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October 31, 2011

View of October snowstorm from space


NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the rare October snowstorm at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, showing snow cover from West Virginia to Maine.

The storm claimed 12 lives, and 2.2 million homes remained without power as of Monday, Reuters reported. 

What's your reaction to this early snow? Share in the comments. 

Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Posted by Kim Walker at 5:12 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Cool pictures

All Hallows' Eve meant the start of winter


It’s Hallowe’en, the eve of another “cross-quarter day” – halfway between the autumnalJack O' Lantern equinox and the winter solstice. For many of our ancestors, this evening marked the beginning of winter, the loss of daylight and the sun’s warmth, and the “death” of plant life.

Ghosts and goblins prowled the night and bonfires were built to drive them back.

Christians co-opted the pagan feast day of Samhain, on Nov. 1, as “All Saints (or All Hallows) Day.”   

(PHOTO: Andrey Armyagov)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

October 30, 2011

Europe switches to Standard Time today


Clock in SwitzerlandThis is the last Sunday in October, and time for folks in Europe to turn their clocks back an hour to European Standard Time. That will reduce the time difference between Baltimore and Paris to just five hours, at least until the U.S. switches to Standard Time on the first Sunday in November – the 6th – restoring the six-hour difference. The U.S. goes back to Daylight Saving Time on the second Sunday in March; Europe follows on the last Sunday in March.

(PHOTO: Christian Hartmann, Reuters)

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

October 29, 2011

Winter weather advisory in effect for area

A winter weather advisory is in effect for the Baltimore-Washington area Saturday, as the National Weather Service is predicting that a storm could hit the region with as much as four inches of snow.

The forecast calls for a mix of rain and snow during the morning, shifting to all snow by noon.

The NWS has issued the advisory from Harford County to Prince William County, Va., until 8 p.m., on Saturday and says that much of the area could see one to two inches of snow, while areas at elevations above 800 feet could see up to four inches. Accumulating snow should end by late afternoon, the NWS said.

Gale warnings are in effect for the middle and lower Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay as well as the tidal Potomac inlet, and a small craft advisory is in effect for the northern Chesapeake Bay and upper tidal Potomac River, the NWS said.

-Joe Burris

Posted by Kim Walker at 9:09 AM | | Comments (2)

Webb telescope a marvel, if it's launched


Spent time this week at the Maryland Science Center and learned a lot about the James Webb Space Telescope, which if completed will succeed the Hubble Telescope as the world’s leading observatory. Shade from a five-layer sunshield will keep Webb’s infrared sensors at minus-387 degrees F, while heat on the sun side rises to 185 degrees. Its 18 beryllium mirrors are so smooth, if they were scaled up to the size of the U.S., the tallest “mountain” would still be just two inches high.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

October 28, 2011

Trick or Treat? Five or more in. of snow due Sat.

This is some sort of cruel joke, right? The old weather guy goes out with not just a farewell cake, but an October snowstorm, too? Really?!?

Alas, that appears to be the case. The National Weather Service has posted a Winter Storm Watch for all of Western Maryland, and for the northern tier of counties including Carroll, Frederick, Harford and northewrn Baltimore County.

The Watch calls for the "potential" for five or more inches of snow in portions of the state on Saturday. It would begin overnight tonight as rain, then change over to snow Saturday morning and continue through Saturday afternoon.

The snow forecast map (clickable, above) is a bit less outrageous. It shows a small pocket of 6-inch accumulations in extreme northwestern Carroll and northeastern Frederick, surrounded by gradually diminishing totals of 4, 2 and 1-inch totals. For Baltimore and its immediate suburbs, they're looking for less than an inch. And to the south and east of I-95, there's just rain.

But, hey ... it's still October, already. Not even Hallowe'en. The snowiest day on record for Baltimore in October was the 2.5 inches that fell Oct. 30, 1925. In fact, there have been only four days since official record-keeping began here that ANY measurable snow has fallen on Baltimore.

Oct. 30, 1925:  2.5 inches

Oct. 19, 1940:  0.4 inch

Oct. 20, 1940:  0.9 inch

Oct. 10, 1979:  0.3 inch

An inch of snow at BWI this weekend could make this the second-snowiest October day on record for Baltimore. 

Here's how sees the storm, which could deliver as much as 6 to 12 inches from western Virginia and Maryland to central New England. And here (below) is some of what Eric the Red and Prof. Jeff Halverson, at UMBC, are saying about Saturday's snow forecast:

Eric the Red: "The models agree that the storm will deepen rapidly and ride up the coast. If it takes a more westerly track, then we'll get into warmer air -especially aloft - and we'll see mostly cold rain, changing to wet snow befpore ending.

"If the storm tracks a bit farther east, many areas - especially north and west of I-95 and DC -  will experience a rare significant October snowfall.

"The official forecast has northern Maryland in a 1-4" snow forecast, while locales closer to I-95 are in a Trace to an inch category ... I think the chance of accumulating snow is high across much of northern and western MD, while rain could dominate in the primary urban areas."

Prof. Halverson: "This storm is predicted to have classic, if not textbook, dynamics...including phasing of northern and southern jet stream energy, and it will tap very significant amounts of Atlantic moisture.   It will be quite vigorous and is expected to "bomb out" or deepen rapidly off the coast, as it retreats north of Baltimore.

"The trend in the models has been towards a colder solution, with the snow
accumulation swatch creeping ever closer (southward) toward D.C./Baltimore.  I still think the
bullseye will be just north of Mason-Dixon, w/ a 6"-12" swath running across eastern PA into
northern NJ.  

"Snowfall rates could approach 2"-3" w/ thundersnow, as one or more stationary
snow bands will likely set up along or north of Mason-Dixon.   This will likely be a very wet,
dense snow.  Because so many trees still bear foliage, there is the potential for unprecedented,
widespread power outages, and temporary closure of major interstates such as I-78

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Winter weather

Jupiter at opposition tonight; grab the binocs


The planet Jupiter reaches opposition at 10 p.m. EDT tonight. That means it is “opposite” the sun from our perspective on the Earth. The gas giant now rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, and it reaches its highest point in the sky at 1 a.m. EDT. Opposition is also the middle of the best time of year to see Jupiter, currently the brightest star-like object in the evening sky. A good pair of binoculars will reveal its four Galilean moons, lined up on either side of the planet’s disk.

(NASA PHOTO: Jupiter and its Galilean moons)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

October 27, 2011

Snow talk cranks up

It is way too early in the season to be writing about snow, but I don't see how I can avoid it this afternoon. Both Eric the Red and are posting snow chatter, even snow maps. It's Oct. 27!

A coastal storm is expected to crank up on Saturday, dragging unusually cold (for this time of year) air down from the northeast, and throwing a lot of Atlantic moisture into it. AccuWeather.comforecasters are calling for as much as 6 to 10 inches of wet snow for inland portions of the Northeast, from Massachusetts west and south into northwestern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

For us, they're predicting up to 3 to 6 inches in part of the mountain west, and 1 to 3 inches across a swath of the northernmost Maryland counties. We'll see. The biggest October snowfall on record for Baltimore was the 2.5-inch snowfall on Oct. 29, 1925.'s Elliot Abrams said the amount of snow the I-95 corridor sees - if any - will depend on how the temperatures line up. A few degrees either way will make all the difference, so elevation, distance from the still-warm Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic will be critical to who among us sees white on Saturday. 

"The bulk of the storm just north and west of I-95 will be wet snow, but even in cities from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to Wilmington, Del., Philadelphia, Trenton, N.J., New York City, Providence, R.I. and Boston, rain will become mixed with or change over completely to wet snow," said.

The National Weather Service in Sterling is less encouraging to snow-lovers in the corridor: "This forecast includes a significant shift from previous forecast, including more widespread rain/snow wording. Cannot rule out possibility of advisory-level snow in Shenandoah Valley and at elevation. Such wording will be featured in the Hazardous Weather Outlook. Precipitation expected to remain as rain in Interstate 95 corridor owing to warm surface temperatures."

Eric the Red is pretty high on the snow forecast, but leaves it mostly to our west:

"It seems to me that we are now in for an unprecedented  Mid-Atlantic and Northeast snow for inland locales, and a wet snow or wind-driven rain closer to I-95." He sees the potential for "some record-setting snow in the Piedmont and Mountains of Va., W.Va., Md., Pa. and points northeast."

He foresees "mostly cold rain" for the I-95 corridor. "But if the storm strengthens enough and tracks right along the coast, wet snow could enter the equation ... It appears that precipitation may change back to all rain in the Eastern Piedmont and immediate burbs, and then change back to snow as the storm winds up and begins to draw cold air back into the center."

"In areas that receive mostly snow, falling branches and trees and toppled power lines will be a big concern. Winds will also be an issue."

Nice. And it's not even Hallowe'en. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather

Freeze watch posted tonight for northern counties

We're in for a drippy day today in Central Maryland as we wait for the next cold front to moveNWS through late this afternoon. And once it finally gets by us, we're in for some of the first really nippy temperatures of the season.

The National Weather Service forecasters at Sterling have posted a Freeze Watch for the early hours of Friday morning, from Allegany County across Maryland's northern tier of counties to northern Baltimore County and Harford (dark blue on the map). The city and southern Baltimore County are not included. The forecast low for BWI tonight is 38 degrees.

Low temperatures in the watch zone will reach the low 30s, forecasters say. "A Freeze Watch means sub-freezing temperatures are possible. These conditions could kill crops and other sensitive vegetation."

AccuWeather.comFriday still looks good, with sunny skies. But daytime highs will only reach the low 50s. And the forecast from there goes downhill again.

Another low pressure system arrives from the Carolinas late Friday and Saturday just as a new surge of cold air moves through the region. Forecasters expect a cold and rainy coastal storm to develop, with Saturday's highs only in the 40s at BWI, and an 80 percent chance of rain.

"Hate to mention it," this morning's forecast discussion adds, "but precipitation initially falling into a rather chilly air mass ... which will only be enhanced by evaporative/diurnal/dynamic cooling processes. Thus, need to consider elevation-dependent snow or snow/rain mix during the late night/early morning hours. ... Changing to snow around 1,500 feet."

For Central Maryland, puts the rain/snow line well to our north, somewhere around Philadelphia. They also add some storm-track uncertainties. Here's their discussion of the Saturday storm possibilities.

Whatever, looks like a good day for a book and a fire in the fireplace. Or a pub.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:05 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Forecasts

Sun sets on 31-year Sun career

This past August I marked 40 years in the newspaper business, including more than 31 years in Baltimore, first at The Evening Sun and, after 1993, at The Sun. This week will be my last. I am taking a buyout, extended by the newspaper at my request, and retiring.

When I started in the business in 1971, we worked on manual typewriters and carried a pocket full of change so we could call in stories from the nearest pay phone. My first daily - the New Bedford Tip O'NeillStandard-Times - was still setting advertising copy on their old hot-lead Linotype machines when I joined up. We never saw a computer there. On deadline, editors ripped stories out of my typewriter three paragraphs at a time. "Cut and paste" in those days involved 10-inch shears and a glue pot.  

Today, of course, it's all about computers and smart phones and video. A couple of weeks ago I took my new iPhone and filed notes and photos from Dinosaur Park in Laurel as paleontologists dug up a 110-million-year-old fossil. I've written The Sun's online Maryland Weather Blog - the paper's first online blog - for seven years. And I'm a tweeter, too.

It's all been great fun. I have ridden in limos with Presidential candidates (okay, one - George H.W., back in New Bedford during the 1980 Massachusetts primary), met and interviewed senators and congressmen, governors and mayors, Nobel Prize winners, scientists, astronomers, astronauts and many, many ordinary people somehow caught up in the news. 

I lugged my Underwood portable typewriter to Newport, R.I. to cover Klaus von Bulow's first trial for The Evening Sun. I watched and reported on at least three space shuttle launches, and the opening of three 17th-century lead coffins in St. Mary's City. And on some very sad days, I wrote the lead stories on the sinking of the Pride of Baltimore, the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle accidents, and the closing of The Evening Sun.

Over the years I have traveled on assignment to report on the appalling health care system in the Biplane rideMarshall Islands, a U.S. dependancy in the Pacific; the impact of mad cow disease on ranchers and stockyard operators in Alberta, Canada; the nanotechnology revolution at labs in California, and a solar eclipse in West Texas. I went to sea to cover the Navy's salvage of the turret of the Civil War ironclad Monitor, off North Carolina, and nearly lost my lunch on assignment in an aerobatic biplane (photo, left) and a Maryland DNR seaplane on bay patrol.   

I've never revealed this to the newspaper, but at one point, after I had covered the city schools for a time, I was invited by Bob Embry to apply for the top public relations job in the city school system. I got as far as an interview with then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, in his City Hall office. My ideas about providing reporters with the truth - good and (when necessary) bad - about the city schools were somewhat out of synch with the mayor's, and my candidacy went down, mercifully, in flames.

I was always proud to work for the Baltimore Sun - evening and morning. Unlike the New Bedford Standard-Times, people had heard of The Sun. From anywhere in the country, they returned my phone calls. I was proud that a newspaper our size saw the importance of maintaining bureaus in seven foreign capitals. Our smart, brave correspondants sought out unique stories, and gave us a fresh perspective on events and people, from war zones and other places where most of us would never venture. We had our own Washington bureau and a national staff that could go anywhere in the country where there were interesting and important stories to be written. 

The industry has changed, and such things are more difficult, or impossible. But The Sun remains a place where smart, talented and energetic reporters, photographers and editors work every day to keep Marylanders informed, and the public officials in our democracy under Thirtyscrutiny. There are still no other newsrooms in the state equipped to provide the kind of state and local coverage this one does. Most of what you read or hear or see elsewhere is derivative. Our  work at The Sun is worthy of your support, both as readers and advertisers.

I am closing my career to - as we so often write about others -  "spend more time with my family." My wife retired in June after 30 years teaching children in both special and elementary education in Baltimore County schools. Our own two kids grew up and went to school here; they've amazed us with their own accomplishments, and made us proud. And now our first grandchild - a boy - is due, literally, tomorrow.

The Maryland Weather blog will continue, online and in print, but with others at the helm. I plan to continue to Tweet at, although I really need to get rid of that picture.    

I am thankful to the old A.S. Abell Company for giving me a chance; to the eight publishers and countless sharp-eyed editors I've worked for since 1980, and to Baltimore for being such a great place to do this work. 

Thanks, also, to everyone who has ever answered my calls, agreed to an interview or just read my stories or weather blog posts over the years. I hope you learned as much reading them as I did reporting and writing them. My sincere apologies to those whose names I have misspelled, or who may have wished I'd stayed in Massachusetts.

May we all enjoy better weather.

(PHOTOS: Top: A private word with Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, D-Mass., at the opening of the Kennedy Library, Boston 1979 [That's me on the right with the '70s moustache]; Middle: An aerobatic ride for an air show story, Martin Airport, about 1993 [still with the moustache]' Bottom: my work home.)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:17 AM | | Comments (59)
Categories: Notes to readers

Southwest droughts can last centuries


NASAIn September, 10 percent of the lower 48 states was in “exceptional” drought, the worst category. About 4 percent, from New Mexico into Texas and Oklahoma, was experiencing the worst drought since 1900. Conditions are approaching those in the 1950s and 1930s, according to the Earth Gauge Program.

But scientists have learned that some droughts in the region in the past half-million years have been worse, and lasted centuries. The early 20th century was one of the wettest periods in the Southwest since at least AD 1400.




Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

October 26, 2011

Weather turning colder, wetter

Near 70 today; 60s Thursday; 50s Friday. That's how the forecast from Sterling goes this afternoon. And they're throwing in rainy days for Thursday and Saturday for good measure as a AccuWeather.comcold front and coastal low affect the region.

The most interesting thing in the seven-day predictions from the NWS is the temperature drop. Central Maryland will be looking at overnight lows in the 30s by Thursday night into Friday, after daytime highs sink from near 70 today, to the 50s on Friday. 

Low pressure tracking along the front will encounter that cold air early Friday, "That could provide a brief period of snow showers or snow/rain showers at the conclusion," forecasters said today, especially in the western mountains. The real accumulating snow will fall well to our north, as the map above shows.

After a sunny day Friday, they're expecting a coastal low to move this way, running into still-cold air at the surface. "There's still uncertainty as to how everything will unfold," forecasters said. "And since boundary layer temps still on the cool side, am also uncertain as to what form precipitation would come overnight as if it did fall. Would stay tuned to the Friday night/Saturday forecast..."

Sunday looks sunny and nice, as do the first days of the new work week, with daytime highs creeping back up through the 50s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

New moon at perigee today; watch for high tides


NASAAt 9 a.m. today, the moon will stand at perigee, less than 56 Earth radii away – just 221,874 miles. It’s the second-smallest distance between Earth and moon this year (after Mar. 19), and it occurs just seven hours before the moment of the new moon, at 3:56 p.m. EDT this (Wednesday) afternoon.

The combination of the nearness of the moon at perigee, and its alignment in front of the sun, may bring some unusually high tides today.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

October 25, 2011

Clear tonight, but rain/snow mix hinted in forecast

Looks like these clear skies will hold into this evening, opening a slim chance of seeing some more of the northern lights that reached down into Maryland and beyond on Monday night. Later in the week, forecasters are calling for showers, colder temperatures and even a risk of some wet flakes in the mix.

The high pressure bringing us these clear skies and sunshine will drift to the southeast. That will AccuWeather.comadmit some increasing cloudiness early Wednesday. Temperatures could reach 70 degrees - the last we'll see of that number for a while.

The arrival of a cold front Wednesday will open the door to a storm system that forecasters say will deliver showers beginning early Thursday morning, and continuing into Thursday evening. 

And there the forecast models diverge. One predicts enough cold air moving in behind the front to change rain showers into snow showers, at least in the western mountains. Others see no such problems ahead. Here's on the prospects.

Partly sunny skies return on Friday, but a new low forms along the coast, bringing a renewed threat of rain showers Friday night into Saturday. Daytime highs on Friday at BWI-Marshall Airport won't leave the mid-50s. The forecast lows from Thursday night through Sunday night are in the 30s. (Have you switched on the furnace yet?)

The NWS forecast discussion for Friday night into Saturday says: "Best chances for precipitation will be eastern zones, and gradient likely will be sharp. Possibility for mix of rain/snow will have to be monitored, if airmass proves sufficiently cold."

For now, at least, the official predictions for mixed precipitation are limited to higher elevations and portions of north-central Maryland.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Auroral display was visible in Maryland

A blast of solar particles and magnetic energy from the sun struck the Earth Monday afternoon. The impact compressed the Earth's magnetic field on the sunward side of the planet and triggered bright displays of the aurora borealis - the Northern Lights.

The displays were visible across the U.S., as far south as New Mexico, Arkansas and North Aurora, Shawn MaloneCarolina. Observers in Maryland spotted them, too, although, sadly, I was not among them.

An iReporter from Potomac, Md., named Kaidi, on, said, "I saw said aurora is underway and very strong. So I took my Canon 10D and went out to the deck. I can see some reddish color in the northwestern sky and aimed my camera at that direction. Each photo is exposed for 10 to 15 seconds." Here are her images.

Some observers said the display was the brightest they had ever seen. Here is a gallery of images from around the world.

If you missed the display, as I did, you can sign up for text alerts from so you can catch the next ones.  They are not free, as stated in an earlier version of this post. It will run you $4.95 a month. On the other hand, you wouldn't have missed last night's display.

If you saw the display last night it, drop a comment here and share the experience with the rest of us poor unfortunates. Thanks! 

The geomagnetic storm was triggered by a large coronal mass ejection from the sun over the weekend. The storm is subsiding now, but it might be worth another look tonight if our skies stay clear. 

(PHOTO: Shawn Malone, in Marquette, Mich. Used with permission)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:49 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Sky Watching

2011 ozone hole was ninth-largest on record


NASA It’s spring in the Antarctic, and time to measure the ozone hole.

This gap in the natural layer of stratospheric ozone that protects the surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation forms each spring. It’s a consequence of pollution by manmade chemicals called CFCs.

Levels of long-lived CFCs have been in slow decline since phase-in of a 1987 ban. But scientists don’t expect the ozone hole to heal until mid-century.

This year’s was the ninth largest on record, at 10 million square miles.

(NASA IMAGE: Ozone hole Oct. 21, 2011)

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

October 24, 2011

New storm could become hurricane for the Yucatan

The National Hurricane Center is watching Tropical Storm Rina, the 17th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, as it strengthens and moves toward Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

National Hurricane CenterRina became a tropical storm Sunday night. At last check it was 190 miles southwest of Grand Cayman Island, and 370 miles east-southeast of Chetumal, Mexico. Top sustained winds were blowing at 45 mph, and the storm was moving at 6 mph to the northwest.

Rina was forecast to become a hurricane by Tuesday night, only the fifth hurricane of the season. Interests in Belize and on the Yucatan were advised to monitor the storm. 

UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Rina is now a hurricane, and is expected to become a Cat. 3 "major" hurricane by late Tuesday. Earlier post resumes below:

Forecasters were predicting 1 to 3 inches of rain on the northeast coast of Honduras, and 2 to 4 inches in the Cayman Islands.

Most forecast storm tracks keep the storm in the northwest Caribbean through the rest of the week. Here is the latest advisory on Rina. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the latest forecast discussion.  

Only four storm names remain on the 2011 list: Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

Showery midweek will yield to "fallish" weekend

A pair of cold fronts will punctuate the week for Central Maryland, ushering in a fine day on Tuesday, a rainy couple of days at mid-week, followed by a sunny and cool autumn weekend.

The first frontal system is due through the region Monday afternoon, ending a mostly cloudy dayAutumn in Baltimore with mild temperatures borne on southwest winds. The southerly component of the wind has triggered a Coastal Flood Advisory, but forecasters are expecting the water to rise only a foot or less above tide table predictions for Arundel's shores. 

This evening's cold front is draped south from a low-pressure center moving across Canada. Scattered showers may accompany the front, especially north and west of the urban corridor, forecasters said. 

By this evening, the front will have moved across the Chesapeake, and we'll start to get cooler, drier air moving in from the west-northwest. Lows tonight will sink back to the 40s.

Tuesday looks perfect, with sunny skies and highs in the mid-60s. If you have a mental health day coming, take it.

AccuWeather.comShower chances rise again on Wednesday ahead of the next cold front and an accompanying low-pressure system, especially for the northwest suburbs. The cold front settles in by Thursday morning, with lots of clouds and shower chances rising to 60 percent. is making quite a lot of this event. The NWS is much more ho-hum, at least for Central Maryland. Eric the Red has even ventured the S-word. (See jump, below.)

Once that front moves out, the weather will turn cooler, drier and blustery, as colder Canadian air moves in behind it, forecasters said. High temperatures Friday and through the weekend will stall out in the mid-50s, which is 5 or 10 degrees below the seasonal averages. Lows will drop into the 30s Saturday night into Sunday.

A perfect weekend ahead for a fall walk in the woods. 

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, November 1994)

Here's Eric the Red on the possibility of a snow event late this week:

"Things could get a bit interesting here by the end of the week, although it is a bit early to be thinking snow storm.  But there are enough "oh my"s in the group to at least toss out the idea that cold rain or perhaps some wet snow might be in the offing for the weekend, with lots of time to sort it out.  And for what it's worth, if I'm placing bets, it would be on the "No Snow" side, but this is worth keeping an eye on.  The timing - as it stands now - would be Friday night into Saturday.

"The models are in very good agreement that a cold front will come through on Thursday, with the coldest air of the season settling into the region Friday.  The models then have a storm developing over the Southeast and track it to the Mid-Atlantic coast by Saturday, producing cold rain or wet snow, with snow chances - under this scenario - greatest in the higher terrain north and west of town (Piedmont into the mountains.

"The 'Oh my' camp includes the GFS (US NWS model), ECMWF (European), and Navy NOGAPS.  The Canadian also has a doozie, but it tracks far enough west that it is cold rain.  The outlier is the NAM, which has no southeastern storm, and actually allows us to warm up on Thursday.  Of this group, the ECMWF has by far the biggest bang for the buck, and would support a historic late-autumn snow storm for much of the Northeast.  Actually, the UKMET (run by the good folks in the UK) just came in, and it too goes bonkers.  Hmmm.

"I really was hesitant about sending this out, cos there are so many things working against a snow event in late October, first and foremost that it's late October.  Couple that with an unfavorable NAO (no blocking high over the nrn Atlantic) and no bitter cold air to work with, and it just doesn't seem to add up.  But, every major extended range model forecast from this morning has something either awfully close or right on our front porch, so I wanted to give an early FYI."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

The galaxy awaits; have a look, Friday in Dundalk


Andromeda GalaxyHave you taken a good look at your galaxy lately? You really need to pay more attention to it. And if the skies cooperate, you’ll get another chance this Friday evening.

The Dundalk Observatory, at the Community College of Baltimore County, will hold another of its autumn observing sessions, starting at 8 p.m. on the CCBC campus, 7200 Sollers Point Road.

Jupiter will be rising in the east. If clouds threaten, call 410 282-3092 after 7:15 p.m. for a go/no-go check.


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

October 23, 2011

Busy storm season, but just five hurricanes


Hurricane Irene in OCThe 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is quieter now as we near the end of October. There have been 16 named storms, from Tropical Storm Arlene through Hurricane Philippe. That’s well above the 9.6 seasonal average, and just what Colorado State University forecasters predicted. We’re short on hurricanes, however – just five — a bit below average and well below the 6 to 10 predicted by forecast teams. Irene and Lee caused quite enough excitement here, thanks. The season ends officially Nov. 30.  

(SUN PHOTO: Irene hits Ocean City, Karl Merton Ferron)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricanes

October 22, 2011

Ussher: Creation began this night, 4004 BC


Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar reminds us that, according to “The Annals of the Old Testament,” the 1650 classic by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, in Ireland, God began the creation of the world at nightfall on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22, in 4004 B.C.

Hubble Space TelescopeThat would make this night the 6,015th birthday of, well, everything.

Modern cosmologists, of course, have reached a different conclusion, dating the Big Bang to about 13.7 billion years ago.

(PHOTOS: Left, HST/NASA. Right, James Ussher) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:05 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

October 21, 2011

On average, globe was warm last month


Hot in LondonGlobal climate averages for September are in. NOAA says global land surface temperatures averaged 1.57 degrees F. above the 20th century norm, the fourth-warmest September since record-keeping began in 1880. (Eastern Asia and the central U.S. were cool.) Ocean surface temperatures were 0.72 degrees F. above the 20th Century average, the 14th warmest on record. The UK had its sixth-warmest September in 100 years. Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-smallest extent since 1979. 

(PHOTO: Warm September weather in London, Dan Istitine, AFP/Getty)   

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition

October 20, 2011

October 1940 snowstorm doused the lights


Oct. 30, 1925We’ve had earlier snowfalls, but the 1.3-inch storm on Oct. 19-20, 1940 dropped the deepest October snow here since the 2.5-inch storm in 1925. Slick suburban streets caused several serious accidents, one fatal, and numerous power outages.

A Sun reporter phoned gas company spokesman Arthur Hawks, who explained, “The combination of snowfall and leaves which still clung to trees is the seat of the trouble.” As the interview ended, Hawks added, “Oops, there go my lights.”

(SUN FILE PHOTO: Baltimore recorded 2.5 inches on Oct. 30, 1925, but the streetcar plow was ready)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

October 19, 2011

Eric the Red calls for near-normal snowfall ahead

One of our regular forecast contributors here, a professional Baltimore meteorologist we call Eric the Red, has posted his winter weather forecast for the season coming up. And like the forecast issued a few weeks ago, he expects another near-normal snow total this time around.

The 30-year average snow total for BWI-Marshall Airport is 20.2 inches. Last winter saw 14.4 inches.

Taking account of the La Nina conditions developing in the Pacific for the second winter season in a row, as well as a basket of other climate factors, Eric says the signs this year point to "near- to below-normal snowfall, just like last year, but not a snowless winter."

Looking for winters when similar conditions prevailed, he found these Baltimore analogs: SNow Baltimore 2011

1950:  6.2 inches

1962:  19.6 inches 

1974:  12.2 inches

1985:  15.6 inches

2008:  9.1 inches 

"All these winters are consistent with the reasoning of near- to below-normal snow. In addition, La Nina is associated with near- to below-normal temperatures in the central and eastern U.S. and tends to be windy here, too," he said.

"The wild card is the NAO [North Atlantic Oscillation], which has been consistently negative (a blocking high over the northern Atlantic) for the past several winters ... and this can change everything. If and where the block(s) set up can throw a serious monkey wrench into the equation - think New England last year, our record-setting winter 2 years ago.

"A blocking high/negative NAO is almost essential for big snows around here, and forecasting this feature is not feasible beyond several weeks. Persistence implies that we will be dealing with it again, however."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its winter weather forecast Thursday. Stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTO: Amy Davis, Jan. 26, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts, Winter weather

Severe weather threat later today

Forecasters have dialed back their predictions for rain totals from the twin lows that will be affecting Central Maryland Wednesday. But there remains some threat of severe weather for some locations later in the day. Moderate coastal flooding may also become an issue as winds persist out of the east and northeast, swinging to the south tonight.

The National Weather Service forecasters out in Sterling, Va. are expecting no more than a half-AccuWeather.cominch of rain at BWI-Marshall Airport Wednesday and Wednesday night. But if you happen to come under a thunderstorm, you could see more. SOme Eastern Shore Locations are seeing more, with three-quarters to almost an inch of rain in the gauges, according to the CoCoRaHS Network.

We're getting reports of numerous highway accidents around the region this morning, and wondering whether rain, reduced visibility and fallen leaves may be a contributing factor. Baltimore County alone is reporting three separate smashups on the Beltway in the Pikesville area, one of them involving five vehicles, with injuries.

The severe weather later Wednesday would come in the form of fast-moving lines of thunderstorms developing after mid-day. They could bring damaging winds and/or urban flooding.

Wind shear conditions aloft could also allow for some tornado development as well. Time to set your NOAA Weather Radio to "Alert."

There is a coastal flood warning in effect after 7 p.m. Wednesday for the Western Shore from Calvert County northward. High tides could rise about two feet above predicted levels. 

The coastal low over eastern Georgia this morning will merge or "phase" with a Midwestern low today as they reach the mid-Atlantic states. And as the system moves off to the northeast overnight, we should begin to see the rain end. Getting rid of the clouds on Thursday may take longer, however. Showers may linger west of the mountains, forecasters said. Elevations above 2,500 feet could see snowflakes, but no accumulation.

By Friday, we should be in the clear everywhere, with prospects good for a fine autumn weekend, with sunshine and highs in the low 60s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Have a NOAA Weather Radio? Check your batteries


NOAA Weather RadioI missed Fire Prevention Week last week while I was away.

I trust everyone took the opportunity to change the batteries in all their smoke detectors. That includes the backup batteries in detectors that are hard-wired to your home’s electrical circuits.

But did you also think to change the batteries in your NOAA Weather Radio? They could save your life, too, and regular replacement should be added to your home safety checklist.

I just checked mine; they’re dead as a door nail. Do it now.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:04 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

October 18, 2011

Rain arrives tonight, stays through Weds.

Another beautiful start to the day out there, but forecasters say we can expect high clouds to begin moving in later Tuesday, then lowering, and delivering the first showers during the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Showers, perhaps some thunderstorms, and more showers are forecast to continue through the day Wednesday and well into the early morning hours of Thursday. More than an inch is possible AccuWeather.combefore the twin lows headed this way finally merge and depart to the northeast. Some western counties could see some wet snowflakes before it's all done - or "snizzle" as the folks out at NWS/Sterling are calling it.

The rest of the week, and through the weekend, looks fine, with sunny skies and highs slightly below the long-term averages, in the upper 50s and low 60s.

Here's the plan: Forecasters now see the tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico as a fizzle as far as becoming a tropical storm. But it will send loads of Gulf and eventually Atlantic moisture up the coast in the next couple of days. The low itself will arrive in time to "phase" or merge over the Chesapeake with another low moving this way after pummeling the upper Midwest with cold winds and rain.

The combined lows are forecast to deliver significant precipitation and considerable winds for Central Maryland. There will be enough energy for some isolated thunderstorms through the period, and some small risk of tornadoes from the bay east, forecasters said.NWS

Once the lows merge and head off to the northeast early Thursday morning, skies will start to clear and dry out. Winds will be gusty out of the southwest, then the west, as high pressure begins to build into the region. Forecasters said this morning they have "reintroduced snow for late Thursday night [on the Allegheny front] ... more like snizzle - very small ice and snowflakes from a very low cloud or fog." 

East of the mountains, they're calling for gusty winds Thursday, with overnight lows early Saturday and Sunday mornings, dipping into the upper 30s or low 40s east of the mountains.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Forecasts

Laura Kirk cops second weather contest prize

So who is this Laura Kirk person, really? For the second time this year, Ms. Kirk has copped a major award from The Sun, correctly guessing that BWI would record 40 days of 90-degree-plus weather this past summer.

Last December, the Owings Mills technical writer also correctly guessed that Baltimore would record 14 inches of snow during the Winter of 2010-2011. The actual amount was 14.4 inches, making her the closest without going over. Laura collected a fabulous prize, but I forget what it was. 

"I'd like to assure your gentle readers that you and I are not related, have never met, and aren't even 'Facebook' friends," she said. "My new hobby is Weather Divinator. I may take it on the road. Who knows?"

She will share her Hot-in-Baltimore Contest prize with Mike Inlow, of Baltimore, who also predicted 40 days of 90-degree heat in 2011.

"My guess of 40 days was just that - a guess," Mike reports. "No science involved in any way, shape or form."  

Laura and Mike were among 24 contestants who submitted their guesses last spring. The prizes will be in the mail shortly.

In the average summer, Baltimore sees just over 29 days of 90-plus heat. The record, set inExtreme heat 2010, is 59 days. The 2011 entries ranged from 15 days to 56 days. Contestants generally guessed high - not surprising after last year's record. The average of the guesses works out to 35.5 days, with a median of 39 days. That puts our two winners pretty much in the middle of the pack with their entries.

Laura explained her "technique for winning" this way: "Years of study of the sciences (10%); divination (30%), and sheer dumb luck (60%). I like to start my guess based on the average, factor in the way the weather has been over the past few months, then factor in any recent changes in weather patterns. I glean hard information (the 'science') mostly from your blog posts and articles."

Mike's reasoning went like this: "Last year (2010) we set two records - amount of snowfall (2009-2010 season) and number of days at or above 90 degrees. I was not surprised we had less snowfall this year (2010-2011 season), though a bit surprised at the dramatic drop, and I figured that we also wouldn't set a record for days at or above 90 degrees (but with global warming, I figured the number would probably be above the long-term average).

"So basically, I guessed at some point in between. I originally thought it might be closer to the 45-50 range, but I dropped the number a bit to 40 for no other valid reason than dropping the guesstimated number a bit. If Laura has a more valid reason for picking 40, the entire prize should be sent to her, and please allow me to be first in line to congratulate her!"

In the end, here's how the hot season in Baltimore played out:

May:  3 days

June:  7 days

July:  24 days (Whew!)

August:  6 days

Thirty-four Marylanders died between May 27 and Sept. 5 of causes deemed heat-related.

The hottest day was July 22, when the mercury jumped to 106 degrees at BWI. It was one of five 100-plus days this past summer, and the second of three in a row that week. By a cruel quirk of Hot in Baltimore Baltimore bookkeeping, it was not a record.

The city's official all-time record high remains at 107 degrees, set downtown in 1936, when the U.S. Custom House was the station of record. The downtown high on July 22, recorded at the Maryland Science Center, was 108 degrees, but that wasn't an official record, either, because the station of record is now at the airport.

The heat triggered extended air conditioner shut-offs across BGE's service area as the utility sought to reduce demand. The action came at the request of the PJM Interconnection, managers for the multi-state regional power grid. But technical issues, the length of the shutoff in the extreme heat, and poor communications with affected customers, led to a firestorm of criticism directed at BGE.

Honorable mentions go out to Cy Governs and Bonnie Dennis, who each predicted 38 days of 90-plus heat, and to Ben Steinberg and Michael Albrecht, whose aim was close, but a tad high, at 42 days each.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Anyone for a Second Annual Snow Contest come December? 

(SUN PHOTO: Top, Frank Roylance; Bottom: Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

Storm names aren't always alphabetical


Typhoon PhilippinesDon Dobrow, in Baltimore, saw in The Sun that the Philippines recently suffered back-to-back hits by typhoons Nesat and Nalgae: “Two [consecutive] typhoons [starting] with the same letter. Do you know the reason for that?” Sure. Typhoons in the northwest Pacific draw names from non-alphabetical lists compiled from 14 nations. Nesat is Cambodian; Nalgae (two storms later) is North Korean. The Philippines later assigned them local (alphabetical) names, Pedring and Quiel.

(PHOTO: Typhoon flooding in Philippines, Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Hurricane background

October 17, 2011

Space Station! Tonight!

Space Cadets!  Looks like skies will cooperate this evening, providing us with a nice view of the International Space Station as it soars up the East Coast.

International Space StationLook for the ISS, rising above the southwest horizon, at 7:17 p.m. EDT. If you see colored lights, or flashing strobes, it's an aircraft. Keep looking. (Kids do this well. Get yours off their duffs and drag them outside to help.)

The length and width of a football field, the ISS as it appears from the ground is a bright, single, steady light - all of it reflected sunlight. It has no "running lights" and the windows are too small to emit enough light to be seen at these distances.   

At 225 miles above the Earth's surface, the ISS will be over Georgia when we first spot it from Central Maryland. It will be two-thirds of the way up (66 degrees above) the southeast horizon by 7:20 p.m., almost directly over Ocean City.

From there, the station will move out over the Atlantic at 17,500 mph, entering the Earth's shadow at 7:22 p.m. as it approaches Nova Scotia from the southwest. Just rising above the eastern horizon at that moment will be the bright planet Jupiter, which currently dominates the night sky.

As always, come back here after the show, leave a comment and share the experience.

(IMAGE: NASA)     

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

Enjoy the sun; clouds, rain en route

Not much to complain about today - aside from it being Monday and the end of my vacation, I mean. Forecasters are looking for highs in the 70s and plenty of sunshine behind the weak cold Bugfront that pushed through this morning and took the clouds with it.

Unfortunately, that front will return Tuesday as a warm front, bringing increasing clouds and the threat of rain as a low pressure system out of the Gulf pushes our way.

By Tuesday night, forecasters say we'll be looking for showers and perhaps an overnight thunderstorm. They're calling for as much as a quarter-inch of rain, or possibly more in thunderstorms. Rain chances will continue at 80 percent Wednesday, with more chances for thunderstorms into early Thursday morning.

Some of the storm's moisture will be coming in a stream of moisture drawn out of a tropical system developing now near the Yucatan. That could make weather news from Ohio into the Northeast. Here's's take on that

By Thursday the low will be exiting to our northeast, and we'll begin to feel northwesterly winds. That will start to dry us out and usher in a weekend of clear skies and cooler temperatures, with near-normal weekend highs in the 60s at BWI. Western counties could see some light accumulating snow in the higher elevations Thursday night. Our lows will hold in the low 40s.

(SUN PHOTO: Katydid, Frank Roylance)

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

October slightly dry so far

While it's probably hard to believe after some of the rain we had last week, the month-to-date precipitation totals for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport are slightly below normal.

From Oct. 1-13, 1.2 inches was measured at the airport, according to the National Weather Service. The normal rainfall for that time period is 1.45 inches. However, since Sept. 1, 15.36 inches of rain fell at BWI, and the normal count for the time period is 7.93.

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

October 16, 2011

Upcoming International Space Station sightings

Sky watchers! If skies are clear, you have several chances in the evening over the next week to get a glimpse of the International Space Station. At 8:16 p.m. Sunday, you have a 2-minute window to see the bright object fly over, starting at 15 degrees above the southwestern horizon. Check the skies again at 7:17 p.m. Monday, 7:57 p.m. Tuesday, 6:58 p.m. Wednesday, 7:37 p.m. Thursday, 6:40 p.m. Friday and 7:17 p.m. Saturday.

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

October 14, 2011

Baltimore Running Festival forecast: Watch the wind

Here's a quick guest post from Picture of Health's Meredith Cohn on the Baltimore Running Festival

The forecast for Saturday’s Baltimore Running Festival will be sunny, but breezy, with a west wind between 11-21 mph, and gusts up to 31 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Josh Levinson of Charm City Run reminds runners not to overstride to compensate. If the wind slows you down a little, don’t panic. He says if you expend too much energy trying to fight the gusts, you will tap resources you’ll need later in the race.

Levinson says, “Have a wonderful day and enjoy the gusts at your back.”

Any readers planning on running? 

Baltimore Sun file photo

Posted by Kim Walker at 3:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition

Tornadoes hit Va. area

Frank is still on vacation, but here's some information about a significant weather event just to the south of us.

Two months after the area was the epicenter of an earthquake, tornadoes struck New Kent County, Virginia, on Thursday.

About about 30 homes were damaged, according to The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia. The National Weather Service is visiting the area today to gather information about the storm.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore and Arundel areas were under a tornado watch last night.  Southern Baltimore and Arundel are still under a coastal flood warning until noon.



Posted by Kim Walker at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events

October 9, 2011

Baltimore's earliest snows recalled


It’s Oct. 9, the date of Baltimore’s earliest recorded snowfall, in 1903. It was just a trace, but it still stands as a marker for local weather watchers, a milepost that says, “From here on, snow is possible in Baltimore.”  There’s no one around who can remember that day. But many will recall the snow on Oct. 10, 1979. Just 0.3 inch at BWI, it dropped more on Memorial Stadium, postponing the first game of the World Series between the O’s and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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

October 8, 2011

Draconid meteors due today


Later today the Earth is forecast to pass through a stream of dust that marks the trail of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The results could be a meteor shower at rates of 750 to 1,000 an hour. Unfortunately, the "Draconid" shower’s peak is predicted for between 3 and 5 p.m. EDT, making them invisible in the daylight here. But these forecasts always come with lots of uncertainty. And scientists predict multiple outbursts. So if skies clear tonight, find a dark, rural spot and watch the northern sky.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (0)

October 7, 2011

Texas drought could last "another decade"


The Texas state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, says the historic drought in the Lone Star State could last for years. The La Nina conditions that have returned to the equatorial Pacific for a second year can partly explain the dry weather. But he said scientists believe warm surface waters in the North Atlantic since 1995 also may “amplify” the effect. “This period, with both the Pacific and Atlantic working against us, might be over in a couple of years … It seems likely to last another decade.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:07 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, From the Sun's print edition

October 6, 2011

Rise and shine for space station flyby tomorrow


Space Cadets! If our skies stay clear we’ll have a nice opportunity early Friday to watch the International Space Station fly by. If you’re up early for work, take a run or walk the dog, look to the northwest at 6:01 a.m. EDT. Watch for a bright, steady, star-like object rising into the sky as the ISS passes over the Great Lakes. It will climb to more than halfway above the northeast horizon, passing high over New York City at 6:04 a.m., before disappearing in the southeast at 6:07.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes, Sky Watching

October 5, 2011

Gone fishin'

Time again to take a break. Fishing by Bodine

With my favorite teacher now retired, we're free for the first time in 30 years to wander about in the autumn. So we're looking forward to seeing some old friends and new places, and taking time to read a book beside the water someplace.

Sounds great.

I've left a few posts behind to help fill the gap. Hopefully, others will add a few more.  

We'll be back soon enough. Until then, you may talk amongst yourselves. - FR

(SUN PHOTO: A. Aubrey Bodine, 1935)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

Former Hurricane Ophelia due in Britain today


Today looks like another stormy one for the United Kingdom, made even more so by what’s left of the former Cat. 4 Hurricane Ophelia. After spinning up to 140 mph east of Bermuda on Saturday, Ophelia weakened to tropical storm strength, passed over George Calvert’s former plantation on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland on Monday, and headed east. It is expected to bring rain, wind, mild tropical air and 25-foot seas today to northern Ireland and western Scotland.

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

October 4, 2011

Early risers spot blue/green fireball

Starting to receive comments from early risers in Central Maryland and Northern Virginia who spotted a bright blue or green fireball of some sort just before 4:25 a.m. EDT on Tuesday (10/4/11). Eric House reported:

"At almost exactly 4:23 am I was driving south bound I95 before exit 85 and observed large green fire ball south / southeast. It was much larger than anything I've seen before.  It disappear from my view to the southeast because of trees. It was seemed so large I was waiting on the sound of an impact."

The National Weather Service received this report:

"Dear NWS, Sterling: Everybody in the park-and-ride (exit 6 route 66) and about a 5-mile radius saw a very bright blue flash this morning. I thought it was a double flash, one less bright that the other. I checked radar but there vwere no storms in the vicinity. It was definitely not weather related. - Eric Peterson"

And Dan Hewins, in Catonsville, sent this report:

"I went out to run at 4:20 a.m. this morning in Catonsville, Md. Tues. Oct. 4. As I started to run my normal 5 miles, the sky lit up as if there was a lightning strike nearby, a storm approaching. The next second the light weas so bright in the sky, it was as if someone was taking my picture with an extremely large flash bulb, it blinded me for a brief second. The next second I saw a red and gold fire ball go from the south to the north/northwest, then disappear."

Did anyone else see it? Please be sure to say where you were, what the time was, which direction you were looking, where the fireball appeared, which direction you were looking, how high in the sky it was, for how long, and in which direction it was moving. 

All of this information is useful to those who study and track these events.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Sky Watching

Perfect powder, hard to reach


Snow on EnceladusSkiers! The forecast for Enceladus calls for more snow flurries and perfect powder! Where’s Enceladus, you ask? Sadly, this little-visited destination is pretty remote. Enceladus is a moon of Saturn. Scientists working with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around the planet, reported evidence Monday that plumes of liquid water erupting through the surface have been falling back as snow for tens of millions of years. The powder in some places averages 350 feet deep.

(PHOTO: Paul Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: From the Sun's print edition, Sky Notes

October 3, 2011

Second-coldest start to October here since 1899

Darn right it's cold. Steve Zubrick, science officer at the National Weather Service regional forecast office in Sterling, Va. says this has been the second-coldest two-day start to an October in Baltimore in 112 years.

Steve said the two-day average temperature at BWI-Marshall Airport over the weekend was 50.8 degrees. That ranks second only to the 48.0-degree start to October in 1899. The 30-year average temperature for the first two days of the month is 61.5 degrees.

Looking at the highs for the two days, Zubrick found they averaged just 55.5 degrees. That ranks as the coldest high-temperature average on record here for the first two days of October, breaking the record of 57.5 degrees, also set in 1899. The normal average high for those two dates is 72 degrees.

Also, as noted in a previous post, Sunday's high of 51 degrees was the coldest maximum temperature for that date on record for the city. The old record was 53 degrees, set 72 years ago, in 1939.

And it's back to the 40s tonight. Can you keep your hands off the thermostat? Zubrick couldn't: "I've been running my furnace since Sat. afternoon," he said.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers

No really... the sun will come out, tomorrow

I know, forecasters have been promising sunshine for a week. The stubborn cut-off low that has been controlling much of our weather for nearly two weeks was supposed to move out of the Midwest, across the mid-Atlantic and up into New England by now. High pressure would build in from the west and our long regional nightmare of gray skies and showers would be over.

Except that it hasn't happened. Not yet, anyway. That low has moved east. And now it's parked on top of us. The sunny weekend they predicted has come and gone, with downright cold Gray day in Baltimoretemperatures and showers and wind instead.

UPDATE, 3 p.m.: Sunday's high of 51 degrees at BWI-Marshall Airport broke the previous record-low maximum temperature for the date - 53 degrees, set in 1939. 

Admit it; you were tempted to switch on the furnace this weekend. Am I right? At least you weren't dealing with snow, as some were in West Virginia this weekend.

The new forecast promises that all this, too, will pass. After more light showers and gray skies Monday, forecasters said, "The reign of this feature is slow[ly] coming to an end."

"Much of the eastern half of the country, especially the Ohio Valley/mid-Atlantic/New England has been under the influence of this upper-level system for the past couple of weeks. Today will be the slow-steady passage, and tomorrow the wind ... Improvement in these conditions [is] on the way, but it will be another day or two. Today will be cloudy and fairly wet, and tomorrow mostly cloudy and breezy."

The computer models, at least, seem to agree that the low will be clearing out overnight,  with some breaks in the clouds. Increased sunshine Tuesday will begin to raise daytime temperatures out of the 50s, where they resided all weekend, into the upper 60s Tuesday. There remains a "slight" chance for showers Tuesday, but any that do form will be light, they say.

The rest of the week looks fine, with sunny skies Wednesday and right through the weekend. Temperatures will improve gradually, moving back into the low 70s, which is about where they belong at this time of year in Baltimore.

They promise.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts

Already the 35th-wettest year on record for B'more


This year already ranks as the 35th wettest on record for Baltimore. With three months to go,Rainbow in Baltimore 2011 could still challenge the all-time annual precipitation record of 62.66 inches, set in 2003.

NWS meteorologist Jared Klein, in Sterling, Va., says we would need to average 5.47 inches a month, October through December, to break the record. That’s only happened twice before, in 1932 (16.79 inches), and 2009 (19.24 inches).

But just 6.07 inches total would put us in the Top 10.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (1)

October 2, 2011

A wet nine months, but not nearly a record


Rainy day in BaltimoreWe noted here a few days back that the period from Jan. 1 through September would rank as the fifth-wettest such period on record for Baltimore. We saw more than 46 inches in those nine months, nearly 5 inches more than our annual average.

Someone asked how close we came to the record. Another inch would have put us in fourth place, ahead of 1933, which also saw Baltimore’s wettest day (7.62 inches on Aug. 23). But we fell well short of the 51.11-inch record set Jan.-Sept., 1889.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:03 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: By the numbers, From the Sun's print edition

October 1, 2011

NWS forecasts may be just a starting point


Dotti Fielder, in Catonsville, asks: “Why is it that forecasts on TV, The Baltimore Sun, Meteorologist Scott Padgettonline, etc. at any given time or day give different highs/lows, percent of precipitation expected. Don’t all forecasters get the same data from the National Weather Service?”

Well, everybody may consider NWS data. But those data can change from hour to hour. And, individual forecasters, and weather data vendors like AccuWeather, can (and do) interpret, adjust and spin as they see fit.

(PHOTO: Steve Ruark, Patuxent Publishing)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 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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• 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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