Friday, September 30, 2005

Deja Vu

5:00 update: We have Tropical Depression 19. The area near the Cape Verdes has developed and has the potential to become Stan within 24 hours.

4:30 update
How cold was it? The Official Low last night was 50 (10.0 C). (Hm, I wonder why those numbers sound familiar. Check out the CarTalk Puzzler reference in Monday's post.) The Usually Colder Place was 40 (4.4 C). In case there was any suspense, the 24-hr. precipitation did come in at 0.01", so the record for driest September ever in Washington will be official at midnight. This afternoon, temperatures have rebounded; they are at or very near 70 in all reporting locations. If you want to see rain on a radar, you'll have to go at least as far as the southern Georgia/South Carolina coast.

Tonight and Tomorrow

For tonight, clear skies and calm winds will lead to some more chilly temperatures, but a few notches higher than last night: 53 city to 43 exurbs. Tomorrow: deja vu all over again. (And somebody said in the comments that summer was the boring season!)

Tropical Beat

The tropics continue their siesta. The Special Tropical Disturbance in the northwestern Caribbean was looking better organized today, but not enough to send in the planes. A flight is scheduled tentatively for late tonight or tomorrow.

A low pressure area almost 600 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands is also perking up and conditions are favorable for tropical depression development "later today or on Saturday", according to the NHC.

Policy Matters

Wonkette has some comments on Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Perk" (or should the initial consonants have been reversed?)

Capitol Climate: CO2

Congress is back in town (hold on to your wallet!), so the American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series resumes on Capitol Hill next Wednesday.
  • Subject: "Changes in Ocean Acidity Resulting from the Buildup of CO2: Implications for the Present and the Future"
  • Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2005, noon - 2pm
  • Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-50
  • Moderator: Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Policy Fellow, American Meteorological Society
  • Speaker: Dr. Richard A. Feely, Supervisory Oceanographer, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, WA
  • Speaker: Dr. Kenneth Caldeira, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, Stanford University, CA
The questions to be addressed are:
What are the links between ocean acidity, ocean temperature and elevated atmospheric CO2? What are the implications of increasing ocean acidity in the upper ocean to ecosystems and to society? Is there historical evidence of increased ocean acidity associated with warmer temperatures and higher levels of oceanic and atmospheric CO2? If so, what were the consequences? Are there options for keeping ocean acidity in check? Is the increase in ocean acidity independent of any climate warming resulting from the buildup of CO2?
The next seminar is tentatively scheduled for October 25 on the subject, "Hurricanes: Are They Changing and Are We Adequately Prepared for the Future?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Record Breaking

The cold front we talked about yesterday raced through the Washington metro area around noon, bringing some very light showers (National and BWI 0.01", Dulles a trace). Unless something as unusual as an ice meteorite landing directly on the rain gauge happens before midnight tomorrow, the official total of 0.11" will become the new low rainfall amount for September in Washington. (The April record is 0.03", and October has had both a trace and 0.02".) The bright sun after the rapid clearing has pushed the temperature back up to 75 at mid afternoon.

Tonight and Tomorrow

The main issue for the next 24 hours is how many blankets you will need tonight. The model temperature forecasts were not all up to date at press time, but the current ones ranged from 49 to 50 for National, so I will go for 49. (The record of 39 has stood since 1888.) Dulles and the other usual colder suspects could easily be 10 degrees colder. (Dulles has been reporting only for about 45 years, but the record there was 35 in 1993.) Tomorrow's high should be around 70.

Tropical Beat: Not Yet Depressed

After a reconnaissance flight checked out the disturbance in the western Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center put out a Special Tropical Disturbance Statement saying that the area was still disorganized and not yet a tropical depression. Conditions are still favorable, however, and another flight is at least tentatively scheduled for tomorrow.

Policy Matters: Science or Entertainment?

While the Katrina hearings continued on Capitol Hill yesterday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee was holding a hearing in which, probably for the first time, a science fiction writer was invited to testify on science policy. Michael Crichton, author of "State of Fear", and an M.D. by training, was asked for his opinion on global warming. For a review of the hearing by actual scientists (now there's a novel idea), look at the latest posting on the RealClimate blog. RealClimate has a link to the remarks by the ranking committee member, Sen. Jeffords of Vermont, in which he asks, "Mr. Chairman, given the profound human suffering and ecological damage along the Gulf Coast, why are we having a hearing that features a fiction writer as our key witness?" The hearings were also covered by the book sections of the U.K. Guardian ("Novel take on global warming") and the New York Times ("Michael Crichton, Novelist, Becomes Senate Witness")

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One Fine Day II: Records in Jeopardy

A bright September sun and southerly breezes are helping temperatures rebound nicely to near 80 from this morning's chilly lows (55 at National, 47 at Dulles). For an explanation of why I was too conservative by 5 degrees at National and 3 degrees at Dulles, and to see who did better, check out the comments from yesterday's post.

What would normally be a typical early-fall cold front has history-making potential tomorrow, since we are approaching the end of September with official total rainfall of 0.10", vs. the all-time low of 0.14" in 1884. (Memo to Topper: I went scurrying back to the database when you said 1934 on the 11pm report last night, but that was the year of the WETTEST September, 17.45". Since we don't make the big bucks here at Blog Central, we do our own fact-checking.)

Tonight and Tomorrow

I'm not going out on much of a limb by saying that tonight's lows will NOT be as cool as last night's, mainly in the low 60s. Tomorrow is trickier, since it depends on the timing of the passage of a new cold front, one that is strong enough to produce some frost in the upper Great Lakes in the early morning hours. The model guidance indicates frontal passage ("fropa") in the early to mid afternoon, so depending on the amount of cloudiness and whether or not there is some rain associated, the high might not make it beyond the mid 70s. The latest model run this afternoon keeps the heaviest precipitation north of the Mason-Dixon line (over half an inch in western Pennsylvania), but around 0.1" is indicated for the DC area. This amount is not enough to save any lawns, but it would spoil the chance of breaking the 121-year record.

Tropical Beat: Atlantic Still Quiet

Tropical junkies are having withdrawal pains from another day without an advisory. The "special feature", a tropical wave/low pressure area now in the western Caribbean is looking more ragged today, and the scheduled reconnaissance flight was canceled. The National Hurricane Center still sees some potential for this to become Tropically Depressed, so the flight was rescheduled for tomorrow morning. There are now only 2 days left to break the 1933 record for earliest 18th storm.

Broadcast News: Entertainment or Business, You Be the Judge

You may recall about a month ago (on Katrina's birthday, as it happens), we linked to a Harper's Magazine online article which quoted from the transcript of a presentation by a Weather Channel executive on dress and appearance of On-Camera Meteorologists (OCMs). This issue is the subject of an age-discrimination lawsuit by former TWC meteorologist Marny Stanier. ABC News has posted an Associated Press article which describes the latest developments in the case. On Monday, the judge raised the question of whether TWC is entertainment or a business. If it's entertainment, then he said they would be able to discriminate in the same way a movie studio, for example, can hire only 19-year-old actresses. TWC's lawyer claimed that firing Stanier was "simply a way to free up money for future investment." From a view of the faces who have been hired in the last few years, it seems that the future investment has been in younger talent.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"One Fine Day"

Behind a cold front which passed through the Washington DC metro area last night, high pressure dominates the entire country east of the Rockies, except for the Gulf Coast and Florida. Bright, sunny skies have pushed temperatures near or a little above 80 by mid afternoon. Humidity is comfortable with dewpoints mainly in the mid 40s.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Temperatures tonight will drop to around 60 downtown, in the 50s in the outlying areas. Tomorrow will be sunny and dry with high temperatures in the upper 70s.

Tropical Beat: Go S!

Once again, no tropical advisories are being issued today. However, there is an area of low pressure in the central Caribbean, south of Jamaica and Haiti, which shows "the potential to become a tropical cyclone within the next 36 hours", according to the National Hurricane Center. Air Force reconnaissance is scheduled for tomorrow.

We're a little partial to the letter "S" here at Afternoon Blog Central, so we should be excused if we're rooting for this one to develop. If it becomes "Stan", it will be the first time in history that an 18th "named" Atlantic storm has formed before October. The 18th storm in 1933 occurred on October 1, and the only storm ever to have an actual "S" name was Sebastien in 1995.

The Palm Beach Post has an extensive Storm 2005 multimedia collection (flash/audio/video), including recaps of Rita, Katrina, and friends, as well as the Greatest Hits of 2004. Many of the features need more bandwidth than Verizon provides with its tin-can-and-string service here within shouting distance of I-270, the Technology Highway, but they look interesting.

For some spectacular super high-res (250 m) images of Rita, as well as some other items from the last 4 years, point your high-bandwidth connection to the MODIS Image Gallery at the University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering Center.

Hurricane Preparedness

The American Meteorological Society and the Weather Channel sponsored a workshop over 5 years ago to discuss the U.S. hurricane preparedness system. One of the principal findings was that
Overall, the nation pays insufficient attention to hurricane preparedness and response. In particular, there is a lack of attention, dialogue, and planning among the affected parties and insufficient investments to develop and implement response strategies.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Well, Probably Not

Hopes of reducing the drought in the Washington metro area have faded today as the remnants of Rita moved up the Ohio Valley ahead of a cold front and stayed mainly north and west of the region. A few places, such as Hagerstown, Frederick, and Leesburg, reported some light rain or drizzle this afternoon, but no measurable accumulation. Temperatures at mid afternoon were generally in the low 80s under mostly cloudy skies while a southerly to southwesterly breeze gusted as high as 25 mph.

There will be some widely scattered showers moving through the area into this evening, but amounts will be light. Lows will be in the low 60s. Tomorrow will be sunny and dry, highs in the upper 70s.

Tropical Beat

This is one of the few times during this hectic hurricane season that there has been no organized tropical activity in the Atlantic. The last advisory on the remnants of Rita was issued at 5am this morning. Although the storm fortunately did not stall out, some rainfall amounts were very high. A place called Bunkie in Louisiana reported 16 inches. Also in double digits were Laplace, LA at 12.45" and Center, TX at 10.48". New Orleans had over 6".

The NHC is watching a "strong tropical wave" over the central Caribbean for possible future development. There is also a low pressure area about 1200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.

Historical Perspective/Numerology

Now that Rita has made landfall as a Category 3, this is the first time in 155 years of history that as many as 3 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. at Category 3 or higher in each of 2 consecutive years. Last year, there were Charley (4), Ivan (3), and Jeanne (3). This year, we have had Dennis (3), Katrina (4), and Rita (3). The only other previous years with 2 3s and a 4 were 1954 (Carol, Edna, and Hazel) and 1893. There has never been a year with 4 major U.S. landfalls. Even the record-setting year of '33 had, appropriately, 3 3s.

Federal Kudos

The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center get some well-deserved praise for their hurricane forecasting in today's WaPo Federal Diary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is quoted saying that they produced
"probably . . . the best performance of any of the federal agencies in all of this."
Broadcast News

Fans of NPR's Car Talk were pleased Saturday to hear that their weekly Puzzler featured a Fahrenheit/Celsius question. I'm not going to provide a link, because I already solved it in my head while putting a pizza in the oven. (If you do look it up and enter, please mention

I think I heard Pann and Berk, the WeatherTalk guys, say they were going to be on MPT's Direct Connection tonight, but the station's web site is showing a cooking topic. In any case, the program is on at 7:30, channel 22 locally.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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