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July 31, 2011

July 2011 looks like hottest on record for Baltimore

It won't be official until all of today's numbers are in. But it looks from here like July 2011 will finish tonight as the hottest July on record for Baltimore.

Through Saturday, the average temperature for the month at BWI-Marshall Airport in July was 81.6 degrees. If that holds, it will place this month ahead of the current three-way tie for the hottest July - 81.5 degrees - set in 1872 and matched in 1995 and 2010. Third place would go to 1934 and 1949, at 81.4 degrees.

UPDATE 12 noon: The NWS says the average temperature for July was 81.7 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport. That makes it the hottest July on record for Baltimore. The long-term average for July is 76.5 degrees. Earlier post resumes below. 

July 2011 is ending with a streak of 90-plus weather that has lasted 15 days, the third-longest such streak on record for Baltimore. The long-range forecast calls for a high of 89 next Saturday. If it proves accurate, that would end the streek at 20 consecutive days in the 90s, just short of the second-longest on record - 21 days.  

July 2011 also included four days of 100-plus weather at BWI, peaking at 106 degree on July 22. The 106-degree high was a record for BWI, but not for the city. A 107-degree reading downtown on July 10, 1936 remains the official record high for Baltimore. A 108-degree high at the Maryland Science Center on the 22nd, while unofficial because the NWS station-of-record moved to the airport in 1950, is the highest temperature ever recorded downtown.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

August typically brings a break in the summer heat


Maryland State FairAugust arrives tonight, and none too soon. The eighth month typically brings the first real break in our torrid summer weather. Average daily highs at BWI drop from 87 degrees to 82. The average lows slip from 66 degrees to 61.

It can still get quite hot. All but 10 August dates have triple-digit records, including three dates, in 1918 and 1983, that saw 105 degrees. August also brings the annual Perseid meteor shower, on the 13th, but the full Green Corn Moon will wash out the show.

(PHOTO: Patuxent Publishing, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 30, 2011

Will August bring a sharp break in the heat?


Waiting for rainWill August bring us a sharp break in the heat? Forecasters looked at Washington’s five hottest summers, in 1939, 1936, 1980, 1988 and 2010. All but the last saw a “significant” August cool-down.

The July 1930 temperatures were most like this year’s. The heat persisted through Aug. 9, with a record high of 102. By the 12th , the low had dropped to a record 56. “Must’ve been one heck of a cold front,” forecasters said. “Now to wait and see if history repeats itself.”  

(SUN PHOTO: Rachel J. Golden, 2000)

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

July 29, 2011

104 downtown; Heat Index 109 degrees

The NWS thermometer at BWI-Marshall Airport has reached 101 degrees at 5 p.m. That's a new Baltimore record for the date, beating the previous mark of 99 degrees, set in 1954. The Heat Index is 105 degrees. Sterling says that will be the max for today.

The station at the Maryland Science Center shows 104 degrees. The Heat Index is 109.

It was 102 degrees at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets at 5 p.m.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, Heat waves

BWI ties record at 99 degrees

UPDATE, 4 P.M.: The 4 p.m. reading at BWI was 100 degrees, setting a new record high for Baltimore on a July 29. It was 103 downtown, with a Heat Index of 109 degrees. Ho hum...  Heat Index this time last week was 120 degrees.

Earlier post resumes:  

The temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport reached 99 degrees at 2 p.m. today, tying the Baltimore record for the date, set at the airport in 1954. The Heat Index was 105 degrees.

It was 101 degrees at the Maryland Science Center at 2 p.m. (Heat Index 108), and 99 degrees at The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets.

It was 101 degrees at Reagan National, breaking the 99-degree record set there in 1993. Dulles International Airport reported 99 degrees, breaking the 97-degree record set there in 1993.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, Heat waves

Tropical Storm Don heads for Texas

Tropical Storm Don, a little stronger today with top sustained winds of 50 mph, is bearing down on the southeast Texas coast this morning. And while forecasters are watching Don, they've also got Water vapor image Donan eye on a new disturbance off the northeast coast of South America that stands a 30 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Emily over the weekend.

Don's center was located 190 miles southeast of Corpus Christi this morning, moving to the west northwest at a brisk 14 mph. Tropical storm conditions extend more than 100 miles from Don's center. A Tropical Storm Warning was posted for the coast from the Rio Grande River north to Matagorda.  Interests there can expect tropical storm conditions within 24 hours.

Texas is in the midst of an historic drought, so some will surely welcome the rain that's likely to come with Don. But it may be too much of a good thing for many. Forecasters are warning of 3 to 5 inches of rain, with some places receiving up to 7 inches from the storm. Isolated tornadoes are also possible.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the forecast discussion.

Meanwhile, out in the mid-Atlantic, forecasters are watching what could become the next storm of the season, Emily. It's now 1,200 miles east southeast of the Lesser Antilles. They say the disturbance continues to get itself better organized, and conditions look good for further strengthening.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:10 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Bake-off resumes: Mercury headed for record 101

Forecasters say the mercury is headed for at least 101 degrees this afternoon, both downtown and at the airport. That would make it the 13th consecutive day in the 90s or above, and the fifth day this summer that has reached 100 degrees or more at BWI-Marshall Airport.

It was already 94 at BWI at 11 a.m.

Fortunately, the air is expected to dry out a little by this afternoon, easing the humidity. But the AccuWeather.comweather service still predicts Heat Index values of 105 to 109 degrees.

Here are some milestones to watch for:

1. The record high temperature for Baltimore on a July 29 is 99 degrees, set in 1954. It's one of only four remaining dates in July with a record high of less than 100 degrees. So we seem destined to break that one. Washington and Dulles airports also are forecasted to set new heat records today.

2. The seven-day forecast calls for 90-degree weather through at least next Thursday. Saturday would be the 14th straight day in the 90s or more, matching the third-longest 90-degree streak in Baltimore's weather record book. By next Saturday, if the run persists, we'll match the second-longest streak, at 21 days. The all-time record is 25 days, set in 1995.

The only break in sight comes with a weak cold front, expected to pass through this evening. Some of us may get under a few scattered showers and storms. The best chances are for locations near the Mason-Dixon Line. Any storms that do emerge could produce damaging winds.

Beyond that, there is no rain in the forecast through at least Thursday.

"The region could use ... a good, soaking rain," forecasters said in this morning's discussion. "Unfortunately, this pattern won't be one that can do that. Precipitation will be spotty at best Saturday."

The only good news in the 7-day forecastis that dew points will go down a bit by early next week, "alleviating the mid-Atlantic needing Heat Advisories. But with all the heat the cities [have] stored, low temperatures in Balt/DC will remain in the upper 70s."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts, Heat waves

NASA prepares for new mission to Jupiter


Juno at JupiterA week from tooday, NASA will try to launch a new mission to the planet Jupiter, now bright in the pre-dawn sky. The spacecraft, named Juno after the wife of Jupiter in Roman mythology, will reach the planet in July 2016.

A key objective is to find out what’s at the planet’s core. Did Jupiter – made up mostly of hydrogen and helium gas – form around an earlier rocky core? Or did all that gas collapse into a kind of eddy in the swirling disc of gas and dust that formed our solar system?

(NASA artist's concept)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 28, 2011

BGE: No plans to trigger Peak Rewards Friday

Temperatures are expected to push into the upper 90s across Central Maryland on Friday. But despite the forecast, BGE says it has no plans to activate its Peak Rewards shutoffs.

Of course, the utility cautions that "unforeseen operating conditions" could change that. They had no plans to activate Peak Rewards last week until grid managers asked them to. So it's a good Friday heatidea, if you're still participating, to make your own plans accordingly.

The forecast calls for a high of 98 at BWI-Marshall Airport, and 99 downtown. Heat Advisories have been issued for all of Central Maryland, and the Lower Shore, with highs potentially reaching the low 100s in some locations, and Heat Index values from 105 to 109 degrees. Two Marylanders died of heat-related causes during Heat Advisories last week.

BGE is urging customers to look for ways to conserve energy on Friday. Keep curtains closed, delay the use of heat-generating appliances until after 9 p.m. To which I would add, if you're vulnerable to the heat, find another, air-conditioned place to go if the utility announces Peak Rewards activation.

"We're extremely sensitive to the discomfort many of our Peak Rewards customers experienced during last Friday's system-wide emergency activation... particularly those who signed up for the highest cycling option and whose air conditioning was off for the duration of the event," said Jeannette Mills, chief BGE customer officer.

The utility is reviewing the program's performance last week, and expects to make any needed changes. Thousands of customers were without their AC for six to eight hours, and 2,500 subsequently quit the Peak Rewards program.

In other news related to the hot-weather forecast for Friday and Saturday, the Baltimore Health Department has already declared Code Red Heat Alerts for the city on both days, opening emergency cooling centers and sending workers out to check on vulnerable residents.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is advising motorists to prepare for the heat by making routine checks of their vehicles - hoses, belts, tires and fluid levels are good places to start. You don't want to be stranded out in the heat by a breakdown.

Park in shaded areas where possible. Remember to take your pets and children with you after you park your car. And bring plenty of water, just in case. And consider public transportation where you can.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:58 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts

90s continue, dry conditions spread in Md.

Forecasters are giving us a 20 to 30 percent chance of seeing some showers sometime on Thursday, Friday or Saturday afternoon. The cloud cover that comes with these little disturbances will keep afternoon temperatures from reaching the triple-digit heights that had been forecast for downtown Baltimore on Friday.

But it will remain hot, and increasingly humid. The forecast high for Friday at BWI-Marshall Airport is now 98 degrees, with Heat Index values reaching 104 degrees. Downtown Baltimore could reach 99 degrees Friday afternoon, with humidity pushing the Heat Index to 106 degrees.

And the 90-degree weather is forecast to continue at least through next Wednesday. On Saturday, the streak will reach 14 days. That will tie the mark for the third-longest stretch of 90-plus weather in Baltimore. If we go another week, to next Saturday, the count will stand at 21 days, equal to the second-longest streak of 90-degree weather on record here, set in 1988.

The streak would have to continue until Aug. 10 to match the all-time record for consecutive 90-degree days, 25, in 1995.

In the meantime, dry conditions have spread across Maryland in the past week. The USDA Drought Monitor map released this morning shows all of Maryland except the western two-thirds of Garrett County - almost 94 percent of the state - rated as at least "abnormally dry." That's up from 86 percent last week.

Severe drought remains limited to Wicomico and slices of Worcester and northern Somerset counties on the Lower Eastern Shore - just 5 percent of the state, and unchanged from last week. But "moderate" drought conditions remain south of Easton on the Eastern Shore, and in the southern portions of Calvert and St. Mary's counties, roughly 18 percent of the state.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, Forecasts

Streak of 90s could become Baltimore's third-longest


Wednesday’s official high at BWI-Marshall Airport was 90 degrees, the 11th straight day with highs of 90 degrees or higher. The seven-day forecast calls for the streak to continue, with 90-plus forecasts each day, at least through Tuesday, bringing the total to 17.

By Monday, at 16, it will become the third-longest stretch of 90-degree weather since Baltimore record-keeping began. The record is 25 days, set July 12 to Aug. 5, 1995. Second longest was 21 days, from July 29 to Aug. 18, 1988.

(PHOTO: Rob Carr, Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition

July 27, 2011

Tropical Storm Don forms in the Gulf of Mexico

The fourth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season formed today in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Don was located about 120 miles north of Cozumel, Mexico, and 755 miles east southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into the storm today and measured sustained winds of 40 mph - just strong enough to qualify as a tropical storm. It was moving to the west northwest at 12 mph.

Gradual strengthening is expected  during the next 48 hours. Don was expected to approach the Texas coast by Friday. Given the terrible drought conditions in Texas, some rain may be welcome. But torrential rains and winds that could reach 65 mph may also threaten considerable damage, flash flooding and loss of life.

Here is the latest advisory on Don. Here is the forecast storm track.  Here is the forecast discussion.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

NWS dials back Friday heat forecast, a bit

The official forecast for downtown Baltimore on Friday doesn't look quite so much like a repeat of last Friday. But you probably won't notice the difference.

The National Weather Service has dialed back yesterday's 100-degree prediction for Friday and replaced it with (drumroll) a 99-degree forecast. Temperatures should only reach 97 degrees at BWI Marshall Airport, if the forecasters have it right. And that doesn't sound much worse than BWI tempsTuesday's official BWI high of 95 degrees. 

The fly in the ointment is that after we enjoy a little more of this refreshingly dry heat today, the high that brought it will shift to the east. And that will open the door to the return flow from the south, with all the heat and humidity we've come to know and love this summer.

So it will be 97 or 99 degrees, but with high dew points - a high sweat index. Forecasters are anticipating having to issue some Heat Advisories for Friday and Saturday, as Heat Index values rise to 105 degrees again, increasing the risks of heat-related illness and deaths.BWI rainfall

There appears to be little chance we'll get any beneficial rains over the next week. Forecasters at NWS/Sterling said:

"It is always difficult at this time of year to express any level of confidence with precipitation forecasting multiple days in advance. I've noticed that some trees/leaves are beginning to look stressed from this period of low precipitation and high heat. But unfortunately no widespread soaking rain on the horizon. I'll stick with the 20 to 30 percent probability of precipitation we are  currently forecasting [for Friday], but my confidence is not high that mid-Atlantic will see much rainfall."

The forecast high at BWI today (Wednesday) is 90 degrees. If we make it, that will mark the 11th straight day with highs of 90 or more. The official forecast calls for six more through Tuesday, for a (potential) string of 17.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Maryland farmers looking for more rain


Corn MarylandDry weather is stressing some Maryland crops. The USDA’s weekly “Weather & Crops” report says, “The spotty showers have not offered any significant amount of rain.” Scarce rain has slowed development of the second hay cutting. Fifty-three percent of pastures are in “poor” to “very poor” condition, and farmers are feeding hay to livestock. Veggies look good, but the corn needs rain, and 79 percent of the state’s topsoil and subsoil is rated “short” or “very short” of moisture.

(SUN PHOTO: Tasha Treadwell, 2009)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 26, 2011

Three more dead in Maryland heat

Maryland health authorities have identified three more deaths in which heat was found to be a contributing factor.

An elderly woman in Baltimore, and two middle-aged men in Somerset and Prince George's counties, became the latest of nine Marylanders whose deaths have been attributed, in part, to high temperatures. Underlying illnesses also were a factor.

All three died last week, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Two of the three died during Heat Advisories, in which Heat Index readings reached 105 degrees or more.

In addition, 478 people complaining of heat-related illnesses were taken to Maryland emergency rooms from Tuesday to Saturday last week. The ER traffic peaked at 115 people seen on Friday. Temperatures reached 106 at the airport Friday, and 108 degrees in downtown Baltimore. Both were the highest readings on record for each location.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Heat waves

Huge rain totals in Monday storm

A blog comment from "djordan" this afternoon called my attention to the rain that fell with thunderstorms across Central Maryland as the cold front swept through on Monday.

I was deep in an interview in East Baltimore as the thunder announced the storm, and it was over by the time I got out. So I missed it entirely. But djordan wrote to me:

"Frank, were any rainfall records set yesterday? I got caught in that never-ending thunderstorm in western Howard Co...I understand over 3 inches of rain fell in 1.5 hours or something like that."

So I checked CoCoRaHS Network data and found some impressive totals:

Eldersburg:  3.49 inches

Woodbine:  3.21 inches

North Laurel:  3.20 inches

Sykesville:  2.98 inches

Gaithersburg:  1.99 inches

Towson:  1.59 inches

Baltimore:  1.50 inches

Cockeysville:  1.22 inches

The Sun: 0.83 inch

I can't say whether any of these totals are records for the date in the places where they were measured, because the only official record-keeping in the area is the NWS station at BWI.  The wettest July 25 on record there saw 2.00 inches fall in 1978. So if the storm had stalled a bit farther east, over BWI, we would have demolished the record for the date.

As it was, BWI reported just 0.64 inches, so, officially, there was no new record.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:09 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Events

Hurricane Center watching Caribbean storm

National Hurricane CenterForecasters in the National Hurricane Center in Miami are watching another stormy region of the northwest Caribbean today.

While it's given only a 20 percent chance of becoming a named storm in the next 48 hours, the disturbance is expected to get more organized in the next few days, and does seem like it could bring some badly needed rain to Texas later this week.

The storm, which would be named Don if it reaches tropical storm strength, is located between the Cayman Islands and western Cuba today, moving to the west northwest at 10 to 15 mph.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes

Another Friday with 100-degree weather ahead

The temperature is not likely to soar to 108 degrees like it did last Friday, but forecasters are predicting another hot-and-humid Friday ahead with highs reaching 100 degrees in Baltimore. The airport forecast calls for a high of 99 degrees.

For the moment, we're enjoying northerly breezes and low dew points. And while temperatures are expected to pop back into the low 90s today, that's only a few degrees above the 87-degree norm for this time of year at BWI. And the low humidity will keep it relatively comfortable in Central Maryland.

Overnight lows will drop to the upper 60s or low 70s tonight. Wednesday will bring more of the same, with slightly lower afternoon highs.

But all good things must come to an end. In this case, it means the high that took over after a cold front passed through with some showers Monday, will be moving east AccuWeather.comand off the coast by Thursday. That will bring us into the return flow on the backside of the high. And in a repeat of last week's weather, those southerly winds will bring in increasing heat and humidity, while subsidence of the air in the high pressure will heat us up even more.

Forecast highs for the airport jump from 94 degrees on Thursday to 99 on Friday, and to 100 degrees on Friday downtown.

If that sounds faintly comforting given last Friday's unprecedented heat, consider this: At this time last week, the NWS was forecasting a Friday high of 100 at BWI. The actual temperature reached 106 degrees.

So far this summer (through Monday), we have recorded four days of 100 degrees or more at BWI-Marshall Airport, and 28 days of 90-plus weather. The average annual number of 90-plus days at BWI is 29, so by Wednesday we will have tied the annual average.

The 7-day forecast calls for seven more 90-plus days through next Monday, bringing the total to 35 days. Today should be the 12th-straight day at 90 and above, with seven more to come, if forecasters are right.

Anyone for lowering the "heat ceiling?"

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

New transmission line put into service just in time


Hot in BaltimoreAs bad as the heat was, and as problematic as the Peak Rewards cutoffs were for many on Friday, things could have been worse. As it happened, the PJM Interconnection, the 12-state power grid that serves Maryland, had just (in May) put the new Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL) into service, bringing in added power from Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. PJM says the 500-kilovolt line made an extra 1,000 megawatts available to I-95 cities that was not available last summer.

(PHOTO: Rob Carr, Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Heat waves

July 25, 2011

Another week in the 90s ahead

Forecasters are calling for another week of ... well, July weather ahead. They're expecting some showers and thunderstorms Monday and Monday night as a "cold" front pushes through. It's really more of a less-hot front. But after last week's foray into the 100s, it sound just fine to me.

Forecast highs will start the week in the low 90s, with somewhat drier air (dew points in the 50s and Summer shower60s), and gradually push into the mid-90s, with sunny skies and rising humidity, as the week rolls by. The average highs for BWI at this time of year are closer to 87 degrees, so we remain on the hot side. But no one seems to be looking for more triple-digit weather for now.

Any storms we see today and tonight are not likely to become severe. But with so much moisture in the atmosphere, we could be looking at some heavy downpours from slow-moving thunderstorms, forecasters said. Rain chances are put at 70 percent this afternoon and 60 percent tonight.

Once the front goes by, we can look forward to overnight lows dropping into the much more comfortable 60s for the next two nights (70s downtown). We may even be able to open the windows as listen to the cicadas.

As the high begins to move off the coast late in the week, daytime temperatures will climb back into the mid-90s, with rising humidity. We will likely be talking about Heat Advisories and the Heat Index again by Thursday or Friday, as the numbers poke back into the low-100s.

The next break is likely with a new cold front on Sunday.

(SUN PHOTO: Summer storm clears the pool. Karl Merton Ferron, 2000)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

How did we cope with heat in the old days?


In the wake of Friday’s extraordinary heat and humidity, it can be hard to recall how Baltimoreans coped with Chesapeake summers in the days before home air conditioning. I didn’t grow up here, but I remember when lots of houses had “sleeping porches” where people sought relief from the heat that built up in the house. We had a whole-house fan that drew breezes in through every open window, and blew the heat out through the roof. Never had AC until I was 37.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 24, 2011

Space Station on a celestial tour Monday morning


ISSSpace Cadets! The last shuttle has landed, but the International Space Station sails on. If you’re up early Monday morning, and the weather cooperates, you’ll get a nice view of the ISS as it flies past bright Jupiter, the crescent moon and dim Mars.

Look for a bright, star-like object, rising in the southwest at 5:10 a.m. EDT. It will pass just above Jupiter around 5:13 and the moon soon after that, and Mars just before disappearing in the east, at 5:16 a.m.


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

July 23, 2011

More records broken or tied Saturday

Another record-hot day in Central Maryland.

Saturday's high at BWI-Marshall Airport was 102 degrees. That tied the record set for this date in 1991. The downtown high looks like it was 103 degrees. 

Down at Washington-Dulles International Airport, they also tied the record set there on this date in 1991 - 99 degrees. (Sounds downright cool, doesn't it?)

At Reagan National, the airport set a new record-high minimum temperature for the date. The low for the day was 84 degrees, breaking the record of 81 set on this date in 1978.

Once again, for those who missed this bizarre bit of weather statistics:  The high temperatures on Friday at both BWI and in downtown Baltimore were the highest ever recorded at either location. It was 108 downtown and 106 at the airport.

But neither one stands as a new record. That's because the official station of record for Baltimore moved from downtown to the airport in 1950. So the 108-degree reading at the Inner Harbor on Friday doesn't qualify as an official record for the city. And the 106-degree reading at BWI, while an official new record for the date, is NOT an official all-time record for the city, because there was that 107-degree reading downtown in 1936, when THAT was the station of record.

Got it? Good. There will be a quiz in the morning.

Be cool. Forecast highs for Sunday: 96 at BWI, 98 at the Science Center downtown.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

Morning storm produces "mammatus" clouds

There's a thunderstorm moving across Baltimore County this morning that is producing "mammatus" clouds. They're a sign of a fairly strong storm. The name comes from the Latin for "udder" or breast," for reasons that seem clear enough. Here's the photo I shot:

Mammatus clouds

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:46 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Cool pictures

Which July day at BWI is the hottest?


An online comment from “Mike” says: “The average high for the period July 16 to July 25 is listed as 88 degrees, but those temps are rounded to the nearest full degree… Which day or days during the above period are actually, on average the hottest?” Steve Zubrick, at NWS/Sterling, says the averages are computed by something called a “cubic spline” method, which yields only round numbers. But the mid-point in the period of highest daily average temps is July 21.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition

July 22, 2011

Unhappy with BGE's Peak Rewards Program?

The Sun has received scores of phone calls today from BGE customers whose homes became unbearably (or at least uncomfortably) hot today as their air conditioning compressors were cycled Heat Baltimoreon and off by the utility. Many were then even more irked by their inability to reach anyone at the utility who could field a complaint.

Nine people phoned in complaints to the Public Service Commission.

BGE responded by moving everyone on the program to the 50 percent level for the rest of the emergency.

What do you think? Is the Peak rewards Program a bust because, in extraordinary weather like this, our homes (I'm a Peak Rewards customer, too) get hot when BGE cyles the AC?

Or, are we wimps for not being able to endure a little heat in a program that we signed up for, and for which we have received payments ever since, whether it was activated or not?

(PHOTO: Ron Carr, Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:58 PM | | Comments (61)
Categories: Heat waves

Friday's heat shattered records all over the place

Here are some of the high temperature records broken and set on Friday, from the National Weather Service:

Newark, NJ:  108 degrees, breaking the 101-degree record for the date, and the 105-degree all-time high set Aug. 9, 2001. Records began in 1931.

Washington Dulles:  105 degrees, breaking the daily record of 98 degrees set in 1998. It is also the highest temperature on record for the airport - 104 degrees, set  July 16, 1988 and matched Aug. 20, 1983.

Hartford, CT:  103 degress, breaking the 101-degree daily record and the all-time record of 102 degrees., set July 6, 2010.

Bridgeport, CT:  103 degrees, tied the daily record and the all-time record, both set in 1957.

New daily records were also set in New York City (104 degrees in Central Park); Atlantic City (104 degrees); Philadelphia (102 degrees); Georgetown, DE (103 degrees); Trenton, NJ (103 degrees); Bangor, ME (97 degrees), and Boston, MA (103 degrees, a tie).

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

Official high for Baltimore: 106 degrees at BWI

The offical high temperature for Baltimore Friday was 106 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport. That broke the 101-degree record for the date, set in 1957. It was also the highest temperature ever at the airport. The previous record was 105 degrees,  reached twice before, on Aug. 20, 1983 and July 6, 2010.

The high reading at the National Weather Service's unofficial station at the Maryland Science Center was 108 degrees. That is the highest temperature ever recorded in downtown Baltimore, beating the 107-degree record set on July 10, 1936.

But the 108-degree downtown reading won't go into Baltimore's record books because, since 1950, the station of record for Baltimore has been at the airport. Offically, Baltimore's highest temperature remains 107 degrees, in 1936.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:55 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, Heat waves

Heat climbs to 107 downtown; Heat Index 120 degrees

The National Weather Service instruments at the Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor were reporting a temperature of 107 degrees at 3 p.m. Friday. The Heat Index - what it feels like with the humidity inhibiting our ability to cool off by sweating - was 120 degrees.

That ties the all-time record high temperature for Baltimore, recorded downtown on July 10, 1936. Sun weather stationBut because the official weather station for the city moved to the airport in 1950, today's Inner Harbor reading won't go into the record books.

The official reading for Baltimore at 3 p.m., out at BWI-Marshall Airport, was 104 degrees, with a Heat Index value of 117 degrees. That breaks the record for the date, 101 degrees, set in 1957. It's also the hottest official temperature for Baltimore since ... well, since last year. It was 105 degrees on July 6, 2010, and on four other dates since record-keeping began in 1871.

That said, the afternoon is still young, and we could still get higher readings at either station. Stay tuned. And stay cool.

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: The 4 p.m. reading at BWI was 105 degrees. It's the second summer in a row that we've reached a 105-degree high at the airport, and the sixth time since record-keeping began the official high for Baltimore has been that hot. They are:

Aug. 6 and 7, 1918 (downtown)

June 29, 1934 (downtown)

Aug. 20, 1983 (BWI)

July 6, 2010 (BWI)

July 22, 2011 (BWI)

Only one other date has topped it. It was 107 degrees in downtown Baltimore on July 10, 1936.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:53 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: By the numbers, Heat waves

UM in Baltimore asked to curtail power consumption

The University of Maryland in Baltimore has been asked to curb its power consumption Friday afternoon due to the high temperatures. Officials at BGE said the request came from the PJM Interconnection (not BGE itself, as suggested here earlier).

PJM is the power grid manager that serves Maryland and all or parts of 12 other states, and it has asked large institutions participating in its Long Lead Time Load Management program BGE to curtail power usage this afternoon because of the heat. The move makes it easier for PJM to balance supply and demand across its system. 

Also, BGE has activated its Peak Rewards program, cycling 453,000 participating residential customers' air conditioners and water heaters to reduce the local on the local segment of the grid. That, too was done at the request of PJM. NWS

Here's part of the school's message to UM in Baltimore employees.

"Facilities will reduce the load on our cooling systems automatically, but we need your assistance to reduce our load by turning off non-critical lighting and electrical devices, walking up or down two floors rather than using the elevator, and scheduling discretionary equipment usage for earlier or later in the day.


"Your assistance is important in helping the utilities meet their critical loads during periods of extremely warm or extremely cold weather that exceed the generating capacity of the power companies and help us avoid importing high cost power from other areas of the country or needing to endure brown outs or black outs of power."


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:14 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Heat waves

BWI at 99 degrees at noon; record is 101

The National Weather Service is reporting a temperature of 99 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport at noon Friday. The Heat Index is at 115 degrees.

At the Inner Harbor, the temperature was 102 degrees, with a Heat Index of 119 degrees.

And I'm about to head out into the teeth of it. This ... is journalism.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

Inner Harbor reaches 100 degrees at 11 a.m.

The National Weather Service is reporting 100 degrees at 11 a.m. at the Maryland Science Center in downtown Baltimore. The dew point was 77, for a Heat Index value of 112 degrees. The forecast high downtown is 105 degrees.

It was 97 at BWI Marshall Airport, with a dew point also at 77 degrees. That gives us a Heat Index of 116 degrees. The forecast high for BWI is 103 degrees.

This week's heat comes to us thanks to a huge dome of high pressure over the eastern half of the nation. Clockwise circulation around the high is bringing hot, humid air up from the South, the Gulf and the Atlantic.

Subsidence of the air in the dome is suppressing the development of cooling thunderstorms, which need a column of rising air to form. Our first chance for relief should come tonight or Saturday afternoon as the high moves farther east, and our rain chances begin to rise again.

Any storms that do form, forecasters warn, could become severe, with a potential for damaging winds and heavy downpours.

Real relief is still a few days away, with thre arrival of a cold fron Sunday or Monday. High temperatures early next week should rop into the high 80s - pretty nearly average for this time of year.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

Hot start to a record-breaking day

Here's the rundown on temperatures and Heat Indices for the region at 10 a.m.:

BWI:  Temperature 96 degrees + dew point 76 degrees = Heat Index 109 degrees

Md. Science Center:  Temperature 97 + dew point 76 = Heat Index 111 degrees.

The Sun:  Temperature 97 degrees + dew point (not real reliable) 84 degrees = Heat Index 132 degrees.

PJM InterconnectionI don't think there's much doubt that BWI will be setting a new daily heat record for Baltimore today. The hottest July 22 on the books for Baltimore reached 101 degrees, in 1957. We're just 5 degrees short of that mark at 10 a.m. and there's no rain in sight today. So I'd bet we will knock that record down this afternoon.

The official forecast high for today is 105 degrees downtown, and 103 at the airport

Speaking of records, the PJM Interconnection - the regional power grid that includes Maryland and parts of 12 other states plus the District of Columbia - reported this morning that the region set a new record Thursday for power consumption. We soaked up 158,450 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 homes.

The previous record was set Aug. 2, 2006. After some adjustments for changes in the grid since then, PJM estimates the 2006 peak would have been 158,258 megawatts.

The demand for power to keep things cool across the region was met "without problems," the agency said. "Our efforts in fine-tuning how we forecast electricity demand and plan transmission improvements are paying big dividends for our system operations," said Michael Kormos, senior VP for operations.

(PHOTOT: Vicki Valerio, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:17 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, Forecasts

Record heat index? You don't want to be there


Stifling heat“Capt. Jack” writes: “I saw a heat index of 126 for Iowa… Is that a record? What’s the heat index record high for this part of the country?” According to Wikipedia, a report from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003 put the temperature at 108 degrees, with a dew point of 95 degrees. That makes the heat index 172 degrees. Another reason not to live there.

The unofficial record for BWI (since May 1977), is 122 degrees, on July 15, 1995. The temperature was 102, the dew point 79.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 21, 2011

Inner Harbor hits 103 degrees; Heat Index 117

The temperature at the Maryland Science Center reached 103 degrees at 3 p.m. Thursday. It's not Baltimore's official reading; that's taken at BWI-Marshall Airport, where it was a mere 98 degrees at the same hour.

But it's a good sampling of what anyone who ventures outside in the downtown area is experiencing. And with the dew point at 75 degrees, it adds up to a Heat Index value of 117 degrees. That's how it "feels," the combined effect of heat and high humidity on the bady's ability to cool itself.

Here at Calvert and Centre streets, our instruments read 99 degrees, with a (suspect) dew point of 82 degrees. That produces a Heat Index reading of 127 degrees.

Oh, by the way, Friday's forecast calls for a high of 104 degrees downtown. With a dew point at 75 again, that would yield a Heat Index of 119 degrees.

Is anybody actually out in this stuff?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:10 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

Hot-in-Baltimore Contest update

With another five days of 90-plus weather on tap through Monday, the tally for our Hot-in-Baltimore Contest continues to climb. And contestants are beginning to fall.

Through today, Thursday July 21, the National Weather Service has posted 24 days this year at Hot iconBWI-Marshall Airport that have reached or exceeded 90 degrees. That's way behind the 2010 pace. By this date last year BWI had reported 35 days in the 90s or higher.

Still, based on today's 7-day forecast, we'll boost the tally to at least 29 by Wednesday. That will match the average number of 90-plus days in a year in Baltimore for the 30-year period from 1971 through 2000. It will also have eliminated our first four contestants, whose guesses fell between 15 and 24.

The nominal winner, assuming we see no more 90-degree days this year (Ha!) would then be "Corine," at 25 days (closest without going over).

All other contestants have guessed from 31 to 56 days. The record, set last year, is 59 days.

And the heat goes on...

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

Into the oven today, 104 downtown Friday...

Everybody into the pool! There will be no better place to be for the next three days if you have to be outside.

Forecasters are warning that we're facing three days with high temperatures reaching 100 (BWI) to 104 (downtown) degrees. Add the humidity arriving from the Deep South, the Gulf and the Atlantic, and we're Real Feelexpecting daytime Heat Index readings of 110 to 115 degrees.

Excessive Heat Warnings, Code Orange Air Quality Alerts and Code Red Heat Alerts in Baltimore are all in effect.

And we're unlikely to see much relief overnight. The high moisture content in the atmosphere will slow overnight cooling. The weather service says overnight lows may not drop below 80 degrees, with Heat Index numbers of 90 degrees or more.

Rain chances are slim, just 20 to 30 percent from Friday through Sunday. But with the high humidity, any scattered storms that do develop could drop some torrential downbursts, like the one in Baltimore two days ago.

And all this heat will, of course, be threatening the Baltimore records for the period:

Thursday, July 21: Record high, 104 degrees, set 1930. Forecast high: 100 degrees 

Friday, July 22:  Record high 101, set 1957. Forecast high: 102 degreesCooling off

Saturday: July 23: Record high, 102 degrees, set 1991. Forecast high: 100 degrees

We could also break records for highest minima - the warmest low temperatures for the date. But the forecasts are all in the 70s, while the records are mostly in the 80s. The one exception is Saturday, July 23. The record high minimum for the date is 79 degrees, set in 1978. The forecast low for the date is 78.

As I write this at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets reads 96 degrees. The dew point (always suspiciously high) is 83 degrees, for a very unofficial Heat Index reading of 123 degrees.

At BWI Marshall Airport, the official temperature is 92, with a dew point of 76 degrees, for a Heat Index value of 104 degrees.

At the Maryland Science Center, the temperature is 96, with a dew point of 76 degrees, for a Heat Index value of 109 degrees.

(SUN COOL-OFF PHOTO: Brian Krista Ezequiel Herrera, Patuxent Publishing)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Heat waves

Maybe it's not the heat or the humidity


Lunchtime in summerGene Ricks, in Glyndon, goes for lunchtime walks. He checks the temperature and heat index first “to see how much I’m going to swelter.” He’s noticed that a nice breeze makes a Heat Index of even 100 degrees tolerable. “Why don’t they take wind speed into account in determining the heat index?” Beats me. But that’s why AccuWeather’s RealFeel Index” adds wind, rain, sun intensity, clouds and elevation to temperature and humidity to calculate how warm or cold it feels.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2003)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 20, 2011

Excessive Heat Warnings posted for Maryland

Downtown Baltimore could see high temperatures of 99 to 102 degrees over the next three days, according to the National Weather Service. Conditions at BWI-Marshall Airport won't be detectably better, with forecast highs of 99 to 101 degrees. High dew points will help drive the Misery Index beyond 110 degrees.

2010 blizzard BaltimoreThe weather service has issued Excessive Heat Warnings for the entire state east of Allegany County on Thursday and Friday afternoons, with Watches on the Lower Eastern Shore. "The excessive heat will likely carry over into the weekend as well," forecasters said.

The Excessive Heat Warning means the combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will create conditions where heat-related illnesses are likely. Anyone who needs to be outdoors will need to drink plenty of fluids. We're all going to be better off indoors, with air conditioning. And if you have any friends, relatives or neighbors trying to cope without AC, please do invite them to your place to cool off, or help them get to the mall or one of the area's cooling centers.

Air pollution alerts, Code Red heat alerts in the city ... expect them all to be in force through Saturday. This is going to be brutal. Even Garrett County is finally under a Heat Advisory for Thursday, with Heat Index values expected to reach 100 to 103 degrees on temperatures in the low 90s.

It doesn't look like we'll set a new record for Baltimore on Thursday. The record high on a July 21 is 104 degrees, set downtown in 1930. The airport is now the official station of record for the city, and the forecast high there is only 99 degrees. Thursday's forecast high downtown is 99 degrees.

Friday may be a different story. The Baltimore record for a July 22 is 101 degrees, set in 1957. The forecast high for the airport is also 101 degrees. So, they're actually predicting a tied record for Friday. 

On Saturday, the record for the date is 102 degrees, set in 1991, with an airport forecast of 100 degrees. The downtown forecast calls for another day of 102-degree misery.

The week is certainly living up to its statistics. It's the hottest of the year, on average. But these highs are 10 degrees or more above the norms.

Relief, of a sort, comes Sunday as highs slip back into the 90s. But we'll have to wait until another cold front goes by early next week before we can expect more seasonable highs, in the upper 80s.

Oh. The photo?  Just trying to help cool you off.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, Feb. 11, 2010) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Heat waves

Season's third tropical storm no threat to land

Tropical storms  
















The hurricane season is picking up the pace, but so far there's no threat to land. Tropical Storm Cindy formed today in the open Atlantic Ocean, but forecasters say it is headed away from the U.S.

Cindy, the third named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, took shape far from land, with top sustained winds of about 40 mph. It was headed northeast at 24 mph.

Tropical Storm Bret was reported to have weakened a bit more, with top winds slowing from 50 mph to 45 mph. It was located between the Carolina coast and Bermuda, moving to the northeast at 8 mph.

Here is the latest advisory on Bret and the forecast storm track.

Here is the latest on Cindy, and her storm track.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Place to be: Garrett or Allegany counties

Hard to find a pleasant forecast anywhere in Maryland today. There are Excessive Heat and Air Quality alerts up for the entire state on Thursday. Almost, anyway. If you head west, to Garrett or Allegany counties, you'll find the only alert-free zone in the Land of Pleasant Living.

The forecast for McHenry calls for a high today of 86 degrees, with lots of sunshine. The rest of the week looks pretty much the same, with just one poke higher to 90 degrees on Thursday. 

Friday heatFor the rest of us ... Ick. The National Weather Service is calling for a high of 94 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport today, with a Heat Index expected to reach 102 degrees. Add to that a Code Orange Air Quality Alert. That means toxic pollutants will likely rise to levels considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Again.

And this will be the best day of the next three. The Excessive Heat Watch takes effect Thursday afternoon for all of Maryland east of Allegany County, including the Eastern Shore. It warns of high temperatures in the upper 90s to 100 degrees, and Heat Index values as high as 111 degrees.

There's a small (20 percent) chance for isolated showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. That might cool some of us down briefly. The chances of a shower continue into the early evening.

No chances on the boards for a shower on Thursday, as forecast temperatures rise to 99 degrees for BWI, and Heat Index values go to 109 degrees.

Friday's predicted high at the airport is 100 degrees (map), with a 30 percent chance of some scattered showers and storms. Saturday looks hot, too, with a high of 100 before the forecast highs drop back into the 90s on Sunday, and the 80s by Tuesday.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

We've hit 100 degrees 104 times since 1871


The prospect of seeing several 100-degree days this week sent the weather forecasters digging through their archives. Since record-keeping began for Baltimore in 1871, they say, the city (or the airport after 1950) has seen 104 days that hit 100 degrees or more. We’ve hit the “century” mark in 46 different years in that period. The record for any one year is seven days at 100 degrees or more, reached in 1930, 1988 and 2010. The most consecutive days is four, in July 1930.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 19, 2011

Friday forecast: 100 at BWI, 102 downtown

The National Weather Service has dialed back its predictions for Friday's high temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport - from 102 to a mere 100 degrees. But the high at the Inner Harbor is still forecast to reach 102.

UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.: An Excessive Heat Watch has been posted for Thursday across all of Central and Southern Maryland. Temperatures will be in the upper 90s to 100 degrees, with Heat Index values of 105 to 110 degrees: 


Earlier post resumes: We should expect these predictions to fluctuate as the week goes by, and computer models crunch fresh data and regularly spit out new information. A lot depends on how much cloud cover drifts into the region from elsewhere, providing some feeble shade against the July sun. That's pretty difficult to predict with much precision this far out.

Anyway, in the short term, forecasters are predicting some small chances for showers and thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon - in the range of 20 to 40 percent - as storms Dew Points Fridayfire up in the Midwest and ride around the edge of the high and stagger into Maryland's heat and very high humidity. 

NWS/Sterling science officer Steve Zubrick told me yesterday that dew points during this period will reach the low 70s, with some near the bay sloshing up to 75 degrees or higher. (see map) Add forecast temperatures of 95 again today, 98 on Thursday, 100 Friday and 99 Saturday, and it's going to be stifling.

Heat Index readings - a measure of the combined effects of heat and humidity on the body's ability to cool itself - are expected to top 110 degrees by the end of the week.

The Baltimore Health Department issued a Code Red Heat Alert today, effective through Sunday. That will open cooling centers across the city and send workers out to check on vulnerable residents.

Ocean City looks better, with a predicted high of only 88 degrees for FRiday, rising to 91 by Sunday. Deep Creek Lake is looking forward to highs of 87 for the entire weekend, with chances for showers every day from now thorugh Sunday.

I remember arriving at BWI once on a day like these, stepping out of the air-conditioned baggage claim area into the heat and humidity en route to the parking lots, and thinking, "This can't be the real air; it's gotta be bus exhaust. Nobody can be expected to breathe this stuff."Flower  

Well, it's possible to get a lungful of bus exhaust under there, but it really was the regular air, what Marylanders and visitors alike are expected to breathe in mid-summer. Here's a flower for the grave of whoever invented air conditioning. 

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, 2011)

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

Bret weakens overnight, now a fish storm

Despite forecasts on Monday that he would become stronger overnight, perhaps reaching minimal hurricane force, Tropical Storm Bret got weaker instead, with top sustained winds slowing to 50 mph. More weakening is expected as the day goes by.

The storm was centered this morning 410 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north northeast at 7 mph. Forecasters expect it will turn more to the northeast today and weaken to tropical depression status 250 miles east of Delmarva by early Friday morning. 

Outer Banks visitors are being advised to be mindful of increased rip current risks, especially on south-facing beaches.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

July 18, 2011

Season's second tropical storm going to sea

Tropical Storm Bret, the second named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, is smacking the northwest Bahamas with heavy rains and wind. But the tempest is not expected to head for U.S. shores.


The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami says Bret is expected to remain at Tropical Storm force this week as it moves generally north and east between the Carolinas and Bermuda. Top sustained winds are currently about 50 mph. I'd expect it to kick up some surf on the Outer Banks and perhaps even on the Delmarva beaches.

NOAA will be sending Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the storm later today to gauge its dimensions. And forecasters say there is some likelihood Bret will gain some further strength as it pulls away from the Bahamas. But increasing wind shear later this week is expected to prevent it from becoming a hurricane.

Here is the latest advisory. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the forecast discussion

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Maryland heads into the fryer this week

Hope you enjoyed the seasonable temperatures and low humidity over the weekend, because we are so done with that now.

Forecasters say Marylanders will be seeing temperatures and humidity rising all week, threatening Hotthe 100-degree mark by Thursday afternoon and topping it on Friday. We can count on another string of bad air days, too. Maryland west of the bay and east of Hagerstown is already under a Code Orange Air Quality alert today, meaning air pollution is expected to reach levels considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

"This is genuinely hot air coming, with dew points somewhere around 70 degrees. Excessive heat watches may be needed by midweek," National Weather Service forecasters said in today's morning weather discussion.

And why not? On average, this is the hottest week of the year for Baltimore. The average daily high is 88 degrees. Daily record highs are all above 100 degrees from the 14th until the 29th, when we see our first record drop back to 99 degrees.Heat wave

The culprit is our old summer friend, the Bermuda High. High pressure centered off the Atlantic coast by Wednesday spins clockwise, pumping hot, humid air our way from the Gulf of Mexico.

But first, we're looking at a forecast high for BWI-Marshall Airport today of 94 degrees. A cold front to our north is bringing some showers and thunderstorms to Pennsylvania later today, and we may see some clouds drift in from that later today. By tonight, showers and thunderstorms could reach communities in the northern and northeastern sections of Sterling's forecast area. Some could become severe, posing risks of flash flooding in the urban corridor. But the computers can't agree on the exact timing or severity of the storms. We don't need severe weather but we can sure suse the rain. 

The weak cold front will deliver slightly cooler air for Tuesday, with a forecast high of 91 degrees and some lingering chance for showers at BWI. But that's just the starting point for steadily rising temperatures and humidity throughout the week and into the weekend.

The forecast calls for temperatures to reach 92 again Wednesday, then pop into the upper 90s to near 100 degrees Thursday and Friday before slipping back to 97 on Sunday. There's a small chance for some showers Sunday, too.

A high of 102 on Friday would break the Baltimore record for the date - 101 degrees, set in 1957.

Anyone ready for November?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:18 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Forecasts, Heat waves

Power's out ... When do you toss the milk?


Dry ice in power outage Thunderstorms and tropical storms can cut your electric service for hours, even days. But will your family be safe from spoiled food during an outage?

A study in the journal Food Protection Trends says many of us won’t be. A representative poll of 1,000 people found only one-third know to throw out refrigerated perishables (such as meat, eggs, milk) after a four-hour outage. Only 60 percent know to discard frozen items that have partially thawed.  

Toss them all, or toss your cookies. 

(SUN PHOTO: Lloyd Fox, 2003)

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

July 17, 2011

Why all the zeroes under Heating Degree Days?


Degree DaysPuzzled by all the zeroes under “Heat” in the Degree Days section above? I was, too, after a reader pointed them out to me. Tom Stephenson, at, clued me in.

Counter-intuitively, the heating season begins July 1, so all the totals reset to zero. In a few months, cooler weather should begin adding some heating degree days (a temperature-based measure of energy demand for heating) in that column. For now, it’s all about cooling degree days. That season began Jan. 1.

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

July 16, 2011

NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrives at Vesta


Dawn image of VestaEarthlings today reach out to yet another member of our solar system’s family. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft today slips into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. As wide as Arizona, Vesta is the second-biggest object in the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn’s approach photos of Vesta (left) are already twice as sharp as those from the Hubble Space Telescope. After a year at Vesta, Dawn will head for the dwarf planet Ceres.

(NASA PHOTO: Dawn image of Vesta taken July 1, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 15, 2011

Who remembers the Milky Way?

Keith Young, of Baltimore, wrote to me a while back with a poem he'd written. It was about the night sky, and how little of it we can see in these days of obsessive security concerns and excessive urban lighting. (Have your kids EVER seen the Milky Way? I wonder how many haven't.)

The fact is, we don't need all the night lighting we've installed. Much of it is wasted because it's directed upward, illuminating only the undersides of clouds and migrating geese, or sideways, Milky Way, Afghanistanlighting up the neighbors' bedroom. We've washed out the stars.

More full cut-off light fixtures would not only keep the lights aimed where they're needed and bring back the stars. They would also save us lots of electricity and loads of money. Most communities badly need better outdoor lighting ordinances. You can learn more about the issue from the International Dark Sky Association.

But I digress... Here's

(AFP PHOTO: Dimitry Kostyukov, Helmand Province, Afghanistan)

how Keith came to write his poem: 

"One night a while back I found myself fighting an episode of insomnia and sitting up in bed and having a million thoughts race uncontrollably through my head. One of those thoughts had to do with my misfortune of not being able to see some recent astronomical event because I live in the city.

"I was thinking of the words 'night' and 'city light' when all of a sudden I said to myself, 'those words rhyme!' and then ... began to compose a short poem about skywatching and urban light. When morning finally came I wrote down what I had remembered and later added a line or two and made a hundred or so revisions to create the final work that appears below."

And here it is:

                                            NIGHT SKY LOST

 Woe is me! there is much too much urban light
 The dark around me is way too bright
 Only the full moon competes against man’s tungsten white
 I cannot praise the Creator's might
 And cannot see His marvelous works spread across the cosmic site
 The heavenly portends are not in my sight
 (So at least I am spared from having to shake and cower in fright)
 My birth constellation means nothing, it does not hold my destiny tight
 It makes no matter whether I am a Libra- or a Leo- or a Gemin-ite
 Nor can I “wish upon a star” and in the beauty of the Milky Way delight
 My astrolabe is of no use: Should I turn my ship left or right?
 Nor can I see man’s addition to the skies: a space station, a satellite
 (passing all so predictably overhead in a perfect line of flight)
 It is a battle I cannot win and cannot fight
 I am doomed to keep my eyes on the ground and though it is not right
 to abandon any hope to gaze in wonder upon the marvelous height,
 and simply give up seeing the sky at night

-Keith Young

Used with permission

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:40 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Sky Watching

Wow! Atlantis rocket-cam shots from NASA

The sky is my beat, so here's some video from NASA shot from several cameras mounted on Atlantis during this week's historic final shuttle launch. It's a spectacular view we don't often get to see.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

Great weekend to be outdoors

Planning to work on that roof job this weekend? Polishing the car? Caulking the windows? You've picked a great weekend for it. Not too hot ... highs in the mid- to upper-80s, which is about the norm for Baltimore at this time year. And there's no rain in sight.

HammockYou'll need plenty of sunblock, of course. And a hat. The sun angles are still close to the year's maximum. And it's pretty dry, so you'll need lots of fluids to keep you well-hydrated.

And get started early. Conditions will be evolving all weekend, with the high-pressure system that's planted right on top of us today (Friday) moving slowly eastward through the weekend. That means we'll be coming into the return flow around the backside of the clockwise-spinning high. Winds will out of the south and southwest will become increasingly warm and humid.

After rising into the high 80s by Sunday, the mercury will keep on rising into the 90s early next week, forecasters say. We could hit 95 degrees again by Wednesday and Thursday. The only rain in the long-term forecast comes Tuesday with the arrival of another frontal system. There's a 30 percent chance we'll see some showers or thunderstorms as the front goes by.

No outside work planned this weekend? Me neither. You'll find me in the hammock, with a book. Unless my wife has other plans.

(SUN PHOTO: Andre F. Chung, 2007)

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

Heat, cold or the last ash tree?


Dan Hewins, a science teacher at Westminster High, asks: “Is there anything weather-wise that could stop or thwart the emerald ash borer?

This insect is an Asian invader deadly to ash trees. From Michigan in 2003, it has now reached five Maryland counties.

UM entomologist Mike Raupp says, “They have a wide latitudinal range in Asia. They are already well into Canada and as far south as Tennessee. I don’t think weather will be the limiting factor. EAB is more likely to be limited by the range of ash trees in North America.”

(PHOTO: Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing)

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

July 14, 2011

Perfect .... but 90s return next week

There is simply no better July weather available for Baltimore than the weather we're getting today. The forecast high is just 85 degrees, a couple of degrees below the long-term average for this time of year and the coolest day since June 27. Low humidity, a nice breeze ... so why am I stuck here looking OUT at the blue skies over the State Pen?

The weekend forecast is almost that good. Baltimore can expect highs Friday through Sunday in the upper 80s, with no rain and lots of sunshine. The 90-degree weather we've come to know and love resumes next week, with highs rising daily to 95 by Wednesday.

Headed for the beaches? You'll see 80 degrees and no more than some fair-weather clouds right through the weekend, if the forecasters have it right. Be careful with the rip currents, though.

Going west to Deep Creek? The mountain folk are expecting highs in the mid- to upper-70s, with plenty of sunshine. Again, no rain in sight.

Speaking of rain, the new Drought Monitor Map is in, and it reflects a small amount of improvement from the prior week's report. Scattered showers across the Eastern Shore appear to have diminished the extent of the drought there. But not by much.

The territory rated in Severe Drought has retreated a bit away from the coast. It's centered now over Somerset County, the southern half of Wicomico and the western half of Worcester. The territory in severe drought now amounts to 7 percent of the state, down from almost 10 percent last week.

Moderate drought persists from Talbot County south, and in southern portions of Calvert and St. Mary's counties in Southern Maryland. The rest of the state from eastern Washington County east remains in the "abnormally dry" category. 

All told, 86 percent of Maryland is rated from "Abnormally Dry" to "Severe Drought," down from 87 percent last week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Thunder Moon on the rise


Full MoonThe moon is full tonight. As the first full moon since the summer solstice, it’s known to some as the Hay Moon or the Thunder Moon, for reasons that seem clear enough. It’s officially full at 2:38 a.m. EDT  - on Friday morning. Moonrise for Baltimore this evening is at 8:06 p.m. EDT. If you’re out on the beaches tonight, look for Luna to peek over the horizon at 7:58 p.m.  Out at Deep Creek Lake, you’ll have to wait until at least 8:18 p.m. to see the Thunder Moon rise.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron, 2011)

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

July 13, 2011

Hot-in-Baltimore Contest update

This week's hot weather has pushed us to a total of 19 days so far this year with highs of 90 degrees or more. For Hot-in-Baltimore Contest participants that means our low-baller, "BD," is now in Hot in Baltimorethe lead with his lowest-of-all guess of 15 days for the year.

Remember, the winner will be the one who comes closest without going over the actual total. In this case, the second-lowest guess was 21 days, from "Rick." Two more days of 90-plus weather and Rick will take the lead.

There are 24 entries in all. The highest guess was Jason C.'s, with 56 days. The average for Baltimore is 29.4 days. The record is 59 days, set last year.

We're moving into what is statistically the hottest week of the year, from July 16 to 25, so there's still plenty of time to rack up more 90-degree readings. Was there ever a better reason to cheer for another hot, stifling summer in Baltimore?

(SUN PHOTO: Gene Sweeney Jr. July 2011)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:16 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

Any showers today will be the last until next week

Temperatures have already reached 90 degrees before 11 a.m. at The Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets. And forecasters out at Sterling are expecting a high of 94 downtown today.

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: The high at the Inner Harbor just before noon Wednesday was indeed 94 degrees. The showers that rolled through dropped the mercury from 89 degrees at 3 p.m. to 79 degrees at 4 p.m.

But that's likely to be the last of the 90s for Central Maryland until early next week. There's a cold front stretched from West Virginia to southern Pennsylvania this morning, and it's going to sweep July temperatures BWIacross the state this afternoon, preceded, perhaps, by some scattered showers and thunderstorms, especially in Southern Maryland, where they can really use the moisture.  

The frontal passage will open the door to some cooler and drier air out of the northwest. By Thursday afternoon we should be a couple of degrees below the long-term averages for Baltimore at this time of year - in the mid-80s. Nighttime lows will drop into the 60s, with some readings in the 50s in the highlands to our west.

Tuesday's high temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport reached 93 degrees. That fell well short of the 97-degree record for the date. The weather service spent much of the day backtracking from earlier forecasts we'd reach 98 or 97 degrees.

Curiously, it ws the fifth day this month with a high of 93. We've also had 11 days that averaged above the long-term daily norms, and one that matched the average. BWI has seen only 8 days since June 1 with temperatures below the long-term daily averages.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Heat waves

Hot weather causes electric bills to swell


It’s hot, and time again for BGE bills to remind us that cooling our homes costs money. The utility said seven days of 90-plus weather in June, and seven more in July will help jack up everyone’s electric bills this month.

They don’t say how much. That’s hard to calculate since electric commodity prices have fallen. But cooling can account for half our energy use in summer. So brace yourself when that green and white envelope shows up. And check into BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program.

(PHOTO: BGE handout)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Heat waves

July 12, 2011

Forecast highs tweaked downward

So maybe we won't hit 100 degrees in Baltimore today after all. The National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling has tweaked its forecast a bit in response to new model runs. They're now calling for a high at BWI-Marshall Airport of only 95 degrees, down from the 98 they were predicting last night.

(UPDATE, 11:45 a.m.: Just as I post this, the NWS bumps the BWI forecast high today to 97 degrees. New model run, I guess. Stay tuned.)

UPDATED UPDATE, 2:45 P.M.: Tweaked again. The forecast high for BWI is now 94 degrees. The Heat Advisory  has been lifted. 

There's some acknowledgement in the morning forecast discussion , however, that their model guidance has been "running too cool," so they have not gone as low as the models suggest they should. Your weather Cooling offblogger has contended for some time that Sterling routinely undershoots Baltimore's summer heat wave highs by 2 or 3 degrees. We'll see how well they do this time.

The record high for Baltimore for this date is 97 degrees, set in 1908. That may be a bit harder to crack today than it seemed at this time yesterday. But it's not impossible.

In any case, humidity levels will remain high, with dew points in the low 70s. So they're not changing their forecast on Heat Index readings for this afternoon. They're still calling for us to top out between 100 and 105 degrees. 

That's why we remain under a Heat Advisory in Central Maryland today (Tuesday).  From Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties south to the Potomac, and on the Eastern Shore, heat and humidity will combine to increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. Nine people were seen in Baltimore emergency rooms Monday with heat-related illnesses, according to Brian Schleter, of the city Health Department.

We're also under a Code Orange Air Pollution Alert in Central Maryland. We never did reach Code Red levels, as had been forecast for Monday.

The predicted cool-off is still en route. Forecasters had said we'd drop to the high 80s in BaltimoreBaltimore temperatures by Wednesday. But that's been bumped to 92 degrees, with a continuing low risk of showers and storms. The promised cold-front passage is now on the agenda for Wednesday morning and afternoon, moving from north to south.

Winds from the northwest behind the front will finally bring daily high temperatures down into the mid-80s Thursday through Saturday, with noticeably drier conditions. That's actually just a shade below the normal values for this time of year. Should feel great.

The heat and humidity start to return on Sunday as the high moves off the coast and we get the return flow from the south. But forecasters are promising "no big heat waves expected through Monday."

(PHOTO: Reuters, Laszlo Balogh)

Monday night's thunderstorms were pretty spectacular, with rapid-fire lightning and lots of thunder. The piece that rolled across the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville dropped 0.35 inch of rain. The airport clocked 0.17 inch.Lightning

Here are some other rain totals, from the CoCoRaHS Network:

La Plata:  1.01 inch

Easton:  0.89 inch

Kingsville:  0.80 inch

Taneytown:  0.77 inch

Bowie:  0.71 inch

Towson:  0.66 inch

Jacksonville:  0.54 inch

Easton:  0.34 inch

Baltimore:  0.31 inch

Westminster:  0.25 inch

Bel Air: 0.25 inch

Columbia:  0.21 inch

Pasadena:  0.13 inch

(PHOTO: James Willinghan, Howard County)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Neptune is back where we first saw it


Neptune Voyager 2A milestone today for the planet Neptune: Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar says the eighth planet from the sun was first detected in 1844 by the French astronomer Urbain Leverrier. He calculated its likely position based on irregularities in the motion of the seventh planet, Uranus, discovered in 1781.

Neptune was finally seen in a telescope on Sept. 23, 1846, right where Leverrier said it should be. Today, Neptune completes its first complete orbit of the sun since that night. 


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

July 11, 2011

"Derecho" winds not expected to reach Baltimore

Steve Zubrick, the science officer at the National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va., doesn't think the "derecho" winds that have caused damage in a swath across the Upper Midwest today will remain intact by the time they reach Maryland overnight tonight.

But lots of people are watching this unusual storm pattern, which has reportedly produced winds up to 85 mph and hundreds of reports of wind damage from Iowa to Ohio. More than 800,000 customers lost power in the Chicago area as a result of the storms.

Derechos occur when large clusters of thunderstorms produce a broad pattern of high-speed, straight-line winds along a curved front, called a "bow echo" because of their appearance on weather radar. Wind speeds can exceed 50 mph and sometimes reach hurricane force. The wind front can be tens of miles wide and continue for hundreds of miles.

Asked about Monday's storms, Zubrick said, "I'd call this more of an MCV [a mesoscale convective vortex] ...although technically it's pretty close to being a derecho ... Yes...we do get derechos here, but typically we don't. I'm pretty sure this line of storms ... is going weaken as it moves east after passing Western MD. We'll see."

Severe Thunderstorm Watches are posted for Allegany and Washington counties before 11 p.m. tonight. Large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain are possible, with up to three-quarters of an inch of rain.

The forecast for Central Maryland calls for a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 a.m. Less than a tenth of an inch of rain is expected, with more in thunderstorms.

UPDATE, 7 p.m.: The NWS has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 11 p.m. for all of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay. Large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain are possible, along with as much as three-quarters of an inch of rain. Maybe this thing will make it to Baltimore after all.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:14 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Phenomena

Heat Advisory posted for Tuesday as temps near 100

With forecasts calling for highs for Baltimore near 100 degrees Tuesday, the National Weather Service has posted a Heat Advisory from Harford County to Montgomery and south to the Potomac River. Heat Index values will reach 102 to 106 degrees.





Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts, Watches and warnings

Today's air unhealthy for everyone

Planning to head out for a jog today? Better skip it. Air pollution levels in the Baltimore region Monday are forecast to reach levels considered unhealthy for everyone, not just vulnerable groups such as children, ther elderly and the sick.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a CODE RED Air Pollution Alert for Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Cecil and Anne Arundel Counties, as well as Baltimore City. All Baltimore Haze Camresidents are urged to avoid strenuous activity or exercise outdoors today.

In addition, Clean Air Partners, a consortium of regional governments, private sector and advocacy groups, advises Marylanders to turn off lights and electronics when not in use to reduce electric power demand that contributes to air pollution from power plants; avoid lawn mowing; telecommute or use public transit; avoid using chemicals in your lawn or garden.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: This is the first Code Red prediction from the MDE this year, although pollution levels have reached Code Red threshholds on five previous dates (June 8-10, and July 2 and 5). That's fewer Code Orange-or-worse days than last year at this time, but MDE spokesman Randy Mosier said "this yerar's been a little more intense," with more Code Red violations than last year.

Aircraft flown by the University of Maryland over the weekend detected high ozone levels aloft over Virginia. "With a south southwest flow of air, they know that stuff's coming our way," Mosier said.

Today's Code Red forecast was also spurred by a prediction that the development of a bay breeze today would bring a wall of wind up from the southeast, trapping pollutants along the I-95 corridor, in Harford County in particular. Unless a thunderstorm develops, or cloud cover thickens, "I don't think there's much indication we won't hit those [Code Red] levels," Mosier said.

Earlier post resumes:

A Code Orange Pollution Alert has been posted for Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties. On the Eastern Shore, the Code Orange alert is extended to Kent. Queen Anne's, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Worcester Wicomico, Somerset and the Maryland beaches.

A Code Orange Alert means the air is unhealthy for vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly and those with cardiovascular illnesses.

The National Weather Service is predicting high temperatures around 94 degrees Monday at BWI-Marshall Airport. The high could reach 95 degrees in downtown Baltimore. And these forecasts  frequently prove to be too low on hot summer days in Baltimore. Relief coming

In response to the hot-weather forecast, the Baltimore City Health Department has issued a Code Red Heat Alert, opening cooling shelters across the city and sending outreach workers into the community to check on vulnerable residents.

The city has recorded two heat-related deaths so far this season. "Poor air quality combined with high heat and humidity can lead to respiratory distress. It is vitally important that all residents, but especially the elderly, stay cool, drink plenty of clear liquids, avoid alcohol and take it slow if you need to be outside," said Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. For more information: 

Tuesday is expected to be even hotter, with highs forecast to reach 97 degrees at BWI and downtown. But the forecast discussion from Sterling this morning says the forecast models are in broad disagreement about that. So there's some chance we could see triple digit temperatures Tuesday afternoon at BWI. 

The record high temperature for Baltimore on a July 12 is 97 degrees, set in 1908. It's relatively low-hanging fruit - the coolest Baltimore record high for any date in July.

At the very least, we run the risk of triple-digit heat index readings as dew points near 70 degrees drive up the humidity side of the equation. That could get us into Heat Index numbers of 105 degrees or more.

Relief (map above) comes in the form of a cold front due to cross the region Tuesday night. That would drop the humidity level as drier air moves in from the northwest. Temperatures would drop a bit, into the mid-to-upper 80s for the balance of the week.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:43 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Forecasts

Airplane contrails can reduce solar heating


jet contrailsA new study seems to confirm that airplane contrails can reflect sunlight into space, reducing daytime warming below. British researchers studied European weather data from stations below a huge flight of 700 Allied bombers and 500 fighter escorts on May 11, 1944. The vast cloud of contrails slowed morning temperature increases by 2 degrees compared with sites outside the contrail shadow. A similar, but reverse effect was found after U.S. air traffic was grounded on Sept. 11, 2001.

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, 2008)

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

July 10, 2011

Baltimore heat record from 1936 still stands


On this date in 1936, Baltimore saw what is still the highest temperature on record for the city – 107.4 degrees, at 3 p.m. downtown. Cumberland and Frederick reported 109 degrees. The Sun listed 29 residents felled by heat prostration. An evening thunderstorm dropped the mercury by 12 degrees, but also toppled trees, cut phone and power lines and set several houses on fire. Water consumption soared. The day’s low reading was 82 degrees. Hundreds slept in city parks.


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

July 9, 2011

Bay breeze caused Thursday storm to linger


Kary Anne Tamblyn, of Ellicott City, watched Thursday’s storms on radar and noted they seemed to move generally west to east. But those that hit Dundalk, Lansdowne and South Baltimore seemed to stall there. “Why didn’t the stationary storms follow the general west-to-east movement of the other storms?” Blame the bay breeze front.” Southeast winds off the bay collided with the storm, and the updraft caused it to continually “re-fire,” or redevelop over the same spot.

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

July 8, 2011

Flooding in downtown Frederick

Looks like downtown Frederick took a serious hit from the heavy rains this afternoon. Check out these photos.

Any reports from readers there?

The National Weather Service is also reporting flooding in Dundalk, a road closing in PG County due to flooding, and more of the same in Anne Arundel: on Mountain Road at Catherine Avenue, and north of Laurel.

A stranded vehicle was reported in Harford County north of Edgewood. (Wish I could provide exact locations, bu the NWS reports are pretty vague.) Howard County was a little more precise, with a report of street flooding on Rte 1 at North Second Street northeast of Laurel.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:42 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Flooding

Man the pumps! Heavy rain coming

Radar shows what forecasters predicted. There are heavy showers and thunderstorms moving toward the Baltimore area this afternoon.

One forecast model (see clickable map) says they could dump as much as 4 to 7 inches of rain on some locations. But even if that's an outsized prediction, we're almost certain to see several inches at least. Here's what Eric the Red is seeing this afternoon:

"This afternoon and eve ... we appeared primed for a round of potentially torrential downpours. Storms are popping up on radar out ahead of the main event. Models vary greatly ... with the GFS coming in with a modest 0.50 inch ...The WRF, however, is totally jiggy with this storm, and has a forecast of 4 to 7 inches of rain for this afternoon and tonight... They both seem a little (or alot) under/over done, but if I had to lean, I'd go toward the higher end. A 1 to 3-inch rain event seems like a good bet, with locally higher totals."

Later, he added, "Some of these [storms] will likely be severe, with strong winds and/or hail. There's also the risk of a small tornado."

Indeed, the National Weather Service this afternoon posted Severe Thunderstorm Watches until 9 p.m. for all of Central Maryland, and a Flash Flood Watch until 6:45 p.m. for all the northern tier of counties from Washington east to Harford. One to three inches of rain are predicted with the storms.

What are you seeing? Leave us comments until the computer goes under.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:53 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Flooding, Forecasts

Spotty storms drop up to 3.5 inches

Overnight thunderstorms dropped as much as 3.5 inches of rain in some locations across Central Maryland. But while the slow-moving tropical downpours were intense, they were also spotty, dropping more than in inch, for example, in Bel Air, but almost nothing in Elkton. BWI reported just 0.10 inch.

The highest rain totals in the region were recorded north of Towson. Jacksonville reported 3.58 inches in the 24 hours ending at 8 this morning. We clocked 3.06 inches on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville overnight, bringing the 24-hour total to 4.14 inches. That's more than a month's worth of rain in 24 hours.

The deluge flooded sections of Papermill Road and York Road at Beaver Run. Downed trees and power outages were widespread elsewhere across the region. For more, click here.

The lightning shot is another great photo from James Willinghan, in Howard County.James Willinghan

Here are some other 24-hour rain totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Cockeysville: 2.17 inches

Ellicott City:  1.33 inches

Bel Air:  1.08 inches

Catonsville:  1.02 inches

Columbia:  0.76 inch

Baltimore:  0.58 inch

Reisterstown:  0.52 inch

Towson:  0.32 inch

Severn:  0.13 inch

Westminster:  0.07 inch

The forecast from Sterling calls for more of the same later today (Friday). As much as 1 to 2 inches of additional rain is possible overnight tonight, then ending Saturday morning.

(PHOTO: James Willinghan. Used with permission.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: By the numbers

U.S. nearly alone using Fahrenheit


Ella Wilkerson, in Owings Mills, asks: “How many countries still use Fahrenheit, and … what is better for reporting weather – Fahrenheit or Celsius?

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit’s 1724 invention is still in everyday use only in the U.S. and Belize. Scientists here use Celsius. But for weather, we’ve refused to join the rest of the planet. Among our (lame) excuses are that Celsius degrees are larger, requiring more decimals for precision; and the zero point is higher, requiring more negatives.

(PHOTO: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 7, 2011

And the heat goes on ...

Looking for some relief from the 90-ish temperatures and high humidity? Be here tomorrow (Friday). The NWS folks in Sterling are offering us a high of only 84 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport. And that's about the only break we see in the forecast.

There's a frontal boundary draped across the mid-Atlantic states, with hot and humid to the south and cooler, drier air to the north. That's been responsible for the monotonous string of hot, tropically humid days and scattered showers. We've had just two high temperatures at BWI since July began - 89 degrees on the 1st, 4th and 6th, and 93 on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th. There's also another Code Orange Air Pollution Alert in effect today. Breathing outdoors will be unhealthy for sensitive groups. NOT breathing is also not recommended. Go indoors and breathe there.

The system is finally going to get booted off the coast in the next two days as a coastal low moves up the Atlantic seaboard. We'll see some stepped-up showers and storms in the process, especially along the Mason-Dixon line, forecasters said. It will also bring us some slightly cooler (mid- to upper-80s) temperatures Friday and Saturday.

Forecasters say we could see up to a quarter inch tonight, Friday and again Friday night before the system finally gets by us. Any rain would be welcome. Eighty-seven percent of Maryland is now rated abnormally dry, with the southern half of the Eastern Shore and extreme Southern Maryland now officially in drought. The three southernmost Shore counties are now in severe drought, according to the federal Drought Monitor

The USDA Weather and Crops report for July 3 quoted crop reporters' concern for the corn crop "due to lack of much needed rainfall. Some areas reported signs of stress and producers in Delaware reported areas of damage to the corn crop due to excessive drought conditions. Another concern was rainfall may come too late to help crop progress."

The arrival of dry high pressure behind the front will clear the skies, but it will also send afternoon highs back into the 90s for the first half of next week before another cold front arrives with renewed chances for some rain.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

On losing the daylight


John Polyniak writes from Lake Shore: “What month has the biggest loss of sunlight, and what month has the biggest increase in sunlight?” As sunrises get later and sunsets grow earlier in late summer and fall, the hours and minutes of sunlight diminish. The U.S. Naval Observatory says Baltimore loses 73 minutes of daylight in September. The October loss is slower, but the month is a day longer, so it adds up to another 73 minutes. March sees the biggest gains, at 77 minutes.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

July 6, 2011

Scary "haboob" strikes Phoenix suburbs

A huge dust storm, with a wall of dust that slowly engulfed the Phoenix area Tuesday evening and turned day into night, has been captured on plenty of video cameras. Here's one. Weather professionals are calling it "impressive ... historic." Some natives Arizonans are saying it's the worst "monsoon season" dust storm they've seen. Just another extreme event to add to the list we've chalked up in the past two years.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cool pictures

Calendar rarity, or internet hoax?


July 2011A friend recently forwarded an email message alerting me to a calendar rarity: “This year, July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens once every 823 years.” Pretty cool, except that it’s not true.

It’s yet another internet hoax, and it pops up every few months. Any month with 31 days that starts on Friday has five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For any such month, the repeats come in interval cycles of six, five, six and then 11 years. The next July with five full weekends is in 2016.  

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 5, 2011

More 90s due this week and next

We're getting close to the height of summer heat for Central Maryland, so it's no surprise that forecasters are calling for highs near 90 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport Tuesday and Wednesday.

The heat and strong sun are helping to stoke air pollution chemistry. Central Maryland is under 4th of July Baltimoreanother Code Orange air pollution alert Tuesday. The alert means air pollution levels may become unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or cardiac conditions. The effects can be minimized by avoiding strenuous outdoor activity.  

The average daily high temperature for Baltimore at this time of year is 87 degrees, one tick short of the 88 degrees that marks the maximum for the year. That's reached between the 16th and the 25th of July. After that, the daily norms begins to slip as the length of the day shortens and sun angles begin to decline.

There's a front stalled across the region this week, which explains the persistent, if slight, chance of showers and thunderstorms Tuesday through Thursday. After that, high pressure in the Great Lakes should give the system a shove from the northwest. That will bring in some drier air, but only slightly cooler, with weekend highs close to the seasonal averages. We'll take it. Great beach weekend ahead. Don't forget the sunblock.

By early next week, the highs will be pushing back into the low 90s. For Hot-in-Baltimore contestants, the year's tally of 90-plus days now stands at 12 through Monday. The lowest guess was 15 days, by BD. By this time last year, we had counted 22. The annual average is about 29 days.

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston 2011)

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

Wallops Minotaur launch seen from Hampden

Just back from vacation and found this photo in my inbox. William "Bear" Stifler, who has captured lots of striking weather images from his place in Hampden, went out last Wednesday to try to capture the Minotaur launch.

It worked. From more than 115 miles away, Bear snapped the 70-foot rocket as it climbed toward Minotaur launch Baltimoreorbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The cargo was an Air Force battlefield imaging satellite called ORS-1.

Looks like his time exposure may have caught the ignition of the rocket's second stage, the bright knot of light about halfway up the streak. Not bad amid city lights. 

By lucky coincidence, Bear also spied the International Space Station as it flew over an hour or so before the Minotaur liftoff. Here's his note:

"They were both much brighter than I expected. I would have liked to have caught both with the camera, but they were originally scheduled at nearly the same time, and I set up to catch the launch, so I was not in position to get the ISS flyover.

"Anyway, attached is a photo of the launch from my perch here in Hampden - my first crack at a rocket launch, so it was kind of a test/learning experince. Next time I'll know where exactly on the horizon to focus, and I'll use a longer exposure. I'm not totally satisfied, but if you'd like to, go ahead and use it. I'll bet there are probably some nice shots from the shore you'll be coming across."

What about that? Did anyone else snap some good pictures of the launch? How about all you lucky Marylanders downy ayshun? Ocean City? Assateague? Email your launch photos and I'll post 'em. Bathing beauty pictures I'll keep for myself. 

(PHOTO: William "Bear" Stifler. Used with permission.) 

Steve Zubrick, science officer at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., also saw the launch. Here's his report:

"I witnessed the 1109 PM EDT/Wed 29 Jun 2011 launch of the OSR#1 Minotaur rocket from near my house in Herndon VA...128 miles away from Wallops Spaceport.

"Had a clear view from Herndon Elementary to the SE...and was able to see the red/orange glow of the rocket as it lifted off (fast) above the horizon.

"Was able to watch 2 of the stage separations...the 1st one was spectacular.

"Not bad for so far away! - Steve Z"

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cool pictures

Low-level NASA flights today

NASA officials say they expect to be flying their P-3B Orion over Central Maryland today (Tuesday), part of their July air-pollution sampling campaign.

NASA P-3B OrionThe notice says the four-engine turbo-prop will be in the skies over the Baltimore-Washington region from dawn until 1:30 p.m. The aircraft is expected to fly over I-95 between the Washington and Baltimore beltways.

So, first, if you see the plane buzzing the interstate at 1,000 feet, don't panic. It's the government, and everything is under control. And second, drop us a comment here and describe what you saw.

Are these flights really unsettlingly low? Or do they blend in pretty well with the usual approaches and departures for BWI-Marshall Airport? 

(PHOTO: NASA handout)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:54 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Sky Watching

July 2, 2011

Mules saved the day during July 1889 deluge


Rain July 1889Rainfall in Baltimore in July 1889 totaled 11.03 inches, the most for any month since records began in 1871. The deluge didn’t end until the 31st with a 3.65-inch downpour that washed out bridges, flooded crops and homes.

A temporary bridge on Harford Road, erected over Herring Run after a flood on the 13th washed out the first bridge, was nearly torn away by “an immense tree” swept into the trestle. Neighbors hitched six mules to the tree, dragged it off and saved the bridge.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

July 1, 2011

Philadelphia weather on July 2, 1776


Thos. JeffersonAmong all the other things he became famous for, Thomas Jefferson was a devoted chronicler of the weather wherever he found himself.

In July 1776, of course, he was in Philadelphia, voting on the Declaration of Independence he largely wrote himself. But he kept a faithful record of the temperature, too.

On July 2, the day of the vote, he noted it was 78 degrees at 6 a.m. and still at 9:40 a.m. By the time Tom got back to his lodgings (one supposes) at 9 p.m., it was 74 degrees.

(Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition
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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
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