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March 20, 2011

Remember when spring began on March 21?

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

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

(PHOTO: Mona Sharaf, Reuters, 1998)

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Categories: Almanac, Sky Notes
        

March 19, 2011

Crow Moon on the rise

crow moonFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

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

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

(SUN PHOTO: Kim Hairston, 2009) 

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March 15, 2011

It's the Ides of March; watch your back

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

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

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

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March 12, 2011

No 2 o'clock hour Sunday morning

FROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

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

(SUN PHOTO: Perry Thorsvik, 1999)

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October 6, 2009

Dead birds signal arrival of autumn

northern flicker 

We've passed the autumnal equinox, and the Harvest Moon. And now the last sure sign of autumn has landed, literally, on our doorstep. Dead birds.

Each fall, Baltimore Sun employees who park on the garage in the 600 block of North Calvert Street must walk through a glass-and-steel Valley of Death. Birds - migrating birds I would guess - seem to have a fatal penchant for flying into the glass windows of the enclosed footbridge that crosses Centre Street between the garage and the Sun offices in the 500 block of North Calvert.

As the season wears on, the fluffy little bodies pile up and decompose (mostly) along the ledges on both sides of the bridge. The carnage provides a sad, some might say ghastly accounting of the species that fly through Baltimore each fall on their way south.

In years past I've counted a dozen or more on the ledges of the bridge before the maintenance crew arrives to scoop them up. I'm not birder enough to identify all of them. But one of the first to show up this month appears to be a northern flicker (above).Sun footbridge

CORRECTION: I'm told this is a yellow-bellied sapsucker, not a flicker. Thanks to all the bird watchers who set me right. 

It's not entirely clear why birds crash into glass. It seems likely they simply don't see it. There is nothing in their experience, or evolution, that would prepare them for something solid that they can see through. Or, they see only reflections of sky and clouds and trees that would seem to pose no threat. So, they try to fly through the bridge, with fatal results.

Why this carnage seems to peak in the autumn would seem to be a function of migration. There are thousands of birds passing through the city at this time of year. They're all in a hurry for a quick meal and a fast flight out of town. There are lots of them, and they're all in a hurry. The results aren't pretty.

(SUN PHOTOS/Frank D. Roylance)

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September 22, 2009

Equinox arrives at 5:18 p.m.

The fall, or autumnal equinox arrives this afternoon just as the rush hour begins - at 5:18 p.m. That's the moment when the the sun, as seen from Earth, crosses the planet's equatorial plane seasonsand heads for the southern hemisphere. And, the sun rises due east today.

Or, you could say the Earth's northern hemisphere is no longer tilted toward the sun, or the length of the night is equal in both the northern and southern hemispheres. You can also note the place on your western horizon where the sun sets, and watch in the coming days and weeks how quickly that spot moves to the south.

It is the official end of summer and the beginning of autumn for the northern hemisphere, and the first day of spring for those south of the equator. So we're off to work today in summer, and return home tonight in the fall.

You can read more about the equinox here.

(NASA illustration)

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July 10, 2006

July heats up

Vacation's over ... sigh ... and it's way past time to plug in the numbers for July. This is, of course, our hottest month. The average high temperatures peak at 88 degrees during the third week of the month. Then, mercifully, the shortening days and decreasing sun angles begin to work their magic and temperatures start to slip.

But not by much. The average high only drops a degree during July, to 87. And average nighttime lows stick at 66 degrees.

Record high temperatures for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport remain in the upper 90s and low 100s all month.

The all-time hottest day on record for Baltimore was on this date - the 10th - in 1936, when air conditioning was rare and Baltimoreans sometimes slept out in the parks to beat the heat in those airless little rowhouses. Don't try that today. It was 107 degrees that day. The most recent new record high set for July was 100 degrees, reached on the 4th in 2002. The coolest record daily high temperature is 97 degrees, set on July 12, 1908, and matched on July 24, 1987.

The coldest July day on record at BWI was just five years ago. On July 3, 2001 the overnight low touched 50 degrees, a day after reaching 51 degrees, a record for a July 2 in Baltimore.

July also still hosts a record set during the first year of official record-keeping for the city. On July 28, 1871 the instruments recorded 2.28 inches of rain, which still stands as the wettest July 28 on the books.

The wettest July was in 1889, when more than 11 inches fell downtown. The driest was in 1955, with just 0.30 inch of rain. Normal July precipitation is 3.85 inches, based on the 30-year record from 1970-2000.

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May 31, 2006

June: Better than 1972

June arrives tomorrow dragging plenty of baggage. Some of you may even remember one of the weirdest Junes on record in Baltimore - 1972. More on that in a second.

First, the new month brings the official opening of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Expect to read a lot about growing fears of a big Northeast hurricane. It's not that anyone's predicted one. It's rather that it's been so long since the last one that we've grown comfortable about the prospect, and we've moved millions of people and billions of dollars in coastal development into the path of a storm that is sure to strike, eventually, if not this summer. Those people should read up on the 1938 hurricane, and the 22-foot storm surges that swept away Long Island homes and flooded some cities on the south coast of New England.

The Wall Street Journal has an important story today (sorry, you'll need to buy a paper or subscribe for web access) about growing anxiety among insurance companies. Some, stung by losses in Florida and the Gulf Coast in the past two years, have stopped writing property insurance policies in vulnerable areas of the Northeast. That, or they're hiking premiums like crazy.

June also brings the year's first really hot temperatures. Not that yesterday's high of 95 degrees at BWI-Marshall was anything to sneeze at. But it fell short of the 98-degree record for a May 30 at BWI, set in 1991.

The record high for June in Baltimore is 105 degrees, set back on June 29, 1934, when the official station was in downtown Baltimore. The average daytime highs climb from 79 degrees on June 1, to 86 degrees by the 30th. The average lows move from 57 degrees to 64 degrees.

The coolest temperature on record for Baltimore in June was 40 degrees, set on June 11, 1972. Which brings us to the matter of 1972, perhaps the strangest June here in recent memory. That cold June morning in 1972 was followed by another record on June 12, when the low reached 46. Was it a harbinger?

The remnants of Hurricane Agnes - by then a tropical storm - began dropping huge volumes of rain across the region on June 21.  That came after five days of relatively light rain, which helped to saturate the soil and cause devastating runoff and flooding when the storm struck.

In all, it rained for 10 days straight, with terrible consequences all up and down the East Coast. Nineteen people died in Maryland alone. The totals set records for two days - 2.19 inches on the 21st, and 3.84 inches the next day. By month's end, 9.95 inches had fallen, also a record. And right behind the storm came more record cool weather, setting a new low mark of 50 degrees on June 24.

A recap of a very dry May here, tomorrow.

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May 1, 2006

May turns up the heat

May arrived today with another in a string of gorgeous spring days - cool and dry and gloriously sunny. It will not last. May is arguably the beginning of summer in Maryland, a month that can bring truly hot weather. And humidity. Remember humidity? Here's the scoop:

The average temperature at BWI in May is 62.9 degrees. The average daytime high rises from 69 to 79 degrees by month's end. And the average overnight low climbs from 47 to 57 degrees. But more extreme weather is quite possible.

The record daily highs in May are almost exclusively in the 90s. Only May 1 and 2 still have record highs in the 80s. Few of us will remember them, but the hottest May days all reached 98 degrees: on May 19, 1962; May 22, 1941; May 23, 1925; and on May 30, 1991.

The coldest May day was on the 11th, in 1966, when the low was 32 degrees. And yes, it can still snow in May in Baltimore. The latest snowfall ever recorded was on May 9, 1923, when just a trace was noted in the city. It also snowed - a trace - on May 1, 1963.

The average precipitation in May at BWI is 3.89 inches. The wettest May on record there was 8.71 inches, recorded in 1989. The driest was just three years earlier, in 1986, when just 0.37 inch fell.

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April 16, 2006

Wet summer ahead?

There is probably no science to support the idea, but here's a note from the past that might make you wonder whether we're in for a wet summer this year. Intrepid Sun researcher Paul McCardell has come across this item from the 1907 Baltimore Sun Almanac. The writer takes a look back at the weather during 1906 (exactly 100 years ago):

"The summer of 1906 was remarkable for the rain which fell in the three months from June 1 until August 31. The early spring was rather dry in Maryland, but with the beginning of June the rains were unusually frequent and heavy, not only interfering with farming operations, but causing a great deal of damage.

"Crops of almost all kinds were affected. In Baltimore, where accurate records are kept, Director Von Herrmann, of the Weather Bureau, said it was the wettest summer since 1870, thirty-six years.

"The amount of precipitation during the three months was 19.10 inches. In 1870, during the same period, there was 22.58 inches. The great rainfall last summer was due to the remarkably low barometric pressures and the constant southerly breeze, which brought an abundance of moisture from the Atlantic Ocean."

Our early spring, in 2006, has also been remarkably dry. March was the driest on record for Baltimore. April is running about average. For the year to date, we are still about 3 inches short of the 30-year average for the region, measured between 1970 and 2000. The official climate forecast for the June through August period, however, shows no particular trends either way, on temperature or precipitation. That means it could go either way.

Normal precipitation for the summer looks like this:

June:  3.43 inches

July:    3.85 inches

August:  3.74 inches

Total:  11.02 inches

The totals in 1906 were: 

June:  5.10 inches

July:   7.96 inches

August:  5.80 inches

Total:  18.86 inches (Not sure why this number, from NWS archive, does not agree with the Sun Almanac total. Either way, a whole lot of rain.)

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March 30, 2006

April is Maryland at its finest

Never mind the drought for now. April arrives Saturday, and with it the most beautiful and delightful month of the year in Maryland, for my money. I used to live in New Hampshire, where April is Mud Season. Enough said.

Here, trees and flowers blossom, the azaleas explode everywhere. Lawns green up and the reassuring hum of lawnmowers returns to the neighborhoods. And temperatures rise, too, bringing neighbors together over the backyard fence, and drawing friends and cafe tables out onto the sidewalk, at last.

The fourth month of the year also quiets the furnace, without demanding that we switch on the air conditioner. Yet. Enjoy the month's typically low utility bills, because in July we'll all be clobbered by BGE, no matter how the legislature finally decides to meddle.

But I digress. In April, average high temperatures in Baltimore rise through the 60s, from 60 to 69 degrees by month's end. The overnight lows shake free of the 30s, and rise to 47 degrees by May 1. But it's still a transitional month. The extremes in April can be quite, well, extreme. Record highs for the month soar into the 90s. The hottest April day on record for Baltimore is 94 degrees, a mark reached four times - most recently on April 23 and 25 during a heat wave in 1960.

And April can still sting. Record lows are mostly in the 20s and 30s. But the all-time slap-in-the-face cold snap was on April 1, 1923, when the mercury sank to 15 degrees.

The average precipitation in April, in Baltimore, is 3 inches. But it doesn't always fall as rain. The heaviest snowfall on record for Baltimore in April was the April Fools Day storm in 1924, which surprised the city with 9.4 inches. (What IS it about April 1?) Measurable snow has fallen on 10 dates in April. The latest was a tenth of an inch measured on April 28, 1898.

Here's how the national Weather Service remembers the April Fools Day storm:

"This April Fools Day Storm produced the largest recorded April snowfall for Baltimore. A nor'easter brought 3 to 10 inches of snow to central Maryland. Westminister, Frederick and Freeland received 10 inches of snow, Baltimore 9.5 inches, College Park 9 inches, Aberdeen 8 inches, and Chesapeake City 8 inches. Princess Anne recorded 3 inches of sleet and thunderstorms struck areas on the Eastern Shore. A trace of snow fell on May 9, 1923. The latest seasonal measured snowfall was 0.1 inch on April 28, 1898. On April 9, 1884, 8 inches of snow fell in Baltimore marking the latest significant snow for a season."

Easter falls on April 16 this year - the first Sunday following the first full moon (April 13) after the Vernal Equinox (March 20).  That full moon in April is known as the Grass or Egg Moon.

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March 23, 2006

Enough already. Where's spring?

So, what happened to those balmy days two weeks ago with highs in the 60s, 70s and 80s? Since Saturday, temperatures in Baltimore have averaged 6, 7, 8, even 11 degrees below normal. We haven't managed to rise above the long-term averages in a week, stuck as we are in the 40s, and maybe the odd afternoon of 50-plus. Barely.

And with the wind, it's been downright raw. The daffodils are out, along with some forsythia and a few flowering trees. But that just makes it all the more exasperating. It looks like spring, but it feels like February.

"That's not all that unusual - for spring to behave in that way," said Todd Miner, a meteorologist at Penn State Weather Communications. "We like to think of it as the battle between winter and summer. As you progress toward summer, think of it as two steps forward and one step back. You're gonna have these setbacks."

Don't blame the forecasters. Blame the "Greenland block."  That's a ridge of high pressure in the North Atlantic, near Greenland. "Whenever you have that type of pattern, it tends to teleconnect to a cold pattern in eastern North America," Miner said.

In this case, like a boulder in a mountain stream, it's driving the northern jet stream southward into the Eastern U.S., pumping cold, Canadian air (drat those pesky Canadians!) our way, day after day.

But it's going to break up soon. Right, Todd?

"It doesn't look like it," he said. "If you look at the weather patterns for the next week or so, it's hard to come up with a regime that would bring unusually mild conditions to the Northeast for a several day period, like what we had there around mid-month."

Remember that? It was 68 degrees on the 9th, then 77, 71, 69, 84 and 74. A week of relief from winter's grip. We thought we'd stepped out into the Promised Land.

Not yet, Miner said. "It does look fairly chilly, at least to the middle part of next week.

Please suh, may we have a crumb? "You could see where there could be a day or two, toward the middle of next week, when temperatures could eke up to normal, perhaps above normal," he said.  Normal, friends, is 58, maybe 59 degrees. You will not be sitting at a sidewalk cafe sipping Mai Tais. They do that in Europe. Not here.

But that's just the way it is. "Spring is a transition season," Miner said. "More often than not, we tend to get that little warm spell in that mid-March period, and sort of flip back to winter. It seems to happen around the Equinox. Then it tends to crawl back out again sometime in late March."

And then it gets cold again, and it snows on Opening Day. We know. The increase in solar heating that comes with the advancing season just doesn't warm the atmosphere at a slow, steady pace. It's a series of lurches and setbacks.

Patience is the answer, Miner said. "You know it will not be snowing on July 4. That much we know." That's true. But then we'll complain about the heat.

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February 28, 2006

March promises spring. Or snow.

OK, this much is certain: Spring will arrive in March, which begins at midnight tonight. The Vernal Equinox arrives at 1:25 p.m. on Monday, March 20, and winter, officially, will end. Bulbs will flower, trees will bud, grass will green. It's a simple matter of celestial mechanics. But March can be cruel. More on that in a minute.

The good news is that average daytime highs in March climb from 49 degrees at the start of the month, to 59 degrees by the end. Overnight lows slip back up and over the freezing mark, from 29 degrees to 38.

It can get downright hot. Record highs in March have reached the 80s, and even 90 degrees on a single date - Mar. 29, 1945. The record lows range from 5 degrees on Mar. 4, 1873, to 21 degrees on several dates.

On the other hand (and there's always another hand), it can snow in March. In fact, it has snowed on every date in March, in Baltimore, since they started keeping track here in 1883. The average snowfall for March in Baltimore is just 2.4 inches. But there have been some serious exceptions.

The snowiest March day was on Palm Sunday, Mar. 29, 1942, when astonished Baltimoreans found 22 inches of snow on the ground, and the city at a halt. Here's the Weather Service account:

"The Palm Sunday Snowstorm dumped the state's heaviest March snow on record in Maryland. The storm began as rain but changed over to a wet heavy snow. The snow stuck to power lines, trees and shrubs damaging them under its weight. Many of the fruit trees had begun to blossom. Over 20 inches fell over northern Anne Arundel, Howard, Southern and western Baltimore County, Carroll County, eastern and northern Frederick County, and north-central Washington County.

"Maximum amounts reported were 31 inches at Clear Springs (just 12 days earlier the temperature had reached 79 F here), 32 inches at Westminster, 30 to 36 inches at State Sanatorium (Frederick County) and 36 inches at Edgemont (Washington County). Baltimore City received its greatest snow in 20 years with 22 inches measured. Hagerstown and Westminster reported 22 inches in 24 hours. Frederick had 17 inches in 24 hours. Washington, DC received a total of 11.5 inches of snow."

Baltimore has seen snowfalls of 10 inches or more on five other dates in Marches past. The most recent March snowstorms to set daily records in Baltimore were on Mar. 30, 2003 (2.6"), Mar. 31, 1997 (1.4") and Mar. 13, 1993 (11.3").

Could it happen again this year?  Well, there have been just two entirely snow-free Marches since 1945.

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January 31, 2006

Will February burst our bubble?

February has a history of delivering giant snowstorms. And it's been so mild throughout January - nearly 9 degrees above average and only a trace of snow - that it seems a good bet that February will swing us back closer to the winter averages for this region. What do the math profs call it? Reverting to the norm?

There's no sign of that in the short-term forecast, however. Instead, we're looking at daily highs in the upper 40s and 50s.  That's well above the averages for early February, but closer to what is typical for late February.

Here's the deal: The average daytime high temperatures for February range from 42 degrees at the beginning of the month, and rise to 48 degrees by month's end.  The overnight lows climb from 24 to 29 degrees. The records for the month have stood for many decades:  The hottest February day in Baltimore was Feb. 25, 1930, when the mercury climbed to an amazing 83 degrees. The coldest date was Feb. 9th, when it was 7-below zero. That tied a record first set on Feb. 10, 1899.

The average snowfall in February for Baltimore is 6.4 inches. But it's a month that can do much more damage in that department. The deepest one-day snowfall in February was the storm of Feb. 11, 1983, when 22.8 inches piled up at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It remains the region's third-largest snowstorm on record.

The biggest ever here - at least since official record-keeping began in 1883 - was also a February blast. It was the 28.2-inch Presidents Day Weekend storm of Feb. 15-18, 2003. That included the 21.8 inches that fell on Feb. 16, the second deepest one-day total on record for February. It also turned out to be the snowiest month on record for Baltimore - 40.5 inches. It wasn't even close. The next-snowiest was February 1899, with 33.9 inches.

What does the weather service think will happen this February, in the wake of this remarkably mild January?  Here is part of YESTERDAY'S climatology discussion:

"FOR THOSE WHO LIKE IT COLD... THERE MAY BE HOPE. THE NAO (NORTH ATLANTIC OSCILLATION) INDEX HAS BECOME SLIGHTLY NEGATIVE IN THE PAST FEW DAYS AND THE ENSEMBLE MEAN NAO FORECAST DOES SHOW RATHER TIGHT CLUSTERING IN THE NEGATIVE THROUGH
ABOUT THE FIRST HALF OF FEBRUARY. ALSO... THE CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER MEDIUM RANGE TEMPERATURE OUTLOOK IS SHOWING INCREASING CHANCES OF BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES BEGINNING FEB. 6-8.

"INTERESTINGLY... BEYOND THE TEN WARMEST JANUARIES... 6 OF 10 OF THE
FOLLOWING FEBRUARIES WERE ABOVE NORMAL ... 2 OF 10 WERE NORMAL .. AND
2 OF 10 WERE BELOW NORMAL."

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January 3, 2006

Turning the corner in January

January is the month we turn the cold-weather corner in Baltimore. We've passed the winter solstice, so days are getting longer, pouring more solar energy into the atmosphere and the oceans. But because the ocean is slower to warm up, average temperatures continue to fall for a while. The daily average high temperatures at BWI slip to 41 degrees by the 5th, and stall there until the 28th. But then they start rising again toward the return of spring.

Likewise, the average daily lows fall to 23 on the 11th, but they begin rising again by the 27th.

The records for the month are all over the place. The record high is 79 degrees, set on Jan. 14, 1932 and tied on Jan. 26, 1950. The record low is minus-7 degrees Fahrenheit, reached three times - on Jan. 17, 1982, Jan. 22, 1984, and Jan. 29, 1963. That's also the all-time record low for Baltimore.

The snowiest January day in Baltimore was on Jan. 28, 1922, when 23.3 inches was recorded in the city. It was the all-time heaviest 24-hour snowfall in the city's history. The so-called "Knickerbocker Storm," it struck even harder in Washington, D.C. The average snowfall for a January in Baltimore is 7 inches.

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December 21, 2005

The Shortest Day

The Winter Solstice arrives at 1:36 p.m. EST today, marking the official end of autumn and the start of the northern winter. For meteorologists, of course, winter began Dec. 1 and will end on Feb. 28.

But for the ancients, who paid far more attention to the sky than we do, the solstice marked not the start of winter, but the middle, the moment when the sun reached its southernmost point in the sky, and when the shortening and dimming of the days and the lengthening of the cold, dark nights came to an end.

It was a time for celebration - for Saturnalia in ancient Rome, a holiday which some believe Christians co-opted for their Mass and celebration of Christ's birth. It was a celestial milestone, celebrated by the Romans with a week of feasting, drinking, gift-giving and the decoration of evergreens as a symbol of life's persistence through the harsh winter.

Other cultures and religions have a great variety of parallel observances of the solstice.

After the solstice, they all knew, the sun would rise farther north each morning, and climb higher in the sky each day. The nights would begin to grow shorter, and the days longer. It was a time of year that held the first promise of spring, the return of the light and the renewal of life.

Of course, modern astronomers have a different perspective on the phenomenon, and explanations for why the darkest time of the year is not also the coldest. Here's a discussion of the science of the solstice and the seasons.

In Baltimore today, the sun rose at 7:23 a.m, and will set at 4:47 p.m.  That gives us 9 hours and 24 minutes of sunlight, and 14 hours and 36 minutes of darkness. But it only gets better from here.

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November 30, 2005

Meteorological winter starts tomorrow

December arrives after midnight tonight, and with it comes the start of the meteorologists' three-month winter season. It's a month when the average high temperatures for Baltimore drop from 51 degrees on the 1st to 42 degrees by the 31st.  The average daily lows, meanwhile, sink from 31 degrees to a seriously cold 24.

Of course, the potential extremes are, well, extreme. The warmest December day on record for Baltimore was 77 degrees, set on a balmy Dec. 29 in 1984. The coldest saw the mercury bottom out at minus-3 degrees, way back on Dec. 30, 1880.

Those old 19th century records are remarkably stubborn, expecially considering that they kept records for only 29 years in that century - beginning in 1871. There are still 5 record-cold 19th century days on the books for December in Baltimore, and 3 record-warm dates.

December also brings the region its first serious chances for significant snowfall. Although the average accumulation for December is a mere 1.7 inches, bigger snowfalls are quite possible. The snowiest December on record for Baltimore was in 1966, when more than 20 inches fell. The snowiest day in December was Dec. 17, 1932. Whoever stuck a foot-long ruler into the snow on that date almost lost it: 11.5 inches had fallen.

The average snow accumulation for an entire winter season in Baltimore is just over 18 inches. We've already had an official half-inch of snow this season. That fell on Nov. 23. Here is a list of the biggest winter storms in the history of Baltimore and Washington. The folks at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling., Va. need to do some updating, however. The chart does not include the President's Day Weekend storm of 2003, which dumped 28.2 inches at BWi over four days. For the season, the airport recorded 58.1 inches of snow that year, including the snowiest February ever, with 40.5 inches. The snowiest winter in Baltimore was 1995-96, when 62.5 inches fell.

Global warming theory, by the way, predicts more such extreme precipitation events. The fact that the two snowiest winters on record for Baltimore have occured in the last decade may tell us something.

The official start of winter comes with the arrival of the Winter Solstice, which occurs this year at 1:36 p.m. on Dec. 21. That marks the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. Sunrises continue to come later during December, moving from 7:07 a.m. on the 1st  to 7:26 a.m. by month's end. But there's good news for victims of Seasonal Affective Disorder: in December the sun begins, at last, to set a bit later in the afternoon. After reaching a early limit of 4:43 p.m. between Dec. 3 and 11 in Baltimore, sunsets advance by month's end to 4:53 p.m.  It's not much, but it's a harbinger of longer days to come, and a promise of spring. Eventually.

 

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October 31, 2005

November opens the snow season

November looks like it will usher in a sunny week, but it's also the first month capable of producing significant snowfall in central Maryland. Here's the rundown.

Average high and low temperatures at BWI in November remain pretty comfortable. The 30-year average for daytime highs slips from 61 degrees on the 1st to 51 degrees by month's end. The average overnight lows slide from 38 degrees to below freezing - 31 degrees - for the first time in the cold season.

But the range of possibilities remains very wide. The record high temperature in November is 86 degrees, set in 1950. The record low is 12 degrees, a mark that has stood since 1929.

The long-term average snowfall here in November is only 0.6 inch. The snowiest November on record here was way back in 1898, when 9.7 inches accumulated in the city. Perhaps the most memorable November snowfall here in relatively recent memory was the 6-inch Veteran's Day storm, on Nov. 11, 1987.

As the month goes on, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Sunrise in Baltimore gets later each day, advancing from 6:35 a.m. to 7:06 a.m. by month's end. Sunset gets earlier, falling back from 5:05 p.m. to 4:44 p.m.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac
        

September 30, 2005

October: Can snow be far behind?

It's been 26 years since Baltimore has seen snow in October. Maybe global warming has erased the possibility. But the fact that it CAN snow in Baltimore in October is enough to rate a mention as we welcome the new month, which starts tomorrow.

A total of nine snow events have been recorded in October, record-keeping in Baltimore began in 1871. The earliest ever recorded occurred on Oct. 9, 1895. It was just a trace, nothing measureable. And that record was matched with another trace on the same date eight years later - in 1903. 

The earliest measureable snowfall was 0.3 inch, on Oct. 10, 1979. It's been much longer since we've seen any appreciable accumulation in October. The weather service records show a 1.3-inch snowfall on Oct. 19, 1940. And 2.5 inches fell on Oct. 30, 1925. That's the record for October.

I've always felt October was the prettiest month in Maryland, perhaps in a tie with April. The temperatures are comfortable, the sun is warm, the leaves are turning and we generally shed all the humidity that can make summertime unpleasant.

Average daytime highs in October - using the 30-year average at BWI - range from 73 degrees as the month opens, to 62 degrees by Halloween. The average overnight lows slide from 50 down to 39 degrees.

But it can also be pretty warm, and very cold. The record highs range from 97 degrees (on Oct. 5, 1941) to 80 degrees (Oct. 25, 1902).  The record lows start at 36 degrees (Oct. 1, 1947), and slip on down to 25 degrees (on Oct. 24, 1969 and Oct. 31, 1966).

The average October produces 3.16 inches of rain. It will be interesting to see how long this current mini-drought continues into the autumn. BWI has seen just 0.67 inch of rain since Aug. 28.  The wettest October day was Oct. 10, 1929, when 4.38 inches were measured in the city.

The driest October was in 1963, when only a trace was recorded at BWI. The wettest was in 1976, when 8.09 inches were measured. We'll sum up September tomorrow.

For stargazers, October promises an increasingly impressive view of the planet Mars. We're moving toward the Earth's closest approach to the Red Planet since 2003 (on Nov. 3), and the nearest we'll see it again until 2018. It's already a brilliant spectacle in the eastern sky in the late evening. It's the biggest, brightest, reddest star-like object up there. You can't miss it.

Venus will remain a bright presence in the western sky after sunset all month. Look for the crescent moon to join her on the 4th or 5th.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac
        

September 22, 2005

Fall arrives tonight

The Autumnal Equinox occurs this evening at 6:23 p.m., officially the end of Summer and the beginning of the Fall season in the Northern Hemisphere. For more, click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac
        

June 20, 2005

Summer Solstice arrives at 2:48 a.m.

The Northern Hemisphere's official summer season will commence as we sleep tonight. The northern summer solstice occurs at 2:48 a.m. Tuesday morning, just as winter begins for people living south of the equator.

The solstice marks the moment when the sun reaches its highest point above (north of) the celestial equator. (Imagine a flat plane extending out into space from the Earth's equator.) It also marks the longest period of daylight hours in the northern hemisphere. In Baltimore, the sun will rise at 5:40 a.m. and set at 8:37 p.m., for a total of 15 hours and 57 minutes of sunshine.

From here on, the days will grow gradually shorter, until the winter solstice arrives at 1:36 p.m. on Dec. 21.

Continue reading "Summer Solstice arrives at 2:48 a.m." »

Posted by Admin at 12:36 PM | | Comments (0)
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May 31, 2005

June arrives with promise of warmer weather

After one of the coolest Mays on record in Baltimore, Marylanders can be forgiven if they look forward to June - which arrives tomorrow - even though summer in these parts usually means some highs in the 90s (or worse) with humidities to match.

For now, the week ahead looks like more springtime weather. The highs will linger in the 70s for a few more days, before the weekend brings us afternoons, at last, in the 80s. That should hit the spot for many. I know my mother-in-law doesn't take off her sweater until the mercury hits the 80s. There's a chance for some showers late Wednesday and Thursday, but the rest of the week looks dry.

In June, the average high temperatures at BWI rise from 79 degrees to 86 degrees by month's end. The average lows climb from 57 to 64 degrees.

The record highs are in the 90s and 100s, with an all-time June record of 105 degrees, set on June 29, 1934. Imagine that day in a Baltimore rowhouse before air conditioning! No wonder they slept in the parks on hot summer nights back then. Anybody remember that? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

The record lows for the month are in the 40s and 50s. The all-time chilly morning in June was a 40-degree surprise on June 11, 1972. That was the same June when the remains of hurricane Agnes (click here and scroll to the bottom of the page that appears) struck Maryland, with disastrous effects. The storm dropped more than 6 inches of rain at the airport on June 21-22. It also contributed to the wettest June on record here - 9.95 inches. (The driest June was in 1954, when the airport recorded barely .15 of an inch of rain.

June also brings the opening of the Atlantic hurricane season. But the peak in hurricane activity is in late summer - from late August through September. The season ends Nov. 30. Dr. William Gray's latest predictions for the season are looking more dire. For the good doctor's latest forecast from Colorado State University, just out today, click here.

Posted by Admin at 11:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac
        

May 2, 2005

April exits mild and a bit dry

Two very warm spells during April at BWI allowed the month to make its exit this weekend a bit warmer than the 30-year norms. It was also a bit drier than normal, although local rainfall amounts might differ considerably.

The month started out close to the long-term averages. But the 6th and 7th were unusually warm, with highs of 84 and 76. The overnight low on the 7th never fell below 60 degrees, boosting the day's average temperature to 18 degrees above normal.

There was another warm spell on the 19th and 20th, with highs both days of 86 degrees at BWI. That pushed the days' averages 14 and 17 degrees above normal, respectively. Not even the cold snap on the 24th - with a high of just 49 - was enough to shove the month's averages below normal.

We finished April with an average temperature of 55 degrees - 2 degrees warmer than the 30-year average. The low for the month was 32 degrees, on the 17th. The high was 86, on the 19th and 20th.

Rainfall for the month came to 2.56 inches. That was a third of an inch below normal. Most of that - 2.06 inches - came in the first three days of the month. The rest of April was relatively dry, with just six more days with measurable precipitation. We had two thunderstorms - one on the 2nd, and another on the 23rd.

The skies were clear on 10 days in April, and cloudy on 10 days. And we all enjoyed that long stretch of delightful spring weather at mid-month - 12 straight days, from the 9th to the 20th, with no rain, highs mostly (10 days of the 12) in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and clear skies (8 days of the 12).

Posted by Admin at 1:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Almanac
        
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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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