From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for October 2012

University of Maryland Opens NOAA Weather & Climate Building

October 16, 2012 - 05:00 AM

It was an exciting day in Maryland yesterday, Monday, October 15th.  The University of Maryland in College Park opened the NOAA Weather and Climate Prediction Center. 

The new building is 268,000 square feet and houses more than 800 employees of NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.  This state of the art building is energy-efficient, has a green roof, and rain water bio-retention areas.  The building was constructed with recycled materials, local content, and highly efficient glass.  The buildling is also certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System


NOAA scientists will provide the nation with many important services, such as predicting hurricane seasons, analyzing ocean currents (El Nino & La Nina), predicting large scale rain and snow storms, and much more. 

NOAA hopes the expanding center will lead to more scientific collaboration between researchers, forecasters, the University of Maryland faculty and students, and scientists across the nation. 


The goal of NOAA is to provide timely, accurate, weather forecast and guidence to the public in hopes of creating a Weather Ready Nation.  It is an incredible building, close to home, where scientists will continue to forecast and research, so the public will have the most accurate information to help make the best weather decisions. 

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Dark Clouds Rolling Through D.C.

October 15, 2012 - 06:06 PM

Great looking skies this evening over D.C.  Our Weatherbug rooftop camera captured this amazing timelapse that shows the darkening skies and rolling clouds.  As meteorologist Doug Hill said, "the clouds were a lot of bark with little bite".  A few showers and thunderstorms accompanied the front (hardly any rain in D.C.), but mainly just a wind shift and temperature drop.  Enjoy!

Also, check out this great shot taken from meteorologist Steve Rudin of this roll cloud in Old Town Alexandria.
Courtesy Steve Rudin

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Frosty Weather: Freezing and Frosty Night

October 12, 2012 - 04:19 PM

The coldest air of the season is sweeping in on gusty winds.  Later tonight with very dry air over us if the winds diminish, or the air becomes calm, some areas around DC may have some frost on the ground early Saturday morning.  The winds are the big if.  Here is the area under a frost advisory and a freeze warning. 


Frost is more likely for you folks in any low, protected spots and where there is any moisture in the ground.  Right in town DC the urban heat island should keep all neighborhoods frost free.  The high areas well to the west of DC will stay breezy but probably in some areas see the morning lows around the freezing mark. 

Some of the highest, coldest spots (you know where you are) may see morning lows in the high 20s, with a bit of a wind chill.  Here is our hyperlocal Futurecast for tomorrow morning, probably the temperatures a bit on the high side.


 Last year the first freeze in DC didn't come until December 10.  Here's a nice overview and history of the first freeze dates around the area.  One of the latest high resolution simulations shows this as morning lows in our area. 


 25° in the high spots of Frederick County Maryland  BURR!!!

Not everyone will see frost or a freeze even. If you are worried, do bring in those sensitive plants and green tomato pasta sauce tastes great too.


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Brilliant Fall Foliage in D.C.

October 12, 2012 - 05:00 AM

After a record breaking warm summer across the U.S., we're finally settling into a comfortable, autumn weather pattern.  There are still plenty of temperature fluctuations, which are common this time of year, but no more wicked heat spells that we endured over the summer. 

Not only was it a hot summer, but a dry one, too.  Much of the center of the country remains in a moderate to extreme drought.  If there's one good spin on this, it is that the hot and dry summer may help aid in some spectacular fall foliage across the country.

US Drought Monitor

The reason leaves change color, in the first place, is because of the colder days and approaching winter.  As daylight gets shorter and temperatures start to drop, the leaves recoup nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous.  It's the chlorophyll in the leaves that give them their green color through the growing season.  Chlorophyll is an essential compound for photosynthesis, which is a process that converts sunlight to carbohydrates.  

Leaves are also made up of carotenoids.  Carotenoids produce yellow, brown, and orange colors.  They are always present in the leaves, but you only start to see them when the chlorophyll process stops.   The chlorophyll process stops when temperatures start to drop, which is when the carotenoid colors are revealed.   

Fall Leaves











Wondering where the red and purple hues come from?  These colors are the anthocyanins, which are a bit less understood by tree scientists.  Some scientists are suggesting, though, that because of the moderate drought there are increased concentrations of these anthocyanins in the leaves, which will lead to some very vibrant hues of reds and purples in the leaves this autumn. 

Once the leaves peak, they usually stay on the trees for about five to seven days.  Now if there's a really strong storm with very gusty winds, that could blow them off early.  Also, remember last October?  The Halloween snow?  That can put a quick end to peak foliage times. 

October 2011 Snow

I just downloaded a new app to help monitor the changing colors!  It's called Leaf Peepr and is a free app that lets you upload pictures of the foliage where you are and where foliage is at its peak.  Pretty neat!


Leaf Peepr

Enjoy all the season has to offer.  Get outdoors, take your camera, and capture nature's beauty!  Here's what it's like in the D.C. area, as of October 11, 2012

Fall Foliage In D.C. Area


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Space Station: Perfect Viewing and Super Bright This evening

October 11, 2012 - 04:05 PM

Perfect viewing weather and sky tonight to see the International Space Station pass almost directly over DC.  Here is the diagram from Heavens Above. 


Last evening some clouds but this evening perfect.  Look toward the south at 7:35 PM and you will see that bright oject get brighter and brighter as it rises high in the sky.  At 7:38 it will be about 3 times brighter than the planet Jupiter and almost straight up in the sky traveling at about 18,000 miles an hour.  Two minutes later it moves into the earth's shadow in the northeast sky.   Here is an animation of what I hope you see.  Perfect event to watch after the Nats game and before the debate.  Enjoy with the entire family


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2012 Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. 3-Day walk weather forecast

October 11, 2012 - 09:42 AM

Friday: This may be the worst weather day of the event, which is always a good thing that you'll get it out of the way first. Even though it may not be ideal, it won't be bad either, with temperatures in the 40s for the start and moving through the low to mid 60s by the afternoon. The reason this will be the worst day will be because of the winds, which will be gusty behind a cold front that passes through in the morning. Winds will be out of the northwest around 10 to 20 mph, so be prepared to be walking into a stiff breeze at times.

What to Wear: I would dress in layers as you'll need it in the morning then will need to shed it in the afternoon. A long sleeve shirt and tights should be good with a t-shirt for the afternoon. With the wind, it will also feel colder than it really is so be sure to take that into account. A couple things you may want to wear are a hat, sunglasses, and even suntan lotion as you'll be outside for a while. Also, as I'm a huge runner, you may want to wear some body glide as you don't want to chafe on your first day out! 

Saturday: The start of the weekend will be the coldest part of the walk, with lows around 40 degrees. The remainder of the day looks great with high temperatures in the lower 60s under mostly sunny skies. Winds are also expected to be light.

What to Wear: Be sure to dress in layers again as this will be another chilly day to start but you could easily get away with a t-shirt by the afternoon hours. Don't forget your hat and sunglasses with full sunshine as well as some suntan lotion.

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Warm September in D.C. and across the U.S.

October 11, 2012 - 05:00 AM

The numbers for September have been crunched and sure enough it has been a warm one in the District and for the lower 48 as well. That coupled with dry weather has caused the drought to expand.

♦ The average temperature in September at Reagan National Airport was 72.2 degrees, which was 1.2 degrees above average. Interestingly enough, temperatures have been above average each consecutive month since November 2011!

♦ Rainfall was slightly above average with a total of 4.29 inches. Still, rainfall is well shy of average with a precipitation deficit of about 7.50 inches since the start of the year.

How does this compare to the rest of the lower 48 for September? Well, the hot weather was focused in the West in September.

♦ NOAA reports California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming each had temperatures in the top ten warmest for any September since weather records began.

♦ The Ohio Valley was the exception to the rule. Temperatures were cooler than average and precipitation above average. As a matter of fact, Ohio and Kentucky had their top ten wettest September.


♦ Nationally, temperatures averaged 67.0 degrees, which is 1.4 degrees above the 20th century average, according to NOAA. This ties September 1980 as the 23rd warmest September on record. Just like D.C. has seen 11 months of above-average temperatures; the U.S. had 16 consecutive months of above average temperatures.

♦ The drought area expanded a bit from August; now 64.6% of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, slightly larger than the extent of drought at the end of August.

♦ Wildfire activity was well-above average in the Northwest, specifically Montana, Oregon and Washington. Nearly 1.1-million acres burned in September, making that a record for the month.


Year-to-Date in the U.S.:

♦ The first nine months of the year were the warmest on record for the contiguous U.S., with a national temperature that was 3.8 degrees above the average.

♦ The first nine months of 2012 have been the 11th driest such period on record for the contiguous U.S. with a precipitation total 1.98 inches below the average of 22.67 inches.

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Space Station Visible: Great views next two evenings

October 10, 2012 - 04:03 PM

This is a wonderful time of the year to see the International Space Station (ISS) in the evening skies in our region. The sun sets around 6:30 in the evening. As the skies darken, the International Space Station ( if its orbit is near us) will still be illuminated by the sun and appear as a very bright object moving rapidly across the dark starry sky. 

This evening the ISS, which is about 250 miles above us, will rise in the southwest at 8:23 p.m.  It rises to 55° high in the sky at 8:27 p.m. but then blinks "off" as it enters the Earth's shadow.  



 Courtesy Heavens Above 


Thursday evening will provide even better views.  The space station rises at 7:35 p.m.; it's solar panels covering an area greater than a football field will be very bright, reflecting the light of the sun. At 7:38 p.m., the station with its crew of six will be almost overhead and will easily be the brightest object in the sky - even while traveling at about 18,000 miles per hour.  


Courtesy Heavens Above 


Give the crew a wave before it enters the earth's shadow at 7:40 p.m.  Have fun and enjoy! Be sure to take you parents out to watch.




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Winter Storms: Weather Brains-The Naming Discussion

October 9, 2012 - 04:03 PM

Last evening, I was happy to be part of a unique on-line discussion about the decision of The Weather Channel to begin naming winter storms this winter. The program is "Weather Brains" hosted by my colleague James Spann  ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, AL  The topic was the recent decision by The Weather Channel to begin naming winter storms.  We were joined by long-time friend Bryan Norcross, now a hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel, but also a leader with TWC winter storm naming decison.  Bryan is known for his incredible broadcast work during hurricane Andrew,as shown here:


Bryan was the first to really communicate the uncertainty of forecasting storm tracks.  The decision by TWC has been controversial, as myself and many other have blogged about, but Bryan gave some great arguments for why naming winter storms may help get better public response.  Here is the complete discussion James has posted on You Tube.



Nate Johnson was part of the group (Nate posted this great blog) and started with a great question for Bryan 25 minutes in to the show.  James encourages you to skip to the good parts :>)  Bryan gives us the reasoning behind the decision 28 minutes in this Google+Hangout.  I asked Bryan about a concern, many of us in broadcast meteorology have, (33 minutes in) that TWC naming convention will not be adopted by everyone in a competitive media environment and may create confusion.  Kevin Selle, a Weather Brains regular and broadcast meteorologist with Texas Cable News, asked Bryan about this just being a "marketing" ploy (43 minutes in) and Bryan gives his honest answer.  Other good points to listen to is the view of Brian Peters, (58 minutes in) a retired NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, and Bryan's response.  We even got into talking about TWC, Dr. Greg Forbes, TOR:CON index for tornado risk.  James not a big fan, and we covered other topics.  In summary though, everyone on this great show that James hosted is 100% committed to the same goal which is better communication of weather and weather risk to help you, the public, make the best weather related decision, not only this coming winter, but any season.  Be sure to take our latest poll about this winter storm naming idea and let us know what you think.  Thanks James and sure thanks Bryan.


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D.C. cold snap; how long will it last?

October 7, 2012 - 07:45 PM

Did you have the heat on Sunday? Wondering if this is a permanent weather change or just a fluke in the weather pattern?

Remarkably, temperatures only had a 4 degree swing today… the low temperature was 52 while the high was 56 degrees. The last time it was 56 degrees for a high at Reagan National was April 28th! Whew… did it feel incredibly chilly to you?

Well, here are two thoughts… for warm and cool weather lovers alike. The highest temperature Sunday in the U.S. was right at the century mark in Death Valley while the lowest reading this morning was 3 degrees in Daniel, Wyo!


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The Big "Chill" This Weekend

October 5, 2012 - 07:41 PM

I wrote a blog earlier in the week about the common fall fluctuations this time of year.  Well, you can read about it all you want, but ready or not, here comes the first blast of cold air to our region since March!

Temperatures go from the 80s to the 40s.  Yes, a 40° temperature drop!  Look at highs on Friday.  The cold air is getting closer. 

High Temperatures Friday, October 5th

The coldest air will settle into the D.C. area on Sunday.  Highs will only be in the 40s to near 50 degrees!  Keep in mind, 50 degrees is the average high for the beginning of December!  Not only will it be very chilly, but also cloudy and rainy on Sunday.  Here's a look at our hyperlocal futurecast model for Sunday at 4pm.  And yes, you're really seeing *possible snow in some of the higher elevations along the mountains of West Virginia. 

Local Microcast Model

Heading to the redskins game on Sunday?  Well, bundle up!  It will be bitter out there!  Grab the rain gear and pack on the layers to keep warm. 

Washington Redskins Kickoff Forecast

I know I'll be enjoying the game from the comfort of my home with the fireplace going!

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Wait, What Season Is It?!

October 4, 2012 - 03:00 PM

October arrives, we get a taste of cool, autumn-like weather one day and then the next, it's back to the 80s and humid.  What's up with that?  Well, it's fall and it's actually quite common. 

I was thinking about this earlier today, as I was heading into work.  I have very much enjoyed the few days over the last month and a half when it's cool, refreshing, with low humidity!  Let's just say, I have a lot better hair days when it's not as 'sticky'.  Take a look at the highs on Wednesday.

High Temperatures Wednesday, October 4th

So where is the autumn-like weather?  Well, it's coming.

Transitional seasons, such as spring and fall, experience frequent temperature flucuations.  Keep in mind, we're now past the autumnal equinox, so the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farther away from the sun.  Basically, that equates to more rapid cooling in the Northern latitudes (tilting farther away from the sun, with minimal daylight), which contrasts much more to temperatures near the Equator.  The stronger temperature gradient creates more drastic dips in the jetstream, which brings the cooler air farther South to the U.S.  Think of it as a tug of war between the cold air near the North Pole and the hot air near the Equator... who will win??  

Model Simulation for Friday Evening (10/5)

Take a look at how this will impact temperatures!  While it's still in the 80s across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, the Great lakes and Upper Midwest will be in the 40s and 50s!

Forecast Highs Friday, Oct. 5th

Well, it looks like the cold air will take over come this weekend.  Before then, we're back into the 80s today and Friday.  Trust me, you'll feel the difference come Sunday when highs barely reach 60° and overnight lows tumble into the 40s.  At least the changing weather gives us all something to talk about! 

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Storm Names: One idea and results

October 3, 2012 - 05:24 PM

The announcement yesterday that The Weather Channel has decided to begin naming winter storms this coming season sure has gotten a lot of reaction by the public and within the weather forecasting/communication community. Here were my thoughts and others as today's post by the Capital Weather Gang. The Weather Channel's Bryan Norcross who is a terrific meteorologist and communicator explained in this interview that "social media" was part of the driver in this decision. I agree with Nate Johnson at WRAL-TV that within a few years, the naming of winter storms in the United States, before they hit, will become widely accepted. My criticism of TWC decision was the complete lack of coordination or involvement with the broad meteorological and weather warning and communication community before what I called their "preemptive" decision. Many of us have worked on ways to better communicate forecasts, especially risk and dangerous weather, for the best weather decision by the public. But change is sure a challenge. Here is one example. My friend Eliot Abrams with AccuWeather proposed, what I think is a great idea, of maintaining tropical storm names if they are still producing flooding rains even when winds have decreased. 



Thus "Tropical Storm Bob" would still be "Tropical Rainstorm Bob" after it was well inland and the Tropical Prediction Center stopped tracking the storm. Good idea for better communication and one of the examples I gave at a recent conference. You can watch the entire presentation here if you really can't get to sleep. I also used TWC's Dr. Greg Forbes "TOR:CON" as a good idea that might be accepted. Anyway I also put up a poll to see what our viewers and visitors to our weather homepage thought of the idea. 



As you can see, at best, mixed results. So changing how we communicate weather and use new wording to communicate weather is a challenge. A challenge we all face. But learning from each other, pushing NWS to adopt some new best practices from the weather communication side, so we all head in the same direction I think is a better path than taking on a 500 pound gorilla with one arm tied behind our back.

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Winter Storms: Naming storms A good idea or gimmick?

October 2, 2012 - 04:28 PM

First, full disclosure. I worked for NBC for 32 years, now one of the part owners of The Weather Channel, and I know and highly respect many of the meteorologists and managers at TWC. 

Having said that, I think the preemptive decision by TWC to begin naming winter storms is, at best, a poor decision by a critical source of weather information, and, at worst, as my (I still hope) friend Al Roker mentions in this video  ". . .even though this sounds gimmicky. . .” it sure does sound like a gimmick.

I call this a “preemptive” decision because there was, from everything I have learned, NO coordination of this decision to name winter storms with the National Weather Service or any of the professional groups such as the Weather Coalition, groups within the AMS or NWA. Our shared goal is to communicate the best weather information so that everyone will make the best weather related decision.

All of us who forecast and communicate weather information have professional responsibilities to coordinate with our colleagues within the NWS as we all share the goal of having you, the public make the best weather related decision possible.

Sure at times we may disagree with the “official” forecast. As professional meteorologists we may at times give you our forecast that differs from the NWS forecast. But making a decision such as this, by the leading private company of weather information in all media is a slippery slope. Will TWC decide to begin issuing its own weather warnings? Will we decide to name storms that may cause major flooding? Should the storm system that produced the terrible tornado outbreak of April 2011 have been named 2 days before? What name?

Our blogging colleagues at the Capital Weather Gang point out that storms, such as the February 2010 “Snowmaggedon” and the January 26, 2011 “Commutaggedon” were given those names by the public and readers AFTER the event. Would my colleagues at TWC have given a name to the Washington DC storm of January 26, 2011 2 days before? It impacted millions of people and was a major snowstorm. But it was quite local here in the DC area.  How about very local Lake Effect snowstorms that might bring crippling snows to New York State or Ohio or Michigan? Each one gets a name?

TWC is the largest private sector weather business in the world. As a leader in communicating information that often can be life threatening, I believe it also should be a leader in coordinating how we can all better communicate weather risk.

At a recent conference, (you can watch the presentation here) I pointed out TWC Dr. Greg Forbes' development of the “TORCON” index as a way that more effectively communicates the risk (a 1-10 scale) of tornadoes better than words such as “slight, scattered, moderate, and particularly dangerous”.

I think the TORCON Index is a better way of communicating risk. Trying to pick which winter storm to name days in advance without any agreed upon criteria is not a good idea.

I personally believe that the NWS “Watch/Warning” way of communicating potential weather risk and dangerous weather that requires immediate action needs to change. I believe that a storm such as this summer’s Derecho that caused millions of dollars of damage, and power outages for over a week from Illinois to the East Coast called for more than just “Severe Thunderstorm” warnings.

Should the NWS use language such as “Destructive Thunderstorm Warning” with events such as this? I think so, but we should all work cooperatively and with social scientists to have the advances in the science of meteorology be matched with new, more effective ways of communication. I believe we, as a community, can better communicate, but we are not preemptively going to start issuing an “ABC7 Life Threatening Weather Alert” system. We use graphics such as this to communicate risk of severe weather.


Or as here the probable impact of winter weather.


But I also believe as an individual or a corporation we should NOT make a significant preemptive decision in weather communication that is unlikely to be accepted within the broad community and comes as a surprise to the public lead in weather communication, our National Weather Service.

The NWS has issued the following statement today, “The National Weather Service has no opinion about private weather enterprise products and services. A winter storm's impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins. While the National Weather Service does not name winter storms, we do rate major winter storms after the fact (see:”

The naming of tropical storms and hurricanes has a long history and criteria the entire meteorological community knows and shares and universally communicates to help everyone make the best weather related decision. As well intentioned as TWC’s preemptive decision to begin naming winter storms may have been, I do not believe it will now be widely accepted within the community of broadcast meteorology.

The public, we all reach, would be much better served by all of us who care about more effective communication working together even in a very competitive media world.


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Earthscapes:Stamps from Space

October 1, 2012 - 02:46 PM

I was privileged today to MC the first day of issue of a beautiful new set of forever stamps from the U.S. Postal Service. Here is what they are. 


The event took place at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center with several of the Earthscapes stamp images taken from NASA satellites. Today is also the kickoff of National Stamp Collecting Month. Here is my picture of the special first day of issue commemorative framed collection. 


One of the stamps selected was a wonderful picture from above Blackwater National Wildlife refuge taken by local photographer Cameron Davidson.  It's this "Inland Marsh" stamp. 


Cameron has a wonderful book Chesapeake” that is a joy to read and see Cameron’s beautiful photographs. Buy the new “Earthscape” stamps at your post office. I bet they will be sold out soon. "Chesapeake" will make a great gift also.


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