Friday, November 11, 2005

Science and Service

The coldest temperatures of the season in the Washington metro area rebounded to 50 or above by noon today; mid-50s were widespread by mid afternoon. This will be the first day in almost 2 weeks with below-normal temperature. The official low this morning was 38, the first time it's been below 40 this fall. Here in Montgomery County outside the Beltway, it was 35 with some frost. Dulles briefly broke the freezing mark at 31. Winds have dropped dramatically; note the much wider distance between isobars on this afternoon's weather map.

With clear skies and calm winds, temperatures tonight will drop a little further, to the upper 30s in the city and the lower 30s in the suburbs with widespread frost. Tomorrow will see a warmup to around 61 under sunny skies.

Seventh Service Salute

On this Veterans Day, Camden has included in his post below a review of the importance of weather in war. As a proud veteran of the NOAA Commissioned Corps and member of the 28th Basic Officer Training Course, I salute the men and women of this elite organization. One of the 7 uniformed services of the U.S., the NOAA Corps is one of only 2 civilian services, the other one being the much better known Public Health Service. The NOAA Corps is by far the smallest service at a total strength of about 300. Members of the Corps steer the ships and pilot the planes which support NOAA's meteorological, oceanographic, and fisheries missions.

The ancestry of the NOAA Corps can be traced back to 1807, when scientist-president (Now there's a concept!) Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in creating a "Survey of the Coast". This Coast Survey, which was responsible for developing nautical navigation charts, evolved into the Coast & Geodetic Survey (C&GS), which also had the responsibility for establishing the national geodetic network as a reference for land surveys. Civilian members of the Coast Survey served in many theaters of the Civil War, often performing mapping duty in or ahead of the front lines. The commissioned corps of the C&GS was formed when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, in order to facilitate coordination of its activities with the military services. Over half of the commissioned officers served active duty with the Army, Navy, or Marines during both WWI and WWII. Following a series of reorganizations of scientific agencies, the NOAA Corps as it exists today was formed along with NOAA in 1970.

Among the many duties of NOAA Corps officers is piloting hurricane reconnaissance missions. Military Officer magazine had an article in 2003 about one such flight. Surveying the land, air, and oceans and performing scientific research on the environment, the NOAA Corps shows that is possible to promote public safety without using weapons of destruction.

College students who meet the eligibility requirements, like to work outdoors, want to serve the country without blowing things up, and are interested in qualifying for full Veterans Administration benefits (Yes, the GI Bill paid the rent for grad school.), should check out the application process.

Armistice Day Storm

Paul Kocin has a review of the Armistice Day Storm of 1940 in the Weather Channel blog. This is the same storm which earlier led to the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Bridging the Seasons

Yesterday's high of 77 in Baltimore tied the record set in 1978, and the high of 77 also in Washington was only 1 degree short of the record set in 1948. It was a perfect day for 13,000 people to attend a simulcast of Porgy and Bess on the Mall.

As Jason said earlier, the air behind the cold front which passed through the Washington metro area last evening is still above normal for this time of year. Temperatures by mid afternoon today were in the mid to upper 60s, compared with a normal high for the date of 60. Nov. 6 (yesterday) is also the earliest date in the fall which has never reached 80. The low has failed to break 40 officially yet this season, although the normal low is now 42. In fact, every date in November has a record low below 30 degrees. Total heating degree days through yesterday were 50% below normal for the month and 27% below normal so far this season.

The tropics remain quiet.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will be mostly clear, lows in the upper 40s city, low 40s 'burbs. Tomorrow will be partly cloudy with clouds increasing late in the day and highs near 70.

Eye in the Sky

The WaPo reports today that Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin is one of 3 companies each receiving a $10 million 6-month contract for the definition and risk reduction phase of development for the next generation of operational weather satellites, GOES-R. The new series of satellites is scheduled for launch in 2012. It will have significantly faster imaging and higher spatial resolution than current satellites.

A Troubled Bridge

The current issue of Weatherwise Magazine, which also has a redesigned web site, notes that today is the anniversary of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Puget Sound in 1940. The bridge, which began oscillating as soon as it opened on July 1, eventually collapsed spectacularly 4 months later. Although wind caused the fatal oscillation, it was only in the range of 30-40 mph ahead of a Pacific storm entering the Northwest. The lessons learned from the bridge disaster have contributed to much safer designs for today's suspension bridges. PBS NOVA has a video of the bridge on their web site.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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