From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for March 2012

Spring Has Sprung: The Vernal Equinox Thursday

March 20, 2014 - 04:45 AM
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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.

(http://earthsky.org/)

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. 

(http://calgary.rasc.ca/index.htm)

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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Weather for the past 11 Marine Corps Marathons

March 27, 2013 - 01:15 PM
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Why 11? I wrote a post on the past 10 last year and added the 2012 data as well. Just an update!

The 38th running of the Marine Corps Marathon will be Sunday October 27th this year. This race was established in 1976 and is currently the 5th largest race in the United States and the 9th largest in the world. I ran the race last year and actually wrote this article on the weather for the past 10 Marine Marathon's. As it's registration day, I figured I might as well do an update to the post, as last year was threatened by Hurricane Sandy.

The race ended up being great, with a breeze and a few sprinkles at times, but the temperatures were in the mid 50s for the start (54) and lows 60s (62) for highs, so they were just about perfect. The biggest problem ended up being people trying to get out of town to get home, as the next day featured Sandy moving along the eastern seaboard causing massive delays. Reagan National Airport recorded 3.85" of rain that Monday with an average sustained wind of 24.2 mph. Here's to hoping for great weather this year! Take a look back at the past weather for the marathon.

Weather for the Marine Corps Marathon the Past 10 Years

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Countdown Contest: When will we hit 90 degrees?

May 23, 2012 - 12:00 PM
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Updated Wednesday May 23: Wow, do you see the last time this post was updated? April 30th! We haven't even been close to breaking 90 degrees at Reagan until this week. I think there are numerous chances and they all lie over the Memorial Day weekend. This could be the 2nd year in a row we hit 90 degrees on May 26th. Last year it 92 on May 26th. Thank you Chuck Bell and Twitter for that, for some reason I missed that before posting! If you haven't voted be sure to continue to get those votes in as we're still taking them in! Good luck!

Vote here: abc790degreecontest@gmail.com

Updated Monday April 30: Will Reagan National finally hit the 90 degree mark this week? Signs are pointing to yes for this Friday. This comes interestingly enough after a period of 7 of the past 8 days seeing temperatures below normal. The last time THAT happened was back in late October and early November of 2011. 6 months ago! If today is below normal that will make for the past 8 out of 9 days. So of course it would seem fitting that we would hit the 90 degree mark only 5 days later. Time will tell! 

Updated Tuesday, April 17: Reagan National hit 89 degrees yesterday which was the warmest day so far this year but still no 90 degree day. As of now the 7-day forecast doesn't show any temperatures even in the 80s let alone 90. When do you think the area will get to 90 degrees? Keep those guesses coming in! I wouldn't mind wearing the ABC 7 swagger around in the form of a t-shirt, hat and umbrella.

Send your guesses to abc790degreecontest@gmail.com and good luck!

Updated Wednesday, April 11: Nothing like a little snow and graupel across the region to get you excited about a 90 degree day contest! With highs in the 50s today, it's hard to believe the temperatures will be pushing the low to mid 80s by the start of next week. There are still a lot of submissions coming in for the contest to be sure to submit your guess for the first day that it will reach 90 degrees at Reagan National. You can win an ABC 7 umbrella, t-shirt and a hat if you happen to guess correctly as well as see your name on the News. Good luck!

Send your guesses with your name and email adress to abc790degreecontest@gmail.com  

Updated Thursday March 29: Another day has gone by and there doesn't seem to be a 90 degree day in sight, though it can't be too far off! The record high for today is 92 degrees at Reagan National, set back in 1907. As we get into April, more often than not the record high for the day is in the 90s. There are actually only 8 days in April that have record highs below 90 degrees. Be sure to send in your guesses as there are already tons of submissions! Good luck!

Original Post Below:

As the D.C. area has seamlessly transitioned into Spring and early summer, it got us thinking about when the first 90 degree day will be. It's not quite that time of year yet but it will be upon us soon enough. Remember last year? Reagan National had the second warmest summer on record at an average of 81.1 degrees F, which was only second to the summer of 2010 which had an average temperature of 81.3 degrees F.

2011 included 50 days at or above 90 degrees. Six record highs were broken during the summer and 3 days were at or above 100 degrees. The hottest day was on July 29 when the temperature soared to 104 degrees at Reagan National. That same day the temperature hit 106 degrees at BWI Marshall.

So will this summer be just as bad? Meteorological Spring has started off very warm with temperatures in the 80s 3 days in a row including a record breaking 82 degrees on March 15. Are we close to our first 90 degree day? Climate statistics would tell you we aren't. Check out the first day Reagan National hit the 90 degree mark over the past 20 years.

First 90 degree day for the past 20 years

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March: A month of warm records! (UPDATED)

March 31, 2012 - 10:35 PM
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It should come as no surprise that 2012 has been nothing like average! The D.C. region had its third warmest winter and now this first month of meteorological spring with an average temperature of 56.8 degrees ranks as the warmest March on record! March temperatures were a staggering 10 degrees above average! This completely blows away the old mildest March (now second place) … which is March 1945 when the average temperature was 56.2 degrees.

Incidentally, last year, the average March temperature was 45.6 degrees… some 10 degrees colder than this year, but guess what? The climatological average temperature in March (taking into account highs and lows for each day and averaging them for the entire month) is 45.7 degrees.

Here are a few interesting tidbits about March!

Number of 80 degree days: 4 (Record is 9 set in 1945)

Number of 70 degree days: 14 (Record is 16 set in 1945)

Number of 60 degree days: 9

Days with Record Highs: 03/16: 82 degrees, 03/15: 82 degrees

Days with Record Warm Lows: 03/20: 62 degrees, 03/21: 59 degrees, 03/22: 62 degrees

All this warm weather has come with a price, unfortunately… and that is dry weather. Precipitation for March is 2.34 inches below average and for the year… the precipitation deficit is 3.25 inches!

This trend looks to continue for yet another month this spring with a good bit of the East anticipating warmer than average temperatures. Precipitation should be closer to average (see latest April outlook maps issued from the Climate Prediction Center today below).

tempoutlook
precipoutlook

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Hail of a storm hits McAllen, Texas (VIDEO)

March 30, 2012 - 12:57 PM
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It was a rough evening for folks in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley on March 29th, 2012. McAllen, Texas was hit hard with thunderstorms that produced baseball sized hail up to 2.75 inches and flash flooding. The storm assessment team out of the Brownsville, TX National Weather Service office were out today (March 30th) surveying the damage and talking to members of the community and will release a detailed storm report soon.


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Below are a couple of videos that I could find of the hail and I think that they really speak for themselves. Also, below I have included the preliminary local storm report and a graphic depicting the preliminary rainfall totals from this event from the Brownsville, TX National Weather Service office.

 
  
Starbucks looks like a war zone.  Courtesy: National Weather Service Southern Region HQ 
 
 
Trees "de-leafed" from the hail.  Courtesy:  National Weather Service Southern Region HQ

 

 
 

 









 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tree Pollen Goes BOOM!

March 29, 2012 - 01:45 PM
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If you are like me and suffer from allergies even at low levels then you have been sneezing, coughing, scratching your eyes, and blowing your nose for weeks now. If you are lucky enough not to suffer symptoms until pollen levels become very high well, get ready to join in the misery.

The report from the United States Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab for March 27th with regards specifically to tree pollen topped with 568 Grains/Cubic Meter. Today they released the report for tree pollen on March 28th and it has made a HUGE jump into the very high range with 2124 gr/cubic meters. Needless to say that everyone who suffers from tree allergens, of any kind, will be digging through the medicine basket in search of antihistamines . Susan Kosisky also included in her report “that this looks to be the highest March reading 1998-2011 for tree pollen due to an early oak surge.” In fact, she also stated that “oak constitutes some 67% of our total annual tree pollen yield and when the oaks start flowering our tree count shoots up.”

Below is an image showing the 2012 Tree Season so far vs. the average. One more thing… Bless you in advance!

 

 

 


Image via USACAEL

 

 

 

 

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Rain much needed; Dryness expanding

March 29, 2012 - 05:44 AM
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Winter wasn’t too exciting and spring has blossomed earlier than average...but the lack of precipitation is making for a dry start to 2012. As a matter of fact, precipitaton is so far behind par that the Department of Agriculture has expanded the Abnormally Dry area into much of our region. Southern Maryland is now in a Moderate Drought.

drought

This classification comes as the 2-month rainfall deficits are 3 to 5 inches (less than 60% of average) across the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England. Locally, the driest spot is Salisbury, Md., with a rainfall deficit of 3.50 inches. In addition, the lack of rain has caused water flow in streams and creeks to drop well-below average. What is the water stage on the river or creek near your house? Click here for more details. Simply click on the dot on the map to get the river location and information.

Locally, precipitation departures are rather impressive for the month so far and even the first quarter of the year:

March at Reagan National: -2.09 inch
2012 to-date at Reagan National: -3.00 inches

March at BWI Marshal Airport: -1.74 inches
2012 at BWI: Marshal Airport: -2.73 inches

March at Dulles International: -1.48 inches
2012 at Dulles International: -2.81 inches

The problem with the lack of rain this time of the year is the fire danger. Less than average sufficient soil moisture coupled with dry winds like we will see on Monday as a dry cold front swings in from the north can often produce a risk for wildfires. The sun is able to penetrate the forest floor more easily since leaves have not fully developed. Humidity is typically not as efficient as it can be in the summer with lack of vegetation to give off water vapor in March and early April.

All that coupled with lack of stored ground water due to the mild and dry winter we had tends to allow any open burning to spread fast and furious. Looking ahead to April, May and June, monthly precipitation averages tend to decline. Average rainfall in March is 3.60 inches, by April it’s down to 2.77 inches. May typically has more rain with an average of 3.82 inches while June edges down to 3.13 inches.

Looking ahead for this weekend, rainfall will average around one-half inch with isolated spots south of the Nation's Capital getting an inch. With that in mind, the seasonal drought outlook through the first month of the summer calls for enough rain to bring improving drought conditions to southern Maryland.

outlook


Happy Spring!

 

 

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Severe storms possible this afternoon in D.C., MD and VA

March 28, 2012 - 10:49 AM
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Update 4:13pm: The potential for severe weather is over for the D.C. area as the instability has been robbed from the showers and storms that crossed ahead of the front. An isolated storm will be possible the remainder of the evening as the remnants of the line pushes south. Much stronger showers and thunderstorms exists through the western portion of the T-Storm Watch with storms lined up from West Virginia through Kentucky.

Update 2:25pm: A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been placed in effect for the I-81 Corridor west of the Blue Ridge until 9pm tonight. The greateast threat for severe weather will be in the form of damaging winds. Storms appear possible in the D.C. area closer to 4pm this afternoon. There has been a lot of lightning as well in these storms so be sure to keep your eyes to the sky before heading outside. Also, check Live Super Doppler Radar to check the latest position of the storms.

The Storm Prediction Center has placed portions of the D.C. area under a Slight Risk for severe storms. This is basically an area that has a higher liklihood for severe weather during the day. Just recently, a mesoscale discussion was put over our region because of on-going severe storms in Pennsylvania which will approach our region through the afternoon. The SPC puts out a mesoscale discussion prior to putting out a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch. Since today will be more likely for severe storms with damaging winds and large hail, a Severe Thunderstorm Watch may be needed soon for our area.

Timing: After checking out the progression of the front and keeping an eye on models that depict the line of storms traversing the region, I think timing will be around 4pm in the D.C. Metro when the storms begin to enter. They will continue through the early evening hours before pushing east.

Greatest Weather Threat: The storms are already beginning to form a line in Pennsylvania and Ohio and should progress to the east-southeast for the remainder of the day. I really think the highest threat will be in the form of damaging winds as winds aloft are around 60 mph and could easily be brought to the surface. Some isolated pockets of hail will be possible as well as frequent lightning.

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The U.S. Has Fallen Behind in Numerical Weather Prediction: Part I

March 28, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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This is a guest blog we will be featuring from time to time.  Some are blogs I found very interesting and some controversial, but I hope worth reading, learning a bit more and thinking about-Bob Ryan

It's a national embarrassment. It has resulted in large unnecessary costs for the U.S. economy and needless endangerment of our citizens. And it shouldn't be occurring.

What am I talking about? The third rate status of numerical weather prediction in the U.S. It is a huge story, an important story, but one the media has not touched, probably from lack of familiarity with a highly technical subject. And the truth has been buried or unavailable to those not intimately involved in the U.S. weather prediction enterprise. This is an issue I have mentioned briefly in previous blogs, and one many of you have asked to learn more about. It's time to discuss it.

Weather forecasting today is dependent on numerical weather prediction, the numerical solution of the equations that describe the atmosphere. The technology of weather prediction has improved dramatically during the past decades as faster computers, better models, and much more data (mainly satellites) have become available.

Supercomputers are used for numerical weather prediciton.

U.S. numerical weather prediction has fallen to third or fourth place worldwide, with the clear leader in global numerical weather prediction (NWP) being the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF). And we have also fallen behind in ensembles (using many models to give probabilistic prediction) and high-resolution operational forecasting. We used to be the world leader decades ago in numerical weather prediction: NWP began and was perfected here in the U.S. Ironically, we have the largest weather research community in the world and the largest collection of universities doing cutting-edge NWP research (like the University of Washington!). Something is very, very wrong and I will talk about some of the issues here. And our nation needs to fix it.

But to understand the problem, you have to understand the competition and the players. And let me apologize upfront for the acronyms.

In the U.S., numerical weather prediction mainly takes place at the National Weather Service's Environmental Modeling Center (EMC), a part of NCEP (National Centers for Environmental Prediction). They run a global model (GFS) and regional models (e.g., NAM).

The Europeans banded together decades ago to form the European Center for Medium-Range Forecasting (ECMWF), which runs a very good global model. Several European countries run regional models as well.

The United Kingdom Met Office (UKMET) runs an excellent global model and regional models. So does the Canadian Meteorological Center (CMC).

There are other major global NWP centers such as the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), the U.S. Navy (FNMOC), the Australian center, one in Beijing, among others. All of these centers collect worldwide data and do global NWP.

The problem is that both objective and subjective comparisons indicate that the U.S. global model is number 3 or number 4 in quality, resulting in our forecasts being noticeably inferior to the competition. Let me show you a rather technical graph (produced by the NWS) that illustrates this. This figure shows the quality of the 500hPa forecast (about halfway up in the troposphere--approximately 18,000 ft) for the day 5 forecast. The top graph is a measure of forecast skill (closer to 1 is better) from 1996 to 2012 for several models (U.S.--black, GFS; ECMWF-red, Canadian: CMC-blue, UKMET: green, Navy: FNG, orange). The bottom graph shows the difference between the U.S. and other nation's model skill.

You first notice that forecasts are all getting better. That's good. But you will notice that the most skillful forecast (closest to one) is clearly the red one...the European Center. The second best is the UKMET office. The U.S. (GFS model) is third...roughly tied with the Canadians. 

Here is a global model comparison done by the Canadian Meteorological Center, for various global models from 2009-2012 for the 120 h forecast. This is a plot of error (RMSE, root mean square error) again for 500 hPa, and only for North America. Guess who is best again (lowest error)?--the European Center (green circle). UKMET is next best, and the U.S. (NCEP, blue triangle) is back in the pack.

Lets looks at short-term errors. Here is a plot from a paper by Garrett Wedam, Lynn McMurdie and myself comparing various models at 24, 48, and 72 hr for sea level pressure along the West Coast. Bigger bar means more error. Guess who has the lowest errors by far? You guessed it, ECMWF.

I could show you a hundred of these plots, but the answers are very consistent. ECMWF is the worldwide gold standard in global prediction, with the British (UKMET) second. We are third or fourth (with the Canadians). One way to describe this, is that the ECWMF model is not only better at the short range, but has about one day of additional predictability: their 8 day forecast is about as skillful as our 7 day forecast. Another way to look at it is that with the current upward trend in skill they are 5-7 years ahead of the U.S.

Most forecasters understand the frequent superiority of the ECMWF model. If you read the NWS forecast discussion, which is available online, you will frequently read how they often depend not on the U.S. model, but the ECMWF. And during the January western WA snowstorm, it was the ECMWF model that first indicated the correct solution. Recently, I talked to the CEO of a weather/climate related firm that was moving up to Seattle. I asked them what model they were using: the U.S. GFS? He laughed, of course not...they were using the ECMWF.

A lot of U.S. firms are using the ECMWF and this is very costly, because the Europeans charge a lot to gain access to their gridded forecasts (hundreds of thousands of dollars per year). Can you imagine how many millions of dollars are being spent by U.S. companies to secure ECMWF predictions? But the cost of the inferior NWS forecasts are far greater than that, because many users cannot afford the ECMWF grids and the NWS uses their global predictions to drive the higher-resolution regional models--which are NOT duplicated by the Europeans. All of U.S. NWP is dragged down by these second-rate forecasts and the costs for the nation has to be huge, since so much of our economy is weather sensitive. Inferior NWP must be costing billions of dollars, perhaps many billions.

The question all of you must be wondering is why this bad situation exists. How did the most technologically advanced country in the world, with the largest atmospheric sciences community, end up with third-rate global weather forecasts? I believe I can tell you...in fact, I have been working on this issue for several decades (with little to show for it). Some reasons: 

1. The U.S. has inadequate computer power available for numerical weather prediction. The ECMWF is running models with substantially higher resolution than ours because they have more resources available for NWP. This is simply ridiculous--the U.S. can afford the processors and disk space it would take. We are talking about millions or tens of millions of dollars at most to have the hardware we need. A part of the problem has been NWS procurement, that is not forward-leaning, using heavy metal IBM machines at very high costs.

2. The U.S. has used inferior data assimilation. A key aspect of NWP is to assimilate the observations to create a good description of the atmosphere. The European Center, the UKMET Office, and the Canadians using 4DVAR, an advanced approach that requires lots of computer power. We used an older, inferior approach (3DVAR). The Europeans have been using 4DVAR for 20 years! Right now, the U.S. is working on another advanced approach (ensemble-based data assimilation), but it is not operational yet.

3. The NWS numerical weather prediction effort has been isolated and has not taken advantage of the research community. NCEP's Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) is well known for its isolation and "not invented here" attitude. While the European Center has lots of visitors and workshops, such things are a rarity at EMC. Interactions with the university community have been limited and EMC has been reluctant to use the models and approaches developed by the U.S. research community. (True story: some of the advances in probabilistic weather prediction at the UW has been adopted by the Canadians, while the NWS had little interest). The National Weather Service has invested very little in extramural research and when their budget is under pressure, university research is the first thing they reduce. And the U.S. NWP center has been housed in a decaying building outside of D.C.,one too small for their needs as well. (Good news... a new building should be available soon).

4. The NWS approach to weather related research has been ineffective and divided. The governmnent weather research is NOT in the NWS, but rather in NOAA. Thus, the head of the NWS and his leadership team do not have authority over folks doing research in support of his mission. This has been an extraordinarily ineffective and wasteful system, with the NOAA research teams doing work that often has a marginal benefit for the NWS. 

5. Lack of leadership. This is the key issue. The folks in NCEP, NWS, and NOAA leadership have been willing to accept third-class status, providing lots of excuses, but not making the fundamental changes in organization and priority that could deal with the problem. Lack of resources for NWP is another issue...but that is a decision made by NOAA/NWS/Dept of Commerce leadership.

This note is getting long, so I will wait to talk about the other problems in the NWS weather modeling efforts, such as our very poor ensemble (probabilistic) prediction systems. One could write a paper on this...and I may.

I should stress that I am not alone in saying these things. A blue-ribbon panel did a review of NCEP in 2009 and came to similar conclusions (found here). And these issues are frequently noted at conferences, workshops, and meetings.

Let me note that the above is about the modeling aspects of the NWS, NOT the many people in the local forecast offices. This part of the NWS is first-rate. They suffer from inferior U.S. guidance and fortunately have access to the ECMWF global forecasts. And there are some very good people at NCEP that have lacked the resources required and suitable organization necessary to push forward effectively.

This problem at the National Weather Service is not a weather prediction problem alone, but an example of a deeper national malaise. It is related to other U.S. issues, like our inferior K-12 education system. Our nation, gaining world leadership in almost all areas, became smug, self-satisfied, and a bit lazy. We lost the impetus to be the best. We were satisfied to coast. And this attitude must end...in weather prediction, education, and everything else... or we will see our nation sink into mediocrity.

The U.S. can reclaim leadership in weather prediction, but I am not hopeful that things will change quickly without pressure from outside of the NWS. The various weather user communities and our congressional representatives must deliver a strong message to the NWS that enough is enough, that the time for accepting mediocrity is over. And the Weather Service requires the resources to be first rate, something it does not have at this point.

Part II will discuss the problems with ensemble and high-resolution numerical weather prediction in the U.S.

Cliff's blog

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Beautiful Sight in Evening Sky

March 26, 2012 - 05:45 PM
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It’s going to be a beautiful clear evening and night. Perhaps not great for those early plants that are far ahead of the season with this record warm March. There is a freeze warning for much of the area. But with this clear dry air, it will be perfect to view another conjunction after sunset. Best time (I’ll be taking a look for sure) is 7:30-8:30 or 9PM. This is what you’ll see. 

ZZZZZ

 

 The crescent moon will be right next to Venus which is as high in the evening sky as it ever gets and about as bright as it ever gets. Tonight shining at magnitude -4.4. A diamond in the sky. It and Jupiter are so bright that they don’t “twinkle” like the stars. The stars light as is passes through our atmosphere moves through little turbulence or little eddies in the air that produces the twinkle or scintillation.
Enjoy this great free show in the evening sky and then also think about the distances. The moon tonight is about 250,000 miles away. By the way you can see the part of the moon not illuminated by the sun due to "earth shine".  Sunlight reflected from the earth into space can illuminate the mooon also. Venus “right next” to the moon is actually 65 million miles away from you tonight and Jupiter lower in the sky is 530 million miles away. If your sky is dark you should be able to see that fuzzy cluster of young (only about 100 million miles old) stars called the “Pleiades”. We measure great distances by the speed of light. Light travels at 186,000 miles a second. So the moon is “only” a bit over 1 light second away. Venus is almost 6 light minutes away, Jupiter’s light takes over 47 minutes to reach your eye and the Pleiades . . . 440 light YEARS away. Enjoy the sight and if you see the beautiful Pleiades, you’re seeing them as they were 440 years ago. The evening sky can be a time machine too.

te

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Severe weather may be just around the corner

March 21, 2012 - 11:33 AM
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With the arrival of Spring it’s only a matter of time before we have our first bout of severe weather here locally. With that in mind I thought that a quick refresher of severe thunderstorm or tornado watches and warnings would be a good idea. It’s important you know not just what watches and warming’s mean but also, and more importantly, what you should do when they are issued to keep you and your family safe. Below is a quick video that breaks them down and is easy to understand.


One of the most important severe weather items that everyone should have in their home is a NOAA Weather Radio. These devices are pretty inexpensive and can be purchased at many retail outlets, including electronics, department, sporting goods, and boat and marine accessory stores. A NOAA weather radio is an electronic device that receives weather information directly from the National Weather Service including warnings, watches, forecasts, current weather observations, and other hazard information, 24 hours a day. They are invaluable during severe weather at it will automatically sound a tone and broadcast watches and warnings as soon as they are issued for your area. This can be a lifesaving tool especially when severe weather strikes during the nighttime when you may be asleep. For more detailed information and FAQ’s (CLICK HERE).

For those of you with an iphone you may want to look into the “WeatherRadio” application. I have this on my phone and use it all the time. You can program several locations and it will also use the GPS in your phone to find out your location no matter where you go. While this is a cool application it should not be used in place of a real NOAA radio but it handy when you are away from home. Below is a screen shot from this app. 

 


 Another must have application for iphone is our very own StormWatch 7 application.  Which offers quick access to personal forecasts from Bob Ryan & Doug Hill, local & national HD maps, doppler radar & futurecasts, latest video Quickcasts, Weather Alerts and you can upload your photos directly to the StormWatch 7 Team.



 

 

 

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Morning Storm Timelapse (VIDEO)

March 20, 2012 - 09:00 AM
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The storm acted as an early alarm clock for some folks across Washington this morning.  Here's a timelapse of it rolling through downtown.  Images were captured every 4 seconds.  Enjoy!

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2012 Cherry Blossom Festival photo contest (Gallery)

March 19, 2012 - 03:48 PM
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The Cherry Blossoms are out and spectacular in the Tidal Basin so far. They are a week or two ahead of the normal peak bloom so they will only be around for the next week or so before they begin to lose their petals.

Luckily for us, there doesn't appear like there will be any kind of big temperature swing or strong thunderstorms with gusty winds so the blossoms should hang around as long as possible.

ABC 7 is having a contest and wants you to send us your best Cherry Blossom photos. You can win a Cherry Blossom Festival prize package as well as a 100th Anniversary Cherry Blossom Festival poster signed by Peter Max

Please send your submissions to ABC7CherryBlossomphotocontest@gmail.com and leave your name and email address so we can give you credit for your picture. Click here for the rules.

Surely you can take better ones than I did in the gallery!

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March Madness-It’s Global Warming-Right?

March 16, 2012 - 05:20 PM
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OK I got you to open and start reading. This isn’t the NCAA “March Madness” this is about the record heat in the country that has been going on. A weather “March Madness” if you will. Look at the March high temperature records through March 15.

ZZZZZ

 NOAA/NCDC

 More than 2000 record highs and more coming in the days ahead. Washington had one record Thursday but earlier in the month records from the Pacific Northwest to New England. Even the “icebox of the country” International Falls saw March records tumble and Chicago had the first two 80° in a row in March ever. It must be global warming . . . right? Well not so quick.

NOAA/NCDC

We did have the 4th warmest winter in weather records here in the United States and for us in Washington it was the 3rd warmest winter in our weather records which go back about 150 years.

 Recent news stories are ascribing everything from the warm winter, the low winter snows, early tornadoes to long-term climate change.

But look at the global winter temperatures for 2011-12. Some areas, such as the U.S. were much milder than average but other areas, such as central Asia were much colder than average.

NOAA/ESRL

 NOAA/ESRL

The global winter temperature was probably close to long-term average. That is not to say the long-term global temperature is not changing. A very thorough examination of global temperature confirmed what a number of research centers have found. The earth’s temperature is rising.

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 Berkley Earth

Sure, there are year-to-year fluctuations but the long-term trend is clear and almost 100% of scientists actively working in the field (as opposed to bloggers and agendists looking to cherry pick one item from a bushel of research) do believe our human footprints are in at least a good part of this warming. Nevertheless, not every weather event or even a record March such as we are seeing is caused by changes we are making to the atmosphere, land and ocean. Climate research scientist Kevin Trenberth did put the climate change weather link this way, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.” But the trend is sure getting clearer. More record highs than record lows are likely in the years ahead,

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NCAR/UCAR

the oceans will continue to get more acidic,

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as they absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, arctic sea ice will continue to thin and decrease,

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and atmospheric “blocks” such as this pattern into next week

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may become more frequent as my friend Stu Ostro of The Weather Channel has written about and you can read his latest thoughts here.  A lot of work in that.  So the trends are there and we should expect more records ahead and milder winter nights too.  If you want to tell your very young grandchildren when to plan to see the cherry blossoms in 2050, they might think about early March rather than early April based on these trends.

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So this all means after a warm March we are in for a very hot summer - right?  No not really.  You have to read this blog.  As a matter of fact very warm Marches are often followed by rather cool summers.  But of course keep watching.  And read more about the science of global change not just some blogs that cherry pick a few items from the great basket of what science is finding. Next March?  Want to bet it will be cooler than this March.  I know probably an easy bet

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Does This Warm March Mean A Hotter Than Average Summer?

March 15, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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Many are enjoying the 70 and 80 degree days we're experiencing, now, in mid March, but does this mean we'll endure a sweltering summer of hotter than average temperatures? 

Let's take a look back at the top 10 hottest March's and see how the following summer temperatures turned out.   Keep in mind, March's average high is 46.8°, so the top 10 warmest March's were anywhere between 4° and close to 10° above average!

From this chart, you'll notice 7 out of the 10 warmest March's featured below average summer temperatures.  So, again, we can't say that since we're experiencing a stretch of warmer than average March, we'll have an unusually hot summer.  It is interesting to note that the hottest summer was set back in 2010 with an average temperature of 81.3° (that is #9 in the chart).  March was above average, but wasn't the warmest March, by far. 

So, how are you feeling about the warmer than average start to March?  Do you think, after the 3rd warmest winter on record, and the warmer than average temperatures we're experiencing in March, we're in for an extra hot summer?  Take our poll on WJLA.com.

 

 

 

Click HERE to Vote.  *Scroll down the page & the poll is on the right side of the page.

 

I'm just going to enjoy the pleasant weather while we have it.  And here's hoping, in my opinion, for an average summer!  

 

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The Conjuction Tonight

March 13, 2012 - 06:27 PM
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This is the evening of the beautiful conjuction of Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the sky.  The gap between the two is only 3° this evening but the distances are vast.  Venus tonight is closer to earth than the sun but still about 75 million miles from earth.  Jupiter the gas giant is 523 million miles from earth and almost 450 million miles from Venus.  Another way to think about it is the time it takes light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second to travel from Jupiter to us on earth.  Tonight Jupiter is 47 light minutes away.  Enjoy the sights

l

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Is this warmth really that impressive? How will it affect cherry blossoms?

March 13, 2012 - 10:52 AM
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It feels more like mid-May than mid-March as temperatures this week are running well above average, but forecasted high temperatures are still far from record breaking, so do you think this warm spell is that impressive? Regardless, this warmth should accelerate the blooming of D.C.’s famous cherry blossom trees, which will impress tourists and locals alike.


The average high at Reagan National Airport (DCA) rises from 55° today to 57° on Sunday. Our actual afternoon highs should be running about 20° above average in the mid to upper 70s this week. Also, preliminary indications point toward a good chance of 70°+ weather into next week as well.

Unseasonably warm March temperatures are here for now, but we have seen similar and even warmer weather patterns during the same time period in the past. In turn, record breaking highs look unattainable through the foreseeable future. Actually, of the seven record highs from today through Sunday, six occurred in either 1990 or 1945 when even warmer conditions prevailed for several days, and by more than just a few degrees. Here’s a rundown of the forecast highs compared to records:

 


 During the record breaking warmth in 1990, the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin had their earliest peak bloom ever occuring on March 15th, according to the National Park Service. The similar and record breaking warmth in 1945 contributed to a peak bloom on March 20th.

As for this year, peak bloom was originally expected between March 24th and March 31st, but that was before our recent & prolonged warming trend took was in sight. That forecast will likely be updated soon and adjusted to an earlier peak bloom date by possibly three to seven days. We’ll standby and wait for the National Park Service’s Chief Horticulturalist, Rob DeFeo, to update his prediction here. Interestingly, over the past six years the peak bloom has occurred within the same four day period (March 29th – April 1st). Average peak bloom is April 4th.

Usually in the spring at DCA it takes high temperatures about 30° above average to compete with a record, so I normally wouldn't think 70s in March was that impressive. 80s in March is what impresses me the most. However, due to the prolonged nature of this warm spell, I do think it's a rather impressive warm spell as temperatures usually bounce up and down all March and rarely peak for very long.  Though beware that March warmth doesn’t necessarily translate to April warmth too. Don’t pack away the longs sleeves just yet. 

 

 

 

 

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Who's Ready For May Temperatures In March? How Long It Will Last.

March 13, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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We will get a taste of Spring this week, as highs will climb into the 70s each day.  Average highs for early/mid March are low to mid 50s, so highs, this week, will be a good 15-20 degrees above average! 

With the above average highs, will we break any records?  Probably not.  Take a look at a neat graphic meteorologist Adam Caskey created that displays the forecast highs, this week, in comparison to the records for each day. 

Courtesy @AdamCaskey

Even though we most likely won't break any records, March is certainly starting off on a warm note.  As of Monday, we're 12 days into the month of March and 6° above average.  Coming off of a record breaking winter, it will be interesting to see how the spring and summer fair, in regard to temperatures.  So what's the likelihood of temperatures staying above average? 

The Climate Prediction Center releases temperature and precipitation outlooks on a regular basis.  The latest one came out yesterday.  Check out the 6-10 day outlook!

NOAA CPC

The deep red/purple colors indicate the high probablity of warmer than average temperatures.  About half of the U.S. is projected to be above average!  Below is a look at the one month outlook, where the U.S., and more specifically D.C., looks faily likely to be above average. *note this is for the month of March, as the graphic is valid from Feb. 29 through the end of March.  In contrast, the Western U.S. and Alaska will be below average (I'll certainly take the warmer than average temps!).   

NOAA CPC

Enjoy the warmer temperatures and the taste of Spring, which officially begins Tuesday, March 20th.  Also, keep in mind highs this time of year are generally in the low to mid 50s.  It's not until May that average high temperatures are in the low 70s. Happy *almost Spring!

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Attention all star-watchers!

March 12, 2012 - 08:50 AM
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Most of the space weather images and talk lately have been about the beautiful Auroras that have resulted from the massive coronal mass ejection that took place early last week. Unfortunately, unless you live at high latitude your won’t be able to see that beautiful display with you own eyes.


However, there is another space event overhead at night right now that you can easily get glimpse of. All you have to do is look to the west/southwest sky about an hour after sunset to find Venus and Jupiter. If you haven’t noticed them in the sky over the past week or so you should definitely take time to check them out this week. Starting tonight (March 12th) the two brightest planets in the sky will be so close together, only 3 degrees apart, that you will be able to hide both of them with a few fingers at arm’s length. 

 

 

 

 

 


SkywatchersImelda B. Joson and Edwin L. Aguirre snapped this shot of Jupiter and Venus (the brighter, lower planet) on March 8, 2012, as they flew on a commercial airliner from Boston to Los Angeles. Joson and Aguirre reckon they were somewhere over Utah when they took the picture.
CREDIT: Imelda B. Joson/Edwin L. Aguirre

 

Venus will be the brighter of the two planets and during this conjunction it will look like Jupiter moves in a line past it for the remainder of the month. The peak of this planetary conjunction will occur this Thursday March, 15th. The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter occur roughly every 13 months but what makes this event one of the best for several years to come is that they will be visible for so long in the evening sky. Venus and Jupiter are not the only planets that can be seen this March 2012 Mercury, Mars, and Saturn are also up there for you viewing pleasure.

I also found a pretty cool application for the iphone called “Star Chart.” Below is a screen shot of the program which allows you to hold your phone and simply point it to the sky and it will tell you what you are looking at. I don’t own an Android phone but I am sure they have a similar application that does the same thing.

 



 

 

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Remembering the historic "Superstorm of '93"

March 10, 2012 - 01:50 PM
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A strong high pressure building across the Atlantic will send the jet stream north all next week and temperatures will skyrocket from the 60s Monday to about 80 degrees by Friday! Record highs are even possible by Thursday! What a truly remarkable 360 from the weather conditions that unfolded in the East almost a quarter century ago!

A storm system that developed in the Gulf of Mexico on March 12, 1993 and began to rapidly intensify as southern and northern stream jet energy phased. Destructive storms whipped through Florida while record wind and snow were driven up along the East Coast over the course of the next two days.

superstorm

Termed, the “Storm of the Century,” the storm killed more than 250 people and cancelled 25% of the U.S.’s flights for two days! There were more deaths from the 1993 Superstorm than from Hurricane Hugo and Andrew.

Here are a few of the records brought on by this monster storm:

Record Wind Gust: Mount Washington, N.H.: 144 mph
Record Sea Level Pressure: White Plains, N.Y.: 28.28 inches, Baltimore: 28.51 inches
Record Snowfall Totals: Mt. Mitchell, N.C.: 50 inches, Grantsville, Md.: 47 inches, Dulles International: 14.1 inches (this brought the monthly total to 15.5 inches, most ever in March).

Speaking of snowfall locally from this blizzard, 13 inches fell in the District, a foot accumulated in Baltimore with 18 inches in Frederick County, Md. Baltimore recorded a gust to 69 mph.

totals

Locally, 11 people died in Virginia, one death was reported in the District and Maryland either while the storm was ongoing or shortly after it ended. Snow cleanup costs were estimated at $500,000 in D.C., $22-million in Maryland and $16-million in Virginia.

Mid-to-late March can be notorious for big end of season winter storms! A report from Howard County, Md., from March 11-13, 1772 indicated a storm dropped 17 inches of snow with more snow on March 20th, bringing the snowfall amount on the ground to a whopping 20 inches!

The Blizzard of ’88, dubbed “White Hurricane,” completely blacked out Washington with the exception of a few gas lights. A half to one foot of snow blanketed the District along with a sheet of ice on top of that. Adding to the misery, wind gusts hit 48 mph! More than 40 mariners died on the Chesapeake Bay from this whopper.

Just four years later, on March 15-18, 1892, Baltimore had a storm that produced 16 inches of fresh powder while D.C. had 7.8 inches. Last but not least, March 15-16, 1900 brought yet another winter storm with 10 inches piling up in the District.

March definitely lives up to its name of being a "transition season." We can get buried by major Nor’easters or it can shoot up to a balmy 93 degrees as it did on March 23, 1907! Welcome to spring!

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