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August 2, 2011

Last Endeavour crew to speak Thurs. at Hopkins

The last NASA crew to fly the space shuttle Endeavour will speak at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg Center on Thursday, Aug. 4. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the Astronauts Hopkinspublic.

Astronauts scheduled to participate include Commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialist Mike Fincke. Also planning to be here is European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Kelly is married to Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He has announced that he will retire from the astronaut corps on Oct. 1.

The members of the STS-134 crew landed June 1 at the end of their 16-day mission. They delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 to the International Space Station. They also lofted the Express Logistics Carrier packed with equipment to sustain the space station after the shuttle cargo service shut down.

The talk will be held in the Bloomberg Center's Schafler Autiorium. Parking is available in the parking garage off San Martin Drive, behind and adjacent to the Bloomberg Center.

For a campus map and parking information, go to  http://bsun.md/nBsiVI The Bloomberg Center is Building #56, and the parking deck is #58 on the map.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science, Sky Notes
        

February 23, 2010

Despite climate doubts, Americans back CO2 curbs

A survey of more than 1,000 Americans suggests that we have increasing doubts about the nature of global climate change and the urgency of acting on the science.

Even the group identified as the most "alarmed" among those surveyed - those convinced that global warming is happening, is caused by humans and is a serious and urgent threat - has AP photo India shrunk from 18 to 10 percent of the total, according to the survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities.

Groups described as "concerned," "cautious," and "disengaged" also declined as a percentage of the total surveyed. Only those described as "doubtful" and "dismissive" have grown as percentages of the whole - to 29 percent, from less than 20 percent in a 2008 survey.

The study's authors attribute the shift to "gloomy unemployment numbers, public frustration with Washington, attacks on climate science and mobilized opposition to national climate legislation."

But despite our increasing doubts, a strong majority of Americans - in six categories from the "alarmed" to the "dismissive" - still support the allocation of more money for clean energy research, tax rebates for people who make their homes and cars more energy efficient, and they back regulation of carbon dioxide emissions as atmospheric pollutants.

"The fact that five of the six Americas support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant is bound to be of interest to the president, Congress, and the EPA," said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. "Some business groups and other special interests as opposing EPA regulation, but most of the American people appear to be for it."

You can access the study through a link here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:23 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Science
        

February 22, 2010

Why there's more rain, lightning, on weekdays

Scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt have been thinking hard about why rainfall and lightning activity in the Southeastern United States tend to peak on weekdays - Lightning over Baltimoreparticularly between Tuesday and Friday.

Their conclusion is that air pollution is likely to blame. And their chief suspects are particulate emissions of the sort spewed by diesel engines.

Their thinking - not yet fully borne out by their research - is that it's the fine particles in the soot, largely from trucks, that provide growing thunderstorms with more surfaces on which water vapor can condense into droplets. More, smaller droplets allow the thunderstorms to grow higher in the atmosphere. The droplets get colder, release more latent heat before they fall, and help fuel more energetic electrical storms.

The data showing there is more rain and more lightning on weekdays, on average, would seem to fit nicely with the fact that more trucks are on the road from Tuesday through Thursday. 

You can read more about their work here, on NASA's very interesting "What on Earth" blog.

(SUN PHOTO/Karl Merton Ferron, 2004)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Science
        

November 24, 2009

NASA detects "tsunami" on the sun

NASA solar tsunami 

Tsunamis on the Earth can be terrifying enough - a wall of ocean water surges inland after being set loose by an undersea earthquake, and crushes all in its path. Hundreds of thousands died in the December 2004 tsunami (astonishing video below) that originated in Indonesia.

But imagine a tsunami of hot plasma that is 62,000 miles high, travels at half a million miles per hour and packs the power of 2,400 megatons of TNT. That's what scientists have discovered on the sun.

Solar tsunamis are harmless to life on Earth. But understanding them - and being able to spot them - may help solar scientists better predict and anticipate the effects of coronal mass ejections and other eruptions on the sun that can and do affect human communications, power grids, satellites and other systems on and around the Earth.

NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft recorded a solar tsunami in February of this year, and produced two movies of the event, taken from two different angles. The discovery allowed scientists to confirm the theory that had been proposed in 1997 when another spacecraft, called SOHO, spotted what looked like a solar tsunami, but which some thought might be something else.

You can read more about this phenomenon here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Science
        

May 12, 2009

Very cool Maryland dinosaur talk tonight

I know, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Maryland weather. But we don't have a science blog anymore, so this is the best I can do. Maybe including the word "cool" in the header will justify its placement here.

Sun Photo/Kenneth K. Lam/2005Anyone who has even a passing interest in dinosaurs, and especially Maryland dinosaurs, has heard of Ray Stanford (left), the amateur College Park paleontologist (or, more precisely, paleoichnologist) who has amassed an extraordinary collection of dinosaur footprints he's plucked from Maryland streambeds, mostly in the Washington area.

The Sun has written about him on several occasions. His collections have been examined by some of the top paleontologists in the country and judged to be of significant value to science.

Ray has developed a Power Point presentation and lecture on his work, and will be delivering it this evening at a Maryland Natural History Society meeting in Overlea, in Baltimore County. He also plans to bring along about 100 pounds of rocks bearing the footprints of a variety of dinosaurs that walked in Maryland mud during the Cretaceous period, some 112 million years ago.

The event begins at 7 p.m. at 6908 Belair Road, Overlea, on Route 1 about a mile south of the Beltway.

Among the finds he will lug to the meeting is what Ray describes as the world's largest pterosaur footprint, "It is both huge and beautiful, and is of incredible significance to any study of pterosaurian evolution, because the track maker was at least as large as the biggest known Quetzalcoatlus specimen," he says.

And by the way, the weather for the lecture tonight will be clear and cool, with temperatures dropping toward the 40s. So, this was about the weather after all.

Continue reading "Very cool Maryland dinosaur talk tonight" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Science
        

March 9, 2009

Weather changes may trigger your headaches

AP Photo/Dave Hammond 

People have been blaming the weather for their aches and pains for centuries. Some claim they can forecast the weather in their hips or knees. Other scoff. Now, science suggests some of these people may be on to something.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, say higher temperatures and low barometric pressure do indeed seem to set off migraine, tension and other severe headaches. Their results appear in the March 10 issue of the journal Neurology. (That's Oakland Athletics player Rickey Henderson, above, coping with a migraine that took him out of a game against the Orioles in July 1994.)

In what they describe as the first large-scale investigation of this weather lore, the Boston investigators looked at the medical records of more than 7,000 patients who visited the emergency room at the medical center between May 2000 and December 2007, and who were discharged with diagnoses of migraine, tension or unspecified headaches.

Then they looked at measurements of average air temperature, barometric pressure, humidity - as well as several measures of air pollution prior to those hospital visits, again on the same days of the week before or after their hospital visits during the same calendar month.

The idea that environmental factors can trigger migraine headaches is not new. Certain foods - such as aged wine and cheese - alcohol, stress and hormonal changes have long been recognized as headache "triggers." And some patients have long associated their maladies with changes in the weather.

"But none of these [weather factors] have been consistently verified. We wanted to find out if we could verify this clinical folklore. We also wanted to determine whether air pollutants trigger headaches, much as they have been found to trigger strokes," said Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, the study's lead author.

His findings revealed no significant impact from air pollutants, or from humidity. But higher average air temperatures in the 24 hours before these patients sought hospital care was the single factor most closely correlated with the headaches. Headache patients in the study had a 7.5 percent higher risk of suffering a severe headache for each increase of 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

That isn't a large increased risk compared to exposure to certain foods, or other potential migraine "triggers," and it may not be an important consideration in the way these patients are treated, Mukamal acknowledges in the paper. But the fact that everyone is exposed to the weather, while only a fraction would be exposed to other triggers, the public health impact of higher temperatures would likely be much greater. 

Also significant, but less so, were changes in air pressure. Changes in pressure didn't seem to be a factor, but lower barometric pressures 48 to 72 hours prior to the ER visits also seemed to correlate best with the severe headache symptoms that followed.

The study had some limitations, the authors agreed. They relied on regional weather data, not readings for each patient, so their personal exposures were not recorded. They also knew when the patients appeared at the hospital, but could not say when the patients'  headaches began. 

Nevertheless, "these findings help tell us that the environment around us does affect our health and, in terms of headaches, may be impacting many, many people on a daily basis," Mukamal said.

Still unclear is how this happens. "[Higher] temperature has a host of physiological effects, including lower blood pressure," Mukamal said in an email message. "How those lead to headache is uncertain, but we don't understand the full mechanisms behind headaches at this point, so hopefully this will point us in new directions." 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Science
        

October 31, 2008

Don't miss Mars Rover TV special Sunday

NASAJust stumbled across the promo for this Sunday's National Geographic TV special on NASA's twin Mars rovers - Spirit and Opportunity.

The two little explorers landed on Mars in January 2004 on what scientists hoped would be a 90-day mission to photograph and sample the surface of Mars in two widely separated locales. They are not in perfect shape, but they are still working and gathering scientific data almost five years later.

Here's some promotional stuff from National Geographic. Looks like a fine way to spend an hour on Sunday evening. It's at 8 p.m. EST, on the National Geographic Channel.

Want to learn more about the rovers? Click here.

Speaking of Mars, NASA has just shut down its Phoenix lander (below) after worsening winter weather near the Martian north pole left the craft with too little solar energy to keep itself warm. The weather? Cloudy, dust storms, with a daytime high of minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping to minus-141 at night. NASA

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Science
        

October 3, 2008

Exploding myth of 1970s global cooling "consensus"

When global warming skeptics set out to undermine the current scientific consensus that the planet is warming up, they often point to a 1975 article in Newsweek magazine that was titled "The cooling world." The story cited research on increasing Northern Hemisphere snow and ice, and other work on the shading effects of atmospheric dust kicked up by human activity, and suggested that the planet was sliding toward a new Ice Age. Other articles, pegged to some very cold U.S. winters in the 1970s, made similar points.

The scientific consensus then, the skeptics argue, was that the planet was cooling down.

"Back then, the 'coolers' had the upper hand because, indeed, the planet was cooling," writes one. "But nature quickly shifted gears ... Needless to say, the abrupt shift in the climate caused almost as abrupt a shift in the balance of scientists who predictably followed the temperature."

Their argument is that scientific "consensus" shifts with the winds of politics and research funding priorities, and can't be relied on as the basis for making public policy.

But in the September issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a trio of authors reports on a study of the scientific literature and the popular press of the day. They conclude that climate scientists were struggling in the 1970s to understand the forces of global climate change, and to draw together the findings of researchers working in a variety of different fields.

There was no consensus yet, they say. But the prevailing opinion was that global warming, driven by the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, was the dominant global trend and the larger worry for mankind on the "immediate" scale of decades to centuries. 

USGS/AlaskaThe authors surveyed the peer-reviewed scientific literature from 1965 to 1979 and found seven articles that presented evidence of global cooling, 20 that were neutral on the issue, and 44 that concluded the climate was warming. The "cooling" articles received far fewer citations in other research than the "warming" articles, a measure of which climate trend dominated the scientific thinking of the time. 

They also point to a 1979 conference of top climate scientists at Woods Hole, Mass., convened by the National Research Council. The panel sorted through the science of the day and concluded that, despite a great deal of remaining uncertainty, there was enough evidence for global warming to warrant public action. "A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late," their report concluded.

"Global cooling was never more than a minor aspect of the scientific climate change literature of the era, let alone the scientific consensus," the paper's authors conclude.

The AMS paper also raps Newsweek and others in the popular press of the 1970s for seeking out and exploiting the "dramatic or new," at the expense of nuance and accuracy. Even so, they found "no consensus" among journalists of the time, either. (In our defense, I'd argue that, taken as a whole, the journalism of that era accurately reflected the unsettled nature of the scientific opinion at the time.)

The authors argue that today's global warming skeptics seize selectively on news clips and quotes from the 1970s to bolster their argument that the scientific community back then had concluded that the planet was cooling. They use their snippets to undermine the credibility of today's scientists, who - backed by a much more mature science of global climatology - overwhelmingly agree that the planet is warming, "very likely" due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The "cooling concensus" of the 1970s, they conclude, is a myth. And "in this case the primary use of the myth is in the context of attempting to undermine public belief in and support for the contemporary scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change..."

But decide for yourself. You can read the whole article here. Scroll down to the PDF link for the piece by Thomas C. Peterson, of the National Climatic Data Center; William M. Connolley, of the British Antarctic Survey; and John Fleck, of the Albuquerque Journal.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:54 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Science
        

August 11, 2008

Ocean cycle may explain cool Alaskan summer

I know, this isn't about Maryland weather, but it was prompted by a query from a Maryland reader of the Sun's weather page about the weather in Alaska.

He asked me for some numbers on what he perceived to be a cool summer in Alaska, based on low temperature readings for the state on our print weather page. I made a quick check of the summer averages for Anchorage and Fairbanks and confirmed his take on it. 

FAAJune and July in Anchorage both averaged 2.5 to 3 degrees below the long-term temperature averages. Fairbanks had a pretty normal June, but after a sizzling July 4th of 85 degrees (same as Baltimore on the same day), the temperatures fell off a cliff.

July in Fairbanks averaged 60.6 degrees, almost two degrees below normal. And August is averaging 51.4 degrees, a whopping 7.7 degrees below the long-term norms.

So I put in a call to the National Weather Service up there, and eventually found myself chatting with Gary L. Hufford, the regional scientist for the NWS in Alaska. He's in Anchorage, which enjoyed a rare sunny day yesterday (above, from an FAA web cam). He said temperatures in Alaska this summer really have been unusually cold.

Alaskans are "certainly noticing it," he said, "especially because the period of 2002 to last summer. 2007, we've had some incredibly pleasant summers." It was so warm, in fact, that the summers of 2004 to 2006 were very bad forest fire years for the state, as the warm weather speeded drying in the bush and left it prone to fires. But in Alaska, they're adapting, according to one Fairbanks writer, who said this summer is "becoming the most miserable in recorded history."

What seems to have occurred, Hufford said, is a shift to what climatologists call the cold phase of a cycle in the North Pacific Ocean called the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation," or PDO.

I've written about this phenomenon. NASA climatologists said in May the cool phase seems to have begun last fall, and could influence temperature and rainfall patterns in the United States for decades to come, including enhanced hurricane seasons in the Atlantic, milder winters in Maryland, more dry weather in the Southwest and Southeast, and cooler, rainier weather in the northwest.

Hufford said the Arctic Low, a persistent feature of the far northern atmosphere that usually hangs out near Greenland, has shifted west to the northeast corner of Siberia.

"That has ... put us into a lot of flow from the northwest, out of the arctic. And anytime you get air off the arctic, it's not gonna be warm," Hufford said. It also brings persistent cloudiness to the skies over Alaska.

"Everybody's aware of it," he said, "and that's what's getting to them."

The lack of sunshine has impaired the development of wild berries, which Alaskans love to pick in summer. "What berries you get are not very sweet," he said. Hufford also reported a big flock of cranes flying through Fairbanks last week, perhaps a sign of colder weather in the far north and an early fall.

The cool-phase PDO also tends to produce disappointing salmon runs in Alaska, while enhancing them in the northwestern  corner of the lower 48 states.

"What really makes it interesting is that we've seen two or three events of snow down to 3,500 feet or so (in the mountains), right in the middle of summer. That's definitely not as usual thing here," he added.

If this really is the start of a cool-phase PDO they're seeing, it's of no small concern to Alaskans. And it's not just because of one summer of bland blueberries and scarce salmon.

When these PDO phases shift, they tend to do so for decades, not the 4- to 7-year cycles typical of the El Nino/La Nina cyclings in the tropical Pacific.  The Icebox State could be in for a long haul.

"That's what's concerning us, if this is in fact the PDO," Huffford said.

The last time the PDO shifted into a cool phase was in 1947. And it stayed there until 1976, bringing cooler, cloudier summers.

The big question is how the cool PDO will interact with the longer, global "signal" from global warming.  "We're not sure," he said. Maybe they'll cancel each other out for a while. "It's an excellent opportunity to see how the PDO may react with it ... From a scientific standpoint, we're learning."

Inevitably, Alaskans are looking at the cool summer they've experienced and cracking wise.People are saying "What global warming?" when they're desperate for a decent summer day over 60 degrees. "Oh boy, we hear that every day," Hufford said.

Hufford's response is that the PDO is a short-term trend relative to the long-term changes that come with global warming. We're going to see a lot of regional variability like this within the much longer-term, gradual increase in average global temperatures.

Hufford also laments that the cool PDO "is going to cost me money. My wife is not gonna go well into another six months of winter with a cold summer like this. I suspect I'm gonna be hearing about taking a trip to some sun for a while. Here in Alaska, we're real fans of Hawaii."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:52 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Science
        

July 29, 2008

5.8 quake rattles Los Angeles

USGS

The Greater LA area was rattled by a strong earthquake at about 2:42 EDT this afternnoon. The quake was followed by a series of lesser aftershocks. The epicenter was located southeast of the city's downtown area, near the community of Chino Hills, and about 8 miles beneath the surface.

Here are some of the details. Here are some early reports. Here is the LA Times website.

And here are some reader reports from the scene.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        

May 8, 2008

La Nina fading away

NOAA 

La Nina, the periodic cooling in the surface waters of the Central and Eastern Pacific that enhances hurricane formation in the Atlantic and can affect weather across the United States, appears to be fading away.

Climatologists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center say sea surface temperatures are rising out there, and approaching what they regard as "neutral" conditions in the La Nina/El Nino cycle, known as the "El Nino Southern Oscillation," or ENSO.

Here's more. And, you can watch the cool (blue) waters in the central Pacific warming up (yellow and tan) in the animation above, which is based on satellite observations of the Pacific during the past few months.

This departing La Nina has been credited (or blamed) for the drought that has plagued the West and the Southeast (including southeastern Maryland) since last summer, and for the mild winter, which brought just 8.5 inches of snow to Baltimore. It also played a role in the heavy snows in the upper Midwest and New England.

La Nina is also believed to facilitate Atlantic hurricane formation, but last year's hurricane season was only slightly more active than the long-term averages. Forecasters will be watching this La Nina's final months for any possible lingering influence it might have over this year's hurricane formation.

Although La Ninas can often be followed by El Nino conditions, it is also possible for "ENSO neutral" conditions - more or less average sea-surface temperatures - to persist for a time. Here is a link to NOAA's FAQ page on El Nino and La Nina.  

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

February 2, 2008

Workweek air pollution intensifies SE rainfall - NASA

A NASA study on rainfall has used satellite data to discover that, in the Southeast at least, air pollution gives summertime storms an extra "kick," producing a tendency for more rain during the work week than on weekends.

The key seems to be the particulate matter in air pollution from cars, factories and other workday sources. Water vapor condenses around these "seeds," and fuels more intense storms, which drop more rain.

You can read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:51 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        

February 21, 2007

Lake-effect snow on the bay?

As the mercury at The Sun this morning creeps toward 50 degrees, it seems safe to talk a bit about snow. Someone has asked whether lake-effect snow - the sort that has swept off Lake Ontario this winter and buried parts of western New York State - could occur on a body of water the size of the Chesapeake Bay.

The short answer is yes. It's been studied and deemed possible. But it is, apparently very rare. Here's a clip from the Virginia Pilot on an event in 1996. Researcher Crosby Savage, at North Carolina State University, has even found a radar image of such an event in 1999. The target that day was Norfolk.

Lake-effect (or "bay-effect") snow occurs when cold winds sweep across large bodies of relatively warm, open water. Along the Great Lakes, blasts of arctic air blow across the open lakes, pick up moisture, which is then lifted higher by the higher terrain on the lee of the lakes - Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York mostly. As it rises, the air cools, and the moisture condenses, freezes and falls as snow.

The Chesapeake is smaller than the Great Lakes, of course. And the surrounding terrain - especially on the lee side in a north wind - is generally flat. But scientists have concluded the conditions are sufficient to sustain a bay-effect snow.

To read more than anyone could possibly want to read on the topic, click hereAnd here.

Thanks to AccuWeather for the links.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        

October 4, 2006

A peek through the ozone hole

The southern winter is drawing to a close, and that means the annual destruction of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere over the South Pole is peaking. NASA has posted a new image showing the ozone hole as satellite sensors found it late last week.

Scientists discovered 20 years ago that the release of man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere was catalyzing the destruction of ozone molecules. And the losses were greatest at the South Pole, where they amounted to a "hole."

High-altitude ozone is critical to life on the surface of the planet because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun, protecting exposed tissues from possible genetic damage - damage that can cause cancers and other harm to life forms from ocean plankton to people.

Continued ozone damage was affecting the polar regions first, but would eventually erode the ozone layer everywhere, enough to pose increasing health threats in the temperate zones where most people - most life forms - live.

International treaties in 1987 led to the phase-out of CFCs in refrigerants and aerosol propellants, and their replacement by more environmentally friendly materials.

Scientists in the nearly 20 years since have been on the lookout for signs the global actions have had some beneficial effect. Happily, they now say the long-term decline in the ozone layer globally has at least halted, and the damage may be healed (or at least back to 1980 levels) in the coming decades - well within the lives of our children and grandchildren. Here's a NASA release on the subject, noting that the best explanation for the gains is the ban on CFCs.

It's great to hear that human societies can learn about and understand a global environmental threat, and take concerted action - even when the payoff may be years or decades away.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        

October 13, 2005

Heavier snows forecast for Northeast

Here's the latest on global warming research from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Read it, read the news stories about a week of heavy rain just north of here, and weep.

BOULDER — Storms will dump heavier rain and snow around the world as Earth's climate warms over the coming century, according to several leading computer models. Now a study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) explains how and where warmer oceans and atmosphere will produce more intense precipitation. The findings recently appeared in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

The greatest increases will occur over land in the tropics, according to the study. Heavier rain or snow will also fall in northwestern and northeastern North America, northern Europe, northern Asia, the east coast of Asia, southwestern Australia, and parts of south-central South America during the 21st century.

"The models show most areas around the world will experience more intense precipitation for a given storm during this century," says lead author Gerald Meehl. "Information on which areas will be most affected could help communities to better manage water resources and anticipate possible flooding."

NCAR authors Meehl, Julie Arblaster, and Claudia Tebaldi analyzed the results of nine atmosphere-ocean global climate models to explain the physical mechanisms involved as intensity increased. Precipitation intensity refers to the amount of rain or snow that falls on a single stormy day.

Both the oceans and the atmosphere are warming as greenhouse gases build in the atmosphere. Warmer sea surfaces boost evaporation, while warmer air holds more moisture. As this soggy air moves from the oceans to the land, it dumps extra rain per storm.

Though water vapor increases the most in the tropics, it also plays a role in the midlatitudes, according to the study. Combined with changes in sea-level pressure and winds, the extra moisture produces heavier rain or snow in areas where moist air converges.

In the Mediterranean and the U.S. Southwest, even though intensity increases, average precipitation decreases. The authors attribute the decrease to longer periods of dry days between wet ones. The heavier rain and snow will most likely fall in late autumn, winter, and early spring, while warmer months may still bring a greater risk of drought.

The Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation funded the research. NCAR’S primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        

September 14, 2005

Northern Lights tonight?

Ophelia's storm clouds will likely spoil the view for most Marylanders, but if you're far enough north or west and out from under the hurricane's cloud deck, you may get a chance to see the Northern Lights tonight. Here's a look at the clouds, from space.

More blasts yesterday from active sunspots crossing the sun's disk have sent clouds of solar particles and magnetic energy speeding toward the Earth. They are expected to begin interacting with the planet's atmosphere as soon as tonight, producing displays of Northern Lights. You'll need clear, dark skies and a view of the northern sky. You can read more about it by clicking here.

It's been an active week on the sun. Lots of folks around the world have been snapping photos of the Northern Lights for days. Here's a gallery of their work.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Science
        
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This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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