From the ABC 7 Weather team

Archive for December 2011

A beer-can tree grows in Foggy Bottom (PHOTOS)

December 13, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Ho ho hurl! Turns out people near George Washington University like to celebrate Christmas in a less-filling style. I spotted this can-festooned tree outside a rowhouse on 25 St. NW on Monday evening. It's going to be a special Christmas in Foggy Bottom, for sure.

Extra-special, in fact, judging from the choice of beer ornament. This here is a delightful winter brew called Natty Daddy, a Four Loko knockoff from the makers of Natural Light that is "pretty decent (COUGH)," according to one Deicide fan on YouTube. Beer Advocate tasting notes: "Harsh astringency, mealy apples, perceptible alcohol. Cereal grain, wet paper, sweet envelope glue, palate-deadening alcohol... tongue is numbing down after a few swigs." The alcohol content is 8 percent so you know this tree was strung in the most festive of moods:

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WATCH: Dashcam footage shows man trapped in car during tsunami

December 12, 2011 - 02:28 PM
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Do you think you could escape an incoming tsunami with no warning? There are plenty of buildings and trees in the typical urban setting. Why not climb up one of those and play barnacle until the seas recede?

Sometimes it's not that easy, as seen in this disturbing footage of the March 11, 2011, tsunami posted over at Scientific American. As the man behind the wheel leaves his dashcam running, millions of tons of displaced salt water begins to creep over the roadway as a light stream. Within seconds, though, several feet of water has pushed through and cars are bobbing like corks in a whirlpool. At this point the driver makes the critical decision to stay inside his car and let the new river take him where it may. A woman who ventured out into the deluge was also apparently carried away by the tsunami, although without the protective shell of a car. It's unclear whether she survived.

Did the driver make the right choice? Take a watch below and see.

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Total lunar eclipse seen around the world on Dec. 10 (PHOTOS)

December 12, 2011 - 12:54 PM
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Like a giant eyeball vigorously poked, the Moon on Saturday slowly turned from ivory white to a vicious, bloodshot-red hue. It was the last total lunar eclipse until April 2014, and skywatchers did not drop the ball on documenting this source of everlasting astonishment.

The color of the Moon was more coppery than earthy borscht due to the relatively clear atmosphere. (Particulate matter pumped out by volcanoes and forest fires can make lunar eclipses seem dark.) East Coasters were left in the dark this time around, but insomniacs on the Pacific Coast, as well as folks in Asia and Australia, caught the full show.

Here was the scene early on Sunday at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. A woman has erected a telescope to watch the moon redden over the Harbour Bridge:

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World's largest day fireworks show makes Qatar go Boom! (VIDEO)

December 12, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Make-stuff-go-boom artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who had a show at the Freer gallery not too long ago, was in Qatar last week for the eardrum-tearing debut of his latest exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Titled Saraab ("mirage"), the show deals with China's historical relationship with its Middle Eastern trading partners and, by many accounts, seems pretty impressive.

But the artist screwed the pooch in one major way: He made the opening so wowza that everything now, including his signature "drawings" of gunpowder burns on paper, is anticlimax. Cai assembled a mind-incinerating fireworks ballet that is being heralded as the world's largest "daytime" display, ever. (He had help from the Gruccis of Long Island, who handle NYC's annual Independence Day display as well as the pyrotechnics behind many U.S. presidential elections.) See below for a video of his so-called "Black Ceremony," earplugs being optional.

According to the event's Facebook page, the Black Ceremony "attempts to confront matters of life and death, spiritual homecomings, potential transformations of symbols and the relationship between different cultures." How the work's smoky, airborne shapes depict all that I'll leave for you to decide. I spot: A wall of flame, a rainbow and a megaflock of blackbirds. After watching this, you may wonder why our government is still playing with rings and hearts while China is developing the most advanced fireworks tech around.*

* CORRECTION: Turns out that China had nothing to do with developing the ordnance... well, other than coming up with the idea for gunpowder way back when, of course. Phil Grucci of fireworks fame writes in: "Although the artistic vision of the exhibit was produced by my good friend Cai Guo-qiang, I must proudly correct your perception that the technology came from China. In fact the design, engineering, and manufacturing of all of the Pixelburst-tm smoke shell sequences came from our USA based manufacturing firm Pyrotechnique by Grucci and the exhibit was produced by our Display company Fireworks by Grucci." USA! USA!

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Where is winter?

December 11, 2011 - 07:44 AM
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If you have been keeping track, winter has been absent in the District. One freak winter storm across the region in October, but nothing even close to that has even come close in the District.

As a matter of fact, the temperature this morning at Washington, D.C.’s official reporting weather station, Reagan National, dipped below freezing (29 degrees) for the first time since March 3, 2011! Not only is this much later than the average first freeze, which is November 13th, but this ties as the third latest freeze on record. Now, keep in mind the temperature usually gets moderated by the Potomac River at Reagan National while Dulles International, much farther away from the river, has seen 22 days at or below freezing so far this season.

Meanwhile, the average temperature, when factoring in the lows and highs for each day so far this month at Reagan National is 3.2 degrees above average!

 

snow

Only a Trace of snow has fallen at Reagan National this month, with normal snowfall to date for December being 0.6 inches. No snow fell in November, putting Reagan National another 0.5 inch behind for the season. Typically, 0.1 inch falls in October, based on the 1981-2010 averages. Only a Trace accumulated (Dulles recorded 0.6 inch, due to its location away from the warmer Potomac River). Therefore, for the 2011-2012 winter season, snowfall is 1.2 inches below average.

Is there any winter weather in the making? For snow lovers, it doesn’t appear so. The pattern favors warming temperatures into the 50s and 60s through the middle of the week as the cold high pressure in place this weekend moves east and allows a warmer southerly flow to commence. A cold front will move through closer to the weekend with little fanfare other than a few rain showers.

snow

In the extended through the end of December, the upper-level winds support only glancing blows at seasonal temperatures. The heart of the Arctic air remains bottled up well to our north. Another potential storm could bring rain early next week. A persistent high pressure ridge off the Southeast Coast will likely keep the storm track to our west, resulting in the District being on the warm side of any weather systems that move out of the West or Plains and head into the East through the end of the month and year.

On a side note, while the days are still getting shorter, there’s a silver lining to those who like to enjoy more sunshine in the evening.

 

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Dec. 9, 1952: 'Killer Fog' smothers up to 12,000 Londoners

December 9, 2011 - 02:57 PM
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London's thick, viscous fogs are world renowned. No less a person than Charles Dickens memorialized these "pea-soupers" in his dictionary of city life, writing:

At such times almost all the senses have their share of trouble. Not only does a strange and worse than Cimmerian darkness hide familiar landmarks from the sight, but the taste and sense of smell are offended by an unhallowed compound of flavours, and all things become greasy and clammy to the touch.

While Dickens decided that the "happiest man is he who can stay at home," that wasn't always an option for the working class of industrial England. That's why, when a particularly gruesome miasma descended over the city in December 1952, thousands of unfortunate souls fell victim to the smothering air and passed away in respiratory hell.

The Great Smog of 1952, also known as the Killer Fog, was caused by a punishing alignment of weather patterns and coal pollution. (The Great Smog should not be confused with the Great Stink, another noxious bit of London history.) Back then, the city was pockmarked with factories and power plants that incinerated thousands of tons of carbon, belching out nose-turning fumes that built up for years in the local atmosphere. There was even more pollution than usual in 1952, too, because an especially cold November had Londoners burning record amounts of coal to stay warm.

At the same time a high-pressure system was drifting over the U.K., creating a temperature inversion that slammed a lid on nasty air trying to rise. A near-lack of wind assured that the toxic brew stayed put, filtering through the graying lungs of London's children and old and infirm. On the morning of Dec. 5, moist ground and clear skies set up the perfect scenario for the development of radiation fog.

Visibility on the streets grew so bad that conductors had to walk in front of their buses with torches so that their vehicles wouldn't crash into anything. Birds, blinded, crashed into structures and perished. Farmers fashioned crude "smog masks" for their precious livestock, a creepy-enough invention of necessity:

cow smog mask

Photos via BBC News

The sediment-filled air, which by Dickens' account held pieces of chimney soot as "big as full-grown snow-flakes," was a death sentence for anybody with respiratory issues. People began to pass away on Dec. 5 and continued to drop through Dec. 9, when the foulness began to clear. The mortality rate remained elevated past Christmas. Here is the BBC's account of the terrible scenes during the thick of it:

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Flying Scottish trampoline becomes unlikely viral hit (VIDEO)

December 9, 2011 - 01:43 PM
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I don't know which is funnier: The below video of an unexpected trampoline rollin' through town or the fact that it happened during a severe-wind event that Scots are calling (cover your ears, kids) "Hurricane Bawbag."

The endearing term, which has this politician wincing as he pronounces it on TV, is being used to describe a mega-storm that has brought 165 m.p.h. winds to Scotland this week. Hurricane Bawbag was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter yesterday, and has since inspired an eruption of cheeky video tributes, such as this folksy ballad of baws:

According to one Scottish forecaster, the winds have surpassed hurricane strength to become of "weather-bomb" velocity. (The fiercest hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale need only to have sustained winds of 155 m.p.h.) Roaring gusts caused authorities to shut down every large bridge in the country; one giant wind turbine was knocked down and another actually burst into flames.

BBC reporter Lorna Gordon became an Internet sensation by getting knocked around Scotland by powerful winds like a 3-year-old in the ring with Mike Tyson. Tweeted @janehill64: "Lorna Gordon on BBC News has murder in her eyes as she's forced to stand outside by Firth of Forth for report that could be done indoors":

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NASA loses Moon

December 9, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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NASA is great at accomplishing the seemingly impossible – putting boots on the Moon comes to mind – but kind of sucks at record keeping, according to a new report by the space agency's inspector general.

In the audit, which bears the scolding title "NASA Lacks Sufficient Controls Over Moon Rocks and Other Astromaterials," watchdog Paul Martin blasts NASA for losing track of valuable lunar rocks and soil samples. Here's Martin's thesis boiled down into a potent, scorching sauce:

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LIST: Companies doing the most to address climate change

December 8, 2011 - 03:17 PM
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Take a moment to crack a frosty Coors Light. It's all right: You're supporting the environment.

Same goes with booking a flight on Southwest or buying a new pair of Nike kicks. These companies are working hard to address climate change, according to a new assessment of the world's greenest brands.

The list of 136 companies was compiled by enviro group Climate Counts, which performs this annual report with the financial help of organic yogurt slinger Stonyfield Farm. The idea is to help eco-conscious consumers decide where to funnel their dollars, as well as give industry heads an idea of where they stand among the competition.

What's new in the 2012 scorecard? Hope, to put it simply. Climate Counts notes that nearly 64 percent of companies it surveyed improved their climate scores since last year. That's not to suggest that the earth's atmosphere is starting to cool down because of their efforts, but it is a nice-looking start of a trend. If you're curious about the rating criteria the nonprofit group uses, it boils down to this:

Climate Counts use a 0-to-100 point scale and 22 criteria to determine if companies have:

* MEASURED their climate "footprint"
* REDUCED their impact on global warming
* SUPPORTED (or suggest intent to block) progressive climate legislation
* Publicly DISCLOSED their climate actions clearly and comprehensively

So where do your chosen brands rank?

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Hey - where did all the D.C. snow go? (MAP)

December 8, 2011 - 01:35 PM
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This week has seen some impressive weather around D.C., just not for folks who enjoy a good snowfall. Wednesday saw a record amount of rain at all three local airports. But while we can look back and laugh at the spazzy doomsday forecasts for Thursday's winter storm, weren't we supposed to at least get some measurable snow?

The answer is that we did, though D.C. residents may not have noticed. Arlington County and Fairfax received a trace amount, while suburbs farther out got much more: 4 inches in Loudoun and 7 inches in Highland County, the highest amount recorded during this snowstorm. It could have been much more, though, if the low-pressure system bringing the precipitation had stuck around for a while. As it was, the storm dropped an immense amount of rain while moving very quickly, and was running out of ammo by the time the changeover to snow occurred.

Chris Naille, ABC7 meteorologist, has more to say about this storm:

So what happened to the snow?  Well a couple things...

1) This was a very fast moving system, so the window for snow was quite small to begin with. 

2) The transition from rain to snow was slower to occur than weather guidance indicated.

3) The ground and road temperatures were quite warm, and with only a few hours of snow (if that) many surface temperatures were too warm for much if any accumulation to occur.... For you snow lovers, winter has barely started yet and we will have several more chances to stack some of the white stuff up.

A full list of snow totals from the National Weather Service follows the jump.

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Skier videotapes his self-burial by avalanche (VIDEO)

December 8, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Perhaps the below video will warm (chill?) the hearts of all you D.C. snow lovers who were robbed of a really good snowfall this morning. This skier in Switzerland was fully engulfed in snow for endless minutes before being dug out by friends trying to save his life. Jealous?

The skier was caught up in an avalanche on the slopes of Verbier, a location so danger-prone that Googling its name and "avalanche" calls up a veritable grocery list of death. Although covered by several feet of snow, the mountain athlete was lucky enough to have been pushed into a position that allowed him to breathe until his eventual rescue.

For once, Humanity triumphs in Weather's unending struggle to squash us all like pitiful grubs.

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Bob's discussion on the flooding and potential snowfall (VIDEO)

December 7, 2011 - 03:25 PM
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Creating a new star in the sky with lasers! (PHOTO GALLERY)

December 7, 2011 - 12:49 PM
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These incredible images show scientists from the European Southern Observatory creating an "artificial star" in the sky, using the granddaddy of all lasers. Are they trying to ward off Zorg, Master of the Universe? Actually, no. Here's the explanation and the oh-so-good photos.

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Everything you wanted to know about Thursday's snow

December 7, 2011 - 12:26 PM
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Click the gallery above for a comprehensive look at the snow/rain Wednesday night into Thursday morning, all squished down into seven bite-sized slides. (Here's another link to the photo gallery.)

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A White Christmas for Washington, D.C.: Could it happen in 2011?

December 7, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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It looks like folks around D.C. love to shovel on Christmas Day, judging from the results of the latest ABC7 poll that is more than 3 to 1 in favor of a White Christmas. But how likely is it to snow on the District on Dec. 25?

Enough public interest exists in this question that NOAA has made recurring estimates of White Christmas odds. (Full report.) Above, find a probability map for the U.S. showing how often it snows on people exchanging cards and fruitcakes. Some places like Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington State and anywhere in the Rockies are all but guaranteed a Christmas as white as the fan base for Harold and Maude. Nearly all the southern U.S. has less than a 5 percent chance of running across the scary white rain during the fir holiday. Hawaii, meanwhile, is much more snowy than you might expect.

And in D.C.?

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D.C. snow potential on Wednesday? Look for lots of rain (VIDEO)

December 6, 2011 - 09:22 PM
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Meteorologist Devon Lucie has his updated take on the forecast for potential snow in D.C. Wednesday night.

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Snow in D.C. this week: What are the odds of accumulation?

December 6, 2011 - 02:51 PM
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Perhaps you have heard talk of snow on Thursday. Perhaps you've read that it is going to be MAJOR, a virtual repeat of the "Snowtober" nor'easter that buried parts of the East Coast this Halloween. Perhaps you've even seen the new Winter Storm Watch for Wednesday afternoon through the same evening, with 4 to 7 inches of snow possible.

Well, let the ABC7 weather team put your mind at rest. While it's true that flaky white stuff is likely to fall from the sky early Thursday morning, there are not many indications that this will be a huge problem-maker. (Or even enough to build a snowman in D.C.) That Winter Storm Watch is for areas above 1,500 feet, by the way. We're talking about towns in Maryland's Allegany County and Highland like Frostburg, Hightown and Mount Storm, which judging from their snowlarious names are used to a little powder now and then.

The ABC7 meteorologists have kindly sent their thoughts over to StormWatch 7 blog beginning in an e-mail chain that began late last night. Here they are, in chronological order. Note that the weather is constantly evolving, so keep current with the latest D.C. forecast and weather tweets.

Ryan Miller: I had my students outside [Monday] after we examined some model data hinting that some snow may work in early on Thursday. We went outside and looked at soil temps (in Arlington) and found that surface soil temps were between 44 and 47 degrees F (6-8 degrees C). At a depth of 15 cm soil temps were trending about 1-2 degrees colder than the surface. (Ed. note: That means any snow will have trouble accumulating.)

Chad Merrill: It does look eerily similar to the October snow event… 500 mb vort max coming northeast up the coast with significant dynamic cooling that could cause impressive snowfall rates for maybe an hour or so during the time frame of Midnight to 3 a.m. on Thursday morning after the changeover takes place. NAM is closest to the coast and GFS a little farther east and 21Z SREF a bit south and east, too… Looks to me like it would bring half to an inch of snow to the grassy areas and up to 2 inches in the higher elevations west of the Metro area back to the Blue Ridge (if NAM verifies). Fast system for sure… think sunshine returns by dawn on Thursday and the snow melts by midday in the Metro. But, given the hour of heavy snow that could fall overnight Wednesday, it wouldn’t surprise me if sidewalks and secondary roads get a small coating... less than ¼ inch. Major interstates would be just wet. Those are my thoughts on this event as it looks now.

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WATCH: Evil snowman scares the bejeezus out of passersby

December 6, 2011 - 01:15 PM
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With snow in the forecast, the mind turns to the innocent joys of wintertime like snowball fights, snow angels and building snowmen. Or if you're completely evil, obtaining a snowman costume and using it to scare the leaping skin off of unsuspecting pedestrians.

That's what the team behind Freaky the Scary Snowman has been doing for the past year. Jay Lichtenberger had friend Thomas DePetrillo of Extreme Costumes construct a snowman that looked like it would enjoy skating over the ice of the Ninth Circle of Hell. One of them climbs into the bulbous getup and hunkers down on a sidewalk somewhere. (Beware: The duo are currently headed to New York.)  Then when a mark strolls by, Freaky jumps at them and stops the victim's heart for a few seconds. Hilarity ensues.

Warning: With any prank that causes bicyclists to swerve and eat pavement or induces the prankee to punch the pranker in the face, there is bound to be some profanity. Do not watch the video below if you have a problem with an F bomb here and there.

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Rare, super-large total lunar eclipse on Dec. 10, 2011

December 6, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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On this Saturday, Dec. 10, early risers in Seattle, Portland and other Pacific Northwest outposts may do elongated spit-takes over their small-batch coffees as the moon shifts from its normal ivory hue into an angry orangish-red color more often seen with rotting pumpkins or baboon butts.

Yes, it's time for another lunar eclipse, and this one is bound to be spectacular. The moon will achieve full immersion in the earth's shadow at 6:05 a.m. PST, right at the moment it sets* into the horizon. This celestial timing guarantees that the moon will appear super-large in accordance with the not-quite-understood principle of "moon illusion." So get ready to be wowed... unless you live in Washington, D.C., or anywhere on the East Coast, where the total eclipse will go unnoticed. Here's a visibility map showing loads of :( :( :( for residents of the eastern U.S. on Saturday:

lunar_eclipse_visibility_map

Courtesy of NASA (more technical details here)

This is the last total eclipse until 2014, so D.C.ers are doubly screwed. (It's always helpful to know the dates of upcoming eclipses, as they can be used to score food and favors from begrudging natives, a la Christopher Columbus.) However, there are a few sites that plan to stream the momentous event; here is one broadcasting from the Himalayan foothills. It might be worth watching, because the strange, syrah color of the occulted moon – an effect caused by sunlight filtering through dust in the atmosphere – could be extra eerie this year. According to NASA:

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Possible snow in D.C. by Thursday morning? (VIDEO)

December 5, 2011 - 08:01 PM
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ABC7 meteorologist Devon Lucie explains how a snow forecast for D.C. is shaping up with the information available at this time.

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