Friday, November 4, 2005

Signs of the Seasons

(After Verizon dug a five-foot-deep trench in my front yard attempting a repair to the 37-year-old string connecting to my tin-can modem, I wasn't sure there would be an afternoon update, but here it is. If any of you argued for underground utilities after the damage from Isabel, I can testify from long experience: You don't want to go there!)

High, thin clouds are retarding the temperature rise this afternoon in the Washington metro area, but the 5-month stretch of warm temperatures is continuing into the new month of November. Since June, which had 17 days above the long-term average, the number of days at or above normal has been: July: 23, August: 25, September: 27, October: 21. Most reporting locations have reached 70 or above, although the Anomalous Airport has reported only 66. Mild and dry conditions are on tap through the weekend; all of the models are predicting only single-digit "POPs" (probabilities of precipitation) through Sunday. This is a good thing, since getting Verizon's exposed string wet would certainly jeopardize Monday afternoon's update.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight's lows will be in the mid 50s downtown to around 50 in the suburbs. Tomorrow should be mostly sunny with highs in the low 70s, mid 70s if we get more sun.

Seasonal Shopping

In a sure sign that fall is deer mating season, the WaPo reports that a deer was shot to death yesterday in a Germantown Giant after apparently being disappointed by a leftover Halloween display and attacking the pharmacy. (There was no word on whether the animal was upset on finding out that the boxed milk is not on the dairy aisle, or with boxed juice, or with coffee and tea, or with baby products, but is in fact on the baking products aisle.)

Another sign of the season is the arrival through the mail slot yesterday of my favorite weather catalog, Wind and Weather, from northern California. Over the years, they have expanded from barometers, weathervanes, and sundials to all manner of indoor and outdoor tchotchkes, but they still have a nice selection of weather instruments.

Casio has apparently given up on their barometer watch, but the GQ (Geek Quotient) of this year's wrist adornment is unsurpassed: The "Multi-purpose Weather Watch" measures "wind speed (0 to 186 mph) with a Swiss-made flip-up impeller." This is on top of air pressure (down to 8.84"!), temperature (-40F to 176F), wind chill, stopwatch, and date/time alarm. This sounds like great fun and just the thing to have if you're planning to fall out of an airplane at about 50,000 feet or to spend some time in the toaster oven on defrost setting. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to wear a device which requires me to go sideways through doorways. Only 51 shopping days left to the holidays!

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Fabulous Fall, Failing Forty, Finding Fault, Fixing Funding

There's not much to say about such fine November weather except, "Look for more and better tomorrow." If you are reading tomorrow's afternoon update from work, it won't be because we didn't warn you! Start thinking up your excuses now for leaving early. Temperatures which just nudged or slightly exceeded 70 today will make a more emphatic push into the 70s tomorrow. As Josh noted in the previous comments, the Official Observation still has not reached 40 degrees this season, although some places have seen readings in the 30s.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight's lows will range from the mid 40s in town to near 40 in outlying areas. Tomorrow's sunny skies will drive temperatures to the low 70s, possibly mid 70s in the warmer locations.

More Hurricane Fallout

It's clear that the implications of this year's record hurricane season will play a major role in the public policy debate for a long time. Today's WaPo has an article, "Levees' Construction Faulted In New Orleans Flood Inquiry", which describes the preliminary findings of some expert studies indicating that design or construction failures led to the flooding from Katrina.

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher has recently responded to the criticism of NOAA and the National Weather Service which was made in a series of Miami Herald articles. Dan discussed this issue (under the heading "A Scathing Review") here a couple of weeks ago.

On the other hand, the Herald reported on Sunday that $25 million has been proposed for improvement in hurricane forecasting.
"Included in the request are new equipment for hurricane hunter planes, more buoys to track ocean conditions, a redesign of the sensors dropped into storms, repairs to damaged equipment, and most notably, another hurricane hunter plane."
While this request deals with equipment, meteorologists say more is needed in the form of:
"more flight crews and flight hours for hurricane hunter planes, more Hurricane Center forecasters, more scientists to build a new hurricane computer model, and equipment and staff members for NOAA's Hurricane Research Division in Miami, whose base budget hasn't topped $3.5 million in more than two decades."
Can you believe NOAA is spending only $3.5 million per year on hurricane research? Every time something like this comes along, it reminds me why I left the government after only 5 years of civilian employment, even though I would be getting a very nice pension by now if I had stayed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Afternoon Update

This afternoon's weather map shows a large high pressure area dominating most of the U.S. There is virtually no precipitation anywhere east of the Rockies except for some showers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northernmost Minnesota.
The rain associated with the cold front which we discussed yesterday did bring the lightest of accumulations to the western and northern fringes of the Washington metro area. Potomac Falls HS in Sterling, VA, for instance, managed to eke out 0.01".

Temperatures this afternoon are seasonable; they range from 60 through the low 60s.

Regional radar image at 10:09pm last night from the Weather Channel.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight, clear skies and light winds will promote cooling to the mid 40s in the city, as low as the mid 30s in some outlying areas. Tomorrow will be sunny and a little warmer, highs in the upper 60s.

Tropical Beat

"There are no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at this time," and none are expected to develop through tomorrow.

Broadcast News: Global Warming Special

Reminder: The PBS global warming special is on tonight at 8pm (both channels 22 and 26 locally). South Carolina ETV, which co-produced the show, has a preview on their web site.

Disaster Recovery

WaPo prints an AP story today reporting that Donald Powell, the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, has been appointed to "oversee federal efforts to rebuild the U.S. Gulf Coast region devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita." Among Mr. Powell's many qualifications for overseeing disaster recovery are:
  • Downsizing the FDIC
  • Running the First National Bank of Amarillo, Texas
  • Raising over $100K for the Bush campaign
COMET: The Little Web Schoolhouse

One of our objectives here at CapitalWeather is to educate as well as entertain. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has developed an online educational program called COMET (Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology). Modules are available for a variety of levels, from kids through operational forecasters. One of the more intriguing hurricane topics is "Community Hurricane Preparedness", in which "the last section is a decision-making exercise in which you, as the emergency manager, must decide when and if to call for an evacuation as a hurricane moves toward your city." Presumably, if you make the right decision, it says, "You're doing a heckuva job."

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Nice November Start

High, thin clouds ahead of a weak cold front are keeping November 1 from being quite as spectacular as Halloween, but it's a nice start to the new month. Temperatures around the Washington DC metro area are in the range of upper 60s to 70. Showers associated with the front, a few of them moderate, were making their way at mid afternoon from just past Pittsburgh to Morgantown, WV and across western West Virginia.

Regional radar image at 3:53pm from The Weather Channel.
Today's forecast problem is not earth-shattering, but it does illustrate one of the classic dilemmas in forecasting for the Nation's Capital: Will it rain tonight as the cold front moves through? On the one hand, the models are remarkably low in their "POPs" (probabilities of precipitation). One of them, the "NAM", keeps the POP no higher than 8% through tomorrow morning. The latest model run, from data collected at 1pm this afternoon, brings light precipitation (up to 0.10") about halfway across Maryland before drying it out. The National Weather Service forecast discussion this afternoon says, "The models have been pretty consistent bringing this boundary through with very little measurable precip and rapid drying behind the boundary." On the other hand, there is the "look out the window" (or at least the Doppler radar screen) factor. The line of showers is quite respectable-looking, and it has already brought about 0.1" to Pittsburgh. There is, however, the matter of those pesky mountains between there and here which often break up the precipitation before it can reach the metro region.

My bottom line is: The long-term average number of days with measurable precipitation in November is the third lowest of the year at 8.5, but this is still 28%. The current situation is at least as likely as any random November day to produce precipitation. Therefore, I would have to say that the probability of precipitation is 30% tonight, rather than ruling it out, as the official forecast does. The caveats are: Any rainfall will be very light and scattered, and it is more likely to the north and west of the immediate metro area.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a 30% chance of light and scattered showers, lows near 49. Tomorrow will be sunny and a little cooler with highs in the mid 60s.

Tropical Beat

The tropics remain relatively quiet. There are several tropical waves across the Caribbean and Atlantic, but none of them are showing signs of development.

Broadcast News

I accidentally came across some nice hurricane video on NASA TV this morning, but it's not listed in the schedule. If you're flipping channels, you might want to look for it (channel 21 on Comcast Montgomery analog).

The NASA hurricane web page has an animated depiction of the 2005 hurricane season from Arlene through Wilma, including sea surface temperatures, clouds, and storm tracks. I didn't have time for the 2-hour download, so if anyone looks at it, please let us know in the comments how it looks.

WETA, channel 26, is broadcasting "Global Warming: The Signs and the Science" tomorrow night at 8:00. The show is hosted by Alanis Morissette; it "profiles people who are living with the grave consequences of a changing climate, as well as the individuals, communities and scientists inventing new approaches." A 2-minute preview is available to download.


The Weather Man movie got 2 Thumbs Up® from Ebert and Roeper last weekend. As Jason pointed out in his review below, it's not about meteorology; the science is somewhere between negligible and nonexistent.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bootiful, Spooktacular Weather: Monstrously Mild

It isn't enough to threaten the Washington Halloween record of 85 set in 1950, but today's warmth is much more in line with the highs of 70 and 79 of the last two Halloweens than the nasty 47 of 2002. Despite the Frost Advisory, the low last night at Afternoon Blog Central here in Montgomery County didn't even break 40; the official low was 42. There is not a cloud in the sky for hundreds of miles around as temperatures climbed into the low 70s this afternoon.

Tonight and Tomorrow

With the very low humidity, temperatures will drop quickly after dark, but they will still be mild for the season, mainly in the 50s at Trick-or-Treat time. Lows in the early morning should be in the low 40s in the suburbs to upper 40s downtown. Tomorrow will again be sunny and mild, highs in the low 70s.

Tropical Beat

The tropics are calming down following the dissipation of Beta yesterday over Nicaragua. The last advisory was issued at 10pm last night.

There is a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean which is not showing signs of development.

Broadcast News

Bird watchers, who are at least as obsessive-compulsive as weather nerds, got a dividend from the recent hurricanes when sea birds were blown hundreds of miles away from their usual habitats. NPR had an interview yesterday with the president of the South Alabama Birding Association on the subject.

Energy Watch

CNBC reported this morning that natural gas prices were dropping this morning by as much as 6% to a 6-week low, although they are still nearly double the levels of last year. We are finishing this month with about 10% fewer heating degree days than normal in the Washington area. We'll have more on this as the heating season develops.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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