Friday, September 16, 2005

Endless Summer

The summery weather continues this afternoon in the Washington DC metro area. It was 89 for 4 consecutive hourly reports yesterday at National, but somewhere in between the high was 90 for the third time this month. Temperatures are again in the upper 80s this afternoon and dewpoints are in the soggy range, mainly the upper 60s. Winchester, which had a moderate thunderstorm at 3:00, saw the temperature drop to 70. This was part of a line of showers and thunderstorms which formed just west of I-81. The line is moving eastward and should reach the metro area within the next couple of hours if it continues to hold together. Around 4:30, the leading edge of showers had reached central Frederick County, MD and Loudoun County, VA.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Warm and humid conditions will continue tonight with a 70% chance of showers or thunderstorms through this evening. The air behind the cold front approaching from the west will be slow to work its way into the area, so tomorrow's highs will be in the middle 80s under partly cloudy skies.

Tropical Beat: Ophelia Fades

Tropical Storm Ophelia continues to move north-northeast at 8 mph away from the Outer Banks. It has weakened to 60 mph. The current forecast track takes it close to southeastern New England, with landfall somewhere along the coast of Nova Scotia. Tropical storm warnings are in effect from Watch Hill, RI to Plymouth, MA, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. A tropical storm watch is in effect for southwestern Nova Scotia.

There are two areas in the Atlantic being watched for development: A tropical wave is located about 550 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands, and there is an area of showers and thunderstorms extending east-northeastward from near the Dominican Republic.

While FEMA Slept

NPR's Morning Edition today posted links to the National Situation Updates sent to management by FEMA professionals as early as the Friday night before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Monday. By Saturday morning, the update emphasized the fact that Katrina had strengthened to Category 3 and was threatening the northern Gulf Coast, but this was apparently not taken seriously. Perhaps they should have used a catchier title, like "Bin Laden determined to strike in US".

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Which Way the Wind Blows

Here's an unusual sight: Easterly to northeasterly winds all day in the middle of September in the Washington DC area, and the temperatures are . . . near or above 90 degrees! Surface dewpoints are in the juicy range of the upper 60s to low 70s, but outflow from the hurricane to the south is keeping convective activity very widely scattered between here and tidewater Virginia. Around 4:00, there was a small area of moderate to heavy showers along the Eastern Shore north of the Bay Bridge.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will continue warm and muggy, lows in the lower 70s. Tomorrow will be mainly cloudy as a front approaches from the west; highs will be in the low 80s, and there is a 50% chance of showers by afternoon.

Tropical Beat: Exit Ophelia Stage Right?

Hurricane Ophelia continues to act distracted. It has still not made landfall, since the edge of the center just grazed the southeastern North Carolina coast. At 5pm, it was drifting east-northeast at 3 mph after having stalled again earlier today. It was located about 30 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras. Maximum winds decreased from 80 mph to 75 mph. It is expected to drift slowly to the east or east-northeast tonight. The forecast track continues the westward trend of recent days and brings it close to Nova Scotia as an extratropical storm over the weekend.

At 5pm, the hurricane warnings for North Carolina were changed to tropical storm warnings. Also, a tropical storm watch was issued for southeastern New England, from Woods Hole, MA north across Cape Cod to Plymouth, including Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

Meanwhile, there is a tropical wave about 900 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands which has the potential to become a tropical depression by tomorrow. Despite the lull in new development since Ophelia, we are still ahead of the record season of 1933, since the 16th would-have-been-named storm did not appear until September 27 that year. In the near-record year of 1995, "Pablo" didn't form until October 4.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) announced today the results of a study published in the latest issue of Science which shows that the intensity of tropical storms worldwide has been increasing:
"The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has nearly doubled over the past 35 years, even though the total number of hurricanes has dropped since the 1990s, according to a study by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The shift occurred as global sea surface temperatures have increased over the same period."
Winds of Justice

Newsweek reports that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a weather forecaster for the Army Air Corps during World War II. According to the article, he spent the time "drinking in Frederick Hayek's free-market, anti-socialist tract 'The Road to Serfdom.'" Somehow, the connection doesn't seem quite clear.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ophelia Onstage

Showers breaking out in the broad easterly flow north of the large circulation of Hurricane Ophelia have brought some relief to a few parched lawns in the Washington DC metro area, mainly to the west and north of the Beltway. Most of the rain activity in the region was over the northern Chesapeake Bay and adjacent Eastern Shore. There was a likely severe thunderstorm in the vicinity of Elkton. Here in west-central Montgomery County, rain was moderate to heavy around 2:30, with a peak rainfall rate of 1.12"/hr at the 4-WINDS network station about a mile away. Total rainfall was a little more than a quarter of an inch. For a series of Weather Channel radar images showing the evolution of this storm from Fairfax County across to Montgomery County, click here, here, and here.

Temperatures in the rain-free areas are well up into the 80s and the dewpoints are in the tropical range of upper 60s to low 70s.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Cloudy and humid conditions will continue tonight with lows around 70 and a 30% chance of showers or thunderstorms. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy and humid with highs in the low 80s and a 30% chance of showers, but a higher chance to the south and east of the immediate area.

Tropical Beat: "Enter Ophelia, Distracted"

Hurricane Ophelia strengthened to 85 mph as of 2pm. It was located 70 miles southwest of Cape Lookout, NC and moving north-northeast at a slow 7 mph. The center of the storm is expected to turn more to the northeast and make landfall near Cape Lookout, then move across the Outer Banks somewhere near Cape Hatteras and out to sea. However, the center is very wide, and hurricane force winds extend as much as 50 miles from the center; tropical force winds extend up to 140 miles. This, together with the slow movement of the storm, means that significant damage, especially from beach erosion and storm surge, can occur a considerable distance north of the center.

As of 2pm, a hurricane warning is in effect from Little River Inlet north to the North Carolina/Virginia border. There is a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch northward from there to Cape Charles Light, VA, including southern portions of the Chesapeake Bay.

The main effects from Ophelia on the DC region are still likely to be south and east of the immediate metro area.

More Katrina Media Notes

Under the headline "Storm Drain", the WaPo TV section reprints today an Associated Press story which says that only 24 million viewers tuned in to the Katrina benefit concert last Friday night, although it was carried on 29 networks. That's "fewer than the number of people who typically tune in to a new episode of 'American Idol' or 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.'"

This just in: Also in today's WaPo, featured in the lead column of the Business section front page (although below the fold), is the truly astonishing news that the increase in gasoline prices spawned by the Katrina disaster has greatly diminished the attractiveness of road-hogging, gas-hogging SUV's. Our hearts go out to all of the real estate agents whose image is threatened with impairment in this moment of crisis. Who could have possibly foreseen such an event?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ophelia in the Wings

6:15 update:At 5:30, the NHC put out an updated advisory indicating that the NOAA Hurricane Hunters had found an area of 75 mph winds, so Ophelia is now upgraded back to a hurricane. Also, the hurricane warning has been extended north to Oregon Inlet. The tropical storm warning and hurricane watch continue north of there. Thanks to Nikolai for catching this.

Current Conditions

A large high pressure ridge continues over the mid-Atlantic area, bringing more bright sun, low humidity, and warm temperatures to the Washington metro area. Temperatures at mid afternoon were about 4 degrees warmer than yesterday at the same time. While the official airport stations were all at 88 or 89 at 3pm, a few locations, especially to the south, were at 90 or above. By 4pm, National and Quantico were the only places not reaching 90. At 5pm, National was at 90 also. It's the 16th consecutive day without rain. The driest September here in modern times was in 1967, when 0.20" was recorded, although only 0.14" occurred in 1884.

Regional radar is clear, but in the Carolinas, the outer rainbands of Ophelia are reaching the coast between Charleston and Wilmington. The heaviest rains are in the Myrtle Beach area.

Tonight and Tomorrow

For tonight, mostly clear skies will allow temperatures to fall to the upper 60s in the city, low to mid 60s in the 'burbs. Tomorrow will be partly cloudy and more humid, highs near 84.

Tropical Beat

Ophelia remains a tropical storm with max winds of 70 mph at 5pm. However, the storm has a very broad circulation; tropical storm winds extend as far as 160 miles from the center. The very large clear area near the center yesterday has been filling with convection as the storm moves slowly over the Gulf Stream. This should cause some strengthening to occur, but it is unlikely to reach more than minimal hurricane strength. Movement is toward the north-northwest at 4 mph, expected to become more northerly. The projected track takes the storm across the Outer Banks in the next couple of days and then northeastward out to sea, eventually reaching southeastern Newfoundland over the weekend.

A hurricane warning is in effect from the South Santee River, SC to Cape Hatteras, NC as of 5pm. There is a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch from Cape Hatteras north to the Virginia border. A tropical storm watch is in effect north of the Virginia border to Cape Charles Light. The Raleigh News&Observer reports as of 4:30 evacuations for portions of the Outer Banks:
  • Dare County: Mandatory evacuation order issued today.
  • Ocracoke Island: Visitors ordered to leave.
  • Hatteras Island: All residents and visitors told to evacuate.
The effects of Ophelia in the immediate Washington DC area are likely to be quite limited, but the National Weather Service has put out a Special Weather Statement (scroll down for the Baltimore/Washington statement) indicating the possible wind, rain, and tidal effects, especially to the south and east of the area.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ophelia Pain

A high pressure area centered near the Washington DC region covers most of the eastern 2/3 of the country. Lawns are feeling the pain of the 15th consecutive day without measurable rain in the area. Temperatures at mid afternoon are in the mid to upper 80s, with dewpoints in the pleasant mid to upper 50s.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will be clear with lows around 63 in the city to near 60 or the upper 50s in the outlying areas. Tomorrow will be similar to today, but with temperatures a few degrees warmer, highs near 90, and a little more humid.

Tropical Beat

After making a small clockwise loop, Ophelia was downgraded to a tropical storm this morning with max winds of 70 mph. It is lumbering off to the northwest at 3 mph as of 5pm. Water vapor images show that dry air from the high over us is not only suppressing convection to the north, but it is even working its way around the southern portion of the storm as well. The track is still very uncertain, but the most likely scenario is for the center to graze the Outer Banks and then proceed back out to sea. The "pear" of uncertainty for the 1-3 day track includes southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. The "Tropical Storm Force Experimental Probabilities" put DC just on the outer edge of the 20-30% probability of tropical storm winds for the 5 days from this morning through 8am Saturday.

The Katrina Channel
  • Both Time and Newsweek have extensive analyses of Katrina's aftermath this week.
  • The U.K. newspaper the Independent has an article discussing the environmental impacts based on an interview with Hugh Kaufman, "an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)".
  • Reuters has just reported at 3:30 that FEMA chief Brown has resigned.

Planet Hollywood
Among the movies scheduled to be released this fall (October 28) is "The Weather Man", starring Nicolas Cage as a TV weatherman. Here is the plot summary from the Internet Movie Database:
"Dave Spritz is a local weatherman in his home city of Chicago, who lives with his wife and kids. Despite being both loathed and loved by the local masses, Dave is a guy who doesn't seem to have it all together and he feels it. But an attractive job offer has one unlikely thing: to relocate to New York City. Despite all the advice his seemingly has it together father and a neurotic wife, Dave has to make a big decision that not only will affect his life but his family's as well."
Michael Caine plays Cage's father. The official web site contains the usual assortment of trailers and clips, as well as downloads of wallpapers and screen savers; AIM icons are "coming soon." Cage fan sites CageFactor and Cage by Page contain additional news items.

Real Boston TV weatherman Todd Gross, who owns domain, has this to say after viewing the trailer:
In the upcoming movie The Weatherman starring Nick Cage, a weatherman that appears to be a non-meteorologist works two hours a day and seems to more or less "wing it' from what I have seen of the trailers. In real life, hundreds of hard-working meteorologists are struggling with pages and pages of data to give you the BEST possible forecast and beat out the competition.
The Chicagoist reports that the film will close the Chicago International Film Festival on October 20.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.