From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for January 2012

New NASA Named Spaceships & You May Be Surprised Who Got To Name Them

January 18, 2012 - 08:20 PM

Have you ever wanted to name a NASA spaceship?  Well, middle school students at Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana can knock that off their bucket-list.  Here's a snapshot of the smiling bunch.

Students from across the nation submitted possible names for twin NASA spaceships, formerly named GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B.  Over 900 classrooms and 11,000 students from 45 states participated in the name search!  So what are the new names?  "Ebb and Flow" are the winners! 

Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington says,  "These spacecraft represent not only great science, but great inspiration for our future.  As they study our lunar neighbor, Ebb and Flow will undergo nearly the same motion as the tides we feel here on Earth.”

GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory.  So what does GRAIL do?  Well, it's NASA's first planetary mission focused on education and public outreach.  The hope is to get the public more involved through the "MoonKam".  This feature will allow students to capture pictures of the moon's surface. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Ultimately, scientists are hoping this will engage the public, as well as help give better understanding to how our solar system formed. 

Congratulations, Emily Dickinson students! 

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Tremendous snow totals and high winds plaster the Pacific NW

January 18, 2012 - 03:38 PM
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Check out some of the latest snowfall totals and wind gust reports in the Pacific Northwest. Over a foot of snow has fallen in some areas and over 100 m.p.h. winds have been recorded along the Oregon coastline! Some awesome pictures are beginning to stream in from the area as well. Here is a 360 degree picture from the streets of Seattle sent in from Twitter user @KyleHD. Of course there is a Starbucks on the corner! How about some crazy facebook pictures sent in to KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Does that remind you of anything? (Yes, that was my car the morning after one of the February storms in 2010) Below is an awesome time lapse from Anacortes, WA of the clouds streaming into the mountains. If you don't know where that is, see here. The lapse is from one of our WeatherBug cameras.

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Alex's afternoon analysis on the cold and Thursday's snow chances

January 18, 2012 - 03:01 PM

As of 2pm at Reagan National Airport, the temperature was 42 degrees with a wind gust of 26 m.p.h. If my wind chill chart is correct, that would put the wind chill near 30 degrees. Now in comparison to yesterday in which the region neared the 60 degree mark I'd have to say that's terrible. Who's with me?? The cold front pushed through last night around midnight as I could hear the winds buffetting the windows of my townhouse. Numerous wind gust reports of 45 m.p.h. or more were noted on our WeatherBug network and other local weather stations. Winds will diminish through the remainder of the day, but that will do nothing more than help the temperatures plunge into the 20s tonight. Here's more on today's weather in my latest analysis.

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Does Frigid Air + an Active Weather Pattern = D.C. Snow? (VIDEO)

January 17, 2012 - 07:25 PM

Washington D.C.'s forecast is calling for some sort of precipitation on Saturday, but will it be rain, snow, rain and snow, or even something else?

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Crazy weather across the United States

January 17, 2012 - 04:27 PM

This seems to be one of the most active weather weeks in the United States so far this winter. Here in the D.C. area it has been a little dull, but the temperature swings have been making up for it. Just think, highs were in the 30s this weekend, near 60 degrees Tuesday and back into the 30s Wednesday. It's the rest of the country that has been receiving the brunt of it. Let me take you through a small list of what you're missing out on while you dwell in the Nation's Capital.

Heavy Snow: The Pacific Northwest has been getting pummeled and will continue to be over the next couple of days. Let's take Seattle for instance.. There they average 11.4" of snowfall per year. The forecast shows the potential to get up to a foot or more through tomorrow night as another strong winter storm enters the region.

Extreme Cold: Did you know most of North Dakota and parts of northern Minnesota are under an Extreme Cold Watch? That can be placed in effect when temperatures or wind chills of 30 below will be possible. This may be upgraded to a warning tonight or tomorrow. Here's the Grand Forks, ND forecast from the National Weather Service for the next couple of days...


Forecast for Grand Forks, ND from the NWS

 Did I mention Fairbanks, AK was in the -40s for the past 4 days??? Don't worry, it should hit 15 below by Friday...big warm up!

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Alex's afternoon analysis on the front and coming changes (Video)

January 17, 2012 - 02:20 PM

The D.C. area is running about 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it was at this time yesterday. This is in association with a cold front that lies over the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys that is approaching our area from the west. It's a strong front and very high winds are helping push in the milder air ahead of it. Just a few thousand feet off the ground winds are screaming out of the southwest around 50 to 65 m.p.h. The strength of the front has been aiding to some severe weather across the country with numerous wind reports and even a report of a tornado today. Here's my video analysis for the day showing the front, some interesting temperature maps and the all important 7-day forecast.

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My Day Under an Umbrella with Muhammad Ali (VIDEO)

January 17, 2012 - 01:37 PM


Today ‘The Greatest” is 70. Happy birthday Muhammad Ali. Today’s rain showers and seeing some umbrellas brings to mind my meeting Muhammad close to 50 years ago. I was a struggling, yes confused, young college student returning to college from home on a train. I think it was in the fall and it was a chilly damp day. I left the train station to get a cab to take me to college. I was walking toward a cab when the door opened and out popped this young very stylish African American young man, about my age, with a cane. He walked confidently from the cab with his cane, tapped the cane three times in front of me and Shazam, the cane became an umbrella. I’m sure I had a complexly dumbfounded look on my face ( don’t tell me how often I have that look today) because the young guy about my age held up the umbrella over the two of us and says, “How about that . . .what do you think of that” and off he confidently strides into the train station.

I get into the cab, obviously still bewildered, and the cab driver says. “Do you know who that was? That’s Cassius Clay”
This was shortly before Cassius became Ali. But even then without any entourage and practicing his trick for me he sure knew where he was going as he strode off into the station about 50 years ago. There I was a future meteorologist standing if ever so briefly with a man who would become “The Greatest”. He sure knew where he was going even 50 years ago. Happy birthday Muhammad Ali. I wonder where that magic umbrella is. I could use it every once in a while.



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Rain and snow chances highlight D.C.'s weather this week (VIDEO)

January 16, 2012 - 02:40 PM

After a very chilly weekend which was the coldest 3-day stretch so far this winter, what will the work week bring? Many of you will be returning to wet weather tomorrow morning which I'm sure will start you off to a good mood! Up to an inch of rain may be possible, though I think rain totals will generally be around a half of an inch or less. Here is a video highlighting today and the next few days in and around D.C.

Monday weather update 1/16/12 from Alex Liggitt on Vimeo.

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You think you know snow? Watch this and think again (Video)

January 16, 2012 - 10:18 AM

Here we are in D.C. with the 3rd lowest amount of snow for a winter since 1888 (0.6 inches) and I've heard plenty of rumblings about people missing the white stuff. Well let's take a look at the absolute opposite spectrum in Alaska, as parts of the state have been dumped on this winter. There have been all kinds of reports out of Cordova, AK, with up to 18 feet being reported in parts of the town. The video below is from Valdez, AK, which is not far from Cordova just north of the Prince William Sound. I watched in amazement as I've never seen anything like in my life, not even in pictures!

Extreme snow in Valdez, Alaska from anchoragedailynews on Vimeo.

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Rain, Rain, And More Rain -- Gone Today, But How Much It Left Behind

January 12, 2012 - 11:00 AM

What a gray and gloomy day it was yesterday!  Rainfall at National totaled  0.51", so no daily record for us.  We missed that by about 1.21" (record was 1.72" set back in 1922).  It certainly was a soaker, though, with rain falling much of the day.

Here's a snapshot of the radar late last night.  The radar was pretty colorful all day, but some of the heaviest bands moved through towards the end.



The storm system responsible for our wet Wednesday was the same system that brought a lot of rain to parts of the Southeast.  In fact, Houston, Texas recieved 4.06" of rain on Tuesday!  Talk about a wet day in Texas!  That was a new daily rainfall record for them.  Houston shattered the previous daily record of 2.54" of rain set back in 1955. 

With rain on the brain, I figured I'd take a closer look at rain around the world.  Looking to find a spot with a whole lot of wet weather?  Well, head  to Cherrapunji, India.  Their average rainfall is 498 inches.  To put that into perspective, that's about 458 inches more than we, in Washington, get a year (we get roughly 39.74 inches average annually).  If you want to talk records in Washington, D.C., in 1889 we actually had 61.33".  That's a good bit of rain for the D.C. area, but no where near the totals in India.

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Snow chances in D.C., MD and VA over the next few days

January 11, 2012 - 04:44 PM

It's been a nasty day in the D.C. area with periods of rain and chilly temperatures but it's the forecast ahead that's very unique with big temperatures swings and the chance for some more flakes adding up to the second or possibly even third time this week!

First things first, check out the size of this system that's bringing all of this rain. Check out the video of it as well, really neat. Ok weather nerds out there, this could be a little on the lengthy side, so hold on to your hats.

850mb Temps for this morning

I wanted to show you a couple maps we typically look at to show why this is an interesting set up. There are numerous factors at play right now including 2 surface lows, a strong upper-level low, and another following trough that will eventually give the D.C. area the chance for some white stuff. Above is the 850mb Temperature map for this morning. The colors denote the temperatures, which you can see are relatively mild on the east coast and much colder through the Northern Plains. The light blue area over Mississippi is where the upper-level low was located.

500mb Vorticity Plot from this morning

Now take a look at the 500mb vorticity plot from the same time period. This shows areas of strong vertical motion in the atmosphere and generally denotes where areas of unsettled weather will be given the right conditions. As expected, this corresponds nicely with the colors from the 850mb temperature map, with strong rising motion over the upper-level low around Mississippi as well as where the trough is diving into the Northern Plains.

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How Does The Weather Make You Feel?

January 11, 2012 - 05:00 AM

If you’re anything like me, you can tell when the weather is changing. I may know a little bit more about the forecast, and what is headed our way, based on my profession, but guess what?  It's also about how I feel.  More specifically, how does my head feel?

There are numerous studies and articles posted on the weather and the relation to living things. Biometeorology studies this particular relationship. Farmers have an understanding of how the weather will affect crop cycles and growth, fishermen realize weather patterns can affect their catch, and doctors are coming to learn how weather affects their patients.

There are some doctors argue headaches are not caused or influenced by weather pattern changes. But many doctors, and certainly many patients, say and feel that changes in pressure, temperature, and humidity cause, or contribute to headaches.

Among all the studies published, there’s conflicting evidence on the medical correlation, so no single explanation has been universally accepted.

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Blue crab population in the Bay continues to show positive signs

January 11, 2012 - 04:00 AM

In a new report from NOAA, the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population appears to be doing well. Numbers are down from a year ago but were well above the 20-year average. As weather plays a significant roll in the health of the Bay as we found out in our weather package last year, I found this more than appropriate to post on our weather page. Nearly all of the following was taken from this report.

The population of crabs dropped from an estimated 345 million crabs in 2010 to 207 million in 2011. Much of the loss in 2011 was due to the extremely cold water temperatures in the winter months. As the winter started off so cold with temperatures around 5 degrees below normal for the month of December 2010 and a degree below normal for January 2011, it didn't give crabs the opportunity to burrow into the mud for protection.

The actual harvest numbers aren't available yet, though in 2010, 91.6 million pounds of crab were harvested which is the largest since 1994 and 22 percent higher than the long term average. While this is good, conservation continues to be talked about as female numbers need to improve to near 215 million and males should increase to 200 million.

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Remembering the Blizzard of ‘96

January 8, 2012 - 08:01 AM

The high temperature at Reagan National skyrocketed to a steamy early January reading of 68 degrees on Saturday, January 7th, but didn’t quite make it to the record of 76 degrees set back in 1907. While we were basking in the sun yesterday, it’s hard to imagine we were at the brink of a crippling snow just 16 years ago on this date!


Known as the “Blizzard of ‘96” or the “Great Furlough Storm” that began on Sunday, January 7, 1996 and ended on January 13, 1996, the Washington area was buried under 17 to 21 inches of snow. The hardest hit areas were adjacent to the Blue Ridge where Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland and Loudoun County, Va., got crushed with 30 to 36 inches! Specifically, Reagan National had the most snow ever for January 7th, registering 13.0 inches for the day. Baltimore recorded over 22 inches and Ocean City even got 10 inches! Outside of the Washington-Baltimore Region, Frostburg and Grantsville, Md., got 33 inches with up to 48 inches near Snowshoe, W.Va.


As if that storm wasn’t enough, following the major Nor’easter, a low pressure swinging south from Alberta, Canada (known as an Alberta Clipper) blasted through Tuesday, January 9th dumping an additional 3 to 5 inches from Washington to Baltimore. The winter storm weary District got pummeled yet again on Friday, January 12th with another 4 to 6 inches of snow while heavier amounts of a foot fell in Frederick County, Md. When you tally up the storm damage from that week in 1996, 2 to 3 feet of fresh powder had fallen!


It was also known as the “Great Furlough Storm” because many federal employees were on furlough with government offices shut down for almost a month. Employees were slated to return on Monday, January 8th, but because of the storm, the Federal Government remained shut down. Not only for Monday, but for four days that week the government was shut down and just a week following winter break, schools got yet another nice vacation thanks to Mother Nature.

All in all during the 1995-1996 winter season, Reagan National accumulated 46.0 inches of snow; 31 inches above average and the second snowiest winter behind the 2009-2010 winter when 56.1 inches fell!


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U.S. Record Warmth In 2011 For Select Cities

January 7, 2012 - 12:54 PM

So is anyone else as confused as I am about which season it really is? Earlier this week, we were bundled up from head to toe braving the unseasonably cold temperatures and brutal wind. Just days later, I’m driving to work with the sunroof open enjoying 60 degree temperatures. It definitely makes for a wardrobe challenge, I’ll tell you that.

Even though the DC area experienced a brief cold snap earlier this week, overall, the weather pattern has brought us relatively warm conditions this winter. Just yesterday, numerous records were tied or broken, over the Plains.

Not only has it been an unseasonably warm start to 2012 for many locations, 2011 seems to have been a record breaking warm year for some. The NCDC (National Climactic Data Center) released a preliminary report yesterday displaying “Selected Yearly Records for 2011”. This map shows areas that experienced record warm, dry, and wet conditions. 


Chocolate strawberries
This is the caption for the photo (Photo: Andrew Adams)

Focusing on the warmth, the red dots indicate cities that broke annual temperature records in 2011. (Keep in mind this is only preliminary data, so these locations and records could be adjusted and new records may be added to the list when the official annual climate report is issued about two weeks from now.)

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Weather blogger Metcalfe advects from the region

January 6, 2012 - 04:50 PM

A year and some change ago I took this job to work with the one and only Bob Ryan on an ambitious digital project to cover everything about D.C. weather. Today, reflecting on screeds about weird holes in clouds, the weather on Judgment Day, poor birds crashing into windows, an insidious sea goo known as "rock vomit," a fool's journey into driving thundersnow and Scotland's delightful Hurricane Bawbag, it looks like this project got a little out of hand.

But it was definitely fun. And so I'll miss writing for this site after today, when I leave for another web-based endeavor across the river in D.C. Many thanks to you all for reading and commenting (except you, "Anonomous," to whom I say, No, your gay). The stellar WJLA weather team will be updating here with the latest on looming storms and smothering snows, so keep the bookmark intact if you like knowing when to pack an umbrella in D.C.

Until next time, stay warm and dry.


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Great sunsets and sunrises around the D.C. area (Video, Photos)

January 6, 2012 - 11:28 AM
Credit: Lauren Bevington, Tysons Corner, VA

The video below was taken last night after our 6pm show of the sunset which was one of the best I have seen in a long time. I love our WeatherBug cameras for that reason! Note how the colors seem to dim before getting really bright right after the sun sets. One of the best explanations for this can be found here from Stephen Corfidi who works at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK.

The best viewing is usually when the clouds in the sky are around the 500mb level (18,000 feet) or higher. This was the case this morning as we could not only look at the clouds and tell they were altostratus, altocumulus and even some cirrocumulus, but we could also check one of the atmospheric soundings from across the region to tell what level the cloud decks were at.

Sunrise in Arlington, VA

For future beautiful sunrise and sunsets, there are a few places you need to check before heading out. First things first, know when the sunrise and sunset times are for your area (Just hit compute table). The Naval Observatory is perfect for that information. Second, check out your surroundings. If you see some high level clouds (not puffy cumulus) you know you may have a good sunset on the way. Third, be sure to check out other tips from seasoned photographers. There are many websites that go over this. For instance..don't forget to look behind you as it can be just as pretty!

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Reverse ice fishing in Finland: Crazy underwater stunts (VIDEO)

January 6, 2012 - 05:00 AM

You'd think the people of Scandinavia would be fed up by now of all the ice and cold, but nope, they keep finding new ways to have fun with it.

The latest: Taking ice fishing to a new level by actually going under the ice and reeling in fish from the airy surface. Below, see three diving buddies, Eelis Rankka, Tommi Salminen and Jukka Pelttari, enacting a weird show of "farming" air bubbles in a wheelbarrow and riding a sled upside down under the thick ice cap on Finland's Lake Saarijärvi. Filmed by Juuso Mettälä, it is surreal cinema at its best.

How do they concoct this hallucination? To believe Discovery News,

SCUBA diving under icy lakes is a popular sport in Finland and the video is featured prominently on the Dive Club of the Oulu Aquarians Association. Normally, dry suit divers are taught to wear ankle weights to keep the air from getting caught in their boots and causing a diver to turn head-over-heels, but these divers have mastered the technique as an art form.

Also, they were born with no genitalia, a prerequisite for surviving the plunge into the frigorific sub-ice world. Enjoy!

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Record high temperatures hit the Northern Plains

January 5, 2012 - 02:34 PM

Update 6:45am: Adam Caskey here on Friday morning. I found this from the NWS & Minnesota Climate Group: "There has never been a 60 degree temperature recorded during the first week of January in Minnesota's modern climate record." Until yesterday, that is, as southwestern Minnesota reached the lower 60s.  Aberdeen, South Dakota reached an all time record high January temperature of 63 degrees yesterday, and that shattered their previous daily record high by 17 degrees.

As soon as I got this whole post together, I realized I flubbed a few facts on the video I posted above. So here are my corrections, already in the first line of my blog!

ABERDEEN...........           60                               46                               1935            116
KENNEBEC...........           66                               56                               1935            106
MOBRIDGE...........           63                               49                               1939             85
PIERRE.............                65                               54                               1983            120
SISSETON...........             59                               47                               1984             80
TIMBER LAKE......           64                               50                                1983             98
WATERTOWN.......          58                               43                               1958            114

Thanks to the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, SD for this information above as it was on their forecast discussion this morning.

My blunder in the video was that I said that Pierre, SD and a few other cities were breaking very old records. Well that was half true, as a few of those records date back 75 years. I told you the record was 120 years as I was reading the period of record (the last column on the right). Apparently I need to lay off the caffeine.

What about all-time highs for the month of January? (Thanks to the NWS office in Bismark, ND for this information)

BISMARCK....        63 ON JANUARY 08 2002.
DICKINSON...       63 ON JANUARY 23 1981.
JAMESTOWN...     56 ON JANUARY 19 1908.
MINOT.......         59 ON JANUARY 28 1906.  (60 so far)
WILLISTON...        55 ON JANUARY 23 1944.

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Just how cold was it this morning? Face the cold hard facts.

January 4, 2012 - 02:41 PM

I took the picture above while on an 8 mile run through D.C. Yes, my girlfriend thinks I'm nuts, my friends think I'm nuts, and my coworkers definitely think I'm nuts. I mean, yes, it was only 17 degrees outside when I started (which happens to be one of the coldest days in a year) but how cold is that compared to normal though? Let's take a look.

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