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April 30, 2010

Feb. snow pile survives into May

Charlie Charnigo 

Our Lancaster correspondent reports on Friday afternoon that the remnants of the mammoth Lancaster, Pa. snow pile he first photographed in February is still hanging in there on April 30. But just barely.

"Would you believe it is still there! It will be there tomorrow [May 1], but I think it will be gone by next week," said Charlie Charnigo. He sent us the photo above, taken Friday April 30, to prove it. "We will see what is left, if any, next Friday. But it did make it to May for sure. Thanks for the interest in my little project."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:27 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Cool pictures

Perfect today; T-storms expected this weekend

It would be hard to prescribe a better day than this one. A high near 80 degrees, lots of sunshine and a dry southwest breeze. Perfect, except that I am stuck in here, looking out.

The NWS forecast for the weekend may become a disappointment for those of us working on the best days, and looking forward to making up for it on the weekend. The folks at Sterling say the Bermuda high that is parked offshore and bringing us this delightful weather will begin to pump in Perfect weatherwarmer, and more humid air as the weekend gets underway.

They say we can expect increasing clouds on Saturday as the moisture builds. Temperatures will climb a bit deeper into the 80s. And by late afternoon or evening there may be some isolated thunderstorms around.

(Clouds and storms Saturday would likely obscure our view of another fine pass by the International Space Station. In case we get lucky, look for the ISS in the southwest at 8:27 p.m. EDT, climbing high into the northwest sky by 8:30 p.m., then sliding off to the northeast and disappearing at 8:33 p.m.)

The real weather moves in on Sunday, with the approach of the next cold front, forecasters say. Heat and humidity will increase the instability of the atmosphere, setting off more showers and thunderstorms. Some could become strong to severe, especially late into the day and Sunday evening as the cold front crosses the region. Plenty of moisture means there could be some localized heavy rainfall and flash flood threats. Or, we could get lucky. Some forecast models delay the frontal passage into Monday.

After the front goes by, high temperatures will drop back into the 70s Tuesday and Wednesday as cooler air moves in from the northwest.

In the meantime, the weather is great. The only hitch with the sunshine, breezes and low humidity is a continuing enhanced fire danger. So crush those smokes and skip the open burning for now. 

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

April 29, 2010

Breeze, low humidity boost fire danger

Crush those smokes today. And it would be best to delay any outdoor burning you planned. Strong breezes and low humidity are adding to the danger of wildfires across Maryland on Brush fireThursday.

The National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement for all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, noting the increased risk that outdoor fires will spread and get out of control. On the Eastern Shore, the NWS forecast office in Mt. Holly, N.J. has posted Red Flag Warnings for all of Delaware and the Maryland's northern Shore counties.

Relative humidity readings are already dropping in the Baltimore area, from 61 percent this morning to 39 percent just before noon at The Sun. The NWS says those readings will sink to around 25 percent this afternoon, while winds gust to 25 mph.

The statement and warning are in effect from noon until 8 p.m. this evening.

(SUN PHOTO/Doug Kapustin 2001)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Clear skies likely for tonight's space station flyby

Space Cadets! Step outside Thursday evening and catch a glimpse of billions of the world's tax dollars as they fly over Baltimore aboard the International Space Station.

The ISS will make an especially bright and high pass over Central Maryland shortly after 9 p.m.Progress supply ship/NASA The forecast calls for clear skies, so the station will be easily visible from just about anywhere in the region with a broad view of the sky, even in downtown Baltimore. Be sure to take the kids, and grab the attention of any joggers or dog-walkers that happen by. Point out the station to them and they'll think you're a genius. Or a total geek.

Give yourself a few extra minutes on either end of this flyby. On Wednesday just after noon EDT, the Russians launched an unmanned Progress supply ship (photo, right) which is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Saturday with tons of food, water, oxygen and other cargo. There's a chance we'll be able to spot Progress flying a few minutes ahead of, or behind the ISS during this pass. Being smaller than the ISS, Progress will reflect less sunlight and appear dimmer in the night sky. It may be harder to spot amid urban lighting.

Look for the ISS to rise above the southwest horizon beginning at 9:12 p.m. EDT. It will look like a steady, bright star, climbing into the sky at a brisk pace. If you see something that blinks, or sports multiple or colored lights, it's an airplane. Keep looking.

The station will pass very close to Pollux, the southernmost of the twin stars of Gemini. Just south of Pollux and the ISS you can find reddish Mars. Venus will be shining very low in the west.

NASA/ISSAt 9:15 p.m. the ISS will reach its highest elevation of this pass, about two-thirds of the way from the northwest horizon to the zenith (straight up). At that moment, it will be 238 miles from observers in Baltimore.

There are currently six astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the outpost - five men and one woman. Three are Russians, two are Americans, and one is Japanese.  

From there, watch as the station passes by the lip of the Big Dipper, and sails off toward the northeast, disappearing into the Earth's shadow at 9:19 p.m.

The ISS is nearly complete. It now has a mass of more than 800,000 pounds. It has been occupied continuously since November 2000. It circles the globe 16 times a day at 17,500 mph, eventually passing over 90 percent of the Earth's surface.  To explore the station through an interactive NASA "photosynth" display, click here.

Good luck. And, as always, drop back here after the flyby, leave a comment, and let other readers know where you were, what you saw and how everybody reacted.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Sky Watching

April 27, 2010

Frost possible overnight, 80s by the weekend

That's April for you. Forecasters out at Sterling Tuesday night are warning residents across the northern tier of Maryland counties to expect frost overnight as skies clear at NOAAtemperatures dip into the upper 30s for only the seventh time this month. Western Maryland could see lows in the 20s.

Frost advisories were posted from Harford County west to Washington County. There were freeze warnings farther west in Allegany County. The Frost Advisories include Howard and Montgomery counties, but not Baltimore City or the southern portions of Baltimore County. They mean that sensitive outdoor plants may freeze if they're not covered.

The cold threat won't last long. Daytime highs will climb this week into the 70s, and to the 80s by the weekend, if the forecast holds up. We may even reach the upper 80s by Sunday or Monday. Overnight lows will rebound into the 60s by the weekend.

The warming trend comes courtesy of a building region of high pressure later this week. Once the center moves by and we get into a southwest or westerly flow around the backside of the clockwise circulation, temperatures will climb. The heat will likely break with a cold front Monday, accompanied by showers and thunderstorms.  

(NOAA Photo Library)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

April 26, 2010

Towson, Baltimore took brunt of overnight rain

Sunday's rains got a late start, but when the skies finally opened up, they produced a gusher - especially in the Baltimore region, where morning traffic was a mess as a result of flooding on the JFX.

(It took me 65 minutes to drive from Timonium to downtown Baltimore, normally a 25-minute drive. Bailed off the Beltway at the top of the JFX, took Falls Road, which was jammed, too. Then Lake Avenue, to Roland, to University, to St. Paul. Got a commuting/weather nightmare story? Leave a comment and unburden yourself. Do you have storm video? Click on the orange "Submit Your Video" You Tube Direct widget on the main page and share.)

Reports to the CoCoRaHS network showed as much as 2 inches of rain fell in Baltimore, Towson and Ellicott City. There was more than an inch of rain overnight in Catonsville, Columbia, Jacksonville and Sykesville.

We recorded about 1.25 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The gauge here at The Sun, at North Calvert and Centre streets shows a storm total of 1.9 inches at 11 a.m. Monday. BWI reported just over an inch from the storms. Here is a sampling of rain totals for the 24 hours ending around 7 a.m. Monday.FLooding on the JFX

Towson:  2.18 inches

Ellicott City:  2.12 inches

Hamilton, (Baltimore City):  1.90 inches

Long Green:  1.84 inches

Frederick:  1.71 inches

Marriottsville:  1.65 inches

Catonsville:  1.57 inches

Columbia:  1.48 inches  

The thunderstorms caused 24,000 power outages among BGE customers, nearly all of which have since been restored. It also produced hail as big as an inch in diameter in many locations across Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, including Frederick and Montgomery counties.

The thunderstorms and showers brought the rain totals for the month at BWI-Marshall Airport to about 2.18 inches. That's a third of an inch behind the "normal" pace for April through Sunday's date. April is, curiously, the driest month of the year at BWI, on average, with just 3.00 inches.

And if this month ends drier than that, it will be only the fourth month in the last 12 to end with below-average precipitation. It's been a very wet 12 months, with more than 17 inches of surplusNOAA precipitation.

We will likely get more rain through the day today as we continue under the influence of a large low-pressure system that is sitting pretty much on top of Maryland this morning, slowly making its way to the coast and out to sea. The barometer stands at a very low 29.33 inches at The Sun at 11:40 a.m. Monday, and is still falling.

We may get a few widely scattered thunderstorms in the late mix today and tonight. But it should all end by the morning rush hour Tuesday, if the forecasters are right. And then skies will begin to clear.

The forecast for the rest of the week looks pretty good, with sunny skies and temperatures climbing through the 60s and into the 70s by the weekend. Good roofing weather.

(SUN PHOTO/Jed Kirschbaum/Flooding on the JFX)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

April 23, 2010

Before the rains, see Mars, Saturn and more

It looks like the clouds and rain that are bearing down on the region may hold off long enough to allow stargazers to enjoy at least one night under a clear sky this weekend.

If so, you'll want to head for the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk campus tonight (Friday) for the free public viewing. Telescopes will be out so that visitors can get a close-up look at the Orion Nebula, the moon, double stars and the planets Mars, Saturn and Venus if Amateur astronomythings go well.

Be sure to bring the kids. Their first view of Saturn and its rings could inspire them to pursue a career in astronomy, physics, math or science. Or they could take the easy way out and become a science writer. You'll get a thrill, too.

The event starts at 9 p.m. Call 410 282-3092 after 7 p.m. for any last-minute information about weather. Click here for directions.

The event at the Dundalk campus is the first of three for stargazers this weekend. At 10 a.m. Saturday there will be a planetarium show, "The Little Comet," at the CCBC's Catonsville campus's Banneker Planetarium. Click here for directions.

On Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., there will be another opportunity to stargaze with CCBC telescopes. It's planned for a spot near the baseball field at the Catonsville campus. But the weather forecast for Saturday evening is not promising. Call 443 851-0364 after 7 p.m. to check for cancellations before you go. 

(SUN PHOTO/Larry C. Price, 1998)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Watching

The snow abides ...

SNow pile in Lancaster, PA 4/23/10

Charlie Charnigo, keeper of the once-mammoth snow pile up in Lancaster, Pa., has made his latest Friday visit to what may be the last remnant of February's record blizzards. And behold! A bit remains, enough, he believes, that a smidge might survive into May. Just eight days to go.

I'm rooting for it, although we may get enough rain in the next 4 or 5 days to send it all into the storm sewer.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of any other snow piles still trickling into history in Maryland, especially in the Baltimore area, please let us know about it, snap a picture of it and send it along.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Cool pictures

Sunny today, but showers and T-storms loom

If you're having your roof repaired, better get it finished by Saturday afternoon. And if your contractor is due next week, you can probably expect some delays.  Sorry, kid.

The forecast out of Sterling Friday morning shows a pretty gloomy line of icons all the way across the page, from this weekend well into next week. The next "sunny" patch doesn't appear until high pressure moves in late Wednesday.

Of course, the forecast is less reliable the farther ahead you look. Maybe we'll get lucky. But from here, it looks like a tedious stretch of drippy weather ahead.

But not today. Forecasters are looking for mostly sunny skies Friday, with a high at BWI near 70 degrees. Downtown Baltimore will surely reach the low 70s. So an al fresco lunch or dinner seems like a winner.

But by Saturday afternoon, rain showers become more likely as a big storm over the Central Plains - the one kicking up tornadoes yesterday and today

in Texas and Kansas - moves our way. The impact here will be a warm front reaching out ahead of the big low. That will bring showers to the region as it stalls somewhere near the Mason-Dixon Line. Cooler weather will hold on to our northeast, with showers all along the front.

Forecasters say Sunday will be the day with the most instability in the atmosphere, with thunderstorms by Sunday afternoon, and a risk the T-storms will continue into Monday.

The unsettled weather, and showers, will linger into early Wednesday, if the forecast holds up that long. Then high pressure returns, and roofers should get a couple of days to catch up on their backlogs. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

April 22, 2010

Astonishing pix from Eyjafjallajokull

Is it possible to see too many pictures of this eruption in Iceland? If you think so, click on the link to the photo gallery assembled by  I guarantee you will be captivated and scroll Iceland volcanothrough the entire collection.

Sure, the volcanic eruption closed airports and air routes. And millions of people had to spend an extra week in Paris (poor dears), or slum around on the EuroStar train when they'd planned to jet home.

But the real eruption was in the boiling ash clouds and lightning-laced air above Iceland, or in the pastures where Icelandic ponies tried to graze, and farmers shoveled ash off their roofs and worried their farms would be devastated.

Be thankful you live on a calm, stable, coastal plain, where the only real worries are a couple of feet of snow now and then.

(AP PHOTO/Carolyn Kaster/ Icelandic farmer hauls reluctant sheep from field contaminated by ash)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

April 21, 2010

Clouds and showers ahead

Weak lows, creeping warm fronts and scattered showers dominate the forecasts this morning as April continues to do what it is supposed to do. The most promising day for outdoor activities looks like Friday - the only day on the 7-day forecast with "sunny" in the box for Baltimore .Spring Baltimore

Today and tomorrow we can expect a risk of showers as a weak low-pressure system drifts across Virginia toward the coast. It's not clear how much rain will make it as far north as Baltimore. Most of it will be closely wrapped around the low to our south. But you may need to run the intermittent wipers a bit.

The low will leave the region pretty damp overnight, with a chance for fog to develop tonight and early tomorrow. But Sunnythen high pressure will move in briefly, forecasters say, drying things out for Friday.

Rain chances pick up again for the weekend and on into next week as a warm front drifts toward the mid-Atlantic. Scattered showers to our south on Saturday may increase and move our way by Sunday. Low pressure over the Great Lakes by early next week would keep us under gray skies, with a continuing risk of showers as we enter the final week of April.

Temperatures will remain seasonable throughout this period, with daytime highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. And that should keep our energy bills relatively low for a while longer.

(SUN PHOTO/Amy Davis, April 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:21 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

April 20, 2010

Small quake in E. Tenn. recalls 1973 event

A small, Mag. 3.3 tremor south of Knoxville, Tenn. this morning calls to mind a similar quake in the same area in 1973 that turned out to be a precursor of a larger 4.6 quake that caused some damage in the Maryville, Tenn. area short time later.

USGSThis morning's shake occured at 5:28 a.m. The epicenter was 5 miles west southwest of Maryville, and 19  miles west southwest of Knoxville. The Knoxville News Sentinel this morning quoted residents who said they were shaken awake by the tremor.

“I woke to the loud boom here in Maryville and then felt the shaking and heard the windows and doors rattle,” Jennifer Cahan wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper. “My 7 pound dog promptly crawled under the covers."

It is an area of considerable seismic activity, although all of the recent shakes have been small. Western Tennessee, on the other end of the state from this morning's tremor, is in the New Madrid fault zone, one of the most worrisome seismic areas in the nation. A tremendous series of quakes there in 1811-1812 was felt across the eastern half of the nation. A repeat today could be expected to do serious damage in places such as Memphis and St. Louis.

On Oct. 30, 1973, a tremor measured at Mag. 3.6 shook the Maryville area. It was followed by a Mag. 4.6 "main shock" that caused minor damage in nearby parts of Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Walls cracked, and windows and chimneys were damaged. The 1973 shake was also felt in parts of Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina.

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT, there has been no further shaking in Tennessee since this morning's tremor.

UPDATE Thursday 11 a.m.: The USGS has reported another, smaller tremor near Maryville, at 10:14 p.m. Wednesday night.

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

April 19, 2010

Allergy sufferers! The pollen count is back

Sun pollen reportAfter lots of requests, and a little head scratching ("Why not?"), we have finally returned the daily pollen counts and forecasts to the daily print Weather Page and to The Sun website's Weather Page.

The print pollen report is located at the bottom of the "Baltimore Almanac" feature on page 3A. It gets the spot where the snow tallies ran during the snow season. As things stand now, we plan to alternate pollen and snow data in that position in their respective seasons.

The online pollen report is located on the main Weather Page, below the WJZ Weather Forecast video. You can click on the blue "Details" link for an expanded version.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:55 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

Perfect April weather

Thirty years ago this week (more or less), my wife and I were in Baltimore on a house-hunting trip. As we drove around with the real estate agent, we fell in love with the place. The azaleas were Azaleas in Baltimorein bloom everywhere we looked. Some trees were still in blossom, and flower beds were full of color. And the weather was dry and sunny.

By the time we actually moved here from Massachusetts, of course, it was June. In a few weeks, the temperatures would climb into the 90s and 100s. The candles wilted atop their sticks. We had no AC in our cars (who needed it in New England?) and black plastic seats. And when the humidity soared, triggering thunderstorms just about every evening, we thought we had moved to the Amazon. It would be five more years before we could afford AC in the house. The best we could do was to install a whole-house fan in the attic.

But for a while there, in April, it was perfect. It's still my favorite month in Baltimore.

And this week is a perfect example. The National Weather Service is forecasting highs in the 60s to near 70 degrees all week - just about right for this time of year. We may see some showers by Wednesday evening if a disturbance out of the southwest makes it this far. But the April showers won't last long, and we'll be back into the sunshine by Thursday, if the forecasters are right.

Do you have a favorite weather month in Maryland? Probably not July, I'd wager. And my son is the only person I know who likes gray, cold, gloomy, wet days, like we often see in January. Give me April in Baltimore anytime.

(SUN PHOTO/ Algerina Perna, Roland Park, April 2001)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Forecasts

April 16, 2010

Lancaster, PA. snow heap is still melting

SNow pile in Lancaster 4/16/2010 

Another day in the 80s and that huge snow pile up in Lancaster, Pa., that Charlie Charnigo has been chronicling for us is still melting today. Here's Charlie's latest shot, taken Friday, 4/16. Looks like the frontloader has been moved. Can the snow survive into May? Stay tuned.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:35 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Cool pictures

500,000-mile blast erupts from the sun

Solar prominence

NASA's twin Stereo spacecraft, launched as a pair to keep watch over the sun, have captured a photo of one of the largest solar prominences ever witnessed by the agency's solar satellites. The huge loop of solar plasma is moving along lines of solar magnetism. It was photographed Monday and Tuesday. The sun is stirring to life again after one of the longest, quietest solar 'minimums" on record. You can read more about this event, here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Space weather

Cold front will boost winds, raise fire danger

Dry, gusty winds ahead of a cold front will bring a heightened fire risk Friday afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement for Maryland from Allegany County to the Chesapeake Bay, noting an "enhanced threat for the spread of wildfires."

Temperatures have already reached the 80s here at The Sun, and are near 80 at noon at BWI-Flying kites in BaltimoreMarshall Airport. The westerly winds are being dried out as they descend the eastern slope of the Appalachians, so humidities are also very low this afternoon - 40 percent here at Calvert and Centre streets.

Combined with low moisture in the woods and fields, and wind gusts forecast to reach 20 to 25 mph this afternoon, any wildfires that get started will take off running.

The cold front will move through the region from the northwest later tonight, accompanied by a 50 percent chance for showers and thunderstorms. Northwest winds behind the front will drop temperatures overnight, and hold daytime highs in the upper 50s and low 60s through the weekend.

The good news is that sunshine and puffy white clouds will be the rule for the weekend, and partly to mostly sunny skies will prevail well into next week, if the forecast from Sterling holds up. Daytime temperatures will hold in the 60s, with overnight lows in the 40s, all about right for this time of year in Baltimore.

(SUN PHOTO by John Makely, 1998)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Iceland volcano's ash plume seen from space

Eyjafjallajokull ash plume 

The ash plume from the unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull volcano (above, in AP Photo by Brynjar Gaudi) continues to drift across parts of Britain and Northern Europe today. The gritty, abrasive dust can damage aircraft engines and literally grind them to a halt, so the events in Iceland have been canceling airline flights across much of the continent.

Eyjafyallajokull volcanoThere are lots of fascinating images of the volcano and the ash plume on the Web. The best, I think, are the ones taken from the ground, or from aircraft flying upwind of the volcano, like the one above, and at left, by Fior Kjartannson (AFP/Getty Images).

But there have been many shots taken by orbiting satellites, including NASA's Aqua and Terras Earth Observing satellites. Here is a pair showing the huge steam plume that was sent up Wednesday as the volcano, erupting under a glacier, melted and boiled the glacier's ice.

The Aqua satellite, on Thursday, captured an image showing the brownish ash drifting downwind with the white clouds off the North Atlantic. Here is another.   

As spectacular as it is, the eruption does not yet appear big enough to cause regional or global effects on the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, with significant changes in the Earth's temperature.

Such things are possible. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines in 1991 had a chilling effect on global temperatures (about 0.7 degree F globally) and caused gaudy sunsets around the world. Eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 caused catastrophic changes in the world's weather cycles, leading to what was called "The Year Without a Summer" in Europe and North America in 1816.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Phenomena

April 15, 2010

Statewide tornado drill this morning

La Plata tornado off Calvert CLiffs, 2002 

At exactly 10:15 this morning, NOAA Weather Radios in schools across the state emitted three long warbles and a long musical tone. They were test signals, but similar enough to those La Plata tornado 2002designed to warn listeners of a weather emergency in their locations.

Thankfully, there was no real emergency. This was the start of the first-ever Statewide Tornado Drill. Participating schools, businesses and households were directed to activate their emergency plans, rehearsing and discussing how they would react to a real tornado warning.

"As a general rule, the most important thing to remember is to head to the lowest small interior room where you are - away from windows," according to the Web site for the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office, in Sterling, Va.

Maryland is not exactly in Tornado Alley. But we are no strangers to the violent twisters. Ninety tornadoes were recorded in Maryland during the past 10 years. The largest number were spotted in Frederick County (28), followed (in the Baltimore area) by Baltimore (19), Arundel (17) and Harford (16) counties, according to Joe Miketta, of the NWS forecast office in Mt. Holly, N.J., whoNASA La Plata tornado path spoke Wednesday at a Severe Storms Awareness Conference near Baltimore.

The worst tornadoes in recent years have included the F-4 La Plata twister (photo, above) that struck in Charles and Calvert counties in April 2002. It killed three people in its path and injured 122. Before it dissipated over the Eastern Shore, it had carved a 64-mile path (horizontal trail in NASA photo at right) through towns, woods and fields, destroyed 344 homes and businesses and caused $100 million in damage.

Another tornado, an F-3 in September 2001 -  two weeks after 9/11 - struck College Park and portions of Howard County. It killed two Maryland students and injured 60 other people. Damages totalled $100 million. 

Smaller tornadoes are more common in the state, but they can cause considerable damage to property and threaten people in their paths. 

If you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio, buy one. They're cheap and they can wake you up and save your life when severe weather threatens. Have a severe-weather plan. Figure out the safest place to be in your home if a Tornado Warning is issued. And have sufficient food, water, batteries and other supplies on hand to shelter in place without electrical power for several days.

With any luck, you'll never need any of it. But you will sleep better.

(PHOTOS: Top: Baltimore Sun file; Middle: SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron; Bottom: NASA satellite image)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Tornadoes

April 13, 2010

April showers, sunshine, more showers

It's April as it should be, as the poets tell it, all sunshine and showers, birdies and flowers.

The forecast out of Sterling this morning calls for showers this afternoon as a small disturbance drifts past us along a stalled frontal boundary. But Flowersthey won't get us very wet - just a few hundredths of an inch - and they won't last long.

Skies should start to clear overnight, with mostly sunny skies by Wednesday morning and through Thursday. Temperatures should be about right for April, too, in the low 60s Wednesday, climbing to the 70s on Thursday. It may even be a bit warm for this time of year in Baltimore, except near the bay, where a bay breeze will keep things chillier.

But then the showers return for Friday afternoon with the arrival of another low-pressure center. The weekend looks cooler again, with gradually clearing skies and temperatures seasonable again, in the 60s.

(SUN PHOTO/Frank Roylance)

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

April 12, 2010

Somewhere, the snow is still melting

Lancaster, Pa. 2/19/10

Sure, we've already had temperatures in the 90s, and thunderstorms. And the blossoms are already falling off the trees.

But still, in a few places around the region, the snow heaps built up by plows and 'dozers during February's record snowstorms are still melting, even during the second weekend in April. I have no idea whether this is a record. I'm sure the NWS doesn't track such things. But I sure can't remember a year when snow, in any form, has lingered so long.

Anyway, a few faithful readers have been keeping a photographic record of the BIG MELT. Among them is Charlie Charnigo, in Abottstown, Pa., who has been taking snapshots of a pile near his job in Lancaster, Pa. He says:

"Every Friday I eat my lunch near it. I began to take pix on the 19th of Feb. and have been every week since. . . I am thinking it will last until May unless we have some warm rain. It was well over 30 feet tall, about 100 wide I guess and 200 long."

Here's how Charlie's heap looked a month later, on March 19. Keep an eye on the front-loader on the right, which appears not to have been moved since the storm. It provides scale to the pictures. 

Lancaster, Pa.  3/19/10











And finally, here is the snow pile as it looked last Friday, April 9, more than two months after the snow began to fly. Thanks to Charlie for sharing his pictures.

Laancaster, Pa.  4/9/10


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

April 9, 2010

Whew! This was hottest first week in April on record

After the snowiest December, the snowiest February and the snowiest winter on record for Baltimore, we've managed to topple yet another weather record this week - a hot one this time.

Steve Zubrick, the science officer out at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, NOAA/NWSVa., says the first seven days of the month were the hottest first week in April on the record books for Baltimore, which go back to 1871.

The average temperature at BWI-Marshall from April 1 to 7, 2010 was 64.6 degrees, slipping by the old record of 64.5 degrees set 81 years ago, in 1929. Okay, so it's an unofficial record, but still ... That's nearly 15 degrees above the 30-year average for BWI, 49.6 degrees.

It was also the warmest start to an April in Washington, D.C., and out at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, Zubrick said. "Impressive!"

And now there's a frost advisory out tonight for counties in northwestern Virginia.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:47 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: By the numbers

Cool Gulf may be suppressing tornado season

The three-month stretch from January through March this year was the coldest such period on record for Florida, the second-coldest for Louisiana and the third-coldest for Mississippi and Alabama. The fact is, the Gulf of Mexico itself is colder  (yellow shows temperatures on top map; blue on the lower map shows departures below the average, while yellow shows departures above the average in the Atlantic) than normal this spring, and that may be why the spring tornado season - which is fueled in part by heat and humidity off the Gulf - has been so Sea surface temperaturesslow.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and the Storm Prediction Center said this week that the preliminary U.S. tornado count for March was just 36. That was a tie for the fourth-quietest March for tornado activity since they started keeping records in 1950. The three-year average for March tornados is 138.

On average, however, the contiguous 48 states were warmer and drier than average, NOAA says. Thirteen states had average March temperatures that ranked among their 10 warmest. Rhode Island had its warmest March ever. Maine had its second-warmest and New Hampshire had its third-warmest.

Dry weather was the rule in Michigan, which saw its driest January-to-March period ever. Wisconsin saw its fourth-driest while Montana and Wyoming had their sixth driest.NOAA

Big coastal storms brought parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England states wet weather and flooding in March. It was the wettest January-to-March on record for Massachusetts, Rhode Island (photo, right) and New Jersey. Delaware and Vermont saw their second- and fifth-wettest Marches on record.

And just so you know, mid-March ice cover on the Great Lakes (yes, they record such things) was at a record low, just 3.5 percent of the lakes' surface. The average ice extent for that period is 31 percent, according to records dating back to 1973.

(AP PHOTO/Joe Giblin)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Tornadoes

New hurricane forecast is in: a busy season ahead

Another hurricane forecaster has chimed in, and again the spring forecast calls for a busier-than-usual storm season in the Atlantic basin.

This prediction is from the forecasting team of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University. They don't see a lot of hurricanes in Colorado, but Gray has been making predictions Storm Isabel 2003and getting attention for them for 27 years. 

Their April prognostication calls for 15 named storms in the season that opens June 1 and closes Dec. 1. That's better than 50 percent higher than the long-term average of 9.6 names storms per season.

Of those named storms, Klotzbach and Gray expect eight to develop into hurricanes (the average is 5.9), while four would reach "major" Category 3 status, with top winds of 111 mph or more. (The average is 2.3 major storms per season.)

The Colorado State forecast is more conservative than the one issued last month by AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi, who predicted 16 to 18 named storms this season.

But both camps base their forecasts on the same factors: a waning El Nino event in the tropical Pacific and and unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic.  The warm Atlantic waters provide fuel for the birth and growth of big storms. El Nino's influence produces "shear" winds in the Atlantic that tend to cut off storm development, so a weakening El Nino would remove those curbs.

Last year's hurricane season, under the restricting influence of a growing El Nino event, triggeredStorm Isabel 2003 just nine named storms, and only three hurricanes. Forecasters repeatedly revised and downsized their predictions last year as the season played out and the El Nino strengthened.

This season, Klotzbach and Gray say based on developing conditions and 58 years of historical data, that the risk of a major (Cat. 3) storm making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69 percent, compared with an average of 52 percent in the 20th century.

As for the risk of a major storm making landfall along the East Coast, the Colorado State team put the chances at 45 percent, compared with a long-term average of 31 percent.

"While patterns may change before the start of the hurricane season," Gray said, "we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season."

The federal forecasters at NOAA will release their forecasts in May.

(SUN PHOTOS/Top: David Hobby/Bottom: Karl Merton Ferron/ Tropical Storm Isabel, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Front brings up to an inch of rain, cooler temps.

Okay all you allergy sufferers ... Is it any better today? Did last night's rain clear the air and provide some relief from your pollen-induced hay fever? I know I feel about as lousy as I did yesterday, Hay fever hatand I'm going to have to cut the grass tonight. Ugh. I could use this woman's "hay fever hat."

We heard maybe one clap of thunder out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville last night. And the rain gauge showed just under a half-inch of rain this morning. But the oak flowers are still up there, and there was already new pollen on the car at daybreak.

Some places across Central Maryland saw as much as an inch of rain from last night's frontal passage, including Forest Heights, Prince Frederick and Oxon Hill. The nearer suburbs - Columbia, Towson, Long Green and Bel Air got about two-thirds of an inch.

Officially, BWI recorded 0.68 inch, the first measurable rain there in 10 days. 

So we're probably looking at more allergy weather ahead. The pollen forecast calls for high numbers again by Sunday after a couple of "medium" days today and Saturday. 

The forecast shows sunny, pleasant weather throughout the coming seven days, with highs, once we get past today's 50s, in the 60s to near 70, and cool nights.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

April 8, 2010

Cool 3-D IMAX film showcases Hubble repairs

The new 3-D IMAX film opening Friday (finally!) at the Maryland Science Center is a hoot for anyone who's been captivated by the manned space program, or by the fabulous photos the Hubble Space Telescope has been sending us since its launch 20 years ago this month.

Well, okay, so the Hubble's photos weren't too fabulous for the first few years after its launch. An NASAerror in the curvature of the observatory's main mirror made the $2 billion telescope a trifle nearsighted and an intense disappointment to all who had working since the 1970s to plan, engineer and build the thing.

But the miracle and the genius of the project was that Hubble was built to be serviced. Scientists figured out how to fashion a corrective lens that could correct for the "spherical aberration" in the main mirror, and insert it into the light path leading to the telescope's scientific instruments. It was called COSTAR, and once it was installed in 1993 by a team of brave and skilled astronauts, it worked brilliantly. (All instruments installed on the telescope since then have included built-in corrective lenses, and COSTAR has been removed.)

And that's been the story of Hubble ever since. Beyond the vast wealth of ground-breaking, haunting and eerily beautiful images Hubble has sent us since 1993, the program, again and again, has proven the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the scientists and engineers and astronauts who have worked with the observatory.

And the new 3-D IMAX film brings that all startlingly to life.

Through comically huge 3-D spectacles, viewers are transported to the "clean room" in Sunnyvale, Calif., where Hubble was prepared for launch, and from there to the launch tower at Cape Canaveral as the telescope is blasted into orbit.John Grunsfeld

With 3-D footage shot during the installation of the COSTAR device in 1993, viewers float out into the payload bay as astronauts labor to squeeze the corrective apparatus into the telescope's innards. Later in the film, you're rocketed back into space with John Grunsfeld (at right, now the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore) as he returns to the telescope in May 2009 to wrestle new instruments into Hubble's science bay, and repair other hardware. It was the final servicing mission to the telescope. 

The breadth of the IMAX screen and the giant glasses give you, perhaps for the first time ever, a sense of what astronauts must see as they venture outside the shuttle and gaze out at the Earth. One of them calls the view "a gift that astronauts have been given." But ours may be even better. The planet fills your field of view, without the limits of a space helmet or the dimming effects of a visor. It's just you, the shuttle and telescope, and the planet, in three dimensions.

There is also some dizzying footage shot inside the shuttle's cabin, as astronauts float about their business. There is the inevitable toying with weightless food, a tiresome quip about how astronauts relieve themselves in zero gravity (the secret is "suction", we're told). And somebody thought ukelele music was about right to accompany parts of this celestial spectacle. But we forgive them.

At least the filmmakers didn't shy away from Hubble's scientific mission. With the magic of 3-D,NASA/Hubble they take viewers gliding (at a simulated 150 trillion miles per second) across the 1,300 light years of space between Earth and the Orion Nebula (photo, right). Using decades of Hubble images and plenty of computer wizardry, they carry us deep into the roiling nebula, where new stars and entire solar systems are being forged.

Later, we're flown out of the nebula, and across our spiral Milky Way galaxy, and then up and away across intergalactic space to our sister spiral galaxy, called Andromeda. Next, we're introduced to the "local cluster" of galaxies ours belongs to, which is in turn part of the larger Virgo Cluster. The mind boggles as the film - still with real Hubble images - expands our horizon to take in more clusters and inter-cluster strings of galaxies that make up the "web" of all matter in the universe, and the swarms of raw, misshapen young galaxies Hubble has found at the edges of space and time. Whew!

None of this would have been possible, of course, without the men and women who built and upgraded Hubble, invented repairs and worked around failures to keep it working and even improved it over the last 20 years. More than hardware and glass and computers, Hubble 3-D makes it clear that the space telescope is its people and their genius. And IMAX puts us among them.

For showtimes and tickets, visit call 410 685-5225.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Evening storms, then fine weather into next week

That cold front draped from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico this (Thursday) morning will moves across Maryland late today, bringing thunderstorms and a slight risk of severe weather and even an isolated tornado if things go badly.

NOAA radarForecasters out at Sterling say the front will cross the Appalachians this afternoon, reaching the I-95 corridor in the evening, with the storms likely between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. After an afternoon high in the mid-80s, the front will drop the overnight low to near 50 degrees.

By Friday morning, the showers should be on the run, with clearing skies and sunshine. But with Canadian air pouring in behind the front, we should expect highs no better than 60 degrees Friday afternoon, if the forecast holds up.

That will make it a sunny afternoon at Camden Yards, but Orioles fans will want to bring something to ward off the chill on Friday, as temperatures begin to fall late in the game, headed for an overnight low near 40 degrees.

The best news is that the sunshine will persist well into next week, with daytime highs rising into the 60s and 70s. That's cool compared with this week's heat, but still above the long-term averages for this time of year in Baltimore. So it should still be some of the best weather this region is capable of producing in the spring and fall.

Look for cafe tables on the sidewalks, neighbors on the stoops, lawnmowers buzzing in the suburbs and the season's first blush of sunburn.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts

April 7, 2010

You are here ... New weather satellite snaps globe

EarthThe newest weather satellite orbited to keep track of the planet's weather - GOES 15 - has sent back its first picture.

The black and white photo, taken Tuesday afternoon, shows the Western Hemisphere in sunshine and cloud, including a huge, swirling storm system off the Antarctic coast. 

We don't often get to see fresh pictures of the entire planet. It takes a satellite in geosynchronous orbit - 22,230 miles up - to get it all in one frame. 

And there it is, that fragile sphere where everything we've ever touched, everyone we know, and all our history reside, and whose delicate life-support systems are all that protect us from oblivion.

Here's a link to the high-resolution version.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:41 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Cool pictures

Winds, low humidity raise wildfire concerns

Be careful with those smokes today. Heat, low humidity, winds around 20 mph and dry conditions in woods and fields will combine this afternoon to raise the risk of wildfires across much of the state.

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings for all of Western Maryland, including Maryland wildfire 2001Carroll and Frederick counties, and virtually all of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The warnings are in effect until 7 p.m. this evening. They mean that "critical fire weather conditions are either occuring now, or will be shortly" with "explosive fire growth potential."

In addition, a "Special Weather Statement" has been issued for the rest of Maryland, including Baltimore, Washington and their suburbs, noting an "enhanced threat for the spread of wildfires this afternoon and evening." Conditions here will include very low humidities - as low as 20 to 30 percent - with winds of 10 to 15 mph, gusting to 25.

The forecast for the Baltimore area calls for a high Wednesday near 90 degrees - stopping well short of the 93-degree record for the date. Relief is due with the arrival Thursday of a cold front and thunderstorms. Skies will clear sometime Friday, with highs rising from the 50s Friday to near 70 by Sunday.

(SUN PHOTO/Doug Kapustin 2001)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

April 6, 2010

It's Hawt ! Monday's high of 84 set a new BWI record

Monday's high temperature of 84 degrees out at BWI melted the forecasters' predictions of a mere 78, and snuffed the old record high of 83 degrees for an April 5 in Baltimore, last reached in 1942.

It was the first non-snow weather record for Baltimore in 2010.

UPDATE at 5 p.m.: We've reached 90 degrees at BWI this (Tuesday) afternoon, according to the NWS, tying the record for the date, last reached in 1929. It's 94 degrees at Hagerstown; 93 at Dulles International (a new record); 91 at Martin Airport; 89 at Annapolis. Washington's Reagan National Airport reached 90 degrees, short of the record of 92 degrees set in 1942. Earlier post resumes:

With southwest winds and strong sunshine continuing to work on the region today, it will likely get even hotter this afternoon. But Baltimore is not expected to top the April 6 record of 90 degrees, Springtime funset here in 1929. 

The spring heat wave also set a new record out at Dulles International Airport, where the mercury reached 86 degrees. That topped the old record of 83 set in 1985. Dulles weather records only go back to 1962. Baltimore's stretch to 1871. 

Reagan National Airport saw a high of 83 Monday, falling short of the 86-degree record set there in 1910.

The forecast high for Tuesday in Baltimore, Washington and at Dulles Airport is 87 degrees. Only Dulles is forecast to break a record. The high mark for that airport on an April 6 is 86 degrees, set in 2005.

The month of April is still young, of course. And there's a cold front due late Thursday that will drop daytime highs back into the 50s and 60s from Friday through the weekend. The front comes with a forecast of showers and thunderstorms from Thursday afternoon through Thursday night.

But so far, we are running 10 to 15 degrees above the region's norms for the month.

Forecasters say the weather for Friday afternoon's season opener at Camden Yards should be sunny and cool, with an afternoon high of 57 degrees sinking toward an overnight low of 38 degrees.

(SUN PHOTO/John Makely, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Heat waves

April 5, 2010

A taste of summer in April

Central Maryland may need to hit the AC switch - at least in our cars - Tuesday and Wednesday as the big high-pressure system now over the eastern half of the country begins to pull away. The return flow around the backside of the high's clockwise circulation will pull warm, moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico and bring us a taste of summer.

The forecast highs for Tuesday and Wednesday poke into the mid-80s in the current predictions out of Sterling. They're calling for a high of 84 at BWI on Tuesday, and 86 on Wednesday.

UPDATE: The mercury has reached 83 degrees this afternoon at BWI, besting the forecast high of 78.

We haven't seen the 80s around here since Oct. 9, when the high at BWI was 83 degrees. There haven't been two consecutive days in the 80s since Sept. 23/24. And we have not reached 86 degrees since last summer, on Aug. 26, when the high at the airport was 88 degrees.

SNow at BWI April 5There is even some chance for thundershowers this (Monday) afternoon, although that's more likely to our west and south, forecasters say. Thunderstorms return to the forecast for Thursday as a cold front pushes through. That front will drop our highs back in to the more seasonable 50s and 60s for the weekend. The lows will sink into the 30s.

It may feel like summer, but we're not out of the woods yet. Baltimore has had measurable snow in April as recently as 2007.

And, it's worth noting that there are still piles of snow here and there from our February storms.

The photos show snow alongside the hourly parking garage at BWI. Thanks to Jonathan Dean forMore snow piles, April 5 the photos, which were taken today - Monday April 5.

A snow heap out on the airfield finally melted away over the weekend, he reports. Here's a similar shot - snow and blossoms - from the UMB campus in Baltimore.

Speaking of snow, the cold front due Friday could bring new flakes to Maryland's far-western counties, mixed in with predicted rain showers, forecasters say..

As warm - hot, even - as it may feel here Tuesday and Wednesday, we are not expected to set any new records.

The record highs for April 6 and 7 are in the 90s. Specifically, the record high for an April 6 in Baltimore was 90 degrees in 1929. The record for the 7th is 93 degrees, set in the same year.

The three consecutive daily record highs set that week still stand.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

April 1, 2010

Send us your weather videos!

We're introducing a new feature on that lets you share your videos with us and other readers.  And we're debuting the feature by letting you submit your weather videos.

If you've got some weather-related scenes you want to send us, just click on the button below.


Posted by Steve Sullivan at 12:07 PM | | Comments (0)
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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