October 27, 2011

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

October 19, 2011

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

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

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

September 15, 2011

At last! A new, local phone number for weather

Baltimoreans! Do you miss the old Verizon weather line for checking the weather forecast? Do your Weather phonefingers still want to dial WE-6 1212 whenever the skies look threatening?

The number was disconnected in June, and since then we've been limited to Verizon's Washington line and the DC forecast, or the BGE/Fox45 number (410 MOB-WACK) and its ads. 

Well, you're in luck. The National Weather Service has found a way to hook up a phone line to its NOAA Weather Radio forecast for Baltimore.

And you can call it now, at 410 500-4450. It's a robot, but he sounds like a nice enough guy. And there are no ads.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:13 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 7, 2011

5"-6" of rain coming; "Turn Around, Don't Drown!"

UPDATE, 1:20 P.M.: The weather service has issued a Flash FLood Emergency UNTIL 2:30 P.M. for Baltimore's western and southern suburbs:



TADDForecasters at the National Weather Service office in Sterling are warning of extraordinary rainfall in the region Wednesday afternoon, and urging residents of Central Maryland NOT to try to drive through flooded streets.

"Due to the large string of heavy rain that extends to the south, this will likely be a big story this afternoon and into the evening," said Christopher Strong, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at Sterling.

"Some of this rain is expected to fall at 2 inches per hour rates, and some of our area may see up to 5 or 6 inches of rain this afternoon," Strong said. "I would expect in the DC Metro and western Baltimore metro that there will be many water rescues and flooded roads."

"Please encourage people to 'Turn Around/Don't Drown" for flooded roads, and to have kids stay away from flooding culverts (there have been several deaths over the years from this)."

UPDATE:  The State Highway Administration is warning of a difficult commute due to high water on roads and heavy rain. Plan accordingly.

Rain over SE Baltimore HarborMeanwhile, Ellicott City is being hit hard. Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services are responding to several calls of flooding and motorists stranded, a spokesperson said. Areas of concern are Main Street in Ellicott City and Frederick Road at the Rogers Avenue intersection. See a YouTube video of the flooding here.

The Baltimore City Fire Department is also busy dealing with flooding issues. BCFD units are on the scene in the 3400 block of Spellman Road in Cherry Hill assisting residents from their homes due to flooding, a spokesman said.

Are you out in this stuff? Tell us what you're seeing. Email photos if you can take them safely. 

(PHOTO: Thanks to Andy Blumberg. Looking southeast from the Legg Mason Tower)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 31, 2011

Chickens died in Delaware, not Maryland

The Maryland Department of Agriculture said it was mistaken Tuesday when Secretary Earl "Buddy" Hance reported, in his preliminary assessment of crop damage due to Hurricane Irene, that 30,000 Maryland chickens had perished. It turns out the deaths occurred in Delaware's portion of the Delmarva Peninsula.

"In Maryland, we had no chicken mortalities during Irene," said Maryland Agriculture Department spokeswoman Julie Oberg. The Delaware chickens died when a chicken house flooded, she said.

Delmarva produces over 600 million chickens a year, the industry says. Proportionately, at least, "even that 30,000 is relatively small," Oberg said.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 16, 2011

Where are Summit Station and Islas Orcadas?

Summit Station, GreenlandFROM TODAY'S PRINT EDITIONS:

Don Torres, in Ellicott City, tracks the planet’s cold spots on our print weather page: “It’s almost always Summit Station, Greenland, and … [in the southern winter] Islas Orcadas…  Would you identify these locations?” Sure. Summit Station is a university research outpost in the center of Greenland. Islas Orcadas is the Spanish name for the South Orkney Islands. By treaty, the islands are part of Antarctica. Both the U.K. and Argentina have research bases there.


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

July 21, 2011

Hot-in-Baltimore Contest update

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

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

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

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

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

And the heat goes on...

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

July 13, 2011

Hot-in-Baltimore Contest update

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

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

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

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

(SUN PHOTO: Gene Sweeney Jr. July 2011)


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

June 28, 2011

Gone fishin'

This turned out to be an unlucky week to take a vacation, what with the ORS-1/Minotaur-1 launchFishing Baltimore scheduled for Tuesday night down at Wallops Island, Va. Wish I could get down there to cover it.

But it's that time, and plans are plans. I will be away from the WeatherBlog for a few days, recharging my batteries and spending some quality time with my favorite teacher and friends. Others will be checking in here to post your comments and other items.

You may talk amongst yourselves. 

(SUN PHOTO: David Sinclair, Patuxent Publishing 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 19, 2011

June 1943 was Baltimore's hottest June, not 2010


Last Sunday I wrote about a 1925 prediction by James H. Spencer, who ran the Weather Bureau office in Baltimore. After a record-hot June that averaged 78.7 degrees, he predicted that record would stand “for centuries.” I checked the NWS tables online and declared the 1925 mark stood until 2010, which I called the new hottest June on record, at 78.9 degrees. An alert reader said I’d skipped over June 1943, which averaged 79.8 degrees in Baltimore. He’s right. I’m having my glasses checked.

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

June 2, 2011

Dew point forecasts help you prepare for Md. humidity


Regular readers of our print weather page may have noticed a change in how we report humidity levels. Until recently, we reported the relative humidity percentages recorded for the previous day. But, as readers pointed out, those don’t tell readers how sticky it will feel during the day ahead. So now we’re posting dew point forecasts. A dew point above 65 degrees begins to feel humid. But when it tops 70 you can prepare for a really steamy Chesapeake summer day.    

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

May 24, 2011

2011 Hot-in-Baltimore Contest is now open


The WeatherBlog is already hearing from readers (okay, one) eager to compete in this year’s Hot in Baltimore Hot-in-Baltimore Contest.

Try to guess the number of 90-degree-plus days at BWI (coming closest without going over). We ended 2010 with 59, a record, and Angel Hernandez, of Easton nailed it.

So, the 2011 contest is open, accepting guesses until June 10 at The BWI average is 29 days, but we’ve had none so far.

Winner gets a cheap Sun trinket. And glory.   

(SUN PHOTO: Larry C. Price, June 1999)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:01 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 16, 2011

Gone fishin'

 Fishing the Golden Horn

Now that we have spring well underway, it's time again to step back, recharge the batteries, try some new beers, visit old friends and get reacquainted with my favorite teacher.

I've left a few entries for the print weather page and the blog, but it will be up to my colleagues to keep the shop running until I get back. So be nice to them and enjoy the weather. You may talk amongst yourselves.

Cheers, Frank

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 23, 2011

Note to self: 2100 will NOT be a leap year


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

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

March 17, 2011

Fascinated by weather? Become a weather "spotter"


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

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

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

February 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

The language just keeps getting better and better.

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

A pause for thanks

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

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

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

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

General Ship Repair Company – Donation of Staff Time and Expertise

Paul Behrends – Volunteer Time as Dockmaster for Dry Docking

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

Smith Marine Towing – Donation of Towing Ships, Staff Expertise

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

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

International Paint – Donation of Antifouling Paint for both vessels.

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

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

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

SmartMultiMedia, Inc. – 3D survey of the vessels

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

Pump and Power Equipment – Donation of Emergency Generators and Pumps

Davis Crane Rental – Donation of Crane Service

W.O. Grubb - Donation of Crane Service

Williams Crane Service - Donation of Crane Service

Scaffold Resources – Donation of Scaffolding

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

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

January 28, 2011

The Sun's new print weather page arrives Sunday

The Sun's print subscribers will get a bonus with their Sunday papers this weekend as the paper  unveils a bigger, more colorful and informative weather feature.

As the newspaper continues to rebound from a long period of downsizing, it's now the weather page's turn for some upgrades and revitalization. Many of the changes have been made in response to reader requests and suggestions in recent months. Many thanks for your interest and your ideas. We have listened.

Here's some of what you'll find when you open your paper, beginning on Sunday:

Weather page* The feature will double in size, from the current quarter-page, to a half-page. We're also moving from page 3 to the back page of the Sports Section. Look for us there.

* We will be leaving the 1950s world of black-and-white behind, moving back to a full four-color display.

* Readers' most-requested feature, the national weather map, is back. It will show temperature patterns and the barometric highs and lows, cold fronts and warm fronts all across the Lower 48 states.

* A larger Maryland map will include high and low temperature forecasts for more cities and towns.

* We'll have an easier-to-navigate list of U.S. and foreign cities, with forecasts for today and tomorrow. We're also adding red indicators showing where travelers can expect travel delays. The section will also include the high and low extreme-temperature readings for the Lower 48 states, and the world.

* The Baltimore Almanac will include all the highs, lows and records for BWI-Marshall Airport. New "trend" graphics will also give readers a quick grasp of recent trends in precipitation and temperature.

* We are also adding easy-to grasp graphical representations (in season) forNational map pollen counts, UV and Air Quality Index readings.

* Plenty of readers also asked us to provide degree-day reports, so they can estimate how much energy they're using for heating and cooling. So we've added that, too, along with the long-term averages for comparison.

* We will continue to provide a Marine Forecast, with tide times for the Chesapeake and the beaches, wave heights and water temperatures.

* Stargazers will appreciate another new feature. In addition to the moon phases, and the rise and set times for the sun and moon, we will now be listing rise and set times for all five naked-eye planets, so they can see what they'll find in the night sky and when to look. 

* And, in addition to the five-day forecast from the WJZ First Warning Weather Team, our forecasts and reports will be backed by the power and reliability of AccuWeather. Finally, the new page will continue to be anchored, at the bottom, by me (with a smaller photo, thank heavens) and the Maryland Weather Blog.

So, if you are a subscriber, we thank you for your loyalty and patience. If you're not, we hope you will take another look at the paper and consider joining us. Tell us what you think of the print weather page improvements. And if you have any suggestions, we're always listening.

(SUN PHOTOS: Weather page mockups, Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:54 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

January 24, 2011

Maryland Weather Blog rated among the best

The Maryland Weather Blog has been rated among the 49 best meteorology blogs on the Internet by yet another blog - Engineering Degrees Online.

Maryland Weather blogWe are listed as seventh in the "Local and National Meteorology Blogs" category.  Not sure if the ordering has any meaning. (Maybe there ARE only 49 weather blogs.) But hey, we're happy to get noticed. If nothing else, it's a handy guide to some of the other weather blogs out there.

The Maryland Weather Blog has been up and running since September 2004, the Baltimore Sun's first online blog. We frequently rank among the most-visited in The Sun's roster of 39 blogs. Last week we recorded more than 106,000 page views, second only to Ravens Insider and Orioles Insider blogs. More than half of those hits were local.

The Sun continues to work to improve the weather information we provide to readers. Next Sunday we plan to debut our new, half-page, four-color print weather feature. We'll have more here later in the week about what new information you'll find there. 

Thanks for reading The Sun, in print and online.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:20 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Notes to readers

January 14, 2011

No, your astrological sign hasn't changed

When I saw Thursday evening that this goofy story on the "changes" in the dates and names of our astrological signs was the most popular item on our Web site, I told our editors that it was badly garbled, and mostly wrong.

There was nothing they could do. It was inserted by editors in Chicago, and Baltimore had no Ophiuchuscontrol over it.

It apparently began with a legitimate astronomer, interviewed on a TV station, who noted that the sun is not really passing through the constellation, or astrological "sign" that one would think, based on the dates published in the newspaper every day for as long as anyone can remember.

That means many of us were not really born under the signs we thought we were (if we thought about it at all). And some of us (myself among them) were born under a sign we'd never heard of -Ophiuchus (left). 

That much is astronomical fact. But the story on the TV station's website was pretty confused, and once everyone else began picking it up, it became hopelessly garbled. 

The bottom line is this: This "drift" in the sun's apparent position relative to the background stars and constellations has been known and understood by ASTRONOMERS and ASTROLOGERS since the Greek astronomer Hipparchus figured it out in 134 BC. 

It's called the "precession of the equinoxes." And since 600 BC, it has moved the actual position of the sun against the background constellations about a month out of synch with the astrologers' traditional frame of reference. 

Astrologers who use the dates and positions dictated by Near Eastern astronomers hundreds of years before the Christian Era are well aware of it, and they don't care. They're not going to change the dates they use, and they're not going to add a "13th sign" - Ophiuchus - to the Zodiac.

I first became aware of this particular disconnect between astronomy and astrology in 2004, and I wrote a story about it for The Sun. I've pasted it in below. Read and learn, as I did.

Continue reading "No, your astrological sign hasn't changed" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 30, 2010

Snow contest update

I finally got around to organizing the entries to our 2010-11 Snow Contest, in which clever readers try to guess the total snow accumulations for the season (through March 15) at BWI-Marshall Airport.

We have a grand total of 68 participants, including Angel Hernandez, of Easton, winner of our Dec. 26 snowfall BaltimoreGuess How Many 90-degree Days Contest last summer. The snow guesses range from a low of 7 inches (Ms. Nash) to a whopping 65 inches (Ken Marsh). The record was set last winter at 77 inches.

We have four potential ties - at 10 inches ("Henry" and Diane Goldbloom); 13.6 inches (Rick and Zevonista); 22.2 inches (Kevin and Eric), and 36 inches (David G. and Therese). But everyone else has staked out his or her own territory, some down to two decimal places.

As you'll recall, the 30-year average for BWI is 18 inches. Many of the entries - more than a third - are clustered, predictably, in the 16-to-23-inch range. Angel's guess for the snow contest, in case you're wondering, is a just-a-little-snowier-than-average 22 inches.

But so far this winter we've recorded a not-too-impressive 1.2 inches of snow at the airport. January and February average a bit more than 13 inches combined. So those who guessed low can take some comfort in the pace through December.

The person who comes closest without going over will be our winner. I'll keep you posted as the snow totals accumulate. But as the new year opens, we'll need a 6-incher just to reach our lowest guess. The forecast for Sunday calls for rain.

(SUN PHOTO: Dec. 26 snowfall - a trace - in Baltimore, Algerina Perna)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 23, 2010

Gone (ice) fishin'

Ice fishing in CumberlandNow that we have (we hope) disposed of this pesky Christmas weekend snowstorm (except maybe out on Delmarva), we can safely step away from the controls and place The Sun's Weather Complex on autopilot.

We'll be spending a few days with friends and family, catching up on neglected reading, lost sleep (the eclipse) and long-overdue painting (daughter's house).

May your Christmas/Holiday break be Merry and Long. And may all your weather be average. - FR

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin 2002)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:52 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 13, 2010

2010-11 Snowfall Contest opens

With the return of cold weather, last Friday's flurries, and the mayhem that resulted on the roads north and west of Baltimore, the winter weather season is undeniably here. So let's have some fun with it.

The Friday Flurrimageddon put a TRACE of snow on the official season's tally at BWI-Marshall. That's one parameter for guessing the season's total accumulations. Last year's all-time Baltimore record (adjusted) total of 77 inches provides the other. We're not likely to see that again in my lifetime.

SnowIn between, however, there is a wide range of possibilities for the new season. You can start with the long-term (30-year) average of 18 inches for BWI and work backwards, or forwards. You can calculate using temperature trends in the Pacific Ocean. (These La Nina winters tend to result in more mixed-precipitation storms for us, and more storms out of the Midwest that pack less moisture than the big coastal nor'easters.)

Here's a pile of winter data for the region from the National Weather Service. Here are the average monthly and seasonal snow totals for Baltimore going back to 1883.

You can go with the big forecasting outfits, most of whom seem to be predicting a more nearly average winter.  Or you can strike out on your own. Make a guess using your age, door number, or the number of hybrid cars you count on the way to work.

Whatever your reasoning, or system, submit your guess for the total snow accumulation this winter season at BWI-Marshall Airport. The meteorological winter ends officially on Feb. 28, but we all know the March can bring a flakey surprise, as it did in 2009. So let's cut off the count on March 15.

Post your entry, in inches for the entire season, as a comment here. I'll keep a tally, and the person coming closest without going over will win some fabulous Baltimore Sun swag of my choosing. People related to me, and time-travelers, will be disqualified.

UPDATE, Dec. 15: Entry period will close with the first measurable snowfall of the season at BWI. That could come Thursday. Or not.

UPDATE: Dec. 16: With snow in the air and on the ground at BWI, we hereby close the entries for the 2010-11 snow contest. Thanks to all who have entered. And good luck!

Let the snow bands and whiteouts and wintry mixes begin! 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:48 PM | | Comments (71)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 9, 2010

How would YOU change the weather page?

Unless you believe in the meteorological power of prayer, you can't change the weather. But maybe you can change the weather page.

Baltimore Sun weather pageThe Baltimore Sun is preparing for a major overhaul of its PRINT weather page. Having weathered a period of shrinkage and a loss of color, we are now on the rebound. Soon, perhaps as early as January, we will be expanding our current quarter-page of weather data to its former half-page glory. It will also be relocated from P. 3 to the back page of the Sports section.

And, we will be bringing back the color.

With the added space, we plan to add or restore weather data we haven't been able to provide in our currently cramped quarters. 

So, consider this your opportunity to tell us what you'd like to see on the print weather page starting in 2011, or what you'd like to see disappear. A national weather map? An accounting of heating and cooling degree-days? Humidity and barometric pressure readings?

Could you use a clearer display of pollen counts and air quality conditions? More (or fewer, or better-displayed) national and international temperatures and forecasts? More information for stargazers? More (or less) of me? 

Leave a comment here, or send me an email directly and let us know what changes you'd most like to see, what information you find most (or least) useful, and what you'd most like to see if we can squeeze it in. 

Over to you...

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Notes to readers

October 14, 2010

Anyone on Bay spot a waterspout?

Waterspout, Jacksonville, Fla.The National Weather Service posted a Special Marine Warning at 3:09 this afternoon advising mariners to watch for a possible waterspout.

If you're on the Chesapeake Bay, or on the nearby shores, and you spotted this thing, leave a comment and describe what you saw. Better still, if you got a photo, send it along.


(AP PHOTO: Florida Times-Union, Will Dickey, Jacksonville, 2009)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

October 1, 2010

Sun weather station recovers from deluge

I have no idea why the outdoor temperature and humidity instruments on our Davis Vantage Pro 2 wireless weather station conked out during Thursday morning's downpour. Maybe it just got too Sun Weather Stationwet, although that doesn't seem like a feature you'd want in a weather station.

On the other hand, even the National Weather Service instruments that track conditions in downtown Los Angeles crapped out the other day, just as temperatures reached an all-time record 113 degrees. And they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their gear. We don't.

Whatever it was, our thermometer and hygrometer stopped sending a signal around 8:20 a.m. Thursday, and all I had on the indoor console was dashes. And the online report showed lows of minus 99 degrees every 10 minutes. The anemometer was still working, and transmitting to the indoor console. So was the rain gauge - a good thing in an historic, record rainstorm. And all the indoor readings were fine.

That lasted until 8 a.m. today. And then, as inexplicably as it began, the problem vanished. It healed itself, like my old VW bug. And the weather conditions at Centre and North Calvert streets are once again available for all the world to track via the Internet.

To the Weather Gods, my thanks.

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:28 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 14, 2010

Baltimore Sun iPhone app debuts

Baltimore Sun iPhone appWeatherBlog regulars and stargazing Space Cadets can now access The Baltimore Sun's Weather Blog with a new iPhone app that's gone live today. 

It can take you, slick and easy, to our news stories, photos and blogs. It's only $1.99 - one time - and comes with no ads.

Here comes the pitch:

The @baltimoresun #iPhone app is out TODAY. Get it here:




Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 10, 2010

Our 6th anniversary

Today, Sept. 10, marks the 6th Anniversary of the Maryland Weather Blog, The Baltimore's Sun's first online blog. Here, in its entirety, is our first entry:

Flowers"Current track of Ivan

"Hurricane Ivan is now tracking directly toward the Florida Keys. It is predicted to make landfall Monday morning."

We've learned a lot since Sept. 10, 2004, and I think the Maryland Weather Blog has become a much more interesting place to tap into what's happening in the atmosphere and beyond.

Thanks to all our readers - those who have been with us from the start, and the thousands who have joined us along the way. We especially value your comments and feedback. Reader interaction is the lifeblood of the blog biz. Let us hear from you.

May your weather always be interesting.  - FR

(SUN PHOTO: Frank Roylance) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 2, 2010

Blizzards, drought, record heat ... one crazy year

The Summer of 2010 has ended (for meteorologists, at least) as the hottest on record for Baltimore and Washington. The hot summer weather comes after a Baltimore winter that saw more snow than any other winter since official record-keeping began in the 1880s.

February blizzard Baltimore 2010We also had drought, and tied the record for the most 100-degree days in one calendar year (7).

And we still have four months to go. What else could happen? A hurricane?

The Baltimore Sun is going to be writing about this crazy year, and we're looking for your input. Leave us a comment below or email me directly at . Tell us what you think about all the news-making weather we've had this year, and how it has affected you and your family.

Have you just hated the cold, the snow, the heat and the disruptions to your life? Or, do the changes in the weather provide spice and variety in an otherwise predictable routine?

How has the weather affected your budget? Did you lose money or make more money during the blizzards? How did the wintry weather affect your family budget? What about the summer heat? Have your air conditioning bills been a serious burden, or have you found ways to cool off without the AC? How have your gardens and lawns fared?

Do you think we're likely to see more extreme weather in the years to come, or has this just been an oddity that should be expected the more years we add to the record books? 

Let us hear from you. If we decide to use your comments in the story, we will need to include your name and hometown. Thanks. - FR

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 11, 2010

Gone fishin'

fishinI know. It's really hot out. There are storms brewing somewhere in the Atlantic and the Gulf. And now the weather blogger is taking a powder. Bad timing.

But this last break of the season was planned long ago, and my favorite teacher would come after me with a ruler if I didn't take the time.

So I'll be off the WeatherDeck for a few days, trying to keep cool. I've left a few items for the weekend papers.

If you need to check for tropical storm or hurricane data, click here.

For the Baltimore forecast from the National Weather Service in Sterling, click here. And, for the latest data from The Sun's weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets, click here.

Now, you may talk amongst yourselves. Someone will be checking for comments and posting them. I'm outa here.

(SUN PHOTO: Doug Kapustin, 2007)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 20, 2010

NOAA Weather Radio on the air again

Sounds like the repairs are under way out at the Pikesville transmitter for NOAA Weather Radio, channel KEC83, which was knocked out by a lightning strike last week. I'm getting good reception again here in the newsroom downtown. And I've had this dispatch from Mike in Linthicum:

"Hey Frank,

"I was glad to hear KEC83 was back on the air yesterday. The Sudlersville station just NOAA Weather Radiowasn’t cutting it – too many crackles and pops. If I took my radio out to the back yard – which faces west, I was also able to pull in the station in DC. But who want to listen to a DC forecast?

"Yeah, I know I need to get a life, but I’ve had a radio with the weather band ever since I was a kid, and I’ve always liked listening to the forecasts.

If I remember correctly, back then you had real people – not the computerized voices – even though “Donna” is HOT!!! (OK – just kidding)  -Mike in Linthicum"

No. You're right. Donna may be a computer chip, but we don't hold that against her. She is hot.

As for the repairs, the efforts out at the transmitter have restored service, but they remain incomplete. Here's the word from Sterling:


Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 27, 2010

Gone fishin'

Fishing BaltimoreI surely do hate to leave you in the middle of a heat wave, with storms brewing in the tropics and a full moon on the rise.

But it's vacation time on the WeatherDeck, and I will be out of the Maryland Weather Blog control room for a while. I'm going to recharge the old batteries, get to know my favorite school teacher a little better, and put some sand between our toes.

You may talk amongst yourselves. 



(Update: We'll still be posting weather news here until he returns.)

(SUN PHOTO: Algerina Perna)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 4, 2010

New Sun Weather Text Alert service debuts

Looking for someone to let you know when a dangerous storm is approaching? Curious about the weekend forecast downy ayshun? Could you use an afternoon reminder of what the forecast looks like for tomorrow?

Baltimore Sun Weather Text AlertIf so, just sign up for The Baltimore Sun's Weather Text Alert service, and we'll keep you posted via your cell phone. It's brand-new, and here's what we're including:

1. A daily forecast for tomorrow's weather, sent out seven days a week at 4:30 p.m.

2. The Friday forecasts, through Labor Day, will include a separate beach forecast.

3. Breaking Weather Alerts during our business hours for Baltimore and the five surrounding counties, plus Ocean City in summer, including Weather Warnings for flash floods, tornadoes, winter storms, temperatures at BWI above 95 degrees or below 10 degrees and broken records. (This is not a substitute for a NOAA Weather Radio.)

It's easy to start, and easy to stop.

Here's where you can sign up:,0,5055680.htmlstory

And here are some FAQs:,0,4677297.story 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 1, 2010

Mysteries of our new weather page

I've been getting some comments and questions from readers who are trying (as I am) to get acquainted with The Sun's new online weather page. It's not always very intuitive and takes some exploration to master. Nobody briefed me, either, so I'm learning right along with you. Here are some of the issues you've raised, what we're doing, and a few tips for users:Summer heat Baltimore

THE RADAR SCREEN: A number of readers are disappointed in the new screen because it doesn't display well on mobile phones. Others complain they can't see the storms, or can't get the images to animate so that it shows how the storms have moved.

THE FIX: The new format indeed does not work well on mobile phones. But we are working on apps that should fix the problem. They will be available within a month, I'm told.

The radar will show the storms, but you need to click on the "Weather" tab, and select either "National" or "Super local res" to make them appear.

And to animate the storms, you need to click on the tiny triangle at the top of the "Radar transparency" slide-bar on the left-hand side of the screen. It may have a little digital clock beside it. That triangle is a "Play" button, I've discovered, and it will activate a 30-minute sequence of radar returns. When the animation is running, the button becomes a "Pause" button - two vertical bars. Click on it and the screen will freeze again. The animation may take a few seconds to load.

TODAY'S FORECAST: A reader pointed out that our big 7-day forecast showed current conditions, but did not provide today's forecast. You could find one below, on the hourly forecast module, but it was a schlep to get there and required you to scroll through to right hour. 

THE FIX: We have added a "Today's Forecast" tab, right below the 7-day forecast. Click it and you'll see current conditions, with the forecast high and low, and the forecast for the rest of the day and tomorrow.

MOONRISE: The new page gives sunset and sunrise times, but the moon got left out.

THE FIX: We hope to provide daily moonrise and moonset times soon.

WEATHER ALMANAC: On the old page, readers could click on "Detailed history" and find a tool that would show weather data for any day since BWI became the city's station of record in 1950. (Actually, I think it used to go back to 1948.) But it's missing from the new almanac module.

THE FIX: We are working on it and expect to get that feature back soon.

Thanks again for your patience as we roll out the new weather page, work out the kinks and add the features readers want. - Frank

(SUN PHOTO: Larry C. Price, 1997)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:13 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Notes to readers

May 25, 2010

Check out our new Weather Page

Regular visitors to The Baltimore Sun’s online Weather Page have noticed some striking changes this week.

My same sorry mug is still there, I'm afraid, but you’ll also find a colorful new 7-day forecast section. You can glide your cursor over any day of the week and find more details in a pop-up box.

Snow in BaltimoreWe have a big, new, animated radar screen. It can be a bit slow to load, but it has lots of new features. The radar animates the most recent 30 minutes of returns. Drop-down data options allow readers to toggle among three different backgrounds, including a road map, terrain map and satellite images. 

You can also enter any Zip Code to zoom the radar to your location. That also activates a forecast for that spot. The "Clickcast" option produces forecasts for any place in the world. You can also select for national or high-resolution local radar, infrared satellite views, watches and warnings. Or, you can call up lightning strikes or ship and buoy data.

You can also set the radar screen to show severe storm and hurricane data. I suspect users will be spending lots of time exploring all this. It's kind of addictive, at least for weather geeks like me.Flooding Baltimore

For obsessive/compulsive planners, there is a new feature below the radar screen that provides forecasts for each hour, beginning with the next one and moving forward for each of the next 24.

Then there's the Weather Almanac, with normal and record temperature data for the date, and sunrise and sunset times. I'm told we will soon restore the detailed weather history from BWI that was available on the old page. That tool provided weather data for any date back to 1950, when the Heat wave Baltimoreofficial weather station for Baltimore was moved to then-Friendship, now BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The new page also provides detailed air quality information, including current grass, mold, tree and weed pollen counts. There is an ultraviolet exposure rating (on a 1 to 10 scale, higher being more dangerous), and even a current flu report (only sporadic in Maryland at the moment).

The Maryland Weather Center is still there, providing a link to detailed information from The Sun's own weather station at Calvert and Centre streets. It's a handy place to check out downtown conditions. Lots of features on that, too.

The Weather Blog is still there, of course. And now we have links to more national weather news, and videos from The Sun, from readers and dozens of other sources. The WJZ video forecast is also still available on the page.

We're also currently running a "Bay and Beach" feature with loads of beach news and information.

So go check it out. Explore, play with the new features and tools. You could even buy an ad! And feel free to leave a comment here and tell us what you like, what you don't like and what else you'd like to see on the page. Cheers. - Frank

(SUN PHOTOS: Top, Kim Hairston, 2010; Middle: Hillary Smith, 1996; Bottom: AP/Ted Mathias, 1994)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:00 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 19, 2010

Allergy sufferers! The pollen count is back

Sun pollen reportAfter lots of requests, and a little head scratching ("Why not?"), we have finally returned the daily pollen counts and forecasts to the daily print Weather Page and to The Sun website's Weather Page.

The print pollen report is located at the bottom of the "Baltimore Almanac" feature on page 3A. It gets the spot where the snow tallies ran during the snow season. As things stand now, we plan to alternate pollen and snow data in that position in their respective seasons.

The online pollen report is located on the main Weather Page, below the WJZ Weather Forecast video. You can click on the blue "Details" link for an expanded version.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:55 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 26, 2010

Gone fishin'

FishingNow that the danger of snow seems to have (mostly) passed, and with the trees in bud, your old WeatherBlogger will be taking a few days off to enjoy the weather, recharge his batteries, and get to know his favorite teacher again.

You should do the same. Get some sunshine; rake up winter's mess; and take time to look at the stars.

Back in a bit. Cheers. 

(SUN PHOTO/Algerina Perna, 2009)


Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

February 8, 2010

Lend a hand to the snowbound

Clearing snow in Cockeysville 

As we all sweat and struggle to break free of all this snow and ice and resume our normal routines, let's try to remember those who can't get through this alone.

I just received this reminder from a reader. She asked me not to use her name or to mention the jurisdiction where she works because it's not an official statement. Just a heartfelt one:

"Please mention somewhere for folks to look out for any neighbors, friends or relatives that are elderly or disabled or both. We at the Emergency Operations Center are taking hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from elderly and/or disabled people who are looking for someone to just shovel off their front steps or clean off their cars so that they can get out.

"We have very limited resources - right now it's up to volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to get some dialysis patients to the doctors. Or for medical emergencies.

"We have no volunteers to speak of to clean off cars and shovel walks. If everyone who is able-bodied helped one person who isn't , most folks would be OK."

(SUN PHOTO/Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:28 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Notes to readers

February 6, 2010

Do NOT run your snow-buried car's engine

Sure, you're cold. And tired. Shoveling is exhausting. But don't take your break in the car with the engine running. It could put you in a cold grave. Consider this message from a WeatherBlog reader in Columbia:

"Frank, you may want to help people not kill themselves as I almost did.

"I managed to dig a trench to my car (Columbia, so 30+ inches) and had the great idea to defrost it. My satellite radio, unlike my satellite TV, was working so I sat in it while it was running.

"I started seeing that distortion effect INSIDE THE CAR and realized carbon monoxide was coming in the car.

"Someone, I guarantee, will sit in their car cave while it defrosts and accidentally asphyxiate."

Remember, the snow piled around your car can trap carbon monoxide coming from the exhaust. It can quickly incapacitate you before you realize what's happening. Then it will kill you. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe and leave the engine off until the car is ready to roll.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:10 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 10, 2009

WeatherBlog is 5 years old today

Spaarnestad photo 

Today, Maryland Weather  - the WeatherBlog, the Baltimore Sun's first online Web log - is five years old.

In the last 60 months we have posted almost 2,500 entries, and more than 2,200 reader comments. As we got the hang of this new medium, we have gradually added Web links, pictures and videos. And in July 2006 we began writing weather comments on Page 2A of the print editions.

Our weekly online page views now average around 14,000, but when snowstorms or hurricanes threaten Marylanders, that number can surge to more than 120,000. We generally rank between 10th and 20th of The Baltimore Sun's blogs in weekly reader traffic, not bad for a blog that has nothing to do with sports or eating.

It can snow in BaltimoreThe Sun's Davis Pro 2 weather station, at Calvert and Centre streets, which we pushed for, and made accessible through The Sun's weather page at, gets 30,000 to 40,000 hits a month.

Curiously, while everyone has some need to know about the weather, that's not the topic here that seems to generate the most enthusiasm. In a week without snow or hurricanes in the forecast, it's our posts about the night sky that seems to generate the most reader interest.

Whether it is a passing comet, an expected meteor shower, and prominent display of bright planets or a flyover by the International Space Station, readers seem to get the biggest kick out of being WeatherBlog Controlplugged in to celestial events they might otherwise have missed.

After 35 years in daily newspapers, the WeatherBlog has been a fun and fascinating new adventure for me. Happily, I have found the daily interaction with readers - through email, snailmail, phone calls and reader comments to the blog - to be the most fun, the most rewarding and challenging part of the assignment. (And that, at right, is where it all happens.)

Anyway, I just wanted to note the anniversary and thank The Sun for the opportunity, and the WeatherBlog's many readers for your interest, kind words and encouragement over the last five years. Please keep those notes, emails and blog questions coming.

Cheers, Frank 

(Spaarnestad Photo/; also, SUN PHOTOS by Frank D. Roylance)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 3, 2009

So, did I miss anything?

 Storm in Hampden July 26, 2009

Just back from vacation, and I'm looking over the weather data for the last two weeks in Baltimore. It would seem that my record for altering the weather is intact. Let me explain...

On March 28 I wrote an article for The Sun about the drought conditions that had just been declared across much of the state in the wake of a dry autumn and winter. And almost immediately it began to rain. April, May and the first three weeks of July produce prodigious amounts of surplus rain. Lawns flourish.

So, on June 18, I write a story about all the wet weather, and the mosquitoes and the impact on crops and farms. And almost immediately the rain stops. From then until July 21 or so, barely a half-inch falls. My lawn withers.

On July 17, I write a story about how the dry weather had caused water use in the region to soar, complicating the city's efforts to keep water customers in northwest city and county neighborhoods supplied while utility crews rushed to complete some water main repairs. Water use restrictions are imposed. Two days later I leave on vacation and ... the heavens open up, dropping almost enough rain to bring the July total to normal.

And the return of the rains appears to have been pretty spectacular at times, witness the photos (above and below) of the Sunday, July 26 storms, sent to me from Hampden by William Amp B. Stifler.

There were no tornadoes during that event, but on Friday, July 31, an EF1 tornado touched down during a storm in Frederick County. Here's more on that one.  

Sorry I missed all the excitement.

Greg Hill wrote to me from Owings Mills about the July 26 storm: "The storm rolled through, and it seemed to be lightening up a little, and all of a sudden we had a big stroke of lightning over us, and the rain really started coming down.

"The wind picked back up, and then started swirling very hard around the house. Then it started hailing ... It lasted about four or five minutes. There are branches down all over the neighborhood, and pretty heavy lawn furniture that has been up-ended. For a couple of minutes, I couldn't see across the yard, it was blowing and raining so hard."

Take-home message: If Roylance writes about a weather trend, hold onto your hat, because it is about to end in a big way. I am already planning an early-winter story about the dearth of snow in Baltimore in recent winters. Hah!

Storm Hampden July 26, 2009

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 17, 2009

Gone fishin'


No, I'm not going to be hunting down the Mason-Dixon meteorite. But I will be unplugging my blogo-keyboard and taking some time off to recharge (mental) batteries, visit with old friends and family and quit worrying about deadlines for a while.

I will be checking in from time to time to post your comments, if any. But, if my wife gets her way the blog itself will be silent, and there will be no P.2 weather comments in the print editions after Sunday's until the need to keep eating and paying the mortgage brings me back.

Thanks for reading.

(SUN PHOTO/Patrick Smith July 2008) 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 22, 2009

Sun weather station is back

The Sun weather station at Calvert & Centre streets is back on line after a week of unplanned down time due to a computer upgrade. There are some gaps in the data between April 16 and 22. But everything else appears to be up and running again.

The station feeds weather data every 10 minutes to Weather Underground. You can access it anytime and search its data base for downtown weather information back to the date it was established - way back in, well, January 2008. 


Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 16, 2009

Sun weather station is offline; a fix is coming

For the thousands of you who check downtown Baltimore weather conditions each month via The Sun's weather station at Calvert & Centre streets ... The regular (every 10 minutes) bursts of data from the station to the Weather Underground site, were cut off at 8:30 this morning.

The problem was an upgrade to the hardware on my computer, which also happened to remove the weather station software. The IT folks are busy doing similar upgrades on computers throughout the newsroom, so we're not sure when we can get the weather data moving again. But we're working on it. Honest.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 6, 2009

Gone fishin'

Always figured April was the most beautiful month of the year, so the WeatherBlog will be off the air for a week while I re-acquaint myself with the planet in springtime, and with my favorite teacher. Against my better instincts, I will likely be back on the job by April 13.

In the meantime, you may talk amongst yourselves.

Sun Photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor 2008

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:52 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 9, 2008

Sun weather station update

As some readers may have noticed, the Sun's weather station has been very unstable in recent weeks. Instead of the reliable reports, every 10 minutes, to WeatherUnderground's Web site, the station has been dropping out. Sometimes once a day; sometimes after a few days of steady operation; sometimes after just one or two reports, the software driving the reports has simply hung up.

For a while we tried to manage it by rebooting the computer whenever we noticed the station reports had stopped. But the fixes never lasted for long. Now, guided by Davis Instruments (the station's maker), and by Steve Auerweck in The Sun's IT department, we have implemented another fix (as of 1 p.m. Dec. 9).

We'll see if this does the trick. Let me know if you notice the reports have stopped again. If we've finally fixed it, enjoy the information, which we believe is (when it works) among the best for downtown Baltimore. You can get to it using the link just below the 5-day forecast on the main page.

Thanks for your understanding and patience. Cheers, Frank

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 5, 2008

Are you ready for Hanna?

Okay, so Hanna is not a hurricane. And it's likely to be weakened by the time it crosses the Carolinas and Southeastern Virginia and finally reaches Delmarva.

No matter. Hanna will be a windy storm, with gobs of rain. The barometer has begun to head downward, so Hanna is on her way. It's only prudent to consider your risks and make sensible preparations. Here is the storm-prep checklist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look it over. Consider your pets and loved ones. Do what needs to be done. 

Before the storm:

* If evacuating, pack an emergency supply kit with food, bottled

water, prescription medicines, and important documents.

* If you plan to drive, fill your gas tank as soon as possible.

* Turn off gas, electricity, and water, and disconnect appliances

before leaving.

* Take steps to ensure your pets' safety during the storm.

* Follow designated evacuation routes for your area, and expect

heavy traffic.

If you stay home during the storm:

* Pack an emergency supply kit with necessities such as food,

bottled water, and prescription medicines to last from three to

five days.

* Determine the best escape routes from your home, and make sure

that everyone in your house is able to follow the escape plan.

* Look for escape routes from upper levels of the house, in case

of flooding.

* Do not go outside, even if the weather seems calm. Wait for

local authorities to tell you it is safe to go outside.

* If your home is flooded or damaged, move to a neighbor's or a

local shelter.

After the storm:

* Do not drive through flooded roads, as cars can be swept away or

lose power.

* NEVER touch a downed power line or anything in contact with one.

* Turn off electrical power when there are hazards around your

home such as standing water, fallen power lines, or gas leaks.

* Listen to announcements in local media (radio, television or

newspaper) to find out if it's safe to use tap water, and follow

instructions regarding water.

* If you are not sure if water is safe to use, boil water before

you use it for anything, including brushing teeth, cooking,

drinking, or bathing.

* Throw away any food that may have been touched by floodwater.

* Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights, instead of

candles, to prevent fires.

* Stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges release dangerous

carbon monoxide gas and should always be used outdoors, far away from

windows, doors and vents.


or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 18, 2008

Gone fishin'

Sun Photo/Candus ThomsonAs Baltimore continues to slog through the hottest days of the year, the Olde WeatherBlogger and his favorite schoolteacher are going to pack up a stack of books, grab some shades and broad-brimmed hats and go someplace cool to decompress.

While the WeatherBlog is dark, be sure to buy newspapers, stay out of the noonday sun, and don't drive through standing water. I'll be back on the job July 28.

Cheers,  Frank

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

May 12, 2008

Baltimore Sun weather data now online

It's not fully operational yet. We hope to our get archival data back to September 6, 2006 into the database before too long. But after nearly two years of nagging (me) and head-scratching (the IT folks), we have finally managed to get our weather station on line, where readers can access it.

The station is a Davis, Vantage PRO 2 instrument. It is located near Calvert & Centre streets in downtown Baltimore, and transmits wirelessly to a console in the newsroom. The data is downloaded periodically to Weather Underground, where anyone with internet access can check on conditions in our parking lot.

Hey, if your car is parked there, you care. Right? More seriously, the station provides pretty good, very comprehensive data for weather conditions in downtown Baltimore AWAY from the influence of the waters of the Inner Harbor, where the nearest National Weather Service station is located, and providing only minimal data.

So have a look. I'll be sending WeatherBlog readers there frequently, but you can go there anytime. Click here.



Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 20, 2008

Gone fishin'

Spring is in the air. The peepers are singing down by the creek and blossoms are busting out all over. It's time the old Weather Blogger took some time to get out and enjoy it, instead of sitting in here writing about it.

I may pop up during the next week to post a notice about a space station flyover (there are some nice evening passes coming up), or some other event I can't resist. But mostly I will be spending time with my favorite teacher, and watching Sam Zell on You Tube. 

Happy Spring!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 22, 2007

Gone fishin'

Well, not exactly. But I will be taking some time off to chill out, enjoy the Holidays with family and friends, do some stargazing, take naps and read stuff just for fun.  

I don't plan to post to the WeatherBlog while I'm off, but I will check in from time to time and see what if anything people are talking about. I may even forget myself and pipe up with a post or two. In the meantime, don't hesitate to send questions for the print editions' Weather Page. I'll need material for the week I get back. Don't leave me hangin' out here.

Thanks for reading the WeatherBlog in 2007. Have a terrific, and safe Holiday, and we'll see you on the other side.

Cheers,  Frank


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

November 13, 2007

Gunga Dan and the Arctic meltdown: Tonight

If you have satellite TV or some cable system other than Comcast, you might want to take a look at a "Dan Rather Reports" special on the warming of Earth's Arctic ice, airing at 8 p.m. tonight on HD Net.

HD Net's PR operation contacted me precisely yesterday, offering to send me the program's DVD, presumably so I could watch it and write something about it before the show aired. I'm fast, but not that fast.

Consequently, I can't vouch for Dan's work, but the topic is endlessly fascinating. Record melting of the Arctic ice cap this summer opened the fabled Northwest Passage to shipping for a few weeks in September. It's a sea route across the northern edge of North America that has been ice bound throughout the whole of human civilization. Plenty of sailors died trying to sail through there and find the short route to the riches of the Orient.

Now, as the planet warms, that sea passage is beginning to open up, with a range of consequences from the prospect of cheaper ocean shipping between China and the US East Coast and Europe during a portion of the northern summer, to disruption of arctic habitats for animals and humans alike. It also opens the prospect of a political and military contest for control of the northern ocean and its resources.

HD Net's PR types say Rather traveled 450 miles north of the arctic circle aboard a Canadian ice breaker to report on the changes at the top of the globe. He speaks with scientists studying the Arctic, to government officials in the U.S, and Canada who are wrestling with the diplomatic and military issues, and historians who recall centuries of adventurers who tried to explore and exploit the region. He also meets with Inuit people who say the warmup is forever changing their lives.

At one point in the report, a former US Coast Guard officicer tells Rather the US is unprepared for this new reality: "We are not prepared because we don't have the vessels to operate there. We are not prepared because we've not signed the treaty that gives us legal standing to participate in the diplomatic discussions. We've not confronted and faced up to the reality of climate change in the Arctic. Not many Americans, I think, appreciate the huge stakes that exist in the Arctic region."

Since I enjoy only Comcast at home, I won't be seeing this program before you. So if you watch, come back here, leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it. Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:31 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 26, 2007

Gone fishin'

Your WeatherBlogger will be taking a few days off to enjoy the weather, pour water on dead grass and visit the in-laws. We're betting we'll be back on duty before the drought ends, and before the first big storm makes it out of the tropics. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:52 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 6, 2007

NWS seeks help verifying tornado

The storms that swept the region on July 4 produced several unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds or a tornado touching down in the region. The National Weather Services is asking for the public's help in finding storm damage that might indicate a true touchdown. Here's their appeal:





Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 17, 2007

We're back. Any interesting weather?

We're back, having reluctantly left a place with water all around it, sunshine, and temperatures stuck between 75 and 85 degrees every day, only to return to wet, cold and gray Baltimore. And I thought April was Maryland's pleasantest month...

But I digress. First order of business this morning is to correct an obvious error on the print editions' Weather Page. Somehow, our weather data vendor - Weather Central - came up with bogus data for the record highs and lows for April 16 at BWI.

The paper says the record high was 91 degrees, set in 2002. The stated record low for an April 16 was 2 degrees, set in 2003.

As one alert reader has already pointed out, we have never come close to 2 degrees in April. The record April low for Baltimore is 15 degrees, set on April 1, 1923. The actual records for Monday's date are 90 degrees (set in 2002) and 30 degrees (set in 1962). We have asked Weather Central for an explanation. We are not happy.

In the meantime, we are working this week with new blog software. It will take me a bit of time to get comfortable with it, so bear with me if things are a little rocky at first. Still trying to figure out how to insert images and paragraphs. Sigh.

So what the devil happened to our weather while I was away? Snow? Cold? Four inches of rain? Must everything fall apart when I leave the control room? Well, I'm back, and by the weekend we should have things looking brighter, with more sunshine and temperatures back to around 70 degrees or better for the opening weekend at Pimlico. Here's the official forecast.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

April 4, 2007

Gone fishin'

With April getting unseasonably cold, freeze watches posted for Central Maryland, and rumors of snow in the air, it's time I slipped away from the WeatherBlog control center. I will be hunkered down in my Unseasonable Weather Bunker, nicely sheltered from the cold, getting some much-needed R&R with a teacher I know.

While I'm gone, the Blog will go silent. But I invite you to check the forecast on your own. Click here for the main page of the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va. forecast office. Then, on the map, just click on your hometown and the forecast will appear.

For night sky forecasts, try the 2007 backyard stargazing calendar we published at the end of December. Here's a link.

Looking for the International Space Station? You're in luck. The ISS is back in the evening sky. Look for two good passes next week, on the 9th and the 11th.

On Monday, the 9th, the station will rise above the southwest horizon at 9:09 p.m., zipping over Mississippi and Alabama at 17,500 mph, headed for the skies over Maine. Watch for it to soar through the constellation Orion, rising as high as 62 degrees - two-thirds of the way from the horizon to the "zenith" - straight up. It will look like a steady white star hustling toward the northeast. But then it will vanish suddenly into the Earth's shadow and disappear at 9:12 p.m.

On the 11th, the ISS will fly nearly the exact same trajectory, rising above the southwest horizon at 8:14 p.m., this time sailing clear across the sky. It will pass almost directly over Baltimore (a bit to the north and west), and head off toward the northeast horizon, disappearing at 8:20 p.m.

You'll need clear skies, of course. And a sharp-eyed child, eager to spot it first, will help. Good luck.

The Blog will revive on the 17th.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

February 7, 2007

Read IPCC global warming report

You read the news stories, and watched the TV sound bites. If you're really interested in the latest scientific consensus on global climate change, you'll want to download and read the full Summary for Policy Makers from the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). There is also a link to the Webcast from the news conference held when the report was released. Click here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 22, 2006

Merry, Happy, to all

Your WeatherBlog will be silent for most of the next week as the Blogger takes some time for R&R with family and friends. May all your days be Merry and Bright, may everyone, everywhere, find Peace and Joy in the New Year, and may all the snow not stick to the roads. Cheers!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 12, 2006

High/low temperature confusion

Your old WeatherBlogger has been taking a lot of heat lately for my attempt to answer a reader's question about the meaning of the high/low temperatures in the five-day forecast printed daily on The Sun's Weather Page (and on

Elaine Pardoe asked me whether the low-temperature forecast for "Today" referred to the low for the night/early morning just ended (as readers pick up their morning paper), or to the night/early morning to come. If it refers to the night and early morning to come, she suggested, that low would actually occur on the next day's date. So it wouldn't really be "today's" low, would it?

The answer is that it refers to the night/early morning to come. (The high, and the following low, are printed in chronological order, our weather data vendor explained.)

Sure, most of the time the overnight low is going to occur early on the next calendar date, so it's not really "today." But the overnight low is what people need to plan for "today." Right? This morning's low they can get from their thermometer.

Anyway, I shanked my first attempt to explain how the thing works, trying to be clever and jam as much information into my reply as I could. So I had to come back around today and explain it again, simply and clearly. And I'm still getting email from readers complaining that I'd reversed myself, or that the whole system doesn't make sense.

So I'm putting it to you, dear WeatherBlog readers: Are the five-day temperature forecasts on the Weather Page (and confusing? If so, how could we redesign it so that its meaning is clear and intuitive? Leave a comment. Please. I didn't design the thing, so you won't hurt my feelings.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

October 18, 2006

Lyrical weather

So there I was, showering at the gym this morning, when I heard Bob Dylan's voice squawking from the speaker in the ceiling. He was singing the "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the one that includes the lyrics "Don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows..."

That made me wonder how many other songs are out there that include the word "weather," or otherwise deal in some passing fashion with meteorology. Like the Sesame Street theme: "Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away..."

Readers? Can you think of any others? Let's hear from you. Best entry gets a free (read cheap) prize from  Enter your songs and lyrics as comments here. If you're the winner, I'll contact you via email and arrange to ship this "Major Award."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:24 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

September 29, 2006

Become a weather spotter

Some of the first damage reports to the National Weather Service during the storms Thursday evening came from trained Skywarn weather spotters. If you're interested in weather, you, too, can become a NWS Skywarn volunteer. Classes for the fall are starting up next week, so check out the schedule and other information HERE, and see whether this weather thing is for you. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

August 18, 2006

A bit of weather humor

As someone who favors print journalism, in part, because it gives me the opportunity to avoid embarrassment by fixing a mistake and polishing a story before it goes public, I have huge admiration for the TV types who somehow manage (usually) to spit out a coherent report, live from the scene, or the set, without saying something dopey or becoming totally tongue-tied.

Well, it takes practice, and sometimes it all just goes wrong. AccuWeather's Web site offers a bunch of out-takes from their weather Web casts, as well as some horsing around on the set by a crew of young weather-casters. They're all pretty funny, a few are hilarious. Fair warning: some are also a bit off-color, but they're labeled as such.

I haven't found a way to get there directly. But try this: Click here for the AccuWeather main page. Then look for "Related links," just below the top story, and click on whatever "video" link is offered. That will take you to that video clip, but you should see an index to other stories just below it. Scroll to "Bloopers," and click. There's also one called "On a lighter note." Both are worth a look, even though you may have to wait out a Holiday Inn ad.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

July 2, 2006

Gone fishin'

Your intrepid WeatherBlogger is taking a break. I'll be back here in the Blog Control Blockhouse on July 10. In the meantime ... break a buck and buy a newspaper, will ya? Our families have to eat, too. Through the magic of planning ahead, I have left enough fascinating and informative "Weather Page" (last  page, Maryland Section) items to keep the dead-tree version of The Sun fully stocked until I return. Until then, clear skies, calm seas.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:50 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (3)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 23, 2006

Drenched? Flooded? Send photos

The sun shines brightly on Baltimore this afternoon. But they're still calling for a whopper of a rainy weekend. So, if the creek rises, the dog comes home soaked, a rainbow breaks from the clouds or the water pours into your basement, take pictures. Then post them on the MarylandWeather photo gallery, accessible at the bottom of the main weather page.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:17 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

May 11, 2006

Give us your best shot

Water is photogenic. Lots of water is more photogenic. And with lots of rain, and maybe some thunderstorms and coastal flooding on the way, invites readers to submit their digital weather photos to our Readers Photos page.

Puddles, floods, wet pets, lightning, kids playing in the rain - it's all fair game. The first priority is to stay safe. The second is to capture beautiful, amazing, surprising, unusual images of the weather.

Then, go to the Readers Photos page, sign up and upload your pictures. Remember to include information about where and when it was taken, what sort of equipment you used and how you got the picture. Keep your eyes peeled and give us your best shot.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:37 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (4)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 10, 2006

Follow Mars mission online

Today's the day NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives at Mars and either crashes, sails by into oblivion, or slips into orbit as planned for years of scientific research and communications work. There's a full story in The Sun's Health & Science section today. Go ahead, plurge. Buy a paper. Our children have to eat, too.

But you'll want to follow the probe today live online as the $720 million mission reaches its most critical phase. Two-thirds of all attempts to fly by, orbit or land on Mars since 1960 have failed. To get on board, click here to reach the NASA-TV Webcast, select your player and watch the drama unfold 134 million miles away. Coverage starts at 3:30 p.m.

When it's over, and it gets dark enough outside, you can step outdoors and see Mars for yourself, with your own eyes. It's high in the western sky, visible on any clear evening this month. First, find a reasonably dark spot with a broad view of the sky, and face toward the southwest.

About halfway up the sky in front of you, you'll see the constellation Orion the Hunter. You'll know it by the three bright stars in a tight little line, from left to right. That's Orion's belt. Follow the line of Orion's belt to the right, and a bit higher, and you'll come upon two other bright stars. One is a bit higher and to the right of the other.

The one on the left, and lower, is Aldebaran, the "eye" of the bull in the constellation Taurus. The other, higher and to the right, is Mars. Both are slightly reddish. Aldebaran is a red giant star in our own neighborhood of the Milky Way galaxy, "only" about 72 million light years from Earth. Mars is just 134 million miles away in our solar system, and it's reddish because of the iron oxide - rust - in its rocks and soil.

For sky charts to help you find Mars and other sights in the night sky, go to Heavens Above, sign up and enter your location, then click on "Whole Sky Chart."  You can set it for any time or any date. Enjoy.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Notes to readers

March 1, 2006

Weather buffs: Make yourselves useful

Face it:  You're already out there watching the sky, with an eye on the weather vane and the barometer, and ... well, you read the WeatherBlog. It's time to get involved. The National Weather Service is looking for people to join Skywarn, its legion of trained severe-weather spotters who become the (volunteer) eyes and ears of the service when bad weather strikes. Classes are opening this month for Basic and more advanced training. It's free, and the weather is always fascinating. Here's the schedule.   And here's more information about Skywarn.  Check it out.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

January 17, 2006

Weather volunteers needed

Last week I received a note from Bruce Sullivan, the Maryland State Coordinator for a cooperative observer network called CoCoRaHS, which stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow reporting network.

In real life Bruce is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Camp Springs Md. But he wrote seeking volunteers to help him expand the CoCoRaHS network across Maryland and elsewhere. Here's his pitch:

"As our website states, CoCoRaHS is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities.

"By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.

"The only requirements to join are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives. Since we only measure precipitation, the cost involved is fairly low, but the information we get is very helpful.

"We currently have quite a few observers in Southern and Central Maryland, but only a few scattered about elsewhere in the states, so that is where I'm hopeful (the Baltimore Sun's WeatherBlog) may be able to help spread the word.

"I am available for group training sessions and would be happy to answer any questions you or any of your readers may have about our organization. Thank You, Bruce Sullivan."

Sound interesting? Here is his email address:

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:15 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays

The WeatherBlogger would like to wish all our faithful readers, and anyone else who stumbles across this site during the next week, a very happy holiday season. I will be taking a break with my family, but I'll be back in the saddle Jan. 3. Thanks for your interest and kind comments. The numbers have really been amazing. Be safe, stay warm and we'll see you all back here "next year."

Frank Roylance

P.S.: Look for the annual Stargazers' Calendar for 2006 in the Health and Science section of The Sun on FRiday, Dec. 30.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

December 16, 2005

We're back

As you may have noticed, the WeatherBlog has been down all day, due to a "disk problem" at our weblog host's site. They're still putting things right, and trying to retrieve the most recent posts, which vanished into the ether. Thanks for your understanding.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 6:54 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

November 1, 2005

We have a winner!

Our fabulous hurricane-naming contest has come to a close. The judges have carefully waded through the many, many creative and imaginative entries. And after difficult overnight deliberations, they (or more precisely, I) have declared a winner.

But first a quick review. Each year the National Hurricane Center in Miami names the tropical storms that form in the Atlantic basin, using a list of 21 names. The names are drawn from the languages of the region, and alternate by gender. There are six lists at any one time, for use in the current, and upcoming five hurricane seasons. The lists are recycled every seven years. Names are retired and replaced when a storm by that name causes severe damage and deaths.

This year, for the first time ever, the NHC reached the 21st name on the list (Wilma). Following predetermined policy, it began to name subsequent storms after the letters of the Greek alphabet. We have so far had tropical storms Alpha and Beta.

That seemed to us to lack some imagination. So, in the spirit of the last storm on the primary list - Wilma - we asked WeatherBlog readers to submit a list of 21 storm names drawn from cartoons. We asked that they follow NHC rules and alternate genders and skip Q, U, X, Y and Z (although we offered extra credit if they could fill those slots).

Many readers who, like me, wasted way too much time in front of the TV as kids, responded with some terrific proposals.  Unfortunately, Not everyone followed the rules. Others offered only one, or a few names. A reader named Laura Sue, who goes by the handle "The Silver Nightingale," suggested a place on the list for Joe Btfsplk, from Li'l Abner.

"Who could be more perfect," she said. "Since hurricanes usually have just one name, I suppose Btfsplk would be the designation. Wouldn't it be fun watching the broadcast media trying to pronounce that, especially the reporters out in the storm."

Well, speaking as a print reporter who has actually been out in the storm, I know they need no more headaches as they try to do their jobs. I also can say that print reporters wouldn't want to have to type Btfsplk very often, either.

But Laura Sue's suggestion brought to mind another character, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the bad boy from the old Superman comics I used to devour. As Laura Sue reminded me, he showed up from another dimension every 90 days to harrass Superman, and stayed until Superman could trick him into saying his name backwards - Kltpzyxm! What a great way to get rid of hurricanes! Maybe he could provide the NHC with TWO names. But then nobody would be able to pronounce either one of them.

Now we get to the contenders. Authors of these entries will receive lip balm key rings, for those bitter cold days on the ski slopes, or clearing space in the snowbanks for the old kitchen chairs.

David Sullin, of Hanover, ignored the rules and submitted a list of Civil War generals and officers (and a President), reasoning that they "were involved in the destruction of the country, just like hurricanes."  It was a clever list, but he skipped "I" and "V" names. If anybody wants to see it, email me.

June L. Czarnezki submitted a complete list of mostly evil-sounding names, such as Adolph, Hagar and Ivan. Many were cartoon names, but others included her sister and her piano teacher - "She was weird," June said.

Francesca Smith submitted a great list of cartoon characters, from Atomic Ant (a popular "A" name) to Wally (Wally Gator). But she slipped up on the alternating gender rule.

Which brings us to our runner-ups, each or whom will receive an official rain pancho.

Mitch Hooper, of Ellicott City, had a fine list, also starting with Atom Ant and ending with Wally Gator. He included a couple of puppets that later made it into cartoons, such as Lambchop.

Bill Tamburrino, wins a pancho for originality. He pretty much ignored the rules, too. But his approach was unique. His list of second-season names required that each name contain at least two of the required letter: Aaron, Babette, Cecil, Deidre, Eirene, Fifi, Gigi, Hannah, Idi, Jojo, Lirk, Lulu, Mame, Nana, Orlando, Pepe, Quoqui, Robert, Susan, Tatanya, Ursula, Vivien, Willow, Xiam Xu (he could have used Xerxes), Yoyo and Zsa Zsa.

J. Yap, of Florida wins the pancho in the Foodstuffs category. His name list contained only cheeses (several of which I will have to take his word on):  Athersley, Brie, Cheddar, Dorset, Edam, Feta, Gouda, Havarti, Iberico, Jartsberg, Kernhem, Limburger, Mozzarella, Neufchatel, Orkney, Parmesan, Quark, Ricotta, Swiss, Trempherbe, Vincent and Wensleydale.

Annette Altland and her sister (whom she did not name) submitted two wonderful lists of comic Superheroes and Supervillains, both male and female, and therefore sufficient for two years of second-season names. Because they're comics, not cartoons, they fell short of the first prize. But it's pretty impressive anyway. (Being too old to have encountered many of these characters in my mis-spent youth, I rely again on my readers' honesty): 

The women: Aurora, Belladonna, Callisto, Destiny, Elektra, Falcona, Gazelle, Hela, Icis, Jubilee, Karmilla, Lorelei, Mystique, Namora, Oracle, Phoenix, Rouge, Storm, Tarot, Vamp, Wasp, Xorn, Yellowjacket, Zaladane.

The men: Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Daredevil, Exodus, Firelord, Gambit, Hellstorm, Immortus, Juggernaut, Kro, Loki, Mentallo, Nightcrawler, Osiris, Punisher (great hurricane name), Quicksilver, Roughouse, Spiderman, Thing, Unicorn, Venom, Wolverine, X-Man, Yukio, Zaran.

And now, the winner: Aileen Kammer, of Cockeysville, who will receive a digital time and temperature alarm clock with a wireless outdoor unit that reports the outdoor temperature to the indoor unit. It's from The Sharper Image.

Aileen's list, as nearly as I could determine, followed all the rules, included Q, U, X, Y and Z names for extra credit, and included only one comic name that she believes may never have appeared in a cartoon. Here it is:

Atom Ant, Betty (Rubble), Captain Caveman, Daphne (from Scoobee Doo), Elmer (Fudd), Flora (from Sleeping Beauty), Goofy (can you imagine Hurricane Goofy?), Holli Would (from Cool World), Ichabod (Crane), Joie (and the Pussycats), Kenny (McCormick, from South Park), Lola Bunny (Baby Looney Toons), Magilla Gorilla, Nancy (and Sluggo), Oliver (& Company), Penelope (Pitstop), Quick Draw McGraw, Rita (The Galloping Ghost), Snagglepuss, Trixie (Speedracer), Underdog, Vixey (The Fox and the Hound), Wile E. Coyote, X-23 (Uncanny X-Men; this is her 'stretch'), Yogi Bear and Zelda (The Legend of Zelda).

Congratulations to all our winners. And thanks to everyone who entered.

Before we can mail out your prizes, I will need mailing addresses from Aileen, the Altland sisters, Bill Tamburr, J. Yap, Mitch Hooper, Francesca Smith and June Czarnezki. You can email them to me at

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

June 20, 2005

Lightning safety reminder from NWS

The National Weather Service is reminding us this week about the dangers of lightning. We often measure our risks by comparing them with the risk of being struck by lightning, because we perceive that risk as being extremely low. Still, every year Americans are killed by lightning bolts, and it's often because they didn't take the danger seriously, or because they inadvertently multiplied their risks because they didn't know enough about lightning safety.

Here's a memo from the weather service that's well worth reading as the summer thunderstorm season cranks up. Be safe. Don't take chances with lightning. For more, visit the NWS's lightning safety page.

Posted by Admin at 12:12 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Notes to readers

February 9, 2005

We welcome your comments

New security measures here apparently have been blocking Blog readers from filing comments for some weeks. It's fixed, now, we hope. We welcome your contributions and apologize for any frustration it's caused.

Posted by Admin at 9:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers

January 31, 2005

We're open for comments again

The Weather Blog is open for readers' comments again. We apologize to all who have attempted to leave their comments in the last week, only to be confronted with an insurmountable security barrier. The glitch was the result of a new layer of security "improvements" to this blog and others that inadvertently shut off access by our readers. Not precisely what we intended. We're sorry, and we look forward to your participation here once again.

Oh, one more thing ... In order to protect the blog from comment spam and other unsavory intrusions, we will continue to hold your comments until the Weatherblogger can read them and okay them for release. This, as before, may cause some delays in posting, but we will strive to get them on line as quickly as we can. Thanks for your understanding.

Posted by Admin at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Notes to readers
Keep reading
Recent entries
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

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center

Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

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

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

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

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

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

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

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

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

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

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

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

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

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

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

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

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected