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September 30, 2010

Should schools be closing due to heavy rain?

Schools in Harford and Baltimore counties have announced they will be closing early Thursday due to the heavy rain. They cite "deteriorating weather conditions" and "The continued accumulation of NASAstanding water" on local roadways.

Carroll and Cecil have also announced early closings.

Okay. I get it. We don't want our children to be out there on the roads when some low spots are covered or closed by high water.

So does it make sense to then actually send them (and their parents and caretakers who will have to pick the kids up and get them home or to another safe place) out into those very conditions? Wouldn't it be better to keep them safe at school? 

The rain is forecast to continue, and the flooding could get worse. But it's not exactly the same as accumulating snow. What do you think?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:37 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Flooding
        

More rain coming; NWS says some could see 12"

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: The National Weather Service has extended the Flash Flood Watch until 6 a.m. Friday. "There is increasing concern that moderate to heavy rain will continue in the I-95 corridor until past midnight." 

Portions of Maryland between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake Bay could see a whole lot more rain than we've clocked so far. Check out this from the National Weather Service's morning forecast discussion:

"WIDESPREAD HEAVY RAIN WILL CONTINUE ACROSS THE ENTIRE [FORECAST AREA].
MESOSCALE BANDS OF HEAVY RAIN WILL ENHANCE RAINFALL RATES TO
Rain runoffAROUND 3-4 INCHES PER HOUR ALONG AND EAST OF THE I-95 CORRIDOR.

"AN ADDITIONAL 2-3 INCHES OF RAIN CAN BE EXPECTED EAST OF THE BLUE
RIDGE WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS OF 6 INCHES ACROSS THE WESTERN SHORE
OF THE CHSPK BAY. WE COULD BE TALKING ABOUT STORM-TOTAL RAINFALL
AMOUNTS LOCALLY OVER A FOOT
ALONG THE WESTERN SHORE."

Prof. Jeffrey Halverson, at UMBC, says he's worried we may see a second slug of heavy rain tonight as a second low, the actual remains of Tropical Storm Nicole, cruise past the region.

Eric the Red agrees:

"The second low, which is the actual remant circulation of Nicole, is expected to lift north toward the region tonight.  Models differ on the speed... with the GFS [model] bringing heavy, heavy rain from this system into the region this eve, and has it ending by tomorrow morning. 

"The NOGAPS has similar timing.  The Canadian and UKMET are slower... and have the torrential downpours with this second part of the event occurring a bit later tonight into tomorrow.  Since the second low - remnants of Nicole - are expected to pass just to our east, the tornado threat is not as great (thankfully).  I think a compromise in timing makes sense... so an additional period of heavy rain tonight and ending in the morning.

"Total rainfall amounts under this new scenario double, if not more.  4-8" will be widespread, with the Tides Onlinepotential for higher amounts.  If Nicole strays a bit to the east, then rainfall amounts will be less.  I guess I've seen enough to buy into the double-whammy."

UPDATE, 12:20 p.m.: BWI-Marshall has recorded 3.46 inches of rain so far from this storm, bringing the month's total to more than 5.5 inches. Normal precipitation for BWI in September is 3.98 inches.

Meanwhile, there is still a Coastal Flood Warning up for the Western Shore. The high tide at Baltimore (chart) appears to be running about 2 feet above predictions.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:44 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Overnight rains tops 2" - 4" south of Baltimore

Woke to the sound of rain on the WeatherDeck well before dawn Thursday. We've recorded nearly an inch already in Cockeysville. But some locations, mostly south of Baltimore, have reported well over 2 inches today, with a full day of additional precipitation on tap.

Flash Flood Warnings are posted for all of Central Maryland, from Frederick to Harford and south to St. Mary's County.

It's a sprinkling compared with what Wilmington, N.C. has seen since Sunday - more than 20 inches, according to AccuWeather.com.

Here are some of the early Maryland numbers from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Park Hall, St. Mary's Co.: 6.95 inches

Bowley's Quarters, Baltimore Co.:  5.30 inches 

Leonardtown, St. Mary's Co.:  4.77 inches

Hollywood, St. Mary's County:  3.90 inchesNOAA/NWS

Kingsville, Baltimore Co.: 2.57 inches 

Deale, AA Co.: 2.37 inches

White Marsh, Baltimore Co,: 2.35 inches

Bowie, PG Co.:  2.10 inches

Crofton, AA Co.: 2.0 inches

South Gate, AA Co.:  1.88 inches

Baltimore Sun, downtown: 1.75 inches

North Beach, in Calvert County, is reporting some roads closed due to flooding.

Route 244 in Beauvue, St. Mary's County was under water.

Rock Creek, in Rockville, Montgomery County was also reported to be in flood at Rte. 28 and Avery Road.

Forecasters are still predicting 2 to 4 inches of rain in the region before the precipitation ends overnight tonight.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:50 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers
        

October brings cooler days, autumn colors

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Autumn colorOctober arrives tomorrow, bringing with it (we hope) some of Baltimore’s best weather. The 10th month is typically dry and pleasant, and the leaves begin to show plenty of color. Average daytime highs at BWI-Marshall slip from 73 degrees to 62 degrees by month’s end. The lows drop from 50 to 39 degrees. Record highs and lows fall to the mid-80s and mid-20s. The earliest trace of snow on record for Baltimore fell Oct. 17, 1977.

 

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, Towson, 2007)

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

September 29, 2010

Nicole dissipates, but its rain is still en route

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Nicole, never a well-organized system, has now dissipated. But the moisture it captured from the Caribbean in recent days is still being swept NOAA/NHC Nicole plumenorth in a heavy plume that will feed our rainfall overnight and Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Peloquin said this afternoon, "It's pretty certain that everyone will receive rain, and a decent amount of rain" from the storm. The official forecast is still for 2 to 4 inches across most of the region, with higher amounts along a rain "axis" that's currently forecast to set up along the Blue Ridge.

"The morning rush hour will probably be a mess, because we expect heavy rain to be falling at that point," he said. It's likely to be raining still into the afternoon, tapering off "toward the end of the evening rush hour."

Flash Flood Watches remain in effect from Cumberland east. There's also a Coastal Flood Watch in place for the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The southeast winds are expected to drive water into the creeks and rivers, boosting high tide predictions by 2 to 3 feet with "moderate" flooding.

Wilmington, N.C. has received more than 5 inches of rain so far today, on top of a foot since Monday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

2 to 4 inches of rain due from TS Nicole

Forecasters are warning that a new tropical storm near Cuba this morning will merge with low pressure forming off the southeastern U.S. overnight to bring Central Maryland 2 to 4 inches of rain tonight and Thursday, with up to 6 inches in some locations.

Although the storm is forecast to bring sustained winds of 20 mph, gusting to 45 or 50 along the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, this is expected to be mainly a heavy rain event.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Maryland from drought-stricken Washington County east to the Lower Eastern Shore - also reeling from a very dry summer. Light rain is expected to begin near the Chesapeake by early evening, increasing in intensity and moving westward overnight.

NOAA/NHC/Nicole"Rainfall totals of two to four inches are expected, with isolated amounts up to five inches possible. This may cause streams and creeks to quickly rise out of their banks," the Watch says. "People living in areas that are prone to flash flooding should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued. Motorists tonight and Thursday should be aware of the possibility of flooded roads. These should never be crossed."

A Coastal Flood Watch is also in effect for Thursday on the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay as the approaching low and onshore winds conspire to drive water into the Western Shore's rivers and creeks. Tides are forecast to rise two to three feet above normal at high tides Thursday.

Urban flooding is expected, so Baltimore's Department of Public Works Wednesday asked residents to clear trash from storm drains in advance of the rain, and to secure trash that might wash into the storm sewers and clog them. To report storm drains that can't be easily cleared, officials asked residents to dial 311.

Maryland's Emergency Management Agency urged residents to assemble an emergency supply kit with water, non-perishable food, a flashlight and batteries, and and a battery-operated radio for monitoring weather conditions.

"Those living in in areas subject to flooding should be prepared to evacuate if needed," the agency said. "Motorists are reminded to never drive through standing water because several inches of fast-moving water can carry a vehicle down stream."

BGE officials said its crews were preparing for the heavy rain and strong winds, which could cause power outages. "At this time, given the projected path of the storm, we fully anticipate several thousand service interruptions," said A. Christopher Burton,  senior vice president for gas and electric operations. "We strongly urge our customers to take the time now to prepare."

This latest round of extreme weather seems to have impressed even seasoned meteorologists. A forecaster at the NWS's Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office was moved to add this to his Wednesday morning forecast discussion:

"I'll say this - The weather of 2010 is something I won't soon forget. Blizzards, severe storms, record-breaking heat, drought, and now potential flooding."

There are several things playing into the very wet weather ahead for Central Maryland. The first is a trough of low pressure - a cold front - which is lurking just to our west. The second is the  Bermuda High still lingering off the coast. Together, they have formed a kind of one-way wind NOAA/NHCcorridor from the tropics to Maryland.

What's preparing to move up that corridor is a huge gusher of tropical moisture that has been percolating for a week in the northwestern Caribbean. That system is the newly-named Tropical Storm Nicole.

The National Hurricane Center says Nicole finally made tropical storm status this morning. It is a minimal storm, with top sustained winds of just 40 mph. But it's a very wet one that has been drenching Cuba, and is moving today to do the same to southern Florida. And then forecasters say it will head north, along that open corridor, to the mid-Atlantic states. Here's the latest advisory on Nicole.

The current storm track takes it straight toward Baltimore. And along the way it will be swept up by the final component in this sprawling weather event, the coastal storm that is expected to form off the Southeastern states Wednesday night.

As the tropical moisture is drawn north along the Atlantic corridor, it will run into the Appalachians and the cold front Turn Around, Don't Drownparked to our west, unloading all that tropical rainfall on us. Expect periods of torrential rains, strong and gusty winds, possible thunderstorms or tornadoes. The region is also likely to experience power outages as trees and limbs succomb to the weather and tear down wires as they fall.  

The good news is that much of the East Coast really needs a big dose of rain. But we don't need flooding and we don't need people skidding off wet roads or driving into overflowing streams. So the other bit of good news is that by the time it gets here, this system will be moving north pretty fast, minimizing the time it spends unloading its water on us.

Jeffrey Halverson, an associate professor of environmental science at UMBC, offers this analysis of what's ahead:

"My commentary, after studying charts and reading various discussions, this AM:

"1. The models are still having trouble with regard to placement of the heavy rain axis, and we are now [less than] 24 hours from the onset of a major event. There may be a tendency for some models to push Prof. Jeffrey Halversonheavy rain too far to the NW, away from the coast. Nor have the models successfully predicted the very early arrival of the moist air mass, now pushing up through Richmond toward Baltimore.

"2. Widespread 2" - 4" with higher amounts seems likely along  and east of the I-95 corridor.

"3.  There are two components to this system that are expected to phase: (a) the deep tropical mositure plume which includes remnants of [Nicole]; and (b) the closed upper low over the SE US with a lingering frontal boundary along the coast. This upper-level low - which is distinctly non-tropical in origin - is expected to form a new coastal low somewhere in the vicinity of NC-VA, which will then draw in and process the tropical plume.

"Heavy rains over our area will come from three elements: (1) the tropical plume gliding up over the coastal front; (2) uplift provided by the remnants of [Nicole]; and (3) the developing coastal low."

Here's more from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency:

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency urges Maryland residents to make preparations.

The storms could lead to power outages, and residents are urged to have an emergency supply kit with water, food, a flashlight and a battery operated radio or weather radio. Residents should monitor local news broadcasts for updates and those living in areas subject to flooding (low-lying areas, areas along streams and creeks) should be prepared to evacuate if needed.

When driving in such conditions, motorists are reminded to never drive through standing water because several inches of fast moving water can carry a vehicle down stream. TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN.

If your area is under a tornado warning, move quickly to the basement or an interior room away from windows and doors. If you cannot get into a building, lie flat in a ditch or on low ground and cover your head with your hands.

For more information on preparedness, go to the following web sites:

"http://www.mema.state.md.us/">and click on be prepared, which will take you to pages for general preparedness, flooding and other natural disasters (which includes a section on tornado preparedness.

"http://www.ready.gov/">which has detailed information on assembling emergency kits and creating a family emergency plan.

 

"http://www.redcross.org/">and click on the Preparedness and Getting Trained tab, then the Preparedness Fast Facts link.

For more information, contact Ed McDonough, MEMA public information officer, at 410-517-3632 (office) or 410-446-3333 (cell).

 

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

September 28, 2010

Tropical system will move up East Coast

With a new tropical system (could become Nicole) getting organized in the northwest Caribbean, FEMA has already issued an advisory to residents of the Southeastern U.S. to prepare for heavy rain and other possible disruptions.

"We are closely watching this storm and are in close touch with Florida and other East Coast states as they prepare for potential heavy rains and other weather conditions in the coming days," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.  "As always, our goal is to do everything we can to support the states as they work to keep their communities safe, and ensure that citizens are aware of all resources, like www.ready.gov, that can help them prepare.  As this depression reminds us, severe weather can develop NOAA/NHCquickly and with little warning.  It's important that everyone take steps to get ready today for storms that could pose a threat in the coming days."

Eric the Red - a professional meteorologist from Baltimore and frequent contributor here, says the models don't agree on what to expect:

"There are 2 distinct camps.

"Camp 1: Storm and its associated heavy rain stays to our west, with hit-and-miss tropical showers on Thursday. ... The WRF [model] takes the remnants of the tropical system to the northwest into eastern Kentucky and then northeast up the Appalachians, with most of the hevay rain falling well to our west.

"Camp 2: This group features a track that more or less follows I-95, with landfall in central S.C. and then heading north-northeast, accompanied by torrential rainfall and gusty winds, arriving late Weds., with the main show during the day Thursday. The GFS and Canadian [models] have the center of the storm passing over Baltimore City [about] 5 p.m. on Thursday.

"It is very hard to ignore the Canadian ... which has remained remarkably consistent with the storm from run to run. The GFS has come into agreement with the Canadian as well. We still have another day to sort it out, but I think the region will get hit pretty hard on Thurs. The final track will also have serious implications for the bay and OC, with some coastal flooding likely if the storm follows the GFS/Canadian track."

"For what it's worth, the Canadian has a follow-up tropical storm heading up the coast early next week."

Here's the NWS forecast for Baltimore.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Finally, a bit of rain for Western Maryland

Sunday into Monday, it was mostly Central Maryland and parts of the Eastern Shore that saw quenching rains to ease the long summer's dry weather and drought. The extremely parched regions west of Frederick were mostly left out.

But the rains that followed, Monday into Tuesday, have been more generous. Here are some 24-hour totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:NOAA

Manchester: 1.77 inches

Taneytown:  1.58 inches

Thurmont:  1.45 inches

Williamsport:  1.26 inches

Cumberland:  0.88 inch

JS, a regular Maryland WeatherBlog reader in Frederick County, had this to say:

"the rains came---2 inches in western frederick county, it sure sounded nice on the roof last night and early this morning :) too late for my friends in farming, they got devastated this year--very grim situation"

It looks like most of the rain - that firehose that's been gushing up the East Coast  for the last 24 hours, is about to slide off to the east. Now we have a new tropical system to watch (below).NOAA/NHC

The National Hurricane Center says the stormy region that's been boiling in the northwest Caribbean for the past few days has finally become a tropical depression, the 16th of the season. It is very close to becoming the 14th named storm of the Atlantic season, Nicole. It is expected to move across Cuba into southeastern Florida and up the coast in the next 48 hours.

Here is the latest advisory on TD 16. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

The National Weather Service is calling this system the "remnants of Tropical Storm Matthew," and forecasting that it will be drawn into low-pressure set to develop off the Southeast coast late Wednesday, bringing us the threat of heavy rain ... maybe:

"THE TROPICAL MOISTURE COMBINED WITH THE DYNAMICS FROM THE
LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING A SWATH OF HEAVY RAIN UP THE MID-ATLANTIC
COAST. EXACT AREA OF WHERE THE HEAVY RAIN WILL BE REMAINS UNCERTAIN
AT THIS TIME...BUT IT DOES APPEAR THAT THERE IS AN INCREASING THREAT
FOR HEAVY RAIN ACROSS THE EASTERN HALF OF THE [FORECAST AREA].

"AN ENHANCED THREAT FOR FLOODING/FLASH FLOODING IS EXPECTED WHEREVER THE HEAVY
BAND OF RAIN DOES SET UP. THE BEST CHANCE FOR
THE HEAVIER RAIN WILL
BE OVERNIGHT WEDNESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY."

The folks in Sterling are calling for us (BWI) to get up to 3 inches of new rain Wednesday into Thursday. The wekend, in case you have plans, looks cool (60s) but sunny.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought
        

September 27, 2010

Summer's missing rain? It's on the way

The sound of rain we've been missing for most of the summer, the water absent from the creeks, the gutter-washing torrents we've not had for so long? It's all on the way this evening. Time to watch the summer's trash come down the Jones Falls.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for most of Maryland, from Frederick to St. Mary's county.  It reads, in part:

NOAA/NWS"A POTENT AREA OF LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING RAINFALL TO CENTRAL
  VIRGINIA AS WELL AS THE POTOMAC HIGHLANDS OF WEST VIRGINIA AND
  VIRGINIA THROUGH TONIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING. RAINFALL AMOUNTS
  BETWEEN 2 AND 4 INCHES ARE EXPECTED ACROSS MOST LOCATIONS WITH
  ISOLATED AMOUNTS UP TO 5 INCHES IN BANDS OF HEAVIER RAIN AND
  THUNDERSTORMS.

" FLASH FLOOD GUIDANCE REMAINS HIGH DUE TO THE RECENT DRY
  WEATHER. HOWEVER...MOST OF THE RAIN IS EXPECTED TONIGHT INTO
  TUESDAY MORNING AHEAD OF A COLD FRONT. THEREFORE...HIGH AMOUNTS
  OF RAIN IN A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME MAY CAUSE SMALL STREAMS AND
  CREEKS TO QUICKLY RISE OUT OF THEIR BANKS"

That doesn't sound like it includes Maryland, but it does. The rain may be light at first, but forecasters do expect periods of heavy rain overnight and early Tuesday. A half- to three-quarters of an inch is possible at BWI.

UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.: The rain forecast for BWI now put the possible totals at 1 to 2 inches.

There's also a Coastal Flood Advisory and a Coastal Flood Watch up for the Western Shore of Maryland. The approaching low is already raising water levels, and easterly winds drive more water ashore at the times of high tide.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties and Baltimore City are now under a Coastal Flood Warning. Here's the real-time tide chart for the city.

"THE WATER LEVEL AT BALTIMORE WILL REACH 3.5 TO 4 FEET...REFERENCED
TO MEAN LOWER LOW WATER. ANNAPOLIS WILL REACH 3.5 FEET MLLW. IN
BOTH LOCATIONS...THIS IS AROUND CRITICAL LEVELS FOR MINOR FLOODING."

And that won't be the end of it. Another storm, a tropical system expected to move up the coast at mid-week, could bring us another round of heavy rain Wednesday into Thursday. Here's the Hazardous Weather Outlook with details.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Record heat in L.A. - 112 at 12:45 p.m. PDT

Sure it's gray and drippy here. And there are no palm trees anywhere. But at least we're not in Los Angeles, which is sweltering in record 112-degree heat this afternoon. They've long-since broken the daily record (106 degrees in 1963). Now they've matched the all-time high for the city - 112 degrees. (Five days ago it was in the 70s, with lows near 60.)

And it's not even the hottest time of the day yet.

UPDATE: The NWS is now reporting 113 in downtown LA, the hottest reading there since record-keeping began in 1877.  

Here's the forecast discussion. This from the LA Times:

"As of noon, Weather.com reported that downtown L.A. was broiling at 109 degrees; Santa Monica hit 106, NOAA/NWSWest Hollywood was at 111 and Long Beach was at 107. [Updated at 12:52 p.m.: As of 12:50 p.m.: downtown L.A. had hit 112 degrees, close to an all-time record.]

"The National Weather Service warned of extreme heat and red-flag fire dangers Monday. A small fire broke out in Ladera Heights but was quickly put out. Another small brush fire was contained Sunday night in South Pasadena. 

"On the energy front, California consumers are expected to use more than 45,000 megawatts by peak afternoon hours, said Gregg Fishman, a spokesman for Cal-ISO, which coordinates power for 85% of the state's grid. 

"Though the expected energy consumption is high for this time of year, increased usage is not expected to cause any serious problems, Fishman said. Still, Cal-ISO is recommending residents avoid using heavy appliances in the afternoon."

But it's a dry heat.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Severe storm, possible tornado in Carroll

FROM THE WEATHER SERVICE:

 ...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 130 PM EDT FOR EAST
CENTRAL CARROLL COUNTY...

AT 1251 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO
INDICATE A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO.  THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR HAMPSTEAD...OR 8 MILES NORTHEAST OF
WESTMINSTER...MOVING NORTH AT 30 MPH.

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING AND AVOID WINDOWS. IF OUTDOORS OR IN A MOBILE HOME OR
VEHICLE...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings
        

Region's electricity use sets summertime record

PJM InterconnectionWe know it was hot - a record summer for Baltimore and Washington. And, we know our electric bills were high as we cranked the AC all summer trying to stay cool. Now, the PJM Interconnection - the power grid managers for 13 eastern states and DC - say the region set a record for electrical demand during the summer just ended.

Consumers used almost 203.7 million megawatt-hours of power during June, July and August. That, they say, is enough electricity to run the entire country of Mexico for a year.

The total was 12 percent higher  than the summer of 2009, which was unusually cool. And it blasted through the previous summertime record, 203.4 million megawatt-hours, set in 2005.

The demand was 37 percent higher than the average demand, and 47 percent higher than last summer, the PJM folks said.

The PJM region extends from Illinois to New Jersey, and as far south and North Carolina.

(AP PHOTO: George Widman)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:18 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Heat waves
        

Rain tops 1" in Baltimore; more coming

Lots on the weather docket this morning. First the rain we've already received. Baltimore and a number of other locations in Maryland have recorded well over an inch of rain in the last 24 hours as a major seasonal change in the large-scale weather patterns takes hold.

As autumn settles in this week, we will erase the shortfall in moisture we built up during the first three weeks of September. The forecast from the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling projects as much as an inch and a quarter of additional rain through Tuesday. And, if things work out the way some models suggest, we could be looking at a great deal more rain before the month ends on Thursday as a tropical system moves our way.

First, the totals for the last 24 hours. BWI-Marshall is reporting just a little over an inch since the rain began Sunday morning. We have 1.06 inches on the gauge here at The Baltimore Sun. But here is a sampling of some higher numbers from across the region, from the CoCoRaHS Network.

Bowie:  1.68 inchesNOAA/NWS

Bishopville, Worcester Co.:  1.63 inches

Baltimore City:  1.54 inches

Delmar:  1.52 inches

Pasadena:  1.38 inches

Kingsville:  1.29 inches

Towson:  1.01 inches

Ellicott City:  0.90 inch

Havre de Grace:  0.70 inch

Next, forecasters say we're looking at a "slight risk" for severe thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight along the I-95 corridor. "Heavy rain and strong gusty winds" are also a risk early Tuesday, forecasters said.

Here's why: There is a cold front parked along the coastal states, with low pressure centered over Georgia. The counter-clockwise spin around the low is drawing a load of moisture north out of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Hence, our soaking rain, which is going to continue off and on through Tuesday as the low moves north into the eastern Great Lakes.

If enough warm air gets north along with the tropical moisture, that could trigger thunderstorms in the area as the cold front approaches the region. Flash flood watches are already posted to our south and west, in parts of southwest Virginia, but not yet for us. It's been so dry, there is plenty Sunday's rainof room in area streams to absorb much of this rain.

The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for minor to moderate flooding on the Western Shore from Harford to St. Mary's counties at high tide as the low approaches and east winds drive bay water onto low-lying spots. 

And as the cold front moves through early Tuesday, we may see another round of thunderstorms, heavy rain and gusty winds in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, forecasters say. An "isolated tornado" is also possible.

High pressure behind the cold front could clear skies later on Tuesday, and bring us some sunshine on Wednesday. But a tropical storm, or remnants of a storm, are forecast to be moving up the coast by Thursday. Models disagree on where the rain will fall.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore and a frequent contributer here, said the Canadian forecast model brings the storm along a more westerly track. That, he says, "would give the region a period of torrential rainfall Thursday and Thursday night."

"If I had to make an early call," he said, "I say we get smacked by either the remnants of a tropical storm, or the storm itself, during the latter half of the week ... The rain, while quite unpleasant to drive in, is much-needed ... and should put a dent in the developing/expanding drought in the region."

UPDATE: At noon, Eric adds this:

"The WRF/NAM [model] has between 3" and 7" of rain falling between now and Thursday night, and this does NOT include the tropical storm (should it stay close enough to the coast). Short-range model ensembles have similar results. Make sure those sump pumps are working and drains are clear of debris!"

(REUTERS PHOTO: Steve Schaefer, Sept. 26, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drought
        

September 26, 2010

Computing the moment of the equinox

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Astronomical AlmanacTom Campbell, in Towson, writes: “Farmer’s Almanac and all the TV weather guys had the [autumn] equinox at 11:09 p.m.[Wednesday]. Where are you getting 11:13?” I’ve seen both times published, too.

I take much of my data on these things from Guy Ottewell’s terrific Astronomical Calendar (left), and his source used 11:13 p.m. EDT. He blames the discrepancies on “differences somewhere deep in calculating programs.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

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

September 25, 2010

Cooling degree-days at BWI close to 1930 record

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Cooling energy demandJoe Bollinger, of Glen Burnie, asks: “What is the BWI record for the number of cooling degree-days for a single season?” CDDs are a temperature-based measure of cooling energy demand. We’ve clocked 1,679 cooling degree-days through Thursday, about 49 percent above the average.

NWS meteorologist Jared Klein says the Baltimore record is 1,770, in 1930. But 2010 is running second, very close to the 1930 pace.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2006)

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

September 24, 2010

TS Matthew appears headed for the Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Matthew is making a bee-line for Central America, with Hurricane Watches and Tropical Storm Warnings for portions of the Honduran and Nicarguan coasts.

The storm was located Friday morning about 80 miles east southeast of the Honduran/Nicaraguan NOAA/NHCborder, moving quickly west toward land at 20 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 50 mph. It's not a real powerful storm, but it is going to drive a storm surge ashore, and will deliver rains predicted at 6 to 10 inches, with some spots likely to get 15 inches.

That kind of rain will inevitably mean mudslides and flash floods that always put life and property in danger.

Once ashore, Matthew is forecast to weaken to a tropical depression, slow down and eventually turn toward the north. Over land, it could fall apart and dissipate. Or, it could move back over the warm waters of the Gulf and regroup.

AccuWeather.com blogger Meghan Evans says that in either case, moisture from Matthew, or perhaps the next storm to form in the Caribbean, is now likely to be drawn north into Florida. And that could eventually send some badly-needed rain our way.

Here is the latest advisory on Matthew. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space. Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Temperature records could fall today

The National Weather Service is predicting that high temperature records will fall Friday at all three regional airports. The record at BWI-Marshall for this date is 95 degrees. That's also the forecast high for the day, but Sterling's prognosticators frequently underestimate the "summer" highs for Baltimore. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 3 p.m.: Instruments at BWI show 94 degrees so far this afternoon. That makes a record 57 days so far this year at 90-plus degrees. The Baltimore average is 29.4 days in one calendar year, so we've nearly doubled that. Still waiting to see if we break the record high for the date. 

The other prediction of note in today's forecast discussion from Sterling is that the region is in for a pretty good dose of rain next week as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico surges north just west of the Appalachians. Here's how the morning discussion puts it:

nws/noaa"CLOUDS WILL INCREASE SUNDAY AS [WIND] FLOW BECOMES SOUTHERLY. UPPER SHORTWAVE TROUGH [LOW] WILL DIVE OUT OF THE MIDWEST US AND CLOSE OVER THE LOWER/MID MISSISSIPI
VALLEY...ALLOW[ING] DEEP LAYER MOISTURE FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO TO SURGE
INTO THE SOUTHEAST US TOWARD THE MID-ATLANTIC.

"LIGHT PRECIP MAY BEGIN SUNDAY TO SPREAD NORTHWARD INTO THE [FORECAST AREA] OVER COOLER AIR AT SURFACE...WITH BEST CHANCES ACROSS POTOMAC HIGHLANDS...CNTRL SHENANDOAH VALLEY...  WITH CLOUDS AND NORTHERLY WINDS...MAXIMA SHOULD REMAIN IN LOW 70S. INCREASINGLY MOIST TREND CONTINUES INTO SUN NIGHT.

"SURFACE LOW PRESSURE FORECASTED TO DEVELOP OVER DEEP SOUTH MONDAY AND SLOWLY TREK NORTHWARD JUST WEST OF APPALACHIANS THRU TUE.  LOW LEVEL  FLOW BECOMES EASTERLY FOR MID-ATLANTIC...ALLOWING FOR MOIST MARINE AIR FROM THE ATLANTIC TO POOL AGAINST APPALACHIANS. STRONG SOUTHERLY FLOW AT MID AND UPPER LEVELS WILL CREATE SIGNIFICANT DEEP LAYER MOISTURE FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO.

"PRECIP CHANCES BEST WHEN SURFACE SYSTEM IS JUST WEST OF REGION MONDAY NIGHT... SIGNIFICANT
PRECIP COULD RESULT...AND HAVE RAISED PROBABILITIES DURING THIS PERIOD. NO PLANS AT THE MOMENT TO INCLUDE HEAVY RAIN POSSIBILITY IN GRIDS...BUT IF MODELS CONTINUE CURRENT TREND...THIS INTRODUCTION MAY BE WARRANTED."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:10 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Early autumn can be hot in Baltimore

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Ninety-degree weather in the first few days of autumn is not uncommon for Baltimore. We broke 90 on three days in early October 2007. And in October 1941, the city saw four days with record highs in the 90s, including a 97-degree reading on the 5th. That’s still the hottest October day on the books. The latest date for  such weather here was on Oct. 23, 1947, when the mercury reached 91 in downtown.

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

September 23, 2010

Will tropical systems end Maryland's drought?

The new Drought Monitor map for this week is in, and for the first time since April 2009 it shows the entire state to be unusually dry. Nearly one-third of the state's geography is in moderate to extreme drought, with the worst of it west of Frederick.

More than a few times in my 30 years in Maryland, these summer dry spells have been ended by a brush with a tropical storm, or its remnants. Hanna in September 2008, Ernesto in September 2006 and Tammy in October 2005 come to mind.

We've written recently about the possibility that the patterns in the Atlantic may be about to AccuWeather.comchange. And now comes AccuWeather.com with a rather confident prediction that we are, indeed, about to see a sharp change in our rain fortunes - albeit too late for many farmers.

The commercial weather company is calling it, rather inelegantly, "Troptober" - suggesting that tropical weather will be the dominant force at work here next month. Their thinking is that the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are about to start boiling, tossing off tropical systems that have an increasing chance to make landfall in the northern Gulf region, or to track up the East Coast.

That, they believe, would mean improved chances that the dry and droughty region from Louisiana to southern New England is about to see some repeated, heavy rain:NOAA/NHC

"Repeating downpours could add up to a foot of rain in some locations, not only leading to street flooding and highway slow-downs, but perhaps all the way to small stream and even some river flooding.

"One tropical system alone can easily drop several inches of rain and erase the drought or abnormally dry pattern in these areas. There is the potential for several such systems to move northward. The details of which are not known at this time."

The National Hurricane Center today is already tracking a new tropical depression - the 15th of the season - in the western Caribbean (satellite photo). But it appears headed for Central America. Hurricane Watches are already posted for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras. 

UPDATE: The storm has now reached tropical storm strength. Its name is Matthew, the 13th named storm of the season. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Let's see how good AccuWeather.com's experts really are.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Harvest Moon illuminates the equinox

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Harvest MarylandYes, that was the Harvest Moon you saw last night (if clouds didn’t interfere). It’s defined as the full moon occurring closest in time to the autumn equinox, and was so named because farmers used its light to extend their harvesting into the night.

The moon was precisely full at 5:18 a.m. EDT today, just 6 hours and 5 minutes after the equinox at 11:13 p.m. last night. That makes it pretty nearly the definitive Harvest Moon.   

(AP PHOTO: Sabillasville, Md., September 1994)

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

September 22, 2010

Summer goes out like a lion

It would be hard to find anything in this week's weather to complain about ... that is, if you don't care whether it rains or not. It's been cool and dry, gloriously sunny, with clear, starry nights. The AC is silent and there's a breeze through the house. What's not to like?

But if you're already missing summer as the equinox arrives tonight, you'll be delighted with the next few days. As this high-Perfect weatherpressure system moves east, and warm and increasingly humid air pushes up from the South, it's going to feel a whole lot more like July than September. Today, Thursday and Friday, daytime highs will rise into the upper 80s and lower 90s if the forecast from Sterling holds up.

As hot as it may feel, we're not likely to break any records. Friday comes closest. Here are the BWI-Marshall forecast highs, and the records for the next few days:

Wednesday: Forecast high: 88 degrees. Record:  99 degrees, in 1931

UPDATE: The thermometer at BWI reached 90 degrees at 3 p.m. Wednesday. That's the 57th day in the 90s this year, the most on record here. It was 47 degrees just before dawn on Tuesday.

Thursday: Forecast high: 90 degrees. Record:  98 degrees, in 1970

Friday:  Forecast high: 92 degrees. Record:  95 degrees, in 1970

Highs in the 90s as we cross the autumnal equinox (at 11:13 EDT tonight) does seem a bit extreme. Just think of it as a farewell salute to the hottest summer on record for Baltimore.

A cold front passing by early Saturday will drop the day's high to 80 degrees, with showers possible later in the weekend and temperatures slipping back into the lower 70s for the first part of next week.  That's about average for this time of year.

To date, September is running 1.2 degrees above average, with a rain deficit of 1.89 inches.

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, September 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 21, 2010

Igor still at hurricane force, now 900 miles wide

The amazing Igor continues to prowl the Atlantic. The gigantic storm has lost its tropical engine, but it remains a formidible storm, with top winds of 80 mph, and a breadth that has now topped 900 miles.

Hurricane IgorHurricane Warnings are posted for parts of Newfoundland and there's a Tropical Storm Watch up for the French-owned islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon.

Incredibly, this gigantic storm is still stirring the waters from Atlantic Canada to the Bahamas:

"LARGE SWELLS ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES WILL
BE SUBSIDING TONIGHT.  SWELLS WILL BE SLOW TO SUBSIDE IN NOVA
SCOTIA...NEWFOUNDLAND...PUERTO RICO...THE VIRGIN ISLANDS...
HISPANIOLA...AND PORTIONS OF THE BAHAMAS DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS.  THESE SWELLS ARE LIKELY TO CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING SURF AND
RIP CURRENTS. PLEASE CONSULT PRODUCTS FROM YOUR LOCAL WEATHER
OFFICE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION."

Here is the final advisory for Igor from the National Hurricane Center. Here is the very bizarre forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:42 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Celestial three-fer: Harvest Moon, equinox and Jupiter

It's not often that so many celestial events come together at nearly the same time. But from Wednesday night to Thursday morning, we can enjoy a bundle of them.

The only glitch may be the weather. The forecast calls for "mostly cloudy" skies Wednesday night as this cool, dry, high-pressure system moves east and pumps in more heat and humidity for Wednesday and Thiursday. But Wednesday and Thursday are both expected to be sunny, or mostly so. So perhaps we'll get Harvest Moonlucky. Here's the rundown:

Wednesday night will be the night of the full Harvest Moon. Moonrise for Baltimore will occur at 6:26 p.m. EDT. If you're still enjoying this glorious extended summer at the beach, look for the moon to pop over the Atlantic horizon a bit earlier, at 6:20 p.m.

The moon won't be perfectly full until 5:18 a.m. Thursday morning. But no one will be able to tell the difference. It's still, officially, the night of the Harvest Moon. So enjoy.

The Harvest Moon, by the way, is defined as the full moon closest in time to the autumnal equinox. That, as it happens, occurs 11:23 p.m. EDT on Wednesday evening, so it would be hard to get a much more definitive Harvest Moon.

Also appearing on this busy evening is the planet Jupiter, which many skywatchers have been admiring for weeks (see posts below) as it gleams brightly in the eastern sky after sunset. Jupiter was at opposition early this morning, directly opposite the sun as seen from Earth.

The Earth reaches opposition with Jupiter once a year, as both planets orbit to the same side of the solar system. That also makes it their closest approach of the year. Jupiter/NASA

And it takes Jupiter 12 years to circle the sun once. So once on each of Jupiter's orbits of the sun, it passes perihelion - the point in that slightly lopsided orbit that is closest to the sun and therefore also to the inner planets, including Earth.

This year, opposition and Jupiter's perihelion are occuring at nearly the same time. That makes this the nearest Earth and Jupiter will be until 2022. Amateur astrophotographers are having a field day with Jupiter. There's a gallery of their images here.

So if you have a pair of binoculars, or a small telescope, or if you can find one of Baltimore's street-corner astronomers, take a few minutes to get a look at Jupiter. Even in binoculars, Jupiter appears as a round disk, not a point of light. And if you hold the glasses steady enough, you should be able to pick out as many as four of the planet's Galilean moons, strung out like tiny beads on either side of the planet.

Even if you just step outside this evening, or Wednesday evening, and look with only your eyes, you're sure to be impressed by Jupiter's brilliance in the evening sky, and the moon's. Jupiter remains in the sky all night this month, rising from the east to its highest point at midnight, before moving toward the western horizon before dawn.

Which brings us to the third event of the night of Sept. 22/23. Soon after the Harvest Moon begins climbing into the eastern sky, look for Jupiter to rise close behind it. The two brightest objects in the sky this month will be in "conjunction" on this evening, separated by about the width of your hand held at arm's length.

No charge. Enjoy.

(PHOTOS: Top: AP PHOTO, Tom Thompson, Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, Wash., 2004. Bottom: Jupiter in 2009, AP/NASA)

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

On deck: Tropical Storm Lisa

With Hurricane Igor racing off toward Eastern Canada and rapidly losing its tropical characteristics, storm watchers are beginning to turn their attention to the 12th named storm of the season. TS NOAALisa is spinning up in the far eastern Atlantic, the birthplace of so many of our storms this season.

Lisa was located this Tuesday morning about 530 miles west northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the north at 5 mph. Top sustained winds are at minimal tropical storm force, just 40 mph. Conditions in the region seem favorable for further development, forecasters said. But there is little to drive the storm to the west for now, so the forecast track shows little movement.

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

Much closer to home, forecasters have also begun to watch a region of stormy weather in the Windward Islands and the eastern Caribbean. They're giving it a 20 percent chance to become a named storm within the next 48 hours. Here's a view from space.

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

September 20, 2010

No serious injuries as Bermuda sees gusts to 98

The web site of the Royal Gazette reports no deaths and no serious injuries on the island of Bermuda as Hurricane Igor pulls away Monday morning. But at least 28,000 residents are without power and considerable damage is reported from around the island, especially in the historic town of St. Georges.

Here is some video from a spot many cruise passengers are familiar with - Tobacco Bay, just a short walk from St. Georges.

The Bermuda Weather Service at midnight reported sustained winds of 75 mph, with gusts to 98 mph as the east side of the storm's inner bands crossed the island. The eye passed about 40 miles to the west.

By daybreak, the Bermuda Weather Service was reporting rain with southwest winds at 40 mph - still tropical-storm-force - and gusts to 53. The barometer was rising as Igor moved off rapidly to the north northeast.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Dipping into 40s tonight; crowding 90 by Weds.

It's going to be quite a roller-coaster ride this week, Maryland. The National Weather Service forecast has BWI-Marshall slipping into the 40s early Tuesday morning. If they're right, it will be our first excursion into the 40s since May 9 - at least at the airport. The WeatherDeck in Cockeysville has been there already this Weather mapmonth.

But we'll have lots of sunshine again this week. There is no rain anywhere in the 7-day forecast until Saturday. And as this high-pressure dome over our heads (map) moves offshore on Wednesday, we will come under the return flow from the south. And that will bring us much warmer temperatures and more humidity.

The forecast high for Wednesday is 89 degrees at BWI. Just a little nudge and we'll bump the all-time BWI record for 90-degrees days to 57. (And NWS forecasters typically undershoot the summer highs at BWI.) The rest of the week will see the highs loitering in the same neighborhood - upper 80s. Some models push them into the lower 90s Thursday and Friday afternoon. It's going to be hard not to switch on the AC again after a merciful couple of weeks without.

A cold front by Saturday could bring us a few showers, and it will drop temperatures back to the upper 70s to near 80 degrees. The average high for this time of year at BWI is 77 degrees. The average low is 55.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:29 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 19, 2010

Those who can, flee Bermuda as Igor nears

Bermuda's Royal Gazette is reporting heavy activity at the island's L.F. Wade International Airport Saturday as visitors who could, left the island in anticipation of Hurricane Igor.

The storm, weakened to Cat. 1 with top sustained winds of just 85 mph, was reported this morning 235 miles south of Bermuda, moving to the north northwest at 12 mph. The storms center was expected to pass near or over the island Sunday evening.

Although weakened, Igor is a large storm. Hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the storm's center, with tropical storm force winds felt 345 miles from the center. Islanders also were told to expect 6 to 9 inches of rain, a dangerous storm surge, and large waves.

Igor is causing life-threatening surf and rip currents all along the U.S. East Coast.  Here is the latest advisory on Igor. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

If you're on the Maryland or Delaware shore, you can already see Igor's effects. There is a High Rip Current Risk advisory posted from the Outer Banks to the Maryland beaches. Here's the nut of it:

"LONG PERIOD SWELL WILL CONTINUE IN RESPONSE TO DISTANT BUT
POWERFUL HURRICANE IGOR. NEARSHORE WAVES WILL AVERAGE 4 TO 6 FEET
TODAY...WITH WAVE PERIODS AROUND 14 TO 16 SECONDS. THIS WILL
RESULT IN A CONTINUED HIGH RISK OF RIP CURRENTS ALONG AREA BEACHES
FROM OCEAN CITY MARYLAND SOUTHWARD TO CURRITUCK BEACH LIGHT NORTH
CAROLINA.

"THE MOST DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS ARE EXPECTED A COUPLE OF
HOURS EITHER SIDE OF LOW TIDE...WHICH WILL OCCUR ON TODAY AROUND
1142 AM AT OCEAN CITY...AND 1141 AM AT DUCK. A HIGH RIP CURRENT
RISK IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH MONDAY AS IGOR RE-CURVES WELL
OFF THE EAST COAST."

With cruise ships making regular runs from Baltimore to Bermuda these days, there must be thousands of Marylanders who have been to the island. What are your memories of your visit? What are your thoughts as the island prepares for Igor? Leave us a comment below.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Jupiter ablaze in east on Sept. evenings

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

JupiterThe planet Jupiter will reach “opposition” on Tuesday. That means it stands “opposite” the sun as seen from Earth, rising bright in the east as the sun sets in the west.

It’s also Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth this year, and the best time to see the giant planet in a telescope, or binoculars.

Find something to steady your binocs, and you can spot up to four of Jupiter’s “Galilean” moons, tiny star-like objects lined up on either side of Jupiter’s disc.

(PHOTO: James Willinghan. From Spruce Knob, W.Va., Sept. 6. Lumnera Skynyx 2.0M camera and Astronomix RGB filters through a 12-inch Meade SCT. 500. Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

September 18, 2010

Beautiful night under the moon and Jupiter

Just back from dinner in Fells Point, where my wife and I ran into Baltimore's Street-Corner Astronomer, Herman Heyn.

Jupiter and Galilean moonsHerman had Jupiter in his sights this evening, along with all four Galilean moons, strung out like beads on either side of the planet's disk. (Photo left)

Even with the naked eye, passersby could see the planet rising above the Recreation Pier, the brightest object in the sky, except for a VERY bright three-quarter moon.

Too many people walk by Herman, a familiar figure on the Baltimore waterfront for decades. Herman has introduced thousands people to the night sky, amazing kids and grownups - on the square in Fells Point, or at Harborplace - with what is often their first look at a planet, directly, with their own eyes.

Whether it is striped Jupiter with its moons, ringed Saturn or a crescent Venus, those who stop for a minute and look are invariably impressed, often wowed.

Herman asks no more than a word of thanks (though donations are welcome). Next time you see him andMoon his telescope, stop and say hello, and ask him what's up in the sky tonight. You won't be disappointed.

Anyway, after getting a long look at Jupiter and the moon through Herman's eyepiece, I went home and hauled my little telescope onto the front sidewalk.

The sky was clear and dry, around 65 degrees, a perfect evening for hanging out under the stars. I grabbed my little point-and-shoot Canon, stuck the lens into the eyepiece of my telescope, snapped the shutter and hoped for the best.

Here's how they turned out. Not bad for an backyard astronomy hack like me.

(SUN PHOTOS: Frank Roylance, Meade ETX-90, Canon Powershot SD1100 IS)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:22 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Bill for eight worst hurricanes was huge

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Hurricane IvanSome say the news media “hype” the hurricane season forecasts each year, playing to unwarranted fears. Here’s some food for thought. Data compiled by Environmentalsciencedegrees.net show the eight costliest hurricanes since 2000.  All occurred during the 2004, 2005 and 2008 storm seasons. From Jeanne ($8 billion in damage) in 2004, to Katrina ($125 billion) in 2005, they inflicted a total of $238.3 billion in damage. More than 1,800 people died in Katrina alone. 

(AP PHOTO: Tampa Tribune, Hurricane Ivan, 2004)

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

September 17, 2010

Igor imperils Bermuda; Maryland will see rip currents

Hurricane Igor is expected to strike the island of Bermuda this weekend. Hurricane Warnings are up for the speck of land 600 miles off the Carolina shores, and authorities there are warning residents this storm is "probably the worst we have seen," with winds up to 150 mph.

The National Hurricane Center, however, says Igor's central winds have decreased to 105 mph, with higher gusts, making it a Cat. 2 storm. That would make it less powerful than Hurricane Fabian, which struck in 2003. Igor, while weaker, is moving fairly slowly (10 mph), potentially lengthening the time it will batter the island.

Six hundred miles is close enough for this powerful storm to kick up swells, heavy surf and dangerous rip Rip currents Ocean Citycurrents all along the mid-Atlantic coast. The National Weather Service is advising beach-goers to beware of surf conditions this weekend:

"SOUTHEAST SWELLS FROM DISTANT HURRICANE IGOR WILL GRADUALLY
INCREASE OVER THE COASTAL WATERS TODAY [FRIDAY] BRINGING DANGEROUS RIP
CURRENTS AND SURF TO AREA BEACHES. THE MOST DANGEROUS RIP
CURRENTS ARE EXPECTED A COUPLE OF HOURS EITHER SIDE OF LOW
TIDE...WHICH WILL OCCUR AROUND 930 AM. A HIGH RIP CURRENT RISK IS
EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE WEEKEND AS IGOR RE-CURVES WELL OFF
THE EAST COAST."

One swimmer was caught in a rip current and disappeared at Ocean City last month as Hurricane Igor NOAADanielle passed far offshore. Nearly 500 people had to be rescued that weekend (Aug. 28-29). The man's body was recovered a week later, 16 miles offshore.

The experience made everyone more cautious over the Labor Day weekend as Hurricane Earl moved past, more than 100 miles off the coast, again making the surf dangerous for swimmers.

Surf aside, the weekend weather for the beaches looks great.

(AP PHOTO: Laura Emmons, Salisbury Daily Times, Sept. 3, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:24 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Three hurricanes churn the Atlantic basin

Hurricane watchers were tracking three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin Friday morning.

Tropical Storm Karl rebounded to full hurricane force in the Bay of Campeche Thursday after crossing Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. By Friday morning it was spinning at Cat. 3 force, with top sustained winds of 120 mph. That makes Karl the fifth hurricane (out of six) this season to reach "Major" (Cat. 3) strength.NOAA/NHC That's a pretty impressive performance, and it's a lucky break there have been so few landfalls.

That said, Karl appears ready to go ashore in Mexico tonight or Saturday. The National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving to the west at 9 mph. A Hurricane Warning is up from Veracruz to Cabo Rojo, with Watches posted north to La Cruz.

Forecasters are warning of a 12- to 15-foot storm surge as the storm - which could strengthen further before landfall - approaches. Five to 10 inches of rain are likely, with some locations receiving 15 inches. Flash floods and mudslides pose grave risks to residents of the region.

Here is the latest advisory on Karl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.IGOR NOAA

Far to the east, Hurricane Igor (photo) continues to stalk the island of Bermuda. Igor was located early today 730 miles south southeast of Bermuda, moving to the northwest at 9 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 120 mph. The island is under a hurricane watch today.

Residents have been told to prepare for a "direct hit," and forecasters are comparing it to Hurricane Fabian, which struck in 2003, leaving several dead and millions of dollars in damage.

Cruise operators are already planning to bypass the island. Here is the latest advisory for Igor. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.

Hurricane Julia, even farther to the east in the mid-Atlantic, was continuing to unwind in the open ocean. Top sustained winds were estimated at 85 mph. The storm was located 1,400 miles southwest of the Azores, moving west northwest at 24 mph. It is not expected to be a threat to land. Here is the latest advisory on Julia.

Finally, forecasters have also begun to watch a new disturbance coming off the coast of Africa. The storm is given only a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical system in the next 48 hours. If it ever makes it to tropical storm force, it would get the name Lisa.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Showers welcome, but Sept. still dry

The thunderstorms that swept across Baltimore and other parts of the state Thursday - part of the same line of storms that caused so much damage in New York City - brought some welcome moisture. But they did little to break the region's prolonged spate of dry weather.

Here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, the storm left just 0.23 inch of rain in the bucket. The Baltimore Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets shows just 0.22 inch. And out at BWI-Marshall, the National Weather Service reported just 0.06 inch. Other parts of the state - especially the extremely parched western counties - reported the most. Here are some reports from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Cumberland: 0.80 inchDrought Monitor

Williamsport:  0.76 inch

Thurmont:  0.43

Frederick:  0.41

Even so, the total so far this month at BWI-Marshall comes to just 0.89 inch. That's 1.29 inches short of the average through the 16th of the month. And there is no rain anywhere in the 7-day forecast from Sterling.

The Drought Monitor map released Thursday does not include any rain that's fallen since Tuesday. It continues to show a third of Maryland in "moderate" to "extreme" drought. The portion of the state considered "abnormally dry" increased last week from 59 percent to 84 percent.

The dry conditions are - or were, before Thursday's showers -  closing in on the "normal moisture" bubble that has surrounded Baltimore and its suburbs since some mid-August rains, leaving not quite 16 percent of the state in that "normal" category.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought
        

September 16, 2010

Atlantic storm count passing seasonal average

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

NASA MODISMid-season hurricane update: We’ve had 11 named storms so far, including five hurricanes, four of which reached “major” Cat. 3 (and 4) strength. We’re passing the full-seasonal average. (Forecasters all predicted an “active” year, with roughly 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes and five “major” storms.)

Most have blown out over water. None has made a U.S. landfall, although Earl brushed the East Coast and T.S. Hermine brought flooding rains to Texas. The season ends Dec. 1. 

(NASA PHOTO: Hurricane Igor)

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

September 15, 2010

Arctic summer sea ice third smallest on record

Arctic sea ice extentThe National Snow and Ice Data Center is reporting that the planet's arctic sea ice extent this summer was the third-smallest on record, behind only 2008 and 2007. It was 625,000 square miles smaller than the long-term average. It has now begun to reform as the northern winter approaches.

Arctic sea ice is important to the regulation of the planet's temperature because ice reflects sunlight. When there is less of it, less solar energy is reflected back into space and more is absorbed by the (much darker) Arctic Ocean.

On the other end of the planet, the Antarctic sea ice extent for the southern winter was the largest on record, 4.1 percent above the 1979-2000 average. Clearly, global warming does not mean everyplace warms up in unison. 

Here's more from the NSIDC.

Also today, NOAA is reporting the 2010, so far, ranks as the warmest year on record globally - tied with 1998 for that distinction. Land and ocean temperatures averaged 1.2 degrees above the 20th century average. Maybe it will get really cold from now on, and all will average out to something unremarkable by Dec. 31.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:04 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Climate change
        

TS Karl strikes Yucatan; Igor, Julia at Cat. 4

Tropical Storm Karl was making its way ashore in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula Wednesday morning, spinning with top winds at 65 mph and bringing torrential rains to the region. Far to the east, Cat. 4 Hurricanes Igor and Julia continued to roil the Atlantic, with the greatest danger in tiny Bermuda.

Here's a satellite view of the entire basin, showing all three storms.

NOAA KarlKarl's center was last situated just off Chetumal, Mexico, and is likely on shore by this writing. Tropical Storm Warnings were posted for the east coast of ther Yucatan, with Watches up for parts of coastal Belize.

Karl was expected to move inland and weaken, with 3 to 5 inches of rain forecast for the region. The storm is predicted to re-strengthen after moving off the peninsula into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, reaching hurricane strength before making a second landfall on the Mexican Gulf Coast.

Karl does not pose a threat to the U.S. mainland. Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Igor (forecast track on the left, below) was located this morning about 1,000 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving to the west NHC/NOAAnorthwest at 10 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 145 mpg. Those winds were already affecting the Leeward Islands with large swells, and the same conditions are expected in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, creating dangerous surf and rip currents.

Rising surf and rip currents are forecast for the U.S. Atlantic Coast this weekend.

Bermuda (top, middle of Igor's track) is following Igor closely, although any Hurricane Watches aren't likely until Thursday. At least one cruise ship has elected to bypass the island because of the threat. Two other ships have tweaked their port calls in the Northern Leewards because of sea conditions.

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

Farther east, Hurricane Julia (storm track on the right on map) reached Cat. 4 strength overnight, with top winds at 135 mph. It remains a threat only to shipping and fish.

Does this seem like a busy, intense season yet? Consider these stats, from Jeff Masters' blog on Weather Underground:

1. Julia is the strongest hurricane to form so far east in the Atlantic.

2. Earl was the fourth-strongest to venture so far north.

3. This season marks only the second time two Cat. 4 hurricanes have spun in the Atlantic simultaneously. The first time was in September 1926.

4. Julia is the fourth Cat. 4 storm this season. Only two seasons have had five Cat. 4s: 2005 and 1999.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:20 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Chances rise for showers Thurs. night

It's not much, but it's the region's best shot at some moisture, pretty much through the middle of next week.

Forecasters out at Sterling, Va. have upped the chances for showers and thunderstorms Thursday NOAA/NWSnight to 40 percent. The hope lies with a low-pressure system that's expected to move into the Great Lakes. That's going to draw moisture up from the southwest with a warm front, increasing our clouds during the day Thursday.

The best chance for showers will start in the northern tier of Maryland counties in the afternoon. A few thunderstorms are possible in the mix. The better chance for the rest of the state comes overnight Thursday into Friday, as the low moves from the Great Lakes into New England, dragging a cold front across our region.

Precipitation forecast 14-dayAnd that's about it for us. Sterling is predicting less than a tenth of an inch for most, more for those lucky enough to fall under a thunderstorm.

From there on it will look pretty much like today - sunny and pleasant, near 80 degrees if the forecast is correct.  It's gorgeous weather, unless you're a soybean plant, a lawn or a potted tomato ... or a dairyman struggling to keep your livestock fed. 

The long-term forecast shows the dry weather continuing for at least the next two weeks. The blue zones on the map show where below-normal precipitation is expected.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 14, 2010

Caribbean storm now TS Karl

Now we have three named storms spinning in the Atlantic basin. - hurricanes Igor (Cat. 4) and Julia (Cat. 1) and a tropical storm, Karl, which graduated to that status this afternoon. According to my finger count, Karl is the 11th named storm of the season.

Karl is gathering strength in the western Caribbean, posing a growing threat to Mexico, Cuba, Belize and Guatemala. It was centered about 270 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico, moving to the west northwest at 15 mph. Top sustained winds were 40 mph - minimal tropical storm force.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Karl was expected to slow its forward speed, NASA Karlfinally moving over the Yucatan peninsula on Wednesday, and then to the southwestern Gulf of Mexico late Wednesday or Thursday. It looks like this one will make a second landfall in northeastern Mexico.

(The U.S. mainland, except for Hermine in Texas, seems to have been in a protective bubble so far this season.)

Tropical Storm Warnings were posted for parts of the Yucatan, with Watches up for northern Belize. From the NHC:

"A STORM SURGE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE SOME COASTAL
FLOODING NEAR AND TO THE NORTH OF WHERE THE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL.
NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND
DAMAGING WAVES.

"RAINFALL...KARL IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 3
TO 5 INCHES OVER THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...BELIZE...AND NORTHERN
GUATEMALA...WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 8 INCHES."

Here is the latest advisory for Karl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.NOAA/NHC

Hurricane Igor, meanwhile, a threat mostly to Bermuda and soon to swimmers on the East Coast, was strengthening again this afternoon. Here the latest advisory. And here is part of a Hazardous Weather Outlook statement from the NWS forecast office in Mt. Holly, NJ, covering beaches in southern NJ and Delaware:

"THERE WILL BE AN INCREASED RISK OF DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS AND SLOWLY
BUILDING SURF FROM THIS FRIDAY THROUGH AT LEAST THIS WEEKEND AS
HURRICANE IGOR LURKS WELL OFF THE EAST COAST. PLEASE MONITOR
TROPICAL PREDICTION CENTER PROJECTIONS OF IGOR"

I suspect we will see similar advisories soon for Maryland and Carolina beaches as the storm moves north.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Baltimore Sun iPhone app debuts

Baltimore Sun iPhone appWeatherBlog regulars and stargazing Space Cadets can now access The Baltimore Sun's Weather Blog with a new iPhone app that's gone live today. 

It can take you, slick and easy, to our news stories, photos and blogs. It's only $1.99 - one time - and comes with no ads.

Here comes the pitch:

The @baltimoresun #iPhone app is out TODAY. Get it here: http://bit.ly/ahXP6y

 

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Igor and Julia stalk the Atlantic

There are two hurricanes blowing their way across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. Neither one looks like it will become a threat to the U.S. mainland, although Igor seems likely to stir up dangerous surf.

The biggest threat to land is likely to be in Bermuda, where Igor (top photo) appears to be headed this weekend. But Igor NWSforecasters say it's still too early to say whether the island will be seriously affected.

The storm early Tuesday was located about 700 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west northwest at a leisurely 7 mph. Top sustained winds had backed down to 135 mph - still a Cat. 4 hurricane, but somewhat diminished from its 150 mph power on Monday.

Forecasters predict Igor will continue to curve toward the northwest, with a forecast storm track that is beginning to center on Bermuda. It still has a sharply defined, 20-mile-wide eye, and is moving through light shear and warm water. Some intensification is possible in the next 24 hours, forecasters said. But cooling waters and increasing shear beyond that should begin to sap its power.

Here is the latest advisory on Igor. Here is the predicted storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Farther east in the tropical Atlantic, Julia reached hurricane stature overnight. The storm was located early Tuesday 355 miles west northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving to the west northwest at 10 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 85 mph.

Julia appears destined to remain an ocean storm, with little chance of striking the U.S. mainland. 

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

A bigger threat to land may come from a new storm (bottom photo) developing in the westernCaribbean storm NWS Caribbean. This storm is given a 70-percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours. If so, it will be Tropical Storm Karl.

Now 375 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico, it is moving to the west northwest at 15 mph. The National Hurricane Center is warning:

"INTERESTS IN THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF MEXICO AND BELIZE SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM.

"REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL IS POSSIBLE OVER
PORTIONS OF JAMAICA...CUBA...THE CAYMAN ISLANDS...THE YUCATAN
PENINSULA...AND BELIZE DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO.  THESE RAINS
COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES...
ESPECIALLY IN AREAS OF MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN.  AN AIR FORCE RESERVE
HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THIS SYSTEM
THIS AFTERNOON."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Afternoon winds will raise fire dangers

The National Weather Service is warning that stiff northwest winds due this afternoon after the passage of a dry cold front will boost the risk of spreading wildfires.

A Special Weather Statement posted early this morning said afternoon winds of 10 to 15 mph will Potomac Rivergust to 25 mph until sunset. Coupled with dry fuel and relative humidity readings dropping to 20 or 25 percent, there is an enhanced wildfire threat across most of Maryland.

"Open burning is strongly discouraged today," the forecasters said.

Brush fires have kept federal, state and local fire fighters busy in recent days. A four-acre blaze in a remote and steep area near Point of Rocks last week drew 50 firefighters on crews from Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, according to the Frederick News-Post, as well as Loudon County, Va., the Maryland Forest Service and, eventually, the National Park Service.

The fire slowed trains on the MARC Brunswick line Wednesday evening.

A much bigger fire broke out late Saturday near Big Pool, in Washington County. The blaze covered 40 acres and destroyed two abandoned houses and five outbuildings. Two more homes were threatened, forcing occupants to evacuate, said Monte Mitchell, fire supervisor with the Maryland DNR's Fire Service.

The fire, now under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office, drew 12 companies of firefighters from Washington, Frederick and Allegany counties in Maryland, plus crews from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the state Fire Service, Mitchell said. No injuries were reported.

The fire was contained early Sunday with the help of the rain. "We haven't had any incidents since then," he said. But "conditions now are quickly drying that off and we've certainly got the potential again today to have some more fires. We're supposed to have similar conditions tomorrow."

That stretch of the Potomac Valley has been extremely dry this summer. The Drought Coordination Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has declared a regional drought watch, asking businesses and residents in the metro Washington area to conserve water. The region includes Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland.

The council does not anticipate a water emergency, but is asking for voluntary conservation measures: limited outdoor watering; using a broom, rather than a hose, to clear sidewalks and patios; patronizing car washes that recycle their water; washing only full loads; repairing leaks,NWS/NOAA shortening showers and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth.

The weather service  says there is a 30 percent chance we'll see some showers in Baltimore Thursday night. But the rest of the seven-day forecast looks sunny and dry, with highs near 80 degrees through the weekend.

Meanwhile, a more critical Red Flag Warning (red on map) is posted until 6 p.m. on the Upper Eastern Shore and in all of Delaware:.

"A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF
STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL
CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL."

(Reuters PHOTO: Hyungwon Kang, Potomac River, Sept. 10, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 13, 2010

Welcome rains top 1 inch in spots

The rain that arrived before dawn on Sunday were not the tropical soaking we really needed. But they did top 1 inch in a few places in Central Maryland, and for that anyone with a farm or a garden or a lawn is really grateful.

"JS" left this comment on the Weather Blog: "People [at] work were cheering because it rained, it was headlines in Frederick, for us, the first rainfall in 29 days, 0.5 inches. Still about 7 inches short but we'll take anything...."

Here's how the Frederick News-Post sees the drought in Western Maryland. And here are a few more two-day totals from across the region, from the CoCoRaHS network:

Pasadena:  1.31 inches

Annapolis:  1.22 inches Puddles

Bowie:  1.14 inches

Hamilton (Baltimore City): 0.94 inch

BWI-Marshall: 0.83 inch

Towson:  0.82 inch

Ellicott City:  0.81 inch

Jacksonville:  0.66 inch

College Park:  0.63 inch

Easton:  0.63 inch

Westminster:  0.52 inch

Bel Air:  0.35 inch

How badly do we need rain? The Weather & Crops report for last week showed 83 percent of the state's subsoil and topsoil were "short" or "very short" of moisture. 

Forty-seven percent of the pasture was in "poor" or "very poor" condition. Forty-six percent of the state's corn, 40 percent of the soybeans were in similar straits.

Thirty-three percent of the state last week was in "moderate" to "severe" drought. Streamflow was in the lowest 10th percentile in eight of 24 monitoring sites in Maryland - all in Western Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore. Groundwater was in the lowest 10th percentile in wells in Allegany, Charles, Wicomico and Somerset counties. 

So how did you greet the rain? Giddy dancing in the garden? Wild puddle-splashing in the streets? An extra two hours of sleep (like me)? Drop us a comment.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:10 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Int'l Space Sta. due over Baltimore Tues. night

Space Cadets! It would be hard to find a better opportunity to watch the International Space Station fly over Baltimore than the one we're expecting Tuesday evening.

The Heavens-Above web site shows the flight track carrying the giant tinker toy from Lake Michigan, almost directly over Baltimore, Heavens-above.comand then southeast to the Delaware Shore before heading out over the Atlantic.

The weather forecast looks favorable. There's a cold front due to pass through the region tonight, bringing some mid-level clouds with it. But they should clear away during the day Tuesday as high pressure builds into the region behind the front.

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m. Tuesday:  Forecast is holding up. Here's the latest Clear Sky chart.

A few more clouds may move through late Tuesday night. But generally the forecast calls for a sunny day Tuesday and partly cloudy conditions Tuesday night. It may be a close call on the arrival of the clouds Tuesday evening. Fingers crossed.

If skies stay clear, look for the ISS to appear above the northwestern horizon at 7:29 p.m. Tuesday. Look for a bright, star-like object climbing briskly. If it has multiple, blinking or colored lights, it's an aircraft. Keep looking. The station will move through the stars of the handle of the Big Dipper, reaching the zenith (straight up) at 7:32 p.m. From there, it will move off toward the southeast, fading to black at 7:36 p.m.

The station is moving at 17,500 mph, about 220 miles above the Earth. There are currently three NASA ISSother spacecraft docked with the station, including two Russian Soyuz vehicles that will bring the current crews home, and two Russian Progress supply craft - one of which arrived Sunday. The next (and next-to-last) U.S. shuttle flight to the station is scheduled for Nov. 1.

There are six crew members on board. They include three Russian men - a Russian Air Force colonel, a rocket engineer and a mechanical engineer born in Georgia; also three Americans - a U.S. Army colonel with an engineering degree, and two American women - one a chemist and the other a physicist.

If the weather cooperates, be sure to stop back here and leave a comment about the spectacle. I like to think it helps get more people out to look with their children, and maybe that will inspire someone's kids to pursue a career in science.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:31 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Sky Watching
        

Old Farmer's Almanac sees sn...y winter ahead

How can I break this to you? Someone dropped a copy of the 2011 Old Farmer's Almanac on my desk over the weekend. So, naturally, when I got in this morning, I immediately opened it to the 2011 weather forecast.

Well, first let me say there is good news on the page. The almanac's seers believe next summer Baltimore blizzard 2009will be relatively cool and dry. The cool part, we like. Of course, after the warmest summer on record for Baltimore, anything would seem cool by comparison. The dry part we may need to appeal, since we have been dealing with scarce rainfall and - in some parts of the state - drought throughout the summer of 2010.

Then there's the winter forecast. The Old Farmer believes the November-through-March period coming up will be "cold and snowy" across most of the South and into the mid-Atlantic states as far north as New York City.

The almanac's forecasters use a variety of indicators for their prognostications. They include sunspot cycles, and El Nino/La Nina patterns. La Nina is expected to be a factor this winter:

"We expect that a weak to moderate La Nina will develop for the winter of 2010-11. Most of the eastern portion of the nation will have below-normal winter temperatures, on average (the weaker the La Nina, the colder it will be) ... Snowfall will be above normal in most of the area from the mid-Atlantic states through the southeast part of the country and below normal in most other areas."Baltimore blizzard February 2010

Here, I need to insert a caution. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center shows nothing of the kind. Their seasonal forecast for the December through February period shows equal chances for above- or below normal temperatures and precipitation in the mid-Atlantic states. In the Southeast, they expect below-normal temperatures, but also below-normal precipitation.

NOAA also says La Nina cooling in the equatorial Pacific began in late spring and has strengthened in recent weeks. And indications are it will continue to strengthen and persist through the winter. And the pattern seen most frequently during La Nina winters in the mid-Atlantic includes relatively warm temperatures - not cold. It also brings the jet stream (which generally also means the prevailing storm track) right over us, which would seem to suggest above-normal precipitation.

I leave it to you to sort out all this seemingly contradictory information. But if you hate snow, (and the Old Farmer is correct about weak La Ninas bringing colder winter weather) it seems like you should be rooting for a strong La Nina.

Or, maybe you should find a cheap condo in Florida. 

(SUN PHOTOS: Top: Dec. 18-19, 2009 blizzard. Bottom: Feb. 5-6, 2010 blizzard. Both by Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Winter weather
        

Cat. 4 Igor forecast to turn N. toward Bermuda

After spinning up to an impressive Cat. 4, 150-mph hurricane over the weekend, Igor continues to move west across the Atlantic Monday.

It's too early to say the U.S. mainland is entirely out of danger, but the hurricane forecasters are predicting the storm will turn right this week as weather patterns over the ocean carry it along. NOAA NHC Igor And that could pose a significant threat to the little island of Bermuda - 600 miles off the Carolina coast.

This morning, the storm is 940 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 13 mph. Top sustained winds are estimated at 150 mph, just 5 mph short of the threshhold for Cat. 5.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center think Igor will begin a turn to the west northwest late today or tomorrow. It could also become a Cat. 5 storm today. If so, it would be the first hurricane this season to reach Cat. 5. Three of the season's four hurricanes to date have reached Cat. 4 - Danielle, Earl and Igor. But none has made landfall.

As powerful as it is, Igor is a compact storm. Hurricane-force winds extend only 40 miles from the center. Tropical-storm-force winds reach out 175 miles. But it is a classic, with a clean spiral and a sharply-defined "eye."

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

Forecasters also are watching Tropical Storm Julia, which joined the cast over the weekend. Julia is in the far eastern Atlantic, messing up the weather in the Cape Verde Islands. JUlia is expected to become a hurricane in the next few days. But from the looks of the forecast storm track, it does not appear Julia will ever become an issue on this side of the pond. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September 12, 2010

Wet stuff falls from the sky

Something woke me up just before 4 a.m. today, and while I was trying to fall back to sleep, I heard a pattering sound beginning outside our open windows. It got a little louder, and gradually became a steady "white" noise. Rain! 

This morning it's still raining, a nice, slow, steady rain that has already delivered more than a half-inch to the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. BWI-Marshall reports 0.6 inch, and the forecast calls for scattered showers until 11 a.m., followed by drizzle and more isolated showers this afternoon.

Here are some more overnight accumulations from CoCoRaHS. It's not a drought-ender for Western Maryland or the Lower Eastern Shore. But it's sure welcome. And the 7-day forecast shows a chance for more wet stuff by the end of this week.

Down in the tropics, meanwhile, Igor has become a Cat. 1 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 80 mph. NHC/NOAAThe storm is located 1,200 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 18 mph.

Forecasters expect Igor will continue to strengthen and become a "major" Cat. 3 storm by Monday night.

UPDATE, 11:00 a.m.: Igor has been upgraded to a 105-mph, Cat. 2 hurricane

UPDATED UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Rapid intensification today has boosted Igor to a Cat. 4 hurricane with top sustained winds of 135 mph. 

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

The Hurricane Center also expects a second named storm to join Igor later today. It is just forming off the coast of West Africa. When it's named, it will be Tropical Storm Julia.

UPDATE, 11:00 a.m.: This storm has been upgraded to Tropical Depression 12. It is expected to become a tropical storm by tonight or early Monday.

And there's a 50 percent chance a third system will join the cast in the next 48 hours. It is now a stormy region in the central Caribbean. If these storms take shape in this order, the third one will be Karl, the 11 the named tropical cyclone of the Atlantic season.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Phenomena
        

Daylight dwindling as equinox nears

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Sunrise MarylandNotice how dark it is when your morning alarm goes off? Or how dim the light is for your evening commute?

Daylight dwindles quickly at this time of year. We’ve lost nearly 2 1/2 hours since the summer solstice.

At the fall equinox (Sept. 22) in Baltimore the sun rises at 6:54 a.m. EDT, and sets at 7:04 p.m.

Day and night would be equal that day, except that rise-and-set times are pegged to the first and last view of the top of the sun’s disk, not the center. 

(SUN PHOTO: Andre Chung 2005)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Phenomena
        

September 11, 2010

Moon, Venus cozy up this evening

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Moon Venus  appulse

If skies stay clear, look west after sunset for a beautiful pairing of a slim crescent moon, and a very bright planet Venus. At 10 a.m. today – out of our view – the moon and Venus are in the closest moon-planet conjunction, or "appulse," of the year, separated by just half the width of your finger held at arm’s length. By sunset, the moon will have moved farther east in its orbit. But the pair will still be very close, a striking sight.

(AP PHOTO: Fayetteville Observer-Times; a 1995 moon/Venus appulse, flipped and rotated to approximate tonight's configuration)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
        

September 10, 2010

Send some here; huge rain totals from Texas

 

Weather just isn't fair. Western and Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore are parched, while parts of Texas are deluged by rain from what was once Tropical Storm Hemine. Just take a look at these storm totals:

 ...TEXAS...
GEORGETOWN                          15.62                     
FRISCO 1.9 N                           14.82                     
ANDERSON MILL 1.4 NW             13.19                     
JOLLYVILLE 2.1 SSW                  13.14                     
CEDAR PARK 1.0 ESE                  12.99                     
LEANDER 2.5 ESE                        12.71                     
KILLEEN 2.9 SSW                        12.38                     
AUSTIN 10.7 N                           11.95                     
BRUSHY CREEK 1.4 S                  11.87                     
WEST LAKE HILLS 2.4 NNW           11.69  

(AP PHOTO: Star-Telegram, Joyce Marshall)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Rain chances for Sunday improving

It's not the kind of slow soaking we need, but forecasters out at Sterling have nudged our chances for some needed rain this Sunday a little higher.

They're calling for the chances for showers to rise to 40 percent in the early morning hours on Rain showers Columbia Md.Sunday, edging closer to 60 percent later in the morning as a cold front approaches from the Ohio Valley. Some spots could see as much as a quarter- to a half-inch from "scattered to numerous" showers before it's all over.

It's not a lot, especially for the western counties, where rainy days have been as common as gold dubloons this summer. But at least it's rain.

And, we've finally shaken off the 90-degree weather that lopped over from August into the first few days of September. The forecast calls for highs at BWI-Marshall to hold in the 70s through the weekend, rising only to the low 80s early next week.

After another (dry) cold front slips by on Tuesday or Wednesday, we'll be back in the 70s, and dry again. And that's pretty much where temperatures ought to be in mid-September.

For now, we're watching more cool, dry air rush in from Canada as high-pressure builds. The dry air, dry brush and brisk winds are once again raising wildfire worries today. The National Weather Service has posted notice of an "enhanced fire weather threat" today for the entire state west of the Chesapeake Bay.

Down in the tropics, hurricane forecasters continue to keep an eye on Tropical Depression Igor. The storm weakened below tropical storm strength yesterday, but appears likely to re-strengthen today, and is still expected to become a hurricane in the next few days.

UPDATE: 11:00 a.m.: Igor has regained tropical storm strength.

Forecasters are also watching an area of stormy weather in the Windward Islands and the eastern Caribbean. That disturbance is given a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

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

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Our 6th anniversary

Today, Sept. 10, marks the 6th Anniversary of the Maryland Weather Blog, The Baltimore's Sun's first online blog. Here, in its entirety, is our first entry:

Flowers"Current track of Ivan

"Hurricane Ivan is now tracking directly toward the Florida Keys. It is predicted to make landfall Monday morning."

We've learned a lot since Sept. 10, 2004, and I think the Maryland Weather Blog has become a much more interesting place to tap into what's happening in the atmosphere and beyond.

Thanks to all our readers - those who have been with us from the start, and the thousands who have joined us along the way. We especially value your comments and feedback. Reader interaction is the lifeblood of the blog biz. Let us hear from you.

May your weather always be interesting.  - FR

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Space Station will vanish tonight

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Dundalk Observatory CCBCSpace Cadets! If skies stay clear Friday evening, we’ll see an interesting pass by the International Space Station.

Watch for a bright, star-like object rising in the northwest at 8:52 p.m. as the ISS flies over the Great Lakes. Then watch it vanish, high in the north, as it enters Earth’s shadow at 8:55 p.m.

For the ISS, Jupiter and more, join observers at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Dundalk Observatory (photo), from 8 to 10 p.m.

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

September 9, 2010

Third of Maryland now in drought

Drought Monitor 

The new Drought Monitor map, released Thursday morning, shows that nearly a third of Maryland is now in "moderate" to "extreme" drought, with the most serious drought in Western Maryland.

Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore are also struggling with scarce rainfall. But hardest-hit is an arc of territory along the Potomac River in Allegany and Washington counties, where conditions were rated as "extreme" for the first time this summer, as rainfall dwindled to 40 percent of normal. Portions of nearby West Virginia and Virginia are also in the "extreme drought" zone. 

Drought conditions in Garrett, Allegany, Washington counties and the western sections of Frederick County are all rated as "severe" to "extreme."USGS Washington County well  The graph below shows the water level in a monitoring well in Washington County over the past 90 days.

Farther east, the yellow shading where the state is considered to be "abnormally dry" has crept back into northern Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties, and "moderate" drought persists in the Lower Eastern Shore.

The "drought" ratings are derived from data on soil moisture, rainfall, streamflow and vegetation health measured by satellite. Here are some definitions:

D1: "Moderate" drought: Some damage to crops, pastures; fire risk high; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent, voluntary water use restrictions requested

D2: "Severe" drought: Crop or pasture losses likely; fire risk very high; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed

D3: "Extreme" drought: Major crop/pasture losses; extreme fire danger; widespread water shortages or restrictions

D4: "Exceptional" drought: Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells, creating water emergencies

Overall, the percentage of the state where moisture is rated as normal (white on the map) shrank from 58 percent to 41 percent in the past week. Sixty percent is considered to be abnormally dry or in drought, up from 42 percent last week.

Many Maryland streams are running far below normal (cranberry and red dots on the map below).

Here's how the Drought Monitor described the week's developments:

"Across the panhandle of West Virginia, northwest Maryland and extreme southwest Pennsylvania, extreme drought (D3) conditions were added.  Precipitation for the most recent 30 and 90 days measure in at about 40% of normal, while the SPI, NLDAS soil moisture and stream flows are all below the 5% threshold for indicating extreme drought.  USGS Streamflow

"Across northern Virginia, abnormal dryness was expanded from the west toward the District of Columbia to reflect the field reports of deciduous trees dropping leaves and fruit earlier than normal due to lack of recent rainfall.

"Abnormal dryness and moderate drought were also expanded into eastern Pennsylvania and across Delaware, where the entire state is now experiencing abnormal dryness or moderate drought.   Dropping lake levels and scorched lawns are becoming more common across this region."

A Water Supply Outlook report issued last week by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin said water resources in the system are decreasing, with stream flow throughout the basin below normal. And the forecasts indicate the pattern will continue.

Upstream reservoirs - Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca - are "moderately full to full," the report stated. So, "from a water supply perspective, there is sufficient water in the Potomac River to meet Washington metropolitan area demands..."  Water releases from the reservoirs would supplement the Potomac's flow and ensure supplies for downstream communities that get their drinking water from the river.

Okay. Now I've written about the drought. Let the rains begin.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought
        

Perfect weather, then weekend showers possible

Now THIS looks like the weather we all wished for back in July. Mild temperatures, low humidity, and a nice breeze, all made better by sunny skies. The only negative thing you can say about it is that we really do need some rain.

brush fire MarylandThe National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling has posted a Hazardous Weather Outlook noting an "enhanced fire weather threat" today. The lack of rain, low humidity and strong breezes add up to perfect conditions to spread any wildfires that get started. Winds are forecast to kick up to 10 to 15 mph later today, with gusts over 20 mph. "Open burning is strongly discouraged," the statement said.

With luck, we may get a little rain this weekend as another cold front moves through to reinforce the dry Canadian air that cooled things down overnight and put the 90s behind us for a while.

The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers early Sunday morning, with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon. It's not entirely clear yet how strong that front will be by the time it reaches us, or how much rain we can look for. That should begin to clarify as the weekend nears.

After that, there's more sunny, mild weather forecast for the first part of next week.IGOR NHC

Down in the tropics, Tropical Storm Igor (left of center in photo at right) seems to be staggering a bit, with weakened central winds and a drift to the north toward the Cape Verde Islands.

Forecasters blame wind shear and say the storm could weaken further today. But overall conditions seem favorable for re-development, they say, and Igor is still expected to become a hurricane in the next few days. Even if it does, Igor would not become a threat to the U.S. for quite some time.

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

Also being watched this morning is another area of developing storms in the Windward Islands off the Venezuelan coast. Forecasters give this one a 40 percent chance of becoming a named tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine continue to plague the Mississippi Valley with heavy rain and flooding. Dallas was struck by a tornado.

(SUN PHOTO: Top, Doug Kapustin, 2001)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

All-female hurricane names last used in 1978

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Two readers have pointed out my error here Sunday, when I said 1977 was the last year that only female names were used for Atlantic hurricanes. It was actually 1978. My bad. Jeff Brauner had asked if any names from the final all-female list were still in use. The correct answer is still yes; none of the 1978 names have been retired. But only three appear on current lists: Paula for 2010, Tanya for 2013, and Wanda for 2015.  

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

September 8, 2010

2010: a tally of busted/tied weather records

So let's see if I can gather up a complete record of all the Baltimore weather records broken or matched so far this year. Feel free to add more if you think I've missed something:

1. Hottest summer: The average temperature at BWI-Marshall from June through August (the meteorological summer) was 79.3 degrees. That broke the previous record of 79.1 degrees, set in 1943.

Summer heat 20102. Most 90-degree days: The total now stands at 56 days, counting Wednesday 9/8. We broke the previous record of 54 days set in 1988.

3. Most snow: The official total at BWI was 77 inches (for the season). That broke the previous record of 62.5 inches set in the winter of 1995-96.

3. Snowiest month/snowiest February: The total was 50 inches, beating the previous record of 40.5 inches in February 2003.

4. Most 100-degree days: Seven days. This was a tie, matching the total in 1988.

5. Record-high daily temperatures were set on 10 dates: April 5 (84 degrees); April 6 (90 degrees); June 23 (97 degrees); June 24, (100 degrees); June 27, (100 degrees); June 28 (99 degrees); July 6 (105 degrees); July 7 (101 degrees); July 24 (101 degrees); July 25 (100 degrees);

6. Record-high minimum temperatures: set May 3 (69 degrees); July 24 (82 degrees)

7. Warmest month/warmest July: Temperatures in July averaged 81.5 degrees. This matched the record for the warmest month and the warmest July, first set in 1949 and matched in 1995.

8. Hottest average daily high temperature: July's daily highs averaged 92.5 degrees, beating the previous record of 91.9 degrees, set in 1988.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:25 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Dr. Frankenstein ... Igor is here to see you

It's happened. Igor has appeared just off the West African coast, and he's coming this way. Igor (it's "EE-gor" not "EYE-gor") is certain to become the butt of bad jokes by meteorologists and David Letterman in the coming week. Just to get you up to speed on the "Young Frankenstein" movie dialogue many of Igor NHCthese jokes will reference, here is a sampling.

The ninth named storm of the Atlantic season reached tropical storm force earlier today. The National Hurricane Center at 11 a.m. Wednesday said the storm was located about 95 miles southeast of the Cape Verde Islands, moving slowly to the west at 8 mph.

Igor's top sustained winds were blowing at just 40 mph, but hurricane watchers seem to have high hopes for the lad. AccuWeather.com has predicted it will become the season's next hurricane, and may (or may not) reach the continental U.S.:

"Igor could continue to plow westward toward the Antilles into next week, or could be picked up and turned northward by a trough of low pressure expected to drop in off the East Coast of the U.S. - Alex Sasnowski, senior meteorologist, AccuWeather.com

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

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Heat, fire and flood ahead ... then Igor?

Sounds pretty dire, doesn't it? Fortunately, the reality isn't quite so bad.

The National Weather Service forecasters out at Sterling think today's high might rise into the upper 80s, Satellite Chesapeakefalling somewhere short of the 90-degree mark. Of course, they said the same thing yesterday, and we slipped through to 91 degrees at BWI-Marshall, establishing a new record for the most 90-degree days in one year.

In any case, a glance at the 7-day forecast will tell you we're not likely to get anywhere near 90 after today, at least for a while. The cold front passing by today will drop daytime highs into the 70s, and the warmup this weekend will barely take us to the 80s. Could this be the beginning of the end of the hottest summer ever in Baltimore?

The cold front comes with some double-digit windy conditions today, and that - plus the dry weather and tinder-dry conditions in the woods and fields - has forecasters concerned about the spread of wildfires in Maryland. There is a Fire Weather Watch up from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday for the entire forecast area west of the Chesapeake:

"WESTERLY WINDS WILL INCREASE TO 15 AND 25 MPH
WHILE RELATIVE HUMIDITY VALUES DECREASE TO 25 TO 30 PERCENT IN THE
AFTERNOON. WITH THESE CONDITIONS OCCURRING OVER AN AREA WITH VERY
LOW FUEL MOISTURE THIS W
ILL PRODUCE A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR
THE SPREAD OF FIRES."

UPDATE: The Fire Weather Watch has been replaced with a Red Flag Warnings until 7 p.m. for most of the state, from Allegany County west to the Upper Shore, and south to Prince George's and Arundel counties. Much of southeastern Pennsylvania and southern and central New Jersey are also included. Here what the warning means:

"A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG
WINDS, LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL CREATE
EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL."

If that's not enough excitement for the Weather Page, we also have a Coastal Flood Advisory for the western shore of the Chesapeake. South winds will be pushing water up the bay, producing minor tidal flooding this morning in the usual most flood-prone locations. Don't get your feet wet.

Down in the tropics, there is one minor disturbance in the Caribbean - the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston - that hurricane forecasters are noting. But there is more interest in a new area of storms in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands. Hurricane watchers are giving that one a 50 percent shot at becoming a named tropical system within 48 hours.

If it comes to life, the new storm will be named ... really ... Igor.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:29 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 7, 2010

UPDATE: BWI hits 90 again, sets record

THIS JUST IN: The thermometer at BWI-Marshall reached 90 degrees again today. If NWS officials confirm the reading, it makes this the 55th day of 90-plus weather for Baltimore this year, setting a new record.

By the end of last week, Baltimore had matched the all-time record for the most 90-degree days in one year (54, set in 1988). And the seven-day forecast suggested we would smash through that barrier this week, with another string of days promising airport highs at 90 or more.

But the 90s dropped out of the forecast grid over the weekend. Today's forecast had predicted highs only in the upper 80s today and Wednesday, with much cooler weather entering the region for the downhill side of dry grassthe work week.

Now it seems forecasters at Sterling had underestimated today's high.

The meteorological summer of 2010 (June through August) has already been declared the hottest on record for Baltimore, beating the previous record set in 1943.

Earlier post resumes below:

We're also watching Tropical Storm Hermine, which popped up over the holiday weekend in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Hermine has now gone ashore in South Texas, with torrential rains and stiff winds. By later today its remnants will be soaking North Texas and Oklahoma. Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri will be next. With 4 to 8 inches of rain in some spots, flash flooding is all but certain, and we can expect to see TV images of drivers caught in high water. Here is the storm's forecast track. And here is the view from space.

The National Hurricane Center is still watching the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston, now in the northeast Caribban. And there are two more stormy areas in the far eastern Atlantic that could eventually make news. For now, they're no threat.

Unfortunately, there is still no rain in our forecast, at least not until - maybe - Sunday. Moderate to severe drought continues in Western Maryland, and on the Lower Eastern Shore as storm tracks to our east and west continue to bypass us. Here in Central Maryland, dry lawns continue to brown out, and heat- and drought-stressed trees continue to lose their leaves. That's my straw in the photo.

BWI has recorded no measurable rain since Aug. 23, and less than an inch since Aug. 12. There is no rain expected with the arrival of a cold front by Thursday, but the front will drop daytime highs for Baltimore back into the 70s.  Lows will sink to the upper 50s. And speaking of lows, the National Weather Service is reporting that some places in West Virginia dropped into the 30s early Monday.

The next front, this weekend, brings a small (30 percent) chance for some showers.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:53 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts
        

September 5, 2010

Some names live on after storms are gone

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

hurricaneJeff Brauner writes from Baltimore: “Have all the female hurricane names in use before the switch to both sexes been retired? Or are some still used?” The last year in which only female names were used was 1977. Only one name from that year’s list has been officially retired. That is Anita, dropped after the 175-mph storm that year killed 11 people in Mexico and left 25,000 homeless. Of the others, however, only Hanna is on the current lists, for 2014.

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

September 4, 2010

Hurricane strikes rare in Maryland

 Hazel at Pt. Lookout

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Hurricane Earl proved to be another “miss” for Maryland. We watch hurricanes, and worry. And plenty have caused serious damage here after going ashore in the Carolinas (like Isabel in 2003) or the Gulf of Mexico (like Agnes in 1972). But nearly all have steered away, or weakened to tropical storms before they got here. Storms that strike Maryland at hurricane force are exceedingly rare. Only two have been recorded since 1851 - one in 1878, and Hazel in 1954.

(SUN FILE PHOTO: Point Lookout after Hazel 1954)

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

September 3, 2010

Tropical Storm Warning dropped for Delmarva

The National Hurricane Center has discontinued the Tropical Storm Warning for the Delmarva Peninsula.

NOAA EarlHurricane Earl continued to move toward southern New England and Atlantic Canada. Hurricane Warnings were up for Southeastern Massachusetts from Woods Hole around Cape Cod to Sagamore Beach, including the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

Hurricane Watches were posted for portions of Nova Scotia. And Tropical Storm Warnings were up for the southern coasts of Long Island and Southern New England, as well as portions of Maine, all of Nova Scotia and other parts of Maritime Canada.

At 5 p.m., a sprawling Hurricane Earl was centered 230 miles south southwest of Nantucket, moving to the northeast at 22 mph. Tops sustained winds had fallen to 80 mph - just 6 mpg above minimal hurricane force.

Here is the latest advisory on Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view of a still-good-looking Earl from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Next up ... more dry weather

With Earl lumbering away to the northeast, Ocean City and the Atlantic resorts seem to be headed for a fine Labor Day weekend after what could have been a bummer of a storm. But if anyone had been counting on Earl to spread a little needed moisture around before he departed, that now seems to have been a forlorn hope.

The rain gauges at Ocean City and Salisbury show only a few hundreths of an inch of rain this afternoon. The Patuxent Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland shows nothing in its bucket.

Drought MonitorWestern Maryland never had a chance to get a slice of Earl, and those folks are really hurting for rain. Parts of the region are in moderate to severe drought. Hagerstown  has seen barely 3 inches of rain since June 1, and only a fraction more than an inch since Aug. 1.

And forecasters say there is little but more dry weather ahead. As Earl pulls out, a cold front approaches tonight from the northwest, with little rain to offer. After the front moves past Central Maryland tonight, the air will dry out rapidly, and cool down. The pale skies out there Friday afternoon - part of the cloud shield that invaded with Earl - will clear as the air dries. Watch for the wind direction to swing around to the northwest.

Saturday and Sunday will be much cooler and drier than we've seen here in recent days, with blue skies and highs in the upper 70s Saturday and Sunday. Overnight lows early Sunday could dip to the 40s, and even the upper 30s in high elevations to our west.

But we're not done with the heat quite yet. Labor Day will be warmer, in the low 80s, but still dry - and delightful if you're not a potted plant. By Tuesday and Wednesday, however, we're likely to be revisiting the 90s, and breaking records daily for the most 90-degree days in one calendar year.

And there's no rain anywhere in the seven-day forecast out of Sterling.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Blustery day in OC, but little rain

The barometer was continuing to fall in Ocean City late this morning as Hurricane Earl moved north and east from the North Carolina coastline. Top winds were gusting to 37 mph at the OC airport, but there was little rain in the gauge.

Ocean City EarlThe Tropical Storm Warning remained in effect, but a look at the beach cams shows residents and visitors out and about, jogging the beach and watching the tumult at the surf line. A few knuckleheads were out on the waves, as these photos show.

As the storm continues to move away, and a cold front approaches from the northwest, it seems likely the weather will begin to clear this afternoon, the sun will break through and usher in a fine Labor Day weekend.

The surf will continue to be rough and dangerous for a few days. But it looks like the resort will spring back for a profitable end to the summer season.

Earl, meanwhile, continued to drift away, reduced to an 85-mph Cat. 1 hurricane in the 11 a.m. advisory. The storm's center was located about 175 miles northeast of Hatteras, accelerating to the north northeast at 21 mph. Here is the latest advisory for Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

You can see that this morning's cloudy, humid weather in Baltimore is spinoff from Earl. Radar shows that the rain bands are holding mainly east of the bay.

The storm continues to pose a danger to Southeastern Massachusetts and Maritime Canada. But fo us, we'll soon begin to turn our weather eye back to the tropics, where three more storms areOcean City Earl lined up.

Tropical Storm Fiona is in the mid-Atlantic, moving toward Bermuda.  The center was 245 miles south southwest of Bermuda, moving to the north northeast at 13 mph. Top sustained winds were estimated at 45 mph. A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the British overseas territory.

Fiona does not pose a danger to the U.S. East Coast, but can be expected to continue to help roil the surf here for several days.

Here is the latest advisory for Fiona. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.NHC storms

Also under scrutiny by the National Hurricane Center in this busy season is Tropical Depression (and former Tropical Storm) Gaston. This struggling fellow, about 1,100 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, is looking pretty ragged. But forecasters say conditions are ripe for some re-development as it moves west at 10 mph. They give Gaston a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

Finally, just coming off the coast of West Africa is yet another stormy system. Some slow development seems possible, forecasters said. They give this one a 20 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next two days.

Other than that? Very calm.

(AP PHOTOS: Rob Carr in Ocean City)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Earl passes Hatteras; winds picking up in O.C.

Hurricane Earl, weakened to a 105-mph Cat. 2 storm, passed about 80 miles off Cape Hatteras early this morning and began its expected trek up the East Coast toward New England, angling even farther away from the NOAA/NHC EarlDemarva shores. Peak winds at Hatteras' Mitchell Field overnight rose to 35 mph, with gusts to 62. Nearly 3 inches of rain were recorded.

Winds were beginning to pick up in Ocean City, where the winds just before 7 a.m. were clocked at 12 mph out of the northeast, with gusts to 26. The National Weather Service said the resort should expect sustained winds to increase to between 32 and 37 mph later this morning, with tropical-storm-force gusts to 46 mph.

Here's a look at the Bethany Beach web cam. And here's Rehoboth as the storm moves north.

A quarter- to a half-inch of rain is possible before skies begin to clear off this afternoon. But rough surf and dangerous rip currents will continue to make swimming foolhardy until seas calm from today's predicted 15 to 20 feet.

All-in-all, thanks to Earl's offshore track, it looks like the Maryland and Delaware beaches will be spared a seriously destructive storm. And aside from some small craft warnings, the weather in the Baltimore area looks fine. Maryland, for the most part, seems to have dodged another dangerous tropical system.

The Hurricane Watch was discontinued this morning from the Carolina border north to Cape Henlopen Delaware. A Tropical Storm Warning, however, remains in effect on Delmarva, and as far north as Sandy Hook, N.J., and in the Lower Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.

By 8 a.m., forecasters expect that Earl's eye will be located off the Virginia Capes, moving to the north northeast at 18 mph. The atmospheric pressure at the eye was rising, reflecting the slow weakening of the storm as it moves over cooler waters. The forecast storm track would take it to Southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, where a Hurricane Warning remained in effect. Gusts to 85 mph were forecast tonight for Nantucket.

From there, Earl is expected to move quickly toward Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

Here is the latest advisory for Earl. Here is the view from space. And here's a look at conditions off Hatteras, at Data Buoy 41025.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:43 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricane traffic can get heavy

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Don Gansauer, in Canton, asks: “How many named storms have there ever been in the North Atlantic/Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico at any one time?” NOAA’s Chris Landsea (a great name for a NOAA guy) says that for two days in September 1971 there were five named storms in the Atlantic Basin at one time. There have been as many as four hurricanes. The first time was in August 1893. The second was in September 1998 when Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl whirled together for three days.

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

September 2, 2010

Earl approaches OBX, clouds reach Maryland

NOAA EarlHere's a pretty nice picture of Hurricane Earl taken this afternoon by a NOAA satellite.

It shows the storm's spiral clouds bearing down on the Outer Banks, with the outermost clouds now entering Southern Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula.

The storm's course is still said to be due north, with a turn to the north northeast due Friday. Top sustained winds have dropped to 115 mph, a minimal Cat. 3 storm now

Earl is predicted to be off the Virginia Capes by 8 a.m. Friday. 

Here's a very nice photo of Earl, from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab. Here's another, snapped by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

If you want to track offshore air and water conditions as Earl approaches, you can click on the Diamond Shoals data buoy, off Hatteras. The barometer there has begun to fall sharply ahead of the storm. It's slipping here, too.

And here's how things are looking on the Outer Banks.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Mercury tops 90 again, tying 1988 record

Ocean City, MDThe thermometer out at BWI-Marshall Airport topped 90 degrees just before noon today. That makes it 54 days this year that temperatures have reached 90 degrees or more, tying the record for Baltimore, set in 1988.

The forecast high for BWI on Friday is 89 degrees, giving us a fighting chance to set a new record before a cold front sweeps through and sends daytime highs into the low 80s for a while.

Here, month by month, is how we got to 54 days of 90-plus weather:

April:  2 days

May:  3 days

June:  16 days

July:  20 days

August:  11 days

Sept.:  2 days

(AP PHOTO: Laura Emmons, Salisbury Daily Times)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:17 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: By the numbers
        

Earl weakens a bit; watch extended to Canada

The National Hurricane Center is reporting at 2 p.m. Thursday that Hurricane Earl's top sustained winds have slowed to near 125 mph as it continues to spin north toward a brush with North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Hurricane Warnings are posted for the North Carolina coast, and for Southeastern Massachusetts, from Westport, around Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to Hull, on the south side of Boston Harbor.

NOAA EarlA Hurricane Watch remains in place for the mid-Atlantic coast from the Virginia/N.C. line to Cape Henlopen, Del., and for parts of Nova Scotia.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in place from the N.C/Va. line to Sandy Hook, N.J., including Delaware Bay and the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay.

Earl was expected to contune to weaken as wind shear and cooler waters take their toll. But it is likely to remain a dangerous storm as it nears the Carolina coast and Delmarva Peninsula, forecasters said. Hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the eye of the storm. tropical-storm-force winds extend as far as 230 miles from the center.

The coastal regions of the Eastern Shore are expected to see the worst of Earl's power. Tropical-storm-force winds may be felt as soon as late tonight or early Friday morning. The forecast for Ocean City calls for east winds to increase to 17 to 22 mph late tonight, and 33 to 43 mph Friday, with gusts to 55 mph.

Battering waves could rise to 18 feet, with a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Rainfall at the resorts could total 1 to 2 inches.

The forecast for the Baltimore area for tonight and Friday remains pleasant.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, Earl's center was reported to be 245 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north at 18 mph. 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 1:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

OC wind forecast increases; Earl stays offshore

NOAA Hurricane Earl 

Hurricane Earl continued on a northward course Thursday that should put the Cat. 4 storm off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by 8 a.m. Friday. Forecasters say the storm will begin to weaken, but its wind field will expand.

That might account for the increase in wind speeds forecast for Ocean City Thursday night and Friday. National Weather Service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. now say the Maryland resort should prepare for east winds to increase to between 17 and 22 mph tonight, with gusts to 28 mph.

On Friday, forecasters said, winds at the resorts should swing around to the north as the storm pulls abreast of the Delmarva Peninsula, increasing to between 33 and 43 mph, with tropical-storm-force gusts to 55 mph. As much as an inch of rain is forecast for Ocean City during the period. The chances the resort will experience tropical-storm force winds during the storm were put at 59 percent.

Rough surf and dangerous currents are a given, as battering waves rise to a predicted 14 to 18 feet. (Baltimore's forecast, by the way, remains just fine.)

A Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch remain in effect for the Maryland and Delaware costs and the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

The brunt of Hurricane Earl's power is expected to be felt in eastern North Carolina, and in southeastern Massachusetts, where Hurricane Warnings are posted. Nantucket Island is being warned to expect winds of 80 mph and gusts to 105 Friday night.

At 11 a.m., the center of Hurricane Earl was located about 300 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north at 18 mph. An increase in speed and a turn to the north northeast were both expected on Friday. The storm's top sustained winds were estimated at 140 mph. A slow weakening is expected as the storm moves into a region of increased wind shear and cooler waters.

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 11:10 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Blizzards, drought, record heat ... one crazy year

The Summer of 2010 has ended (for meteorologists, at least) as the hottest on record for Baltimore and Washington. The hot summer weather comes after a Baltimore winter that saw more snow than any other winter since official record-keeping began in the 1880s.

February blizzard Baltimore 2010We also had drought, and tied the record for the most 100-degree days in one calendar year (7).

And we still have four months to go. What else could happen? A hurricane?

The Baltimore Sun is going to be writing about this crazy year, and we're looking for your input. Leave us a comment below or email me directly at frank.roylance@baltsun.com . Tell us what you think about all the news-making weather we've had this year, and how it has affected you and your family.

Have you just hated the cold, the snow, the heat and the disruptions to your life? Or, do the changes in the weather provide spice and variety in an otherwise predictable routine?

How has the weather affected your budget? Did you lose money or make more money during the blizzards? How did the wintry weather affect your family budget? What about the summer heat? Have your air conditioning bills been a serious burden, or have you found ways to cool off without the AC? How have your gardens and lawns fared?

Do you think we're likely to see more extreme weather in the years to come, or has this just been an oddity that should be expected the more years we add to the record books? 

Let us hear from you. If we decide to use your comments in the story, we will need to include your name and hometown. Thanks. - FR

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers
        

Earl's winds now at 145 mph; track unchanged

A powerful and dangerous Hurricane Earl continued to steam toward the North Carolina Outer Banks early Thursday, with winds strengthening to 145 mph overnight. A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for all of the Maryland and Delaware Atlantic coastline.

Earl Weather UndergroundIf forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are right, the Cat. 4 storm's center, and its most dangerous effects, will stay offshore as the storm track curves gradually to the northeast and toward southeastern New England.

Weather service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. expect weather conditions in Ocean City will begin to deteriorate today, with winds peaking late Thursday and Friday between 29 and 34 mph, with gusts to 44 mph.

Here's more of the Tropical Storm Warning posted for the Delmarva region:

"OVER THE TIDEWATER REGION ALONG SOUTHERN CHESAPEAKE BAY...STORM SURGE
VALUES EXPECTED TO PEAK BETWEEN 1.5 AND 3 FEET DURING HIGH TIDE
FRIDAY AFTERNOON...WHICH WOULD RESULT IN MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL
FLOODING. NEITHER EXCESSIVE RAINFALL NOR TORNADOES ARE EXPECTED TO
POSE A THREAT TO THE WARNED AREAS. PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN ARE
EXPECTED TO BRING BETWEEN 1 AND 2 INCHES OF TOTAL RAINFALL OVER
MOST OF THE WARNED AREAS..."

The weather service is also warning of dangerous surf conditions and rip currents, with large battering waves rising to between 14 and 18 feet on Friday as the storm passes. Beach erosion and overwash is most likely farther south.

Back here in the Baltimore and Washington areas, Earl is not expected to be a factor. The Baltimore forecast calls for sunny to partly cloudy conditions, with no rain and only light breezes.

There are some advisories up. Coastal Flood Advisories are up for the western shore of the Chesapeake, and the tidal Potomac, as winds out of the south and a falling barometer ahead of Earl raise high tide levels in the bay one foot above normal today, and 1 to 3 feet above normal on Friday. Here are some high tide times for Maryland:

"ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...
HAVRE DE GRACE...4:26 AM AND 4:25 PM...
BOWLEY BAR...2:03 PM AND 3:04 AM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...1:12 PM AND 2:13 AM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...11:42 AM AND 12:43 AM...
CHESAPEAKE BEACH...10:25 AM AND 11:26 PM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...8:34 AM AND 9:35 PM...
POINT LOOKOUT...7:44 AM AND 8:45 PM..."

It all sounds reassuring. But that's when forecasters issue this reminder:

"CONFIDENCE IS INCREASING THAT
EARL SHOULD FOLLOW SUCH A TRACK THAT MINIMIZES THE IMPACT HERE.
HOWEVER...ANY SIGNIFICANT WESTWARD SHIFT IN TRACK WOULD WORSEN THE
IMPACT ON THE AREA. PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST STATEMENTS FROM THE
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON EARL.
"
Here is the latest forecast advisory on Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

September brings cooler days, Harvest Moon

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Harvest MarylandSeptember at last, and reason enough to expect cooler, drier days. The ninth month is the first of the meteorological autumn. As daylight hours diminish, average highs in Baltimore slip from 82 degrees to 73, and record highs fall to the low 90s. The average lows sink to 51 degrees. The equinox arrives late on the 22nd just six hours before the full Harvest Moon. Luna rises the next night alongside brilliant Jupiter, which stands at its closest in 12 years.

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

September 1, 2010

(Unofficially) the hottest summer for Baltimore

It's all still unofficial and preliminary and blah, blah, blah. But the National Weather Service's first crack at the numbers for the (meteorological) Summer of 2010, which ended Tuesday, finds that it has been the hottest since record-keeping here began in 1871.

Here's the word from the folks at Sterling:

"THE METEOROLOGICAL SUMMER MONTHS...JUNE TO AUGUST...OF 2010 WAS THE WARMEST ON RECORD FOR BALTIMORE MD. THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE DURING THIS 92 DAY PERIOD WAS 79.3F...BREAKING THE PREVIOUS WARMEST SUMMER ON RECORD OF 79.1F IN 1943.

"THE HIGH TEMPERATURE AVERAGED OVER METEOROLOGICAL SUMMER OF 2010 FELL JUST SHY OF 90 DEGREES...89.6F. THE PREVIOUS WARMEST SEASONAL HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR METEOROLOGICAL SUMMER WAS 88.7F IN 1995.

"SO FAR THIS YEAR THROUGH AUGUST...BALTIMORE HAS EXPERIENCED 52 DAYS OF 90F OR GREATER...ONE DAY SHY OF THE MOST NUMBER OF 90-DEGREE DAYS THROUGH AUGUST 31ST OF 53 DAYS RECORDED IN 1988.

"BALTIMORE ONLY NEEDS TWO MORE 90-DEGREE DAYS THIS YEAR TO TIE THE RECORD...54 DAYS...SET IN 1988 OF THE MOST NUMBER OF 90-DEG DAYS IN A CALENDAR YEAR."

Well, we've already nabbed one of those days. The high at BWI-Marshall Wednesday was 95 degrees. That makes 53.

Down in Washington, DC, they've had their warmest summer, as well. They've tied the record there (Reagan National) for the most 90-degree days through August. But they're still short of the 67 needed to match the record for 90-degree days in a calendar year. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers
        

New tropical depression forms in Atlantic

NOAA/NHC 

As if we needed more headaches from the tropics ... The National Hurricane Center has begun watching a new tropical depression in the Atlantic.

Dubbed Tropical Depression 9 for now, the stormy area was located 800 miles west southwest of the Cape Verde Islands - the same region where Earl (and Tropical Storm Fiona) formed last week. The new storm was moving to the west at 15 mph with top sustained winds of 35 mph.

UPDATE 5 p.m. Wednesday: TD9 has graduated to tropical storm status. It is, officially, Gaston. Earlier post resumes below.

Forecasters said the storm was expected to strengthen, and is likely to become a named tropical storm in 48 hours. If so, it would become Tropical Storm Gaston - the seventh named storm of the season.

Here is the latest advisory on TD9. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from space.

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Hurricane Watch posted for Md., Del. coast

The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Watch for the Maryland and Delaware coastal counties. That means hurricane conditions - winds of 74 mph or higher - are possible there within 48 hours.

Forecasters have also issued Hurricane Warnings for the Outer Banks, from Surf City, N.C. north to the Virginia border. The warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

The Hurricane Watch extends from the North Carolina/Virginia border north to Cape Henlopen in Delaware.

Hurricane Earl was located 725 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. It was moving toward the continues to track northwest at 17 mph. Top sustaiend winds were estimated at 125 mph, making this a "major" Category 3 hurricane. The Hurricane Center said:

"EARL IS A LARGE HURRICANE. HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP
TO 90 MILES...150 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE
WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 200 MILES...325 KM."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:18 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Nice weather ahead, once Earl departs

Today promises to be the 53rd day this year with highs of 90 degrees or more. And tomorrow we're still likely to tie the all-time record for Baltimore - 54 days, set in 1988.

But once this pesky Hurricane Earl goes away late Friday, there is a cold front due to sweep through. And that will bring some very cool, dry September weather to make our memories of the Beach hurricane Earl90s (the heat, not the decade) fade away. And it will clear the air of all this pollution, too.

The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling is calling for highs this weekend in the low 80s, with sunny skies and low humidity. Overnight lows will dip into the the 50s and 60s Saturday night, and as low as the 40s in the mountains.

For now, we're still dealing with the hot weather. And the heat and sunshine, combined with smokestack and vehicle exhaust, are pushing ozone and particulate levels to Code Red levels today across Central Maryland. That's considered unhealthy for everybody. So it's good reason to avoid strenuous activity or outdoor exercise today.

The air quality alert on the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland is Code Orange - unhealthy for sensitive groups, including the very young, the elderly and people with chronic cardiac or respiratory illnesses.

So let's have everyone stay indoors, and track the heat and the hurricane online. Here's the scorecard on soon-to-be-matched 90-plus record for Baltimore:

Sunday:  High 91 degrees. Day 50  Matched in 1943, 1966, 1991.

Monday:  High 94 degrees. Day 51  Matched in 1941, 1995.

Tuesday:  High 95 degrees. Day 52

Wednesday:  Forecast high 94 degrees.  Day 53

Thursday: Forecast high 91 degrees. Day 54. The record, set in 1988.

(AP PHOTO, Laura Emmons, Salisbury Daily Times)

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

Earl weakens slightly, still dangerous

Weather UndergroundHurricane Earl, still on track to sweep the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina northward starting Thursday night, was downgraded slightly this morning to a strong Cat. 3 hurricane. 

Top sustained winds near the center of the storm were still blowing at 125 mph. Earl's center was located 815 miles south southeast of Cape Hatteras, moving to the northwest at 16 mph.

The forecast storm track would put Earl off the Outer Banks at 2 a.m. Friday, still at "major" Cat. 3 power. 

One of the forecast computer models, shown in the map from Weather Underground at left, sends the storm ashore near Wilmington and north directly across Delmarva.

Hurricane Watches, already posted for the Outer Banks, from Surf City, N.C. to the Virginia border, were extended overnight to include the Virginia coastline to Parramore Island on the Virginia portion of the Eastern Shore.

Here's the forecast for Ocean City, where tropical storm conditions are possible late Thursday and Friday.

The Hurricane Watch means hurricane conditions - with winds of 74 mph or higher - were possible within 36 hours.

Here is the latest advisory on Earl.

Here is the forecast storm track.

And here is the view from orbit.

 

 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:15 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Hurricanes
        
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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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