Archive for December, 2006

Where’s Winter?
December 30, 2006

Something’s missing. It seems that winter has failed to take hold around here. We’ve had only a few brief shots of cold air and one episode of very spotty flurries.

Yesterday’s airport high of 51 was 8 degrees above average for the day. The period of November 27 through December 27 now ranks in the top 10 warmest in Baltimore. The warmest was back in 1931. Despite the Christmas rain, December has been dry. We are running about an inch and a third below average. Precipitation for the year is close to an inch above average.

This recent weather pattern has been relatively quiet for the east but the west continues to be hit with major storms. Denver takes the prize with its’ second major snow in a week’s time. This time around they received 7-12″ in the metro area and up to 30″ in the foothills to the west. December 2006 is now Denver’s third snowiest on record with 28.4″, nowhere near the record 57.4″ in 1913.

This most recent storm is moving east and it looks like we will ring in 2007 with rain. It appears that the leading edge of the rain will be moving into the area Sunday evening, possibly as early as the Ravens game. Rain gear may be necessary for football fans and New Years celebrants.

The storm’s passage will not drag cold, Canadian air in behind it and temperatures are expected to remain above average early in 2007.


John Collins


Christmas storm threat, but where’s the cold?
December 23, 2006

Perfectly timed for Christmas a new storm looks like it will roll in from the south on Monday. The same system that brought Phoenix, AZ their first rain since mid October will head for the gulf of Mexico and then turn north toward Maryland. Unfortunately for snow lovers, there is just not enough cold air to produce any real threat of a white Christmas. A few of the colder valleys north and west of Baltimore could have some sleet if the rain starts early enough on Monday, otherwise it looks like more steady rain for most of the mid Atlantic region. Once the storm passes Maryland, however, it’s expected to rapidly intensify moving into New England. As the strengthening storm pulls away, a strong northwest wind will tap into colder air with snow likely in the mountains and a slight chance for a few snow showers around Baltimore on Tuesday.

Tom Tasselmyer

Ready For Winter
December 20, 2006

With December temperatures averaging almost 4 degrees warmer than normal (average temp. of 41.9 is 3.8 above normal through the 19th), and just a trace of snow reported in the Baltimore area so far, it’s about time to put a wrap on fall and head into winter. The official start of the new season is the winter solstice, at 7:22 p.m. tomorrow (Dec. 21st). Click here for more info on the solstice.

In preparation for snow, sleet and freezing rain forecasting, John Collins and I had a chance to drop in at the Winter Weather Workshop put on by our local National Weather Service Forecast Office in Sterling, VA. near Dulles Airport on Tuesday. The friendly and very talented meteorologists in Sterling went over some typical winter weather forecasting problems we face in the mid Atlantic states and gave us an update on plans to move and improve their office. Expansion of a Dulles Airport runway will mean their forecast office will be relocated about a half mile west in the next 2 years. The powerful NEXRAD WSR-88D doppler radar, that WBAL-TV viewers see on our HD-Doppler displays, will be upgraded with a new state-of-the-art system. The all important weather balloon launches done at Sterling, VA are now using an upgraded radiosonde instrument package and a new, highly detailed computer model, tailored for the Baltimore-Washington area is being run 7 times per day. These improvements being implemented by the National Weather Service will benefit all of us in this area, especially during big winter storms.

Speaking of winter storms…how about the blizzard in Colorado today?!? The 8:00 a.m. MST observation at Denver showed heavy snow, visibility down to 1/8th of a mile with a temperature of 22f and winds from the north gusting to 36 mph! A nightmare for travelers but a dream come true for snow lovers. That storm will probably bring us some rain Friday into Saturday. A second storm churning across the Pacific toward the west coast may arrive here late on Christmas Day. By then there is at least a small chance that some colder air will be available for some wintry precipitation in parts of Maryland…stay tuned.

Tom Tasselmyer

Record Warmth Moving Out
December 18, 2006

For the second time this month a record high was established for Baltimore. At BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport the Monday afternoon high temperature today reached 72, breaking the old record for December 18th of 69 set in 1984 and previously in 1937. Other mid Atlantic area records included:

Washington, D.C.: 74
Dulles Airport: 76
Philadelphia, PA: 70
Wilmington, DE: 71

The record warmth is moving out, however, as a cold front snuck past Baltimore this afternoon, accompanied by gusty northwest winds. Temperatures, as of 7:00 p.m., had already fallen into the mid 30s in Garrett Co. out in far western Maryland, and that chilly air is headed east.

For snow lovers, however, the push of colder air probably won’t be strong enough to set the stage for a white Christmas. A storm is expected to approach from the southwest by Friday, but the cold will be retreating in advance of the storm and right now it looks like just rain from Friday into Saturday. A second storm is expected to develop on the heels of this first rain-maker, but with the jet stream split into northern and southern branches, it will be hard to supply the necessary cold air into this southern branch storm to produce snow. So, the early look at Christmas Eve. and Christmas Day seems to show more wet, not white weather. But, it’s still a week away and stranger things have been known to happen…stay tuned!

Tom Tasselmyer

Spaced Out
December 16, 2006

There was an interesting sight in the predawn sky today. Just before sunrise a fireball rose in the southern sky, leaving behind a jagged contrail. It was the launch of a Minotaur rocket with Air Force and NASA space packages. The rocket was expected to reach a speed of 16,250 mph 9 minutes into its’ flight and was to cross the equator 20 minutes after launch. The jagged contrail was evidence of high altitude winds blowing the remnants of the rocket exhaust away from the trajectory.

A weak cool front moved across the area overnight. Aside from a few sprinkles Friday evening north of the Inner Harbor the weather was dry with the frontal passage. High pressure will bring fair weather to the area over the weekend. A more southerly breeze on Sunday is expected to push temperatures back into the low 60s and mild temperatures wil prevail into the early part of the work week. The approach of a cool front on Tuesday may bring s few showers to the area. More typical temperatures are expected for the rest of the week with highs in the 40s.

For the past week computer models have pointed toward the possibility of a storm just before Christmas. Right now it appears that temperatures will be too warm for snow chances around Baltimore but some colder air will be parked just to our northwest so it will be interesting to see how the computer models evolve this system over the next few days. Keep in mind that since 1893 only 29 Christmas’ have been white. A typical Christmas day is partly cloudy with a high of 43 and a low of 28. Have a merry one!

John Collins

Warm, but not warmest, yet…
December 14, 2006

The Current streak of mild weather here in mid December has us scrambling for the Ye Olde Record Book to see if we have some rewriting to do. But alas, so far we have to report, there have been warmer stretches of mid December weather.

High temperatures for the next few days should be hanging around the low 60s, but the records are up around 70. Here are Baltimore’s record highs for the next 5 days:

Dec. 14th: 71 in 1929
Dec. 15th: 70 in 1971
Dec. 16th: 71 in 1971
Dec. 17th: 68 in 1984
Dec. 18th: 69 in 1984

As for the monthly temperature, we’ve got a way to go in that department too. The warmest December on record was back in 1931 with an average monthly temperature of 45.7. Through the first 13 days of December 2006 we are averaging 39.4. A few more days with highs in the 60s will get that average up over 40, but a weak cold front forecast to move through here Friday, and a stronger one around the middle of next week, might put a lid on the average monthly temperature. More on a possible Christmas cool down later.

Tom Tasselmyer

Weekend Warmup
December 10, 2006

It has become evident this weekend that temperatures are moderating. We are a long way away from the record high of 75 degrees set on December 1 but but we are now recovering from the coldest temperatures of the month so far. The Friday high of 34 degrees is the coldest so far this month. Saturday we jumped into the low 40s for highs and it is expected to be about 10 degrees warmer on Sunday.

Exceptionally dry air has supported this shot of cold readings. Saturday & Sunday morning dewpoint temperatures dropped into the teens and single digits. The high pressure that is over the area will drift east and a persistent southwest flow help boost temperatures and increase moisture.

The storm track has been along the northern tier of states. The disturbances have been remnants of storms coming off the Pacific Ocean and most of the moisture was left behind in the mountains. The developing southwest flow will pump moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward and eventually, all will come together as an increased rain chance for the middle of the week.

Long term forecasting is a risky business but I can’t resist the temptation to point out that some forecast models are pointing toward some sort of storm development around Christmas time. Every 6 hour forecast cycle comes up with a slightly different skew on this development and that is typical for potential events that are over 300 hours away. It is not something you want to hang your hat on but it is something to watch with interest over the next couple of weeks. John Collins

Weekend Warm-Up
December 9, 2006

The blast of arctic air that swept into the area with a few flurries and snow showers produced the coldest day we’ve had around here since the middle of last February. The high temperature Friday afternoon at BWI-Marshall was just 34F, the last time our high temperature was colder was back on February 19th when we only managed to reach 29F.

It will be another very cold night as high pressure builds over Maryland with clear skies and diminishing winds. Low temperatures are expected to reach the teens around central Maryland with some single digits to near zero in the western part of the state! But, as the upper level winds shift to a southwesterly direction, the surface high pressure cell will slide south of the state and a weekend warm-up will begin. Temperatures will get back close to normal (48F) on Saturday and then surge above normal on Sunday. With mild air returning, the next storm to approach the region will likely bring just rain around the middle of next week. After that, the longer range pattern would seem to favor near normal December weather taking us up to Christmas.

Tom Tasselmyer

Quick Hitting Arctic Blast
December 7, 2006

A strong cold front is about to deliver a quick arctic blast to the region. The front, as of 9am, was slicing through the western MD mountains…down to 30F at Oakland, MD, 27F with snow squalls reducing visibility to 1/2 mile at Cleveland and 9F with a wind chill of -10F at Chicago! It looks like a classic heavy lake effect snow event for the snowbelt regions of northeast Ohio, western PA and the mountains of MD and WV. Here on the east side of the mountains a mild start to the day should be replaced with increasing winds and falling temperatures during the afternoon. Most fronts of this nature don’t do much as far as precipitation goes in central and eastern Maryland, unless they have some additional help from weather elements in the upper levels of the atmosphere. With today’s front, computer models have been consistently showing a strong jet stream, with winds topping 140 mph, zipping over Maryland just behind the front. That jet will combine with a pocket of energy in the mid levels of the atmosphere to bring a chance of snow showers into the evening. Tough call as to whether we’ll see just a few flakes or a more signifcant snow shower, but the ground temperatures are so warm it would take a very heavy squall to produce any accumulations.

Tom Tasselmyer

First Flakes
December 6, 2006

Not exactly the snowstorm that area snowfans are hoping for, but the first official snowflakes of the season blew through Tuesday around midday. At the National Weather Service observation point at BWI-Marshall Airport, flurries were reported from 12:14 p.m. to 12:48 p.m. Many areas, especially north of Baltimore, had a brief period or two of flurries as cold, northwesterly winds crossed the mountains with some moisture from the great lakes.

Exactly one year ago, much more than a few flurries were blowing through the area. From around 2pm on December 5, 2005 through about 4am on December 6, 2005, the area was blanketed with 3-5″ of snow, including 3.3″ at BWI-Marshall, 5″ at American Corner on the eastern shore, 4″ in Cockeysville and Ellicott City, 3.5″ in Bel Air, 3″ in Annapolis and 2.7″ in Elkton.

Our next chance for a few flakes this year will come as another strong cold front moves through on Thursday.

Tom Tasselmyer