From the ABC 7 Weather team

Record low tornado count so far for 2014

April 23, 2014 - 07:59 AM

Severe weather season should be in high gear this time of the year with a significant increase in the number of tornadoes reported in the United States starting in April. Not only has it been a slow month for tornadoes, it's been an extremely slow year. In fact, Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma City, says that 2014 has the lowest number of tornadoes on record through April 21st with only 20 reports.




(2014 Tornado Count- Storm Prediction Center)




On average, the U.S. will experience more than 100 tornadoes from January through mid-April. Another bright note on the quiet severe season, so far there have been no tornado-related deaths reported in the country. A cooler spring in the eastern U.S. and the jet stream pattern have suppressed storm development in the plains where most of the tornadoes hit this time of the year.




(Probability of Severe Storms in April- SPC)



In the D.C. region, we have seen one twister so far in 2014.  A rare February tornado tracked from Compton, Md. to Cove Point, Md. on the 21st. It was an EF0 tornado on the Enhance Fujita Scale with maximum winds of 80mph, and it did cause some structural damage. Typically, our area peaks with tornado activity and severe storms in June and July.




(Probability of Severe Storms June/July- SPC)



Atmospheric conditions will be changing this weekend as a potent storm moves out of the Rockies and into the Plains and that could rock our quiet spring. 




(Sunday GFS Computer Forecast- WeatherBell)



A significant outbreak of severe weather will be possible Saturday through Monday.




(Severe Weather Threat Area Saturday through Monday)



As of this writing, while we do expect to get some rain from that system next week,  severe storms are not anticipated in the Mid-Atlantic.










Lyrid Meteor Showers Peak on Earth Day

April 21, 2014 - 10:27 AM
NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser

One of the oldest known meteor showers will be featured in the sky this week, peaking tomorrow (Tuesday morning) which also happens to be Earth Day. The Lyrid meteor showers may be visible all week long, but you could see as many as 10-20 "shooting stars" an hour in the pre-dawn hours on April 22nd. The meteors originate from the comet Thatcher and appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra near the bright star of Vega. The meteors may be visible very low in the northeastern sky starting at 10 p.m. tonight. The meteor shower will be at its highest point in the sky around dawn.




Unfortunately, some clouds and a bright waning gibbous moon will compete along with city lights and make make it difficult to see many of the meteors. Luckily, one feature of the Lyrids, according to Earth and Sky, is that one quarter of them are expected to have persistent trains, a long gas trail that appears as a lengthy streak in the sky.

Here's our WJLA Futurecast cloud cover for 4a.m. on Tuesday. 


(Computer Model Cloud Simulation)


Expect partly cloudy skies, so it shouldn't be completely clouded over and you should be able to see something in the night sky. If you don't think it's worth the early wake-up call with the moon and clouds tomorrow, you should be able to see a few shooting stars each night the rest of the week.  Or you can watch it online from our friends at NASA on this link.


Boston Marathon Weather: Looking Spectacular

April 21, 2014 - 07:10 AM

As 36,000 runners race from Hopkinton, Mass., to downtown Boston in a 26.2 mile venture, the weather will be picture-perfect.
Following the tragic events that unfolded last year, there are many mixed emotions amongst runners this year for the 118th Boston Marathon. Fortunately, though, the weather will cooperate.

Temperatures this morning in the upper 30s will rebound to the middle 40s by the time the first wave of runners hit the pavement at 8:50 a.m. EDT. Sunshine will get filtered through mid and high clouds with temperatures warming to the upper 50s by the time the runners finish the 26.2 mile dash through Boston. Although the Southwest to Southeast breeze will be light at 5 to 10 mph, local effects between buildings will create a headwind and tail wind at times.

The weather today is right on cue with mid-April weather in Boston. The average low is 41 degrees and high is 56 degrees. The temperatures last year were right in line with mid-April climate averages in Boston but two years ago brought record heat. The high temperature reached 87 degrees on April 16, 2012, with nearly 2,000 runners seeking medical attention due to the weather conditions.

The race in 1905 was the hottest on record since the race started in 1897. The following is a recollection of temperatures during race day.


Based on the sample size below, the average temperature on race day is 63 degrees.


ABC7 would like to wish all runners the best of luck this year! Click here <> to watch the Boston Marathon live!

The marathon always takes place on Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. This commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first battle in the American Revolutionary War. Another part of the tradition is the Boston Red Sox home game on the third Monday in April.

Each year, the Red Sox play at home on Patriots’ Day at 11:05 a.m. EDT. This allows spectators to watch the ball game and then head to the finish line to cheer on the majority of the runners that will be finishing the marathon at this time.


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D.C. pollen count well below average heading into Easter weekend

April 18, 2014 - 02:05 PM

Susan Kosisky, who is the Chief Microbiologist at the US Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab here in the D.C. area supplies the region with the daily pollen counts. So far this year, pollen counts have been well below average because of the cooler than average weather.

With temperatures in the 70s and 80s just last week from the 10th through the 15th of April, tree pollen started to spike. The highest tree pollen count of the Spring was noted on Monday at 1058 grains per cubic meter. This was short-lived though, as a strong cold front not only brought with it a few inches of rain, but also sleet, snow and cold temperatures Tuesday through today.

The count fell considerably with numbers under 100, which is still in the moderate range, but rather low compared to the average. As Kosisky put it,

"The count was predictable after the cold, rain and even snowflakes of the day before. We should be counting snowflakes instead of pollen grains this tree season! Daily average for the 3rd week in April is 953 grains/cubic meter."

2014 Tree Pollen vs. Avg (Credit: Susan Kosisky)

Above is a look at the average tree pollen count going into the Spring in blue and a look at what our area has experienced this year in red. There have been a few spikes, but for the most part have really been held in check.

Largest tree pollen counts 1998-2012

From 1998 through 2012, tree pollen numbers have typically spiked in the month of April. The earliest was March 28, 2012, which also happened to be the hottest month of March on record in D.C., when it was an astounding 10 degrees above normal for the month.

It's currently the 18th of April, and our highest tree count so far is 1058, so unless this year goes down like 2000 where the highest count was slightly above 1400, we unfortunately still have a ways to go.


Lunar eclipse tonight: Will we be able to see it in D.C.?

April 14, 2014 - 07:53 AM

It's a full moon tonight as well as a lunar eclipse. Unfortunately for us in D.C. and our neighbors up and down the east coast, it will be too cloudy to get a glimpse of the eclipse. 

It will still be a sight for our clear weather friends in the rest of North America. Check out this map where the eclipse will most visible.


Lunar eclipses only occur when there's a full moon. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly opposite the sun and passes into Earth's dark shadow. The eclipse will begin by 12:53am EDT and will continue through 4:34am with the "totality" phase occurring around 3:06am.

(Fred Espenak)

At the time of the eclipse, the moon will take on a reddish hue. This is because of Earth's atmosphere. The suns' rays will pass through our atmosphere scattering the light, which is the same phenomenon that gives us colorful sunrises and sunsets. has an even more in-depth explanation of lunar eclipses, if you want to read more. 

(R.G. Meier / Shutterstock)

Even though we in D.C. won't be able to catch sight of the lunar eclipse from home, NASA will live stream the eclipse beginning at 10 p.m. tonight. You can also check the planet Mars' approach, which is the closest the planet's been to Earth since 2008.

This lunar celestial phenomenon will be the first in a series of four eclipses, also called a "lunar tetrad." The next will occur on October 8th 2014, the next April 4, 2015, and the final September 28, 2015.

(F. Espenak / NASA / Goddard Spaceflight Center)


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Picture Perfect for the Cherry Blossom Parade

April 11, 2014 - 05:10 AM

The cherry blossom festival culminates Sunday. And what perfect weather to compliment the pink and white blossoms that line the Tidal Basin! 

Yoshino cherry blossom trees reached peak bloom Thursday with 70% of the blossoms open. The National Park Service forecast the peak bloom to arrive between April 8th and 12th. They were spot on!  Just as the weather turned warmer and brighter, the blossoms responded and are now out in their full glory.

(Courtesy Navin Sarma Photography)

If you haven't made it down to the Tidal Basin to take in the sights, you still have time - but the sooner you arrive, the better. The National Cherry Blossom Festival continues through the weekend with the Cherry Blossom Parade taking place Saturday morning. Check out meteorologist Alex Liggitt (driving StormChaser7) and Brian van de Graaff and Joe Witte waving from out of the sunroof while Adam Caskey greets the crowd from atop of the roof!


The parade is from 10am through noon Saturday and takes place along Constitution Ave from 7th to 17th streets, NW. The parade will feature giant helium balloons, elaborate floats, fourteen marching bands, and big name performers. Among the celebrities that will be in town are American Idol season 12 winner Candice Glover and pop artist Aaron Carter. The forecast for the parade couldn't be better!


The rest of the weekend will be just as nice with plenty of sunshine and even warmer highs for Sunday.

A strong front moving through Tuesday will likely bring heavy rain and wind that could bring down most of the blossoms. Enjoy the cherry blossoms while they're out and share your pictures with us! Click this link to find out how to share them with the ABC7 Storm Watch team. 

Special thanks to Brian van de Graaff for the help with this blog!


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2014 Hurricane seasonal forecast posted by CSU team

April 10, 2014 - 10:43 AM

The first hurricane forecast of the season was put out today from Dr. William Gray and Dr. Philip Klotzbach, who lead up the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University. The announcement was made from the National Tropical Weather Conference this morning in San Padre Island. Meteorologist Nate Johnson from WRAL in Raleigh, NC is at the conference and has been live-tweeting the announcement. Be sure to follow him for the latest from the conference.

The forecast is for a quiet season this year with only 9 named storms, 3 becoming hurricanes and only 1 major hurricane. An average hurricane season features 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. They site one reason for fewer predicted in 2014 being the developing El Nino pattern, which can lead to increased vertical wind shear in the tropics which hinders tropical cyclone development.

Other features such as cooler than normal sea surface temperatures will also be a big factor in the tropical season ahead. Dr. Klotzbach wants everyone to remember though that it only takes one bad storm to make for a terrible hurricane season. 1992 only had one major hurricane, and it happened to be Hurricane Andrew. They've given the various probabilities of a landfall below.

You can follow along with the conference by searching the hashtag #tropicalwx on twitter. Find the full detailed forecast from the Colorado State University team here.


Send us your Cherry Blossom photos

April 8, 2014 - 03:04 PM


With the Cherry Blossoms blooming this week, we know a number of you will be heading down to the Tidal Basin this week and weekend. We would love if you would share your photos with us so we can share them here online and possibly on air throughout the day on ABC 7 News and Newschannel 8.

This picture was taken by our very own Photojournalist James Joslyn this morning in the fog and mist. The next chance for rain in the 7 Day Forecast looks to be Friday night into Saturday morning.

Photo by James Joslyn - ABC 7 Photographer

There are a number of ways you can submit them. You can of course send them to, which is always accepting weather photos of all kinds. You can also share your photo to our Facebook page above, or any of our Twitter accounts below.

@DougHillABC7               @JacquiJeras

@SteveRudinABC7         @EileenABC7

@ABC7Brian                    @LaurynRicketts

@AdamCaskey               @AlexLiggitt

@DevonLucie                  @MikeSABC7wx

We'll be sure to share or retweet your pictures!



D.C. cherry blossoms: Days away from peak bloom

April 7, 2014 - 08:14 AM

After a long, snowy, chilly winter, D.C. 's favorite festival shouldn't disappoint. The National Park Service posted this morning that the cherry blossoms are now at the "Puffy White" stage as of this morning. That means peak bloom is 4-6 days away!



(Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms)


It felt like it would never get here. The cooler than average March in D.C. had some (including me) wondering if the early prediction of peak bloom on April 8-12 would have to be pushed back. Luckily, it looks like the experts were right on track. Still, there are questions of weather the next few days will impact the petals or viewing.

Monday will be a wet one with up to an inch of rain possible, so not the best weather to get out there to view the blossoms. 


(Monday rainfall)


Tuesday will be drier, but rather breezy, so we will have to keep an eye out for how the wind will impact the blooms. Right now my thinking is that the blooms aren't quite far enough open for the wind to have a big impact or knock down many petals. Wind will be from the West on Tuesday at 10-15 mph, but a few gusts could reach 20 mph. Conditions will become more tranquil midweek with increased sunshine.

A cold front will pass late Friday or early Saturday and could squeeze out a few showers. So, if I had to pick a day this upcoming week for the best possible viewing and color with sunshine and calm conditions, it would be Thursday. Here's the 7 day forecast:


(Seven-day forecast)


We would love to hear about your experiences at the Tidal Basin checking out the blossoms. Post your photos on the Stormwatch7 Facebook page. You can also post them to my personal facebook page or twitter account and we might just use them on Good Morning Washington. For a list of Festival Activities, click here. Enjoy!!!


Peduncle elongation: Washington D.C. cherry blossom peak bloom forecast

April 4, 2014 - 07:35 AM

The peak bloom date is defined as the day in which 70% of the blossoms of the Yoshino Cherry trees are in full bloom. Obviously, this is weather dependent and can vary from year to year; however, the actual Cherry Blossom Festival dates are "set" based upon the average bloom date of April 4th. In fact, taking a look at the statistics, it appears that peak bloom has taken place in a very broad date range, occurring as early as March 15, 1990 and as late as April 18, 1958 (courtesy NPS).

While National Park Service Horticulturists issue several bloom forecasts, they clearly state that "it is nearly impossible to give an accurate forecast much more than 10 days." The forecast for this year's peak bloom is currently forecast for April 8 to April 12. The question on my mind: Will it need to be adjusted?

According to the Park Service, we just began "peduncle elongation" on April the 4th! (see explainer graphics below.)

The way the National Park Service tracks the progress of the trees is by monitoring the progress of the 5 steps of growth. By monitoring these processes the horticulturist can adjust and update the bloom forecast accordingly. Here are the 5 steps and the corresponding imagery. Take a look and then you will be able to better understand the process whether you head down to the basin or not.

1. Green Color in buds 2. Florets visible 3. Extension of florets 4. Peduncle elongation 5. Puffy white - Courtesy: National Park Service

Final thought...if you cannot or do not make it down to see the Yoshino Cherry trees you are not 100% out of luck. Kwanzan cherry blossoms are provide a vibrant bloom and generally emerge two weeks later than the predominant Yoshino trees along the Tidal Basin. To catch a glimpse of these trees one need only to head over to the East Potomac Park south of the George Mason Memorial.

*Special thanks to Adam Caskey for his collaboration with me on this blog.


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Washington Nationals home opener weather forecast

April 3, 2014 - 03:00 PM

The Washington Nationals play their first home game against the Atlanta Braves this Friday at 1:05pm. Clouds are definitely in the forecast as well as a slight chance for showers ahead of a cold front. The temperature forecast is looking a bit more on the cool side as easterly winds are expected to keep them down, but it should still be a comfortable day at the park.

Temperatures appear like they will be mild, with our forecast high for the D.C. Metro right around 60 degrees. The boundary will be right around our region, and model guidance depicts areas to the north in the 50s and areas just to the south such as Fredericksburg, VA in the 70s!

Winds should be out of the east around 5 to 10 mph and as far as precipitation, an isolated shower isn't out of the question but there should definitely not be a rain-out or rain delay. If something changes, Jacqui Jeras and Eileen Whelan will be all over it tomorrow morning on Good Morning Washington as well as Brian van de Graaff on Newschannel 8, so tune in!

Forecast surface temperatures from the 12Z ECMWF model for Friday at game time (Courtesy: WeatherBell Models)

If you are planning to go to the weekend games, the forecast is for plenty of sunshine each day with highs in the low to mid 60s. Saturday will be breezy at times which will make it feel a little cooler, though by the 7pm start, winds should begin to settle down a touch.


If it's in the 60s, jeans and a t-shirt are looking like they way to go. As of now I would plan on bringing a jacket as I don't think the brats and beers will do the job alone while you're sitting in the stands.


Spring weather: March madness and april showers

April 1, 2014 - 05:00 AM

Goodbye and good riddance, March! It has been a cool and snowy month for sure. March roared in like a lion and has exited… well, kind of like a lamb if we don’t count Sunday's weather. Today’s sunshine and 60 degree temperatures are nothing to complain about after the past four weeks.


(March 2014)


March 2014 will go down as the 5th snowiest on record in Washington, D.C. We had measurable snow every week, except the 9th-15th, bringing the monthly total to 12.7” at Reagan National. That's 11.4” above average! Dulles topped the old record and had the snowiest March ever recorded with 19.8”. If you thought it was a cold month, you are correct. The average temperature was 42.5 degrees. That is about 4 degrees below average. Our warmest day was on the 22nd with 73 degrees. And the chilliest temperature was 14 on the 4th.

Does a snowy March equate into a snowy April? Not necessarily. And, climate is on our side for this one. Washington, D.C. records a trace of snow or more only once in every ten years. And, since 1888, only nine Aprils have recorded an inch or more of snow. So, chances are that we won’t see much if any. The latest measurable snow on record in D.C. was on April 28th with .5” on the ground in 1898. April is usually a month of rain. 


(April Climatology)


On average, 3.06” of rain can be expected over the month. Average high temperatures start at 62 on the 1st and rise to 71 degrees on the 30th. Average lows are all above freezing, starting with 42 on the 1st and 52 to end the month.

But, we know climatology and actual weather is different, right?  So, what does the start of April look like? 



(6-10 Day Outlook, NOAA)


Near average this week, but the latest outlook for April 5th-9th is slightly cool once again. 


Spring Showers Bring Cherry Blossom Flowers

March 28, 2014 - 09:52 AM

It finally feels like spring.  Temperatures are warming up, but just as temperatures climb, clouds and showers move in.  An approaching cold front will keep rain in the forecast through the rest of the day and through much of the weekend. 

Flooding may also be a concern tomorrow with over one inch of rain possible.  An area of low pressure will develop along the front and will bring pockets of rain to the area tomorrow. 

Weather Prediction Center

The Weather Predicition Center has much of the ABC7 and NewsChannel8 viewing area under a "Slight" risk of excessive rainfall, which could lead to flash flood concerns. 

Weather Prediction Center

Unfortunately, this soggy weekend comes during the Cherry Blossom festival.  The Blossom Kite Festival is happening this weekend at the Washington Monument from 10am through 4:30pm.  Originally, the kite festival was to be held Saturday; however, due to inclement weather the kite festival will happen on Sunday. 

Sunday's weather will still be unsettled with lingering showers and gusty winds, but Saturday looks more like a washout.  Check out forecast rainfall accumulations through Sunday midday.

Local Computer Simulation

The heavy rain, falling on top of already saturated ground, could cause localized flooding, so be cautious of standing water.  On a more positive note, the rain and warmer temperatures are furthering the blossoming of the cherry blossoms. 

The cherry blossoms are now in stage two where the florets are visible.  Here's a picture of the buds I took this morning.

The National Park Service forecasts the cherry blossoms to be in full bloom between April 8th and April 12th.  The average peak bloom date is between the last week of March and the first week of April.  The blossoms are little behind schedule, but hopefully, with more spring-like temperatures in the forecast, the spectacular bloom will be worth the wait. 

Stay updated with the weather forecast through the weekend with the StormWatch7 weather team.  ABC7's Steve Rudin and Dave Zahrern will update our StormWatch7 weather page, Facebook, and Twitter feeds with all the information you need to know.


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50th Anniversary of the largest U.S. Quake in recorded history

March 27, 2014 - 08:05 AM

The tweet above is what triggered me to write this blog. It's hard to believe that the 2nd largest earthquake since 1900 was located in Alaska. The only one larger was in 1960 in Chile at 9.5 magnitude.

Our area has recent experience with earthquakes, with Virginia's 5.8 magnitude earthquake in 2011, but historical information shows that the 2011 quake wasn't the only strong one felt in our area over the past couple hundred years.

More earthquake information for the state of Virginia can be found here

Largest Earthquakes since 1900 (Courtesy: USGS)

The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program has just about every kind of resource on the 1964 quake. Everything from survivor stories, to pictures and videos can be found there as well.

Related: National Tsunami Warning Center

As this is is the tail end of Tsunami Awareness Week, much has been shared over the past week on social media of what a tsunami is, where the high risk areas are, what is the difference between a tsunami watch, warning and advisory, and historical information.

As recent powerful earthquakes and resulting tsunami's in 2004 and 2011 acting as reminders, the White House sent out a message to be prepared, as warning information has greatly improved over the past 50 years.

Although they're not as common on the East Coast, tsunamis still occur, although the highest likelihood in the Atlantic is in the Caribbean. There is a higher risk on the west coast and on the islands that dot the Pacific. In fact, the 1964 Alaska Earthquake resulted in 122 deaths from the tsunami and nine from the earthquake itself. The Great Alaska Shakeout Drill will take place at 1:36pm today.


Powerful Atlantic Storm Getting Stronger

March 26, 2014 - 07:44 AM

A storm, equatable to a hurricane, is paralleling the East coast and headed towards the Canadian Maritimes.  Check out this incredible streamline map that shows the tight circulation surrounding the deepening low.  As of 8:30am, the pressure has dropped to 963mb.

Cameron Beccario - Creator of

That pressure drop was 50 mb in just 24 hours. It's more that double the rate needed to be defined as a "cyclone bomb."

Here's another view of the storm from the GOES East satellite.  It is a classic cyclone.  Notice the comma shape on the right side of this image.


And this visible satellite image shows the center of the storm along with snow cover here in Washington, D.C.

Visible Satellite 8:30 a.m.

To be clear, this Northeastern powerhouse storm is the same one that brought us 1-4" of snow yesterday.  New England's coast is catching the brunt of the storm right now.  Blizzard warnings are in effect for Cape Cod and coastal Maine.  Heavy, blowing snow will reduce visibilities to less than a quarter mile.   Winds will gust between 70-80mph along the coast.  Hurricane force wind warnings are in effect off Cape Cod (mauve color).  You could coin this a "snowicane!"

NWS Boston / Taunton, MA

To get a sense of what this looks like, check out this video from Chatham, MA. 

As of 8:30am Wednesday, a 78 mph wind gust was reported at Nantucket, MA. Heavy snow continues to fall along the coast.

Wave heights have exceeded 8.5ft in Nantucket. The wind is pushing the water onto shore, so coastal flooding is another concern, along with the snow and damaging wind gusts.  Snowfall totals close to a foot are expected in the blizzard warned areas on the cape. But there is a very sharp gradient between getting clobbered by this storm and getting off easy.  Roughly 50 miles away in Boston, just an inch of snow is expected at most.

Fortunately, this epic storm is far enough offshore the most severe impacts are only felt along the extreme coast of New England.  Nova Scotia, Canada will get hit hardest. The rest of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are being impacted with gusty winds.  As high pressure moves in from the west, the pressure gradient between the high and low create windy weather in our area.

This is an epic storm and proves the sheer strength and power of weather. Thanks to Jacqui Jeras for some editing and adding to this blog post.


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Say it ain't snow! Wintry weather in D.C. Tuesday

March 24, 2014 - 08:09 AM

Enough already! That seems to be the shared sentiment of many after quite a cold and snowy winter in the Nation's Capital. 

Tuesday's snow should be light. The good news is, this late in March, the high sun angle will warm surface temperatures, so not much snow will stick. The roadways will likely be mainly wet, but between one and two inches may accumulate on the grass. Here are a few bullet points of what you can expect tomorrow.

The snow comes as the southern and northern jet stream phase together.  An area of low pressure will develop off the coast of Florida tonight.  The deepening low will track far enough off the East coast that impacts to our area will be minimal. The low will intensify rapidly, 'bombing' out by tomorrow afternoon. The pressure will drop almost 50mb in less than a 36-hour time period. Bombogenesis is a term used when the barometric pressure drops 24 (or more) millibars in a 24 hour period. This is what the strengthening storm looks like.
(ADDS - Aviation Digital Data Service)
(ADDS - Aviation Digital Data Services)

Since the storm will pass far enough offshore, we'll be spared from heavy snowfall.  Snowfall totals will be less than two inches.  The Weather Prediction Center's probability of snowfall greater than two inches in D.C. is 60%, but I think that would be the highest snow would accumulate. Again, the ground and surface temperatures will be above freezing.

(Weather Prediction Center)

The bigger story this week will be the whipping winds on Wednesday, as the intensifying low pulls off the New England coast. Winds will gust to around 40 miles per hour at times on Wednesday. With temperatures only in the low 40s, it will feel like the 20s and 30s. Highs will rebound into the 60s by Friday. 

So is this our last hurrah of winter weather? My gut says yes! I hope I'm right!


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Eastern U.S. Winter: Snowy & Cold

March 23, 2014 - 06:25 PM

Snow plows, snow blowers and shovels were hard at work this winter in the East. Almost every major Interstate 95 city had above-average snowfall through mid-March. Below is a list of the major cities and seasonal snowfall departures.


The excessive snowfall and active pattern have helped contain moisture at the surface. As of the end of February, soil moisture was 20 to 40% above average in the Washington area.


Spring is typically a volatile time of the year because gusty winds and sunshine can quickly dry out the top soil resulting in high fire danger. The active pattern will help curb the fire danger a notch on dry days going through early spring.

The constant barrage of cold blasts has also chilled the soil. As a matter of fact, top soil temperatures are 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average in the Washington area. The cold departure is much more significant from the Northern Tier into the Southern Plains. Here, top soil temperatures are more than 10 degrees below average..


The cold surface will delay the growing season a bit and is responsible for the later than average peak bloom of the cherry blossoms in Washington.

Fortunately, drought isn’t on the horizon across the D.C. area through the start of summer. A high pressure ridge that has kept the West dry is the area most susceptible to more significant precipitation departures. Meanwhile, drought will likely get washed away in the Central Plains and Midwest as seen below.


For more on your day-to-day forecast, click here.



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Spring Has Sprung: The Vernal Equinox Thursday

March 20, 2014 - 04:45 AM

It's here!  Spring!  Astronomical spring arrives at 12:57pm at the vernal equinox.

And how welcome the season is after such a cold and snowy winter. Just as spring arrives, so do the warmer temperatures. Highs this afternoon will climb to near 60°. Perfect timing with the Cherry Blossom Festival kicking off today. Wondering if the recent St. Patrick's Day snowstorm will affect the peak bloom? Jacqui Jeras wrote a blog with all the answers. 

The equinox occurs at the point when the sun crosses the celestial equator from South to North. The image above and below help to visualize this.


At the equinox, the geometric center of the Sun crosses the equator and this point is above the horizon for 12 hours everywhere on Earth.  Now when we think about the equinox, we often think about equal hours of daylight and darkness. The word equinox comes from the Latin word "aequus" meaning "equal" and "nox" meaning "night". Although it's close, there are actually a few more minutes of daylight on the equinox than darkness. Monday we had 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.  Sunrise on Monday, March 17, 2012 was 7:16 AM and sunset was at 7:17 PM. So you may be asking, why wasn't Monday the equinox?

Well, it all comes down to that exact point when the center of the sun crosses the equator.  Sunrise and sunset occur when the top of the sun, not the center, is on the horizon.  That's why there are actually a few more minutes of daylight on the equinox.  Also, the earth's atmosphere refracts, or bends, light from the sun.  So, the top of the sun appears to be above the horizon when it is actually below the horizon. 


Today (Thursday) we'll have a little over 12 hours of daylight and darkness (12 hours and 6 minutes). From here on out, up until the summer solstice, we'll gain 2 hours 46 minutes of daylight.

The growing daylight and higher sun angle help promote warmer days.  Unfortunately, it can sometimes be a slow process in these transition months. Case in point, this March. The average high for the middle of March is about 55°. By the end of the month, the average high will be 61°.  The extended forecast starts out seasonable and then get a little warmer than average; however, another dip in temperatures for early next week. 

Happy Spring!


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Awfully Cold and Snowy for Blossoms

March 19, 2014 - 04:30 AM

Spring arrives on Thursday and thus the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  The National Park Service recently released the forecast for peak blooms and expects the magic 70% mark to arrive April 8-12th.  THIS is what the blossoms looked like Monday morning:


Monday Morning, Tidal Basin (Photo: John Gonzalez)

ABC7's John Gonzalez snapped the photo in-between his live reports on Good Morning Washington on Monday during the storm. Makes a strong statement, doesn't it?

The wild winter weather has many wondering if our recent cold temperatures and snow will push that peak date back, self included. The day before our 5-10" of snow, on March 16th, the NPS reported the Cherry Blossom status as "Green." This is the latest we've seen the green buds in  ten years! We usually see green anytime from Mid February-Early March.  So, we're a little late there. However, if you take a look back a decade to 2003 when the green emerged appropriately on St. Patrick's Day, the peak bloom ended up on April 2nd. So, it's still possible to stay on forecast pace. You can watch the progress on this live camera for yourself.


Past Peak Dates (National Park Service)


Last year the peak bloom was April 9th. And in 2012, we peaked much earlier on March 20th. For a list of bloom times dating back to 1992, click here.  

NPS admits it's difficult to predict the peak with accuracy more than 10 days out, so stay tuned for changes. The blooms are most affected by extreme cold and extreme heat. Once they start opening, concerns lead to wind and rain that could knock the blooms down. If we take a look ahead as to what could impact the lovely cherries in the next few weeks in the forecast, we have a variety of ups and downs. The temperature forecast is below average again for next week with the potential for freezing conditions. 

Cooler than Average Temps Next Week (NOAA)

A few weather forecast models, including the GFS, are also hinting at the potential for more snow in the forecast for the middle of next week. 

GFS Computer Model Tuesday, March 25th (GFS)

Only time will tell.  My money is on a later bloom date.


Record Breaking White St. Patrick's Day Storm

March 17, 2014 - 09:39 AM
Photo Taken by Russ Adams, Alexandria, VA


Preliminary Snow Totals


So far in Washington, D.C. we've had 7.2" of snow and at Dulles it is 10". Those numbers are collective from the snow that started Sunday evening and continues this morning.  Daily records were broken both days at Dulles, and just today at DCA.  It's pretty rare that we get this much snow this late in the season.  We've now reached 11" of snow at Reagan National for the month.  That puts us in the top ten of snowiest Marches on record (ties for number 8). 


Snowiest March on Record


In addition it is a top ten snow "event" for the month, beating out the Superstorm of 1993 that had 6.6". Thanks to the fine folks at The Capital Weather Gang for that last nugget. And, if that is not impressive enough, for the season, we've doubled the average snowfall and have now topped 30" in D.C. since October!   If you look at climatology, March 17-31st brings .2" of snow on average in D.C. and .9" at Dulles. So, if we consider that alone, chances are pretty good that this will be the last hurrah of the season. 

Forecast Temperature Departure March 22-26th

However, if we look at the medium range models, below average temperatures are expected to continue (don't pinch me on this St. Patrick's Day), so there are no guarantees.  Although a nice brief warm up in the 50s and 60s are in the forecast to end this week! :)