From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for December 2011

The extremes of New Year’s Eve & Day

December 31, 2011 - 09:36 AM
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Temperatures in the 50s before Noon with sunshine…. Many of us are wondering what season it is and where winter has been hiding. Well, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day often bring quite a range of weather to the D.C. Region. Here’s a breakdown of the extremes:

New Year’s Eve:
Record High:70/1965 
Record Low: -13/1880 (this is also the coldest temperature ever reported at Reagan National for the month of December)
Record Snow: 4.9 inches in 1970

New Year’s Day:
Record High: 71/1916
Record Low:-14/1881 (Record coldest temperature for January and one degree shy of the all-time record low temperature of -15 on February 11, 1899)
Record Snow: 4.5 inches in 1899

High temperatures both today and New Year’s Day will climb within 15 degrees of record highs before a brief shot of more seasonable temperatures arrives early next week just in time for the start of the second month of Meteorological Winter.

Have a fun and safe New Year’s celebration!

 

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Flying wads of sea foam cover roads, cars in Britain (VIDEO)

December 30, 2011 - 02:09 PM
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Ugh.

Oooh, look Ma, it's snowing! Let me just go and catch a snowflake on my tongue.... yuuurrrgk!

Turns out the off-white wads you see flying around in the below video are not abnormally large snowflakes. They are clumps of sea foam being blown around by fierce gusts this Wednesday in Cleveleys, near Blackpool on the Irish Sea. There was enough of it in the air to make driving dangerous. Sofalike drifts of scum piled up as high as three feet in places.

The gag-inducing tempest was caused by tiny ocean creatures breaking down into protein and fat to make the ocean into a nutrient-rich biological milkshake. The wind then churned the water into a froth that it threw like Cool Whip onto the U.K. shoreside. Local carwashers no doubt had a record day.

If you ever want to see firsthand how this interesting substance forms, there's a magical vacation waiting in a trip to Spume Island. (Kudos to CWG's Jason Samenow for finding this delightful video.)

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Best and worst weather spots in the country this New Year's Eve

December 30, 2011 - 12:34 PM
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Worst Weather Spots this New Years Eve:

1. Fargo, ND

Temperatures should only be in the lower 20s in Fargo by the time the clock strikes midnight. What, that doesn't sound that bad to you? Once you step outside, you'll also notice the sustained 20 to 30 m.p.h. winds that are buffeting you as you walk to a cab and realize the combination is making for wind chills of only 5 above.

2. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

Dealing with the same are of low pressure and associated cold front, Minneapolis has the chance for some light snow along with gusty winds and cold temperatures. Around midnight, temperatures should only be around the upper 20s and winds will be out of the NNW around 15 to 25 m.p.h. gusting to 35 m.p.h. What adds to the fun is the light snow that will be stinging you in the face. Hope everyone is excited to get dressed up in the land of 10,000 lakes!

3. Seattle, WA

Ah, beautiful Seattle. Anyone have a guess on this one? Anyone? Bueller? Oh wow, rain.. shocker. Seattle will experience a cold front moving in from the Pacific which will bring the chance for rain. At least temperatures will be in the upper 30s, making it the most annoying kind of rain there is. Cold rain.

4. Chicago, IL

Anyone headed to Chicago for the big night? That same pesky midwest system will bring gusty winds to the Chicago area with southerlys around 15 to 25 m.p.h and higher gusts. The temperatures should be in the upper 30s and some light rain and snow showers will be possible as the front moves through. Winds will make it feel like it is in the 20s.

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What does 'blustery' mean in the weather forecast, exactly?

December 30, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Perhaps you've heard that after the weekend warm bump, it's going to be "blustery" in the Washington, D.C., region. That was the actual term used by the National Weather Service yesterday in a discussion of Monday night's windy, colder weather.

Blustery. What does that mean, exactly?

To believe the throbbing literary brains over at the Merriam-Webster dictionary, blustery weather is that which has a "violent boisterous blowing" quality. A person who is "loudly boastful" or given to "threatening speech" also might be called blustery. But such definitions lack that quantitative flavor that scientists love so much. So it's no surprise that the meteorologists at NOAA have come to associate "blustery" with a precise kind of windy day.

What kind? The answer is readily available at NOAA's online glossary of weather terms. "Blustery" means...  "Same as Breezy." Hmmm, you'd think they'd want to avoid redundancy in the federal government. OK, looking up breezy....

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Biggest weather events for the D.C. region in 2011

December 29, 2011 - 01:34 PM
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A bus stop in Prince George's County during the September flooding.

This useless week between Christmas and New Year's is basically good for two things: Killing the refrigerator remains of whatever giant meat product you cooked for the holidays, and making lists. The National Weather Service has you covered on the latter activity, so make yourself a plate, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Below is the NWS timeline of this year's "top" weather events for the Washington / Baltimore region. Looking back on all that happened, it's clear that we really got walloped this year by some freakadelic weather. (Photo gallery.) I had completely forgotten about the wildfires that coated Virginia with dismal smoke. The tornado outbreak is less easy to stick in the memory rubbish box. It seems like the staff at the local NWS will be adding to the list in the days to come, so check back with them for updates.

Here goes:

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Tornado siren objects to couple's wedding (VIDEO)

December 29, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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George Carlin has nothing on weather's comedic timing. Take this couple about to get married, when all of a sudden... BLAAAAAAAAAAWR. Tornado siren! The video cuts off before we get to see if an actual EF-4 twister plows through the outdoor ceremony. Here's hoping the bride and groom made it out OK with minimal hearing loss.

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Don't bet on snow next week, but watch out for the cold! (VIDEO)

December 28, 2011 - 06:03 PM
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As was most likely to be expected, the snow outlook for D.C. has diminished but the probability that it's going to get very cold is running high!

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A rainbow and incredible sunset in D.C., all in one day (PHOTOS)

December 28, 2011 - 01:50 PM
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Tuesday was a big bucket of gloom, at least until about 4:30 when the shaglike carpet of clouds began to whip out of D.C. at top pace. That allowed what was left of the sun to peak out over the horizon in a display of golden ecstasy. For those who are keeping track, this sunset had to have been in the Top Three for the year.

I caught the above image from my building's rooftop looking south toward the Concrete Corridor, aka Rosslyn. That is not a gnat on the lens up top, but an airplane taking off from Reagan National. Turning around to go back inside, I was nearly smacked in the face by this thing:

dc_rainbow

OK, so it wasn't lightning crossing a double rainbow. Still, for skywatchers last evening was pretty much perfect. But wait, there's more!

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St. Elmo's Fire appears in an airplane cockpit (VIDEO)

December 28, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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St. Elmo's Fire, a shocking weather phenomenon given the poetic shout-out by Shakespeare, is known for creeping up the masts of ships and making them glow like Christmas trees. Thus its holy name, which is a reference to the patron saint of seafarers, Erasmus of Formiae. If you're ever sailing and see the unworldly glow of St. Elmo forming, get inside the cabin; lightning could strike the boat within 5 minutes.

But St. Elmo's Fire, caused by a powerful buildup of static electricity, can pop up in other forms of transportation – notably airplanes. This happens in a couple of different ways: A jet might collect a negative charge by flying through floating particles like rain or snow, or simply borrow one from a nearby thunderstorm. As the aircraft works to shed the mounting static charge, glimmering plasma coats its wingtips and crackles across the cockpit windshield, making it appear like a miniature thunderstorm is occurring inches from a pilot's face. (See below for videos.)

These electrical takeovers, known in the aviation community as "precipitation static," look alarming but are mostly harmless to pilots who know their business. St. Elmo's fire can screw with radio communication, but it's also fun to play with. Here's Captain Meryl Getline describing one encounter with Elmo in USA Today:

When St. Elmo made an appearance, we could sometimes reach out to the front windshield and create what looked like miniature lightning bolts between the tips of our fingers and the windshields and then "play" with them—moving them around by manipulating our fingers (kind of like those spark-filled globes you see at children's science museums). The sensation was something like what you feel when an extremity has gone to sleep and tingles as it wakes up again. It didn't feel like a shock, but just kind of tickled.

So what's it look like? Read on....

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Possible snow for D.C. come early January? (VIDEO)

December 27, 2011 - 08:37 PM
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While we've got a long way to go before we get there, there are some subtle signs hinting that at least the first significant cold push of the year could be in store for the Washington region the first week of January 2012.

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This is what a snowman looks like in Hawaii (PHOTO)

December 27, 2011 - 01:48 PM
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If this isn't the cutest little "snowman" you've ever seen then your heart must be pumping liquid nitrogen.

The photo comes via National Park Service rangers at Pacific Island Parks, a blog devoted to fascinating tropics news like volcanic eruptions and strange birds that don't flee from speeding cars. Hawaii does, in fact, have snow; you just have to haul your butt up thousands of feet to access it. So folks wanting to celebrate Christmas the traditional way have to improvise with the next best thing and make cone-shaped "sandmen" on the beaches.

So what if the sandy gumdrop with its straw hat looks a bit like Danny Devito in The Jewel of the Nile? Once you get past that, it is freakin' adorable.

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WATCH: Russian rocket burns up in the skies on Christmas Eve

December 27, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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What's this – did Santa just hit the nitrous boosters?

Nope. As mentioned here earlier, Santa likes to keep a low profile; he was probably using a radar-eluding rubber sleigh this year. What you're seeing in the below video as a streak of fire paints the night sky is a Russian rocket that reentered the atmosphere on Dec. 24, creating a Christmas Eve miracle of wonder and terror that few witnesses are likely to forget.

The rocket fell back to the Earth after achieving its purpose several days earlier of putting a Soyuz vessel carrying astronauts into contact with the International Space Station. The decaying rocket burst into flames as bright as burning magnesium over Germany and soon looked like a god's-honest comet putting the smackdown on our planet. (Another great video.) It eventually tore into a confetti of sparkling debris before waning from view.

Check out this blazing wonder from Germany:

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Snow drought on Christmas Day

December 25, 2011 - 07:31 AM
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Historically, Washington, D.C., only has a 15% chance of either having snow on the ground Christmas Day or getting accumulating snow. Well, this year is no exception to that statistic. The grass is green here… and even in the highest peaks of the Potomac Highlands… there is no sign of white. As a matter of fact, the latest snowfall depth map seen below confirms the snow drought. The latest snowfall report is from December 23rd with even the highest peaks in Tucker County, W.Va., at 3,717 feet only getting 0.001 inch. As the image below shows, you have to travel all the way north to Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania to see any bit of a white blanket on the ground.

snowdepth

Snowfall is absent in much of the East, except the Interior Northeast. On the contrary, the image below shows how the parade of storms that has been ongoing in the Rockies this winter ensures residents from Idaho to New Mexico are waking up to a White Christmas.

snowdepth

Well, the forecast doesn’t hold much hope for snow through the end of the year in the nation’s capital. As a matter of fact, the forecast trend shows a healthy dose of rain Tuesday followed by a return to seasonal temperatures. A few weak fronts will move through into the beginning of January, but most of the rain and snow showers will stay north and west of the D.C. Region.

The Trace of snow recorded at Reagan National will likely go down as the snowfall total for December; putting the winter of 2011-2012 some 2.8 inches below average for snowfall going into January, the second month of Meteorological Winter.

Have a Merry Christmas and safe holiday weekend!

 

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Where are the 2011 North Poles? Right here! (MAP)

December 23, 2011 - 01:43 PM
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Everybody knows that Santa lives at the North Pole. Heck, even news reporters, whose job it is to be skeptical, believe the North Pole is the "[m]ythical home of Santa Claus," according to the AP Style guide.

But it turns out it's not that simple. There are two North Poles, in fact, and Santa could be at either one.

While he's known for spreading good cheer around the world on Dec. 25, the rest of the year Santa actually tries to make himself as hard to find as possible. You would to if you had legions of nutso fans, not to mention seriously PO'd people who'd like to talk about the long underwear under their Christmas tree.

So, into an underground bunker go all the reindeer. Gone is that highly visible, Redcoat-like velvet cape, and out comes the military-grade Arctic camouflage. And then Santa books it to an undisclosed location near either the geographic North Pole or the magnetic North Pole. Whether he keeps a different Mrs. Claus at each location is still a subject of rumor.

Chances are that Santa prefers the magnetic pole for its hard-to-nail-down coordinates. While you can find the geographic pole at the same barren patch of snow every year (90°N, 0°W), the magnetic pole wanders all over the darn place to follow the Earth's shifting magnetic field. Some years, it might make a journey of up to 40 miles.

But scientists from the National Geophysical Data Center are hip to Santa's sneaky tactics. See the map above for the locations of 2011's North Poles as well as the current Arctic snow and ice cover. (Large version.) The magnetic pole is now situated around 85.9°N, 147°W but is slowly moving northwest. So if you plan on tracking down Santa this year, better get a move on and bring a magnetometer.

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WATCH: Astronaut catches spectacular view of Comet Lovejoy

December 23, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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On Wednesday, around the time lots of us were catching up on mediocre holiday-week TV, International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank was having about 99 astounding things done to his brain 240 miles above Tasmania. After catching some lightning storms from above, the astronaut happened to stumble across the death-defying Comet Lovejoy as it raced to beat the Sun over the horizon. It was a spectacle he later described as the "most amazing thing I have ever seen in space."

Thanks a lot, Burbank. You've just made it all the more difficult not to feel like a complete loser when watching Terra Nova.

NASA has called the meeting "unprecedented" and erected a gallery of fantastic images in its honor. If you look closely, you can see Lovejoy's two tails of dust and ions fan out across the ebony vacuum, tails it regrew after the previous ones were blown clean off by the Sun. (The third tail is invisible.) Peep below for a video of what Burbank saw, which, as the cruel commander points out, carries a hundredth of the Wow! factor of seeing the real thing.

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Odds of a White Christmas for D.C. increase (slightly)

December 22, 2011 - 12:42 PM
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Joyous tidings! According to a scroll delivered by the National Weather Service's messenger Snowy Owl this morning, the odds of a White Christmas for Washington, D.C., are looking much better!

Historically, that is. This weekend's Christmas Day still looks "sunny and near 50."

The last time this blog checked in with the D.C./Baltimore's statistics whizzes, the odds of snow falling on any given Christmas Day were 7 percent. There had only been nine instances of a Dec. 25 measurable snowfall (0.2 or more inches) in the region since 1888. If you're less of a literalist and consider a "White Christmas" to be any Christmas with snow falling or already on the ground from a previous snowstorm, then the odds crept up to 16 percent.

But the 2011 NWS discussion of White Christmas probabilities has upped the flake forecast. Now D.C. has a tremble-inducing 8 percent historical chance of a snow-falling White Christmas. Oddly enough, the odds of a W.C. with snow already on the ground drifted down to 15 percent. If anybody from the NWS is reading, I'd sure like to know how likely it is that we tie or exceed the warmest D.C. Christmas on record, the balmy 72-degree Xmas of 1964. That's like nature bringing the Florida to us.

You can find the full NWS report after the jump, which is seeded with all kinds of fascinating winter-weather tidbits. For how D.C. stacks up against other burgs on Christmas Day, have a look at this map from the National Climatic Data Center based on weather data from 1981 to 2010. A White Christmas in this case is defined as one that has at least 1 inch of snow on the ground:

2011_white_christmas_odds

 

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Alex's favorite weather pictures of 2011 (GALLERY)

December 22, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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It was a great year for photography, with everything from heavy snow to lightning, to fantastic sunsets and everything in between. Here are some of my favorite shots either I took or my friends took from the past 11 and a half months. Sorry that the majority of these photos are from me but I have saved a ton of these on my desktop. I hope you like them! What are your favorites? Send them in to iwitness@wjla.com or send them into our new weather app which you can find here!

GALLERY HERE

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Winter’s absence in December

December 21, 2011 - 09:18 PM
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For the first 21 days of this month, winter has gone unnoticed, but wet spring-like weather has been in full throttle. A southwest flow in the atmosphere has maintained well-above average temperatures with cold air absent, even for large stretches of the East! At Reagan National Airport, the average high this month is 52.81 degrees and the average low is 36.5 degrees. Keep in mind December averages for the 1981-2010 climate period are 46.8 degrees and 32.5 degrees for highs and lows respectively.

Wednesday alone, the high temperature was only 7 degrees off the record high of 68 degrees set in 1923 while Dulles tied its record high of 60 degrees and BWI Marshal broke a record, reaching 63 degrees. Speaking of 60s (not the decade or the music, but the temperatures haha), they have been quite common for the first month of meteorological winter. Six days have been at or above 60 degrees.

With all this talk of steamy temperatures, how does this month compare to other warm Decembers. The following table illustrates the top five warmest Decembers at Reagan National, exclusively focusing on the average high for the entire month.

Top Warmest December 54.9 degrees/1889
Second Warmest December 54.2 degrees/1971
Third Warmest December 53.4 degrees/1984
Fourth Warmest December 53.2 degrees/2001
Fifth Warmest December 53.1 degrees/1923
Where We Stand For December 2011 52.81 degrees

The winter solstice rolls around at 12:30 a.m. EST Thursday and the first day of Astronomical winter will feel more like the first day of spring with highs in the lower 60s. Other than a brief shot of more seasonable weather the day after Christmas, the remainder of the month will likely experience above average temperatures.

The warmer trend this month has kept precipitation in the liquid form. Only a trace of snow fell at Reagan National on the heels of a departing storm earlier this month. While there have been many Decembers since the late 1800s with a trace of snow, several years have seen no snow at all in December: 1888, 1889, 1991, 1994 and 2001. Precipitation is still above average with all the rain we’ve had… +1.29 inches for the month and another 1 inch of rain is heading our way overnight Thursday.

If you are rooting for a warm winter, we are on the right track…. If you want cold and snowy weather, it looks like you’ll have to wait until at least mid-January. Perhaps Groundhog Phil will see his shadow, signaling 6 more weeks of winter in early February.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

 

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Christmas Day weather forecast update; Snow or no snow?

December 21, 2011 - 04:34 PM
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The next few days are going to be mild and wet, that's for sure. Here is a look below at the precipitation forecast for the next couple of days. Nearly an inch and a half of rain are possible between this evening and Friday morning. Yuck! What about Christmas though? Will your brand new bike look like this? We don't think so and here is a look at why.

 

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Cocaine dust found in the air above Italy: Study

December 21, 2011 - 01:44 PM
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When I first heard the bizarre news about the presence of cocaine in Italy's atmosphere, I immediately thought this must be going on a lot:

I mean, what are Italians doing with their drugs? Snorting lines off of airplane wings? Using crack rocks to shoot skeet with? It's truly mind-boggling.

Even more so are the implications of this new study by scientists from the Rome-based Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research, titled "Possible social relevance of illicit psychotropic substances present in the atmosphere." (Abstract here.) The lead author of the paper, Angelo Cecinato, had in 2007 found traces of cocaine, marijuana, nicotine and (coffee spit-take, literally?) caffeine in the air above Rome and Taranto. This more recent study expands the scope of narco-meteorological research by comparing air samples from nearly 60 locations across Italy against a metric of urban ills, including crime rates and medical disorders.

Here are the pertinent results:

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