Friday, October 14, 2005

Nowhere to Go But Up

It's not as nasty as yesterday's heavy drizzle, but this afternoon's weather in the Washington DC metro area is still a lot like the Other Washington. Occasional breaks in the clouds have allowed some warming to push temperatures into the upper 60s to 70 range with even some low 70s in the southern parts of the region. Intermittent light rain ended at National shortly after noon, with only 0.01" recorded today. The nearest organized precipitation on radar is over northern New Jersey, Long Island, and offshore. This precipitation is circulating around a stubborn low pressure area centered east of New Jersey. Although this is a non-tropical low, it has been fed by tropical moisture, leading to flooding in large parts of the Northeast.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Clouds tonight should gradually diminish towards morning with lows near 56. Tomorrow looks like a great day to get in one more lawn mowing: mostly sunny and highs around 77.

Tropical Beat

The tropical Atlantic still has no organized activity, but it's not for lack of trying. There are tropical waves near longitudes 32W, 42W, and 58W, and there is a low pressure area near Jamaica which is being monitored for development.

Climate Clues

Speaking of the Other Washington, the RealClimate blog has links to an interesting set of articles from the Seattle Times. The paper published an extensive article on global warming on Sunday. This was followed on Wednesday by a Q and A in which climate scientists answered readers' questions. (WeatherTalk guys, are you listening?)

Geeky Weather Humor

"Question: Where did the meteorologist stop for a drink on the way home after a long day in the studio?
Answer: The nearest isobar."
"Question: What comes after 2 days of rain in Seattle?
Answer: Monday."
"Isohyet: A line of constant hotels."
"Water vapor channel: The channel that comes after MTV."

If this kind of humor appeals to you, check out meteorology's version of the Style Invitational. These are some of the entries in the Coin-A-Phenomenon #3 joke contest from the September issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The latest contest is looking for funny definitions of terms related to tropical storms (tropical depression, feeder bands, etc.). Entries may be submitted to letterstotheeditor at ametsoc dot org. The deadline is November 1.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wet Wednesday?

4:30 update: This just in, AP reports via WaPo Tony Perkins returns from GMA to Channel 5.

Despite persistent cloudiness and a damp easterly flow, precipitation in the Washington DC metro area has been limited to some drizzle and mist this morning; only a trace of accumulation has been reported at the major observation locations. The nearest significant precipitation on radar is moving westward onto the New Jersey shore. With a little sun able to penetrate the clouds, temperatures are a degree or two warmer than yesterday, mainly in the mid 60s, although to the south Fredericksburg and Stafford were both reporting 68 by 2pm.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Under continued cloudy skies, low temperatures tonight should be near 58, highs tomorrow 67. Some drizzle or fog is possible, but there is only a 20% chance of measurable precipitation.

Where's Wilma?

The Weather Channel's Tropical Update Running Yellow Slicker Person is getting a well-earned break as "there are no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at this time." That doesn't mean that the tropics are exactly quiet, however. The very large area of low pressure over the Caribbean and southwestern Atlantic still has stormy weather associated with it all the way from Central America across the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands, and into the Atlantic. This is bringing more heavy rain and the threat of flooding to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. San Juan only had 0.50" in the 24 hours ending this morning on top of the more than 4 inches yesterday, however. There is no indication of tropical cyclone development within this area.

The Basque News and Information Channel has a report of Vince's rare landfall in Spain yesterday.

Winter Weather
Winter Outlook
NOAA has come out with the preliminary version of their winter weather outlook covering the months December through February. For those who are looking for a dramatic follow-up to at least the second most active hurricane season in over 150 years, the outlook is rather bland for much of the U.S. It calls for near-normal temperatures over the area east of the Mississippi and warmer than normal temperatures over most of the Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. Precipitation is forecast to be near normal over nearly all of the country. Sea-surface temperatures in the central Pacific are near normal and are expected to remain that way, so neither El Niño nor La Niña events are anticipated. The outlook will be updated on Oct. 20 and Nov. 17.

Web Watch

Channel 9 has added a web page which gives nice 3-up graphics of regional temperatures, satellite, and radar. The satellite and radar images are clickable to display time loops, which are, alas, too slow for my tin-can-and-string connection. One suggestion, 9 guys: The logo probably doesn't need to obscure most of the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley of New York as well as central New England.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rain, Spain, Pain, and Bane

Scattered light showers are persisting in the Washington metro area, but the rain amounts have been generally heavier to the east. This is consistent with the "NAM" model forecast (and yesterday, although the total amounts have been lighter overall. The Official Rain Bucket at National has recorded only a trace since noon, after 0.09" fell earlier. To the north, Baltimore reported 0.13". Annapolis, on the other hand, has had a little over a third of an inch, and the amount at Patuxent River was more than twice as much, 0.83".

Temperatures were all in the 63-64 degree range at mid afternoon with humidities around 90%.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Clouds will persist through tomorrow, with lows tonight near 56 and highs tomorrow near 64. There is a 30% chance of showers throughout the period. Amounts should be generally light, under 0.10".

Tropical Beat

Vince dissipated early this morning as a Tropical Depression on the coast of southwestern Spain. The National Hurricane Center reports that this is the first time a tropical cyclone has made landfall in Spain. Maximum sustained winds were 35 mph and the central pressure was 1002 mb.

The large area of storms in the eastern Caribbean northeastward into the Atlantic is showing no signs of organization, but it is bringing flooding rains to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where flash flood warnings are in effect. San Juan reported 4.27" in the 24 hours ending this morning, although amounts so far today have been light.

The remnants of what was once Subtropical depression 22 are also still hanging around in the Atlantic, now a couple of hundred miles east of Norfolk. No development is expected with this, either.

Gas Pains

Heating degree days (departures from normal in parentheses):
yesterday 1, month 6 (-32), season 11 (-53)

There's been a lot of attention on gasoline prices lately, but if you pay a natural gas heating bill, you're probably going to be a lot more interested in heating degree days in the coming months, even if we have a mild winter. Natural gas prices have been severely impacted by Katrita (Katrina/Rita) effects on the Gulf Coast. Although wholesale prices were down this morning about 10% from their recent high of $14.50, they are more than double what they were last year at this time. Some experts are predicting the price could go as high as $20 if there are weather-induced shortages. Since there is roughly a 10:1 ratio between this price and the price you pay Washington Gas per therm, that means that you're likely to pay at least $1.40 per therm to heat your house this winter, compared with the 75 cents you were billed last November. In fact, I see from the "Fixed Price Protection" offer I got in the mail last week from Washington Gas, the price on a 1-year contract is $1.39 per therm, and on a 2-year contract it's $1.45. Because there is a fixed-rate distribution charge built in to the bill, the increase in prices does not translate directly into an increase in the total bill, but their "Blanket Bill" offer shows a monthly amount which is a whopping 65% above the average I paid for the 12 months ending in June. (There was no decimal point in that percentage!) The rate for November's meter reading has already been posted at $1.69. In a worst-case scenario, the fixed-price offer could end up being a bargain, but if you do decide to sign up, I suggest you use a microscope to check out the terms in the 1-point type.

Frankenfish Report

The WaPo reports today that the heavy weekend rains were associated with a run of the snakehead "frankenfish" in Dogue Creek adjacent to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. At least 80 of the strange critters were caught Sunday and yesterday. They were literally jumping onto the banks as they chased minnows. It looks like fears of a massive infestation of the predatory species are being confirmed.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hello, Columbus


Some peeks of sunshine through the clouds have pushed temperatures in the Washington DC metro area above the most pessimistic forecasts for today. At mid afternoon, temperatures were from the upper 60s to a few readings of 70. Radar shows a broken area of showers from northwest of Charlottesville south and east to near Richmond. The clouds in our area are associated with a stationary front extending from near the Outer Banks to just offshore of Cape Cod and northward to Nova Scotia. Some weak disturbances along the front are likely to produce some rain or showers as an area of spin ("vorticity") makes its way northeastward from the lower Ohio Valley. The heaviest precipitation is likely to be to the east of the metro area. However, the high amount of moisture in the air along with a source of upper-level energy and the already saturated ground combine to produce a threat of some flooding. At this point, we are less than 1.5" away from breaking the all-time October maximum precipitation record of 8.81".

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will be cloudy with lows in the upper 50s and showers or occasional rain developing by morning. Rain is likely tomorrow with highs around 63. The most likely time for precipitation is from late morning through tomorrow evening.

Tropical Beat

Vince's brief reign as a hurricane has ended; peak winds this morning were down to 45 mph as the result of northwesterly shear and cool water temperatures around 22C (72F). It is now close to being Tropically Depressed at 40 mph. Vince is the earliest 20th "named" storm by 17 days. The only other one recorded since 1851 occurred on 10/26/33. That 1933 system was a tropical storm; it was followed by a minimal tropical storm (35 kt) which formed on Nov. 15 and lasted barely 48 hours.

The other areas of activity in the Atlantic are (1) an area of showers and storms from the eastern Caribbean, across the Lesser Antilles, and into the Atlantic, and (2) a tropical wave a couple of hundred miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Neither of these appear favorable for tropical development.

Columbus' Hurricanes

Columbus' first voyage to the New World was made near the peak of hurricane season, but David Ludlum, in his classic book Early American Hurricanes 1492-1870 says, "the outstanding meteorological fact of the First Voyage is simply that no hurricanes or severe storms were encountered in the West Indies despite the fact that the fleet of three small vessels traversed an area of tropical storm activity at the season of their most frequent occurrence." Was this luck, as it is sometimes described? On the 500th anniversary of the famous voyage in 1992, 2 researchers looked at the record of known tropical storms and hurricanes from 1896 through 1989 in a paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. They found that only 4 times in those 104 years would the center of a storm have passed within 100 km of Columbus' fleet. Only one of those storms would have been a hurricane.

Bob Sheets and Jack Williams, in their book Hurricane Watch, describe how Columbus was not so fortunate on his later voyages. On his second trip, in 1495, Columbus and his crew became the first Europeans known to have experienced a hurricane, and 2 of his 3 ships were sunk off the coast of Hispaniola. He applied that experience on his fourth and final voyage in 1502, when he noted the signs of an approaching storm. He sent a message to the governor of the new Spanish colony requesting him to hold a fleet of 30 ships in the harbor at the capital of Santo Domingo. The ships had been preparing to sail back to Spain with cargoes of gold. He also asked permission to shelter his own four ships in port. The requests were denied because of political rivalry between the governor and Columbus, and the Spanish fleet set sail right into the path of the storm. Twenty-one of the ships sank, and 500 sailors were lost. A few of the surviving ships made it back to the damaged port of Santo Domingo; only one returned safely to Spain. Meanwhile, Columbus took shelter along the south coast of the island. Three of his ships lost their anchors, but all were able to ride out the storm safely.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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