From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for January 2012

Warmest January for D.C.? Not even in the Top 10! (List)

January 31, 2012 - 03:07 PM
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I know you love the picture to the left so I had to include it. If only!?! Our team has gone over the numbers today, interested to see exactly how warm this January has been in the large scheme of things. In 141 years of data, going back to 1871, it appears this January ranks as the 18th warmest winter. Not only are we 5 degrees above normal for the month but we have hit the 60 degree mark 6 times (Something that hasn't happened since 2007, also tied for 18th on the list.) Ok, everyone likes to see the Top 10, so here's 18 instead!

Top Warmest January's

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Weather, Climate and "Facts"

January 30, 2012 - 03:49 PM
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Weather, Climate and “Facts”

This is a blog frankly I’m not crazy about writing, but the recent firestorm that started last week with the launch of an initiative called “Forecast the Facts” coincident with the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans compels me to weigh in. The “Forecast the Facts” (FTF)

 

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stated goal is “. . . nothing short of changing how the entire profession of meteorology tackles the issue of climate change” which has included a listing of those TV weathercasters/meteorologists who they (Daniel Souweine is the director) feel are “deniers” or misrepresent the “facts” of climate change and human caused (anthropogenic) global warming (AGW). So what are the “facts”?

First the FACTS about what happened at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society last week. Full disclosure I have been a Member (and elected Fellow) and active participant of the AMS in many boards, commissioner and past president since my student member days of about 45 years ago. The AMS is the largest scientific and professional society of its type in the world. The governing body of the AMS is the Council of the Society, most of whose members and AMS president are elected by the 14,000 individuals members of the Society. An open, democratic process. The various statements of the Society cover areas of science NOT politics and policy varying from science education to mobile homes to water resources, weather forecasts and yes climate change.

The FACT is that every scientific based statement of the AMS is reviewed at a minimum every 5 years. If the science-based statement is no longer relevant, it may be dropped or, as in the case of important statements such as the statement on climate change, it is reviewed and updated as necessary. The current statement on climate change is undergoing such a review by a panel of scientists and was on the agenda of the 2012 AMS Council Meeting in New Orleans. FACT all the boards, committee, AMS Council meetings are fully open to any AMS Member. A representative from FtF was at the AMS Council meeting last week and, as I was told, (yes second hand . . . not a fact) raised his hand and asked to speak. The AMS President, as in all open meetings, recognized him (AMS Member or representing FtF who knew, there are 14,000 AMS members). He then did offer his opinion that the forthcoming updated AMS Statement on climate change should be very proactive against the so-called broadcast weathercasters/meteorologists “deniers”. AMS President John Malay (yes again full disclosure I am a past president and friend of John) was cordial but said the Council scientific discussion of the statement was not the place for what is an “agenda” or “policy”’ based statement [yes, again my words not John’s]. So with that as a background, where are we in this “debate” and what are the FACTS?

 


“Deniers”, “tree huggers”, “right wingers”, “socialists”, “conspirators”, “extremists”, “fanatics” . . . well that covers a lot of the terms hurled back and forth by various groups that do have a variety of motivations be they political, policy, economic or even religious. Unfortunately, the science and most scientists are lost in the middle and, as I know, many sometimes feel as though they are being drawn and quartered by both sides of the AGW “debate” which, unfortunately, has become as polarized as much of our society these days. Anyway, what are the “FACTS” from my perspective?

Climate change “skeptics”. Every scientist I know is a “skeptic”. It’s the way science works. You observe, question, seek answers, test, form ideas, sure argue about results of experiments and conclusions and sometimes your ideas or results are shown to be incorrect. So what? We should all be skeptics. We should all seek more information and knowledge and not be drawn, or seek out only to those who agree with our ideas, be they science, political, whatever. Let’s drop the lightning rod labels above being thrown from opposite sides of the river of knowledge and understanding.

 

I personally know many of the broadcasters who have been singled out as “deniers” by FtF and I would prefer to say they are AGW agnostics. Certainly not in the religious sense (“not going there. . . wouldn’t be prudent”) but in the broad philosophical sense “The English term "agnostic" is derived from the Greek "agnostos," which means, "to not know." That some in the disbeliever or not knowing camp say that global warming science is a “hoax” or part of some global cabal of scientists working on political agendas to change the world is frankly outrageous. In the climate /global change, discussion “hoax” should also be thrown into the trash bin of incendiary words that are not part of science. I personally know many of the eminent scientists such as Warren Washington, Tom Karl, Richard Somerville, and many more. Their personal integrity and objectivity as scientists are beyond reproach. The fact is to suggest they are part of a “hoax” is just plain wrong. Other oft-citied “skeptics” such as Richard Lindzen and Pat Michaels, while they may disagree with the IPCC process and magnitude of the global changes, certainly do not feel it is a “hoax”

Fact” is a pretty strong word in science. The “facts” of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous laws of motion don’t quite work on the scale of quantum physics. But then, much of what we accept as a “facts” don’t work there either. Science is a continuum. The “fact” that the earth was the center of the universe, widely accepted before Copernicus work and paper in 1543. Let’s just say that human caused global and climate changes are sure not “facts” but the evidence is sure showing up more and more my dear Watson. Is the science “settled” (another one of those lightning rod words)? Of course not. But the science is strong. As Sherlock Holmes, let’s follow the footprints, our human footprints.

 

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NASA MODIS image 12/31/2003

See any human impact on the land and water in this image from about 400 miles? Notice any difference in land use along the I-95 corridor? A “hoax” from space?

Has the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased in the last 150 years?

 

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The famous Keeling Curve. Scientist Charles David Keeling was presented the National Medal of Science by President George W. Bush in 2002 for his work.

Since about the 1700s burning of fossil fuels has released about ½ trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere . . . 500, 000, 0000 tons and the concentration of CO2 has increased today by almost 40% from 300 years ago. Solid science and solid observations or a “hoax”?

 

 

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Minimum extent of arctic sea ice since 1972

 

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Changes in ocean acidity in last 300 years. Data from Global Ocean Data Analysis Project

 


 


So what does this all have to do with the firestorm that FtF has created? I’m afraid, whatever the good intentions on trying to show the scientific misstatements, it has only created more polarization on the topic. We can learn by discussing and understanding and frankly putting our agendas, biases, personal beliefs, economic theories, politics, etc. on the table first and not using my science as a Piñata to confuse the public. I would hope thoughtful discussion leading to better decisions is still possible.  Maybe I'm still a dreamer but I hope not. My friend and broadcast colleague John Toohey-Morales and I wrote about this in a guest editorial

“Outing” so called “deniers” with selective quotes almost falls into the camp of those political agendists who also cherry pick data or a sentence from a scientific report to support their agenda. I have written before that “Nature has no Agenda”. The world, our climate is changing. Climate, the globe, the earth, our lives are not static; change is part of time, part of who and what we are and where we live. Do we choose to accept these changes without changing ourselves? Ah, my dear Watson that is the question.
What should we do . . . what should you do? How about stop yelling at each other for one thing. Learn more. Keep an open mind. Yes be a “skeptic”. What don’t we know and why? What will happen to our world and our grandchildren's world in the future as the  chemical changes now taking place in the atmosphere and ocean continue? Sure, dramatic climate/environment/earth changes have happened in the past. Ask a dinosaur about the K-T boundary and the Chicxulub crater. Unlike our long extinct reptilian friends we have consciousness of our world.  We have science to help us understand what will happen.  And finally learn a bit more.  Read really interesting and thought provoking articles and books about science, politics and policy and climate change. Two favorites. The Forgiving Air and The Climate Fix. At least look at a few of the links I’ve provided. I’m sure some of my colleagues have different views and I look forward to their blogs .  Blogs with a different view?  Well maybe not a FACT, but at least a  hope.  We can all still learn and help our future generations participate in the critical decisions ahead by enlightenment rather than continuing to yell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back into the 60s for the next few days! (Video)

January 30, 2012 - 03:04 PM
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What a great start to the work week with sunny skies and seasonally average temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. Changes lurk on the horizon but I think you're going to like them. Highs tomorrow and Wednesday should reach the 60 degree mark once again. It appears like it will be the 6th time we've reached that mark in January, though it will be close as some of the models only top out at 59... At least we don't have to worry about -60 degrees like Alaska!

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-60 in Alaska this morning! Startling January climate facts

January 30, 2012 - 09:54 AM
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You just HAVE to check this out, Fort Yukon, Alaska hit -60°F for the second day in a row! The warmest it has been there in the past 3 days in -35°F with the coldest being -62°F. That is just incredible, and pretty much the story of the month. Cold air has been in place in Alaska and Canada for much of the month. There just hasn't been any help to displace any of that cold air south into the lower 48.

Temperatures as of 10am Jan. 30

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Winter 2011-2012: Still absent in the District

January 29, 2012 - 08:00 AM
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We thought we might be cruising into winter early with the Halloween winter storm that brought several inches of snow north and west of the District… with Frostburg, Md., getting 11.6 inches, Sabillasville, Md., picking up 11.5 inches, portions of Baltimore and Carroll County getting 4 to 8 inches but only 0.6 inches at Dulles International and only a Trace recorded at Reagan National. We quickly realized just how subtle winter would become.

November brought a few rain storms with temperatures 2.8 degrees above average. Skipping forward to the first month of winter…December was more like fall. Only a trace of snow accumulated at Reagan National with temperatures a balmy 5.3 degrees above average. Historically, January is the snowiest month in the District. This year it's proved to be quite the winter weather tease. The snow that fell came in very small increments! About a half-inch fell on the 9th, 20th and 21st…. with a grand total of 1.7 inches....a far cry from an average of 5.6 inches. The average snowfall at Reagan National for the winter season is 14.5 inches. Therefore, we need 12.8 inches of snow to break even for the winter season.

Looking ahead, winter remains absent until early next weekend. A trough moving into the East will bring temperatures back to seasonal averages with a possible storm track through the Ohio Valley or along the Carolina Coast. Either way, we could be talking about a wintery mix that could bring a little snow. Through mid-February, temperatures should remain near to slightly above average with a few shots of one or two days of cold weather. I think any wintery precipitation would be light and brief.

If you’re a fan of winter, you’ll want Punxsutawney Phil to see his shadow on Groundhog Day, which is quickly approaching this Thursday! A few snow flurries could be flying in Punxsutawney, Pa., for the big event that attracts thousands each year.

Have a safe and happy week!

 

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Weekend weather outlook (Video)

January 27, 2012 - 02:43 PM
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Last weekend was just awful, let's just throw that out there. Temperatures at 34 or less along with snow and cold rain and freezing rain just don't work for me. This weekend will be different for the right reasons. Highs should be at or above normal with a mix of sun and clouds. The end. Ok I'm kidding, here's a little more information on the weekend forecast so you can plan accordingly.

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Think this is weird January weather? Take a look at the past 6

January 27, 2012 - 11:53 AM
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It hit the upper 60s in parts of the region this morning ahead of a strong cold front. This is about 15 to 20 degrees above the normal highs for this time of year but it isn't even the warmest it's reached in January over the past few years. Also keep in mind the high so far today at Reagan National Airport is still 12 degrees below our record high of 75 for the 27th of January. Take a look at the past 6 January's below to see how many times it hit 60 degrees, what the high temperature was for the month, how much snow was reported and what the monthly temperature departure was.

Climotological data the past 6 January's

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Rain is expected Friday but what about the weekend? (Video)

January 26, 2012 - 03:15 PM
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Severe thunderstorms are once again pounding parts of the Deep South today across Alabama and Georgia. The threat for severe weather extends all the way into the Carolinas this evening and tonight as this strong frontal system moves east. What's even more interesting is by tomorrow morning, the D.C. area could even be in on the chance for a few thunderstorms. There's even the chance for a few severe thunderstorms for parts of the Delmarva. You call this January huh? Here's a look at the next 72 hours in my latest afternoon analysis.

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With the new year comes more daylight, at least through late July

January 26, 2012 - 12:50 PM
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Every day I write down the sunrise and sunset on my forecast sheet which got me thinking how much time have we gained since the Winter Solstice? It turns out that in a little over a month, D.C. has gained 36 minutes of additional daylight. It's also interesting to note that the majority of that daylight was gained in the evening and not in the morning, with only 4 minutes gained in the morning compared to 33 in the evening. While those numbers officially do not add up (haha), they are correct as there are seconds involved as well which were not included. To see for yourself, check out the U.S. Naval Observatory's page on the duration of daylight and darkness for a year and go to "Computer Table".

Table of sunrise and set times and duration of daylight in Washington, D.C.

 

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Rain potential through Friday and a look to the weekend (Video)

January 25, 2012 - 02:30 PM
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An area of low pressure has been moving through Texas over the past 24 hours, dropping very heavy rainfall and reports of severe weather. This system will be moving towards the D.C. area through Friday which will bring our own chance for some rain. Just when will it get here and how much rain can the D.C. area expect? Here is more in my latest afternoon analysis.

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Amazing aurora captured in northern Europe (Video)

January 25, 2012 - 12:20 PM
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The largest geomagnetic storm since 2003 has come and gone at this point, bringing with it a lot of solar radiation and plenty of beautiful auroras. Here was one I found while looking around online which was taken in northern Sweden in Abisko National Park. Watch the timelapse which was taken over a 3 hour period on the 24th.

Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

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Daily High Temperatures At Night? How Often This Has Been Happening

January 24, 2012 - 07:45 PM
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What a difference a day makes!  The district was a good 10 degrees warmer than yesterday (and that's just comparing the daily highs). 

 

 

 

 

 

It actually feels a lot warmer than yesterday, since temperatures through most of the day, yesterday, were only in the 30s!  Yesterday's high of 44 degrees was recorded at 11:59 PM.  So that got me, and a few other ABC7 meteorologists, thinking.  Hasn't this "high at midnight" occurence been more prevalant over the past month or so?  I figured I'd take a look just out of idle curiousity. 

Normally high temperatures occur in the afternoon when we've recieved the most amount of daylight, but approaching weather systems can certainly have an impact on this.  A perfect example was yesterday.  It was chilly, drizzly, and gray all day.  As a warm front lifted over the region, temperatures started to climb.

 

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Afternoon analysis on rain chances ahead and possible auroras

January 24, 2012 - 02:36 PM
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After a cool, damp and foggy start across the region this morning, skies have clear and temperatures have warmed into the 50s and 60s. High pressure will be the main story tonight and through the day tomorrow before changes enter in for Thursday. Wednesday will start off sunny but clouds will increase by the afternoon hours. Exactly when should we expect the rain to begin on Thursday and will it end by the weekend? Here's more in my latest afternoon analysis.

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Afternoon analysis on the fog and ice and outlook for the week

January 23, 2012 - 03:24 PM
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Generally a trace of ice was reported from last night into this morning across the D.C. area after a bit of a wintry weekend. With 1.8 inches of snow now in the record books at Reagan National Airport, D.C is now 4.8 inches below normal for the year and I don't really see any big snow making potential in the coming days. Today we had to worry about some morning freezing drizzle and rain as well as the fog. This was a problem because of the cold air damming which has kept our area in the 30s today. Here's more on today's weather  and the next few days in the latest afternoon analysis.

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Severe weather and tornadoes strike the Deep South Sunday

January 23, 2012 - 11:00 AM
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A powerful disturbance coupled with plenty of low-level moisture and shear made for a violent day across the Deep South on Sunday, with over 20 preliminary reports of tornadoes and multiple deaths. Some areas in Alabama were described as having devastating damage and even one town through a HAM radio report was said to be wiped off the map. New pictures and video are coming in this morning showing the mass destruction left behind by the severe weather. Below are the reports from the Storm Prediction Center which forecasted the event well, as this forecast from 3am Sunday morning warned of the severe weather through the day.

Preliminary Storm Reports for Sunday, Jan. 22

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Winter of few flakes, Saturday snow totals

January 21, 2012 - 05:21 PM
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For the first time this month, enough flakes fell to produce a light dusting across the metropolitan area. Reagan National Airport recorded seven-tenths of an inch (.7”) for the day, totaling just 1.8” for the season. The news was not much better for snow lovers at Dulles International. Four-tenths of an inch (.4”) fell on Saturday with 1.7” for the season.

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Behind the sceen of why it will be ice and not snow

January 20, 2012 - 05:54 PM
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There are many tools we use for today's detailed forecast.  Here is a quick behind the scene look of one of the things I look at and help me forecast.  Unfortunately this is looking more and more like a nasty icing event north and west of DC.  More updates to come

 

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The Dreaded Wintry Mix: What it Really is! (VIDEO)

January 19, 2012 - 08:47 PM
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Rain, sleet, snow, and freezing rain: these are what makes up the ol' wintry mix.  I know you've heard of it before, but many of us have never really taken the time to really think about what exactly makes up this wintry mix and how it forms.

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Alex's analysis on snow tonight and a weekend mix (Video)

January 19, 2012 - 02:00 PM
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A weak disturbance will track through the D.C. area tonight bringing with it the potential for a few flurries. The only areas that should get measurable snowfall are places such as Western Maryland or parts of West Virginia in the mountains where there could be 1 to 3 inches. Skies should clear out by tomorrow morning then begin to cloud up once again by tomorrow afternoon. That is right about the time when the forecast gets tricky.

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Roller coaster ride in temperatures continues this month

January 18, 2012 - 08:55 PM
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The temperature difference in the last 24 hours has been crazy; it was in the upper 50s last night at this time and now it’s 2 degrees above freezing. Our roller coaster ride in temperatures continues this mid-winter (by the way, we are now JUST over half way past the mid-point in Meteorological Winter!).


It seems as though as soon as we get a cold blast, 3 or 4 days later, we’re back in the 50s and 60s. The high temperature has reached or exceeded 60 degrees so far on the 1st, 6th, 7th and 17th! How does this stack up against the record for 60-degree days in January? Take a look!

14 days 1950
12 days 1913
10 days 1932
9 days 1890, 1916, 1974, 2006
8 days 1998
4 days 2012

It’s easy to see we’ve done the drill with warm patterns in January before… but we’re providing some competition for past years as well! While the chill will get reinforced by another cold front overnight Thursday into Friday followed by another storm early this weekend that promises mainly rain, a brief warm up will bring temperatures back into the 50s, perhaps to 60 degrees by next Monday. If it hits 60 degrees, that would make 5 days, but time is running out this month.

The pattern for the remainder of the month heading into early February looks more seasonable for temperatures. Warm ups would be brief but it’s not out of the question to see one or two more 60 degree days in this progressive pattern. Incidentally, we are at the climatologically coldest part of the year right now with the average high being 43 and average low at 28 degrees. The average highs begin to slowly increase Monday and average lows begin an upward trend on Tuesday as the days continue to get longer as well!

 

 

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