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Archive for April 2011
With the sport-fishing season now open on the Potomac, many folks no doubt will be creeping away from family engagements on our very warm-looking Easter Sunday to drink some beer on the river, and perhaps even fish. (See what’s in season in this comprehensive PDF.)
In celebration of the hunt, please enjoy this wild video of leaping silver carp on Indiana’s Wabash River. The fish, one of the invasive “Asian carp” species multiplying in U.S. waters, take to the air when disturbed by boat motors. They can jump 10 feet vertically and 20 feet horizontally. The air gets so thick with flying fishmeat that people simply stick out nets to catch them on the downfall or, more sportingly, shoot them with arrows like scaly skeet disks. For anybody wondering about the safety implications of this violent fish storm – yes, these living missiles are sending people to E.R.s around the country. Here’s an impressive photo of a woman getting fishsmacked so hard it reportedly broke her jaw.
As the Columbia Missourian story notes, “The majority of carp injuries are in the facial area.” So perhaps the gentlemen in this video should be wearing helmets.
- Pollen! (Dartmouth College Electron Microscope Facility)
One of the expected effects of the earth’s warming climate is an explosion of plantlife that will thrive in hot, CO2-rich air. Some folks, like these Fox News scribes/car mechanics, argue that that’s a good thing because of increased crop yields. But the downsides to more flora are readily apparent: more invasive species, more backyard weeding and – most awfully – a plague of pollen.
Warmer temperatures in the past few decades have already lengthened the ragweed pollen season in North America, according to a study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
I would cut this tree down SO QUICK.
- Leonids in Muju county, South Korea, in 2001. (Yonhap) (Photo: Associated Press)
Today's weather will feature flaming space rubble raining mercilessly from the heavens. That's right: After more than three months of fireball-less night skies, the western hemisphere is due for a meteor shower. (Whether we'll see it is another question.)
The Lyrids reach their peak tonight into early Saturday; the best time to catch them is during the drowsy hours right before dawn. This spring shower, which has a short lifespan generally lasting from April 16 to the 26th, isn't the most eye-popping display. The meteors can be argent enough to cast shadows on the ground and often leave behind smoking trails, but their average rate crawls along at about 5 to 20 per hour. That's not exactly a strong motivation to set the Mr. Coffee auto-timer extra early on Saturday.
Yet the shower has a unique, mercurial streak that demands attention. Every so often, the Lyrids inexplicably blow up in an epic cannonade that illuminates the entire hemisphere. During these freak events 100 or more falling stars may shell the earth each hour. One of the most famous times this happened was in April 1803. In Richmond, townsfolk were called to the streets by a bell that was ringing for a conflagration in a nearby armory.
Instead of seeing smoke and flames, however, their eyeballs lit up with the alarming reflection of an incandescent sky swarming with meteors. According to a contemporary account in the Virginia Gazette:
From one until three, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets.... [S]everal of those shooting meteors were accompanied with a train of fire that illuminated the sky for a considerable distance.... During the continuance of this remarkable phenomenon a hissing noise in the air was plainly heard, and several reports resembling the discharge of a pistol.
- This poorly organized tropical storm has a 10 percent chance of becoming a real hurricane in the next 48 hours. (NOAA)
Arlene. That will be the name of the season's first hurricane, which might come as early as mid-April this year.
“Might” is probably overstating it. Right now, the National Hurricane Center is tracking a tropical system 450 miles northeast of Puerto Rico that is shooting off gale-force winds and showers and thunderstorms. (Satellite video.) It's crawling toward the U.S. at 10 m.p.h. and shows little chance of making it. The NHC gives the “poorly organized” storm only a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical or subtropical cyclone in the next two days, the time frame in which its upper-level winds are still strong enough to sustain hurricane genesis.
If it did swell into something larger, the storm would be unusually early, giving credit to hurricane forecasters who have predicted a busy year for cyclone genesis. Tropical cyclones usually form in the Atlantic Basin from June 1 to Nov. 30. Subtropical cyclones are more likely to form outside that period, because they don't require as much warmth from the sea surface to grow.
Still, this wouldn't be the earliest cyclone to ever form in the Atlantic. On March 6, 1908, a Category 2 hurricane came rushing out of the Caribbean to shake up the residents of the Virgin Islands. An account in that year's Monthly Weather Review rated the cyclone as “so boisterous” that it recalled the powerful summer hurricane season. The account goes on:
Pretty sure that alien-encounter videos are supposed to be creepy, not make you laugh. But this video showing a couple of Russians finding a teeny-weeny alien corpse in the snow is downright amusing – even the Russians seem to be chortling.
Here's the back story, according to Michael Cohen of All News Web (“The World's Only Inter-Galactic Daily News Service”). A couple weeks ago, villagers in Irkutsk, Siberia, were amazed to see a freaky object glowing blue and pink hurtle from the sky and crash into the woods. Government and military officials visited the impact site and hushed things up. A little later, a pair of merry Russians touring the countryside in nearby Republic of Buryatia stumble upon the thing you see in the video above, continuing a grand tradition of Russia-alien friendship.
The problem with this “alien” is that it looks like someone left it in the dryer for way too long. It's microscopic. The craft it supposedly took interstellar cruises in must have been the size of a Radio Flyer wagon. In fact, All News Web seems obsessed with itsy-bitsy alien sightings. Check out this video of a toadstool-sized E.T. toddling along like Alfred Hitchcock in the background, or this floating alien pyramid that any tow-headed troublemaker could shoot down with a BB gun. Nevertheless, the proportion issue hasn't stopped this dead alien video from getting more than 5 million YouTube views. The truth is out there... we're just looking too high.
- Heavenly blue morning glory pollen, as seen through a stereo scanning electron microscope. If you have red/green 3D glasses, put them on now. (Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility)
Carried an umbrella around all day Wednesday like an idiot? Want to know what happened with that 30 percent chance of severe thunderstorms?
Simply put, the system that seemed so threatening ran into some hard-nosed air masses from Pennsylvania and West Virginia that stopped it like a brick wall. ABC7 meteorologist Alex Liggitt has written the postmortem. So instead of a thunderous downpour, the D.C. region lolled in saucy temperatures and a sunny sky that was perfect for cloud gazing – nephelococcygia, if you want the technical term, which you probably don't as even a talking dictionary stumbles over it.
Today will be a rainless transition day before another potentially wet Friday. But while it'll be sunny, the weather “sure as heck” won't be as pampering as yesterday, says senior meteorologist Bob Ryan. A cold front that streaked through overnight will make many folks want to layer up this morning; high temperatures might only hit the lower to mid-60s. “It’s been a yo-yo month,” Ryan says. “The yo-yo is coming back up, or the temperatures are falling, depending how you look at it.”
The recent temperature spikes in D.C. have been sweet for outdoorsy folks, like this kayaker I spotted crossing the Delaware... er, the C&O Canal last week:
But it's also been agony for allergy sufferers. The three pollens of the apocalypse – Quercus, from the deleterious clan of oak; Pinaceae of the air bladder-swinging conifers; the sickly spawn of sweet gums, Liquidambar – have enjoyed free reign to savage our precious mucous membranes.
So severe weather was originally in the forecast today but the threat has really gone down throughout the day. What happened?
Well, there was a strong area of thunderstorms moving to the east this morning around 3 a.m. through the Ohio Valley which completely died when it ran into a very stable air mass in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Here are the storms as they progressed as a very strong line through the Ohio Valley:
Plymouth State University
And here are the storms as they moved east into the morning hours in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia:
OK, I hope the title got your attention. Allow me to take you on a quick journey through the curvy world of probabilities and what they mean in our warming climate. Our recent poll asked what temperature you think of when you hear the word “mild” in the forecast. Here were the results:
Now I’ll rotate that image 90 degrees counterclockwise:
Notice how the highest number of responses falls right in the center? We chose a range of “mild” to be from 50 to 75 degrees, and most of your answers fell right in the middle around 65 degrees. What if we had created more categories and made the temperature ranges only 2 rather than 5 degrees? The result probably would look something like this:
- Washington Nationals pitcher Drew Storen stands in the dugout as storm clouds gather overhead before the Nationals' baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson) (Photo: Associated Press)
The Washington Nationals' game against the Cardinals was postponed last night in St. Louis due to an ungodly mix of gusts, driving rain and hail that left the field swamped in icy marbles. It’s the second weather delay in a week for the Nats, who played a double-header against the Brewers Sunday after heavy rain on Saturday canceled the game.
Two tornadoes were spotted near St. Louis, although they didn’t pass as close as the monstrous thunderstorm that hazed the then-new Busch Stadium in 2006. (Shocking videos of the twisters and the 2006 storm punishing fans follow the jump.) The evening kicked off with a severe thunderstorm warning. Then the icy precipitation moved in around 7:30 p.m. and didn’t stop for almost two hours. Although left without a game to report on, Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore nevertheless owned baseball coverage with hilarious observations about the night's foul weather. Here’s one:
UPDATE, 9:14: Where to start? There was hail. There is still hard rain. There were tornado warning sirens blaring, at which point I took cover in the stairwell behind the press box like the little, little man that I am. There is still no word on the start of the game. The warning track is a moat and it’s still pouring. They seem determined to play, but I think I see animals marching two-by-two in left-center.
Check out Kilgore’s Twitter feed from last night for more entertaining nuggets. My fav: “We are hearing sirens, which means a tornado warning. They told all the reporters to take cover in the stairwell. I love you, Mom.”
Those screaming sirens must’ve sent shivers down the spines of anybody who was in attendance at Busch Stadium on July 20, 2006, when a clump of powerful thunderstorms known as a derecho flew through St. Louis with winds as fast as 90 m.p.h. Fans cowered inside the stadium as the windows of the press box exploded, trees outside toppled and the field tarp ripped. Was there video of this momentous storm? You betcha.
- The temperature forecast says 80-plus Wednesday. (NWS)
Sausages, burgers, asparagus and chicory coffee: Today's weather will be fine for some morning grillin'. By afternoon, cook-out conditions could become miserable as a storm passes through.
After providing a nicely sweated Tuesday, seasoned with aromas of lawn fertilizer and charcoal-lighting fluid, nature will crank up the heat and sizzle the bejeezus out of Wednesday. A stubborn weather front that has turned the sky the color of a sick whale has vamoosed, leaving D.C. with brighter hues in the morning. Winds from the south are pushing in and keeping cool air away. With the region filling with energetic molecules irradiated into a tizzy by the sun, temperatures could climb into the mid-80s.
But a cold front barging in toward the late afternoon or evening will make for an uncomfortable moment. This is one mean front. The storm system it's associated with already postponed an Elton John concert in La Crosse, Wisc., leaving ticket holders longing for a musician in a duck costume who sings about rocket-propelled men. Parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota were prepped for 4 to 9 inches of snow yesterday, and accidents on slushy roads have been reported in Iowa. When it gets to the East Coast, the cold front will clash with the warm atmosphere and spread havoc.
Whether D.C. will see a dash or a bucketful of storminess is the question. As of last night, ABC7's Bob Ryan was predicting a 30 percent chance of severe thunderstorms on Wednesday afternoon. Either way, it's probably best to pack an umbrella and check the forecast around noon.
P.S.: That flooding at Washington Harbour in Georgetown? Might have been a human boo-boo.
- Differences in March 2011 world temperatures, compared to the 1971-2000 average. Some skeptics no doubt believe that whoever made this image should choke on a chicken bone. (NOAA)
Another day, another believer in manmade climate change marked for death. This time the target is John Hirst, head of the Met Office, which is like the British counterpart to NOAA.
Hirst opened up about the threats during a recent talk at the University of Exeter. Oddly enough, he was discussing trying to reach out to a prominent climate skeptic, U.K. celebrity Johnny Ball, who reportedly has received death threats himself from climate-change believers. (Yes, the river of hate flows both ways.)
"I wrote to Johnny and said: 'I get death threats too, it's crazy,” Hirst said. “'Why don't we talk, because if we can take some of this small 'p' politics out of this conversation we might do a service to the world.'"
Hirst didn't mention specific threats, but judging from hate mail sent to climatologists in the past he might've been told to “gargle razor blades,” sink “6 feet under, with the roots” or simply stand inside his house while a yawning earthquake “swallows you into hell.” The skeptical fringe can be quite creative, when motivated.
What put Hirst in the crosshairs? For one thing, the Met Office regularly promotes global warming as a fact when, as the fringe knows, it's actually activist scientists who want to steal our freedoms, or something. The Met also takes the stance that “Climategate” was no a big deal. (It wasn't, as several investigations have found.) Also, Hirst's organization predicted a “barbecue summer” in 2009 when in fact it rained part of the time. And nobody likes rain.
If you're not engaged in the climate debate, it might take a moment to become royally peeved at this. But think about it: What these furious keyboard pounders are doing is no different than second-guessing every move a homicide detective makes, or slapping microscope slides out of the hands of an epidemiologist.
It is comforting to think – in a groovy, Age of Aquarius kind of way – that the ultimate destruction of our universe will be precipitated by an enormous galactic lovefest. This crackerjack computer model, created by astronomer Arman Khalatyan at Germany's Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, shows how the calamitous coupling will likely go down starting now until 10 gigayears (10 billion years) in the future.
Most galaxies are running away from the Milky Way at a tremendous speed due to the initial force of the Big Bang, an effect known as the Hubble expansion. But one spiral-shaped suitor, Andromeda, inches closer day by day. The galaxy has been caught in the snare of our gravitational field and, as the two celestial bodies sidle up to each other at 310,000 m.p.h., a collision is expected to occur in about 2.3 billion years. (Using binoculars in a dark location, you can see a similar ongoing encounter between the gorgeous Whirlpool Galaxy and homely dwarf galaxy NGC 5195.)
The first encounter will probably just be an awkward peck on the cheek as Andromeda touches the Milky Way and races away to grab another drink.
- Crews work along the flooded Georgetown waterfront on Monday. Buildings were evacuated because of flooding from the Potomac River. (Carolyn Kaster) (Photo: Associated Press)
Yesterday the muddy Potomac was so chock-full of logs that one could imagine a Frogger hopping its way across on the floating debris. Behind yellow caution tape at Georgetown's Washington Harbour, work crews used thick hoses to pump standing water out of the flooded development.
Later this morning, the Potomac may rise again, possibly flooding homes and businesses across the D.C.-area. Tuesday’s high tides are expected to occur between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Check out ABC7’s morning report on the status of the flooding along the Georgetown Waterfront:
High tide pushed the river levels up to about 10 feet last night, the expected crest of the recent storm's flood waters in Georgetown and Alexandria. Nevertheless, a coastal flood warning stands until noon today, with river water creeping on Independence Avenue at 17th Street beside the Tidal Basin and on George Washington Parkway north of Reagan National. We all like to mock those touristy D.C. Ducks vehicles – but as amphibious vehicles rule the lowlands Tuesday, who's laughing now?
This moisture-dripping spring weather will continue feeding hungry Mid-Atlantic tributaries this week. A wave in the atmosphere will give areas mainly north and west of D.C. a chance for showers and thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon, although it should still be relatively balmy. Then a low-pressure system squatting over the Midwest starts to move into lower Canada, leaving the chance for rain showers at night near the Mason-Dixon Line.
The border-hopping storm will throw a cold front D.C.'s way Wednesday with a wind-ruffled hump of lighter warm air in front of it. Temperatures Wednesday could top 80 degrees across the region. The hot air will sow instability throughout the atmosphere and create another chance for thunderstorms on Wednesday afternoon. The probabilities that they'll be severe with lawn furniture-hurling gusts were diminishing on Monday night – but give your eyeballs frequent exposure to ABC7's forecasts for the latest weather intel.
Tides and flooding: These are things that people can predict with relative ease. So why didn't the flood walls at Georgetown's Washington Harbour prevent the watery wonderland that you see in these photos?
"That's the million-dollar question right now," says Bill Starrels, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for Georgetown. "I was down at the harbor last night after the Nats game, and I did not see the flood walls up. The water last night around 8:30 was high enough that you couldn't see boardwalk. It was completely underwater."
Starrels says he heard from one of his sources that "they were having trouble with the flood walls this morning." Georgetown University's Hoya speculates that a "levee" broke, letting in the dirty brown water. (Here's DCist's photo gallery of the District's tony new swimming hole.) I have a call out to MRP Realty, the company responsible for the harbor's operations, and will update when they provide an answer.
A coastal flood warning stands until midnight tonight, with the next high tide on the Potomac occurring at 9:13 p.m at Washington Channel and 9:31 p.m. in Alexandria. The rains of the next couple days could exacerbate the problem. While we wait for the distended rivers to recede, dig these Potomac flood facts from ABC7's number-cruncher cyborg, Bob Ryan:
• The Potomac is flowing now at 1.3 million gallons per second
• The average flow over Niagara Falls is 750,000 gallons per second. The Potomac is currently almost twice that amount at Great Falls
• Today's 24-hour water flow in the Potomac would be enough for about 20 gallons of water for every man, woman and child on earth
• As high as the Potomac's afternoon peak is today, it's still about 8 feet below the historic 1996 crest
With more than 200 tornadoes and at least 45 fatalities in the South since Wednesday, you can bet there'd be horrific footage of storm damage and whatnot posted all over the place. The video above is a little different. It shows a man talking to a loved one on the phone while he rides out a tornado Saturday in Wilson, N.C.
That is one ice-cold response – perhaps he's been in combat? Or perhaps he didn't fathom how quickly the situation could turn against him. The conversation devolves from "I mean it's picking up leaves, I see stuff in it but it's just twisting" to "I love you," which certainly sound like last words to me. On a tangent, I really want to know what that Post-it note that blew against his window toward the end says.
According to the Wilson Times, this particular twister was one of an unknown number that destroyed 25 houses around the city:
Twisted metal stood in piles where buildings once stood, gaping holes in brick walls were opened up exposing wires, pipes and the interior of businesses. A tractor-trailer laid on its side in the parking lot of Walgreens. Passenger cars were tossed and piled up like toy Matchbox cars. Power lines littered the ground. Power poles were snapped at their bases.
The storm proved the deadliest in two decades in North Carolina, where at least 23 deaths have been reported. Today in Raleigh, where a major wedge-shaped twister touched down Saturday and crushed brick buildings, many government offices and schools are closed. Here's a time lapse video of that tornado coming into downtown:
The National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., did a storm survey in Frederick County, Md., around New Market and just north of Mount Airy and found damage consistent with EF-0 and EF-1-strength tornado winds. These storms were part of a line of thunderstorms that stretched originally from Hagerstown southward through Front Royal. This was actually the second line of thunderstorms to come through the region Saturday afternoon and evening.
The line of thunderstorms progressed to the east where some bowing out of the line was first noted around Leesburg, Va. There was also a bit of a line-echo wave pattern (third picture down) noted in the line after this happened. When that occurred, a Tornado Warning was placed over parts of Loudoun, Frederick and Montgomery counties. No tornado was reported with that part of the line, though wind gusts over 50 m.p.h. were common through Leesburg on our WeatherBug Network.
As the line continued to move east. Two more line-echo wave patterns were noted along the line. One just around New Market, Md., and one farther to the north in northern Frederick and Carroll counties. An additional warning was placed over the storm near New Market, and that is when a tornado did EF-1 damage with winds estimated at 90 to 100 m.p.h. This same tornado did EF-0 damage with maximum winds of 70 to 80 m.p.h. 3 miles SE of Unionville near Glissans Mill Road and Woodville Road. This tornado continued to move northeast until it finally ended in Carroll County by Westminster.
Official storm surveys will probably be issued today on the NWS Baltimore/Washington homepage. More severe weather, though not nearly as powerful, is expected Wednesday. We will keep you on top of the situation.
- This is the last thing you see before you die. (Photo: Associated Press)
These dangerous weather events cause an average of 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries in the U.S. each year.
What are tornadoes?
Correct! On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued this dire weather alert for D.C.
What is a tornado warning?
Yes. During a tornado warning, this authority is the best source for potentially lifesaving information.
Who is Alex Trebek?
That is incorrect. However, judging from the feedback we received whenever our ABC7 meteorologists cut into Jeopardy! on Saturday evening, many of you would disagree. Strenuously.
“I'm trying to watch Jeopardy and your blasted weatherman is blathering on and on about the storm,” said B.G. “Mostly what he's doing is playing with the graphics on the computer. This is ridiculous – you have a whole channel devoted to weather, so why ruin the show for thousands of devoted viewers so your weather guy and the computer graphics department can have a Saturday night ego trip?”
But there was much more.
The weather conditions on April 28, 2002 were similar to the setup this past Saturday. A vigorous cold front with strong upper-level winds was moving east of the Ohio Valley, heading toward the Appalachian Ridge. Supercell thunderstorms, or severe thunderstorms with strong rotation, quickly bolted toward the Blue Ridge in Virginia before dissipating over the mountains. One particular severe thunderstorm with strong rotation maintained its intensity from the West Virginia Panhandle into northern Virginia.
Feeding off plenty of warm, humid air across southern Maryland, the storm produced a tornado that first touched down 12 miles west of La Plata, Md., in Marbury just prior to 7 p.m. A second weaker tornado formed just south of the first tornado with both twisters crossing the heart of La Plata between 7:02 and 7:07 p.m.
NASA satellite image showing the path of the La Plata tornado
When it was all done, 638 homes and 143 businesses were damaged with more than $100 million in damages. The worst damage was rated F5 with winds between 261 and 318 m.p.h. The National Weather Service's final assessment indicated the tornado ranked as an F4.
Destruction produced from the F4 tornado that roared through La Plata, Md. Photo courtesy of Barbara Watson, NOAA/NWS
This was a rare tornado for Maryland. The state has only experienced 4 of these strong tornadoes since weather records started. However, La Plata had been hit in the past by a destructive tornado; one ripped through in November 1926.
This is just a cruel reminder to be on guard for quickly changing weather conditions this time of the year and have a contingency plan when severe weather threatens your area.
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