Archive for March, 2009

The First Spring Storm
March 30, 2009

The first thunderstorms of the spring season rolled across the region Sunday. After a day and a half of drizzle and fog, the sun broke through Sunday afternoon and drove temperatures into the 70s. The warm temperatures combined with an approaching cold front helped develop a couple of lines of thunderstorms, some of which became severe with strong wind gusts and small hail. The heaviest storm activity was in Pennsylvania.


The NASA satellite image above shows the storm activity at 5:15 Sunday afternoon with thunderstorm cells over north central Maryland and eastern Pennsylvania. The center of the storm circulation is shown over Lake Erie.

This is the same storm that produced over two feet of snow in parts of Kansas Thursday and Friday and then went on the generate a half foot of snow west and north of Chicago early in the weekend.


Graphic Courtesy: National Weather Service

A new storm is developing out west. As it moves east it is expected to dump around a foot of snow in the Fargo, North Dakota area, adding to their flooding woes. The storm will eventually bring more rain to the Mid Atlantic region by the middle and end of the week.

John Collins


Winter Dakota Flooding
March 27, 2009

It would be hard to convince North Dakotans that spring has arrived. Yes, the calendar says spring and, yes, the Red River of the North is in a spring flood mode. But, snow is still on the ground and today, temperatures are in the teens.

jc_nd_floodfriNASA Satellite Image

The satellite image above shows the snow cover over Minnesota, North Dakota, and western South Dakota.

The snow and cold is complicating the flooding on the Red River of the North that forms the border between North Dakota and Minnesota. The flooding has reached record levels and the frozen ground is forcing river overflow to run off rather than be absorbed into the soil. The region around the Red River is relatively flat and this allows the flood waters to spread out and affect a large area.

Ice jamming on the Red River in eastern North Dakota and the Missouri River in central North Dakota is causing river waters to back up. In the picture, you can see the Missouri river cut into the snow cover.

While all of this is going on up north, a blizzard is under way over portions of the central and southern Plains states.

Our rainy weekend forecast doesn’t seem so bad after all.

John Collins

Mt. Redoubt Eruption Fallout
March 27, 2009

The eruption of the Mt Redoubt volcano was not just a “local” event in Alaska. Gasses and dust were injected into the upper levels of the atmosphere and are being carried by high altitude winds to the lower 48 states.

The NOAA/NASA image below was taken by a research satellite and shows a widespread area of sulfur dioxide from the eruption that has been transported from Alaska to the western U.S.


The satellite image above is proof that such events are truely global in scope.

John Collins

More Alaska Volcano Pictures
March 25, 2009

Additional pictures have come in covering the eruption of Mt. Redoubt in Alaska.


The GOES-11 satellite image above shows an ash plume rising above the cloud deck.

akvolcanoobservatory323Mt. Redoubt, March 23, 2009. Courtesy: Alaska Volcano Observatory

The picture above is a webcam image of Mt. Redoubt taken on Monday. Ash and steam are rising from the crater at the mountain’s peak. The main eruptions occurred during the overnight hours and no webcam images are available from that time.

Additional images from the Mt. Redoubt eruption are available at the Alaska Volcano Observatory website;

John Collins

Alaska Volcano Eruption
March 23, 2009

Alaska’s Mt Redoubt has erupted after weeks of seismic rumblings hinted at a possible event. Redoubt is southwest of Anchorage.

The image below is from the Anchorage National Weather Service Doppler radar site.


Most of the radar echoes are the result of “clutter” from surrounding terrain. The red/orange/yellow dot on the left edge of the image is the ash and steam cloud that rose to 50,000 feet in the pre dawn hours (Alaska time) on Monday. The ash plum is being blown to the north-northeast by high altitude winds.

Low clouds are obscuring the view of Mt Redoubt on Monday. The images below are pictures taken in the days just before the early morning eruption.

318dennisanderson                    Redoubt as viewed from Homer, AK. on March 18. A steam plume is seen venting from the crater.  Photographer: Dennis Anderson

321cyrusreadThe Redoubt crater with steam venting on March 21. Note ash debris on the snow to the right of the steam plume. Photographer: Cyrus Read

Click on the following link for more information and the current status on Mt Redoubt.

John Collins


Snapshot of the Start of Spring
March 20, 2009

Winter is over. Spring started officially at 7:44am. Today is the day that the sun is directly overhead at the equator. From this point on the sun’s apparent position in the sky will move farther north and provide longer daylight hours in the northern hemisphere.

Using BWI-Marshall Airport as a reference point, the sun rose today at 7:11 and will set at 7:18. That is 12 hours and 8 minutes of sunlight. The equinox is the halfway point and is supposed to denote equal hours of night and day. This is based on the center of the sun aligning with the horizon at rise and set. The extra 8 minutes of daylight comes from the fact that, at sunrise, the outer edge of the sun crosses the horizon a few minutes before(or after in the case of sunset) the center-point does.

In Baltimore, on this first day of spring, the average high temperature is 55 degrees and the average low is 35. The passage of a cold front yesterday has brought some unseasonably chilly air into the region but readings are expected to rebound nicely over the weekend.

Tom mentioned in the previous blog entry that the area is running a little short on precipitation. In that respect the news is not great. Any significant rainfall chances for the first week of spring are pretty slim.

Weatherwise, the satellite image below shows the equinox weather over the western hemisphere.

latestfullCourtesy: NASA

The two satellite images below demonstrate the warming effect of the longer hours and higher angle of sunlight in the month of March.


The image above show the ice-pack on Lake Superior in early March. The image below shows the diminished ice-pack as of this morning.


On the flip side of all of this, it is the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere. There the days will be growing shorter. It is also interesting to note that the tropical cyclone season is very active at this time in the southwest Pacific and Indian Oceans, similar to the tropical storm and hurricane activity spike in the Atlantic Basin in September and October. The satellite image below shows two such storms now active near Australia.


A close-up image (below) of Ilsa transmitted the day after the above image shows that the storm has become quite impressive.


John Collins

Dry Spell Pushing Toward 6 Months
March 19, 2009

A few tenths of an inch of rain accompanied the cold front moving through today, but we could use quite a bit more.  Climate stats at BWI-Marshall show a precipitation deficit of 7.85″ since October of last year.


Tom Tasselmyer

Seasonal Contrasts
March 18, 2009

The region remains dry.


On the other hand the history books show that March can have a very different look.


Be careful of what you wish for.

John Collins

Rain Needed
March 15, 2009

A rainy forecast for a weekend may be inconvenient for some but in the current situation it is not a totally bad thing. The area is running a little short on precipitation so far this year.


A couple of impulses will be coming this way today and tomorrow but the rain associated with them will be concentrated south of the Baltimore area and what rain we do receive will be on the light side.

John Collins

Historic Storm
March 13, 2009

It was referred to as “The Storm of the Century”. Its’ effects were felt across the eastern third of the nation in mid March, 1993.

jc_1993blizzardCourtesy: NASA

The satellite image above shows the storm as it was developing and advancing on the eastern seaboard. Tornadoes, wind gusts over 100 mph, coastal flooding, blizzard conditions and record snows were generated by this one storm.

The storm hit the Baltimore area on March 13 and generated a heavy, wet snow that broke records across the region.


Blizzard conditions caused blowing and drifting snow. Powerlines were snapped causing widespread outages.

This area has experienced bigger snowfalls in the metro area but the size and scope of this storm made it one for the record books.

John Collins