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February 28, 2011

Showers, T-storms as cold front passes

Showers, thunderstorms and the possibility of some violent weather are all on the menu today as a cold front crosses the state.

The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for parts of Prince George's and Anne Arundel County and points south until 1:30 p.m. as a potent storm moved through the NOAA/NWSarea at 50 mph. Damaging winds up to 60 mph were possible.

The wind and rain were already causing power outages among BGE's customers in Central Maryland. Almost 3,800 customers lost power. All but a few hundred has been restored to service by 2 p.m. 

Central Maryland was advised in a Hazardous Weather Outlook that thunderstorms moving along the front this afternoon and tonight could produce damaging winds and isolated tornadoes. Counties from PG south were under a Tornado Watch until 4 p.m.

As much as three-quarters of an inch of rain is possible in some locations as the front goes by.

Elsewhere, in the meantime, we've been seeing some scattered showers and threatening skies. High temperatures Monday could reach 70 degrees, forecasters said. But the thermometer at The Sun had barely made it to 61 degrees by 1:20 p.m.

Once the front goes by, we'll drop down to the low 30s overnight, with highs on Tuesday only expected to reach the upper 40s. But the sun will be back as high pressure moves in behind the cold front. Daytime highs will be closer to the seasonal norms for Baltimore. The overnight lows will drop into the 20s.

The clouds return late in the week, with rain due on Saturday. Skies should clear by late Sunday afternoon, forecasters said. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

March brings Worm Moon, vernal equinox


March arrives at midnight. The third month of the year sees average high temperatures for Baltimore rise from 49 degrees to 59, while the average lows climb back from below freezing (29 degrees) to 38. It can get hot. Record highs climb from 80 (on the 1st in 1972) to 90 degrees (on the 29th in 1945). The record lows rise from 5 degrees (1873) to 21 degrees (most recently in 1982). The full Sap, Crow or Worm Moon rises on the 19th. They all hint of spring. Spring itself arrives with the equinox, at 7:21 p.m. on the 20th.

(SUN PHOTO: Nanine Hartzenbusch, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 27, 2011

Crescent moon, Venus, align before dawn


NASAIf pre-dawn skies are clear, early risers Monday will be greeted by a beautiful pairing of the waning crescent moon and the planet Venus, low in the southeast. The sun rises at 6:49 a.m., so start looking between 5:45 and 6 a.m. You’ll see Venus just to the left of, and slightly below the slender moon. If you oversleep, or clouds interfere, try again Tuesday morning. The moon will have moved to the left of Venus. These are the two brightest objects in the sky after the sun.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 26, 2011

Weather radar helps with studies of flying critters

The BBC recently did some filming at the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office, in Sterling Va. It was part of a short news segment on the use of weather radar to gather valuable scientific information on birds, bats and insects.

It turns out that weather radar, normally used to track rain drops and snowflakes, can also pick up swarms of flying creatures. Scientists are learning to use the data to learn more about critter behavior, the environment, and how both may be changing over time. Here's the BBC report:


Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Windy day in Baltimore

Just back from Cape Canaveral. Our 7:45 p.m. flight on Southwestern was delayed until 11 p.m. Plane landed at 1 a.m., did not get to bed until 2:45 a.m. Don't you just LOVE air travel?

They tell me you all had some wind while I was enjoying the 80-degree Florida weather. Here's some video The Sun asked me to post. Enjoy:


Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

Are Hubble's colors for real? Find out today


Ever wonder whether the spectacular colors in photos from the Hubble Space Telescope are real? Is that how the universe would appear to the naked eye?

You can find out today from Zolt Levay, senior image processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He’s speaking at 10 a.m. at the Banneker Planetarium, on the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.

The event is free and open to everyone. Call 443 840-4560 for more information.

(PHOTO: Hubble Heritage Project)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 25, 2011

Last launch of Discovery

I remembered the belching, billowing smoke at liftoff. I remembered the towering pillar of smoke as the shuttle climbs toward orbit. And I remembered suppressing the fear that something might go wrong.

But as my son and I watched Discovery's launch Thursday afternoon, from the east causeway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I realized I had forgotten the blinding, ferocious flame that followed the shuttle as it hurled six astronauts off the planet. It felt like it would burn a spot into my retinas. Photos don't do it justice.

I have covered three shuttle launches for The Sun, two that actually flew, and a third that was postponed. This was my first with my son and without having to file a story.

Here's the video I shot with my Canon Digital Elph point-and-shoot camera. Notice how long it takes the sound of the rocket to reach us. Time it, do a little math and you'll know how far away we were. We were south of launch Complex 39, so you are looking north as Discovery launches to the east. 

Ty and I had been planning this trip since last fall. But problems with the shuttle caused repeated delays. With each one we had to reschedule our flights - at least six times, as I recall.

This time was the charm. We arrived in Orlando Thursday morning, rented a car and drove east toward Cape Canaveral. We quickly ran into heavy traffic. NASA said this may have been the biggest crowd in history to watch a launch. Hotel and restaurant employees agreed. In addition to being Discovery's last launch, it is the third-to-last shuttle launch ever. When we got our tickets last fall, it was supposed to be the second-to-last. Then NASA added one more flight.

Anyway, traffic was stop-and-go for much of the way. When we got the the Visitors' Center, nearly every grassy vantage point was filled with adults and kids and cameras, waiting hours for liftoff. We managed to snag tickets for a bus ride out to the east causeway and an unobstructed view of the launch.

We found a spot overlooking the lagoon, maybe 5 or 6 miles from the launchpad. Waterbirds waded in the shallows. Fish jumped. Kids annoyed. But it was a terrific place to be. The weather was perfect .. upper 70s or low 80s. Blue skies, with some scattered white cumulous clouds moving in from the south.

NASA launch commentary was broadcast over loudspeakers, so we could follow the last-minute range safety issue that threatened to postpone the launch. The issues were resolved in the final minutes, and Discovery arose from the pad on schedule at about 4:50 p.m. 

Ty was shooting black-and-white film on my old Minolta SLR. You can hear his shutter clicks. I took video on my point-and-shoot digital. Discovery had climbed well into the sky over Cape Canaveral before the crackling roar of its engines and solid fuel boosters reached us.

And in less than a minute, it was over for us. Discovery had been reduced to a white dot against the blue sky. And its smokey trail was twisting and dispersing in the wind. Here's another view, from an airliner.

We were bused back to the Visitors Center, where we retrieved our rental car and began the long trek back. Traffic was awful. It took us two hours to get off Merritt Island - a 10-mile drive - and another hour to reach our hotel.

"I'm really glad I came," Ty said. "But I won't be doing it again."

I'm sure this was my last shuttle launch, too.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:14 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Cool pictures

Hot date? Try stargazing


Dundalk ObservatoryLooking for a different kind of date on a Friday evening? Why not go stargazing? The Dundalk Observatory, at the Community College of Baltimore’s Dundalk campus, is holding free observation sessions from 7 to 9 tonight, and on the second and fourth Fridays in March, when weather permits. Get a look at stars, planets and nebulae through their powerful, 14-inch Celestron CGE 1400 XLT telescope. Call 410 282-3092 before you leave to check for weather cancelations. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 24, 2011

A night of planetary alignments


All sorts of planets aligning tonight, none visible from Earth. First, at 10 p.m., EST, the planet Mars is at “heliocentric conjunction” with both Neptune and Uranus. That means if you were at the sun and looked out into space, Mars would pass in front of both Uranus and Neptune. But wait, there’s more. At 4 a.m. Friday morning, Mercury is at “superior conjunction” with the sun. That means it will pass behind the sun as seen from Earth, and move into the evening sky.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 23, 2011

Lots of rain ahead; flood watch in Garrett

The dry, crisp, clear air that made the quarter moon so sharp in the sky just before sunrise today will give way on Thursday to increasing clouds and a significant rainstorm.

Forecasters out at Sterling are expecting 1 to 2 inches of rain here late Thursday into Friday as a storm system now over the southwestern states moves east along the jet stream and crosses our region on Friday. There's even a chance for thunderstorms breaking out Friday morning southeast of wherever the low finally decides to track.

That's a lot of rain. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for Garrett County, in extreme Western Maryland, in effect from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning. Out there. forecasters expect 1 to 1.5 inches of rain to be augmented by an additional half-inch of snow AccuWeather.commelt. That could flood streams and creeks and low-lying areas.


No flood watch yet for Central Maryland. Our streams look pretty depleted after a relatively dry winter, and we have less snow on the ground than Garrett. So perhaps we'll get by without a flood risk. 

The forecast for BWI-Marshall Airport calls for clouds to begin increasing Thursday after a sunny start to the day. Warm, moist air will begin to move in from the south, riding up and over the cold air at the surface. Rain should start by evening.

Forecasters are calling for a half- to three-quarters of an inch in Central Maryland Thursday night, then another half-to three-quarters of an inch on Friday before the rain ends by noon. Temperatures Friday night will drop below freezing, leaving us to tread carefully on the resulting ice. Northwest winds gusting to 35 mph will make the night even more interesting.

The weekend forecast offers sunny skies and highs in the upper 40s on Saturday, then increasing clouds on Sunday as the next rain storm moves in Sunday night into Monday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Flooding

Fed up with winter? Move where there is none


Costa Rica beachEmily Johnston writes from snowy Westminster: “Jack is totally [fed up with] the weather. He said, ‘Let’s move someplace where there is no winter.’ The question is – where is that?” A Midwinter Night’s Dream, if ever there was one. The obvious answer is the tropics. Try Costa Rica, where the sun rises around 5 a.m. and sets around 6 p.m. year-round. No winter, just a dry season from December to April, and a wet season from May to November. Temperatures average 72 degrees. Beautiful.

(PHOTO: Costa Rica Guide)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

February 22, 2011

Int'l Space Station in flyover tonight

Sky Watchers! (A reader told me she thought "Space Cadets!" was derogatory. What do you think?) The International Space Station will fly up the East Coast this evening under cold, but otherwise ideal conditions for viewing.

On this pass the ISS will rise out of the southwestern sky at 5:59 p.m. and climb about halfway above the southeastern horizon as it makes its way from the coast of southern Georgia, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Look for it as it passes through the constellation Orion (photo) at 6:02 p.m., just below the bright star Betelgeuse on The Hunter's right shoulder. From there the station and its crew of six will pass below Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini. Then they will move off to the northeast, over the Nova Scotia coast before disappearing from our view at 6:06 p.m.

The seeing should be good, with cold, dry, clear skies.

UPDATE, 7 p.m.: Well, the station was pretty easy to see, even in very bright dusky skies. But, of course, no stars were visible until a half-hour later. Next time I need to pay more attention to sky brightness in these flyby forecasts. Anyone else get a look?  

NASA is preparing to launch the shuttle Discovery on Thursday afternoon to catch up with and resupply the ISS. It is the final flight for Discovery, and the third-to-last for the shuttle fleet before it's retired. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching

Storm drops up to 7 inches; blue skies return

The measurements are still coming in this morning, but the overnight storm seems to left after making a deposit of 5 to 7 inches in some spots.

The National Weather Service is reporting a high of 7 inches in Bel Air. The latest from the CoCoRaHS Network shows 6 inches in Taneytown, in Carroll; 5 inches on the ground from Westminster to Long Green in Baltimore County. We have 4.5 inches (and 19 degrees) here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. Here are a few more. I 'll add others as I can get to them:

Mt. Airy, Carroll:  4.1 inches

Cumberland, Allegany:  4 inches

Elkridge, Howard:  3.5 inches

Columbia, Howard:  3.5 inches

Ellicott City, Howard:  2.7 inches 

Bishopville, Worcester:  0.6 inch

Waldorf, Charles:  0.5 inch

There is no report from BWI yet, but the NWS is reporting 1.8 inches in Severn. Here are more snow tallies from the folks at Sterling.

Okay, so it was not a monumental storm. But it proves that winter is not over in Central Maryland after the first 70-degree weather in February. Schools are closed across the region, and my favorite teacher is still sawing wood. On the other hand, the plows have just made three passes on our street and our most intrepid commuters are out and gone. Others are still digging.

Skies have already cleared, and Venus was still bright in the southeast when I got up. Forecasters are calling for a sunny day, but cold, with highs only in the low 30s as Canadian high pressure moves in behind the storm, about 15 degrees below the average for this time of year.

Temperatures will moderate as we reach mid-week, with a chance for some rain Thursday. We'll be back in the 50s by the weekend. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:51 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Winter weather

Washington's birthday is when you say it is.


Today is George Washington’s REAL birthday. Right? Well, sort of. Our first president was actually born on Feb. 11, 1732.

But in 1752, the American colonies finally switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and everyone skipped ahead 11 days. So George began celebrating on the 22nd.

In 1971, most states, including Maryland, swept George’s day, and Abe’s, into President’s Day, marked on the third Monday in February.

But federal agencies, by law, still call the Monday holiday “Washington’s Birthday.”

(PHOTO: Baltimore Museum of Art)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 21, 2011

Overnight snow could drop 5-8 inches

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: The Winter Storm Watch is now a warning for Carroll; Central and Eastern Allegany; Extreme Western Allegany; Frederick; Harford; Northern Baltimore; Washington.


And the advisory for Anne Arundel; Howard; Montgomery; Southern Baltimore has been upgraded to a warning. 


UPDATE, 10 a.m.: A Winter Storm Watch has been issued beginning at 9 p.m. for the northern counties, including Frederick, Carroll, northern Baltimore and Harford counties. Forecasters say 4 to 6 inches of snow are possible overnight in the Watch area.


Here's the updated (clickable) forecast snow map:

Weather Service had predicted 1 to 3 inches of snow overnight at BWI-Marshall Airport as a pair of low-pressure systems move through the region. The precipitation will start as rain, become mixed in the wee hours of Tuesday as temperatures drop behind the first low, then change to snow before ending during the rush hour.

Here's how Eric the Red saw it last night:

"Over the weekend, models did everything imaginable... no storm, all rain, all snow, and now back to a north to south changeover.  I think I'll stick with 2 to 5" on grassy surfaces for central and northern MD... and once you get down toward Annapolis and DC, the question of when (and if) the changeover occurs becomes fuzzier.  I would suspect that unless the cold air really pushes in fast, locales south of Baltimore will struggle to get more than an inch or two."

Here, on the jump, is how he sees it this afternoon:

"It appears the near-perfect timing necessary for a good snowfall tonight will in fact play out, so I think I better up the totals... esp across nrn MD.  For much of central and northern MD, 4 to 8 inches of snow are liklely tonight.  Totals will be lower farther south into northern VA, but the changeover to snow (if any sleet or rain is falling initially) should be quick enuf to get even the southern portions of the region a decent 2-4" snowfall.

"The models are in excellent agreement that a storm system coming in from the west will collide with the timely arrival of cold air from the north.  I was figuring that recent warmth and time of year would cut into snow totals, but there are a couple things at play here that will make that original thought null and void.  First, altho it may not feel like it just yet, plenty of cold air is pushing south out of New England into the Mid Atlantic...and temps at the surface are expected to plunge into the low to mid 20s as the snow arrives.  That will up the liquid-to-snow ratio.  Also, this event will be at night, removing solar insolation from the equation. 

"Timing... snow or mixed precip will arrive from the west between 7 and 10 pm.  What ever sleet or rain there is will quickly change to snow as evaporative cooling kicks in.  A period of heavy snow is likely across central and northern MD late tonight, and snow will linger into the morning commute.  Temps tomorrow will not get above freezing, so this will definitely stick around for a little while.

"I should note that I am being conservative here.  If the WRF has this right, then snowfall will be in the 7 to 14" range across central and nrn MD, due to higher pcp totals and cold air pushing up the snow ratio.  The RSM would suggest 8 to 16" for the same reasons.  The GFS is a bit lower (and the model I'm leaning on for this one), with a liquid total of ~ 0.50"... and that would get us in the 4 to 8" range.  Anyway, here we go..."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:29 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Forecasts

Moon, Spica and Saturn align late tonight


Saturn/NASAPlan to be up late tonight? After midnight? If so – and skies are clear to the southeast – step outside for a minute and look for the not-quite quarter moon, low in the southeast. Immediately above the moon is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, the only female figure in the zodiac. Spica is Latin for “ear of wheat,” held in the virgin’s hand. The star is 260 light years from Earth. A short distance above Spica is the planet Saturn, now almost 820 million miles away.

(PHOTO: NASA/Hubble, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 20, 2011

Final tally on Saturday's winds

Some windstorm. Trees, branches down, wildfires and building fires get stoked and keep fire fighters on the run.

We were in Manhattan for most of it. There were times when it was all we could do to prevent the gusts from knocking us down as they funneled through the urban canyons. And temperatures had dropped into the 30s. Brutal.

Wildfire MarylandAnd every bit of trash buried by the heavy snows up there over the past couple of months, and exposed by recent mild weather, was suddenly airborne. It was amazing. Driving to our hotel in NJ Saturday night was a wrestling match. We were pelted by trash. And on the drive home Sunday, the amount of tree debris and trash along the roadsides, and plastic bags snared by fences and trees, was monumental.

Apparently Baltimore experienced the same thing. We saw this appeal today from the city's Public Works Department:

"Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx asked Baltimore City residents to assist city crews today in cleaning up the debris resulting from yesterday’s high winds. 'The winds that swept through our area yesterday caused many problems including blowing trash along our streets and alleys. We have crews out today going to major problem areas and working with DOT and Recreation and Parks on medians and parks. We are also going to address business districts, corner cans, and dirty streets and alleys.'

"Director Foxx emphasized the need for help from City residents. 'We can’t do it alone. We are asking residents to help by just spending 15 minutes to a half an hour cleaning up in front and rear of their homes, including the gutter, and along the street. Make sure you put the trash in a trashcan and keep it for your next scheduled trash day.'

"Residents can also assist by calling 311 to report problem areas, especially dirty streets and alleys. Many problems yesterday resulted from trash bags left on street corners. Baltimore City law requires the use of trashcans. Trash and recycling needs to be stored until the next regularly scheduled collection day."

Good luck with that.

Below, on the jump, is a pretty comprehensive rundown on peak wind gusts during the storm Saturday, from the National Weather Service. Flint, in Frederick County, takes the gold ring, at 63 mph. Parole, in Anne Arundel County, reported a gust at 60 mph. BWI topped out at 55.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, Feb. 20, 2011)


   3 NNE OLDTOWN           48   907 PM  2/18  MESONET
   WESTERNPORT             46  1009 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 NNW PAROLE            60   305 PM  2/19
   1 E EASTPORT            58   910 AM  2/19  BUOY
   1 W GLEN BURNIE         57  1114 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 N BALT-WASH INTL A    55   858 AM  2/19  ASOS
   1 W HARMANS             52  1014 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 N NORTH BEACH         49  1245 PM  2/19  MESONET
   1 NNW EASTPORT          48   954 AM  2/19  ASOS

   1 E BAY RIDGE           53   902 PM  2/18  MESONET

   3 E CALVERT CLIFFS      53   200 PM  2/19  COVE POINT BUOY

   3 W SPARROWS POINT      55   400 PM  2/19  BUOY

   1 N BALTIMORE MARTIN    52   845 AM  2/19  AWOS
   1 NNW LUTHERVILLE       48   232 PM  2/19  MESONET
   2 NNW GLYNDON           47   719 PM  2/18  MESONET

   1 ENE BALTIMORE         55   934 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 SW BALTIMORE          48  1149 PM  2/18  MESONET

   CHESAPEAKE BEACH        52   250 PM  2/19  MESONET

   1 W ELDERSBURG          55   904 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 SE MANCHESTER         55   850 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 ESE WESTMINSTER       52   824 AM  2/19  MESONET

   2 W NORTHWOOD           57   234 PM  2/19  MESONET
   1 WSW LA PLATA          50   329 PM  2/19  MESONET
   2 NNE POTOMAC HEIGHT    49  1208 PM  2/19  HOLLIS POINT
   1 SW HUGHESVILLE        46   844 AM  2/19  MESONET

   2 SW FLINT              63  1023 PM  2/18  AWOS
   MIDDLETOWN              56  1034 PM  2/18  MESONET
   1 E BRUNSWICK           55  1254 AM  2/19  MESONET
   3 NNW IJAMSVILLE        50   909 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 ESE FREDERICK         49   943 AM  2/19  AWOS
   1 W PLEASANT WALK       48   357 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 ENE PETERSVILLE       48  1257 AM  2/19  MESONET
   GRACEHAM                47   959 PM  2/18  MESONET

   1 ENE JOPPA             49   939 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 ENE FALLSTON          47   859 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 ENE COLUMBIA          56   154 PM  2/19  MESONET
   1 N SCAGGSVILLE         55  1044 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 NNE GLENWOOD          51   634 PM  2/19  MESONET
   2 N ELLICOTT CITY       49   411 PM  2/19  MESONET
   2 WNW COLUMBIA          49   239 PM  2/19  MESONET
   1 SSW ILCHESTER         47   530 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 SE CLARKSBURG         54   939 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 NNE NORBECK           52   929 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 WNW HILLANDALE        50   909 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 SE GAITHERSBURG       50   940 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 SSE BROOKEVILLE       49  1014 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 NNE GERMANTOWN        48   934 PM  2/18  MESONET
   2 SW DAMASCUS           46   239 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 E LAUREL              56  1249 PM  2/19  MESONET
   SPRINGDALE              55   559 PM  2/19  MESONET
   2 ENE BELTSVILLE        55   944 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 E MORNINGSIDE         53   253 PM  2/19  KADW
   1 S LAUREL              52  1139 AM  2/19  MESONET
   3 NW NORTHWOOD          50   244 PM  2/19  MESONET

   2 ENE PATUXENT RIVER    55  1133 AM  2/19  AWOS
   3 SE HOLLYWOOD          48   418 PM  2/19  BUOY

   1 ENE FOREST PARK       62   320 PM  2/19  MESONET
   3 NE SMITHSBURG         57   710 PM  2/18  PUBLIC
   1 NE MAUGANSVILLE       53   753 PM  2/18  ASOS
   1 E HAGERSTOWN          49  1135 PM  2/18  MESONET
   1 N MAUGANSVILLE        48   219 PM  2/19  MESONET
   1 WNW FUNKSTOWN         48   649 PM  2/18  MESONET

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

Space Station back in our evening skies


ISS/NASASpace Cadets! The International Space Station is back in our evening skies, with several viewing opportunities, weather permitting. The first is Sunday evening. Look to the south southwest at 6:42 p.m. as the ISS passes over North Florida and zips up the East Coast over Hatteras. At 6:45 it will be halfway up the southeastern sky, passing through Orion’s feet before hustling off to the east northeast and disappearing at 6:47 p.m. Look for ISS again at 7:08 p.m. Monday, moving west southwest to north northeast. 


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 19, 2011

Gusts to 58 mph noted

Here are some early reports on overnight wind gusts in Maryland, courtesy of the National Weather Service. Flint, in Frederick County, appears to get the gold ring at 58 mph. Top gust in Baltimore was 48 mph:


   1 W GLEN BURNIE         48   104 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 N BALT-WASH INTL A    48   617 AM  2/19  ASOS

   3 W SPARROWS POINT      51  1200 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 SW BALTIMORE          48  1149 PM  2/18  MESONET
   1 ENE BALTIMORE         46   428 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 SE MANCHESTER         46  1245 AM  2/19  MESONET

   2 SW FLINT              58   402 AM  2/19  AWOS
   1 E BRUNSWICK           55  1254 AM  2/19  MESONET
   1 W PLEASANT WALK       48   357 AM  2/19  MESONET
   2 ENE PETERSVILLE       48  1257 AM  2/19  MESONET
   MIDDLETOWN              47   239 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 SSW ILCHESTER         47   530 AM  2/19  MESONET

   2 SW DAMASCUS           46   239 AM  2/19  MESONET

   SPRINGDALE              46  1259 AM  2/19  MESONET

   1 E HAGERSTOWN          49  1135 PM  2/18  MESONET
   1 NE MAUGANSVILLE       48  1248 AM  2/19  ASOS

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Morning "star" is the planet Venus


Judy M. writes from Catonsville: “In the pre-dawn hours (when I am walking my dog), I notice a very bright ‘star’ in the southeast sky? Can you tell me what it is?

I can. As you may have guessed, it’s not a star, but the planet Venus. It has dominated the pre-dawn sky all winter. Now about 89 million miles from Earth, Venus will sink lower in the sky each morning this spring until it’s swallowed by the dawn’s glare. We will see it again in the fall, when it becomes the “Evening Star,” in the west, just after sunset.

(PHOTO: NASA/Galileo, 1990)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 18, 2011

Snow chances Tuesday morning

Sure, it was 74 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport this afternoon (and at The Sun's weather station downtown). But this is not spring.

Snow forecast TuesdayThe National Weather Service forecasters out at Sterling, Va. are calling for a 30 percent chance of snow Monday night into Tuesday.

Eric the Red is talking snow, too:

"Cold front comes back thru Monday evening, setting the stage for a very interesting Monday night and Tuesday morning.  As the front pushes south, a low will move east along the front.  This is all about timing... If the front gets too far south as the storm tracks east along it, we'll be cloudy and cold and dry.  If the storm moves too quick, the front will be too far north and we'll get rain. 

"Or it could be third bowl of porridge... where the front gets far enough south to get cold air in the region but is far enough north to allow the moisture from the storm to fall as snow or sleet ... So,  chance of mixed [precip] developing Monday night... and changing to snow from north to south.  I'll pass along a better estimate later... but a prelim look is 2-5" on grassy surfaces."

Two to five inches!?! Five inches would make it the second-biggest storm of the season. But if it fails to stick on pavement, we can handle that.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:20 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

They're baaaack...

Sure, you like the mild weather. But how are you liking the stink bugs? I think they're back. After sheltering from the cold all winter - in our homes - they seem to have begun to emerge for the spring booty call. And here's a reminder from the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville:

Don't send the little buggers down the garbage disposal. One of them dropped into our kitchen Stink bugsink last night as I was finishing up the dishes. He landed two inches from the disposal. So, naturally I disposed of him. I won't be doing that again. 

Eric the Red has a special dislike for the brown marmorated stink bug. Here's his latest communique on the topic:

"Bastards are coming out of hibernation in full force.  Had one land in our scrambled eggs (while cooking) a couple weekends ago.  Now, every time I come home with the boys... every 15-30 minutes I get a toddler scream of "BUUUUUUGGGG!!!" 

"I'm not sure what's worse... the bug, or having the crap scared out of me every time [one] of our little ones sees one of these things.  And now, every bug is a stink bug.  Including the somewhat scarier centipede that was running across their pillow pets, which they incorrectly identified as a stink bug. 

"Maybe with a little luck all the stink bugs will come out, and then we'll get a hard freeze and wipe out half of 15 million or so that have been hiding in our houses this winter."

Eric has also been looking at the wind forecasts for Saturday.

"The only other time I've seen a wind field like this in the models were last year's Feb blizzards and also with tropical storms. Things is gonna be a'blowin folks. Maybe it'll blow all the stink bugs into the Atlantic. One can only hope."

Anyone else had an early visit from a stink bug this week? 

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:03 PM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Phenomena

Hold onto your hat; high wind watch up tonight

Sounds like a wild weekend ahead, with highs in the 70s Friday afternoon, gusts to 50 mph overnight into Saturday, and some whispers about rain and snow Monday into Monday night. Ready? Here goes:

Wind gusts SaturdayThis morning's overcast skies will burn off and forecasters say skies should become at least partly sunny Friday afternoon. That will help bring temperatures into the 70s across much of Central Maryland. The high at BWI-Marshall on Thursday touched 71 degrees. That gave us an average temperature for the day of 56 degrees, which was 20 degrees above the long-term average for the date.

The forecast high for Friday at BWI is 73 degrees. Sterling often shoots low on our warm days, so don't be surprised if we top that.

The real excitement comes late in the day and overnight. The warm air rushing into the region from the southwest and west is doing so ahead of an approaching cold front. The front is draped southward from a strong low-pressure system crossing the Great Lakes today. High winds Baltimore

As the front approaches and passes through, it will be mostly dry. But winds will pick up. A lot. Sterling is predicting sustained winds in northeast Maryland from 20 to 30 mph, with gusts to 50 mph. Some locations, especially the Appalachian ridges, could see gusts to 60 mph.

BGE is anticipating more power outages from the wind storm. They said Friday the winds "could very likely cause trees and tree limbs already weakened by last month's heavy, wet snow and wind, to fall onto power lines and other electric delivery equipment, causing power outages. BGE has more than 650 employees and contractors on stand-by for restoration work..."

UPDATE: 5 P.M.: The weather service has also issued a High Wind Warning from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, from Allegany County east to Harford, and  south to Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. The warning says we can expect the high winds to reach their strongest speeds between 10 a.m. and 5 a.m. Saturday.


And that returns us to the issue of wildfire dangers.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: The NWS has issued a Red Flag Warning for the entire state of Maryland east of Cumberland. The warning is in effect from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday. Expect sustained winds from 25 to 35 mph, with gusts betweeen 50 and 60 mph.  


Relative humidities will be desert-like, between 15 and 25 percent. High winds and dry fuels only add to the danger that discarded cigarettes or careless outdoor burning will ignite a fire that will quickly get out of control.

Temperatures will cool slowly behind the front, holding in the upper 40s to near 50 degrees through the weekend, even under sunny skies. Forecast models show another storm system approaching for President's Day. Forecasters are looking for a 40 percent chance of rain Monday. And with temperatures falling back into the 20s Monday night, some of the models are raising the possibility of the rain mixing with or changing to snow overnight into Tuesday.

"Confidence is low" on that snow thing, forecasters say. So let's not think about that. 

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

How are degree-days calculated?


Chuck Grene, CQ in Westminster, was looking at our new print weather page: “I noticed a section called ‘degree-days’ …How are degree-days calculated?” Simple. It’s the difference between the day’s average temperature and 65 degrees. They’re used to estimate demand for heating and cooling energy. You take the day’s average temperature (high plus low, divided by two) and calculate the difference between that number and 65 degrees. If the average temperature is 75 degrees, that’s 10 cooling degree-days. An average of 45 gives you 20 heating degree-days.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ask Mr. Weatherblogger

February 17, 2011

It's official, sort of: Snowmageddon is a word

"Snowmageddon," the word coined during last winter's record-breaking snowstorms in the Northeast, has made it to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary's "New Words and Slang" list.

It's posted there with such newborn gems of the English language as "Belieber," a devoted fan of Justin Bieber; "ew," an interjection used to express disgust or displeasure; and "snoticle," frozen nasal mucus near one's nose.

M-W's definition of snowmageddon: "a large snowstorm."

The language just keeps getting better and better.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

Suspect arrested in Auburn U. tree poisoning

Why would anyone kill century-old live oak trees over a football game? It's inexplicable, but somebody apparently has done just that.

Toomer's CornerThe famous pair of live oaks at Toomer's Corner, on the Auburn University campus, have been dealt an almost-certainly lethal dose of herbicide in what appears to have been an act of sports rage.

The oak trees are a landmark on the Auburn campus, where students go to heave toilet paper rolls over the branches to celebrate sports victories.

Late last month, someone called a nationally syndicated radio talk show host in Birmingham to boast he had dosed the trees with a powerful herbicide. "Al from Dadeville" signed off, saying "Roll Damn Tide," an apparent reference to the University of Alabama "Crimson Tide." 

Auburn narrowly defeated Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl, the traditional rivalry game between the two schools. 

News media in Alabama are reporting an arrest in the case. Here's more.

And here's a live web cam trained on the doomed trees.

Now, back to the weather.

(AP PHOTO: Dave Martin, December 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:29 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Events

A pause for thanks

The repair work underway this month on the submarine Torsk and the 1854 sloop of war Constellation doesn't really have anything to do with the weather (although photographer Lloyd Fox and I nearly froze to death earlier this month on assignment out at the Sparrows Point Shipyard).

But I have been covering efforts to save and restore the Constellation since the early 1990s, and have a long-standing interest in the ship's story.Constellation repairs

So, I thought it would be appropriate here to list the companies that have been donating time, labor, expertise, materials and equipment to the current, $500,000 effort to bring the two warships up to snuff, and to assure that they will be here for future generations to explore, learn from and enjoy. Fund-raising continues to cover the bills that remain.

Here they are, as listed by Historic Ships in Baltimore. Baltimore owes its thanks to all:

General Ship Repair Company – Donation of Staff Time and Expertise

Paul Behrends – Volunteer Time as Dockmaster for Dry Docking

Vane Brothers Company – Donation of Towing Ships, Line, Staff Expertise

Smith Marine Towing – Donation of Towing Ships, Staff Expertise

McAllister Towing - Partial Donation of Tug Support to move Dry Dock Gate

Constellation in graving dockPPG Marine Coatings – Donation of Coatings for Torsk

International Paint – Donation of Antifouling Paint for both vessels.

Sparrows Point Shipyard and Industrial Complex – Partial Donation of Dry Docking Fees

United Rentals – Donation of lift equipment while vessels are in dry dock.

Direct Dimensions, Inc. - 3D survey of the vessels

SmartMultiMedia, Inc. – 3D survey of the vessels

UPDATE, Friday: A few more donors to add to our list:

Pump and Power Equipment – Donation of Emergency Generators and Pumps

Davis Crane Rental – Donation of Crane Service

W.O. Grubb - Donation of Crane Service

Williams Crane Service - Donation of Crane Service

Scaffold Resources – Donation of Scaffolding

(PHOTOS: Historic Ships in Baltimore, used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

Tonight's full moon is the Hunger Moon


LeoThe moon rises over Baltimore tonight at 5:19 p.m., and is officially full at 3:36 a.m. Friday. The second full moon since the winter solstice is the Wolf Moon or Hunger Moon, so-named for reasons chillingly obvious to our ancestors. If the clouds part, look for a bright star to the left of the moon, high in the southeast after 9 p.m. It’s Regulus, at the front foot of the lion in Leo, killed and placed in the sky by Hercules. Regulus is 85 light years away.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 16, 2011

Md. Forest Service watching two big marsh fires

The Maryland DNR Forest Service is investigating the causes of two wildfires this week that have burned more than 3,500 acres of marshland in Dorchester County. Both fires have been brought Transquaking Riverunder control, but continue to burn.

"We typically get large marsh fires at this time of year," said state fire supervisor Monte Mitchell. "With the conditions we had on Monday, with gusts from 20 to 40 mph, low relative humidity and dry fuel conditions, it's a recipe for large fires."

The two big fires were among 12 wildfires the Forest Service has tackled already this week on the Eastern Shore, in Dorchester, Caroline, Kent, Talbot and Somerset counties. Most were small and they were extinguished quickly.

No injuries were reported in any of the fires. But one fire Monday near Andrews, in Dorchester County, destroyed 5 acres of woodland, 32 acres of marsh, and two sheds. A hunting lodge was saved by fire fighters from the local volunteer company and the Forest Service. Fishing Bay 

Both of the large marsh fires began Monday. The largest, dubbed the Irish Creek fire, has charred more than 2,900 acres in the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, about four miles south of Bestpitch.

The second fire, named the Thorofare fire, burned across 590 acres less than a mile south of Bestpitch along the Transquaking River.

"Both are under investigation at this time," Mitchell said. "I don't want to speculate as to what the cause would be." But there was no lightning and there is nothing out there that would ignite a fire of its own accord, he said.

"Fires like that are suspicious in nature," he said. 

Because of the fires' inaccessibility, two fire fighters were dispatched by boat with orders to confine and monitor the fires until the blazes burn themselves out, making sure they do not threaten  woodlands or houses, Mitchell said.

The risk of wildfires continues this week, Mitchell said. "It looks like the winds are going to die down some after today. That's good. For the rest of the week it looks like we're still going to have dry conditions ... Fires ignite easily and spread easily under these conditions."

(PHOTO: Kayakers on the Transquaking River, Perry Thorsvik, 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events

Enhanced fire danger as weather warms

Low humidities and gusty winds continue to raise the risk of wildfires this week.

The National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement this morning reminding Marylanders from Baltimore south that "Open burning of any type is considered very hazardous this Brush fire Marylandtime of year. Accidental escaped debris burns are the number one cause of wildfires."

Forecasters predict relative humidities between 25 and 30 percent this afternoon across much of the region The forecast also calls for south winds at 10 to 15 mph and gusts to 25.

The good news is that skies will continue to be sunny, with temperatures Wednesday rising into the mid-50s at BWI-Marshall Airport. We'll have starry skies again tonight, and can look forward to even milder weather on Thursday and Friday. Temperatures Thursday at BWI are forecast to reach  60 degrees, rising to the upper 60s by Friday. Some locations may even break through to the 70s. That's better than 25 degrees above the long-term averages for this time of year.

They're still calling for a cool-down after a cold front pushes through late on Friday. Daytime highs through the long holiday weekend will stick in the upper 40s to near 50 degrees. There is also a 30 percent chance for some rain on Monday afternoon. After four-and-a-half months of below-average precipitation, we can use it.

(AP PHOTO: Cumberland Times-News, Mark Harris, 2001)

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

"Frost quakes" rattled Ohio, Indiana


cryoseismHere’s one I’d never heard of: The Dayton Daily News reported last week that seismic shakes felt by residents of southwest Ohio and southeast Indiana on Feb. 10 were actually “frost quakes.” Known to scientists as “cryoseisms,” they can occur when temperatures plummet to below zero. Moisture in the soil or rock freezes and expands, setting off sudden and violent cracking. The Ohio shakes reportedly persisted for eight hours. No damage was reported. Similar cryoseisms have occurred in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and upstate New York.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 15, 2011

Sunny, dry and warmer ahead, but winter's not done

My wife (unlike myself) apparently got outside into the balmy, 67-degree weather yesterday. Her question for me this morning was, "So, are we done with the snow?"

We'd like to think so. The cold front that swept the warm air away yesterday afternoon has sunk temperatures in Baltimore back into the more nearly normal 30s and 40s. But, as this high 2003 snowstorm Baltimorepressure moves east in the next couple of days we will see winds swing to the south and southwest again, and the thermometer will stretch back into the 60s.

Forecasters at Sterling say BWI-Marshall should top out at 67 degrees or so on Friday (map below).

But, here in the middle of February, we can't count winter down for the count. Not yet. On Friday night forecasters are calling for another cold front to pass through. Saturday's high will drop back into the 50s; Sunday will only make it to the 40s, and Monday looks like it won't escape the 30s. We could also see some cold rain.

Nope. Sorry. It's still winter, and while the sun is stronger and warming air from the south is reaching us from time to time now, we're not in the clear yet.

Today is the eighth anniversary of the start of the Feb. 15-17 "President's Day Weekend Storm" that dropped 26.8 inches at BWI in 2003 (photo, left). That's still the top-ranking three-day storm for Baltimore, and the top storm overall.

March and April snowstorms are also well-within our weather parameters. The March 28-29 "Palm Sunday Storm in 1942 still ranks sixth overall for Baltimore at 22 inches, and the 5th-deepest two-day storm. And the 9.4-inch April Fools Day Storm" in 1924 is still on the books as the deepest April storm's forecasters think the persistent cold we've experienced for much of the winter is done. But we can still expect some "cold shots" ahead:

"The main point's long range forecasters want people to take away from the long-range forecast is that more cold shots and wintry events will occasionally hit areas generally north of Interstate 70 or 80 from the Plains into the East in the coming weeks.

"However, the general thinking is that the persistent colder-than-normal conditions that have gripped these areas December through early February is over. Temperatures are expected to make bigger fluctuations from here on out, alternating cold with warmth."

My shovel is still on the porch.

And here's another prediction I heard from a forecaster: After a La Nina winter like this one, we should expect more violent spring weather - tornadoes - as cold air to the north and warm air to the south begin to clash. You heard it here first. 

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Feb. 16, 2003)

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

114-degree spread between B'more's hottest, coldest


Online Maryland Weather Blog reader “Johnny C” writes: “After hearing about the temps in Ark and OK the last few days, I’m curious as to what was the lowest temp … around Baltimore, and when it occurred.”

Our coldest reading is minus-7 degrees. It’s been matched five times between Feb. 10, 1899 and Jan. 22, 1984. That 1984 record came just five months after a reading of 105 degrees, on Aug. 20, 1983, still the record August high.

Baltimore’s hottest temperature was 107 degrees, on July 10, 1936.

(SUN PHOTO: Larry C. Price, 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 14, 2011

Mercury hits 65 at BWI

The noontime temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport was 65 degrees, the wamest reading there since Nov. 23.

Kite BaltimoreIt was 64 here at Calvert and Centre streets, 66 at Washington's Reagan National Airport, 63 at Dulles International, 65 at Charlottesville, Va. and 63 at Annapolis.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: Looks like the front has passed; the barometer is headed up again, and the temperature is headed down. Looks like 66 will be the day's high at BWI, 70 at Washington. UPDATED UPDATE: The FINAL, OFFICIAL high was 67 degrees.

Cooler weather lies ahead as a cold front moves through this afternoon, but we should be back in the 60s by Thursday and Friday.

So what are you doing to enjoy this break in what has been a pretty persistently cold winter? With all the wind that's going to pick up this afternoon, it seems like a perfect day for kites.

(SUN PHOTO: Lloyd Fox, Jan. 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:50 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers

Monday will be windy, sunny, 64

Is it too late to take a mental health day? Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for a sunny day today with a high that could reach 64 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport. If so, it would be the first day to reach 60 degrees since, well, Jan. 2 (when the high was 60).

The real news for those of us obsessed by weather stats is that this morning's low of 48 degrees at BWI was the warmest overnight low since Oct. 28, when the mercury slipped no lower than 51. That probably won't be the low for the date, however. There's a cold front due to pass through today, and this evening's temperatures will likely fall below 48 before midnight, on their way to a forecast low of 29.

Tuesday will feel colder, more like the average for this time of year, with a forecast high of just 46 degrees. But as the high pressure system behind the front builds in, things will start to warm up NOAA/NWSagain quite nicely.

As the high moves east, we'll fall under the return flow, with warm southerly breezes by Wednesday. That will push daytime highs back into the 60s for Thursday and Friday before the next cold front sweeps through Friday night and throws us all back into harsh reality. It's still February, and we're looking at highs by Sunday back in the 40s. 

More immediately, forecasters say we are looking at some high winds this afternoon and tonight behind the cold front.

The National Weather Service has issued Wind Advisories (brown on map) for all of Maryland except the Lower Eastern Shore until 10 p.m. Monday. Winds later today will rise to between 20 and 30 mph, with gusts to 45 or 50 mph. In addition to the high winds, the forecast calls for relative humidities Monday afternoon of 20 to 30 percent. From NWS:

"A Wind Advisory means that wind gusts in excess of 45 mph are expected. Winds this strong can make driving difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. Use extra caution."

From Howard, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties south, including the central Shore counties, there is also a Red Flag Warning (red on map) in effect until 6 p.m.

"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."

Crush those smokes!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

NASA makes a pass at a comet today


StardustHappy Valentine’s Day! Sometimes taking a fresh look at an old acquaintance can lead to something exciting. That’s NASA’s hope today as its Stardust spacecraft makes a pass at Comet Tempel 1. Scientists got their first good look in 2005, when another craft, called Deep Impact (on a mission led by the University of Maryland), flew by and tried to stir something up with a smooch from an 820-pound copper projectile. Now they want to see if the comet has changed since its spin around the sun.  Click here for more.

(NASA image)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 13, 2011

A sunny week ahead, temps climbing to 65

And you thought this week would never come...

Brush fire MarylandAnd yet, here we are, with the forecasters putting the persistent cold and threat of the dreaded "wintry mix" behind them. There is a warm front passing through the region today (Sunday) and skies will begin to clear up. High temperatures are expected to reach into the low 50s Sunday and the upper 50s Monday.

Our winds will pick up on Monday as a cold front tied to a low passing well to our north  goes by. Winds will gust to 35 or 40 mph.

That, low humidities and the relative lack of precipitation and diminishing snow cover will add up to an enhanced danger of wildfires Monday. Forecasters say they may need to issue a Fire Weather Watch later Sunday, most likely in Southern Maryland where moisture levels are lowest.

So crush those smokes and be careful with outdoor burning.

With high pressure dominating all week, by mid-week we will fall under the mild, return flow. Sunshine will prevail, with highs creeping into the 60s Thursday and Friday. That's about 20 degrees above the average for this time of year. A cold front due by the weekend may turn things around again, with more seasonable weather.

(SUN PHOTO: David Hobby, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

February 1899 set weather records that still stand


One of the coldest periods in Baltimore’s weather history has left what seems like an indelible mark on the city’s record books. It was February 1899. The month saw record-low temperatures on Feb. 10, 11 and 12 that are still the records for the dates (minus 7, minus 6 and 5 above, respectively). Likewise, the daily highs from Feb. 9 -13 have never been lower since (8, 3, 11, 11 and 10 degrees). And the snowfall on the 13th, during a three-day blizzard, totaled 15.5 inches. One hundred twelve years later, that’s still the record for the date.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 12, 2011

"Milk famine" followed 1899 Valentines Day snow


Baltimore’s great Valentine’s Day Storm began on this date in 1899. Three days of snow piled up more than 21 inches downtown, and up to three feet in to the north and west. Armies of men with shovels took to the streets once the flakes stopped falling, charging homeowners between 15 cents and $2 to dig them out. The snow brought a “milk famine” to the city as snow-clogged roads prevented dairy wagons from making their rounds. Homeowners hung plaintive “milk wanted” signs from their second-floor windows.

(SUN PHOTO: Thanks to Sun Librarian Paul McCardell)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 11, 2011

"Valentine's Day Storm" brought city to its knees

It was a time when Baltimore battled heavy snow with armies of men with shovels, and streetcar sweepers, horses and carts. There were no motorized plows, no salt trucks. Just mountains of snow and, except for the streetcars, only muscle to push it back.

It began snowing on Feb. 12, 1899, and before it was over on St. Valentine's Day, there was more than 21 inches of snow blanketing the city. It remains the fourth-biggest three-day snowstorm on record for the city, and the seventh-deepest overall. 

The harbor was frozen. Roads to the countryside were clogged with snow. Supplies of food and milk were cut off. Baltimoreans went to work, and The Sun told the story. Here's some of our coverage from the Feb. 15 editions:

Headline: A City Shoveling Snow; Herculean Efforts Made To Clear The Sidewalks and Open Streets.

Valentines Day Storm"All Baltimore awoke yesterday morning with a sigh of relief that the blizzard had ended, but many were appalled by the mountains of snow on sidewalks and streets, by huge drifts in back yards, the heavy covering on the roofs and the blockade of streets.

"The sun was shining, the fierce wind had gone down, the snow no longer slashed one in the face like a knife, and the temperature has appreciably risen. Everybody said it was a fine day overhead, if one could only travel that way. But there was the snow in immense heaps, and bright and early the labor of clearing away paths was begun all over the city. There were few unemployed men in town yesterday, and hundreds procured shovels and made a good thing of  the snow, or, rather, out of the householders.

"Down town, where people had tramped to and fro the day before and had beaten down the snow into a semblance of a path, it was no easy job to clean the sidewalks. Every business house and store had men outside in the morening working with crowbars, hatchets, axes and shovels, chopping and hacking away at the frozen mass of snow and ice, while other men brushed the accumulated drifts from the upper windows and roofs. All the snow was thrown from the sidewalks into the middle of the street, with the result that huge piles, taller than the tallest man, were formed ...

"... Many establishments turned hot water into the gutters to melt the snow and made a disagreeable amount of slush on streets and at crossings.


(NOTE: The table at right shows the snowiest Februaries on record for Washington, Baltimore and Dulles International Airport. February 1899 was the third-snowiest in Baltimore, after 2003 and 2010.)

"In the residential districts up town, no such conditions existed. The only snow-cleaning force up there was that employed by householders to shovel off the sidewalks and the drifts and heaps in the streets and all crossings were discouraging to persons who wished to go out. The bristling car sweeper was the chief agency in piling up the snow, and on Madison avenue and Charles street, especially, the heaps were enormous. Travelers got out of the cars into drifts and mixed up with others alighting at the same time, who could find no foothold.

"On Mosher street, on each side of Calhoun street, the snow in many cases was piled up to the parlor windows of the houses, and the street was in such a condition that but a few wagon drivers

Top Ten 1-, 2- and 3-Day Snowfall Totals (inches) at Baltimore, MD

(Snowfall record dates back to 1892)

[For 2 (3) day records, it must have snowed all 2 (3) days]

were brave enough to use it. All along West Lombard street the snow is extremely heavy, and in East and Northeast Baltimore the drifts appeared to be worse than in any other section. Considerable money was made by men who went about from house to house cleaning the pavements and yards, and charges of from 15 cents to $2 were made, according to the amount of snow to be shoveled."

"... The steam railroads were partly cleared and a few trains were sent out, although regular schedules may not be resumed for a day or two. The mails are yet at a standstill. No New York papers were received in Baltimore yesterday.

"The only case of fatality from the blizzard reported is that of Harry E. Vincent, 2235 East Chase street, who fell exhausted in the snow near his home early yesterday morning and died of exposure.

"The ice blockade in the harbor has been practically broken, at least for the larger vessels.

"Prices of provisions and country produce have advanced materially because of the inability to secure supplies from the surrounding country.

"Details of the storm in the State of Maryland report almost complete stoppage of travel by rail, steamboats and by the public roads. In many parts of the State the snow on a level is over three feet deep, while the drifts in the western counties, especially in Frederick county, are often as much as 20 feet deep and up to the second story of the homes. Ice is 14 inches thick in the Susquehanna river at Havre de Grace.

"At Ocean City the surf was frozen on the beach and the coast guard of the life saving station were subjected to great personal privation. The islands of the lower Chesapeake are icebound.

"Two brick buildings, a frame shed, five pleasure vehicles and two meat wagons, together with a large quantity of feed, all in the rear of the home of John P. Dienstbier, a beef butcher, No. 1 Marriott street, southwestern Annex, were about destroyed early yesterday morning by a fire, the origin of which Mr. Dienstbier has been unable to discover.

"Capt. J.F. Rupp, of No. 14 engine company, took only the hose wagon to the fire. The wagon was drawn by five horses, and had gotten out Frederick Avenue as far as Garrison lane, when further progress was impeded owing to the fact that both car tracks were blockaded with cars. On both sides of the avenue the snow was piled to a height of ten and twelve feet, making it impossible for the horses to pull through it.

"Seeing the dilemma, Captain Rupp hitched a horse to a sleigh owned by Mr. Dienstbier and drove to No. 1 chemical engine house, where he obtained six hundred feet of hose. This hose was attached to a plug near the scene of the fire and with it the members of the No. 14 engine company and the members of No. 1 chemical company fought the flames and saved the property of Mr. Herman Krause, another butcher, whose place adjoins that of Mr. Dienstbier's on the west.

"... Mr. Dienstbier estimates his loss at $1,000, which is not covered by insurance.."

"Throughout the city a milk famine was experienced by the residents, and signs bearing the words 'milk wanted' were to be seen hanging in front of many homes. The signs were suspended from second-story windows, as the snow along a number of streets reached about the first floor of the buildings. Two sleighs drawn by four horses each and containing cans of milk reaped a rich harvest in the north-western section for their owners. They were unable to go very far, as the supply of milk gave out.

"Condensed milk was held at a premium by a number of store-keepers who desired to make their limited supply go as far as possible. Several drug stores exhausted their supply early in the day. In many parts of the district dairy wagons have not been seen since Sunday morning.

"Hotels and restaurants ran on short allowances, and many saloons were entirely without milk." 

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

Record low of minus-7 set in February 1899


Headlines in The Sun on this date in 1899 reported “Lowest Temperatures Known Here Since The Weather Bureau Was Opened, Seven Degrees Below Zero.” That’s still Baltimore’s record low. The paper reported: “The local interest in the temperature yesterday was nowhere better shown than in front of The Sun office, where the reliable thermometer records for the public benefit … every change implying heat or cold. All day long there was a throng gathered about the instrument, striving to note the variations of the mercury.”



Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 10, 2011

Sunny skies ahead, but bundle up tonight

You could actually feel the warmth of the sun on your face this morning. Even though temperatures are stuck below freezing, and there is bitter cold weather due tonight, the sun is getting noticeably stronger as we get to the middle of February. And there are warmer days just ahead.

The snow overnight didn't get much farther north than Baltimore. BWI-Marshall reported light snow between 8 p.m. and midnight, but it amounted to no more than a "trace. There was a trace reported in Pimlico, too, and in Fallston. The most anyone measured in the region was an inch, reported in Waldorf and St. Charles, down in Charles County.  OC Boardwalk web cam

The Eastern Shore received a little snow, too. The Boardwalk web cam shows a dusting that is quickly melting away as the sun hits it. Bishopville, in Worcester County reported 1.3 inches to the CoCoRaHS Network, while Salisbury, in Wicomico, reported 1.2 inches. Princess Anne, in Somerset, had an inch, too.

Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for clear skies and a low tonight of 18 degrees at BWI. (It should be a bit milder downtown and near the bay.)

That should be the low point going forward, as temperatures are expected to moderate into next week. Highs should reach the 50s by Sunday, and stick there for a while. Lows will rise out of the teens and reach the 30s by Sunday night. That's warmer than today's high. 

And there's no mention of precipitation anywhere in the 7-day forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

80 percent of Maryland "abnormally dry"


After all our snow, sleet and freezing rain, you’d be reluctant to call it a dry winter. But in fact, BWI-Marshall has recorded precipitation deficits each month since October. The U.S. Drought Monitor map issued Feb. 3 showed 80 percent of Maryland was “abnormally dry” – all except Southern Maryland. We’re at the northeastern extreme of a dry region stretching across the south from Arizona to the Atlantic. That’s typical of a La Nina winter. NOAA says 24 percent of the U.S. saw “moderate” to “exceptional” drought in January. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 9, 2011

Flurries and bitter cold will yield to highs near 60

If you can get through the workweek without throwing in the towel and jetting off to St. Barts (right...), there is relief ahead from this winter's stubborn cold right here in Central Maryland.

The forecaster out at Sterling say the daytime highs by Monday will be flirting with 60 degrees. Well, okay, the actual forecast from five days out call for highs of 57 on Monday and 55 on Tuesday. But a boy can dream, can't he?

To get there, unfortunately, we will have to endure a few more days of unseasonably cold weather. And did I mention flurries? There is a chance of a few hours of flurries overnight Wednesday into Thursday as that storm to our south ( snow map below) moves by. Southern Maryland  and the Lower Eastern Shore could see more persistent snowfall, with less than an inch of accumulation. (UPDATED, 6 P.M. clickable snow map above shows a little more snow, a little farther north.)

Forecasters have issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook this morning for eastern Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties in Maryland, noting the likelihood of Wind Chill Advisories tonight. Wind chills could sink to 5 or 10

Thursday promises to bring the worst of the cold, with a high of only 31 degrees for BWI-Marshall Airport, and an overnight low into Friday of only 12 degrees.

Northwest winds will drag in more arctic air from Canada, and clear skies will allow plenty of radiational cooling overnight. 

The Baltimore City Health Department has extended its ongoing Code Blue Health Alert through Friday. That will continue the extended hours in the city's shelters, and outreach workers will check on vulnerable citizens. Officials also urge Baltimoreans to check on neighbors, friends and family members who may be without adequate heat or shelter.

Finally, as the high pressure that is delivering all this cold air begins to move east, we will begin to feel a southerly return flow from the clockwise circulation around the high. Temperatures will begin to moderate, rising into the 40s Saturday, and the 50s Sunday, Monday and Tuesday under more westerly winds and sunny skies.  The average high for this time of year at BWI is 44 degrees. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Ski Liberty snow cat waded in to "groom" BWI

Here's a story we missed during last year's twin blizzards:  When BWI-Marshall Airport found itself without the equipment they needed for snow removal around sensitive runway "glide slope" antennas, they lifted their eyes unto the hills, whence came their help.

The glide slope equipment is a critical piece of the airport's Instrument Landing System, guiding pilots to the ground when visibility is poor, telling them when they are too high or too low. But it is sensitive to uneven terrain around the antennas, and the 44 inches of snow that had fallen in less than a week was affecting the accuracy of the data being sent to approaching aircraft. 

Here's how BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean recounted the tale, which began just after the end of BWI-Marshall Airportthe second storm, on Feb. 9-10:

"The depth of the snow was causing variations in the readings [the system] was producing. It wasn't an issue [so long as] the weather was clear. But the carriers were concerned about this technology. They wanted to ensure it would be available to use should the weather be bad after the storms."

"The airport snow removal equipment is designed to plow and blow snow from runways and taxiways and other paved surfaces. It would not be able to operate on grassy surfaces."

The airport's plows and blowers would have torn up the grass and could have become bogged down in mud, Dean said:

"Our airport manager came up with the idea. He contacted the professionals at Ski Liberty. They were very enthusiastic and very gracious, and did not hesitate in bringing that equipment down from PennsylvaniaBWI Ski Liberty. And the operation worked beautifully."

Liberty Mountain Resort's PistenBully 600 snow cat was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled the 83 miles from Waynesboro, Pa., arriving on the evening of Feb. 11. It was re-assembled overnight, and the Ski Liberty crew went to work the next morning. The operator reduced the snow cover and groomed the snow  over an area the size of "a couple of football fields" across two areas of snow-covered airport property on Runway 10-28.

The work was done in one day, Dean said, and the glide slope system was back on line. The snow cat crew's compensation? "We bought them dinner," Dean said.

"It was a unique, outside-the-box operation (in idea and execution) that was a real benefit to BWI and our airline partners," Dean said. "The work was acknowledged and praised by the FAA and other airports throughout the country."

(PHOTOS: BWI-Marshall Airport, used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: History

Second snowshoe fell a year ago today


The second of Baltimore’s back-to-back February blizzards began a year ago today. We were barely three days past the final flakes from the previous storm, and still digging, when the new one arrived. By the end of the following day, another 19.5 inches had fallen at BWI-Marshall Airport.

If you accept the measurements, it ranks as the city’s eighth-biggest two-day storm, and the ninth-ranking storm overall. The 15.5 inches that fell on the 10th was the ninth-deepest one-day fall since daily snow records began here in 1892.

(SUN PHOTO: Gene Sweeney, Jr. Feb. 11, 2010) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 8, 2011

Snow threat gone; milder weather next week

The threat of snow Wednesday night into Thursday has evaporated, and the long-range forecast for Central Maryland finally includes some above-normal temperatures. Highs could even poke into the 50s NOAA/NWSby Sunday and Monday.

Some snow chances - light snow or flurries - remain for Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore.

First, the storm now sweeping out of the Rockies and into the Southern Plains is no longer expected to become a serious threat to the mid-Atlantic states after it reaches the Carolina coast on Thursday. The projected storm track will take it across parts of the Deep South, but it will go out to sea with out a left turn up the coast, forecasters believe. Here's's view.

The official forecast for BWI-Marshall now calls for sunny skies from today straight through next Monday. After some very cold temperatures for the next couple of days - highs in the 30s, lows in the teens to about 20 degrees (map) - we'll start to warm up.

The forecast highs by Friday should break into the 40s - about where the region should be at this time of year - and then press on into the 50s Sunday and Monday.

We are dealing with High Wind Advisories across the state today until 8 p.m. Tuesday, with gusts to 45 and 50 mph. Garrett County is under a Winter Weather Advisory for a couple of inches of snow in showers today.

UPDATE, 5:20 p.m.: The Wind Advisory for Central Maryland has been cancelled.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts

Two months in, it's been a cold winter


Cold in BaltimoreDon Dobrow, in Baltimore, asks how January stacked up against December for cold temperatures: “December seemed much colder.” Both were cold, and I think lots of us are ready for a break. December averaged 32.4 degrees at BWI, more than 4 degrees below the 30-year average. January averaged 30.2 degrees, but only 2 degrees colder than the norm. December saw 23 days below the daily averages; January saw 21. Both months included a 10-day stretch of below-average temperatures. I say we’re overdue for a warm spell.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 7, 2011

Fed. budget woes threaten Susq. River forecasts

The agency that manages the water resources in the Susquehanna River is warning that federal budget cuts threaten funding for the Susquehanna Flood Forecast and Warning System.

Officials at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission say loss of system funding would cut off data used to forecast flooding along the river, and to manage the withdrawal of water by regulated water users. Those users include Marcellus shale gas development projects and, in times of drought, the Susquehanna floodBaltimore water system, which serves the city and surrounding suburbs.

"In a time of tight budgets and with the country determined to get its fiscal house in order, everyone understands the need to curb spending," said the commission's executive director, Paul Swartz. "But eliminating funding for this proven system risks loss of life and property, and leaves Susquehanna basin residents, communities and businesses vulnerable. Is that a prudent financial decision?"

The $2.4 million needed to keep the system of stream and river gauges operating has been provided until now by "congressionally directed funding," or "earmarks." But the Senate has passed a two-year moratorium on the practice. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, has been a key supporter of the funding on the Appropriations Committee, said she was "disappointed" in the situation. But she added, "it is unlikely that congressionally designated projects will be funded in the near future."

In a release, Swartz said the forecast and warning system "provides the National Weather Conowingo DamService the critically important data necessary to issue flood warnings. The system is extremely cost-effective, providing a 20-to-1 benefit-cost ratio."

Funding for the system this year is coming through the "continuing resolutions" that Congress has passed in lieu of a FY 2011 budget. The current resolution expires on Mar. 4. Without a new earmark for the system, it would not be funded in FY 2012, either.

River basin commission officials said they intend to work to secure some sort of "bridge" funding to keep the system working through September 2012. They also hope to have the funding included in the President's budget for FY-2013. "That is exactly where funding for the system belongs ... Congress has carried the burden of funding the system for too long," Swartz said.

"It is not a question of whether flooding will again occur in the Susquehanna River Basin, but rather when it will occur, and how severe it will be," he said. "I pray it will not take the devastation of another flood event for us to once again learn the wisdom of the adage that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'"

The warning system was established 25 years ago to protect the 1,100-or-so flood-prone communities in the basin, which stretches 444 miles from upstate New York, through Central Pennsylvania to Maryland.  Here's more on how the river forecast system works.

(SUN PHOTOS: Port Deposit (top) and Conowingo Dam, 2004; Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Flooding

Weds/Thurs snow risks diminish; rain tonight

Hopes (or fears) of a major winter storm later this week seem to be fading today. Forecasters out at Sterling say our temperatures will be cold enough for snow, with a high Thursday of only 30 degrees. But their models have begun to lean toward a storm track that would carry the low out to sea rather than up the East Coast. Here's a snippet of this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling:

"While the current expectation is for little or no snow impacts for the [forecast area] ...low chances [for snow] were maintained, particularly for southern and eastern portions of the forecast area due to a history AccuWeather.comof model uncertaintly regarding mid-Atlantic cyclogenesis in the medium [time] range."

There is still time for that to change. But for now the NWS has cut the snow chances for BWI-Marshall back to just 30 percent (from 50 percent) for Wednesday night and Thursday.

More immediately, there is a pair of low-pressure systems crossing the country today that could have an indirect effect on the region tonight. One disturbance tracking along the southern jet stream will pass to our south, bringing rain to the Deep South. The other, following the northern jet, will pass to our north, dropping more snow across Pennsylvania, New York and New England.

As long as the lows don't merge, or "phase," we're in line for rain as the cold front associated with the northern storm crosses the region. It shouldn't amount to much - less than a tenth of an inch is forecast. Cold air rushing in behind the front may bring light snow to Western Maryland.

The real news this week may be the cold and windy conditions expected after the cold front passes by. As the northern storm intensifies or the northeast, it will combine its counterclockwise circulation with the clockwise circulation of the high behind it to draw cold air down from Canada.

Winds of 17 to 24 mph, gusting to 37 will drop wind chills into the single digits to low teens in the Baltimore and Washington region late Tuesday and Tuesday night. Tuesday night's low is forecast to fall  to 17 degrees. The average low for this time of year at BWI is 25 degrees. 

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

Hurricane, typhoon or cyclone?

Japan Meteorological AgencyFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Fred Rasmussen wrote last week from the Obit Desk, after a big storm battered, Australia: “Why is it called a Force 5 cyclone? Is there any difference between a cyclone and a hurricane?” Only in where you happen to be when one blows you down. They’re all tropical cyclones.

 “Hurricane” is derived from the names of Carib and Mayan storm gods, “huracan, or “hunraken.” We apply it to these storms in the North Atlantic basin and Northeast Pacific. In the northwest Pacific they’re typhoons. Elsewhere, they’re cyclones

(PHOTO: Japan Meteorological Agency, Cyclone Yasi)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 6, 2011

If clouds part, moon and Jupiter grace the evening


If the clouds back off in time, tonight offers a nice opportunity to see a pleasing conjunction of the crescent moon and Jupiter. The moon is just four days past new, still a slender crescent, hanging in the west just after sunset. It’s at apogee tonight, 250,400 miles from Earth, its most distant this month.

Just to the left of the moon, that bright, star-like object is the giant gas planet Jupiter (photo). Uranus stands to Jupiter’s lower right, but is too dim to see.

(NASA/Hubble Space Telescope)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching

February 5, 2011

It's still a La Nina


Jeff Gibel, in Glen Burnie, asks: “Lately we have been having one storm system after another move across the southern U.S. and up the East Coast. Isn’t this more common during El Nino, while in La Nina we get more systems from Canada? Which one are we experiencing?” It’s a La Nina. The repeated coastal storms result more from an unrelated pattern – a negative Arctic Oscillation – that has sent the northern jet stream (and cold) deep into the South, then up the coast, bringing the storms with it.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

February 4, 2011

Mostly rain tonight; colder weather next week

Some communities north and west of Baltimore and Washington could see a bit of light freezing rain with the coastal storm due tonight. But there isn't as much cold air around us this time, so for AccuWeather.comthe most part - and for most Marylanders by tomorrow - it will be a cold rain event, forecasters say.

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: The National Weather Service has posted a Freezing Rain Advisory for locations roughly north and west of I-95:



The snow (map) will stay to our north and west, sweeping from the Ohio Valley to New England - a typical La Nina winter weather pattern. Here's on what they can expect.

And with daytime highs here edging into the upper 30s and near 40 by the time the sun comes out on Sunday, we should be able to get rid of more of the snow cover remaining from the Jan. 26 storm.

But it's not spring yet, not by a long shot. The morning forecast discussion from Sterling is talking about several new surges of arctic air next week. They are expected to reach deep into the Southland, and could bring us some snow chances by Wednesday night into Thursday of next week, along with some of the coldest lows - and highs - of the season.

"In worst-case scenario, minima in single digits possible, with maxima barely reaching 20 degrees F," the forecasters said.

The snowstorm's track next week isn't clear yet. The storm doesn't exist yet, after all, and the computer models disagree on how it will unfold. One would take it off Delmarva - a snow scenario for us. Another moves it inland to our west - more likely a wintry mix at best for us.

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

A year ago: First Feb. blizzard loomed


Feb. 5-6, 2010 blizzardA year ago today Marylanders were braced for another big snowstorm. Forecasters warned it might top 20 inches, the second of the winter to hit that mark. Baltimore had never before had two storms in one season that topped even 12 inches. It snowed for two days. BWI-Marshall Airport recorded 16 inches on the 5th and 9 more on the 6th. The 25-inch total ranks as the city’s second-biggest two-day snowfall, after the 26.3 inches that fell Jan. 27-28, 1922, and the fourth-largest overall.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Feb. 6, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

February 3, 2011

Friday/Saturday storm will bring "wintry mix"

Winter just keeps on slinging it this month as another coastal low approaches the region for Friday night into Saturday. (Here's a NASA mosaic photo of yesterday's storm as it crossed the country, taken NASA/MAQUA/MODISduring three successive passes of the satellite. For a larger image, click here.)

Forecasters out at Sterling say the next storm will send warm, moist Gulf air in over the cold air we're enjoying at the surface. That will serve up another round of sleet and freezing rain late Friday before changing to rain overnight into Saturday. 

Some more sleet and freezing rain may linger into Saturday in the northern counties as the storm departs to the northeast and colder air filters in behind it. A cold drizzle will delight those of us farther south.

Sunshine and some milder temperatures will fill in behind the storm for Sunday and Monday, but there is more winter weather due early next week, if the models have it right. They are hinting at rain ahead of that system Monday into Tuesday, and perhaps snow as it departs. Stay tuned.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:21 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

A rush-hour meteor; did you see it?

Found this note in my email this morning. Did anyone else spot this rush-hour meteor Wednesday evening?

"Frank, I saw a rather bright meteor this evening as I neared home on the west side of Baltimore.  I was driving East on I-70, about a half mile before I got to 695 when I saw the meteor around 10-15 degrees to my left from my direction of travel.  It appeared to be dropping almost straight down. 

"I saw it at about 6:18 PM.  There was nothing particularly notable about the meteor other than the time of day (when a lot of people are out driving) and the fact that it was pretty bright white.

"Anyway, I don't know if you got other reports of one but I figured if you did, you might be interested. -Perry Heinrich

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:30 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Sky Watching

Sunshine, snow and a "snowbow"


Charlie Charnigo, of Abbottstown, Pa., was driving near Carlisle recently when he saw what he described as “wavy … rainbow rays” moving across the snowy fields as he drove. “I … grew up in the country and have never seen such a thing.”

It’s a snowbow. On the ground, or perhaps in blowing snow just above the surface, the principle is the same: Sunlight striking the snow is bent, or “refracted” inside billions of ice crystals, spread into its constituent colors and reflected to your eyes.  

(SUN PHOTO: Perry Thorsvik, 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 2, 2011

"America in Miniature," with temperatures to match

I've always loved that old marketing slogan for Maryland - America in Miniature. From the beaches WISP web camto the mountains, yadda yadda.

Today we are America in minature, from the balmy to the deep freeze.

At 4 p.m. or so, the temperature at the Wisp Resort in McHenry, Garrett County, was 25 degrees as cold air rushed in behind the ice storm. In Baltimore, here at The Sun (our thermometer is working again) it was 48 degrees, one of the mildest readings we've seen in a while. It's even above average for this time of year.


And out in Salisbury, on the Eastern Shore, the reading was 61 degrees under sunny skies. That springlike weather won't last, of course. The cold air will reach the Shore eventually. But how amazing that we can see such contrast across such a tiny state.

(PHOTO: Wisp Web cam, McHenry; Kite Loft web cam, Ocean City)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

Cold front will bring colder, windier afternoon

Central Maryland may have missed the worst of the big snowstorm pounding its way from the Plains to New England today. But we will definitely feel its passage later this afternoon.

Forecasters say the center of the low was over northwestern Pennsylvania at mid-morning. The cold front draped southward from the central low was poised to cross the region early this Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Centerafternoon.

(Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, signaling an early end to winter. Had he waited a few hours, things might have been different. Here's how it looked at 10:55 a.m. at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center.)

In the meantime, there is a lot of warm, moist air surging into the region from the south. Salisbury Airport saw temperatures rise from 38 degrees to 60 degrees overnight. On this side of the Chesapeake we seem to be stuck in the cold air damming regime. BWI-Marshall has made it all the way from 33 to 36 degrees. (The Sun's thermometer has been knocked out of action, temporarily we hope, by the dampness. A little sunshine, a little wind, and we'll be back up.)

But watch your barometers. They'll stop falling and start climbing as the front goes by.

We should also see skies start to clear and temperatures begin to fall as the front goes by, forecasters said.  High temperatures in the 40s (it was 39 degrees at the Inner Harbor at 10:30) will reverse course and head back to the low 20s tonight. Winds will switch to the west and become gusty as colder air and higher pressure move in.

Out in the mountain counties, temperatures could sink into the teens tonight, with wind chills near zero. Wind Advisories are posted for western Allegany and Garrett counties until midnight tonight, with west winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts between 45 and 50 mph.

Thursday and Friday should be sunny if the forecast holds up. Then more wintry weather moves in  for Friday night into Saturday. There will be enough cold air in place, forecasters said, for the precipitation to start as a "wintry mix," but it is forecast to change to rain on Saturday as the temperature climbs toward 40 degrees.

Milder, more seasonable weather is due Sunday and Monday, with sunshine and highs in the mid-40s, and overnight lows in the upper 20s and low 30s. That's about avereage for this time of year in Baltimore.

The next chance for winter weather comes Monday night. Forecasters at Sterling say their models indicate "a chance for rain and snow."

(WEB CAM PHOTO: Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center)

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

Of groundhogs and pregnant ewes


GroundhogPunxsutawney Phil will be all over the TV this morning. But how many viewers know Groundhog Day’s origins as one of the year’s four “cross-quarter” days? This one falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The Celts called it Imbolc, for “in the belly,” a reference to pregnant ewes. Christians morphed it into a feast day called Candlemas. They said that “if Candlemas be fair and bright, come winter, have another flight. If Candlemas bring clouds and rain, go winter, and come not again.”

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2008)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

February 1, 2011

Rain due; do you know where your storm drain is?

Even if there is no freezing rain or ice accumulation at all tonight where you live, there is a lot of rain on the way. And with many storm drains buried in snow and ice, that could pose an urban flooding issue for many neighborhoods.

Storm drains clearedThe take-home message here is this: Check your nearby storm drains and swales before you go to bed tonight. If they're buried or clogged, dig them out.

Here's how the NWS hydrologist is putting it this afternoon:




(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

More freezing rain tonight; more snow Friday

Keeping up with the forecasts, the watches and advisories today is like playing Whack-a-Mole. The landscape has changed again. Here's how it looks for now:

A Winter Storm Watch remains in effect for the northern tier of counties, from Washington County in the west, to Harford in the east. That means there remains a chance for a quarter-inch of new ice accumulations today through Wednesday morning. Precipitation which may slow or end this afternoon, is forecast to resume, intensify and change to rain tonight. A quarter- to a half-inch of rain is possible by noon Wednesday. UPDATE: The watch was cancelled Tuesday afternoon.

Baltimore Sun Weather StationA Freezing Rain Advisory has been posted from Washington to Harford county and as far south as Howard and Montgomery, effective from 9 p.m. Tuesday evening until 11 a.m. Wednesday. It means these locations could see several tenths of an inch of accumulating ice before the precipitation changes to rain sometime during the night. Highest icing amounts would be near the Mason-Dixon Line. Baltimore City, Anne Arundel and PG counties could see a tenth of an inch.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect just north of the Mason-Dixon Line in Pennsylvania. Here's the bad news for the Keystone State:


UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.: Here's Eric the Red's take on tonight: "Tonight (Tues. night) will be a very close call, with ice possible until 4 a.m. close to I-95, but lasting a bit longer in northern and western Maryland before changing to cold rain shortly after sunrise thanks to an east wind. This does not look like a crippling ice storm, but will be worse in northern and western Maryland for sure."

Here's Prof. Jeff Halverson, at UMBC. He has been watching relatively warm air gradually erode the cold air at the surface, and he sent this weather map, showing the (purple) freezing line, and the big precipitation hanging to our west:

"Consistent with the steady erosion of the cold air dam (CAD), the 32 F isotherm has notwpushed north of Montgomery Co., and now straddles Baltimore. I see this trend continuing. We could well be into 40 degree air by sundown. Note the very heavy rain well to the west - this line won't blast through until around dawn. I expect it will be all liquid, everywhere around Maryland."

And here's the big picture from

Oh yes. The forecast also includes mention of a new coastal low that's predicted to form off the Southeast coast Friday and move northeast. So far, the 7-day forecast for BWI-Marshall sets a 40 percent chance for snow Saturday and Saturday night, with highs near 40, falling to the mid-20s.

Whatever falls won't last long. The rest of the weekend looks sunny, with temperatures rising to 50 degrees by Monday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:26 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts

Ice threat eases as atmosphere warms; more due

As more mild air pushes in from the southwest and warms the cold air trapped at the surface, the threat of more freezing rain and drizzle across Central Maryland eased Tuesday morning. But the second part of this event is still in the wings, and more precipitation and more ice accumulations are possible tonight, mostly after midnight, forecasters say.

Prof. Jeff Halverson, at UMBC, has been watching a time-lapse animation of the surface temperatures across the region:

"It's amazing to watch the cold-air dam steadily shrink and retreat northward as the E-SE flow begins to pick up in the warm sector of the storm. Does this mean the ice threat is diminishing for the metro areas? Well, it's certainly a trend in the right direction, and it appears that as long as we can maintain a warming trend, we've got about 10-12 hours before the heavy band of frontal rain arrives late tonight."

A Winter Storm Watch posted Monday morning for Central Maryland continued Tuesday to predict new ice in excess of a quarter-inch overnight into Wednesday as precipitation resumes and intensifies. A half- to three-quarters of an inch of precipitation is possible tonight.

That said, this morning's forecast discussion from Sterling betrays some wavering, at least for more southern portions of the forecast area

"Cold air damming regime will gradually relinquish its hold on the eastern side of the Appalachians. But may be strong enough for another round of freezing rain north of I-66. Have not changed Winter StormIce Buzzards Watch headlines right now ... but confidence in warning-level ice accumulation of one-quarter inch is highest near the Mason-Dixon Line in northern Maryland."

"Confidence in ice accumulation reaching a quarter-inch south of northern Maryland is decreasing but not low enough to drop the Watch."

Once the center of the main storm - forecast to enter the Ohio Valley Tuesday night - moves past, the precipitation will change to a cold rain as temperatures rise. It should all end Wednesday afternoon. We may even see some sunshine.

Behind the storm we'll see some gusty winds out of the northwest. If there's still enough ice and snow in the trees, that may set off another round of tree damage and power outages. There's just no end to the fun this winter.

(SUN PHOTO: Ice buzzards in Cockeysville, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:28 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts

Rush Hour Storm set weather records


Rush Hour stormThe first weather records of the new year were set during last Wednesday’s very wet “Rush Hour Storm.”

 The National Weather Service says the liquid precipitation at BWI-Marshall Airport totaled 1.82 inches, beating the date’s previous record of 1.33 inches, set in 1895.

And the 7.8 inches of snow that fell topped the old record of 6.9 inches, set in 1966.

Similar precipitation records were broken at Reagan National and Dulles airports. The snow at Dulles also set a new record: 7.3 inches.

(AP PHOTO: Pablo Monsivais in Washington)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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