for the rest of the week, until the rain moves in on Sunday.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday looks, from this distance, to be mostly cloudy, with highs in the lower 40s. UPDATE: MLK Day should be partly sunny.

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/Jan. 10, 2000)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

January 12, 2010

Earthquakes common in Caribbean

This evening's devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti has been followed by a series of large aftershocks measuring more than 5.0 on the Richter scale. It was also preceded by  smaller quakes (2.9 to 3.4) in Puerto Rico, across the Mona Passage from the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Here's more news from Haiti.

USGSAlthough it is not as familiar as the Pacific's seismically and volcanically active "Ring of Fire," the Caribbean Islands also lie on an active fault system. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are all facts of life in the islands, past and present.

The much-visited port of Charlotte Amalie, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was the scene of a devastating tsunami in 1867 that sent a 20-foot wall of water surging in to the harbor. Large U.S. Naval ships were beached by the waves. Other Caribbean ports also felt the tsunami.

Another large quake (magnitude 7.5) in October 1918 struck Puerto Rico. It killed more than 100 people, caused widespread damage, and sent a tsunami as high as 20 feet ashore.

An earthquake in Jamaica in 1692 destroyed the port city of Kingston, and dropped it into the sea. More than 5,000 people died. Jamaicans felt the Tuesday evening quake in Haiti, too.

The most famous volcanic event in the Caribbean was the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pele, on theMonserrat ash flow French island of Martinique.  Now regarded as the deadliest volcanic eruprtion of the 20th century, it killed nearly all 30,000 residents of the capital, Saint-Pierre.

One of the two survivors lived because he was in a poorly ventilated jail cell.

On the island of Monserrat (right), the Soufriere Hills volcano has been in some state of eruption since 1995, when it destroyed the capital town of Plymouth. Two-thirds of the island's population was forced to leave. Here's a recent satellite photo.

(AP PHOTO/Brennan Linsley, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:01 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Earthquakes

US was colder in December, but 2009 was warm

The lower 48 states were much colder than average in December, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But overall, the year 2009 ended slightly warmer than the long-term average. 

The report from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center also notes a number of notable factoids, some of which WeatherBlog readers already know about:

Snow cover Jan. 12, 2010* December 2009 was the wettest on record for Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

* It was also the snowiest December on record for a number of mid-Atlantic cities, including Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia. Oklahoma City, too, saw its snowiest December ever as arctic air invaded the South.

* The average snow cover for the contiguous U.S. reached 4.1 million square kilometers, the greatest expanse of snow on record for any December since satellite observations began in 1966. (That's the latest snow cover map, at left.)

The December State of the Climate Report says the lower 48 states averaged 30.2 degrees in December. That's very cold - 3.2 degrees below the average. It was also pretty wet. Average precipitation was 2.88 inches, about 0.65 inch above the 1901-2000 average.

But for the whole year, the lower 48 states were both wetter and warmer than average. Temperatures across the country averaged 53.1 degrees Fahrenheit, 0.3 degrees warmer than the long-term average. The average precipitation was 31.47 inches, or 2.33 inches above the long-term average.

Regions that ended the year warmer than average included parts of the South, Southwest and West. The cooler regions included the Central Plains and the Midwest.

You can read more of the NCDC report here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

January 11, 2010

Not much better in Florida

Just received this dispatch from Steve Zubrick, the science and operations officer from the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, who last week was shivering in Florida:

"Frank: From today's Miami Herald online-

"The National Weather Service reported 36 degrees at the Miami airport, beating an 82-year-old record of 37 degrees. It dipped to 42 degrees in Key West, one degree off the record and the second-coldest reading since 1873.
``I even had ice on my car this morning, which was an unbelievable sight for Miami,'' said Dan Gregoria, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
"It was 14 degrees Monday morning in Tallahassee, breaking the record of 15 set in 1982. Record-tying lows of 29 were observed in Orlando, and Tampa's 25-degree weather beat its old record of 27.

"South Florida is usually around 68 degrees this time of year."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:43 PM | | Comments (0)

Relief: "Normal" temperatures by Wednesday

Seems there's heat AND light at the end of the tunnel. Forecasters out at Sterling say Baltimore should be basking in near-normal high temperatures on Wednesday, with the mercury approaching 50 degrees by the end of the week.

That and a generally sunny week should get rid of all but the biggest remaining heaps of snow and ice in the region. But we're hardly out of the woods yet. We've barely reached the middle of January - our snowiest month on average. And then we face the perils of mid-February, when the Happy to see the snow meltbulk of our biggest historic snowstorms have struck.

Eight of the top-20 snowstorms on record for Baltimore have occurred between Feb. 5 and Feb. 19. (See table below, which does not yet include last month's 21.1-inch snowstorm, now No. 7.)

Short-term, there is a slim risk of a few snow showers or flurries east of the mountains tonight. But Sterling has no plans to issue any advisories. What little accumulating snow action there is will be confined to the usual mountainous terrain well to our west, forecasters say, "and even that will be meager." One to 3 more inches are forecast tonight for Garrett.

The chill will be with us today and Tuesday, with highs only in the mid-30s. The average highs for this time of year at BWI are around 41 degrees. And next weekend - or thereabouts - will mark what are the coldest days of the year, on average. From there, the averages begin to warm toward spring. We passed the latest sunrise on Jan. 4, so we'll see more and more sunlight on both ends of the day from now on.

By Wednesday we'll break 40, forecasters say. And the forecast highs for Friday will close in on 50 degrees before we turn colder again. There's a chance of more snow on the weekend. Stay tuned.

This morning's low at BWI was 16 degrees, no threat to the record of 1 degree, set on this date in 1982. We had 12 degrees out on the WeatherDeck, and a low of 21 degrees here at Calvert and Centre streets. Here are some other lows from around the region this morning. 

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron/February 2007)

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 10:34 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts

Back when it was REALLY cold...

Cold? This isn't cold. Here are some snippets from the Baltimore Sun printed during this week in 1912, a week that saw temperatures drop to minus-40 degrees in Oakland, Md., the lowest ever recorded in the state.

"Hagerstown, Md. Jan. 13 - Last night was the coldest in Washington county in the last 50 years.

"Weather observer D. Paul Oswald, near Chewsville, reported a minimum temperature of 27 Cold weather Washingtondegrees below zero, shown by a Government thermometer ...

"The lowest temperature reported in the county was at Smithburg, where John Bayer's thermometer, hanging near a small creek, registered 33 degrees below zero..

"The Potomac River is frozen over from shore to shore at Weverton and Williamsport.

"Fruit growers generally believe that the intense cold has frozen the wood in peach trees and destroyed the prospective peach crop, except in orchards located in the mountain foothills, where the cold was not so intense. The ground is covered with 12 inches of snow and ice on the ponds is from 8 to 12 inches thick..."

In Baltimore, meanwhile...

"Headlines: Bread Lines at Stations; Police Give Big Quantities of Food, Fuel and Clothing; Hundreds of Families Aided.

"Jan. 15, 1912: Much relief work was done by members of the Police Department yesterday among those who are suffering as a result of the intensely cold weather of the last week. In every district the men working the posts have found large numbers of families in want, and these have been supplied with food enough to last them several days, fuel and clothing...

"Fifty persons were adequately clothed at the Southern Police Station yesterday, and the supply of clothing has not yet been exhausted. Saturday and yesterday, 3,000 families were given provisions sufficient for two days, and any person who appeared without sufficient clothing to protect him from the cold was taken into Capt. Cole's office and fitted out from head to foot. No applicant for assistance was turned away unsatisfied...

"Mrs. Mary Stevens, a widow with three small children, was discovered helpless in her home, 1415 Belt Street, by Patrolman Hoeflich in the afternoon. There was no fuel in the house, and neither she nor any of the children had good shoes. Want of shoes, the woman said, had caused two of the children to remain away from school for the last week...Ice storm, Baltimore

"[In the Northern Distict,] the station had the appearance yesterday of a department store, where anything, from potatoes to coal, might be obtained....

"The police of the Eastern District were busy all day preparing for the distribution of food, clothing and fuel to the poor today. Large donations were received at the station. Once man called the station by telephone and told the lieutenant in charge that he would send 500 loaves of bread. Many people left money, food and clothing. The men in the station were busy heaping things in piles, while the patrolmen on their beats were looking out for cases of destitution."

"Port Deposit, Md. Jan. 14 - Ice conditions at Port Deposit tonight look bad.

"In the deep tidewater, off the south end of town, the ice averages about 14 inches, and at the north end of town, or Rock Run, it is from 8 to 15 feet thick, being compressed and jammed by the swift water of a four-foot flood on the early freeze January 5. Since the last movement of the ice, the intense cold has cemented it in high ridges extending in places to the Harford shore...

"Ellicott City, Md., Jan. 14 - Howard county is now experiencing the coldest weather since 1888.

"This morning at 6 o'clock the thermometer here registered 10 degrees below zero. At Highland, 10 miles form here, 12 degrees below was recorded.

"It is feared that if the intense cold continues for a few days longer there will be a water famine, as the water pipes are all frozen up and many persons are now using water from the streams. It is reported from numerous sections of the county that many rabbits and partridges are being found frozen and in many places partridges come to the farmhouses and are fed with the domestic fowls. Ice 10 inches thick is being harvested..."

(Above: AFP/Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm/Washington December 2009; Below: SUN PHOTO/Mark Bugnaski/January 1994)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather

January 8, 2010

Why so cold? Blame the North Atlantic Oscillation

 Cold, snow in Baltimore

I received this question in a reader comment a little while ago. Seemed like a fair one:

"Why so cold this year Frank?  Jet stream - El nino?  Any indication that it will continue?  Wasn't planning a break but with these temps may break up the winter with a trip to the Keys."

Check before you fly off to the Keys. The forecast there for Sunday calls for a high of 57 degrees and a low of 46. I've been there in that kind of weather. It ain't no picnic.

As for why it's been so cold, I sent the question to Chris Strong, at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling. Here's his reply:

"The North Atlantic Oscillation is the reason for recent cold. It is a cycle that to a large extent governs how cold we are here at any given time.

"Unlike the El Nino/La Nina cycle which happens over years, the NAO cycles over weeks.  Here is a link to the recent trend on the Climate Prediction Center's webpage...

"However, I would caution that we are grading 'cold' on the skewed scale compared to our relative mild weather over the past several years. A few thoughts:

* November was over 4 degrees above normal (very mild), which will also alter people's impressions going into winter.

* Looking at Dec 1-Jan 7, we are 27th coldest in Baltimore's records with a 33.7 degree avg. 1876-7 was coldest at 26.0 degrees, but more recent colder were 1989-90 27.8 (#3) and 2000-01 at 29.5 (#5).

* December was a few degrees below normal, but was just our 36th coldest on record.

* The first week of Jan has been cold, but as the first week of January goes, it was just the 24th coldest on record.

* Another important temperature records have been broken this winter in Baltimore."

So, maybe it's not so cold, after all. And if it feels cold, just figure the NAO can change over a period of weeks. It can't last forever.

(AP PHOTO/Steve Ruark/Jan. 8, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:36 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Phenomena

December storm ranked among five worst of decade

The big December storm that dropped a record 21.1 inches of snow on Baltimore has been ranked among the five worst of the decade in terms of its impact on the Northeast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given the snowstorm a rating of 3 ("Major") on its Northeast Snowstorm Impact Scale (NESIS). It is now the smallest Cat. 3 storm of the 12 on record.

NOAA/NESISThe NESIS system was developed in 2004 to provide a systematic way for meteorologists (and the rest of us) to compare Northeast snowstorms. The system generates an index number based on snow depth (at least 10 inches), geographic expanse and the size of the affected population. Rankings range from Cat. 5 ("Extreme") to Cat. 1 "Notable").

NOAA found that the December storm, which dumped top-ten snow on Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, was not an especially large storm, and did not have much impact on big population centers in New York and Boston. So, it got a 3 on the NESIS scale.

Even so, only four other storms in the past decade have ranked that high or higher. They include storms in December 2002 (Category 3); February 2003 (Category 4); January 2005 (Category 4); February 2006 (Category 3) and February 2007 (Category 3).

The highest-impact storms on the NESIS scale - and the only ones to get a Cat. 5 - are the “Superstorm” on March 1993 followed by the “Blizzard of ’96” in January 1996. The scale was developed in 2004, and ranks Northeast storms dating back to 1888.

Here's more from NOAA on its decision. And this link takes you to the ranked storms.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

If clouds clear, a peek at the Int'l Space Station

When I stuck my head outside this morning, I spied stars overhead, and I thought we'd get lucky with an early departure of the snow clouds.

But things seem to have clouded over again at mid-day, so there's some concern that this evening's flyover by the International Space Station might be obscured.

The forecast from Sterling does leave some hope. It calls for skies to clear to only partly cloudy tonight. So, just in case, here are the particulars for tonight's pass by the ISS, in the hope some of us will get lucky, brave the cold and wind, and step outside for a look.

NASA/ISSThis will be a very bright pass for the ISS, with a forecast magnitude of -3.0. That's as bright as Jupiter at its best, so we should have no problem spotting the station from anywhere in the region, even if there is a thin veil of clouds.

Look for the contraption to appear above the southwest horizon, to the right of Jupiter, at 5:42 p.m. It will appear like a bright, moving star. If you see colored lights, flashing strobes or multiple lights it is an aircraft. Keep looking (The kids are great at this.)

It will climb into the northwest sky, pass Cygnus the Swan and the Summer Triangle, and rise almost two-thirds of the way from the horizon to the zenith (straight up) by 5:45 p.m. 

ISS is orbiting at 17,500 mph, and at its highest point will be about 250 miles from observers in Baltimore. Be sure to wave. There are five people on board at the moment, including two Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut.

From there it will zip off toward the northeast, disappearing at about 5:47 p.m.

As always, if you see the flyby, stop back here, leave a comment and share the experience with readers who missed it. Good luck.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:52 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Sky Watching

Two inches of the fluffy stuff

The best thing that can be said about this morning's snowfall was that it was pretty, and fluffy, and easy to dispose of. And it gave the kids a chance to sleep in as most schools systems in the region closed or delayed their openings.

But it was not an impressive storm. Alberta Clippers just don't usually pack enough moisture to bring civilization to a crawl. So for most of us, getting out and about this morning was no big deal. Another good thing.

A check of accumulation reports this morning shows most readings were consistently in the 1- to 2-inch range, as per the late-afternoon forecasts from Sterling. Here below is a sampling. There are more here.Snowstorm Jan. 8, 2010

The WeatherDeck in Cockeysville:  1.5 inches

BWI Marshall Airport:  1.7 inches

Crownsville, Anne Arundel:  2.1 inches

Long Green, Baltimore Co.:  2.0 inches 

Towson: 1.0 inch

Essex:  1.5 inches

Pimlico:  2.0 inches

Westminster, Carroll Co.: 1.8 inches

Waldorf, Charles Co.:  2.2 inchesUCAR

Frederick:  1.2 inches

Edgewood, Harford Co.:  2.0 inches

Columbia, Howard Co.:  1.9 inches

Great Mills, St. Mary's Co.:  2.2 inches

For the season to date, BWI has recorded 24.9 inches of snow, if I read it correctly. The long-term average is about 18 inches. 

Forecasters say there are still a few showers and flurries in the region. But they should be clearing out as the arctic cold front passes. Temperatures won't rise much today, and winds will pick up to 18 mph, with gusts to 35 mph, making it feel lots colder. Wind chills will dip into the teens. , and below zero in the western mountains, where snow showers will continue.

The good news is that we'll see plenty of sunshine this weekend and right into next week. But it will be cold, with weekend highs in the 20s (10 to 15 degrees below the average), and lows in the teens. Things begin to creep back toward the norms by Monday. 

(SUN PHOTO/Kim Hairston/Jan. 8, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:10 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

Biggest wave ever surfed? Riding the monster

Early December 2009 saw some of the biggest surf in decades on the north shores of the Hawaiian Islands. The storm-driven waves dwarfed the crazed dudes and dudettes who took them on. This video needs no further comment from me.


Here's more from

"This week the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center issued an alert confirming that the current El Nino episode had intensified in the last 30 days from "moderate" to "strong," adding that the condition would exert a "significant influence on the global weather and climate in the coming months." And for surfers in the North Pacific basin, that means more enormous waves. According to, major new swell events are lining up in the coming days, impacting the Hawaiian Islands around Monday and the West Coast around Wednesday of next week."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

January 7, 2010

Astonishing snow photo from orbit

NASA/Terra Earth observing satelliteI know lots of people will point to this as "proof" that global warming is a hoax. But it is such an astonishing image - all of England, Wales and Scotland covered in snow - that I just had to post it. 

With snow and bitter cold over much of the United States this week, and much of the same across northern Europe and northeast China, this is shaping up as a very impressive year for winter weather, and a wonder to behold. Just remember that averages are made up of extremes on both sides of the long-term trend line.

Here's a link to the larger photo file and an article.


And if you're interested, here's a link to the site that tracks the Earth's snow cover daily. You can animate the images and watch the snow line expeand and retreat. Fascinating.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:01 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Cool pictures

Storm track "favors" northern counties

UPDATE:  The NWS seems to be backpedaling a bit on its snow forecast this afternoon. Meteorologists are now calling for 1-2 inches across northern Maryland, and only an inch south of Baltimore. The storm track appears to be turning more northward, through PA, which will invite drier air to push into our region sooner rather than later, cutting off the snow. Another inch could fall during rush hour. Earlier post below.    

Forecasters believe Maryland counties north and west of I-95 are likely to see more snow than Southern Maryland as the track of the approaching Alberta Clipper begins to emerge from successive runs of the forecast computers.

The NWS has issued Winter Weather Advisories until 10 a.m. Friday from Allegany County to Harford County, including Baltimore County and City, Howard and Montgomery counties. From Baltimore south, including Prince George's County, there is only Hazardous Weather Outlook, suggesting less snow and less disruptive conditions south of Baltimore.

Snow tieThat's pretty typical of these Alberta Clipper storms. They're relatively dry; they move quickly, and their snow trail is pretty narrowly focused.

The forecast for Baltimore calls for 1 to 3 inches of light, fluffy snow tonight, beginning mostly after 10 p.m. AccuWeather.comas temperatures drop into the mid-20s. The snow will continue into the morning rush hour, with another inch or so possible before it ends.

Here's's snow forecast map.

Here's Mr. Foot's forecast. He seems to be leaning toward a prediction that schools - at least in the northern counties - will close or delay: 

"It is highly probable many school systems affected by this snowfall may be delayed or closed. Snow will be falling at the crucial decision time of 4 to 5 AM. Were a large school system to announce a delay at 5:00 AM, there is only a 2 hour window delay during which a re-examination of conditions can occur. The 850 mb data clearly shows that by 7 am on Friday, the final shortwave now in Mississippi will not have cleared the region.

"Stormcasters and Student Collaborators are monitoring this system closely because it contains vigorous energy that will feature high liquid-to-snow ratios due to very cold air at upper levels. Will it be another case of "storms from the west don't bring extra rest?"  Tonight, prudent teachers and students will no doubt still do the right thing and get homework and lesson planning completed as usual."  NOAA/NWS

The snow will end quickly as the storm moves on toward New England, stopping first in the southern counties as the storm draws dry air - the "dry slot" - into the southern and eastern range of its center.

Behind it we'll see temperatures drop and winds accelerate, forecasters say. The weekend looks sunny but cold, in the 20s - that's 15 to 20 degrees below the average for this time of year- with overnight lows in the teens. Wind chills will be in single digits.

Out in Garrett County, where it has been snowing all week (21 inches this week at Wisp) , they're expecting another 7 to 11 inches from the clipper tonight. And the upslope, lake-effect snows will resume after the clipper passes by. Wind chills will fall to between 5 and 10 degrees below zero Saturday night. 

For the record, forecasters at Sterling are already mentioning another clipper-type storm for Tuesday of next week.

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

January 6, 2010

Bracing for big BGE bills

All this cold weather, and talk of more to come, will have many of us dreading the arrival of our next utility bills. BGE is already anticipating our pain, with a release Wednesday reminding us of all the ways to ease the bite on our wallets, or at least spread it out, with links to a variety of resources.

Adjust the thermostatThe company is urging customers to switch to Budget Billing, to slide some of the high costs of winter heating (and summer cooling) into the more manageable spring and autumn months.

They're also warning us that many meters weren't read during last month's snowstorm, so some of us will receive estimated bills that could be higher (or, temporarily at least, lower) than we are expecting. And snow days had lots of us at home, running up the bills when we're usually off at school or work. That may increase our surprise when the tab arrives.

Heat pump users can also expect steep bills this month because of the high cost of running the units' auxilliary heating mechanisms.

There's more, including a list of tips on ways to lower your energy consumption. Click here.

(SUN PHOTO/Elizabeth Malby/Feb. 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:18 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Winter weather

Two to four inches by Friday AM possible

The Alberta Clipper snowstorm expected to blow through the region late Thursday into Friday morning could bring portions of the area 2 to 4 inches of snow. That seems to be the implication of this morning's forecast discussion out of the National Weather Service at Sterling.

Wisp ski lift and trailAlthough there are no explicit predictions yet from the NWS for how much snow could accumulate, the discussion does say that "Snow will spread across the forecast area Thursday night and Friday before rapid erosion as a dry slot dominates through Friday morning. Accumulations at advisory threshhold likely for portions of the area."

Translation: It's going to snow, beginning late Thursday and continuing into early Friday morning. The snowfall will end rapidly, however, as the storm draws a slug of dry air into the area. Accumulations at "advisory threshhold" means enough to warrant issuance of a Winter Weather Advisory, the threshhold for which is 2 to 4 inches, or enough to cause "significant inconvenience."

The discussion also notes that the snow will be followed by increasing northwest winds and colder temperatures through the weekend. It's likely to feel a lot like last weekend, sunny, but with highs only in the upper 20s, and overnight lows in the mid-teens at BWI. Here's the forecast.

Mr. Foot and his team are expecting less than 4 inches here. has this to say.

Meanwhile, the snow continues to fall in Garrett County, as persistent northwest winds draw moisture off the still-not-frozen Great Lakes, and shove it up the western slopes, where it falls as lake-effect snow.

That snow is forecast to continue today, although forecasters say it will begin to ease up and quit by 7 p.m. or so this (Wednesday) evening. Once the Alberta Clipper passes, however, and the northwest blow resumes, so will the upslope snows in Garrett.

So far, the Wisp ski resort in McHenry (photo) reports 9 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours, making it 19 inches for the week and 72 inches for the season. The average winter in Garrett brings about 116  inches of snow. BWI gets 18 inches on average, although we have already surpassed that this year, at 22 inches.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:15 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Forecasts

January 5, 2010

Alberta Clipper Friday good for "several inches"

Forecasters out at Sterling have begun to focus more on Friday's weather. And while they insist it's still too soon to begin predicting accumulations, they are now calling it a "vigorous" system," with plenty of cold air in place to make it an all-snow event. And, they have allowed that "several inches will be possible."

I don't think it's time to assume the predictions will escalate the way they did for the Dec. 19 storm. Alberta Clippers, which surge out of central Canada and move quickly to the East Coast, simply don't offer the kind of moisture, or the lingering pace that we often see with the big, wet storms that come out of the Gulf of Mexico and drive up the coast.

But it's looking like this will cause plenty of problems to our west, from the Northern Plains to western Pennsylvania, and more than a dusting here. The snow will fall on cold pavement and blow around in stiff winds, followed by weekend temperatures more than 10 degrees below average. (see map) is predicting 1 to 2 inches. Mr. Foot & Co. are calling it 4 inches. Either way, I'd begin to plan for some impact on schools Friday morning.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Need snow? Go west to wintry Garrett Co.

Marylanders who dread snow know why they live in the eastern part of the state. Easterners who love snow, and can't ever seem to get enough of it here, need to spend more time in Maryland's mountainous west. For, as cold and snowy as it's been here so far this winter, Garrett is where winter is really happening.

WISP web camI've never been able to find a reliable online measure for the season's snowfall in Garrett. But just a glance at their forecast this week, and at some of the web cam images from that region of the state (that's the WISP ski resort at left), leave no doubt that the place is getting loads of snow.

UPDATE: Just got this from Lori Epp, the director of marketing for WISP: "It's been snowing in Deep Creek Lake, Md. for seven days straight now, and no complaints from us folks at WISP."

ANOTHER UPDATE, 6 p.m.: A Winter Storm Warning has been issued for Garrett County until 1 p.m. Wednesday. They're expecting another foot of snow overnight at some higher elevations.

McHenry, near Deep Creek Lake, is expecting 3 to 5 inches of new snow today. The white stuff is blowing around in 18 mph west winds. There's more on tap - another 2 to 4 inches - in the forecast for Wednesday. And the snow-shower icons just keep coming through the end of the week. But don't forget your longjohns and your face masks. By Friday the overnight lows will drop into the single digits.

The cold Canadian air and snow - Baltimore could still see some flurries Tuesday - continue to beTides Online driven our way by north winds pumped between a counter-clockwise rotation around a stubborn low over northeastern Canada, and the clockwise rotation around a high west of the Great Lakes.

The persistently strong north winds have been driving the water out of the Chesapeake Bay, resulting in low tides one to two feet below forecast levels. (Red line at right shows actual tide levels; blue line shows predicted levels). They are recovering now as winds subside, but if you have any low-water photos, I'd love to see them.

And while the winds should be diminishing, and temperatures moderating (a little) this week, there is more wintry weather headed our way at week's end.

WISP resortForecasters out at Sterling are calling for a chance of snow Thursday afternoon and evening as a small disturbance sweeps around the edges of a new invasion of arctic air into the nation's midsection. Any accumulations will be light, they say. Prospects for the development of a coastal storm, and a more serious snowfall for Baltimore, seem to have disappeared. (You want snow? See above.)

The real news, once again this weekend, will be more below-normal cold temperatures and another round of high winds as the new, colder air mass arrives. The forecast for BWI calls for highs to drop below the freezing mark Thursday night and stay there until Monday. Overnight lows will reach the teens Friday night, and dip as low as 15 on Saturday night into Sunday.

(PHOTOS Courtesy of WISP resort) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:03 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Winter weather

January 4, 2010

Snow flurries today; week ends colder

Baltimore's western suburbs could see some accumulating snow showers Monday afternoon as frigid air swinging around the deep low-pressure area centered on the Gulf of Maine, and a high over central Canada continues to influence our weather.

Forecasters out at Sterling said flurries and snow showers will be widespread later today, with as much as a half-inch accumulating west of the urban corridor. Snow continues to fall, meanwhile, out in far western Maryland, with Winter Weather Advisories continued through tonight for 2 to 4 inches of additional accumulation in the Alleghenies.Cold January in Baltimore

Ah, winter.

And that's not the half of it. As cold as it's been - and we've had 22 days of below-average temperatures since Dec. 1 - there is another arctic outbreak poised to surge into the Great Plains with more sub-zero temperatures and wind-chills.

And forecasters expect the cold air will eventually spread across the eastern two-thirds of the country, all the way to the Florida peninsula. That will drive our temperatures (after a brief "warmup" at mid-week) back into the 20s for daytime highs by week's end, and deep into the teens at night.

With that cold firmly in place, everybody's watching for the next storm systems to arrive. The first will likely be a relatively light snow-producer, tracking across the country from the Northern Plains to the East Coast with just a few inches of fluffy snow, but sending it deep into the South where snow is scarce, forecasters say.

The second shoe to drop will be a coastal low that's also expected to develop later in the week. How that will connect with the cross-country storm, and whether the coastal storm will charge up the beach or head out to sea, remain in question. 

But for now, in this morning's forecast discussion, Sterling's forecasters are saying that conditions expected later this week "favor at least non-negligible chances for precipitation Thursday night and Friday in the forecast area. Expected thermodynamic profiles favor snow."\

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis/January 2000) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:12 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Forecasts

January 3, 2010

Winter digs in; flakes in the forecast

Arctic air, hauled out of Canada and pumped all the way to the Gulf Coast, is making this one brutally cold weekend in Central Maryland. One of my chores today will be to shut off the indoor valves to the outdoor spigots and then open the outdoor valves so the pipes can drain when we finally get above freezing again. (We've had one of those pipes freeze before; don't need to go through that again.)

And forecasters have put some flakes back in the forecast. They're calling for flurries Monday and Tuesday, and some have an eye out for a more significant snowfall for the weekend.

Here are some of the overnight lows, top sustained winds from across the region. Normal low for BWI on Jan. 3 is 24 degrees:

WeatherDeck in Cockeysville: 16 degrees; 16 mph

Baltimore Sun, Calvert & Centre:Wind 18 degrees;  11 mph

BWI-Marshall:  16 degrees; 28 mph

Washington-Reagan:  17 degrees; 25 mph

Washington-Dulles:  15 degrees:  30 mph

Annapolis:  18 degrees; 22 mph

Baltimore, Inner Harbor:  19 degrees; NA

Frederick:  15 degrees; 22 mph

Hagerstown:  15 degrees: 29 mph

Salisbury:  18 degrees: 22 mph

Elkins, WV:  5 degrees; 16 mph

High winds are contributing to power outages across the region. More than 8,000 BGE customers were without power at mid-day Sunday.

A powerful low-pressure system in the Gulf of Maine is producing blizzard conditions in northern New England. And the counter-clockwise flow around the low - coupled with clockwise flow around high pressure in the middle of the country - is responsible for the cold air being pumped south out of the arctic. Wind Advisories remain in effect through 6 p.m. Sunday for Central Maryland.

The cold air has surged all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and into South Florida. Check out the chilly forecasts for New Orleans and Miami.

The National Weather Service is forecasting snow showers here on Monday and Tuesday as cold winds off the Great Lakes drag some moisture our way. Unlike flurries, snow showers can produce some small accumulations.

Out in Western Maryland, lake effect snows are generating some fairly sustained snowfalls and several inches of accumulations today, with more due for much of the rest of the week. Winter Weather Advisories are posted for Garrett and parts of Allegany counties.

But the most interesting forecasts for our area are coming from the weather bloggers at AccuWeather and Foot's Forecast. They're watching the climate models and forecast models and they see a storm shaping up for Friday or Saturday that could produce real snow along the  I-95 corridor.

The basic scenario is familiar: plenty of very cold air in place east of the mountains, with a storm predicted to arrive from the west, and a low developing off the coast. Here's AccuWeather's Frank Strait on the prospects, from a Southeastern point of view. (He gets to it about 6:45 into the piece.)

But so far, the NWS is going only so far as to predict "a chance of snow showers" Thursday night and Friday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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