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March 31, 2011

Drizzle, rain, showers ... and a peek at the sun

The snowflakes that fell on the WeatherDeck Wednesday night melted away on contact, and forecasters say we might slip a few hours of sunshine into our day on Friday. And Sunday actually looks sunny, with a high in the mid-50s.

But that's about all the good news we can find in the seven-day forecast this Thursday morning. Most of the memo reads like some sort of cold, cloudy waterpark adventure: "Drizzle, then rain ... Spring BaltimoreChance of showers ... increasing clouds ... a chance of showers and thunderstorms ... a low around 36 ... mostly cloudy."

The problem is a series of low-pressure systems traveling across the region, and the wedge of cold air still being pumped into the northeast by that high over Quebec. If this were January (or, if we lived in New England), we'd be shoveling snow and ice instead of just longing for sunshine and green grass and blossoms.

Anyway, last night's bout of rain and sleet and snow has moved out to sea. The next low will bring us more rain late today and tonight, with as much as an inch of new rain possible by Friday morning.

Once THAT disturbance moves on to New England, forecasters say we'll get a brief glimpse of sunshine Friday afternoon before the NEXT one passes through with more showers after Saturday.

The sun should come back after that rain moves off Saturday morning. Highs could reach the mid-50s on Saturday before dropping back to the mid-30s overnight.

Sunday promises to be the best-and-only nice day of the entire stretch, with sunny skies and highs in the mid-50s, if the forecast holds up.

Enjoy it, because rain chances return Sunday night into Monday as the next storm system moves in. We could add thunderstorms on Tuesday as temperatures reach the upper 60s, briefly. Wednesday looks partly sunny from here, in the 50s. That's still cooler than the norms for Baltimore in early April. sees no satisfying end to the unseasonably cold weather.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Baltimore blossoms in April


April arrives at midnight, my favorite month in Baltimore as the place erupts in spring blooms.Spring blossoms Baltimore Average daytime highs rise from 60 degrees to 69, while the lows move from 38 degrees to 47.

Record highs range from 83 degrees on the 4th, to 94 on three dates. The record lows run from 15 degrees on the 1st to 35 degrees on the 27th.

Measurable snow has fallen on 15 April dates. The heaviest was the 9.4-inch April Fools storm in 1924. Only five April dates have never seen flakes.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2010)

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

March 30, 2011

More gray, cool and wet weather 'til Saturday

Just try to pretend you're in Ireland and maybe the next few days of cool, wet weather won't seem so bad. A handy pub, a crackling fire, and it won't seem nearly so dreary.

But it looks like we're stuck with at least three days of it. National Weather Service forecasters in NOAA/NWSSterling, Va. say we're in the path of two low-pressure systems that will bring rain, showers and drizzle to Central Maryland later today, and continue with more of the same into Saturday morning.

The good news is there is no longer any mention of snow in the local forecast, at least east of the Blue Ridge. Overnight lows will continue to drop into the 30s, but if there is any mixing of drops and flakes north and west of Baltimore and Washington, it shouldn't amount to anything.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.: Forecasters have reversed course, and are now calling for a mix of rain and sleet around Baltimore Wednesday evening, and rain and snow Thursday evening as temperatures dip to the mid-30s. But little or no accumulation is forecast. Earlier post resumes below:

The first round of rain is expected after 2 p.m. Wednesday, with as much as a quarter inch possible. Expect the same overnight, and still more drizzle and rain across the region Thursday as the second low-pressure system begins to take shape off the Carolina coast.

The new storm will bring more rain Thursday night, especially east of the mountains and north ofNOAA/NWS the Potomac. Up to a half-inch is possible with this one, forecasters say.

Rain chances continue on Friday, but there is also a mention of "partly sunny" skies in the forecast.

More rain is possible Friday night into Saturday before noon. But then, finally, we're due for a break. Sunday should be sunny, forecasters say, with a high in the upper 50s.

Sadly, there's more rain in the forecast for the early part of next week. Some of it may be heavy. April showers, and all.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:14 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts

AccuWeather's 2011 hurricane forecast is out

The first spring forecast for the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season is out.’s Paul Pastelok expects “an active season with more impact on the U.S. coastline than last year.” 

He predicts 15 named tropical storms, with eight reaching hurricane strength, and three becoming “major” (Cat. 3) storms. That’s more than average, but less than 2010’s third-busiest 19, 12 and 5. Since no hurricane made U.S. landfall in 2010, predicting a “higher potential” this year seems a safe bet.  

The season officially begins June 1 and lasts through November. Here's the 2010 storm track map. Click to enlarge.

Last year,'s Joe Bastardi predicted 16 to 18 named storms, a few short of the final count. He also compared the conditions for 2010 to those preceding the 1964, 1995 and 1998 seasons, all of which, he noted, saw major impacts on the U.S.

Pastelok bases this year's predictions on several factors. These include the El Nino/La Nina cycle in the Pacific. We're currently in a waning La Nina, and Pastelok expects it will be in a neutral phase by summer - not cycling into the warm-water El Nino conditions in the tropical eastern Pacific, which tend to produce stronger westerly winds in the Atlantic.Hurricane Igor

"Stronger westerlies would prohibit major storms, or a lot of storms, so it is a critical factor," he said.

Saharan dust is another factor. When it blows west out over the Atlantic, it can inhibit storm formation. "Current projections ... suggest there will be episodes of dust affecting development, but no more than normal," Pastelok said.

He also factors in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. This is a long-term cycle of Atlantic surface water temperature and atmospheric factors. It has been in a positive, warm-water phase since 1994, and that has meant generally more active hurricane seasons than the historic average.

Pastelok believes the early part of the season will see the highest risk for the western Gulf of Mexico and the southern Caribbean. By the mid- and late-season months, the risk will shift to the eastern Gulf and Caribbean, as well as the Florida peninsula and the Atlantic coast from Florida to the Carolinas. 

(NASA PHOTO: Hurricane Igor, September 2010)  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hurricane background

March 29, 2011

First image from Mercury orbiter: looks like the moon

The first picture taken from a spacecraft in orbit around Mercury has arrived on Earth. And to no one's surprise (it's been photographed from close-up during three previous flybys), the planet looks like the moon. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The image, taken at 3:40 a.m. Monday as NASA's Messenger spacecraft passed high above Mercury's South Pole, shows hundreds of small craters scattered across a dark gray surface, and a handful of craters that appear to have blasted much lighter material across the landscape. It is a region never photographed before.

Scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel, released the first image from orbit Tuesday afternoon, as they continue to wake up Messenger's instruments. Full science operations are expected to begin April 4.

Launched in 2004, Messenger was maneuvered into orbit around the planet on March 17. NASA plans to support Messenger for at least a year of study of Mercury's surface composition, internal structure, magnetosphere, tenuous atmosphere, origins and evolution.

"The first images from orbit and the first measurements from Messenger's other payload instruments are only the opening trickle of the flood of new information that we can expect over the coming year," said Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, the principal investigator on the mission.

Several more early pictures are to be released Wednesday afternoon during a press conference.

For more, 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures, Sky Notes

NWS keeps tonight's snow to our west

Today's snow forecast map from the National Weather Service keeps all of tonight's expected snowfall well to our west. While the northern and western suburbs may see some flakes, any accumulations are expected to be in the higher elevations of the Piedmont and west of the Blue Ridge. But there may be more to watch by Friday.

High pressure hanging in to our north is continuing to keep air at the surface in Central Maryland unseasonably cold. Forecasters say the low-pressure system moving out of the Central Plains into the Tennessee Valley will begin to throw some high clouds our way later today, and start the rain by midday Wednesday.

Some snow could mix in by Wednesday evening after 9 p.m., continuing into Thursday morning. Then it should be all rain showers. Expect a chilly (40s) ands dank (east winds) day Wednesday in Central Maryland.

Accumulating snow is likely  along and west of the Blue Ridge Wednesday morning and again in the evening. Forecasters say higher elevations could see 2 to 4 inches. There is a Winter Weather Advisory out for Allegany County.

There's still a chance for rain or snow Thursday before noon in Central Maryland. And there's a coastal storm forecast by some models for Thursday night through Friday night. Here's how the forecasters at Sterling described it in this morning's forecast discussion:

"The intensification could be rapid ... Wintry precipitation would be west/north of the system. For now, rain/snow east of I-95 and all snow at higher elevations Thursday night. This will need to be closely monitored as plenty of Gulf/Gulf Stream moisture is available to the developing storm."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:24 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

March snow in '42 crippled city


Flowers in snowIt could have been worse. Today is the 69th anniversary of Baltimore’s biggest March snowstorm. The surprise “Palm Sunday Storm” dropped 21.9 inches of heavy, wet snow, crippling the city. It doubled a 50-year-old record for March and remains the city’s third-biggest one-day snowfall.

Heavy snow collapsed roofs, crushed shrubbery, tore down branches, phone and power lines. Cars and streetcars were mired in slush. Pleasure boats listed and shipped water. One sank. Robins were bewildered.

Here are some photos from Washington, D.C., which recorded only 16 inches from the storm.

Prof. Jeff Halverson has chimed in this morning with the following:

"The storm was a coastal low that formed off Hatteras, but it did not bomb out (deepen rapidly) like many do.

"But it did move up the coast very slowly. Cold air damming was present as well.

"So this was a long-duration event, and temps must have been close to 0 degrees C and/or there was strong moisture inflow, to give very low snow:liquid ratios."

Here's the weather map for March 29, 1942.


(SUN PHOTO: Perry Thorsvik, March 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

March 28, 2011

NWS: "Winter has not quite retired yet"

There are more snowflake icons on the seven-day forecast from the National Weather Service this week. A stubborn high-pressure system parked over Central Canada is pumping lots of cold air into the Eastern United States. Add a series of weak storm systems gliding along the jet stream NOAA/NWSjust south of the cold air and we get a risk of mixed rain and snow this week.

Central Maryland will have to shake off some clouds today as another storm system passes through Virginia, with some snow for the Carolina mountains. But northwest winds should eventually clear our skies, and we can look forward to more sunshine on Tuesday.

Daytime temperatures, however, will remain stuck in the 40s Monday. That's 10 to 15 degrees below the average for this time of year at BWI-Marshall Airport. Overnight lows will dip to the upper 20s Monday night, with colder readings away from the city centers and the bay. That's also 10 to 15 degrees below the norm.

NOAA/NWSMore sunshine on Tuesday is forecast to bring our temperatures into the low 50s. But the first storm system will send precipitation northeastward into our area late Tuesday into Wednesday. With cold air wedged against the eastern slope of the Appalachians, that raises the possibility of some frozen stuff.

Forecasters at the NWS regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. say we're in a better position this time to see some precipitation, and possible some snow, than we were on Sunday:

"Primary uncertainty lies in [the] influence of cold air near surface. Surface low pressure developing in coastal Carolinas ought to help maintain cool wedge at surface during this event."

"At the moment,  the possibility has increased for a significant snow accumulation for portions of the forecast area. Warm air near the surface likely to be quite shallow, so it seems likely that precipitation will change to snow in most locales eventually during the event. All models show snow during this period. But the uncertainty lies in amount and duration."NWS/NOAA

"SREF members [an ensemble of several forecast models] nearly unanimous in depicting snow in excess of 1 inch on Wednesday for most counties west of Blue Ridge. Half of the SREF members also show possibility of snow in excess of 4 inches on Wednesday. It does appear that winter has not quite retired yet."

After a break on Thursday, we're looking at a chance for more rain and snow Thursday night into Friday, and rain on Friday night.'s Henry Margusity is talking up a "big" Friday storm, with heavy, wet snow to our west and north, and "rain changing to snow" for the "big cities." No hint of that yet for us in the NWS forecast. 

Prof. Jeff Halverson, at UMBC's Jt. Center for Earth Systems Technology, sees nothing of the kind:

"This time of year, climatology argues strongly against snowfall in the Mid Atlantic east of the mountains; heavy snowstorms are possible in early spring across south-central Appalachians, but are quite rare. Not impossible here, but the odds really do stack up against anything more than a cold, rainy day." 

The weekend looks better, with some sunshine and more seasonable highs in the 50s. But it may be weeks before we see the really warm weather we're longing for.'s Paul Pastelok says this chillier pattern could hold on until May.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:14 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

"Severe" thunderstorm defined


Severe thunderstorm

Glenn Cucina, in Baltimore, says: “I’ve seen a lot of thunderstorms, plenty of which had high winds and heavy rain. But it seems to me we have never heard these storms called ‘severe’ like we are today. Is that a [new] designation?

A severe thunderstorm is one that produces a tornado, winds of 58 mph, 1-inch hail or structural damage. The term dates at least to the 1960s, but changes in warning strategy in 2007 may be producing more severe storm watches and warnings, according to Greg Corbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center, in Norman, Okla.

Rather than issuing warnings for whole counties, he said, the weather service began issuing them for geographical "polygons" along the storm's path. More polygons, more warnings.

Chris Strong, the warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS Baltimore-Washington forecast office in Sterling, Va., said he'd like to see the term changed:

"To be honest, I wish they would change it from 'severe,' which is a term that is widely interpreted, to 'damaging,' which is really what we are warning for ... winds that will cause damage or hail that will cause agricultural damage. It's also a much clearer term."

(SUN PHOTO: Gene Sweeney Jr., June 2009)

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

March 27, 2011

Snow accumulations confined to So. Maryland

Mostly as forecast, Sunday morning's snowfall was confined mostly to Southern Maryland, with some additional accumulations reported from the Lower Eastern Shore. BWI-Marshall Airport reported light snow from the 3 a.m. hour through the 7 a.m. hour. But forecasters at Sterling say it was melting as it landed, and will be reported as only a "trace."

The Winter Weather Advisories for Southern Maryland were lifted around 10 a.m.

Here's the National Weather Service's updated forecast map through 6 p.m. Sunday. Click to enlarge. This version makes it pretty clear where colder, drier air moving down from the north or northeast prevented enough southern moisture from getting in to produce snow.

Here is the report from the CoCoRaHS Network, still with the highly suspect 5-inch report from Waldorf. And here is more from the National Weather Service.

The NWS in Sterling notes: "In the last 50 years, from mid-March to late April, [Washington] D.C. has received 0.1 inch or more [of snow] 15 times, so [that's] a 30 percent chance. Baltimore has had that occur 26 times in the last 50 years. So [that's] about a 50 percent chance of occurrence."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Winter weather

Can tornadoes form in a snowstorm?


Tornado NOAAJeff Brauner, in Baltimore, says: “I recently saw the film ‘The Wiz’ … and they changed the classic Wizard of Oz tornado scene to occur during a winter snowstorm. Is that even possible?” No. Intense snowstorms can produce enough instability high in the atmosphere to generate thunder and lightning. But tornadoes require warm air at the surface rising into cold air aloft, unlikely in snowstorms. It’s also impossible for a tornado to blow you into a land of flying monkeys.


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

March 26, 2011

An inch or two at worst

UPDATE, 7:15 a.m. SUNDAY: We haven't seen a flake out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, but the NWS is reporting light snow in Anne Arundel, including Annapolis, in Washington, D.C., and even Westminster. The CoCoRaHS Network is reporting a bit of snow to our south, too. The entry from Waldorf, in Charles County, is scarcely believable. A typo? Should it read 0.5 inch? Can anyone confirm it?:

Waldorf:  5.0 inches

Parsonsburg, Wicomico County:  3.5 inches

Salisbury, Wicomico County:  3.0 inches

Leonardtown, St. Mary's Co.: 1.0 inch

Brandywine, PG Co.:  0.9 inch

Bryans Road, Charles Co.: 0.5 inch

Easton, Talbot Co.: 0.1 inch  

Here's a snow report from the National Weather Service. And a snow map. I'd say the pre-treatment of the roads Saturday around Baltimore (earlier report below) was wasted.

UPDATE at 9:20 p.m. Saturday, from Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts:  The State Highway Administration started pre-treating interstate highways in the Baltimore area, where they treated I-70, I-695 and I-95, this afternoon, according to Lora Rakowski, an administration spokeswoman. Crews will be staffing all SHA maintenance stops and deploying to their routes at midnight Saturday, Rakowski added, to begin salt application as precipitation was expected to begin.

Here's the snow forecast for Central Maryland for Saturday night into Sunday: Not to worry. Should be more of an early-spring curiosity than a winter storm.

The Winter Weather Advisory out today calls for 1 to 3 inches to our south, encompassing no more than Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties in Southern Maryland. (Southwestern Virginia will see more):




Farther north, the National Weather Service is calling for about an inch. Here's the forecast map. Click to enlarge:

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:58 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts

Astronaut TJ Creamer to speak at Loyola Univ.


Creamer/NASACan you imagine living for six months aboard the International Space Station? Find out what it’s like from Col. Timothy “TJ” Creamer, who will speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Loyola University’s McGuire Hall in Baltimore.

The Loyola grad (BS Chemistry, 1982) entered the astronaut program in 1998. After a series of support roles, he flew to the ISS in December 2009 aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. He returned to Earth last June. Online reservations at


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

March 25, 2011

"Accumulating snow" expected overnight into Sunday

Central Maryland could see "accumulating snow" early Sunday as a low-pressure system moves out of the Gulf Coast states into the southern Appalachians. There's even an outside possibility suggested by some forecast models that Southern Maryland could see as much as 4 inches. But forecasters say that outcome "seems unlikely."

AccuWeather.comThis wintry weather in early spring comes as Washington, D.C. prepares for its annual cherry blossom festival, and trees across the region begin to bud and bloom. Willows, forsythia, bulbs are showing some color, and many other species seem ready to burst, Tellingly, tree pollen counts are also up.

The problem seems to be a stubborn high-pressure system over Quebec that keeps sending cold air south into the eastern states. It was 24 on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning.

Add a series of disturbances traveling along the jet stream at the southern edge of the cold air, and you get repeated bouts of cold rain and the occasional snowflake.  And it's not going away quickly. Here's's take.

Snow flurries could mix with sprinkles as soon as tonight, forecasters said, as a disturbance in the Central Plains states begins to move east. Sunny skies Friday morning will begin to cloud up, and winds will shift to the northeast as the low gets closer. There's a 30 percent chance we could seeFrost rain or snow showers before 10 Friday evening, forecasters said. Western suburbs and the higher elevations to our west could see a dusting.

The main event comes late Saturday into Sunday. After some clearing behind tonight's precipitation, forecasters expect temperatures by Saturday morning will drop into the mid-20s north and west of the urban corridor, with lows near freezing in the cities.

Saturday should be dry and partly sunny, but the next disturbance moves out of the Gulf states into the southern Appalachians Saturday night into Sunday. That will turn winds back to the northeast, adding relatively warm, moist air on top of the cold air at the surface - the recipe for snow in the winter months.

"Accumulating snow is expected Saturday night and Sunday," forecasters said. The forecast for Baltimore calls for snow to begin after 2 a.m. Sunday, continuing Sunday morning before changing to rain after 2 p.m. The overnight lows are expected top be in the upper 20s, recovering to a high of only 37 on Sunday. That's 20 degrees below the average for this time of year in Baltimore.

The most moisture will be to the south of Baltimore, but the coldest air will be to the north, making it difficult for forecasters to predict accumulations with any confidence.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist in Baltimore, parsed it this way on Thursday. He said several models predict "decent" snowfall in central and northern Maryland - 2 to 4 inches on grassy surfaces. Others put the same snow across northern Virginia and Central Maryland.

"I'm inclined to think that much of the region will see 1 to 3 inches of snow, with the lighter amounts in far northern Maryland" he said. "The heaviest precipitation at this juncture appears to be aimed ay northern Virginia. This snow - if it materializes - will not impact traffic, and I don't think you need to worry about shoveling it."

It won't be hard to break a record. The heaviest snowfall on record for Baltimore on a March 27 was the 0.4 inch that fell in 1924.

The unseasonably cold weather is likely to moderate slowly as the new week begins. Sunshine returns with high pressure Monday, and highs are forecast to reach the mid-50s - near normal - by Wednesday. More precipitation is possible on Tuesday night, but it's expected to fall as rain showers.

(SUN PHOTO: Frosty morning, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts

Passover, Easter and the moon


EasterNeed some quality time with the kids? Try the Benjamin Banneker Planetarium at the Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville. At 10 a.m. Saturday, the Astronomy program of the School of Mathematics and Science presents “Easter and the Changing Moon.” Learn how the dates for Easter and Passover are calculated, and why they keep changing. How is the moon involved, and why is this Easter going to be so late? Call 443 840-4560 for information.

(SUN PHOTO, Kim Hairston, 2010)

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

March 24, 2011

Skies will clear today; snow possible Sunday a.m.

The northeast winds that have been bringing us all this cold, damp Atlantic air are expected to shift to the north today, and the switch will begin to dry us out, finally.

Look for skies to begin to clear by mid-day, with sunshine returning in the afternoon and clear skies by sunset, forecasters say. Friday and Saturday, high-pressure will dominate, and we should be able to recharge our solar batteries for a few days before the next round of precipitation.

Spring snowWhich brings us to the cold, and the snow. Daytime temperatures, sadly, will remain in the chilly 40s, slipping below freezing at night well into next week. With trees and plants starting to wake up and bud, the weather service is urging us to "take any necessary agricultural precaution for the freezing temperatures tonight."

The airport lows Thursday night/Friday morning are forecast to reach 27 degrees. That's about 10 degrees below the average for this time of year, but well short of the records, which are closer to 20 degrees.

The interesting stuff comes Saturday night into Sunday morning, as another low-pressure system moves out of the Tennessee Valley and crosses the Carolinas. That will bring us precipitation, along with northerly winds dropping overnight lows to near 30 degrees. It's likely to mean a changeover to snow before it switches back to rain late Sunday morning. Forecasters put the chances at 50 percent for snow Saturday night, and 60 percent for a rain/snow mix Sunday morning.

"There might be light accumulations of snow during this time," forecasters said in their morning discussions. But forecast models differ on how much.

I can't see this as anything to worry about. With any luck, it will be winter's last gasp. Good. With the trees in bud, I'm done with winter. You?

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:20 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Forecasts

Baltimore can see snow in April, even May


Spring snowfallJohn Hasler writes from Sparks with a question: “When is the last day in spring, on record, when there has been a measurable snowfall in Baltimore?” At the risk of tempting the weather gods … The latest measurable snow for Baltimore was the 0.1-inch that fell on April 28, 1898. But the latest in this century was a 0.2-inch dusting on April 7, 2007 – just four years ago. We’ve had traces of snow as late as May 11, in 1951.  The most recent May flakes fell on May 1, 1963.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, March 19,1997)

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

March 23, 2011

Severe T-storm Watch from Carroll, Howard west

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., has posted a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 11 p.m. Wednesday from Carroll and Howard counties west to Allegany County:


There's a Tornado Watch in part of Garrett County.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

Cold front: 40s here, 70s in southern Va.

One of the fascinating things about springtime weather in these parts is the battle between persistent cold air to our north and rapidly warming air to our south. And today provides a terrific example.

With a low-pressure system approaching from the Midwest, the counter-clockwise flow around the low is drawing cold, wet Atlantic air in from the sea, giving us this chill, drizzly weather. It's snowing hard across northeastern Pennsylvania and Upstate New York. Forecasters NWS/NOAAdon't expect us to get much above 50 degrees this afternoon.

At the same time, the flow around the same low is dragging much warmer, wet air from the Gulf states, driving today's temperatures to our south into the 70s to near 80 degrees. Charlottesville, Va. is expected to see a high today of 75 degrees.

And as the low passes through the region later today, and the associated cold front passes by, we're likely to see thunderstorms, some of which could become severe.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service say the storms could kick up after 4 p.m., with between a tenth- and a quarter-inch of rain possible, more in thunderstorms. The chance of storms continues into the evening, ending around 2 a.m. with a nother quarter-inch possible. But showers could persist until 8 a.m. Thursday. There's some chance the overnight precipitation could mix with snow, both in the mountains to our west, and in higher elevations along the Mason-Dixon line.

Looking toward the weekend, daytime temperatures will hold in the 40s - 10 degrees below theNWS/NOAA average - after the cold front passes by, and Canadian air moves in. Nighttime lows will drop to freezing or below from Thursday night right through the weekend.

The next storm system arrives Saturday night, and there's a 50 percent chance the rain could mix with snow by Sunday morning. No significant accumulations are likely, but forecasters caution that their confidence in the forecast this far out is low.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Note to self: 2100 will NOT be a leap year


We all make mistakes. It’s just that mine get printed in the newspaper. On Sunday, we wrote here about how the date of the vernal equinox has been getting earlier. The last time it occurred on March 21 in the Eastern Time Zone was in 1979. And in 2020 we’ll see our first March 19 equinox. I said the dates would reset with a leap year in 2100. But as three readers reminded me, it’s the LACK of a leap year in 2100 that will reset the calendar. Can’t get away with anything here ...

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 22, 2011

Rain likely tonight through Thursday morning

A stalled cold front to our south puts us in line for a stretch of cold and dreary weather ahead.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. say we can expect mostly gray skies today, with a high near 60, although some sunshine does seem to be breaking through.

Daffodil springRain moves in late this evening. A low-pressure system moves along the front tomorrow, bringing us an 80 percent chance for more rain, with thunderstorms possible Wednesday afternoon. The high temperature on this (colder) side of the front will stick near 50 degrees as counterclockwise winds around the low bring us east winds off the Atlantic. We could see up to a quarter-inch of new rain. Just south of the front, parts of Virginia could see the 70s.

The risk of showers and thunderstorms continues into the late evening Wednesday, forecasters said, with another quarter-inch of rain possible.

Thursday starts out with some risk of more showers, and western counties could see some snow Rain March Baltimoremixing in as the low moves out and cold, Canadian air works in behind it. But our skies should begin to clear late in the day.

Look for some cold nights behind the front, with temperatures falling into the upper 20s at BWI Thursday night. Friday looks sunny, but little warmer with a high near 49 degrees - almost 10 degrees below the average for BWI at this time of year.

The next (weak) storm system moves in on Friday night into Saturday, bringing more chances for a wintry mix to our west, and more clouds on Saturday. Daytime temperatures at BWI on Saturday will stall in the 40s, and fall back to the 30s overnight. More rain overnight into Sunday is possible, with lows again in the 30s, with a risk of more-widespread mixed precipitation.

The sun is due back on Monday, but temperatures will remain cool.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, March 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Baltimore's reservoirs runneth over


Spring arrived Sunday with all three of Baltimore’s reservoirs filled to the brim by the month’sLoch Raven dam ample rains. Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven held 75.85 billion gallons, well above the 66.25-billion-gallon average for this time of year, public works officials said.

The last time they were all spilling over was in late 2009. In 2002, a year of severe drought in the region, the water levels sank to less than 46 percent of their capacity, a record low. 

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, May 2000) 

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

March 21, 2011

Satellite imagery shows power outages in Japan

Air Force satellite imagery is showing exactly how widespread the electric power outages have been in northeast Japan since the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami damaged whole towns and cities, and much of the power infrastructure.

The image below compared power usage before the quake and immediately after. Yellow indicates regions where the electric power has remained on. Red shows where outages occured after the quake. Here's more

Japan power outages

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

"Super" moon poses for Howard photographer

James Willinghan took his Canon Rebel XSI and a 6-inch Celestron telescope to Alpha Ridge Park in Howard County Saturday night to snap a portrait of the "super" moon that rose over Central Maryland. It was the "perigean" full moon that combined a very close perigee, occuring very soon after the full moon, with a very clear sky to produce a dramatic moonrise. Here's his shot. For more, click here.

James Willinghan, full moon

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:55 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Cool pictures

A wet week, with a chance for a flakey finish

Woke up this morning thinking someone was dragging furniture across the WeatherDeck. But flashes of light on the ceiling quickly told me it was thunder. It was an odd way to wake up on a March morning. But, considering the clock radio failed to do its job today, my favorite teacher and I were grateful for the noise.

At least we're not in northern New England, where they're getting snow today.Rain probability Maryland

It appears we're looking at a pretty wet week. Forecasters at the National Weather Service's regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. say we should expect Monday's mid-day lull to yield after 3 p.m. to more showers and possibly thunderstorms as the approaching cold front moves by.

The showers could persist until midnight, but Tuesday, at least, promises a little sunshine, with highs near 60 degrees.

That may be it for the sun until Friday. The cold front is expected to stall to our south, becoming a set of rails for a series of low-pressure systems to ride through on. They will bring us more showers and thunderstorms Wednesday, Wednesday night and Thursday before ending in the morning hours.

Friday is forecast to be sunny, but unseasonably cool, with a high in the upper 40s. Then, another storm system is due to cross the southern mid-Atlantic area Friday night into Saturday. And with the lows expected to fall to near freezing Friday night and again on Saturday night, NWS forecasters said some of the precipitation each night could mix with snow north of Washington, D.C. before changing over to all-rain:

"Both of these weekend features appear to be limited to light precipitation, but warrant close analysis in the coming days."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

How hard is it raining?


Jim Cumbie, in Baltimore, says Baseball writer Bill James has a new book in which he laments that there is no generally accepted objective measure for the rate of rainfall to help umpires decide when to call a game. “Is it true that nobody measures the rate of rainfall?” Jim asks. Bill needs a fact-checker. Many weather stations with rain gauges, including ours, can and do compute the rain rate in inches per hour. They report the rates in real time, and can sound an alarm at pre-set levels.

(SUN PHOTO: Our dusty Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station console, with rain rate readout)

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

March 20, 2011

"Super" moon rising

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

Remember when spring began on March 21?


Equinox in GizaHappy Spring, almost! The vernal equinox occurs tonight at 7:21 p.m. EDT as the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator into the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the traditional start of spring here, and of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Many of us still associate the arrival of spring with March 21. But 1979 was the last time that occurred in the Eastern Time Zone. And in 2020 we’ll see the first equinox to fall on March 19. The calendar resets with a Leap Year in 2100.

(PHOTO: Mona Sharaf, Reuters, 1998)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Almanac, Sky Notes

March 19, 2011

Crow Moon on the rise


The moon is full tonight. It’s the third full moon since the winter solstice, making it the Lenten Moon, the Sap, Crow or Worm Moon. Take your pick; each one evokes something about the season we’re in.

If skies are clear, look for the moon to rise over Baltimore at 7:37 p.m. This moon is also special because it stands at perigee at 3 p.m. today. It’s the full moon’s closest approach to Earth this year, and for the past 18 years. So it may look a tad bigger and brighter. Tides may also run a bit higher. 

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2009) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Almanac, Sky Notes

March 18, 2011

Thermometer reaches record 81 degrees at BWI

Baltimore temperatures

Our little one-day "heat wave" has pushed temperatures near Baltimore into the 80s this afternoon.

The official thermometer at BWI-Marshall Airport stood at 81 degrees just before 5 p.m. That seemed likely to stand as the day's high, but was already enough to set a new record for a March 18 in Baltimore. The old mark was 80 degrees, set on March 18, 1989.

It was also the first time Baltimore has reached the 80s since last Oct. 12, when the high was 81 degrees.

Elsewhere, temperatures pushed into the upper 70s and low 80s across the region. It was 82 degrees at the Maryland Science Center at 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. It was 81 at Martin State Airport in Middle River, in Frederick, and at The Sun's weather station (top)at Calvert and Centre Streets in Baltimore. Charlottesville, Va. reported 80 degrees.

It was 79 at Dulles Airport, also a new record, according to the National Weather Service. Annapolis reported 77 degrees; so did Reagan National Airport in Washington.

This will be it for this kind of weather for a while. The weekend looks sunny, but there's a cold front pushing through later today, so the weekend highs will only be in the 50s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

LJ Kirk the winner in the 2010-2011 snow contest

With the vernal equinox approaching on Sunday, I think it's time to close the 2010-2011 Sun Snow Contest and declare a winner.

The official tally from the National Weather Service station at BWI-Marshall Airport came to 14.4 inches of snow from Dec. 1 through today. That was 3.8 inches below the 30-year average of 18.2 inches for Baltimore. Here's how it played out:Sept. 26 snow

Days with flakes: 24

Days with measurable snow:  8

Days with only a trace:  16

December:  1.2 inches

January:  10.7 inches

February:  2.5 inches 

Biggest storm: 7.6 inches on Wednesday Jan. 26, the one that changed rain over to snow and ice in a flash, catching thousands of Baltimore and Washington commuters on slick and snowy roads, during the evening rush. 

While it's still possible to see more measurable snow as we move through the end of March and even into early April, we're going to call the question today. If we do get more snow, we'll just have to award another cheap prize.

So, the winner of the (First) Annual Sun Snow Contest is Laura Kirk, of Owings Mills, a technical writer whose 14-inch prediction came Snow January Baltimoreclosest without going over the BWI total.

"Wow! How cool is that!" she said when told of her good fortune. Asked how she pulled it off, she said:

"You mean, beyond sheer luck? Actually, you gave me the strategy. You mentioned in a blog entry before the contest began that this was a La Nina year and that typically those years are lower in snowfall.

"And, I had a feeling that after last year's huge overage, we just wouldn't get that much snow this year. I figured we'd have three to four 4-inchers. Not quite how we got to 14.4", but oh well."

"So winning is especially sweet for two reasons: 1) I didn't win the snow pile melt contest last winter...; 2) in that hellacious snow we had at the end of January ... I was hit by a pickup with a plow sliding around a turn (no injuries). This is my revenge on the snow. Hah. Take that."

Close, but ineligible for the cigar, were Paul Mittermeier, at 13.7 inches, and "Andrew," at a heartbreaking 14.5 inches.

WAY off the mark were our low-baller, "Ms. Nash," at 7 inches, and Ken Marsh who, at 65 inches, clearly didn't think he got enough snow last year.

Congratulations to Laura Kirk; your fabulous prize is in the mail (as soon as I get an address). And thanks to all who entered. We look forward to entries from you all for the "90-Degree Daze Contest" this summer, and to next year's exciting "Second Annual Sun Snow Contest." 

Think Hot! Think Snow!

(PHOTOS: Top: Pablo Monsivais, AP; Bottom: The Sun, Gene Sweeney, Jr.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

Enjoy today; cooler, wetter ahead

Today we'll enjoy the balmy temperatures, and the weekend will be pleasantly sunny, but cooler. From there, however, the weather goes downhill, with a series of cold fronts next week, with rain chances and highs mostly in the 50s.

Forecasters continue to call for highs Friday in the 70s. The folks at WJZ are still looking for things to top out at 77 degrees. The National Weather Service is calling for 74 at the airport. We've already reached 70, at noon, at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets.

The mild First bulbsweather comes courtesy of west winds that are coming over the Appalachians and compressing as they flow down the eastern slope. And, as anyone who has ever filled a SCUBA tank knows, when you compress a gas, it gets hot.

The breath of spring goes away later today when a low pressure system over southern Canada drags a trailing cold front across our region. Forecasters say that will drop temperatures into the 50s for the weekend, but it will also clear the skies. So we can look forward to lots of sunshine, and starry skies at night.

We should have a nice evening to watch the perigean full moon rise Saturday.

By early Monday morning we'll start to feel the effects of the next low coming off the Great Lakes. That will bring us a chance for a little rain overnight into Monday and more showers are possible during the day Monday, especially in the northern counties.

High pressure moves back in behind the low on Tuesday, with a sunny break and a high in the mid-60s before the next system rolls in. Low pressure moving this way from the Central Plains will raise our rain chances again Tuesday night into Wednesday and Thursday. But forecast models can't sort all this out very well yet. So stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

What the heck is a "degree day"?


The new tally of “degree days” on our print weather page is puzzling some readers. Degree days measure neither degrees, nor days. It’s a proxy for estimating the energy used to heat or cool our homes and businesses. They’re calculated by comparing the previous day’s average temperature with 65 degrees. An average temperature of 75 degrees in summer yields 10 cooling degree days. An average of 35 in winter gives us 30 heating degree days. The more degree days, the thinner your wallet. 

(PHOTO: Christopher Furlong, Getty Images, 2008)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Saving energy

March 17, 2011

Spring is official: the spring peepers are singing

No need to wait until the vernal equinox on Sunday. For me, spring begins when the spring peepers begin their lusty chorus in the wetlands along Western Run in Cockeysville. And they've been singing up a storm since last week's rainstorm.

The peepers are known to biologists as Spring peeperPseudocris crucifer, and they're common in wetlands throughout the eastern U.S. The "crucifer" part of their name refers to the darkly pigmented "X" on their backs. Not that I've ever been able to see one. They're a purely auditory experience for me. Click here to listen.

The little frogs lives in the litter on the forest floor, and it's the males you hear singing in the early spring as they work to attract a mate.

They like places in or near wetlands, and our stretch of Western Run certainly qualifies. Last Thursday's storm flooded a wide expanse of the floodplain, and apparently it was just what the froggies needed.

Welcome back!

(PHOTO: U.S. Geological Survey) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Events

Fascinated by weather? Become a weather "spotter"


Weather observerIf you’re really “into” the weather, you should consider joining the National Weather Service’s “Weather Spotter” program. Trained weather spotters learn how to observe and report important weather events, helping meteorologists provide more accurate forecasts and warnings. The NWS and Baltimore County’s office of Emergency Management will hold a free, 3-hour training class March 23 at Towson University. For more information, go to  

(SUN PHOTO: Weather observer John Swaine, Jr., by Elizabeth Malby, 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 16, 2011

Limiting insurance in Md. hurricane zone okayed

Maryland's People's Insurance Counsel has lost again in its bid to overturn a decision by Allstate Insurance Company to stop writing new property insurance policies in portions of 11 counties in the state that it regards as most prone to catastrophic hurricane damage - chiefly zip codes on the Eastern Shore and around the Chesapeake Bay.

Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed a lower court's decision that Allstate did not violate state anti-discrimination laws in drawing a red line around the places where Isabel damageit found itself most vulnerable. Those laws were written in the 1970s to end racial discrimination by homeowners' and auto insurance companies. 

The decision was another loss in the Allstate matter for the Maryland People's Insurance Counsel Division, which had sought to reverse the company's move. 

"The flaw in the Division's effort is that it seeks to apply those conditions or restrictions [against illegal discrimination] to what was a fundamentally business decision of Allstate that did not remotely involve any of the traditional or historic discriminations," the court found.

Here, in brief, is how it played out:

In the wake of the terrible hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005, which caused major damage and huge insurance losses in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, Allstate began a risk analysis of its vulnerability to catastrophic damages that could result from landfalling hurricanes in 28 states.

Using a consultant's computer model, the company simulated 100,000 years of hurricane losses in storm-prone states, including Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. From that, they identified four model storms of Cat. 4 making landfall in Worcester County, Md., Sussex County, Del., Virginia Beach, Va., and Northhampton County, Va.Isabel damage

They projected what damages were likely from such storms in Maryland zip codes, and how exposed Allstate was to those losses. The result was a map laying out "hurricane bands" where Allstate's exposure was sharply higher than the average across the rest of the state. The company drew a line around those zip codes as "catastrophe-prone" and announced in 2006 it would stop writing new policies there. Current policy holders were not affected.

The People's Insurance Counsel - part of the Attorney General's office - took the company on, arguing that the move was arbitrary and unreasonable, and that the company failed to show its rates were insufficient to cover projected losses.

The Counsel also argued that no hurricane had made landfall in Maryland in at least 100 years. (In fact, the National Hurricane Center counts two that have. And many other storms have brushed the state; or, like Isabel in 2003, crossed it weakened to tropical storm strength after landfalls in the Carolinas or elsewhere.)

Allstate argued that its decisions were based on careful, objective analysis and sound business judgments.

The Maryland Insurance Commission in 2008 rejected the Insurance Counsel's arguments. So did the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The Counsel took the case to the Court of Special Appeals.

In its March 1 opinion, the court ripped the Insurance Counsel's contentions, at various points, as "unreal," "absurd," based on a "fantasy analysis." The company's analyses of the risks it faced in the region, the court found, were sound.

Quoting from the Insurance Commissioner's earlier decision upholding Allstate's actions, the court said, "Allstate has demonstrated objectively that the zip codes located in Hurricane Bands 4-6 represent the greatest potential for loss in the event of a catastrophic storm when compared to the rest of the state ...[B]y refusing the accept additional insureds in the areas which pose the Isabel damagehighest risk in the event of a catastrophe, Allstate will serve its business and economic purpose of reducing its exposure in the event of a catastrophic coastal storm."

In its analyses, Allstate found that if a storm identical to Hurricane Hazel in 1954 were to strike today, the company would face $307.8 million in insured losses in Maryland alone. Wind damage in Hurricane Band 4 would be 42 percent higher than the average for the rest of the state; 650 percent higher in Band 5, and 1,300 percent higher in Band 6.

The court also pointed out that there is a sharp difference between "ordinary risk" and "catastrophic risk." The former involves taking a chance on individuals by spreading the risk across a large number of insured people. In catastrophic risk, insuring a large number of individuals in a vulnerable location increases the danger of huge company losses in the event of, say, a hurricane strike.

"The fascinating development of the present case will illustrate, perhaps for the first time, the difference between short-term and long-term insurance problems and solutions, and the gaping difference between ordinary insurance risk and catastrophe risk," the court said.

Or, more colorfully, the court said, "The difference in magnitudes of risk between Hurricane Katrina, and Katrina Abramowitz, with two traffic infractions and three points on her driving record, is so vast as to be incomprehensible. Even to attempt to describe the one in terms of the other would be gibberish."

(SUN PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Isabel, 2003; Top to bottom: Algerina Perna, Jed Kirschbaum, Kim Hairston)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Hurricane names Igor and Tomas are retired

Dozens of deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage have prompted the World Meteorological Organization to retire two names from last season's roster of Atlantic hurricanes.

Tomas HaitiIgor and Tomas will be replaced on the 2016 names list by Ian and Tobias, the WMO said. 

Tropical storms that form in the Atlantic basin are given alternating male and female names drawn from a set of six lists. Each list has 21 names in alphabetical order (omitting Q, U, X, Y and Z). Each year's list is re-used six years later.

But when a storm causes enough death and damage, the WMO's hurricane committee will vote  to retire the name, and it passes into history.

Hurricane Igor formed near the Cape Verde Islands last September, moved across the Atlantic toIgor NOAA a position just north of the Leeward Islands, where it reached Category 4 strength on Sept. 14. Top sustained winds were measured at of 155 mph.

The storm weakened at sea, but struck Bermuda as a Cat. 1 storm. From there it moved north toward Newfoundland and expanded in size. It made landfall near Cape Race, where it wreaked $200 million in damage - the worst there in 75 years. One person was killed in Newfoundland, two more elsewhere.

Tropical Storm Tomas became a hurricane on Oct. 30 after battering Barbados. It strengthened to Cat. 2 and struck several Caribbean Islands before moving between Haiti and Jamaica. Fourteen people were confirmed killed or missing in St. Lucia after the storm. Floods and landslides in Haiti killed 35. Damages in St. Lucia alone were estimated at $500 million.

The 2011 hurricane season begins June 1. The first names on the new list are Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don.

(PHOTOS: Top: Tomas strikes Haiti, Carl Juste, Miami Herald/MCT; Bottom: Hurricane Igor, NOAA)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Clouds will clear slowly; warmup ahead

The cold front has passed, but the clouds linger on this (Wednesday) morning. Forecasters promise the low deck of gray will begin to break up later today, and clear out overnight. We're already seeing some rays downtown at 11 a.m.

That will set us up for a terrific couple of days as high pressure builds into the region, sunshine does its job and temperatures climb into the 70s by Friday.

We got a fair amount of rain overnight. We're looking at 0.62 inch on the gauge here in The Sun's weather bunker, at Calvert and Centre streets. BWI-Marshall recorded 0.60 inch, bringing the month's total to about 4.3 inches. St. Mary's and Calvert counties and the Eastern Shore seem toMarch buds have caught the heaviest rains. Here are some totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Leonardtown:  1.09 inches

Park Hall:  0.92 inch

Prince Frederick:  0.83 inch

Easton:  0.83 inch

White Marsh:  0.73 inch

Severna Park:  0.72 inch

Once the high pressure builds in and the skies clear, we'll all have a better outlook. And as the high begins to move offshore on Friday, we'll get into some west winds, and that will to push temperatures well above the seasonal averages.

The folks at WJZ are expecting a high of 77 degrees in Baltimore on Friday, according to their forecast this morning in our print editions. The National Weather Service is calling for 73 degrees at the airport. The average high at BWI for a March 18 is only 55 degrees. So we're looking at a maximum 20 degrees above the norm for the date. Sweet.  

The next cold front will pass through late Friday into Saturday. There's a small chance of some overnight rain with it. But the weekend still looks sunny, with highs near 60 degrees. And the nice weather is likely to continue into the beginning of next week - the first week of spring.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, March 24, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

You don't need Verizon for time and weather


Heartbroken over Verizon’s decision to discontinue their dial-in time and weather services June 1?

Cheer up, Bunky. You can get a “free” (with a little advertising) weather forecast – and the time (to within a minute) - from BGE and Fox45 on their joint time and weather line. Just call 410 662-9225.

For the most precise time service available, you can also dial up the U.S. Naval Observatory’s “master clock,” at 202 762-1401.

But it’s a 24-hour ticker, so 3:17 p.m. is “15 hours, 17 minutes…”   

(SUN PHOTO: U.S. Naval Observatory master clock, Christopher T. Assaf, 2005)

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

March 15, 2011

New rain not expected to raise flood concerns

Despite the heavy rain late last week, and the high water remaining in some rivers and creeks across the region, forecasters don't expect new flood issues with the rain due overnight into Wednesday.

The National Weather Service is predicting a three-quarters to one inch of rain tonight and Wednesday morning. That would bring the month's total at BWI-Marshall Airport close to 4.5 Flooding Baltimoreinches, well over the 3.93-inch average for March, with two more weeks to go.

But, forecasters said, this amount of new precipitation, "over the course of about a 12-18-hour period is not expected to bring area rivers back to bankfull or minor flood stages."

Last week's rain topped 3 inches in many spots north of Baltimore. It brought minor flooding to the Monocacy, Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers in Maryland, and inundated numerous low spots around the region, closing roads and detouring traffic. Some business along the Jones Falls in Baltimore were evacuated.

The new rain is coming with a storm brewing Tuesday in the Tennessee Valley and moving in ourRain Baltimore March direction. Increasing clouds will begin to drop light rain here by evening, and rain rates will increase overnight, forecasters said. It should end by noon in the Baltimore area.

Once the storm clears out, we can look forward to sunny skies through the weekend, with a high of 74 on Friday before another, dry, cold front passes by during the weekend and drops highs back to the 60s.

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, March 10, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:05 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

It's the Ides of March; watch your back

Ides of MarchIt’s the Ides of March. In ancient Rome, the “Ides” (or “Idus” in Latin) was the term used for the middle of the month. It applied to the 15th of March, May, July and October, and the 13th of the other months. The Ides of March was a day to honor Mars, the god of war, with military parades. And it was the date in 44 B.C. when conspirators stabbed the dictator Julius Caesar to death in the Roman Forum. Later, Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, told investigators, "I told him, Julie, don't go. Don't go, Julie, I said ... It's the Ides of March. Beware, already."  

(With apologies to William Shakespeare, Frank Wayne and Johnny Schuster).

(SUN PHOTO: Ides of March re-enactment at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, March 15, 2006) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Almanac

March 14, 2011

After the clouds and rain Weds., 74 on Friday

We always look forward to Fridays, but this week there's an added bonus - a forecast of partly sunny skies and a high of 74 degrees. That would be our first foray into the 70s since Feb. 18, and only our third day this year with highs that warm.

So if you have a day off due, and you want to hit the trail, or the links, or the park, Friday looks like your day.

Spring sunshineBut first we'll have to deal with another round of rain late Tuesday into Wednesday, and highs no better than the 50s. The clouds start moving in from the north later today. Showers may start to break out Tuesday afternoon, picking up overnight and leaving a quarter- to a half-inch before ending sometime Wednesday morning.

That rain will come on top of the 3.69 inches already this month, and would put us close to, or over the average rainfall for March, which is 3.93 inches at BWI. 

The storm is brewing today (Monday) in the Mississippi Valley, and will begin increasing our cloud cover in the next 24 hours as the high-pressure system that brought us fine weekend weather moves east.

Once the high is offshore on Tuesday, the rain will begin moving in from the southwest. Baltimoreans can expect the showers to start after 3 p.m. Tuesday, picking up overnight and ending by noon Wednesday, forecasters say.

Then the sunshine returns, and temperatures climb toward the 74-degree high forecast for Friday. Another cold front slips by late Friday, dropping weekend highs back into the more seasonable 50s. But the sunshine should remain, if forecasters have it right. 

The spring equinox arrives on Sunday, marking the official start of spring.

(SUN PHOTO: Kenneth K. Lam, March 2008)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Brides: Sept. 1 is least-likely day for rain in B'more


Rain Baltimore

Kary Anne Tamblyn writes from Ellicott City: “In Baltimore, what day of the year has precipitation the most often and what day … has precipitation the least often?” Brides take note: I asked Steve Zubrick and Jared Klein at NWS Sterling. Jared said the date with the LEAST-frequent measurable rain is Sept. 1, at 17 percent. The date with the MOST frequent measurable precipitation is March 13, at 45 percent. But Zubrick believes the spread is largely due to random chance.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, Feb. 25, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers

March 13, 2011

Mercury, Jupiter in close conjunction this week


JupiterThis week stargazers have a rare chance to see a closeMercury pairing of the planets Jupiter and Mercury. Jupiter is the bright “star” already visible low in the west, about 45 minutes after sunset. Starting tonight, if skies are clear, Mercury should be visible as a dimmer “star” below and to the right of Jupiter. Each evening Mercury will climb nearer, passing Jupiter Tuesday evening — just 2 degrees apart. After that, Mercury climbs to Jupiter’s upper right, as the giant planet sinks slowly into the sunset.

(PHOTOS: Left, Jupiter, NMASA/ESA/Hubble; Right, Mercury, NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching

March 12, 2011

No 2 o'clock hour Sunday morning


Daylight Saving TimeTomorrow is the second Sunday in March, and so marks the start of Daylight Saving Time. Tonight, we advance our clocks and watches one hour. The change occurs, officially, at 2 a.m. Sunday. So 1:59 a.m. will be followed by 3:00 a.m., eliminating the 2 o’clock hour. Maybe if kindly Officer Speed writes you a ticket during that first hour, and enters, say, 2:23 a.m. on the citation, you can tell the judge the incident couldn’t have happened. Right. Anyway, EDT ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. 

(SUN PHOTO: Perry Thorsvik, 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Almanac

March 11, 2011

Big water on the Susquehanna

The water is still rising on the Susquehanna River. Exelon Power Corp. has opened 26 to 32 flood gates on the Conowingo Dam, making for a pretty spectacular sight, with almost 300,000 cubic feet of water charging through the dam each second. (the median for this time of year is 48,700 cf/s). Here's the (clickable) hydrograph for Friday afternoon.

The river below the dam was just below flood stage Friday afternoon. Flood stage is 23.5 feet, and the water was at 23.3 feet at 2 p.m. The forecast from the National Weather Service predicted the water would continue to rise through the night, climbing to 27.3 feet before nightfall before cresting at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Might be worth a drive up to have a look. If you have some spectacular photos, email them to me, and we'll post 'em.

There was a Flood Warning in place for the Susquehanna below the dam. Above the dam, at Harrisburg, the Flood Warning said the river was expected to rise above the 17-foot flood Friday  this afternoon, and keep rising to a crest of 21.3 feet Saturday afternoon:  


Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Flooding

Japan quake felt in Virginia water well

The big earthquake this morning in Japan sent seismic waves around the planet, and, as so often happens with big quakes, those waves triggered a reacting in an especially quake-sensitive monitoring well in Christiansburg, Va. Take a look at the seismic tracing below.

The quake caused the 2.5-foot rise and fall in the water level in the USGS well, visible in the blue spike on the right. And sizable tremors continue to rattle the epicenter off the coast on Honshu.

And here's a pretty nifty visual on how the tsunami propagated across the Pacific.

Japan earthquake water well


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

Baltimore city and county tops in rainfall stats

The stats are coming in from Thursday's record-breaking rainfall, and it looks like locations in Rainy day in BaltimoreBaltimore County and in the city topped the charts, with totals of well over 3 inches in some locations.

In fact, an observer in Pimlico, in Baltimore City, reported 3.86 inches - the highest in the tallies so far from the National Weather Service or the CoCoRaHS Network.  I also had a call this morning from a reader in Pikesville who recorded 3.9 inches on his rain gauge.

We had 3.10 inches on the Weather Deck in Cockeysville. And The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets recorded 2.69 inches for the storm.

Many Harford County locations also reported rains in excess of 3 inches.

The official count at BWI-Marshall Airport was 2.61 inches for the date, and 2.63 inches for the storm. That broke the 1.74-inch record for a March 10 in Baltimore, set in 1883. Average March rainfall for Baltimore in March is 3.93 inches, the second-wettest month of the year after September.

Here are the first returns from the National Weather Service:


   1 W ARNOLD            2.34   422 PM  3/10  MESONET
   1 N BALT-WASH INTL A  2.32   400 PM  3/10  ASOS
   2 NW RIVA             1.51   145 PM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER
   1 NNW PAROLE          1.20   945 AM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER
   CHURCHTON             1.20  1000 AM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER

   1 ENE RUXTON          3.63   505 PM  3/10  MESONET
   1 NE LUTHERVILLE      3.45   519 PM  3/10  MESONET

   PIMLICO               3.86   530 PM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER
   1 ENE BALTIMORE       2.78   513 PM  3/10  MESONET
   1 SSE DOWNTOWN BALTI  2.41   400 PM  3/10  ASOS

   MANCHESTER            2.70   524 PM  3/10  MESONET

   2 W CHURCHVILLE       3.58   447 PM  3/10  MESONET
   3 N HICKORY           3.52   524 PM  3/10  MESONET

   1 S DANIELS           2.83   519 PM  3/10  MESONET

   LAUREL                1.57   200 PM  3/10  PUBLIC

   1 NE MAUGANSVILLE     0.81   400 PM  3/10  ASOS

The heavy rains are still running off the land and into area rivers and streams. Many are running at record-high levels for the date. Check out this streamflow map from the US Geological Survey. Dark blue dots represent flows over 90 percent of the record. Black dots indicate record high flows.

(SUN PHOTO: Jerry Jackson, March 10, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

March 10, 2011

Jones Falls floods the usual spots

Heavy rainfall - more than 2.5 inches so far at The Sun's weather station - has put the Jones Falls ove rits banks in the usual locations in the Meadow Mill area at Union Avenue, and near the Smith Avenue Bridge in Mt. Washington.

Shops and businesses forced to evacuate include the Whole Foods, Starbucks and the Framin' Place. So far, authorities said no residences were threatened, and there have been no reports of injuries or water rescues.

Here's a look at the scene in Mt. Washington from Sun reporter Scott Calvert:

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Flooding

Weather emergencies during MSA testing

Statewide MSA testing is underway in  the public schools this week, and the state's instructors have received their memo on how to handle a weather emergency, should one occur, in order to avoid disruption of the tests. A teacher (not the one pictured below) has shared the protocol with us:

"Severe Weather Testing Protocols During~MSA

"Should a severe weather situation occur during testing, please remain calm. To display any kind of anxiety would be a testing irregularity and must be reported.

"Please do not look out the window to watch for approaching tornadoes. You must monitor the students at MSA testsall times. To do otherwise would be a testing irregularity and must be reported.

"Should students notice an approaching tornado and begin to cry, please make every effort to protect their testing materials from the flow of tears and sinus drainage.

"Should a flying object come through your window during testing, please make every effort to ensure that it does not land on a testing booklet or an answer sheet. Please make sure to soften the landing of the flying object so that it will not disturb the students while testing.

"Should shards of glass from a broken window come flying into the room, have the students use their bodies to shield their testing materials so that they will not be damaged. Have plenty of gauze on hand to ensure that no one accidentally bleeds on the answer documents. Damaged answer sheets will not scan properly.

"Should gale force winds ensue, please have everyone stuff their test booklets and answer sheets into their shirts being very careful not to bend them because bent answer documents will not scan properly.

"If any student gets sucked into the vortex of the funnel cloud, please make sure they mark at least one answer before departing and of course make sure they leave their answer sheets and test booklets behind. You will have to account for those.

"Should a funnel cloud pick you, the test administrator, up and take you flying over the rainbow, you will still be required to account for all of your testing materials when you land so please take extra precautions. Remember, once you have checked them out, they should never leave your hands.

"When rescue workers arrive to dig you out of the rubble, please make sure that they do not, at any time, look at or handle the testing materials. Once you have been treated for your injuries, you will still be responsible for checking your materials back in. Search dogs will not be allowed to sift through the rubble for lost tests. Unless of course they have been through standardized test training class.

"Please do not pray should a severe weather situation arise. Your priority is to actively monitor the test and a student might mark in the wrong section if you are praying instead of monitoring. I'm sure God will put war, world hunger, and crime on hold until after testing is over. He knows how important this test is.

"Thank you"

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:46 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Tornadoes

Coastal Flood Advisory now a Warning

Low pressure and persistent winds from the east and southeast are pushing/drawing water up the bay, pumping today's high tides Thursday two to three feet above normal.

UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued Flood Warnings for urban areas and small streams in Baltimore City and County, Anne Arundel Howard and Harford counties until 4:30 p.m.:  




EARLIER: The weather service has also replaced Coast Flood Advisories with Coastal Flood Warnings on the Western Shore. Here's how the tide gauge at Baltimore is looking just after 11 a.m.

NOAA/ Tides Online












The Coastal Flood Warning is in effect until 3 a.m. Friday. Here some high tide times for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake, from the NWS:

HAVRE DE GRACE...1:13 PM AND 1:32 AM...
BOWLEY BAR...10:51 AM AND 11:10 PM...


Rainfall amounts have now topped one inch in many locations around the region. We have 1.35 inches here at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets. The CoCoRahs Network is reporting 1.22 inches at Severna Park at 10:35 a.m., and 1 inch at Odenton at 10 a.m.

The weather service is predicting another half to three-quarters of an inch this afternoon at BWI-Marshall Airport. One to two inches more is possible overnight before sunshine returns on Friday.

Here are more Maryland rainfall totals from the NWS. Please note the times.


   1 N FROSTBURG         2.10   700 AM  3/10  CO-OP OBSERVER
   1 SSE CRESAPTOWN-BEL  1.58   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SSE CUMBERLAND      1.49   800 AM  3/10  CO-OP OBSERVER

   3 SSW SOUTH GATE      0.73   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 ESE PASADENA        0.67   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 E SEVERN            0.61   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 E LAUREL            0.55   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SE DEALE            0.54   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   1 E KINGSVILLE        0.94   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 WNW BALDWIN         0.90   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SW TOWSON           0.89   830 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SW LONG GREEN       0.80   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 NNE ROSEDALE        0.76   730 AM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER
   2 NE TOWSON           0.76   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 ESE WHITE MARSH     0.75   600 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SW JACKSONVILLE     0.72   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 NE JACKSONVILLE     0.71   656 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   NE REISTERSTOWN       0.58   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   REISTERSTOWN          0.56   730 AM  3/10  CO-OP OBSERVER
   2 WNW CATONSVILLE     0.52   635 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   1 W PRINCE FREDERICK  0.50   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   2 SE ELDERSBURG       0.62   649 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   SE MOUNT AIRY         0.44   630 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 NE TANEYTOWN        0.39   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   4 NE TANEYTOWN        0.35   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 W WESTMINSTER       0.31   600 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   3 WNW LA PLATA        0.74   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SW BRYANS ROAD      0.53   630 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W WALDORF           0.44   415 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   1 SSE THURMONT        1.59   845 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   7 ENE FREDERICK       0.31   910 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   4 SSW FREDERICK       0.25   630 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   3 NNE KINGSVILLE      1.04   815 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W BEL AIR           0.91   830 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   SE WHITEFORD          0.85   730 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 WNW FALLSTON        0.79   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   NORRISVILLE           0.75   700 AM  3/10  TRAINED SPOTTER

   1 SE MARRIOTTSVILLE   0.61   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W ELKRIDGE          0.61   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   3 NW COLUMBIA         0.61   730 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W COLUMBIA          0.58   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 WNW ELLICOTT CITY   0.52   730 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 WSW ELLICOTT CITY   0.52   657 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 SSE SYKESVILLE      0.49   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   1 N WHITE OAK         0.64   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 N SILVER SPRING     0.64   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 NE WHEATON-GLENMON  0.62   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 NNW TAKOMA PARK     0.59   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W COLESVILLE        0.57   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 SE NORBECK          0.51   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 ESE ROSSMOOR        0.50   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 W ROCKVILLE         0.45   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   7 ESE BRANDYWINE      0.79   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 SE SUITLAND         0.75   730 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   ESE CAMP SPRINGS      0.73   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 NNW CAMP SPRINGS    0.72   730 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 W FORESTVILLE       0.64   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   2 SE FOREST HEIGHTS   0.62   645 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 W OXON HILL         0.59   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 E BOWIE             0.56   530 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   4 ENE CHARLOTTE HALL  0.94   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 NNW COLTONS POINT   0.41   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   4 E HOLLYWOOD         0.32   700 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   SSE TALL TIMBERS      0.31   800 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   1 NE LEONARDTOWN      0.31   600 AM  3/10  COCORAHS
   SW PARK HALL          0.18   645 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

   3 ENE WILLIAMSPORT    0.40   413 AM  3/10  COCORAHS

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Watches and warnings

Wet day for us; 6 in. of snow tonight for Garrett

We have already booked nearly a half-inch of rain here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. And down in portions of Virginia - "upstream" in this river of rain we're facing today - they're reporting totals that are already well over an inch. Here are some early rainfall totals for the region:

Culpeper, Va:  1.25 inchesNOAA/NWS

Long Green:  0.80 inch 

White Marsh:  0.75 inch

Elkton:  0.65 inch

Bowie:  0.56 inch

Catonsville:  0.52 inch

BWI-Marshall Airport:  0.50 inch

WeatherDeck, Cockeysville:  0.49 inch

Westminster:  0.31 inch

Here's more from the CoCoRaHS Network.

The National Weather Service has posted Flood Warnings (bright green) for portions of Washington and Frederick counties, where the Monocacy and Potomac rivers are expected to flood today. There are Coastal Flood Advisories (yellowish green) for the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake, as east and southeast winds drive water into the Upper Bay and the tidal creeks.

If you see flooding today, and can safely take pictures, email them to me and we'll consider them for posting here. Your comments and reports on the weather you see around you are always welcome.

All of Central Maryland is under a Flood Watch through this evening, as 2 to 3 inches of rain could cause flooding in low-lying spots and poorly drained urban settings almost anywhere.

And, just to keep things interesting, Garrett County, in far western Maryland, is under a Winter Storm Watch for tonight. More than 6 inches of heavy, wet snow is possible overnight as the storm passes by and draws cold air down from the north behind the cold front.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Planet Mercury in the news next week


The planet Mercury will be in the headlines a week from today, as scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab try to put NASA’s Messenger spacecraft into orbit around it. If they’re successful, Messenger will stay for a year of scientific study. It would be the first time a spacecraft from Earth has orbited the planet. Mercury will be visible to the naked eye next week, in a close conjunction with Jupiter, low in the west after sunset, Sunday through Wednesday.  

(IMAGE: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution)

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

March 9, 2011

Dry winter yields to gusher of rain

Central Maryland is in for a gusher of rain overnight and throughout the day Thursday as a potent storm system moves out of the Gulf states with a heavy load of Gulf and Atlantic moisture.

On top of rainfall that could total 3 inches before the storm ends Friday morning, forecasters said persistent winds from the east and southeast will pile up high tides on the bay Thursday, two to three feet High waterabove normal.

The National Weather Service Wednesday posted Flood Watches for interior counties in anticipation of the heavy rains, and Coastal Flood Advisories for the Western Shore of the Chesapeake.

"The heaviest rain is going to occur toward the afternoon and into the evening,” said Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service’s regional forecast office in Sterling, Va.

"That’s going to fall on ground already saturated from last weekend’s rainstorm. Streams and creeks are going to rise pretty rapidly. Hopefully people will heed their senses, and heed any signs put out by local authorities, and not drive around any barricades,” he said. “I think [Thursday] afternoon will be quite a challenge for commuters, in places.”

Flood Warnings were already posted for the Monocacy River near Frederick, on Thursday. The river was forecast to rise to 19.8 feet by mid-afternoon. That's almost 5 feet above flood stage, and further rises are possible, forecasters said. Flood Warnings were also posted for the Potomac River at Point of Rocks and Harper's Ferry, and Conococheague Creek at Fairview  in Washington County..

In Baltimore, public works officials appealed to residents to clear trash from storm drains before the heavy rains start, and to report those they can't clear to the city's 311 service line. "Keeping them clear of trash and debris is crucial in preventing localized flooding," officials said in a statement.

The new rain could amount to nearly a month's worth in just 30 hours. It comes on the heels of 1 to 2 inches of rain on Sunday. That rain soaked the ground and filled streams, and forecasters said that increases the risk of flash flooding Thursday and Friday as the new precipitation begins to run off.

With this storm, Zubrick said, “we have a connection to the Gulf of Mexico, so that moisture is being pulled up into our area, and focused in our area, especially in the afternoon and evening. … And with the low-pressure system expected to go west of the Baltimore area, a prolonged period of east and southeast winds are going to pile up water in the bay … so we’re looking at coastal flood issues.”

"Talk about a change of plans in a short period of time," exclaimed another forecaster in AccuWeather.comWednesday's online discussion from Sterling. "Last week I was worried about the possibility of a very bad wildfire season this spring. But that worry has rapidly turned into concerns over flooding."

The rain caps a long period of relatively dry weather for Central Maryland. Baltimore has seen below-average precipitation every month since October. The winter has also produce only 14 inches of snow at BWI-Marshall Airport. That's four inches below  the long-term average there, and more than five feet less than last year.

The new storm was deepening Wednesday over the Gulf Coast states, and the counter-clockwise spin around the central low was driving very moist air from the Gulf and the Atlantic into the eastern states. There were flood watches, warnings and advisories in place from Louisiana to upstate New York in anticipation of the storm's passage. 

A mixture of light rain, sleet and snow was already falling Wednesday afternoon in the higher elevations of Maryland's western counties.  Rain was expected to start falling east of the mountains late in the day, becoming heavier overnight ahead of a cold front trailing the low. 

One to two inches of rain was expected at BWI during the day Thursday, possibly accompanied by thunderstorms. A half- to three-quarters of an inch more was expected Thursday night, ending early Friday. 

"By the time the front clears the area Thursday night, up to 3 inches of rain will be possible," the weather service said. "You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible Flood Warnings. Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding occur."

The forecasts look great for Friday and through the weekend, with sunshine and highs in the 50s to near 60 degrees on Saturday. 

(SUN PHOTO: Andre Chung, 2006)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Time change raises heart attack risk


Daylight Saving Time resumes next Sunday morning. We’ll all lose an hour’s sleep, but it could be worse. Scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say the time shift comes with a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack Monday or Tuesday. Blame lost sleep, and jolts to your “inner clock” and immune system.

They recommend waking 30 minutes earlier Saturday and Sunday than you must Monday to Friday; a good breakfast, sunshine and exercise.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Phenomena

March 8, 2011

Hard rain due Thursday; Flood Watch posted

Today looks fine, with sunshine and highs near 50 degrees. And the weekend looks great, with more sunshine and highs in the 50s beginning on Friday. But in between, like the great Greenwich Village forecaster Bob Dylan said, it's a hard rain a-gonna fall - as much as 3 inches in some locations.

The National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. has posted a Flood Watch from Washington County in the west to Cecil County in the east, and reaching as far south as NOAA/NWSPrince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

In effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday evening, the Watch for the Baltimore region predicts as much as 3 inches of rain could fall in some locations as a slow-moving cold front approaches the region, and takes its sweet time moving off to the east.

The storm is already gathering strength in the Central Plains states, and is threatening the lower Mississippi Valley with severe thunderstorms, hail, destructive winds and even tornadoes late today. Even the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans could be overtaken by storms late tonight.

Baltimore's forecast calls for rain chances to pick up after 1 p.m. Wednesday, becoming moderate to heavy after 10 p.m., with up to a half-inch possible before daybreak Thursday. More rain, heavy at times, is in the works for Thursday, with new amounts of 1 to 2 inches. Thursday night add to the total - as much as three-quarters of an inch more - before it ends early on Friday.

NWS: "The forecasted rainfall amounts likely will cause flooding of low-lying areas, as well as cause small streams and creeks to rise out of their banks. The runoff would then create significant rises on area rivers."

The flood risk is made more likely by the heavy rain that fell Sunday, and which is still making its way down the state's rivers and streams. Saturated soils will not be able to absorb as much of the next storm as they managed to soak up over the weekend.

Cold air sweeping down from the north around the backside of the departing low on Thursday night could set off some snow in the higher mountain elevations. Here in the lowlands, we can expect mostly sunny skies behind the storm, with seasonable highs in the 50s for the weekend. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Space Station, shuttle Discovery in flyby tonight


Space Cadets! If the clouds hold off tonight, we’ll see a really interesting flyover by the International Space Station. The ISS will rise above the northwest horizon at 7:23 p.m., moving toward the zenith (straight up). If our timing is right, the (dimmer) shuttle Discovery will appear just ahead of the ISS, as its crew prepares for landing Wednesday. The ISS will pass almost directly overhead at 7:26 p.m., then slip into the Earth’s shadow at 7:27, vanishing near the bright star Procyon.

(Above: NASA Photo)

UPDATE, Wednesday, 10:20 p.m.: Here's a 60-second exposure showing the shuttle Discovery passing over Catonsville on Tuesday evening. Thanks to Travis "the Shorts-Wearing Shoveler." Used with permission.

Shuttle Discovery Catonsville, MD

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Sky Notes, Sky Watching

March 7, 2011

Sunshine until rain returns late Wednesday

Noticed a few cars during the commute this morning that had some snow on their hoods and roofs. We had only a sprinkle of flakes, or sleet, on the WeatherDeck. But some locations across Maryland really did get measurable snow overnight as the rainstorm pulled away and dragged some very cold air down from the north behind it.

New England snowstormThe National Weather Service is reporting 2.5 inches on Frostburg, Md. The highest totals were in West Virginia, topped by 6.7 inches on Bayard, Grant County. None of that, of course, compares with the foot or more from the same storm system, recorded this morning in portions of northern New England and northeastern Canada ( map, left; depths in centimeters).

Around here it was just rain, falling, it seemed, in a series of heavy showers, interspersed with drizzle. As predicted, the amounts were typically in the 1-to-2-inch range. But some locations in Harford and Montgomery counties topped 2 inches. Here's a sampling:

Gaithersburg, Montgomery County:  2.38 inches

Somerset, Montgomery County:  2.3 inches

Darlington, Harford County:  2.25 inches

Emmittsburg, Frederick County:  2.0 inches

Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel:  2.0 inches

Reisterstown, Baltimore County:  1.35 inches

Pimlico, Baltimore City:  1.25 inches

Here are some more rain totals from the CoCoRaHS Network. There is a Flood Watch up this morning for the Monacacy River in Frederick County as the heavy weekend rains continue to drain off. Only minor flooding is being reported. 

If you liked Sunday, you'll probably like Thursday, too. That's when forecasters expect the nextBulbs rainy cold front to pass through Central Maryland. We'll have sunshine and seasonable temperatures until then. And look for more gusty weather today.

But by Wednesday, a storm brewing in the Great Plains will begin to influence our weather. Like the weekend storm, this one will begin by dragging more warm, moist air up from the Gulf in the broad, counter-clockwise flow around the low. That will increase our cloud deck on Wednesday and raise our rain chances during the afternoon.

During the overnight period from Wednesday into Thursday, the forecast boosts the predictions to "moderate rain." But, like we saw on Sunday, that comes with some periods of heavy rain, as well. More stream flooding is possible.

The cold front finally moves through the area sometime on Thursday, followed by a rush of cold air out of the northwest - around the backside of the low. Once again, as we saw this morning, that could mean some snow in the mountains into Friday morning.

The weekend, at least, looks sunny and mild for the moment, with highs in the 50s.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Orthodox Lent starts today; spring cleaning, too

Eastern Orthodox worshipFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Today is the first day of the Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox  tradition. It’s also known as “Clean Monday,” a reference to the obligation among the faithful to cleanse themselves spiritually through fasting and prayer, repentance and asking forgiveness of their neighbors.

The concept even extends to one’s surroundings, so for the Orthodox, today also marks the start of spring cleaning.

For Christians in the Western tradition, Lent begins on the 9th – “Ash Wednesday.”

(SUN PHOTO: Lloyd Fox, March 2010)

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

March 6, 2011

Long-term weather averages change this year


Joe Bollinger, in Glen Burnie, asks: “When will we begin to see the revised 20-year temperature averages?” Joe is referring to the National Weather Service’s long-term averages, to which current weather data are compared. They’re actually 30-year averages, adjusted every decade. Currently, the NWS uses data from 1971 through 2000. Sometime this summer, they’ll adjust to the 1981-2010 period. The last update shaved Baltimore’s average snowfall from 20.6 to 18.2 inches. Curious to see how dropping the '70s and adding the '00s will affect temperature and precipitation averages. 

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Feb. 10, 2010)

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

March 5, 2011

"Ash Wednesday Storm" struck 49 years ago


Assateague IslandOne of the greatest nor’easters on record struck 49 years ago today. The “Ash Wednesday Storm,” as it came to be known, generated 70 mph winds that piled up 40-foot ocean waves. Ocean City sustained major damage. High “spring” tides submerged Assateague Island. Coastal damage from North Carolina to Long Island was estimated at $200 million in 1962 dollars. New Jersey saw 45,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Heavy snow fell in the Appalachians. Forty people died.

(AP PHOTO: Roberto Borea, February 1998)

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

March 4, 2011

Sunday storm could drop 1-2" of rain

The good news is that we will avoid the snow and ice headed for the Great Lakes and northern New England this weekend. But forecasters out at Sterling are giving us a 100 percent chance for heavy rain on Sunday as the next cold front pushes through.

Saturday may be deceptively pleasant as the weather gods wind up to deliver the Sunday deluge. High temperatures will climb to the upper 50s. Skies will be mostly cloudy, but that leaves open the possibility of some sunshine peeking through. So if you have outdoor cleanup plans this AccuWeather.comweekend, get out there on Saturday.

Light rain begins to move in to the region late on Saturday, with overnight lows only in the mid-40s. Low pressure moving along the cold front will begin to spin up on Sunday, and AccuWeather's Henry Margusity is hinting at some potentially severe weather with a squall line moving through eastern Virginia and North Carolina and the Lower Eastern Shore.

Here in Central Maryland, National Weather Service forecasters are calling for as much as 1 to 2 inches of rain Sunday as the cold front approaches, and more Sunday night. Watch the forecasts for Flood Watches. There are none up yet (except in Garrett County), just a Hazardous Weather Outlook for now. But that kind of rain could send streams and creeks out of their banks. If you're in a flood-prone location, keep an eye on the water.

Behind the cold front, there could be some rain and snow mixing briefly north and west of the cities, and snow in the western mountains. Most likely, though, we'll just get a cold and breezy night on Sunday.  Next week gets sunny again, forecasters say, with seasonable highs and sunshine until the next potent cold front arrives at mid-week with more rain and bluster.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

La Nina spring brings violent weather


Paul Pastelok, the long-range forecaster who replaced Joe Bastardi at, agrees the spring seasons following La Nina winters come with “high potential” for violent weather. He says lingering cold and snowpack to the north, and warming air and moisture from the Gulf, will clash this spring in the mid-Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio valleys, producing violent thunderstorms and tornadoes, like those that struck Monday in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Henry County, Ky.  

(LA Times PHOTO: South Dakota, 2005 )

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

March 3, 2011

Weekend warmup comes with lots of rain

Temperatures dropped to 22 degrees out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville this morning, and to 25 here at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert & Centre streets. The low at BWI-Marshall Airport was also 25 degrees, which is 5 degrees below the 30-year average there.

There is a warmup on the way. As this cool, clear and very dry high-pressure system drifts off the East Coast tonight, we'll come into the return flow from the south. That will bring daytime highs to the 50s Friday and Saturday. But it will also bring thickening clouds, and light rain by Saturday as a cold front approaches from the west.

The light rain will increase to moderate or even heavy amounts Saturday night and Sunday as more moisture moves north and runs up over the colder air. We could see an inch or more of rain. And forecasters at Sterling say that could cause streams and creeks to rise out of their banks.

Coastal areas, too, could see some minor flooding as a new moon combines with persistent onshore winds to drive high tides above normal levels.

More seasonable temperatures and sunshine return early next week. The next chance for rain comes Wednesday. As the (clickable) Drought Monitor map above shows, we can still use more. 

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

Winds on Feb. 19 were highest in 10 years


Brush fireDonald Gansauer, in Canton, asks: “Have we had an above-average number of days with wind advisories this past winter?” Unfortunately, that’s not a statistic the National Weather Service routinely tracks. But when I asked, Steve Zubrick, at NWS-Sterling, produced another pretty nifty wind statistic.

The winds on Feb. 19, which fanned many wildfires, averaged 55 mph at BWI-Marshall Airport, with a peak gust to 60 mph. That made it the windiest day here in at least 10 years.  

(SUN PHOTO: Kevin Richardson, Feb. 19, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

March 2, 2011

Winds raise fire hazard today, cold tonight

Another gorgeous, late-winter day in Baltimore today, with sunshine and forecast highs near 60 degrees, well above the average. But low pressure moving across Quebec will mean breezy conditions in Central Maryland and an enhanced danger of wildfires.

The National Weather Service's regional forecast office in Sterling has issued a Special Weather Statement for the counties in Central Maryland, noting the fire danger. Winds will rise to 10 or 15 mph late this morning, with gusts to 20 or 25 mph. Low relative humidity and low fuel moisture add to the risk. So crush those smokes.

Once the barometer turns late today, winds will shift from the west to the northwest. That will bring AccuWeather.comin much colder air. The overnight low forecast for Baltimore is just 23 degrees, with teens in the normally colder suburbs - all well below the norms.

UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: The Baltimore Health Department has declared a Code Blue cold weather alert for Wednesday night. Shelter hours will be extended, and outreach workers will check on vulnerable residents. 

The cold snap will begin to turn around on Thursday as the high moves east and winds moving clockwise around that high swing around to the south again. Temperatures will remain below normal on Thursday, with a forecast high of just 40 degrees. But things will pick up from there as warmer, wetter air begins to move north.

Light precipitation should show up late on Friday. The western mountains could see some snowflakes. By Saturday the rain will become heavier as a storm system moves into the Appalachians from the Southern Plains, forecasters said. We may even hear some thunder Saturday night or Sunday. And rains could become moderate to heavy at times.

The rain will wind up with the passage of another cold front late Sunday or Monday. Forecasters say there may even be a brief period of snow as colder air moves in. But they don't expect any accumulation.

Clearly, we still have a way to go before we shake off this winter entirely.

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

Mild February moderated cold winter


After a cold December and January, the meteorological winter in Baltimore ended Monday night with a warmer-than-average February. The winter was also relatively dry. All three months ended with below-average precipitation, extending a dry spell that began in October. Only 14.4 inches of snow has fallen at BWI-Marshall Airport, well below our 18.2-inch average, and WAY below last year’s record-high (official) total of 77 inches. Heating degree-days were close to the seasonal norm.

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

March 1, 2011

NWS weather summary for February is in

For those who love statistics, here is the monthly weather summary for Baltimore, just in from the National Weather Service:


DAYS IN 1976.






(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, Feb. 28, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

March begins with sunny week, showery weekend

Now that we've put the gray, drippy weather behind us, and fresh, dry Canadian air has moved in behind yesterday's cold front, we can enjoy some sunshine and pleasant late-winter temperatures.

Forecasters out at Sterling are calling for highs in the 50s for the rest of the work week, with the exception of Thursday, which will turn a bit colder after the passage of a dry cold front Wednesday evening. The mildest day looks to be Wednesday, with a forecast high of 58 degrees. Sterling thinks some spots will poke into the 60s. 

There will be plenty of sunshine, and starry nights, too. The fly enters the ointment for the weekend, March sunshine in Baltimoreas warmer, wetter air moves north into our region Friday and Saturday. That could produce showers by Saturday, as temperatures warm again to near 60 degrees. The rain chances will lop over into Sunday, as well. Monday is forecast to be sunny, with a high near 51 degrees.

Temperatures are then expected to turn colder next week, with below-average highs

In the meantime, February has ended. Finally. For a short month, it seemed like it would never end. Temperatures averaged 3 degrees above the 30-year norm, moderating what had been an especially cold winter during December and January. It was also dry, with just 2.69 inches of precipitation. That's .33 inch below the average, continuing the dry period that began in October. Dry weather is a trait of La Nina winters in the Southeast, and we seem to have caught the northeast corner of that.  

Wind made more news in February than snow. We had just 2.5 inches of snow at BWI. But the winds on Saturday, Feb. 19, averaged 55 mph, with a peak gust to 60 mph. The National Weather Service forecasters in Sterling said that was the windiest day at Baltimore in at least the last 10 years. They had not checked further back than that.

One other thing... Do you have any questions about the weather or backyard stargazing? As part of our new, expanded print weather page, we are now posting weather comments seven days a week, up from four. That's a lot of space to fill. Send me your questions and see your name in old-fashioned ink!  

(SUN PHOTO: Barbara Haddock Taylor, Mar. 9, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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