From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for November 2012

Miss Tonight's Great Sunset? Here it is!

November 30, 2012 - 11:22 PM
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What a beautiful final day of November!  The mid and high level clouds that developed during the afternoon made for quite a spectacular and colorful sunset!  We captured the brilliant sunset in timelapse... here it is!

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Hurricane Season Ends Today

November 30, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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Another hurricane season in the books and this one was a particularly active one.  I think the hurricane that will stand out most from the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is Sandy.  Sandy had the greatest impact on life, property, and was a meteorological phenomenon, as it transitioned to a superstorm of epic proportion devastating so much of the Northeast.  Hurricane Sandy is the 2nd largest storm on record and is the 3rd (preliminary) costliest storm on record, with about $32 billion from NY alone.  Here are a few other meteorological records from Sandy.


Even though Sandy stands out, many people, especially folks in the Southeast, remember Isaac very well.  Remember Isaac?  Hurricane Isaac threatened the Republican National Convention in late August and then made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on August 28th causing significant flooding and very high storm surge. 

The first named storms developed several days before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1st).  Tropical Storm Alberto developed May 19th and Tropical Storm Beryl formed May 23rd.  Tropical storms continued to develop and we made it all the way to Tony, just two names before finishing the list

The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season ends as the 3rd busiest season on record, which ties 2011, 2010, 1995, and 1887.  There were a total of 19 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes.  

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D.C. Wants Snow! ... That's What the Poll Says

November 29, 2012 - 04:29 PM
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Nearly a thousand people came into our weather homepage to take our latest poll asking how much snow you'd *like to see this winter.  It seems we have a lot of snow lovers judging by the results!

This November a lot of winter weather outlooks were released, including our very own Doug Hill and Bob Ryan's. The winter forecasts don't look too promising for those of you who want all four feet of snow, but you never know.  Both Doug Hill, Bob Ryan, and a majority of the ABC7 Storm Team, agree snowfall will be average this winter.  From the looks of the poll, about 16% of the 963 people who voted should be happy. 

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Brian's Movember Finale

November 29, 2012 - 10:23 AM
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A great man once said, "I look like a fool with a mustache, and I sure don't mind looking like a fool on TV for a great cause. After all, it's Movember." That great man was my good buddy Adam Caskey who championed the whole ABC7/NewsChannel8 Movember movement and what a success we have seen. In the end we learned it was a lot easier to raise money then grow a mustache! I'll admit I have become used to the stares and questions and will miss some of that. While my stache has bid adieu my colleagues Adam Caskey, Alex Liggitt and Ryan Miller will keep the movement alive for another day or two. I on the other hand have a family Christmas portrait to sit in.

I couldn't have done it without all of the support of the generous donors that took a grass roots effort to a place in the top 2 to 3 % of the country in terms of earning. For that I am grateful. I too want to thank my co-anchors for putting up with all of the mustache talk throughout the month - you were true team players. Finally, the wonderful ladies of The Men's Grooming Lounge who removed my month long journey in a mere few razor swipes. You were great Ann and Brittni.

Until next Movember....

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Hurricane Sandy: Guest Blog

November 28, 2012 - 11:30 PM
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From time to time we feature a "Guest Blog".  Nate Johnson is not only a fellow meteorologist, but will be getting a graduate degree in communication.  A rare combination.  My physical science of pure meteorology has made amazing advances in my life, but the promise of the great advance of science is still unfulfilled if we do not effectively communicate the forecast so everyone makes the best weather related decision.  The objective forecast of hurricane Sandy was a near perfect forecast of modern meteorology.  The decision to not issue "hurricane warnings" for the East Coast, and what this meant for public decision making,  is still being strongly debated within the meteorological community as you will read in Nate's blog first published here.

Assessing Sandy: Warnings and the Weather Enterprise (UPDATED: Now two NWS reasons why the first team was scuttled)

Eleven days ago, I recapped the situation surrounding Hurricane Sandy, including the short-lived spin-up of the National Weather Service (NWS) Service Assessment team that would have been charged with investigating how the various arms of the agency performed before, during, and after Sandy’s brush with North Carolina and direct assault on the northeastern US. At that time, the official word from the NWS was that a broader, multi-agency approach to the federal government’s preparation for and response to Sandy was possible, and that if that didn’t happen, the NWS would pursue an internal assessment “as it always has”.

This week marks one month since Sandy’s landfall (and one month of ongoing cleanup and recovery in some of the affected areas, to boot), and while the extended time doesn’t preclude gathering reliable data upon which the organization and the broader weather enterprise can draw conclusions, we aren’t gaining anything by sitting on the sidelines while the clock ticks. The termination of the original team, the lack of a new assessment effort, and the ongoing delay has caught the attention of Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, who wrote in a letter to NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, “it is imperative that the NWS act quickly and decisively in performing an assessment.”

There are rumblings that a NOAA-level (NWS’ parent agency) review may be announced shortly – perhaps in response to Rep. Broun’s inquiry from last week. The Capital Weather Gang also reported today the acting director of the NWS, Laura Furgione, disbanded the original NWS service assessment team after what an NWS spokesperson called “initial discussions with [the Department of Homeland Security] about a potential broader assessment.” This latter revelation seems to conflict with what acting director Furgione told Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman, who wrote on November 16:

"NWS Acting Director Laura Furgione told Climate Central that the formation of the service assessment had been “premature” and that she had not seen or approved a charter governing the scope of the team’s work. Furgione did not say who approved the initial decision."

So, was the NWS effort “premature” and shut down because Acting Director Furgione hadn’t approved the charter and budget or was it because of these “initial discussions” with DHS? And why would the NWS scuttle an already ongoing effort on nothing more than the “potential” for a broader review based on preliminary conversations with another department with no oversight of the NWS? Neither speaks to the notion of strong leadership of the NWS.

Needless to say, I look forward to Dr. Lubchenco’s responses to Rep. Broun’s questions, and if and when a service assessment team does come together – multi-agency or not – I hope it will be given broad license to ask the questions it deems necessary and the independence to perform its task as it sees fit. The trouble in getting it off the ground does not instill anyone with a lot of confidence, however.

The Director Speaks

In any event, there was movement from another key player in this saga yesterday. National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Dr. Rick Knabb made his first public comments about the controversial warning issue in an interview with The Weather Channel, his former employer, who originally billed the interview as an “exclusive”. (Original tweet has been deleted, but there is a screen capture.)


[UPDATE: Thursday 11/28 10:45am: NHC Public Affairs Officer Dennis Feltgen, in an email, refuted TWC's claim of exclusivity, saying: "This was NOT an exclusive interview. Dr. Knabb provided the same interview and content to CNN, FNR, Reuters, and several other print and local TV outlets that same morning. I am reaching out to TWC right now..."
Sean Breslin, Content Coordinator for weather.com, TWC's website, apologized for the error in a tweet, saying it was an "Honest mistake".
If the interview was not an exclusive and was part of an open media day, that takes care of the questions I raised before concerning the propriety of an exclusive interview.]

Why Hurricane Warnings Weren’t Issued

Nevertheless, Dr. Knabb spoke with TWC (the entire interview is worth your time) and did answer a number of questions regarding Sandy and how the NHC and NWS handled the storm and its forecast. Asked why hurricane warnings weren’t issued for the northeast coast ahead of Sandy, Dr. Knabb laid out three “potentially unpleasant options”:

One would have been, well if it becomes post-tropical Sunday night, say a day before landfall, then if we had just gone by the books of how we do things when it becomes post-tropical — we stop advisories, take down the hurricane watches or warnings that we would have put up — that wouldn’t have been such a good thing to do, because you don’t want to change the hurricane watches and warnings mid-stream. It would have been pretty bad to put up a hurricane warning, everybody starts evacuating, and then in the middle of the event, the warnings come down. So that was one reason why we elected not to put them up in the first place, because the only thing worse would have been to put them up and then take them down.

Now, to preserve those warnings in such a scenario, when it becomes post-tropical a day or so offshore, the only other things we could have done were to continue to write advisories on it, even though it’s post-tropical. Continue to leave hurricane warnings up even though it’s post-tropical… but we would have risked breaking the dissemination system of our products and our warnings. That was a risk we weren’t too keen on taking.

Then finally the only other option we would have had was to, despite it being post-tropical for a day or so before landfall, to — for lack of a better term, fake it — call it a hurricane for a day or more before landfall.

Credibility at Stake

He goes on to say “[w]e try to call it like we see it” and argues their credibility in watches and warnings hinges on ensuring what they issue matches what they believe is going to happen. “Sandy just posed the scenario where no matter what we were going to do, it was going to have the potential for confusing people.”

I can appreciate the desire to ensure that the warnings and advisories that get posted match the weather that is expected to happen: It doesn’t make sense to issue a heavy rain advisory when you expect snow. However, a few things about that don’t sit well, and the end result was more confusion on the part of the public than was necessary.

Two Breaks From The Past

As an organization, the NHC is notorious for their keen awareness of their own limitations and the state of hurricane forecasting science, warts and all. Even a quick Google search of past NHC discussions turns up dozens of references to the average track error or the lack of confidence about an intensity forecast owing to past performance in this arena. Overall, the NHC bends over backwards to defer to historical performance and error trends, opting to err on the side of caution when those error trends suggest doing so. This quality is viewed quite favorably amongst the weather enterprise and should be a model for all who would presume to predict Mother Nature’s next move.

So, it caught me off guard that the usually very-aware-of-the-limitations NHC was so confident of its complete Sandy forecast package – track (which has improved significantly in the last three decades), intensity (which has not improved over that same time, and exact internal structure (for which no verification statistics are readily available) – as early as 72 hours out that they chose not to issue tropical storm or hurricane warnings, opting instead for the non-tropical high wind and coastal flood warnings. I would argue this was a rare public risk communication misstep on the part of the NHC, and the public in Sandy’s path would have been better served had tropical watches and warnings been used instead.

Rebuttals

When this is brought up, there are usually two rebuttals. First, some argue that Sandy had already made the transition to a post-tropical cyclone before it made landfall; therefore, tropical storm or hurricane warnings would not have applied because they are predicated on the particular conditions coming as a result of a tropical cyclone, which by NHC’s declaration, we did not have as of a couple of hours before landfall. Second, it is argued there is no evidence to suggest tropical storm or hurricane warnings would have been any more effective than the high wind and coastal flood warnings that were posted.

Warnings Should Match the Phenomenon

On the first point of meteorological accuracy or consistency between warnings and actual events, I agree with Mike Smith who wrote four days before Sandy’s landfall that this distinction is meaningful to us meteorologists but not to most of the affected public. Readers of this blog can no doubt recall instances where straight-line winds damaged or destroyed a home, but the homeowner believes it was a tornado and usually finds a way to say so on television. If your home is flattened by a storm, it won’t matter what some meteorologist calls it – your home is still flattened.1

NWS Warnings during Sandy

I also agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Knabb that our credibility as a science is built on consistently abiding and doing right by the best science we have available. And by our passionate nature, we want to extend a correct awareness of the workings of the atmosphere to the publics we serve. We didn’t get into the weather business to go around calling blizzards “monsoons” or sunny days “overcast”. When it is clear-cut, we should not issue warnings that do not match the phenomena at hand!

However, this extra-tropical transition business is messy, there is no scientific consensus on at exactly what point is considered to have occurred, and as the NHC regularly points out, there are limitations on how confident we can be about the track, intensity, and structure of a tropical cyclone three or four days out. Instead of deferring to the usual scientific conservatism that has served it so well in the past – likely resulting in tropical storm or hurricane warnings being posted along much of the northeast coast and prompting evacuations as early as Saturday – the NHC hung its hat on the 72-hour forecast of a post-tropical cyclone making landfall late Monday night or early Tuesday morning and relied on (and coordinated with) the local NWS weather forecast offices to post high wind and coastal flood warnings.

As a result, meteorologists spent precious time over the weekend explaining (or attempting to explain) why “Sandy wouldn’t be a hurricane but would be a ‘post-tropical cyclone’, would still be as intense, would probably be even bigger than the typical hurricane, and why people should treat these high wind and coastal flood warnings just like a hurricane warning” instead of riding folks in Sandy’s path to get off the couch, prepare, and potentially evacuate.2 Looking back, some meteorologists have taken issue with the NHC’s classification of Sandy as post-tropical at landfall. The final reanalysis may or may not back that up, but the bottom line is we were well within the margins of error for what Sandy should be called – especially when the decision was made late Friday and communicated over the weekend – and that hurricane warnings could have been used and defended after the fact.

Which is More Effective: Hurricane or High Wind/Coastal Flood Warnings?

Of course, this only makes sense if you accept that tropical storm or hurricane warnings would have garnered a better response from the public. On this point, we may have something to learn from our Canadian neighbors, who have to deal with hurricanes and post-tropical cyclones about as frequently as the northeast coast of the United States. Before 2004, the Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) relied exclusively on what we would call purely “impact-based” warnings – their equivalent to our high wind and coastal flood warnings – to convey the risks due to landfalling tropical and post-tropical cyclones. However, beginning with the 2004 tropical season, the CHC began issuing tropical storm and hurricane warnings, including for landfalling post-tropical cyclones. They made this shift away from impact-based warnings because the impact-based warnings were not generating the kind of response from the Canadian public they wanted, even going so far as to call the response to Hurricane Juan “lackadaisical at best”. (This may raise concern for an eventual shift here in the US toward a purely impact-based approach – a post for another time.)

Where Are We Now?

Asked in the TWC interview about how the NHC would handle a future storm like Sandy, Dr. Knabb replied:

At least in terms of having more options, not necessarily that we would do it differently next time, but at least having more options so we could potentially do it differently in whatever scenario that the atmosphere throws at us that we can’t even envision right now.

Those new options are only going to come after we learn what worked and what did not with Sandy. A month after Sandy’s landfall, we still do not have a formal NWS-centric or broader, multi-agency service assessment under way. Beyond the NWS’ performance, the entire weather enterprise – public (including emergency management), private (including broadcast meteorologists), and academic – owes itself and the publics it serves a thorough review of how we handled Sandy. In addition to the classification and warning questions facing the NHC and the broader NWS (on what was otherwise an exemplary forecast for Sandy’s track and intensity), the rest of us should be willing to assess our performance and learn from this as well. For example:

      -Did the emergency managers and broadcast meteorologists take the    underlying forecast information for Sandy (which was talking about record NYC surges as early as Saturday!), translate that into what their publics and viewers really needed to know (it’s going to be bad and you should leave!), and communicate it clearly, or were we too reliant on what category the NHC thought Sandy fit in and too caught up in explaining distinctions that didn’t make a difference?


       -Are there gaps in our understanding about how storms make this transition, the effects of such a transition close to landfall, and how well those are handled by the various forecast models? How confident should hurricane forecasters be in model forecasts of transitioning hurricanes?


       -What don’t we know about public response to warnings of various types, and how can we craft better warning messages that prompt appropriate action from a larger proportion of affected people without hyping the situation?

     -And who will underwrite the efforts to answer these and other questions? The NWS service assessment process has been extended to attempt to answer some of these questions on a case-by-case basis and with an NWS-centric viewpoint; however, is an SA the best place for such work to be done or should the NWS be allowed to review its performance while independent researchers attempt to answer the broader social science questions and receive sufficient funding to do so for the good of the entire weather enterprise?

As a weather enterprise, we have a lot of work to do. The clock is ticking, and we are not doing anyone any favors by remaining on the sidelines.

UPDATED 4:53pm ET to include link to Capital Weather Gang report on discussions with DHS and to raise questions about the apparent conflict in explanations regarding the original assessment team.

_________

1 There are important differences between this severe convective weather example (where damages due to straight-line winds and tornadoes are treated equally by insurance companies) and a landfalling tropical or post-tropical cyclone (where “hurricane deductibles” allow insurance companies to make smaller payouts if damage is due to a hurricane instead of a non-tropical or post-tropical system). If the argument is about meteorological correctness, the downstream concerns of insurance deductibles should not factor in the decision.

2 I believe this points to an inherent weakness and lack of flexibility in the NWS product suite and verification scheme as much, if not more, than problems at the NHC. Had, as Dr. Knabb mentioned, the NHC just “faked it” with Sandy, kept calling it a hurricane, and run with the hurricane warnings along the northeast coast, there would undoubtedly be calls, similar to Sen. Schumer’s, to classify (or re-classify) Sandy as something other than a hurricane. I believe the meteorologists at the NHC want to do right by the meteorology but are limited by constraints of the NWS product suite and how their forecasts and warnings will be verified. A more robust (but not necessarily larger!) suite would not have forced the them into the untenable position of having to change the wholesale approach to warning for Sandy three days out when the preponderance of the evidence suggests we as an enterprise are not that good yet. I’m told work is underway to make the suite more flexible for situations like this; I hope this work is supported at all levels of the NWS, including appropriate funding.

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Full Moon: A special night for watching the sky

November 28, 2012 - 01:06 PM
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Tonight skies will be clear and a wonderful evening to see something special in the sky.  The Full Moon rises at 5:01PM.  It will be the "smallest" Full Moon of the year because the moon tonight is at "apogee" or the farthest distance from the earth.  Tonight when it is high in the sky, about midnight, it will be almost 250,000 miles away.  Back in May, the so called "Super Moon" was a Full Moon at perigee and "only"  222,000 miles away.  The rising Full Moon will still look huge to you because of the "moon illusion", check out my blog about this and a previous "Super Moon"  But tonight is not just a night to see the Full Moon but also to see a beautiful gathering of celestial objects in the night sky.  Look at this

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 A great diagram from EarthSky.org of what you will see.  The Full Moon and very nearby the brilliant planet Jupiter and then as the moon is higher and the sky darker the star Aldebaran.  But unlike in the diagram, you will probably see Aldebaran with an orange or even reddish color.  Aldebaran is a star relatively nearby and is a "Red Giant" star and indeed you can see the color.  Finally think about the distances of these three objects that appear so close tonight.  The way astronomers measure distance is the time it takes light from such sights to reach us.  186,000 miles is 1 light second.  The Full Moon tonight is1.3 light seconds away, the brilliant Jupiter is 378 million miles or about 34 light minutes away and that Red Giant Aldebaran is about 382 TRILLION MILES or about 65 light years away!!  Great sights tonight and if you, your parents or grandparents are about 65, go out about 9PM when this trio is higher in the sky and look at Aldebaran.  The light from that star entering your eyes tonight, left the star when you, or they, were born.  Pretty neat and great night sights.  Enjoy

 

 

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When is the average first snowfall in D.C.?

November 27, 2012 - 11:14 AM
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Areas of snow fell across the northern portions of our viewing area today but the D.C. Metro has seen nothing but rain. When can residents closer in to the city be able to get in on the action? No worries, it's already November 27th, so the region is only a couple weeks away from it's average first snowfall.

Tuesday's Snowfall Pictures 

Checking the National Weather Service's NOWData page, you can get all kinds of information about the first and last dates as far as snowfall and temperatures. I narrowed it down to information about the first date the Washington Area sees it's first 0.1" of snow and first 1" of snow.

For the D.C. area:

The first 0.1" or greater amount of snow from the 1981-2010 period usually came around December 18th.

The first 1" of snow usually fell around December 29th.

For areas closer to Dulles:

The first 0.1" of snow comes a little earlier, around December 14th.

The first 1" of snow usually occurs a couple of days earlier around December 26th.

Snowfall reports in the D.C. area Tuesday

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MOVEMBER - Team MoStorm - changing the face of men's health

November 26, 2012 - 11:05 PM
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As you can see in the altered photo, I look like a fool with a mustache, but I sure don't mind looking like a fool on TV for a great cause.  After all, it's Movember.

"During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of mustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo's, men raise vital awareness and funds for men's health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health." (source: Movember.com)

 


MoBros (left to right) Ryan Miller, Brian van de Graaff, Alex Liggitt and Adam Caskey

 

Throughout Movember you'll notice (though you may have to look very closely for some of us) snazzy staches on myself, Brian van de Graaff, Alex Liggitt and Ryan Miller.  We assembled Team MoStorm, and it's never too late to join the team or support our cause.  I'll be airing updates and photos of team members throughout the month on Good Morning Washington, and you can follow our progress on our team site.  For more information go HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spectacular Sunrise In D.C.

November 26, 2012 - 07:44 PM
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There was a nice mid level cloud deck early Monday morning for a beautiful sunrise!  If you missed it, or saw it and was hoping to see it on replay, we captured the sunrise in timelapse for you to enjoy.  Watch the spectacular colors change, as the clouds move East, and the sun angle rises.  Sunrise Monday morning was at 7:03 am. 

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Snow: Really possible for Tuesday?

November 26, 2012 - 04:23 PM
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Yes the word "SNOW" has been in our forecast and in some news headlines for a couple of days.  Hard to believe that some of you indeed will see enough snow to whiten the ground by Tuesday noon after temperatures today were close to 60 just south of DC.  What's going on? First a cold front you can see on our StormScan is sliding south and weak "storm"/low pressure system will move along the front just to our west and north.  

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This will bring clouds in very rapidly and some cold rain to western and northern suburbs by 5-8AM Tuesday.  Several of the meteorological things I look at is the simulation of the atmosphere at the surface as here, and the simulation of what the temperature will be in the air above us tomorrow afternoon.  

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Everything right now indicates the precipitation around the DC area will be in the form of a chilly rain, but as the weak storm moves north, and the air above us gets colder, (this shows the temperature about 1 mile up tomorrow afternoon) the rain will mix with some wet snowflakes before ending late Tuesday afternoon. 

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The roads and ground are mild now, so there is no threat of slippery roads in the immediate DC area, but to the north in high areas of northern Montgomery County, Frederick County, Maryland and western Loudoun County, there will enough wet snow to whiten the ground and even cause some slippery spots before sunset Tuesday.  Hagerstown and spots north and west are likely to see 1-3" of snow, but snow lovers around DC will just have to wait for the next chance.  Check out our latest hyperlocal microcast just run.  A bit fast, but still looks like rain for most of the time around DC.

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 Forecast updates to come : >)

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First snow of the season looking likely early Tuesday

November 25, 2012 - 07:37 AM
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Winter temperatures are sure coming on quickly across the U.S., although snowfall is at a minimum compared to average for late-November. Heading into the first half of the work week, the prospects of the first accumulating snow of the season are looking likely in D.C.’s northern and western suburbs.

snowdeparture
One of the coldest mornings of the season is underway with middle 30s in the nation’s capital and a few scattered 20s in the suburbs. It might not come as a surprise with temperatures dipping into the 30s that a touch of snow is on the horizon.

 

This storm will be quite weak; it’s already in the early stages across British Columbia as highlighted in the image below. This weak upper-level ripple will move south and east while a surface low pressure develops south of the wave in the southern Plains. The low will move into the Southeast early Tuesday and then off the Mid-Atlantic Coast Tuesday afternoon.
 
watervapor

The onset of the precipitation will likely be overnight Monday before ending by midday Tuesday the way it looks in most of the latest guidance. Due to enough cold air at the surface, a light northeast wind and dry air, snow will likely overspread the entire region before sunrise and then mix with rain inside the Capital Beltway.

Due to the fast-nature of the storm and limited amount of moisture pulling north of the low, only very light accumulation looks most likely north and west of the District. A half to one inch is possible in the lower elevations with up to 2 inches possible in the Blue Ridge. The area highlighted on the image below stands the best chance at seeing these minor accumulations.
snowpotential
Still, this will definitely be a conversational snow, especially considering the total for the season last year was only 2.0 inches in the nation’s capital.

Stay with ABC7 and WTOP Radio for the latest forecasts.

 

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Thanksgiving & Black Friday: Mild Before The Chill Arrives

November 22, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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What a perfect Thanksgiving forecast.  With a big dome of high pressure overhead, an almost cloud-free sky is expected and temperatures will be rather mild with highs in the upper 50s around Washington. 

Slightly warmer for Black Friday; although, with many stores opening Thursday night it will be a little chilly for the start of Black Friday shopping (lows falling into the 30s and low 40s).  Friday highs will climb to near 60 degrees, but don't get used to the mild weather, as temperatures will tumble by the weekend after a strong cold front slides through late Friday night.  The cold air will already move into the Upper Midwest by Friday.  Take a look at the forecast highs for Friday.

Forecast Highs Friday

I don't think we'll see much in the way of any precipitation from the cold front.  You'll mainly notice increasing clouds late Friday and the winds picking up.  Bundle up over the weekend with high temperatures *only in the mid to upper 40s!

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Thanksgiving Weather : Quiet this Year

November 20, 2012 - 03:58 PM
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This year for the big travel day tomorrow and for Thanksgiving Day pretty quiet weather across the country.  These 2 satellite views from GOES-EAST and GOES-WEST (NASA GOES Project) show the Pacific Northwest as the only area still with stormy weather.

 

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 The forecast map from NWS does show rain (and snow in the mountains skiers) continuting in the northwest tomorrow. 

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Wednesday midday weather across the United States

But then sunshine across almost the entire country for Thursday-Thanksgiving Day.  Quite a difference from some past Thanksgivings with big storms.  Remember Thanksgiving here in DC in 1989?  It was a "White Thanksgiving" after 2 inches of snow a couple of days before.  1989 is still the only time we have had both a "White Thanksgiving" and "White Christmas".  Thanksgiving 1989 was probably the coldest Thanksgiving ever for the Great Plains as Denver fell to 8° below zero, Laramie, WY was -26°, Bismark had 22" of snow and Miami and Dallas played the traditional Thanksgiving football game in Dallas in sleet and cold winds.  What was the Thanksgiving storm you remember? Here's a neat link to Thanksgiving storms.  Share the Thanksgiving weather or storm you remember with everyone.

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Bob Ryan's winter outlook: More extremes ahead?

November 19, 2012 - 11:00 PM
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OK, I know "more snow than last winter" would not take much. Last winter, the D.C. area (officially at Reagan National Airport) recorded a measly (for snow lovers) two inches of snow. So, what can we look at for some hints of what this coming winter will be here in the D.C. area? As Doug Hill pointed out in his outlook last Tuesday, ENSO is neutral and doesn't offer much of a hint. The latest outlook for El Nino - La Nina is for a "neutral" (tropical oceans neither unusually warm or cool) condition to continue.

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The long term trend of temperatures across the U.S. is still more "very warm" periods than "very cold" periods. 

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And it sure has been a warm year in Washington. Even if the recent chilly pattern continues, this is still likely to be the warmest year in D.C. weather on record. The top line in this multi-year graph is the running temperature year to date for DC 

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Just looking at all this one is tempted to say that there should be more mild weather ahead and another "easy" winter. But there are hints that what we would call "weather extremes" are becoming more probable in the years ahead. This is one measure of a "Climate Extremes Index" from the National Climatic and Data Center. The green line is the long term trend.

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One of the significant atmosphere-ocean changes over the last 30-40 years has been the trend of decreasing Arctic sea ice in summer. This September saw a new record low.   

 

ZZZZZSome recent studies have suggested that more open water in the Arctic is a factor in upper level jet stream patterns, the so called "westerlies" in the mid-latitudes.
If this linkage is confirmed by future research, the recent "hints" that weather patterns are becoming more extreme and the extremes more persistent (longer droughts, but also prolonged wet patterns increasing flood risks) will become more widely accepted.
My friend Stu Ostro has put a lot of thought and time into an outstanding presentation of the footprints of these pattern changes and what may lie ahead. I think what we are seeing recently is not for sure a "new normal" but a pattern that this year will give us a near normal cold winter but also with several chances of major storms for snow lovers.

 

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Washington Weather Extremes on Thanksgiving Day

November 18, 2012 - 10:45 PM
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The year is quickly drawing to a close and the holidays are right at our doorstep. While many beg for a white Christmas, do you know we’ve had our fair share of white Thanksgivings in the past? Remember warm turkey days when you could host a game of kickball or football without the chill of late November weather? What about the coldest Thanksgivings when a cup of hot cocoa went well with your turkey meal?

Here is a list of the top warmest, coldest, snowiest and wettest Thanksgiving Days in the nation’s capital.

Top 7 Warmest                              Top 6 Coldest Mornings
1. 77 degrees – 2007                        1. 18 degrees - 1902
2. 75 degrees – 1979 & 1933            2. 19 degrees - 1903
3. 73 degrees - 1927                         3. 21 degrees - 1930 & 1894
4. 72 degrees – 1896                        4. 22 degrees - 1892         
5. 71 degrees – 1987                        5. 23 degrees - 1938, 1905 and 1901
6. 69 degrees – 1973 & 1966            6. 24 degrees - 1917 and 1895
7. 68 degrees – 1968 

Top 5 Snowiest                               Top 5 Wettest
1. 1.9" - 1989                                      1. 1.15" - 1971
2. 1.0" - 1971                                      2. 0.96" - 1916
3. 0.6" - 1912                                      3. 0.93" - 1935 
4. 0.5" - 1938                                      4. 0.91" - 1945 & 1886 
5. 0.2" - 1901& 1898                           5. 0.77" - 1938 & 1966

This year will bring plenty of sunshine with highs topping out in the lower 60s. Keep in mind the average high for Thanksgiving this year is 55 degrees while the average low is 39 degrees.

Have a great and safe Thanksgiving Holiday!

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Winter Outlooks: A Change Coming

November 15, 2012 - 03:00 PM
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Boy this is the time of the year when almost every meteorologist and plenty of non-meteorologist has an outlook for the coming winter. A great overview and many outlooks from The Capital Weather Gang.  I've been looking at the recent extremes and will tell you Monday what I think this might mean for our coming winter.  A hint - no big disagreement from Doug's outlook he gave this week.  But just today NOAA's Climate Prediction Center updated and "tweeked" the outlook for December-February (meteorological winter) a bit.  Here it is. 

ZZZZZ

 With the ENSO pattern now neutral and some suggestion of a negative NAO (cold) the outlook is still 50/50 (equal chances above below average temperature) over us, but favors a cold pattern now in the northern plains and Florida. But don't worry, sure no snow in Miami.  One of the winter "signals" that has been getting more attention in recent years, and has shown some skill, is the correlation of snow cover in Siberia autumn and winter patterns in the eastern U.S.  What is interesting this year is the recent rapid and large increase of snow over across Canada and Eurasia.

 

 

ZZZZZ

 

 

ZZZZZ

 Rutgers University

A hint of a cold snowy winter for the DC area?  Not going to get any guarantee from me and after 16 months in a row with the temperature above average, October's temperature was a bit below average across the U.S. and right now November is much colder than average in the east.  So some will say, "We're due for a cold pattern".  We do seem "due" so snow lovers keep your fingers crossed.  More coming Monday

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Thanksgiving Travel

November 14, 2012 - 08:24 PM
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Hard to believe the holiday's are here!  With Thanksgiving now less than a week away, many people are getting ready for good food and time with family and friends.  The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.  Are you planning on traveling?  Well, fortunately, the weather for Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) will be relatively quiet across the lower 48.  Here's an overall view of what to expect.

The areas to watch for delayed or slow travel will be the Pacific Northwest.  A strong area of low pressure will develop and bring rain and wind to Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Northern Idaho.

A large area of high pressure will dominate the midsection of the country which will help prevent any large areas of unsettled weather. The Plains will be pleasant and dry.  The East coast, with the exception of a few showers along the Southeast coast, will be dry with seasonable temperatures.

We'll continue to update this forecast, as the holiday gets closer.  Safe travels!

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Doug Hill's 2012-2013 Winter Weather Outlook

November 13, 2012 - 05:45 PM
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After an unseasonably mild winter last year with temperatures 5.2 degrees above average and only 2 inches of snow at Reagan National, 1.8 inches at BWI Marshall and 3.7 inches at Washington Dulles, the area should finally get back on track this winter with more seasonable winter temperatures and snowfall.

2012-2013 Winter Outlook

The ABC 7 Storm Team is expecting snowfall and temperatures to be near or slightly below the long term average. With that said, we are calling for the majority of the D.C. Metro area to receive around 10 to 14 inches of snow. The 18 inch amounts, shown above, in the western portion of the area shaded in blue. Lesser amounts are forecast east of D.C. towards the Chesapeake Bay and even less forecast on the Eastern Shore. The highest amounts will be, as usual,  across the Blue Ridge (where there has already been measurable snowfall) and through Western Maryland where they typically average over 100 inches along the western slopes of the Appalachians. The average snowfall map for the region is shown below.

Average D.C. area snowfall (NWS Sterling)

What will steer our winter patterns? Not El Nino or La Nina this winter.. ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) is nearly in a neutral state right now, with sea surface temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific near zero. This leads us to look at other patterns such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation to play a much bigger role in forecasting regional snowfall.

November Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

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Washington’s Veterans Day snowstorm 25 year anniversary

November 11, 2012 - 05:08 PM
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Many natives to the Washington and Baltimore area probably won’t ever forget the weather on Veterans Day in 1987. What was thought to be a storm that would bring rain and snow mix ended up dumping record amounts of snow across the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to Baltimore.

The days leading up to Veterans Day 25 years ago were highlighted by very warm weather. Temperatures reached into the 60s and even lower 70s. Folks were enjoying the weather by walking and running outside even the day before the storm hit. High pressure off the Mid-Atlantic Coast was bringing a warm southwest wind to help boost these readings well-above average.

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Dwindling Daylight in D.C.

November 10, 2012 - 05:00 AM
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Sunset keeps getting earlier and earlier.  At least after we switched back to Eastern Standard Time, the sun rises earlier, so it's not quite as dark when a lot of us are getting up in the morning.  On the flip side, it's dark by the time we get home!  Sunset this past Thursday was at 5:00pm... and it's going to keep setting earlier through December 11th.

The earliest sunset is 4:46pm and that will occur from December 1st through the 11th.  The morning sunrise has at least been a little earlier since we "fell back" and gained an hour of sleep and switched back to EST.   That, too, will change over the next few weeks, as sunrise starts getting later again.  Take a look at how much later the sun will rise through the winter solstice, which is the day with the shortest amount of daylight), on December 21st.

Notice the hours of daylight decreasing through December 21st.  Here are the hours of daylight through the winter solstice.

The shortest amount of daylight occurs on December 21st with a little less than nine and a half hours.  After that, daylight starts to increase and once the 5th of January arrives, the sun sets after 5pm!

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