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August 31, 2010

Hurricane Watch posted for Outer Banks

The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Watch for North Carolina's Outer Banks, including Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, as powerful Hurricane Earl heads toward the barrier islands.

NHC/NOAAThe watch extends from north of Surf City to the Virginia/North Carolina border. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the N.C. coast from Cape Fear to Surf City.

Earl's center was located about 1,000 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, moving to the northwest at 14 mph. Top sustained winds remained at 135 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward 90 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds extend for 200 miles.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions - winds of 74 mph or more - are possible within 36 hours. A Tropical Storm Watch means tropical storm conditions (winds 39-73 mph) are possible within 48 hours.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Earl's track all about timing


Hurricane Earl (seen in this video from the International Space Station) continues to pull away from the Northern Leeward Islands today, with no slackening of its 135-mph, Cat. 4 winds. What hurricane watchers are focused on now is just where the surrounding weather systems will send the storm as it begins to accelerate toward Cape Hatteras and the rest of the U.S. East Coast north of the Outer Banks.

A jog to the east could mean fair, if blustery, weather and rough surf along the coast. A tilt to the west could bring serious winds, rain and waves to the North Carolina coast and points north.Weather Underground Earl

The National Hurricane Center said the storm's center was 1,000 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras at mid-afternoon, moving to the west northwest at 14 mph. Forecasters said a Hurricane Watch may be posted late today for portions of the mid-Atlantic coast.

From here, Earl's path will be steered by high pressure - the Bermuda High - to the east, and a cold front approaching from the Great Lakes. If the cold front slows and is late in arriving, Earl could veer farther west and pound the coast by week's end, as one model predicts (yellow track on map). If it picks up speed, or high pressure over the ocean drifts farther out to sea, the storm could head north and east with little direct impact on the shoreline.

These and other factors are considered by Eric the Red as the professional forecaster from Baltimore (familiar to WeatherBlog readers from last winter's blizzard coverage) assesses the hazards we'll face as Earl draws near:

"If I had to guess, I'd say it stays far enough offshore to prevent a full onslaught of Ocean City and the MD-DE beaches, but the NC beaches may not be so lucky due to their more eastward positioning.

"Friday could be unpleasant at the MD-DE beaches as well, but not as bad as areas to the south.  BTW: A westward jog of 50 miles would have devesatating consequences, while an eastward jog of 50 miles would leave the coastal region under mostly sunny skies but a dangerous surf.

"Earl has a small window of opportunity to shoot up the coast before the cold front pushes it to the northeast. 

"In addition, Earl is surrounded by dry air. If any of this dry air works into the core of Earl, the system will begin to weaken... and the storm's impacts would be less. I kinda find it hard to believe that Earl will manage to escape this fate, because the extent of the dry air is so large... and it still has a good 60-72 hours to work against this dry environment before reaching the coast.  At the same time, strong storms like Earl can often create their own "bubble", which allows them to maintain their intensity despite their surroundings.  Let me just say this dry air is a wild card in the whole scenario.

"The other key to the forecast is the speed at which the front approaches from the west.  Models have slowed this down a touch, allowing Early to get closer to the coast in most of the latest model runs.  There is still considerable spread amongst the models... with several close enough to give coastal areas heavy rain and strong winds ... while others are far enough offshore to have little if any impact (Canadian, UKMET). 

"One of the more note-worthy hurricane models (GFDL) has the storm just east of Cape Hatteras Friday morning and then moving northeast toward Nova Scotia during the day, with not a whole lot of impact on MD-DE-NJ.  This seems to be the direction the National Hurricane Center is leaning... and they are of course the experts on these matters.

"If it were me, I wouldn't cancel beach plans... but folks headed to NC should probably have other options available to them since this area is the most likely to take a big hit.  Folks headed to MD and DE should obviously monitor this very closely, but a direct hit doesn't seem as likely the farther north you go due to the westward jog the coastline takes.

"Either way, the good news is Earl will be a fast mover, and will likely clear the Mid-Atlantic by Friday eve, resulting in a very nice - and much cooler - weekend. - Eric"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Earl brings breezy, showery forecast to Ocean City

Beach-goers should expect cloudy, breezy and showery weather to greet them Friday when they step out for the day in Ocean City. Unless the forecast changes in the coming days, Hurricane Earl is expected to pass well off the resort's beaches. The rest of the weekend looks fine, with sunny skies and highs near 80 degrees.

But there may be plenty of action in the surf until the storm departs, with rough waves and increased danger from rip NOAAcurrents facing anyone contemplating a dip in the Atlantic. A "moderate" rip current risk was already posted for the beaches on Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday morning that Earl continued to move away from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Heavy rains, battering waves and tropical-storm-force winds were all forecast to diminish today in the U.S. possessions as the storm continued to depart.

Those same hazards were expected to increase farther west in the Turks & Caicos Islands, where a Tropical Storm Warning was posted. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the eastern Bahamas.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Earl's center was located 200 miles east of Grand Turk Island, moving to the west northwest at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 135 mph, with higher gusts. Earl remains a Category 4 hurricane. 

The forecast track at 11 a.m. shows a Cat. 3 Earl off Delmarva by 8 a.m. Friday, accelerating toward the north northeast. The National Hurricane Center estimates a 28 percent chance that Ocean City will experience 34-knot winds (39 mph) or higher by late Thursday or early Friday. 

The Ocean City forecast from the NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va., calls for "mostly cloudy and breezy" weather Thursday night, with a 40 percent chance of showers, continuing until noon Friday, when the storm is forecast to pull away to the northeast. The balance of the holiday looks great at the shore.

For those of us stuck here in the Baltimore area, the forecast is all clear for the long weekend, with sunny weather and highs dropping from the low 90s into the low 80s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Forecast keeps Earl offshore

This morning's forecast from the National Hurricane Center continues to keep Hurricane Earl off the mid-Atlantic coast when it arrives there on Friday. None of the forecast computer models bring the storm's center to a direct landfall.

There is also some indication that, as the storm moves into increased wind shear, and over cooler waters, Weather Underground forecast modelsits strength is likely to diminish from the dangerous 135-mph, Category 4 rating it holds Tuesday morning.

Even so, forecasters are advising interests along the U.S. East Coast from Cape Hatteras to New England to continue to monitor Earl as the storm pulls away from the Northern Leeward Islands. Strong surf and dangerous rip currents continue to be a real hazard as the weekend approaches.

Earl's center was located this morning about 150 miles north northwest of Puerto Rico, moving to the west northwest at 13 mph. A gradual turn to the northwest was expected today, with that direction continuing through Wednesday.

The forecast storm track carries Earl to a point just off Cape Hatteras by early Friday, and off Delmarva later in the day. Central winds by that point are still expected to retain "major" Cat. 3 power. Successive tracks have seen the storm's most likely path creep slightly to the west. NOAA

But the official expectation is that Earl will stay offshore as it runs up the coast, funneled between high pressure spinning clockwise to the storm's east, and a low-pressure trough moving into the northeastern U.S. The latter system is forecast to bring Maryland cooler weather by the weekend, but exactly where the two systems will steer Earl remains unclear:


The other issue to keep in mind is how broad an area Earl, and its effects, will cover as it tracks up the coast. The National Hurricane Center forecasters say the storm's worst effects will be somewhat limited:


That would spare most of Maryland. On the other hand, much of the state could use a hefty does of tropical moisture. If the forecast is correct, only the coastal counties would get the full benefit. 

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:47 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes

August 30, 2010

New Tropical Storm Fiona enters, stage right

With all eyes on (now 135-mph) Cat. 4 Hurricane Earl, it was easy to miss the arrival of a new tropical storm on the Atlantic stage today. Tropical Storm Fiona made the grade this afternoon, becoming the sixth Fionanamed storm of the season. It's the gray smudge at the center of this satellite image. (That's Earl at upper left.)

Fiona is following in Earl's tracks. Its center was located about 900 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving to the west at a brisk 24 mph. It could reach the Northern Leewards by Wednesday. The storm's top sustained winds were estimated at 40 mph. Some strengthening was forecast.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:21 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes

Earl now a "major" hurricane at 120 mph

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said today that Hurricane Earl has reached "major" (Cat. 3) hurricane status, with top sustained winds at 120 mph. Further strengthening is expected.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon Earl was upgraded again to a Cat. 4 storm, with top sustained winds of 135 mph. More strengthening was expected. The storm was moving away from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier post reumes below.

The storm continues to pose an immediate threat of hurricane-force winds, battering weaves, 3- to 5-foot storm surge and up to a foot of rain to U.S. possessions in the northeast Caribbean, and could brush the U. S. East Coast later this week. Here's how some of the models spread the storm track.

At last check, Earl's center was located about 95 miles east northeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was moving toward the west northwest at 15 mph. Here are the watches andNOAA warnings in effect late this (Monday) morning:





The storm's forecast track would carry it to the north and west in the next few days. Moving around the western edge of a zone of high pressure in the Atlantic, and east of a low-pressure trough NOAAforecast to move off the continent late this week.  

The question is where, precisely, those systems will steer the storm, and how close they will allow it to get to the mainland.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say they have had to adjust the track westward several times so far - not good. Then they add this note:


It's also important to note that, even if Earl stays well offshore, it will pass us as a Cat. 3 or 4 storm. Surf conditions at the beaches this weekend will likely be even more dangerous than they were this past weekend, when Ocean City lifeguards had to perform 250 rescues. One swimmer is still missing. And that's just Ocean City. Conditions were similar all along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Here is the latest advisory for Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

For more on Earl, check out Foot's Forecast, the student weather service that did so well during last winter's blizzards. They're on the tropical forecast, too, this summer.

Taking a cruise in hurricane season? Check this from before you sail:

"One of the ships impacted left out of Baltimore today…
"Carnival Pride, which left from Baltimore today, will no longer visit Grand Turk on Wednesday as originally planned. The itinerary will now include Port Canaveral (Wednesday), Nassau (Thursday) and Freeport (Friday).

"Cruises Impacted by Hurricane Earl


Hurricane Earl, the fifth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is strengthening as it closes in on the islands of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Numerous Caribbean islands are on high alert, and in anticipation of the storm, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and NCL have announced itinerary changes. FURTHER INFORMATION… "


Royal Caribbean has altered the itineraries of Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas. Enchantment, which left Baltimore on Thursday, will call on San Juan tomorrow. On Monday, it will visit Samana, Dominican Republic instead of St. Thomas, as originally scheduled. It will stop in Labadee on Tuesday and spend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at sea as it returns to Baltimore on Saturday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes

Heat alert and bad air; August exits ugly

Putting concerns about Hurricane Earl aside, Marylanders are looking at a hot and dirty end to the month of August this week. Yesterday's high at BWI-Marshall was 91 degrees, the first 90-plus day in more than a week and the 9th so far this month.

Forecasters out at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling are predicting sunshine NASA sunand highs in the mid-90s straight through the end of the week. If they're right, on Thursday we will tie the all-time record for 90-plus days in a calendar year (54), and on Friday we will set a new record of 55 days.

The week is already looking a lot like July. The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a Code Orange air quality alert for Monday as high temperatures and combustion exhaust combine to raise ground-level ozone and particulate levels to levels considered unhealthy for people in "sensitive groups." These include the very young, the very old and those with heart or respiratory problems. Those folks should avoid outdoor exercise and strenuous activity today.

The Code Orange alert covers the entire state west of the Chesapeake, Cecil County, and adjacent counties in Northern Virginia. 

In Baltimore, the Health Department has declared Monday a Code Red Heat Alert day, opening cooling centers across the city. Residents should call 311 for cooling center locations and hours. So far this summer heat has been a factor in 26 deaths across the state. Seventeen of those dead were found in dwellings without air-conditioning.

Please check on vulnerable friends, family and neighbors, especially those who don't have, or refuse to use air conditioning.

The hot, sunny weather is the work of the large high-pressure area sitting over the Eastern U.S. As it drifts to our south this week, we will get more westerly winds, bringing already-warm air over the Appalachians and down the eastern slope. That will compress and heat the air, making it even hotter - at least 10 degrees above the averages for this time of year.

Relief, if any, would come from somewhat lower humidities than we saw in July, and any bay breeze that may kick up in the afternoons. And the clear skies should allow some radiational cooling, dropping overnight lows into the 60s outside the cities. 

By the weekend we may be paying more attention to Hurricane Earl. More on that shortly.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts

August 29, 2010

Earl now a hurricane; sweep up East Coast likely

The fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is now a hurricane, and the National Hurricane Center's forecast shows Hurricane Earl growing to "major" proportions and making a sweep up the East Coast late this week.

For now, the center of the forecast "cone of uncertainty" keeps the storm well east of a direct landfall. But we seem quite likely to see rough surf and dangerous rip currents at the beaches as we approach the Labor Day weekend.

UPDATE: Strong surf and beach currents from Hurricane Danielle were causing problems at Ocean City this weekend. Earl could well be worse since it is forecast to pass closer to shore.

The hurricane center puts Earl's center less than 200 miles east of the island of Antigua, in the Northern NOAA EarlLeewards. It is moving west northwest at 15 mph, with top sustained winds of 75 mph - just above minimal hurricane force. Here are the warnings and watches in effect Sunday afternoon:




Forecasters say conditions are favorable for further strengthening as Earl approaches the Northern Leewards. The storm is expected to become a major (Cat. 3, 111 mph) storm within 36 hours. Forecasters at Sterling, Va. are now noting that the Baltimore-Washington area will need to keep a watch on the tropical system by the end of the week.

Here is the latest forecast advisory for Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:34 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hurricanes

Tally of 90-degree days nears record


NOAA/NWSThe heat is expected to return to Central Maryland this week, with forecast highs in the 90-degree range for Sunday and Monday. So far BWI has recorded 49 days of 90-plus heat this year. That ties 1930 for the fourth-highest tally of 90-degree weather for Baltimore. Three years saw 50 days (1943, 1966, 1991), and two saw 51 (1941, 1995), according to Steve Zubrick at the National Weather Service. The record is 54 days at 90 degrees or more, set in 1988.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 28, 2010

July 2010 tied record for Baltimore's hottest month


July heat BaltimoreIt’s official. July 2010 tied with July 1995 as the hottest month on record for Baltimore, with an average temperature of 81.5 degrees. For a time, it appeared that July 1872 should also be included. But the National Climatic Data Center has reviewed original data and found the true average for that month was 81.2 degrees, not 81.5 degrees as reported on a weather service web site. This year has now seen Baltimore’s hottest month, snowiest month and snowiest winter. 

(SUN PHOTO: David Hobby, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 27, 2010

Danielle Cat. 4; Earl a hurricane by Sat.; Fiona next

Well, the forecasters called for a busy season in the Atlantic, and that's what they're grappling with today. The graphic below shows wind forecasts for both Danielle (uppermost blob in graphic below) and Earl (lower wind field).

Hurricane Danielle grew to Cat. 4 status overnight, and now packs winds up to 135 mph. The storm is now 480 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving toward the northwest at 12 mph. The forecast NOAA two stormstrack takes Danielle north from here, to pass east of self-governing British overseas territory before turning away to the northeast. But large waves and dangerous surf are forecast for the island.

Some slight strengthening is expected, but Danielle will soon move into cooler waters, which will begin to sap its strength. Even so, forecasters are warning that strong waves and rip currents generated by the storm will reach the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast by this weekend. Be careful in the surf. Here's a bit of the forecast from the Outer Banks:


Here is the latest advisory for Danielle. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from space.NOAA Danielle Earl and new storm

Next on deck is Tropical Storm Earl. This storm is following Danielle, but on a course taking it a bit farther south and to the left, making it, potentially, a stronger candidate for a run up the East Coast.

Earl was centered this morning 1,300 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 17 mph. Top sustained winds were clocked at 45 mph. Earl is expected to reach hurricane force (74 mph) by Sunday, and eventually reaching "major" (Cat. 3) strength (111 mph or more).

For now, the storm is forecast to miss the Northern Leewards, but, forecasters warned ...


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

Finally, forecasters are watching another tropical wave just off the coast of West Africa. It is given a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours. If so, it would get the name Fiona.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Heat wave next week; 90-degree record in sights

If the forecasters out at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va. are correct, next week's heat wave should see us tie - and possibly break the all-time record for 90-degree days in Baltimore.

The tally for 2010 stands now at 49 days, tied with 1930 for the fourth-highest number of 90-plus days in one year. The average for Baltimore is 29.4 days (for the 30-year period from 1971-Heat wave Baltimore2000). The record is 54 days, set in 1988.

But with high pressure settling into the region this weekend for an extended stay, we're due for a lot of sunshine in the week ahead, and the sun angles are still high enough to drive readings well into the 90s. Fortunately, humidities/dew points are expected to remain relatively low. So this heat should be a tad more tolerable than the heat we experienced in July.

Regardless, the forecast calls for daytime highs to reach the 90s by Sunday, and persist at least through Thursday. That would add five more days of 90-degree weather, bringing our count to 54 - matching the record.

The hottest day on the forecast for now is Wednesday, with a projected top at 96 degrees. The record high for a Sept. 1 in Baltimore is 99 degrees, set in 1962. The late-August records are all in triple digits, so there doesn't seem to be a risk of breaking new ground this month.

Nice week for the kids to be headed back to school, huh?

So, here are the targets for the days ahead. You can stick them on your fridge and tick them off as the mercury reaches 90 at BWI-Marshall next week, and the dominoes fall:

49 days:  1930, 2010 (so far)

50 days:  1943, 1966, 1991

51 days: 1941, 1995

54 days:  1988

The predicted heat makes this morning's chill all the more delicious. It was 55 degrees on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The low at the Sun's weather station, at Centre and Calvert streets, was 67 degrees. At the airport, the mercury bottomed out at 59 degrees, well above the record low for the date of 53 degrees, set on Aug. 27, 1885.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, June 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Two moons in 2010 -- just a hoax


NASAIt’s August, so you’ve probably received excited email NASAmessages stuffed with CAPITAL LETTERS touting an Aug. 27 event in which the planet Mars will appear “as large as the full moonIt will look as though the Earth has two moons!!” Well, no. It’s a hoax, or at best a garbled repetition of advisories for a 2003 event in which Mars was unusually close to Earth. But even then it still appeared no bigger than a bright red star. Just delete the message. It will pop up again next August. 

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:16 AM | | Comments (1)

August 26, 2010

Swell from Danielle due on Outer Banks by Sat.

The National Weather Service says long-period ocean swells generated by a distant Hurricane Avalon, NCDanielle are expected to reach the Outer Banks of North Carolina by Saturday.

That will mean an increased risk of dangerous rip currents for bathers, but it will also likely attract surfers eager to jump on bigger-than-usual waves.

The word came from a Hazardous Weather Outlook posted today for Dare and Hyde counties on the Outer Banks. So far, there are no similar advisories for Maryland and Delaware beaches, but the marine forecast does show 4- to 5-foot seas by late Sunday.

Danielle remains a Cat. 2 hurricane, now 680 miles southeast of Bermuda. It is not expected to pose a direct threat to the East Coast. Instead, forecasters believe it will veer northward just east of Bermuda. But seas kicked up by the storm's 110-mph winds are expected to be felt on the U.S. coast. The storm is predicted to reach Cat. 3 strength late Thursday or Friday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Danielle to veer away; Earl and new storm stronger

Hurricane Danielle continues to move to the northwest across the Atlantic today, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it will soon be swept to the north and later to the northeast by atmospheric patterns over the ocean. That will carry the storm east of Bermuda and away from any threat to the U.S. East Coast.

NOAANot far behind Danielle, however, Tropical Storm Earl continued to strengthen, and a third storm appeared to be gathering steam off West Africa. If that trend continues, it would become Tropical Storm Fiona.

Danielle was situated about 770 miles southeast of Bermuda this morning, moving to the northwest at 15 mph. The hurricane's top sustained winds were estimated at 105 mph, making it a Cat. 2 storm on the Safir-Simpson scale.

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

Tropical Storm Earl was located 1,700 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands this morning. It was moving to the west at 17 mph, with top sustained winds of 45 mph. Forecasters said Earl is likely to see continued slow strengthening, and could reach hurricane force by Saturday, and "major" (Cat. 3) hurricane status by early next week.

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

Finally, to the east of Earl, forecasters are watching another area of stormy weather now moving off West Africa.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes

Waterspout this morning off Hatteras

We've seen no video yet of this event, but the National Weather Service is reporting that the Hatteras-to-Ocracoke Ferry captain reported "a couple" of waterspouts at 10:14 a.m. today (Thursday) at the Hatteras inlet.

The waterspouts were apparently connected with thunderstorms in the area this morning. The advice from the NWS forecast office at Newport/Morehead City:


Obviously, if you're down there on vacation, and have stills or video, please email them to me at and we will post them. Here's a You Tube video of a waterspout oiff Kill Devil Hills in 2008.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Phenomena

Int'l Space Station flyby tonight


NASASpace Cadets! It’s been a while since our last evening out with the International Space Station. But there’s a fine flyby tonight as the station soars up the East Coast. If skies are clear, watch the ISS climb above the southwest horizon at 8:23 p.m. It will look like a bright, steady “star” rising high into the southern sky by 8:26 p.m. From there it slides off to the northeast, disappearing at 8:30. Stick around and watch the moon and bright Jupiter rise in tandem, low in the east after 9 p.m. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 25, 2010

TD7 is now Tropical Storm Earl

NOAATropical Depression 7 has been upgraded to a full-fledged tropical storm, the fifth of the season, dubbed Earl.

Earl is a minimal storm, with top sustained winds of 40 mph. It is moving west at 16 mph, and is now about 500 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. Strengthening is expected to continue, with Earl likely to become a Cat. 1 hurricane by Friday.

Forecasters still expect this storm, like Danielle, will pass north of the Lesser Antilles.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

August likely to expire without more rain

After the heavy rains on the 12th, August was already well ahead of the long-term averages for rainfall in Baltimore. The airport has recorded 4.74 inches so far this month, nearly two inches Sailing Columbiamore than the average.

But the forecast from here looks dry. The folks in Sterling show the clouds we see today clearing away by tomorrow and Friday, with relatively cool, dry air moving in from the Great Lakes, as it often does here in late August.

And that means no rain anywhere in the 7-day forecast. We're looking at clear skies, sunshine and starry nights right through Tuesday, with temperatures slowly climbing back into the seasonable 80s, and by Sunday back toward the downright hot 90-degree range.

Looks like a fine weekend for the beach, or just about any outdoor activity you may be planning before the kiddies (most of them) go back to school on Monday.

Radiational cooling at night will drop temperatures into the 50s across much of the region Thursday and Friday nights. Open the sash and have a blanket handy.

Clear and dry may be fine for Central Maryland, which has seen plenty of rain in recent weeks. But Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore remain very dry. Another week of sunny skies will only add to their problems.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

Danielle strengthens; next storm on deck


As predicted, Danielle (center, photo above) has strengthened enough overnight to regain hurricane status, although top sustained winds remain at just 85 mph, a Cat. 1 storm for now. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say conditions for Danielle should improve in the coming days, allowing the storm to reach "major" (Cat. 3, 111 mph) status before weakening again by the weekend.

The storm poses no immediate threat to any land, and it is forecast to turn toward the north, and away from any encounter with the U.S.

Here is the latest advisory for Danielle. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from orbit.

Next up in the Atlantic is Tropical Depression Seven (right, in photo), which is expected to become the season's fifth named storm later today - Earl.  The storm is now about 400 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, moving toward the west at 17 mph, with top sustained winds of 35 mph.

Forecasters see little to inhibit strengthening in the next two or three days, so TD7 is expected to become a hurricane by the weekend. Initial guidance suggests this storm will parallel Danielle's path, steering northwest away from the Lesser Antilles. With luck, it will be a threat only to shipping and fish.

Here is the latest advisory on TD7. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from space.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

August 24, 2010

Danielle falters; new storm brews off Cape Verde

The pace of storm formation is picking up in the waters near the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern tropical Atlantic. Even as a slightly weakened Hurricane Danielle continues to move across the central Atlantic, forecasters are preparing to issue advisories on a new storm brewing off West NASAAfrica.

First Danielle. After reaching Cat. 2 strength late yesterday, the storm has been downgraded Tuesday morning to a Cat. 1 storm again, with top sustained winds of just 80 mph. Erosion of the storm's eye wall by an infusion of dry air ended Danielle's acceleration "with a thud," forecasters said.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Danielle was downgraded this afternoon to a tropical storm, with top sustained winds of just 70 mph. But forecasters predicted the demotion would be temporary. Restrengthening to hurricane stature is expected within 48 hours.

The weakening seems to have caught hurricane-watchers by surprise. Here's how they see the storm's immediate future:


For now, they have set aside previous advisories that the storm would reach "major" (Cat. 3) status in the next few days. Although the track has edged a bit farther to the left than expected, Danielle is still expected to make a turn to the north before ever becoming a threat to the East Coast of the U.S. It would pass well east of Bermuda, too.

The storm continues to move toward the west northwest at 20 mph. Here is the latest advisory on Danielle. Here is the forecast track. And here is the view from space.

Not far behind Danielle, the next Cape Verde storm is brewing off West Africa. Forecasters give it a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. For now, it is a tropical depression about 1,100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It is moving west northwest at 15 mph. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Cool for now, but more 90s in our future

How refreshing this morning to step outside and feel cool! Northeast winds off the Atlantic and gray skies are keeping today's temperatures about 10 degrees below the norms for BWI-Marshall at NOAAthis time of year.

Forecasters out at Sterling say we may see a few scattered showers later today, and into Wednesday as low pressure brings in more moist marine air. But most of the drippy stuff will remain to our south and west.

The NWS is calling for highs in the lower 70s today, climbing to the 80s by Wednesday and, as the sun comes out again, into the lower 80s by the end of the week. High pressure and clear skies by Thursday night will also allow Canadian air into the region to sink overnight temperatures into the 50s across much of Central Maryland, and the clear, chilly nights will persist through Saturday night. Downtown readings may hold in the 60s, but everyone should be able to open the windows and take a break from the hum of air conditioners for a few days.

But not for good. By Sunday daytime highs are expected to rise toward 90 degrees again, with the 90-plus readings continuing into early next week - and the start of school for most kids in the area. I don't think we have maxed out on the count of 90-degree days this summer, which now stands at 49. That's just 5 short of the record set in 1988.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Fruit moon rising tonight

          Full moon Baltimore                              

Clouds will likely spoil the view, but if you happen to be airborne above the clouds Tuesday evening you can watch the full moon rise above the eastern horizon.

The third full moon after the summer solstice, this one is called the Fruit Moon in some traditions, providing illumination for harvest into the evening as fruit trees ripen around this time of year.

The moon will be officially full at 1:05 p.m. today, but won't be visible in Baltimore until moonrise at 7:34 p.m. EDT, and then only if skies clear. If you're at the beaches (with better weather) look for moonrise over the Atlantic at 7:27 p.m.

(SUN PHOTO by Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

August 23, 2010

Danielle is now a hurricane

The storm system brewing far out in the Atlantic has become the second hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane Danielleseason.

The National Hurricane Center today reported that Hurricane Danielle is now 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, moving toward the west northwest at 17 mph. Top sustained winds have reached 75 mph.

Danielle is too far out to pose any immediate threat to land. But the storm continues to strengthen and is forecast to become a "major" (Cat. 3) storm by Wednesday, with top winds in excess of 111 mph.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Blue skies will yield to clouds, showers

The sunny, dry weather we're enjoying this Monday morning will gradually give way to increasing clouds and scattered showers late today as low pressure drops south out of New York State, forecasters say.

With the darker, damper weather will come the coolest daytime highs since early June. (The June UCAR image9 high was 71 degrees.)

Forecasters out at Sterling say the high at BWI-Marshall Tuesday will be around 74 degrees - 10 degrees cooler than the long-term average for the date. Overnight lows near 66 degrees are a bit warmer than the average, but cool enough to open the windows and silence the air conditioners.

As the low pressure system drops to our south, we will come into a northeasterly flow off the Atlantic, making Tuesday a cool, gray day. Rainfall probably won't amount to much, but it will feel damp.

Showers should taper off Wednesday as a weak cold front makes its way in to the region. As high pressure builds in behind the front, we'll be looking at clearing skies and temperatures rising back into the mid-80s for the weekend. Next week is likely to begin with sunny, dry weather and temperatures near seasonal norms, if forecasters are correct.

This will also be a week for watching what is likely to become Hurricane Danielle later today. The season's fourth named storm has strengthened to tropical storm force, with top sustained winds of 60 mph. It does not look like it will become a threat to the East Coast. It seems to be tracking too far north, with a turn to the north and northeast likely by the weekend, well before it can approach the coast.

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

August 22, 2010

Baltimore in August can be pretty cool


Temperatures around Baltimore are expected to cool down after a cold front passes through Back to schooltoday, with some rain showers and thunderstorms. Daytime highs this week should hold in the mid-80s, which is only a shade above the long-term averages.

Baltimore can get much cooler in late August. The coldest high temperature for this date is 69 degrees, most recently in 2007. Most record low daily maxima in late August are in the low 60s. The record for all of August is 62, set Aug. 31, 1911.

(AP PHOTO: Hattiesburg American, Ryan Moore, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 21, 2010

Tropical depression could be hurricane by Monday

NOAA TD6The National Hurricane Center is now tracking a new tropical depression in the Atlantic, and predicts it could become a hurricane as early as Monday. If so, it will be the fourth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season, and would carry the name Danielle.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: This storm is now, officially, Tropical Storm Danielle. Earlier post resumes below.

The storm - still badly organized - is in the lower left of this water vapor image.

Tropical Depression Six is now located 580 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the west northwest at 9 mph. Its top sustained winds are just 30 mph, but the storm is expected to strengthen slowly over the next 48 hours.

Here is the latest advisory on TD6. Here is the forecast track, which would seem to take it toward the island of Bermuda by next weekend. And here is the view from orbit

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Drought persists in parts of Maryland


dry cornLast week’s heavy rain went a long way to ease dry conditions in some parts of the state, especially Central Maryland.

This week’s Drought Monitor maps show more than 49 percent of Maryland now enjoying normal moisture. That’s up from only 33 percent just before the rain.

But half the state remains dry, and more than a quarter, in Western and Southern Maryland, and the Lower Eastern Shore, remains in drought.

Hardest-hit are Washington, Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties.

(AP Photo: Will Kincaid, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 20, 2010

Have we left the 90s behind?

So, I'm back from vacation. Did I miss anything?

Just kidding. I'm looking at the stats for the week, and it seems you had a spot of rain and a bit of a roller-coaster ride on the temperatures, while I was away.

Ocean CityBut after today (Friday), it looks as though we may get an extended break from the 90s, as you might expect at the end of August. But we're also due for some more rain, especially on Sunday. So plan to cut the grass on Saturday.

First the numbers: AT BWI-Marshall, the National Weather Service recorded nearly 2.5 inches of rain during the heavy storms on the 12th and 13th. Another inch or more fell at the airport this week, bringing the total for August to 4.35 inches. The average for August in Baltimore is just 3.74 inches. And we still have more than a week to go.

Some places saw much more rain than that. Here at The Sun, we recorded 3.36 inches of rain on the 12th. Wish I could have been here to see that ... Nah! Actually, we're dealing with the effects of the rain, I suspect, at home. We had a little sink-hole open up beside the front steps to the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. Still pouring rocks in, wondering how many it can swallow.

The bell-ringers that day appear to have been Mt. Airy, with 6.30 inches; Hamilton, in Baltimore City, with 5.02 inches, and Marlton, in Calvert, with 4.96 inches, according to the CoCoRaHS network. The smallest amount was in Rockville, still a respectable. 1.85 inches.

Temperatures for the month are now averaging 78.6 degrees, which is 3.3 degrees above the average for the month so far. If that holds (not likely) it would be the warmest August since 1995. 

I say "not likely" because the forecast calls for highs in the mid-80s from Sunday well into next week. That's still slightly above the average for Baltimore at this time of year. But it's low enoughOcean City to drag down the average as we near the end of the month.

On Sunday, we're looking for the chances of showers and storms to rise again as a high pressure moves off the coast. That will draw moisture in off the Atlantic, and lift the humidity readings later on Saturday and into Sunday. Then, as a cold front approaches from the northwest, we'll see rain and storm chances rise into the 40 percent range. Cooler weather will follow behind the front.

It was interesting to note that BWI failed to break 80 degrees twice while I was away - on the 13th and 15th, topping out at 79 and 77 degrees, respectively. It was the first time that's happened since June 9. As we get farther from the solstice, the sun gets lower, and the hours of daylight diminish, it's a trend that might be interrupted, but can't be stopped.

Summer is on the wane. Sorry, kids. Teachers are preparing their classrooms, even as we speak. Well, I know one who is, anyway.

The count of 90-plus days at BWI-Marshall this year now stands at 48 through Thursday. We may add one more day today; it's 86 degrees at BWI as I write this. We've already reached 90 at The Sun. The record for Baltimore is 54 days, set in 1988.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Instruments at BWI recorded 90 degrees Friday, pushing the total this year to 49 days, just five short of the record.

(SUN PHOTOS: Top: Jed Kirschbaum; Bottom: Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

August 15, 2010

Prime time for Cape Verde hurricanes


We are entering prime time for the “Cape Verde hurricanes.” An average of two of these storms form each year, most in August and September, and usually within 600 miles of the Cape Verde islands, off West Africa. They gain strength as they cross the Atlantic. Some move into the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico (Ike 2008). But others sweep up the Atlantic Coast, threatening coastal communities from Florida (Andrew 1992), the Carolinas (Hugo 1989) to New England (1938).


Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 14, 2010

Impress your friends: Finding the Summer Triangle


Summer TriangleToday’s stargazing lesson: Finding the “Summer Triangle.” If skies are clear, step outside at 10 p.m. The bright star nearest the zenith (straight up) is Vega (top in photo, left).  Move your gaze east to the next star of similar brightness. That’s Deneb, (left) toward which our solar system is rushing as it circles the Milky Way galaxy. Next move your eyes toward the south, to the next bright star – Altair (right). Together they form a right triangle, with Vega at the 90-degree point

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 13, 2010

Watch your step ... it's Friday the 13th


Today is the only Friday the 13th on the 2010 calendar. It’s regarded by some as an unlucky day, But Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar notes that some South Americans consider Tuesday unlucky, while some in Italy think the number 17 brings misfortune. Friday-the-13th occurs once or twice each year, and three times in 14 or 15 years per century (most recently in 2009). Curiously, the 13th falls on Fridays more often than on any other day.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 12, 2010

If skies clear, see the Perseid meteors tonight


Tonight will be Marylanders’ best opportunity to view the annual Perseid meteor shower, if skies clear off. The Perseids occur each year as the Earth’s orbit carries it through the dusty trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Like bugs on the windshield, comet dust strikes the atmosphere at high speed, creating streaks of light — up to 100/hour — as friction heats the air around them. Best times: midnight to dawn. The moon is just past new, so moonlight will not interfere.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 11, 2010

Gone fishin'

fishinI know. It's really hot out. There are storms brewing somewhere in the Atlantic and the Gulf. And now the weather blogger is taking a powder. Bad timing.

But this last break of the season was planned long ago, and my favorite teacher would come after me with a ruler if I didn't take the time.

So I'll be off the WeatherDeck for a few days, trying to keep cool. I've left a few items for the weekend papers.

If you need to check for tropical storm or hurricane data, click here.

For the Baltimore forecast from the National Weather Service in Sterling, click here. And, for the latest data from The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets, click here.

Now, you may talk amongst yourselves. Someone will be checking for comments and posting them. I'm outa here.

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 10, 2010

Stifling heat will ease by Thursday

Monday morning's forecast from the National Weather Service looked pretty dire - with predictions for highs in the 90s right through the weekend. But the models and the maps look a little more heat Baltimorehopeful today. While we're still looking at some average to slightly above-normal temperatures, it looks like we will be well clear of the 90s by by the weekend.

Relief will come in the form of a "backdoor" cold front. Clockwise circiul;ation around high pressure over New England Thursday will shove cooler, moist marine air our way from the north and east, if forecasters are correct. That will drop our daytime highs from the mid- to upper-90s where they are today and Wednesday, to the mid- to upper 80s.

That's still a few degrees above the long-term averages for Baltimore at this time of year, which are now  descending through 86-degree mark from the mid-July high of 88 degrees. But it will be a noticeable and welcome change.

The front will also bring our first decent chance for some showers and thunderstorms Thursday and Friday. Another front due in from the west early next week should bring additional chances for some precipitation.

In the meantime, we're looking at highs well into the 90s Tuesday and Wednesday. Baltimore City's Health Department has declared a Code Red Heat Alert for Tuesday, opening cooling centers across the city:

"Each center will have cool air, water and ice available. residents should call 311 for the latest cooling center hours before heading to the nearest one."

There is also a Code Orange air pollution forecast for today, meaning that breathing the air in Central Maryland will be unhealthy for people in "sensitive groups."


(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, August 2010)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

August 9, 2010

July redux ... heat and humidity return

If you liked July's weather in Central Maryland, you're going to love this week's forecast. The National Weather Service is calling for highs in the 90s all week - straight through next Sunday, if they're on target.

That would bring the total of 90-plus days this year to an even 50 by next Sunday, just four short of tying the record of 54 days, set in 1988. Once we reach the 90s today, the total will stand at 43. The 30-year average for BWI is 29.4 days.

Ninety-degree days:

NOAA/NWSApril:  2July temperatures BWI

May:  3

June: 16

July:  20

Aug. (so far): 2


This week's heat is expected to rise to near 100 degrees by Wednesday, when the forecast high is 97. Rising humidity will push the Heat Index numbers into triple digits. Temperatures will approach record daily highs Tuesday and Wednesday. The best chance for matching a Baltimore record will be Tuesday, when the record is 100 degrees, set 110 years ago, in 1900.

This is killer weather. Please check on vulnerable friends, family and neighbors. Be sure they have access to air conditioning.

It gets worse. The Maryland Department of the Environment has declared a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for today, Monday, throughout Central and Southern Maryland - from Frederick County east to Cecil and south to St. Mary's:



Once again you can blame the heat on a persistent Bermuda high in the western Atlantic. Clockwise circulation around the high will be drawing Gulf heat and humidity into our region through the middle of the week.

Then we'll see the next "cold" front pass by, bringing us increased chances for some showers and thunderstorms late Wednesday and Thursday. But temperatures won't cool down much at all. Sterling is calling for highs in the low 90s from Friday through the weekend.


(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Heat waves

August 8, 2010

Planets gather tonight in the west


If skies are clear this evening, step out after sunset for a look at a striking conjunction of planets. Easiest to find is bright Venus, very bright, just south of due west at around 8 p.m. You’ll need clear, dry skies to see more. Binoculars will help. That’s Mars just above, and to the left of Venus. Saturn stands a bit closer to Venus, above and to the right. They’re all within a space the width of your hand held at arm’s length. Faint Mercury is harder to find, lower and farther to the right.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 7, 2010

Perseid meteors peak next week

Perseid meteor 


It’s nearly time to start watching for the annual Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids, dust debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, peak next Thursday night into Friday morning, in the dark of the moon. But activity is already rising, and who knows what the weather will be like next week? If skies clear, you can start looking sooner. Find a dark location and watch between 11 p.m. and dawn. The shower typically peaks at 100 meteors an hour under ideal conditions. They’re fast – 33,500 mph – and often leave persistent trails.

(AP PHOTO: Kevin Clifford, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 6, 2010

Colin threatens strong surf and rip currents


Tropical Storm Colin may be weak, and it appears to pose no danger of a U.S. landfall as it passes west of Bermuda this weekend. But the storm is likely to kick up strong surf along Maryland and Delaware beaches.

If you're at the shore, or headed there this weekend, you'll want to see this from the NWS forecast office in Wakefield, Va.:


Here's the forecast for Ocean City.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Baltimore's warmest nights


Joe Bollinger, in Glen Burnie, asks: “What is the highest low temperature recorded in Baltimore?” One of the weather service’s more obscure data points, this is called the “record high minimum.” The warmest daily low for Baltimore in summer is 83 degrees, reached on June 6, 1925; July 21, 1930; and again on Aug. 5, 1930. We came close to breaking it on July 24, when the low at BWI was 82 degrees, a record for the date. The warmest daily low in the winter months is 61 degrees, set Jan. 4, 1950.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 5, 2010

Tornado Warning for southern Arundel

The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for extreme southern Anne Arundel County and northern Calvert County. It will remain in effect until 5 p.m.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: The thunderstorm has left the warned area, so the tornado warning has been canceled.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning is in effect, too, for parts of Southern Maryland. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is in effect for most of the rest of the state until 10 p.m. The storm has produced winds gusts to 59 mph at Reagan National Airport.

The NWS forecast office in Sterling, Va., said:



Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

NOAA still expects "very active" hurricane season

With only three named storms on the books so far as we move into the traditional August-to-October peak of hurricane activity in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center has trimmed the top end of its predictions for hurricane activity during the 2010 season. But not by much.

There is still "a high likelihood the season could be very active, and it has the potential for being one of the more active on record," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Weather Service.

NOAA/APAnd while he made no predictions on where the storms are most likely to strike the U.S., he did add that "multiple strikes are more likely during the more active seasons, such as could occur this year."

He stressed the need for advance preparations regardless of the outlook. "People need to prepare for each and every hurricane season, regardless of this outlook or any other outlook," Bell said. "It only takes one hurricane to make for a disastrous year."

"It is equally disconcerting that our coastlines have built up considerably in the last few decades, and many more people are not in potential harm's way," he said.

Separately, the Colorado State University forecast team of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray issued their August forecast update. It's unchanged from their June 2 predictions: 18 named storms, of which 10 will become hurricanes, 5 of them reaching Cat. 3 strength. Their forecast includes landfall estimates: a 50 percent chance that a major hurricane will strike the U.S. East Coast, including Florida; a 49 percent chance of a major storm striking the Gulf Coast, and a 64 percent chance of a cat. 3 storm striking in the Caribbean and Central America. All these probabilities are well above the long-term averages. 

In a teleconference Thursday, Bell said NOAA's official storm forecast for the 2010 Atlantic season now calls for 14 to 20 named storms (down from 14 to 23 in the NOAA forecast issued in May). Of those, 8 to 12 are expected to become hurricanes (down from 8 to 14). And 4 to 6 of the hurricanes (down from 3 to 7) are predicted to reach "major" force, at Cat. 3 or higher and Hurricane Alex Matamoros, Mex.sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

Three major factors are still in place to generate this high level of storm formation, Bell said. The first is a continuing, multidecadal pattern of high storm activity that began in 1995.  "So we're 16 years into an active era that historically lasts 25 to 40 years," he said.

The second is a pattern of record-high sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Those temperatures are currently running 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit above average. "The previous record warm year is 2005," Bell said.

Bell didn't point this out, but 2005 brought us Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (satellite image, top), and ended with a record 27 named strorms. In fact, the NHC ran out of names that season and had to employ Greek alphabet letters for the last six tropical storms, two of which became hurricanes.

The third factor Bell cited is the strengthening of the La Nina conditions in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean. La Ninas tend to change wind patterns in the tropical Atlantic in ways that weaken the high-altitude winds that otherwise tend to cut off tropical storm development. 

NOAA/NHCSo far this season, there have been three tropical storms, only one of which has reached hurricane strength. Hurricane Alex went ashore in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (photo above) as a tropical storm on June 27, and again in northeast Mexico on June 30 as a Cat. 2 hurricane.

Tropical Storm Bonnie crossed the southern tip of Florida on July 23 with little impact. And Tropical Storm Colin weakened in the mid-Atlantic earlier this week. Remnants of the storm (satellite image, left) continue to cross the Atlantic. They are given a 50 percent chance of regaining tropical storm strength in the next 48 hours. 

(PHOTO: Middle photo: Matamoros, Mex., by Adrian Del Angel/Agence France Press/Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Overnight rains welcome, but spotty

Rain Baltimore lightning 

The thunderstorms that moved across the region overnight dropped some considerable rain on some spots, and little to none in others. The lightning, at least, provided everyone with some entertainment.

The photo above was shot by Bill Stifler, our ace storm photog in Baltimore:

"It was taken from my home in Hampden where not a drop of rain fell as the storm slid just north. I had come from that direction and passed through a nice down pour on Lake Ave. It's amazing the difference a mile or so can make with some storms."

Sure is. Here's a report from John Moser, in Middletown, Frederick County:

"Amazing. I've been a weather buff for 38 years and have never seen anything like this. I live in Middletown, Md. and just look at the time lapse radar loop from 6 p.m. until now, 8:15 p.m. Huge areas of thunderstorms and embedded rain showers and a tiny sliver of precipitation-free area about 4 miles wide and 30 miles long hovers right over Middletown, we received not one drop of rain.

"Thurmont has received nearly 1 inch in the last hour. Hagerstown, 0.5, Braddock Heights, 0.5, to our west the same thing. It just astonishes me. Now at day 19 with no rain and I want to figure this out. It makes no sense how  this tiny area of Frederick County is not receiving any rainfall, even with such a wide swath of rain around us, like right now."

We clocked 0.26 inch of rain on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. It was a hard rain - more than 3 inches an hour at one point - but it was brief. We have 0.2 on the gauge here at The Sun. BWI-Marshall recorded 0.59 inch.

Here are some more reports from CoCoRaHS. Thurmont and Westminster saw more than an inch. Today's Drought Monitor maps show little change from last week. Western, Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore remain the most deeply affected by drought this summer.

More storms are likely today, and some could be severe. There is a Heat Advisory posted for all of Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore until 8 p.m. The high at BWI is expected to reach 96 degrees, and Baltimore has declared a Code Red Heat Alert, opening its cooling stations.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Observer reports

CoCoRaHS offers statewide precipitation data


John White, in Stewartstown, Pa., questions the value of rain data from a single “official” station like BWI-Marshall Airport. “I am sure you realize that it can pour cats and dogs in one small area, while a mile or so away there may be no precipitation at all,” he said. White proposed a network of stations that could yield a statewide sampling. Well, something like that exists at the Community Collaborative Rain, Snow and Hail Network (CoCoRaHS). Visit

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

August 4, 2010

The heat ... it's back

It's back into the 90s for Central Maryland. The National Weather Service has posted Heat Advisories for all of Central, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore (orange on the map), effective from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. The forecast high for BWI-Marshall is in the mid-90s. with high humidity. That will NOAA/NWSpush Heat Index numbers to near 105 degrees.

This afternoon's high at the airport reached 92 degrees, with dew points oppressive in the mid-70s. Friday, too is expected to top 90 degrees, with a forecast high of 92. If they're right, it will bring the count of 90-plus days this year to 44. The record is 54 days.

The weekend looks a little cooler (but still above average for the dates), with highs in the upper 80s, before temperatures push back into the low 90s early next week.

Once again, you can blame high pressure off the East Coast for sweeping all this warm, moist air north from the Gulf. Scattered thunderstorms Wednesday or Thursday could drop up to two inches of rain on some locations.

But we'll need a cold front, due late Thursday into Friday, to bring real relief. Temperatures won't drop dramatically, because winds from the west will be heated as they move down off the Appalachians. But it will be noticeably less humid, forecasters say.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Heat waves

Solar eruption: Second wave due tonight

Travis J. Novitsky 

Charged particles from Sunday's solar flare swept over the Earth last night, triggering colorful displays of the "Northern Lights" across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Norway and other locations across northern latitudes as the blast encountered the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field.

The photo above was taken by Travis J. Novitsky, of Grand Portage, Minn., who told "Well, the aurora made a pretty good showing last night! It sounds like most everyone in Minnesota had cloudy skies but lucky for me the clouds didn't move in to my area until after the aurora faded. These images were all captured between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. At about 11:45 I noticed the moon was coming up, so I made a couple of exposures of the moon as well as the northern lights. These were all shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II."

Scientists say a second wave is still en route across the 93-million-mile gulf between the sun and the Earth, and should reach us tonight.

Maryland appears to have been too far south to give us a view of last night's auroral displays. AndNOAA/GOES14 the skies were too murky anyway, as is common here at this time of year. You need clear, dark skies to see auroral displays, especially this far south.

Tonight's forecast doesn't look any better for Central Maryland. But if you're reading this in northern New England, the Great Lakes states or points north, spend some time outside tonight and give it a try. Catching the Northern Lights is always an experience you won't forget.

For the rest of us, photos from last night's display are coming in to the galleries. On the site you can also sign up for telephone alerts. For a monthly fee, they will call you when there is another big solar eruption, and when auroral displays are occurring at your location.

(PHOTO: Top: Travis J. Novitsky/ Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Sky Watching

August 3, 2010

NWS update: July tied for hottest month on record

The National Weather Service has recalculated. Now forecasters say that July 2010 tied with three other years for the hottest July on record for Baltimore, and the hottest single calendar month. Period.

Baltimore heatWhen we posted on the July heat yesterday, we were using the web site for the NWS Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va. That listed July 1872 as the hottest July on record for the city, with an average temperature of 81.7 degrees.

July 2010 came in at 81.5, putting it in a tie with July 1995 for second place. Or so I thought.

Now, Sterling has consulted the final arbiter on such things - the National Climatic Data Center - and concluded that their own web site was wrong. The correct average temperature for July 1872 was listed by the NCDC as 81.5 degrees.

That would put this past July in a three-way tie with 1995 and 1872 for the hottest July on the books for Baltimore.

But wait. There's more. Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer at Sterling says 1949 also finished with an average temperature of 81.5 degrees, making it a four-way tie. That, despite the fact that the Sterling web site lists 1949 with an average of 81.4 degrees.

UPDATE: Steve tells me the problem appears to be differences in the protocols established for rounding temperature averages. For example, when you take the average monthly high and low for July 1949, add them and divide by two, you get 81.45 degrees. The weather service in 1949 appears to have rounded that DOWN to 81.4 degrees. Today's protocol at the NCDC would roundNOAA/NWS it UP to 81.5 degrees.

Zubrick has asked the NCDC to explain past and current policies on rounding. Math teachers: here's a teachable moment.  

So, that's the story. Sterling has always said the "text file" on their web site contains "preliminary data," and that the NCDC has the last word. In the meantime, Zubrick said, "We're going to review that text file." Stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 1996)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers
 No "Snowmaggedon" next winter

After last winter's record-breaking snowfall, who would predict anything even close to a repeat performance in the winter of 2010-11? Not's Joe Bastardi.

Baltimore blizzard 2009In his first forecast for the coming winter season, the forecast company's long-range meteorologist is calling for "a more traditional winter" this time. Baltimore and other East Coast cities that were hammered by three blizzards last winter should see something close to average accumulations in the winter season to come.

"Average" snow for a winter season in Baltimore is about 18 inches. Last winter we recorded 77 inches, and the last snow piles didn't vanish until the first week in May.

This winter, Bastardi predicts, we should prepare for "greater than normal swings between winter's coldest and warmest days." He says November and December could get winter off to a fast start, with a warming period in January. Average temperatures for the winter would be slightly above the long-term norms, if he proves accurate.

Last fall, Bastardi predicted a memorable, snowy winter for our region, with something like 25 inches of snow. He was right about the "memorable" part. But he undershot the snow totals byFlorida beaches two-thirds.

This time, Bastardi predicts, it will be the Northwest, the Northern Plains and the western Great Lakes that see the worst of winter weather. "The rapid cooling of the globe with the La Nina will produce severe cold for Alaska and northwest Canada, and in fact the Canadian winter will be as harsh as last year's was gentle," he said.

The big snows will fall on Chicago, Omaha, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cleveland, if he's right. Seattle will have a rough go, too.

The Southern Plains, meanwhile, would have an easier winter, as would the southern tier of states. Florida would see warmer-than-normal temperatures all winter long. Southern California and the Southwest face severe drought, and "water rationing could occur throughout the Southwest," he said.

There it is. Stick it on your fridge and check back in March to see how he did.

(PHOTOS: Top: SUN PHOTO of December 2009 Baltimore blizzard, Karl Merton Ferron/ Bottom: AP Photo, Florida in July, Michael Spooneybarger)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:25 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Winter weather

TS Colin not likely to become a serious threat

Tropical Storm Colin/NOAA/NHC 

Forecasters keeping watch over now-Tropical Storm Colin don't see much chance that the storm will strengthen into a hurricane. And any impact on the U.S. East Coast would seem to be limited mostly to heavy surf.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Tropical Storm Colin has fallen apart. The National Hurricane Center is now calling it a "remnant low," that is expected to weaken in the coming days. Earlier post continues below.   

The morning line on Colin is that the storm is having considerable trouble holding itself together. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said that Colin "has a very ragged appearance this morning." The closed circulation they saw Monday seems to have broken down, and the storm is encountering some shearing winds out of the west, which are putting a drag on further strengthening.NASA Colin

That said, Colin (center right in the NASA photo at right) is now about 800 miles east southeast of the Leeward Islands, moving toward the west at a brisk 24 mph. Top sustained winds are around 40 mph. There are no tropical storm watches or warnings up yet anywhere. But people with interests in the Northern Leewards and the Virgin Islands have been advised to monitor the storm's progress.

The storm track posted for Colin would take it north of Puerto Rico, with a slow turn toward the northwest, and then the north. That would bring it somewhere between Bermuda and the South Carolina coast by Sunday. Some slow strengthening is expected, eventually. But, for now, the Hurricane Center does not express much confidence that the storm could become even a Cat. 1 hurricane (73 mph) before then.

If Colin does hold itself together through all this, residents and vacationers along the East Coast can probably expect to see some impact on surf conditions as the storm moves east of the beaches next week. Heavy surf and rip currents are the most likely effects.

And depending on the storm's path, they could see some clouds and showers, too. That would be a boon to Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, which is in moderate to severe drought. That's an outcome we could root for.

Alternatively, the hurricane forecasters say, "Colin could degenerate to an open wave due to a combination of its rapid motion and westerly shear."

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hurricanes

August 2, 2010

Scattered showers haven't helped crops much

Rain showers in the past week don't seem to have helped Maryland's farmers much, especially in crispy-dry regions like Western and Southern Maryland, and the Lower Eastern Shore.

The USDA's weekly crops report for Maryland and Delaware is in and crop reporters say that while lower temperatures and showers have been welcome, the benefit can be hard to find. "Some crops Rain Marylandbeyond help, while others would benefit from timely rain," said one.

Maryland's pasture has continued to deteriorate, with 60 percent now rated "poor" to "very poor." That's up from 42 percent a month ago. 

The corn crop seems to have benefited from the rain. The portion rated poor or very poor declined from 55 percent last week to 49 percent in this report. But a month ago just 38 percent of the corn was rated that badly.

Soybeans, too, seem to have responded to the rain. Only 36 percent was rated poor or very poor, down from 49 percent last week, and better than the 42 percent a month ago.

Peaches were unchanged from 74 percent in good to excellent condition last week. Seventy-three percent of the apple crop was rated good to excellent, down from 88 percent last week, and 98 percent at the beginning of July.

Topsoil and subsoil moisture also continued to decline in the past week. Seventy-five percent of Maryland's topsoil is rated "short" or "very short" of moisture, up from 68 percent two weeks ago. Seventy-four percent of the subsoil is rated "short" or "very short" of moisture, up from 62 percent two weeks ago. 

(PHOTO: Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst/ Presidential motorcade in Maryland, July 25, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

Solar blast could trigger aurora Tuesday night

A large solar eruption early Sunday morning launched tons of ionized atoms toward the Earth, and solar scientists say that wave of charged solar debris could trigger auroral displays across the northern United States this week.

The eruption was rated a C-3, comparatively small, but it launched a large filament of solar material into space.

NASA"This eruption is directed right at us, and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4th," said astronomer Leon Golub, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The sun, which has an 11-year cycle of activity, is just beginning to rebound from an unually long and quiet "solar minimum," so eruptions on this scale have not been seen for several years. 

Called coronal mass ejections, the blasts are monitored by spacecraft and solar observatories, including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in February. 

"We got a beautiful view of this eruption," Golub said. "And there might be more beautiful views to come if it triggers aurorae."

When the charged particles strike the Earth's upper atmosphere, they cause the air molecules to glow, often in a variety of colors. Common in far northern latitudes, the aurorae, or "Northern Lights" are rarely seen in  the middle latitudes. But when the solar eruptions are big enough, they can sometimes be seen in Maryland, and even farther south.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning is not very good. The last aurora easily seen from Maryland was in November 2004.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Sky Watching

New tropical depression forms in Atlantic


The National Hurricane Center has upgraded that stormy region in the tropical Atlantic to tropical depression status, with a 90 percent chance that it will become the season's third named Atlantic storm, perhaps late today. If so, it will become Tropical Storm Colin. For now, it's just Tropical Depression #4, or TD 4.

Storm trackers said TD4 is now 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, moving to the west northwest at 17 mph. Top sustained winds are just below tropical storm force, at 35 mph. Further strengthening is expected, but it does not appear headed for hurricane status anytime soon.

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

The storm is in pretty warm waters, just what's needed to keep it fueled. Here's a map of sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:27 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

And the heat goes on ... back to the 90s Tues.

Looks like four days in the 80s is all we'll see for now. Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for high temperatures to return to the 90s at BWI-Marshall on Tuesday, and revisit that territory again on Wednesday and Thursday. The predicted high for Thursday is a very July-like 96 degrees.

For now, we're looking at lots of clouds and relatively cool temperatures as high pressure centered to our northeast pumps cool, moist Atlantic air our way on east winds. That means plenty of cloudsShowers in Baltimore today (Monday) and scattered showers.

We've had at least two showers on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville since Sunday, wetting everything down a little, but never registering anything on the rain gauge. Likewise for BWI-Marshall.

As the high moves offshore, we'll begin to feel more southerly, and later westerly winds, bringing in more moisture, higher humidity and then higher temperatures. Sterling forecasters are calling for more sunshine and highs near 90 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 96 on Thursday.

Chances for showers and thunderstorms will rise again at mid-week, into the 30 to 40 percent range. But the next cold front is due sometime Friday morning, promising to return us to the 80s, with sunnier, and drier weather for the weekend.

July 2010 ended with an average temperature of 81.5 degrees at BWI-Marshall. Those last few days of 80-degree weather knocked us out of contention for the top spot. Through Thursday, we stood at 81.8 degrees. Here's how this July stacks against the hottest Julys on record for Baltimore:July heat Baltimore

1872:  81.7 degrees

2010:  81.5 degrees

1995:  81.5 degrees

1949:  81.4 degrees

1934:  81.4 degrees

1955:  81.2 degrees

1931:  81.0 degrees 


(SUN PHOTOS by Amy Davis) 

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

August 1, 2010

A record-breaking July ... thankfully behind us


NOAA/NWSAugust, at last! This miserable July averaged nearly 82 degrees, which, after the weekend data are in, could make it the hottest July on record for Baltimore. We set high-temperature records of 100 to 105 degrees on four dates, exceeding marks as old as 1934. An overnight low of 82 degrees on July 24 broke a 1972 record for the warmest low on that date. There were 20 days that reached 90 or more, and five that topped 100 degrees. This summer has seen seven 100-degree days, tying an 80-year-old record.

UPDATE: A few "cool" days at the end of the month snatched a record from our grasp. (Saturday was the first day since July 3 that finished below the long-term average for the date.) In the end, July 2010 averaged 81.5 degrees, tying with 1995 as the second-warmest July on record for Baltimore. The hottest July is still July 1872, at 81.7 degrees.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
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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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