From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for November 2011

The 1987 Veterans Day Snowstorm remembered

November 11, 2014 - 11:20 AM

Above is some footage from Fox 5 during the 1987 Veterans Day Snowstorm. Thanks to Capital Weather Gang for finding this and I hope you all enjoy watching my friend Sue Palka discuss the storm. Notice that it reached the 60s the day before and the forecast was for highs in the 50s with scattered light rain. Let's just go ahead and hope this scenario doesn't repeat itself any time this Winter!

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Rainbow-colored, exploding meteor appears just south of D.C.

December 1, 2011 - 05:00 AM

Hordes of incandescent meteors have ripped across U.S. skies this past week. According to alert skywatchers, the nation's capital got in on the stellar action in a big way.

The delightful blog Lunar Meteorite Hunters carries two reports of a glowing nightly visitor that appeared between 40 and 60 miles south of D.C. on Monday, Nov. 28. The first account is from Patrick in Leonardtown, Md., who caught a bright object whizzing by overhead around 9:20 p.m. The flaming flier lasted about 2 seconds, cycling like an angry squid from red to blue to green. Says Patrick, with minor spelling/grammar errors fixed:

No discernible sound. Very bright, same as the moon. Not blinding, but quite noticeable. Not sure, [but it looked like it had] only one tail. I'm not sure if it was when it entered the atmosphere, but I saw almost an explosion or halo form around it about halfway through its travel before it disappeared.

A meteor that was hoisted with its own petard, you say? Go on!

The next account of Monday's space shenanigans comes from an unnamed observer in Stafford, Va., at approximately the same time of evening. This witness also says the object flamed out in a spectacular fashion:

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Tetris meets weather in NASA's 'Satellite Insight' iPhone game

November 30, 2011 - 01:06 PM

Your friends might think you're a dork for playing this new iPhone game from NASA and NOAA, based on the next-gen GOES-R satellites, but screw them, you're saving the world.

The gameplay of "Satellite Insight" is as simple as it is addictive. Spot falling blocks of different colors that make groups of three or more, then tap the satellite icon to "transport" them to government servers. You know, like that other game. If the blocks build up to the top of the screen, tornado outbreaks will tear apart entire cities and immense paroxysms of solar radiation will fry our astronauts. Or something like that: I had to stop before the end at 431 points to write this post.

The colors of the squares represent data that the first GOES-R satellite will collect when it is launched in 2015. The blue blocks signify cloud-and-smoke data from the Advanced Baseline Imager, yellow blocks are solar-flare radiation readings from the Extreme UV/X-ray Irradiance Sensor, orange blocks are charged particles from the thunderstorm-hunting Geostationary Lightning Mapper, and so on.

Here's NOAA/NASA's come-on:

No matter how thirsty you are, it's not easy to drink from a fire hose. But that's similar to the challenge of capturing and storing the huge blast of images and information that the new GOES-R weather satellite will gather. (It launches in 2015.)

In the Satellite Insight game, you will have to think and move fast to keep up with the massive flow of different types of data being captured by GOES-R.

Head on over to iTunes to grab the app for free. You can also play it online here. (Hat tip to the L.A. Times.)

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WATCH: The skies of Normandy and Brittany in stunning HDR

November 30, 2011 - 06:00 AM

This video of fabulous skies radiating in enhanced HDR is basically a solid brick of Windows desktop-background material. There's simply no detaching the eyes from the gorgeous scrolling of the celestial dome. Bonus points if you can spot the antlike cows milling around in the distance.

Tanguy Louvigny compiled this footage from Normandy and Brittany, France, using a hand-built motion-control rig. For the technical minded, here are his specs:

Shot on 400D, 60D & Sigma 10-20
Hand made 3 axis motion control rig
HDR shots tone mapped with Photomatix v4
Edited in Adobe Premiere & After effects CS5
Music composed on Roland mc-808

(You can watch more time-lapse videos on WJLA here.)

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Martian dust devils dance in an uncanny spectacle (VIDEOS)

November 30, 2011 - 05:00 AM

NASA's new jacked-up Mars explorer, the Mars Science Laboratory, blasted off the earthface on Saturday and is set to rendezvous with the reddest of planets in August 2012. Aboard the interplanetary vessel is the rugged buggy Curiosity, a laser-and-robotic-arm-swinging Mars rover that looks like something you'd use to perform doughnuts in Half-Life 2. (See a great animation of Curiosity in action here.)

What will Curiosity encounter when it drops down from a sky crane into Gale Crater? To the scientifically trained, it will with luck find evidence of microbial life. But to people just looking through the vehicle's viewfinder it will sure look like a whole lot of nothing. There are few places in the solar system that match the desolate, Old West feeling that the Martian surface imparts. The most striking thing about the rusty wasteland appears to be the regular appearance of dust devils, a phenomenon this blog covered earlier in a swell little video on alien weather.

The devils appear in packs that wrap up light dust before dissipating back into the ether. The Mars rover Spirit came across such a dust-devil storm while making its rounds in 2005. Here's what it looked like (this might take a minute to load):

mars dust devils

Now let's go left to right:

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WATCH: The entire 2011 hurricane season in 4.5 minutes!

November 29, 2011 - 01:01 PM

Swingandamiss. That's the 2011 hurricane season in a nutshell, although there were a couple notable exceptions.

The Atlantic portion of the season, which ends after Nov. 30, fit solidly within NOAA's forecast with an amazing 19 tropical storms and a near-average seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. That's a whirlwind of oceanic activity: 2011 was the third-most active year for tropical storms on record, tying with 1887, 1995 and 2010. Yet most veered away from the United States before any harm could be done. You can see how they scattered over the hemisphere like startled elephants in the above composite map from NOAA, where the maximum intensities of the storms are color-coded. (Large version.) The map was built on data from the meme-rific HURDAT tracking set.

The Americas did not emerge unscathed from these monster storms. Flooding, wind and associated hurricane carnage caused a known 120 fatalities. Tropical Storm Arlene killed about two-dozen people when it mowed over Mexico in late June. The costs of Hurricane Irene are still being calculated, with the latest estimates hovering around $10 billion and human costs of 55 lives. Tropical Storm Lee caused about $1 billion in damages and spawned a bunch of tornadoes in the South, to boot. However, there's some good news in that the U.S. escaped a brush with a major hurricane for the sixth consecutive year since Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005. That's a record stretch of relative safety.

Why was the season so feisty? Part of the blame lies with La Niña, the recurring climate pattern that puts dampers on Pacific storms while injecting the Atlantic with the weather equivalent of trailer meth. There's also a not-quite-understood trend in the climate that's been churning out active hurricane seasons since 1995.

Read NOAA's wrap-up here. This is the agency's brief primer on the past few months:

Surprisingly, none of the first eight tropical storms reached hurricane status, a record since reliable reports started in 1851. Hurricane Irene's effects in the Caribbean and the United States lead to 55 deaths and accounted for the bulk of this season's damage, more than $10 billion. Irene was the first landfalling hurricane in New Jersey in 108 years. Hurricane Katia had far-reaching effects causing severe weather in Northern Ireland and Scotland and power blackouts as far east as Saint Petersburg in Russia. Tropical Storm Lee caused major flooding in Pennsylvania, New York and into the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The strongest storm of the season was Ophelia, which reached category four strength in the Atlantic Ocean east of Bermuda.

You can see every 2011 tropical tempest form and move across the globe in the below time-lapse video. The animation is actually a series of shots taken by the GOES-13 satellite every 30 minutes from June 1 to Nov. 28. For the storm tracks of past seasons, the National Hurricane Center's got you covered all the way back to 1851.

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D.C.'s stretch of nice, warm weather comes to screeching halt

November 29, 2011 - 05:00 AM

Words that apply to this Tuesday: tiresome, teary, tempestuous, too bad. In a lame turn of events, nature is scrubbing over the warm blessedness of the past few days with a sopping dishrag of rainy, gray weather.

The chance of rain in D.C. on Tuesday is 100 percent. The start of the dripping is likely to sync up with the morning commute. It could be worse, though. A long section of the U.S., from Mississippi to Georgia up to the Great Lakes, is looking at the possibility of several inches of snow accumulating by late today. The Deep South could get a rare 2 to 4 inches of snow, while eastern Michigan and northern Indiana are flirting with 5 to 8 inches. That's because a system with a heart of pure cold has become lost from the guiding circulation of the jet stream, and is drifting aimlessly northward bleeding precipitation onto everything in its path. You can watch it meander over the country in this animated forecast from NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

The skin will tauten at a drop in temperatures over the coming week. While Tuesday will only be in the lower 60s during the afternoon, it's probably the fabulous 50s afterward until the weekend. However, at least Wednesday and beyond look less drizzly. Check the extended ABC7 forecast for details. A spot of good news (or bad, if you love winter weather): In-house senior meteorologist Bob Ryan says that there's no indication of any extremely cold air or snow in the immediate future.

For a neat satellite photo of the approaching storm, follow the jump.

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WATCH: A brinicle, or 'icicle of death,' grows in the ocean

November 28, 2011 - 02:17 PM
You could poke your eye out on this thing. (BBC)

When is an icicle not an icicle?

How about when it's growing underneath an ice shelf in the Antarctic Ocean and is as salty as a bag of movie popcorn?

Witness the weird life of a "brinicle," a spiraling cone of ice built around freezing particles of salt water. A film crew from the BBC collaboration Frozen Planet has captured the first-ever footage of a brinicle growing, which you can see below in wonderful time-lapse. These frigid formations are thought to sprout regularly in the subzero waters of the poles, but are difficult to observe because of hazardous diving conditions and the interference of curious seals. (Seriously.) To film this brinicle, Frozen Planet's Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson had to use a Rube Goldbergian rig that looked like this:

brinicle icicle death finger frozen planet

Brinicles can sprout when calm salt water becomes colder than the surrounding sea and begins to drift toward the ocean floor. The frosty brine instantly freezes the water around it, creating a tornado-looking structure that can spread across the sand below to engulf nearby marine animals, killing them or at least locking them in an annoying state of suspended animation. In this case, the brinicle, located under Little Razorback Island, takes out a horde of sea urchins and starfish. The whole process took five to six hours.

For a brinicle discussion by Open University oceanographer Mark Brandon, follow the jump.

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Record highs in the D.C. area today?

November 28, 2011 - 01:37 PM

Record high temperatures today at our regional airports:

Reagan National: 74° - 1973

BWI Thurgood Marshall: 73° - 1990

Dulles Airport: 71° - 1998

Warm temperatures have been the talk of the town over the past few days, and record highs may be possible today in a few locations. Above are the records for today. Be sure to check the temperatures here over the next couple of hours to see if they have been broken.

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Southerly winds to bring in cooler temperatures by Wednesday

November 28, 2011 - 12:23 PM

Typically the D.C. area will cool off behind a cold front, when northwesterly winds help usher in a cooler airmass due to the pressure gradient force associated with an area of low pressure. This isn't always the case though as sometimes even southerly winds can bring in cooler air. This doesn't happen often but it will this week as a cut-off low to the south will do just that Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

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Japanese astronaut plays baseball in the Space Station (VIDEO)

November 28, 2011 - 05:00 AM

So this is what astronauts do when they get bored. I'm imagining that Furukawa here is imagining that he's Superman, zooming around the diamond to perform every role in baseball in a single play. Beautiful, unaltered text from the YouTube post:

Japanese astronaut, Satoshi Furukawa, plays baseball against himself in the International Space Station during mission 28 & 29

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa's baseball game becomes Web hit [VIDEO DISCOVERY]

Satoshi Furukawa plays a little ball on his own when he has free time.

Satoshi Furukawa takes the concept of playing every position to a whole new level.

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Thanksgiving weather can take a roller coaster ride

November 25, 2011 - 06:33 AM

The high temperature of 61 degrees on Thanksgiving under deep blue skies and light wind was optimal weather for those traveling to or from Grandma’s for the big feast. But, years past haven’t always been so beautiful while others have been a bit balmy!

The coldest Thanksgiving was in 1902 when the high was only 18 degrees. The most snow ever on the big day was in 1989 when 1.9 inches blanketed the ground. As a matter of fact, it only has snowed six times on Thanksgiving in the District, so don’t place any bets on future White Thanksgivings!


The following table shows high temperatures for Thanksgiving going back to 2006.

November 23, 2006 59 degrees
November 22, 2007 77 degrees
November 27, 2008 49 degrees
November 26, 2009 51 degrees
November 25, 2010 55 degrees
November 24, 2011 61 degrees
Average High on Thanksgiving in the past 6 years 59 degrees
30-Year Average High for Late November 54 degrees

All bets are on for a stellar holiday weekend going forward with highs climbing well into the 60s and even hitting 70 degrees south of the Potomac. The only fly in the ointment will be late day showers Sunday as a cold front passes through. Be safe and have a wonderful remainder of your holiday weekend!


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Joplin Tornado may be third worst in U.S. history says Meteorologist

November 23, 2011 - 12:01 PM

The Joplin, MO tornado, which occurred on May 22 just over 6 months ago was one of the deadliest tornadoes in history. Over 150 deaths were reported, making it the 7th deadliest tornado in modern history in the U.S. Even with the 5 other EF-5 tornadoes this year, this one may be the 3rd worst in U.S. history says Meteorologist Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel.

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Historic Hurricane Kenneth strengthens to Category 4

November 22, 2011 - 02:03 PM

Behold Kenneth, the roaring hurricane with the mildest of names. This tempest is exceedingly abnormal: According to NOAA, it is the "strongest late-season eastern north Pacific hurricane on record."

Kenneth's flirtation with notoriety will likely end soon. While the storm has ballooned into a true Category 4 monster today, its wind cycles are winding down and cooler waters are stealing its thunder. Kenneth is currently moping far off the coast of Mexico and poses no threat to the Americas. (Photo taken by the GOES West satellite at 1500Z on Nov. 22, 2011.)

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What does the Sun sound like? The weird music of solar storms

November 22, 2011 - 06:00 AM

Warning: Although there is no such advisory from the artists, this sure looks like one of those quickly-flashing videos that can trigger seizures, so view at your own risk, in full screen, in HD, with the lights turned out.

Bleep, scritch, tweeeee! Every day the Sun is singing to us like a Pavarotti with severe laryngitis, but sadly, the human eardrum cannot naturally hear the star's constant outbursts.

Artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt have set out to remedy this failure to communicate. You might remember the science-digging duo, collectively called Semiconducter, from a neato video featuring magnetic lines at the Hirshhorn a few years back. Their latest project, titled 20 Hz, is also founded in unseen magnetic phenomena. Using Canada's CARISMA array, they have plucked radio waves from the upper atmosphere during a solar storm and dubbed the audio into a video that is utterly anomalous. Scroll down for 20 Hz's shifting fields of static, which suddenly group together in precision drills of spirals, waves, ripples and hedgerows. Rumbles of what might be thunder and a persistent, Theremin-like whistling give the film an ominous tinge.

Jarman and Gerhardt made the film for this year's "Invisible Fields" exhibition at Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona, Spain. They explain:

Working with data collected from the CARISMA radio array and interpreted as audio, we hear tweeting and rumbles caused by incoming solar wind, captured at the frequency of 20 Hertz. Generated directly by the sound, tangible and sculptural forms emerge suggestive of scientific visualizations. As different frequencies interact both visually and aurally, complex patterns emerge to create interference phenomena that probe the limits of our perception.

If you like this effort, then you might also enjoy Semiconductor's Black Rain, another strange art project based on images taken by NASA's STEREO satellites.

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Thanksgiving weather travel roundup: floods, snow, severe storms

November 22, 2011 - 05:00 AM

For Thanksgiving 2011, two pernicious weather systems are bringing the hurt to different parts of the U.S. We're talking the chance of severe storms, flash flooding and quickly accumulating snow. Without ado, here's what to expect for where you're going:

Washington, D.C., specifically: It's looking like we slip out from under most of the nation's bad weather this week, although in this case "bad weather" is relative. A high chance of showers stretches from today to Wednesday, when a cold front is scheduled to push through in the afternoon. The National Weather Service thinks there could be a thunderstorm in the first part of Wednesday, and at least 1 inch of rain (2 inches in isolated spots) could fall between now and then. Here's the precipitation forecast from Tuesday to Wednesday, courtesy of NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center:

thanksgiving 2011 weather forecast storms

On Thanksgiving, a bubble of high pressure will nestle above D.C. and make things pleasant and sunnyish. Throughout the week, temperatures look fair to middlin' in the 50s and even possibly the 60s on Wednesday and Friday. But keep up with the latest ABC7 forecast for changes in the weather.

The Mid-Atlantic region, generally: There's a lot more rain coming for the Mid-Atlantic, specifically in the southern and western parts. The storms pushing up through the South are unloading heavy rain inside a wide belt from Oklahoma to Tennessee. By Tuesday evening, there is a chance for flash flooding in the Ohio Valley.

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'Volcano surfing': So this is a sport, now? (VIDEO)

November 21, 2011 - 12:57 PM

Is there nothing that says "R and R" more than donning an orange prison jumpsuit, slapping on a pair of safety goggles and then being pushed off the top of a smoking volcano? That's how some adventure-seekers are spending their vacations, anyway, near the not-so-peaceful town of Leon in Nicaragua's mountain-strewn northwest.

The summit that is ground zero for this odd and potentially scalding activity is Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America. Cerro Negro last erupted in 1999 and is definitely still active. Here's what the Wikians have to say about this lava-spitting peak:

Although a small-scale eruption did occur in A.D. 1999, another larger-scale eruption is expected to occur in the immediate future. Cerro Negro does not differ from most volcanoes, in that numerous hazards are associated with volcanic activity. These hazards include lava flows, mudslides, pyroclastic flows, and earthquakes, but the biggest hazard of Cerro Negro is the effects of the ash and tephra fallouts.

In other words, it's a totally sweet place to hang around. As the story goes, back in 2005 a hostel manager named Darryn Webb decided to try his Australian sandboarding skills on Nicaragua's more challenging terrain. (Certain folks dispute Webb's claim to being the father of the sport, but really, who cares?) He fiddled around with finding the right board, trying a mattress and a minibar fridge before choosing a reinforced plywood sled that looks like it was made from a prefab door. Webb took his Xtreme Vulcan Sleigh up to the top of Cerro Negro and then zoomed down its smoking flanks at speeds approaching 50 m.p.h. Voila: A new sport was born.

Tourists now seek out Leon as a jumping-off place for volcano surfing. They wear goggles to prevent hard grains of pumice from peppering their eyeballs. A local with a radar gun clocks their speed as they rocket down the obsidian slopes. What does volcano surfing feel like? Watch the video below for the reactions of two fresh land surfers: One woman who's covered with dirt so that she sort of looks like Pig-Pen proclaims it "absolutely incredible," although her friend then complains that she ripped her pants. (A good travelogue lies here.)

Cerro Negro lays claim to other odd activities, too: In 2002, French stunt demon Eric Barone set the world's speed record for bicycles by zooming down Cerro Negro at 107 m.p.h. Then he crashed and broke several ribs. Of course there is a video of that.

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If we could see greenhouse gases, would we regulate them more?

November 21, 2011 - 05:00 AM

The Great Smog of 1952 called: It wants its coal-blackened skies back.

That's the impression one might pick up by watching this strange new report... well, "experiment" is the better word from ABC News. (Video posted below.) The media outlet's graphics department teamed up with the folks from infrared-imaging company FLIR to produce an intriguing model of greenhouse gases. The thesis behind the story: If these emissions, which climatologists warn are about to cause an uptick in extreme weather, were visible to the naked eye as much as coal smog or burning-tire plumes, would the public demand tighter regulation?

ABC News summoned the foul vista in front of New York's George Washington Bridge using a special, forward-looking-infrared camera called the GasfindIR. This device is typically used to detect greenhouse gas emissions as well as leaks of volatile organic compounds, or pollutants that waft off of things like fuels, paints, pesticides and cleaning supplies. Here the FLIR is detecting hot gases like CO2 steaming out of car exhausts and airplane engines. ABC then added its artistic touch to make the scene more palpable, almost cough-inducing. Enjoy!

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The seesawing ocean temperatures of La Nina, visualized (VIDEO)

November 18, 2011 - 03:17 PM

What exactly is this La Niña thing? Well, take a look below: NOAA shows what happens during the recurring climatic phenom in this nifty new animation.

Produced using data from the Climate Prediction Center, the telltale sign of La Niña is clearly evident in the cooler-than-average surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, right around the equator. This latest iteration of La Niña began in 2010's summer, then dissipated somewhat in the spring of 2011, and finally came roaring back late this summer. The CPC has forecasted the climate pattern to reign through the winter, ratcheting up the chances that the terrible drought in the South will persist.

Here are the details from NOAA:

This animation shows daily analysis of the sea surface temperatures from the NOAA AVHRR satellite sensor over the course of 2011. Values are shown as the temperature relative to the 1971-2000 average, where blue is cooler than average, red is warmer than average. The animation starts out showing a strong La Niña, but by May, warmer than normal waters appear in the equatorial Pacific - characteristic of an emerging El Niño. However, the El Niño did not gather strength, and towards the end of the animation the cooler than normal conditions associated with the current La Niña can be seen to reappear.

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Reno, Nevada fire: Imagine waking up to this

November 18, 2011 - 02:37 PM

A fire started Thursday night in Reno, Nev., damaging 20 homes and causing numerous injuries. Here is a YouTube video of someone waking up to the blaze. Thanks to Twitter user @WeatherNationWX for the find.

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