From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for June 2011

Largest 'dead zone' in recorded history grows in the Gulf

June 15, 2011 - 02:22 PM
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Add this to our year of dismal records: The biggest known dead zone is predicted to sprout in the Gulf of Mexico soon, thanks to fertilizers and this spring's extreme flooding.

Dead or "hypoxic" zones are areas in the water that have no oxygen; they effectively smother any sea life that passes through their borders. The zones are created when rain and floods wash fertilizers off of farmland and lawns, where they enter the seas and feed massive colonies of algae that suck all the oxygen from the water. The Chesapeake Bay is one big dead zone, but the Gulf is bigger: Every year it sprouts the second-largest area of hypoxia in the world. (The largest is in the Baltic Sea; see where others are worldwide in this map.)

And in 2011 the Gulf zone is predicted to be especially immense. Forecasters with Louisiana and Michigan universities say that the record flooding of the Mississippi this year is feeding the Gulf algae like never before. The busy green critters are expected to eat so much O2 that a killing field will spread to the size of New Hampshire, up to 9,421 square miles. Since dead zones were first noticed in the Gulf in 1985, the largest one yet measured was 2002's 8,400 square-mile zone. A bigger zone spells a world of hurt for the Gulf's imperiled fishing industry.

Here's NOAA's explanation for the zone's unusually bloated size:

During May 2011 stream-flow rates in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers were nearly twice that of normal conditions. This significantly increased the amount of nitrogen transported by the rivers into the Gulf. According to USGS estimates, 164,000 metric tons of nitrogen (in the form of nitrite plus nitrate) were transported by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to the northern Gulf. The amount of nitrogen transported to the Gulf in May 2011 was 35 percent higher than average May nitrogen loads estimated in the last 32 years.

Read more about this developing problem at NOAA. Follow the jump for a neat animation showing how these suffocating behemoths form.

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Two tornadoes confirmed in Harford County on Sunday, June 12

June 15, 2011 - 12:09 PM
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A tornado on May 19 in Worton, Md.

When a puffed-up storm system billowed over town on Sunday, here are some of the things people reported to the authorities: hail raining down in St. Mary's County like a flurry of pennies, seriously damaged mobile homes in Virginia's Augusta County and dozens of trees uprooted and tossed like matchsticks in locales north of Baltimore.

When all the flash and bang was done, investigators fanned out to survey the damage. Their conclusion: The D.C. region experienced two more tornadoes.

These were relatively weak ones, though, rated at EF-0 strength. The first touched down around 4:07 in Street, Md., about 75 miles northeast of the District. It drove a 1.7 mile-long path into the ground but didn't bulldoze any structures. Then, 20 miles away and 40 minutes later in Belcamp, Md., another twister wound winds into an 80 m.p.h-hour dynamo that took out about 3 dozen trees near a historic property, which came out of the storm unscathed. 

The visibility on the Bay Bridge wasn't so great that Sunday:

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Hurricane activity since the record-breaking season of 2005

June 15, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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With the new hurricane forecast coming out a couple of weeks ago and the potential for another big hurricane season this year, I wanted to take a look back at the past five seasons since the record breaker in 2005.

First, here’s NOAA’s official hurricane outlook for 2011:

12 - 18 named storms
6 - 10 hurricanes
3 - 6 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher, winds of 111 m.p.h. or higher)

This forecast is above normal as there are typically on average 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Reasons for the potentially heightened hurricane season this year is a weakening La Nina and more ENSO Neutral conditions, warm sea-surface temperatures and the fact that we are still in a period of high activity in the Atlantic.

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Long, full eclipse of the moon tonight, June 15: Watch it live

June 15, 2011 - 04:32 AM
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What we won't be seeing tonight. (NASA/Martin Pugh)

A glorious full eclipse of the moon occurs tonight. At 100 minutes, it’s the longest lunar eclipse in more than a decade. The hum on the dinger is that the ash and sulfur gas floating in the atmosphere from the Chilean volcano might cause the moon to glow like dark claret, a truly awesome spectacle as you can see in these photos from Spaceweather.

And the U.S. will miss out on all of it.

The way the moon is moving, it dodges North America completely. So while others across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Antarctica and Australia are getting their eyeballs socked in by a vivid Blood Moon tonight, we in D.C. will just see stars and lightning-bug blips. (Whereas the moon will see this weird sight.) Sucks, right?

If you must be a part of this momentous astronomical event, then the Internet is willing to accommodate. The eclipse will be broadcast live at these two sites: Norway’s Astro Viten and Astronomy Live. Tune in at 1:24 p.m. EDT for the beginning or wait until around 4 p.m. for the full umbral.

In the meantime, here's a cool video of the partial eclipse of the sun on June 1, which U.S. citizens also missed out on:

Midnight sun eclipse. Time-lapse 1080p HD from Eivind Kolstad on Vimeo.

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Watch out for your shadow and the sunscreen

June 14, 2011 - 08:36 PM
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Today the FDA issued new rules about sunscreen labeling. We are only a week away from the Summer Solstice. That is the astronomical "beginning" of summer and the day here in the northern hemisphere when the sun is at its highest in the sky. It's also when the sun is most intense and even a short time outside without any sunscreen can result in a nasty burn. 

Long-term sun exposure can be dangerous for everyone, resulting in everything from skin cancer to increased risk of cataracts. There are risks for people of all color due to too much time in strong sun. In addition to using sunblock, here is a fun way of knowing when you have to be extra careful in the sun: Look at your shadow.

This is a figure I created years ago that shows you when your shadow is shorter than you are:

Shadowgraph

I created this before Daylight Saving Time changed to the second Sunday in March, so that big jump in the graph now occurs several weeks earlier. But have some fun with everyone. Measure and watch your shadow. Especially your children and grandchildren or your summer campers. This time of year you have to be outside a bit early in the morning or late in the day to have your shadow longer than you are tall. And in one week, at solar noon (1 p.m. EDT), the sun here in Washington will be almost 75 degrees high in the sky. So if you are 6 feet tall your shadow will only be only about 1.5 feet long.

Or have some fun take your children or grandchildren outside (remember the sunblock) and let them measure each others shadow. A 3-foot-tall child will have a shadow less than 1 foot long. Fun with shadows, but take care in the sun.

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2011 Alliance for Earth Observations climate meet: Live updates

June 14, 2011 - 04:26 PM
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Hurricane Katrina from space.

In a gloomy room below the streets of Capitol Hill, where cellphone signals get lost in the bedrock, scientists and policy makers have gathered to discuss the Future of the Planet. It's the 2011 Forum on Earth Observations, an annual meeting of the best and brightest minds involved in the climate-change debate. We're talking NOAA honchos, military generals, insurance wonks, NASA whizzes and Bill Nye the Science Guy. So, what's going on?

4:45: The U.S. needs to open a National Weather Service for the climate, says Sharon Hays, VP of Computer Sciences Corporation. It would be "some single point of information about the climate that decision-makers can take and use in all kinds of different ways." Hays also believes the country needs to develop a way to stimulate a climate-services industry, so that the burden of dealing with this isn't all on the government.

4:35: These aquarobots are also keeping an eye out for cholera outbreaks (!). Turns out the cholera bacteria can swim through the ocean by latching onto zooplankton, causing disease thousands of miles away from the starting point. The 'bots sense the cholera levels when they get near shore and warn their human operators about the danger.

4:15: Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics, lets it fly that a steely navy of self-powered robotic platform are patrolling the world's oceans. They can stay out at sea, alone, for up to 2 years while they do their lonely work, monitoring fisheries and oil and gas structures, checking the radiation levels off Japan’s coastline, searching for good windfarm locations. Oh, they also have an unspecified “national security” application.

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Best fake weather video of 2011: Fire tornado wows storm chasers

June 14, 2011 - 04:47 AM
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It’s not enough that Arizonians are facing humongous wildfires and air that tastes like burnt spinach, now they have to deal with clumsy storm chasers and fireball-belching pyrotornadoes too?

Thankfully, no. Despite what some websites claim, the video at the bottom of this post, showing a Cartman-sounding chaser yelling at his mom to “[bleeping] GO!” as a fire whirl bears down upon them is not a product of the out-of-control Wallow Fire. The ungodly weather spawn was filmed in August by a firefighter with Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources as a 1,400-acre blaze ate its way up the slope of the Mauna Kea volcano. (The audio was later dubbed by jokers unnamed.) That day, the firefighters simply decided not to fight fire – can you blame them, looking down the barrel of that tiki torch from hell?

Let's talk a little bit more about these flame-filled whirlwinds, though, which are a real-life firefighter's nightmare.

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Christchurch earthquake liquefies ground, sows panic (VIDEOS)

June 13, 2011 - 03:17 PM
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A cliff-top house is seen after its portion fell over a ledge in Sumner, near Christchurch, New Zealand, Monday, June 13. (Mark Mitchell) (Photo: Associated Press)

A terminally trembling New Zealand experienced at least two powerful earthquakes Monday afternoon. The quakes rumbled at 5.6 miles underground about 8 miles northeast of Christchurch, which is still recovering from a disastrous temblor in February that killed 166 people. There are no reported deaths this time, although scores of people are in hospitals after being conked by falling debris. (Two different quakes also struck Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga, but people aren’t talking about that – why does the mainstream press hate Austronesians?)

The dueling quakes ripped holes in streets and caused the ground to undulate like the ocean. The bleak Christchurch downtown got even bleaker as a few of the buildings that remain toppled over. New Zealand has one of the highest quake tolerances in the world – look at how many shallow-depth quakes have occurred in the last 60 days – but still, this day was pretty miserable. In a cruel twist, an inquest into how 115 people were crushed and burned during the February quake in one building alone was cancelled as the meeting participants fled into the street.

This security-camera footage shows the panic during Monday’s shakes:

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Severe weather terms and what they should mean to you 101

June 13, 2011 - 12:53 PM
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This year, our region has already seen its fair share of severe thunderstorms and even storms producing tornadoes. Odds are that we will see many more severe storms through summer and into fall. Even though severe storms occur every spring, summer, and fall, many folks either forget or don’t recall all of the weather terms that we use and how to apply them to their safety. So I thought I would write up a quick, down-and-dirty reference guide that you can turn to when severe weather strikes.

Let’s begin with thunderstorms. First, not every thunderstorm that develops becomes severe and a common misconception is that if you see frequent lightning or heavy rain it has to be severe. That is actually FALSE. The truth is our local weather service determines if a storm is severe based on the strength of the wind and the diameter of potential hail. The exact definition are for winds of 58 m.p.h. or higher and/or hail of 1 inch in diameter or larger.

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Wildfires and major storms maul Southwest (satellite photos)

June 13, 2011 - 12:16 PM
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NOAA/NASA

If the last satellite photos didn’t impress you with the fiery immensity of the Arizona wildfires, perhaps these will. Look over at the left side of the above image, taken June 9 by the GOES-East satellite (hi-res). A billowing white cloud, the exhaust jet from ongoing conflagrations, stretches out to touch Texas and even the butt of Kansas. Compare the size of that smoke plume with the major thunderstorms over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas (where a tornado was reported at the time this image was captured). That is one major barbeque right there.

One outbreak alone, the Wallow Fire, has consumed nearly 450,000 acres and spans four counties in Arizona and one in New Mexico. There are more than 4,000 sweat-drenched people working around the clock to slow this probably human-caused fire, yet it’s only 10 percent contained. The air across the Southwest is a potentially hazardous milkshake of smoke and charred stuff that used to be plants.

You can see where the plants once grew in the below images from the Landsat-7 satellite, operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Perfect storm of great weather hits D.C. Monday - Wednesday

June 13, 2011 - 04:29 AM
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An airplane shadow reflected on the Potomac during a day of great weather, much like Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Collapse your umbrellas and lose the travel fans: a storm of perfectly pleasant weather is about to overtake Washington. Are you ready for the severe niceness?

“It’s looking beautiful Monday, it will be wonderful on Tuesday and it looks really nice on Wednesday,” says ABC7 meteorologist Steve Rudin. The air will be less humid yet still streaked with sun. Rain is staying away and in general the outlook is “pretty,” Rudin says.

After a tumultuous Sunday that saw tornado warnings and a funnel cloud near Bel Air, Md., a cool, calm leviathan of Canadian high pressure is coming to squat on D.C. The air bubble will tamp down storm chances and waft cool air all over the Mid-Atlantic through the middle of the week. (Check out the radar for eye-gaping nothingness.) High temperatures are expected to range around the upper 70s these next three days, with nighttime lows nearing the ice-cube feel of 40 in the Potomac Highlands.

“We might actually see temperatures below average,” which is 84 degrees for June 13, Rudin says. “So it’s quite a shift from last week.”

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Friday weather news roundup: burning Jesus, Death Valley edition

June 10, 2011 - 02:50 PM
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1. Death Valley is notoriously hot. How hot? Take a guess – that's what AccuWeather did. Reports the San Diego Union Tribune: "The high temperatures AccuWeather Inc. was reporting for Death Valley were not only not the actual highs, they were estimates that were often way off — by as much as 15 degrees either way."

2. A 50-foot statue of Jesus is being erected outside a Monroe, Ohio, church after lightning transformed a previous statue of the Savior into a smoking lump. The new Jesus has a "lightning suppression system." The video of the burning statue enjoyed brief Internet viral fame. Watch it below.

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Lightning and fire melt side of Calvert County house (PHOTOS)

June 10, 2011 - 01:56 PM
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Last night, as thunderstorms raged over the Chesapeake, a lightning bolt crackled in the yard of a Calvert County homeowner. The electric bullet apparently set a tree alight, and the fire spread to a nearby shed, consuming it and its contents entirely. The heat was so intense that it melted the siding of the attendant house, as you can see in the photo gallery.

The homeowner, longtime Chesapeake Beach resident Chery Emery, credits a Good Samaritan who woke her up at 1:30 a.m. with saving the lives of everyone inside the house. Now she's looking for this man so she can thank him. If you know who he is (or if you are him), please get in touch at WJLA's HQ phone, (703) 236-9480.

Here is Cheryl's account of her wild night:

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A mini tsunami, or 'seiche,' strikes on Lake Superior (VIDEO)

June 10, 2011 - 01:07 PM
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TSUNAMI!!!

Actually, no. But “SEICHE!!!” just doesn’t have the same ring.

The video below shows a type of rogue wave that can strike on lakes, harbors, reservoirs and even swimming pools. (Although I’m still waiting for the video of that.) This seiche – a French word that implies swaying back and forth, even if the technical meaning is “cuttlefish” – occurred on Lake Superior in May. Seiches have also been spotted on the other Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, in Scotland and on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

In June 1954, a seiche with a towering wave 10 feet tall swept away and drowned eight people on Lake Michigan. That’s why the National Weather Service takes these freak mini-tidal waves seriously, issuing alerts whenever one seems possible. When is that? Well, check out this diagram from the Illinois State Geological Survey:

1954 seiche on lake michigan

Our domestic seiches are often caused when wind associated with storm systems push water against the side of a lake or another enclosed body of water. (They can also be triggered by earthquakes.) In the 1954 seiche’s case, the bunched-up water caromed off one side of Michigan* and amplified before smashing into the Chicago shoreline.

The waves are often unnoticeable to boaters but occur regularly on the Great Lakes every year, drooping the water level by several inches or a couple feet. The fact that no other deadly seiche has struck on the lakes only increases the weather phenomenon’s aura of mystery. (Hat tip to ABC7's Alex Liggitt for the video.)

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Beach forecast for this weekend - June 11-12

June 10, 2011 - 08:17 AM
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Here's a look at the beaches this weekend. For all other information regarding the beaches, check the Delmarva Beach Resource Guide for more information.

 

 

 

Saturday, June 11

Partly Cloudy, Warm, Isolated PM Storm (20%)

Highs: Low 80s

The start of the weekend at the beaches will feature partly cloudy skies and the chance for an isolated afternoon thunderstorm. The majority of the action should hold off until the overnight hours. Highs should reach the lower 80s. This is in association with an area of low pressure and frontal system moving through the Midwest.

 

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Grass turning brown?

June 10, 2011 - 05:59 AM
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Beneficial rain fell yesterday afternoon and into the night, and it came at the delight of area lawns and gardens. Although our region is not in desperate need of rain, we could use a few more showers or a drought isn't too far away.

No part of the ABC7 viewing area is in a drought, but some locations are considered "abnormally dry" according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and year to date precipitation is below average at all three major reporting stations/airports. For example, Reagan National (DCA) is running 3.19 inches below average since January 1st. Meanwhile, BWI is 1.64 inches and Dulles (IAD) is 0.41 inches below average since the start of 2011. March and April rainfall was above average, but our sunny and warm May was below average at all three reporting stations, and June is off to a slow start too. 

The outlook is good for scattered, beneficial showers today through the weekend in the form of thunderstorms. That said, It won't be a washout but a pretty nice weekend for the most part as there will be plenty of time to squeeze in your outdoor activities with the time frame of storms being in the late afternoon and through the evening on today and Saturday. The storms may come a little earlier in the day on Sunday. Also, a few storms could become severe on Saturday. In terms of aerial coverage, not everyone will get the rain, however, about half of the ABC7 viewing area should receive rain each day from Friday through Sunday. Just sunshine and cooler, less humid conditions are in the works for early next week. 

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Temperature in D.C. Friday is only slightly less miserable

June 10, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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The Climate Prediction Center says D.C. is in for above-average temperatures this June. (NOAA)

Only 10 days in, and the summer of 2011 is proving itself quite robust. An atmosphere that feels like sucking on an exhaust pipe, malfunctioning Metro cars turned into pagan sweat lodges, unholy garbage stench that seems to emanate from everywhere – these past few days dragged out all the high-explosive annoyances of summer in D.C. There's even a miniature doldrums occurring on the Chesapeake, where only the occasional gust riffles the water.

The hottest it's ever gotten in the city in June is 102 degrees in 1874. Well, yesterday it was 102 degrees at Reagan National at 2:34 p.m. Hooray! (Not.) The 100-degree temperature at BWI squished the 1933 record of 98 degrees, and the 97-degree high at Dulles crested the 1999 best by one degree. The coldest it got yesterday was 79 degrees right around dawn after a night when the fuzzy-rimmed, malevolent moon presided over 85-percent relative humidity. That's air you could wring out and use to make a scalding cup of tea.

So is it safe to come out yet?

Actually, Friday will be quite bearable in comparison. The District is on the downward slope of a temperature curve; today is expected to only top out in the lower 90s. On Saturday it will be in the 80s. (Seven-day outlook.) The specter of storms hovers as a front that whizzed in from the Ohio Valley is cooling its jets over the city. The unstable atmosphere could shake out rain and thunder anytime from Friday afternoon to Sunday. To stay abreast, keep checking the latest ABC7 forecast.

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Chile's Puyehue volcano erupts, two satellites watch (VIDEO)

June 9, 2011 - 03:02 PM
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This right here is the reason you can't fly to many parts of Chile, Argentina and even Brazil. The Chilean volcano Puyehue is blurping ash all over South America, leaving sooty snow drifts up to a foot deep on Patagonian highways.

The volcano's shifting ash plume is captured in detail in the below animation released today by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. It's a composite of high-resolution imagery and video taken by the GOES-13 and Aqua satellites. The towering immensity of this lava-spewing fountain can be seen in this wicked photo gallery or over here at the Daily Mail. It literally looks like an H-bomb has just gone off. Here's a good view from space; follow the jump for the video:

puyehue from space

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Hurricane Adrian, first of the season, roars to life (PHOTOS)

June 9, 2011 - 02:19 PM
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UPDATE: Adrian sped up today into a major Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 m.p.h. and an internal low pressure of 960 mb. Its forecasted track still takes it far out to sea south of California, though. Here's a GOES-East photo of the beast from today:

hurricane adrian

ORIGINAL: Late on Wednesday, Hurricane Adrian busted out of a quieter nest-shaped system that used to be a tropical storm. It is the first hurricane of the 2011 season, which many forecasters are predicting will shake the U.S. with windy wrath. You can see the storm southwest of Acapulco in pretty much every conceivable way in the photo gallery above (or here).

Adrian is a bit of a pussycat. Sure, the winds are rushing along at 75 m.p.h. and you certainly wouldn't want to be on a cruise ship nearby; your steamed lobster would be skittering into the filet mignon and your body would be spattered with jus (though some folks might enjoy that). But it's only a Category 1, and its predicted track takes it north and west into waters that will effectively put it down.

Here's what the National Hurricane Center had to say about Adrian yesterday evening:

ALTHOUGH THE INTENSIFICATION PROCESS HAS SLOWED TODAY...ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED AS ADRIAN REMAINS IN A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT. STEADY...OR EVEN RAPID INTENSIFICATION...IS LIKELY OVER THE NEXT 36 TO 48 HOURS AS ADRIAN REMAINS OVER WATERS OF 29-30 C AND IN A LOW WIND SHEAR ENVIRONMENT. BEYOND THAT TIME...THE OFFICIAL FORECAST TAKES ADRIAN OVER PROGRESSIVELY COOLER WATERS. THE COOLER [SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES] ALONG WITH A MORE STABLE ATMOSPHERE ARE EXPECTED TO PROMOTE WEAKENING.

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Fact regarding our early season heat

June 9, 2011 - 06:09 AM
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High temperatures 06-08-2011

Wednesday was the fourth 95+ degree day at Reagan National Airport (DCA) so far this year.  We average seven to eight 95+ degree days every year at DCA. According to our local National Weather Service office, only 1925 featured more 95+ degree days this early in the season.  Today will be our fifth, and hitting 100 isn't out of the question.

Looking back at the data, record highs were set five days in a row in early June in 1925 in DC, and those records still stand today.  During that stretch, the coolest high was 97 and the hottest was 100 degrees. 

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