Friday, March 3, 2006

Old Man Winter: Not Dead Yet

Undetected by all but the hardiest night owls (You know who you are!), some light snow showers drifted through the Washington DC metro area with an Arctic frontal passage around 2 to 3am this morning. Bright, sunny skies and low humidity are accompanied by brisk northwesterly winds gusting to near 30 mph this afternoon. Temperatures are generally in the mid 40s.

Tonight will be quite cold, but this is after all mid Atlantic March, and a building high pressure ridge through the middle of the country will allow gradual moderation through the weekend. The snow lovers' hopes for some action on Monday continue to fade as the models keep showing a weak system moving out to sea through the Carolinas.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Under clear skies, temperatures should range from lows tonight in the mid 20s to highs tomorrow near a seasonable 50. Winds will continue brisk, especially tomorrow afternoon.

Geeky Gizmos

Oregon Scientific is distinguished for innovative weather sensor designs at low-end prices. I am quite satisfied with my 2 units, although I am planning an upgrade to a more professional level. The NY Times technology section has a review of their latest innovation, a mirror which displays readings from a remote sensor in blue numbers and orange icons. Apparently, the idea is that you can save time in the morning by getting the weather report at the same time you're combing your hair. This strikes me as about as practical as a combination cell phone/microwave.

On the Omnimedia

Weather Talkers Pann and Berk are scheduled to discuss global warming on their radio show on Sunday at 3:05 on Baltimore's WCBM-680AM.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Winter Marches Back

The greater Washington DC region was a veritable rainbow of temperature contrasts this afternoon. A strong warm front just south of the immediate metro area separated mid 40s in mid afternoon at the major airports from mid and upper 60s at Culpeper and Stafford and low 70s at Fredericksburg. By 4pm, Washington National managed to eke out a reading of 49, while Fredericksburg was 75, and further to the south, Petersburg was 81. BWI, on the other hand, was 42 in light rain and fog.

Temperature chart at 2pm today from Unisys.

All of this was ahead of a low pressure area tracking almost directly overhead as it moved eastward near the Mason-Dixon line, bringing a narrow band of heavy snow through interior New York, Pennsylvania, and southern New England. Following the passage of the low, another shot of Arctic air will bring a reminder that winter may not be quite dead yet. The model forecasts are still valiantly trying to develop a storm on Monday, but the development so far remains too far offshore to be very interesting in these parts. (See the extended term details in Josh's post below.)

Tonight and Tomorrow

After a slight chance of showers through this evening, clouds will decrease overnight, with lows near 30. Tomorrow will be mostly clear with highs in the mid 40s.

Gas Pains

Today was weekly natural gas inventory day, and commodity market prices were up a few percent after slightly larger than expected inventory reductions following cold temperatures in the Northeast. However, gas prices dropped 28% in the month of February, according to CNBC, to their lowest levels in a year.

The chart shows Washington Gas monthly Purchased Gas Charges (PGC) since Jan. 2000. This price which you pay for your monthly gas consumption is supposedly determined directly from the market price without markup. The rate you will pay on your March bill, just posted today to the Washington Gas web site, is $1.175 per therm. This morning's commodity market price of approximately $0.69 per therm is shown by the large yellow dot on the right of the chart.

Is there anyone out there from Washington Gas who can explain why there is about a 70% markup over the market price? chart from Washington Gas and CNBC data; photo © Kevin Ambrose.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Living on the Edge

The Washington DC metro area remains on the southern fringe of East Coast cold air this afternoon. A stationary front from southwestern Virginia to northeastern North Carolina is separating the merely seasonal mid-Atlantic temperatures from the truly spring-like 70s a couple hundred miles to the south. The map to the right shows temperatures in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic area at 3pm today. Each color band represents a range of 5° F. Note the nearly 40° temperature range within a roughly 300-mile radius of Washington.

Temperature chart from Unisys

A storm system zipping southeastward from the upper Midwest will tap into the energy of this temperature "gradient" (contrast), but not very much moisture, to bring us some light rain or showers tomorrow as it scoots along the Mason-Dixon line. Meanwhile, the main U.S. model is continuing to push the next system out to sea south of us on Monday and Tuesday. The NWS earlier was carrying a 30% chance of snow Monday night and Tuesday (down from 40% last night). All mention of that precipitation has been removed from their afternoon update, however.

Tonight and Tomorrow

Clouds will increase tonight, and there is a 50% chance of showers by morning. Lows will be in the upper 30s. Tomorrow's highs will be near 51 with a 70% chance of showers through the afternoon.

"A Slow Forest Fire"

Here's another sign of the economic benefits of global warming: Today's WaPo has an article (On page A-1! Above the fold! More prominent than Anna Nicole Smith!) about the disastrous spread of the mountain pine beetle in British Columbia. The pests, who apparently failed to read the climate change talking points memo from Faux News, have found that warmer temperatures are allowing them to consume millions of acres of old-growth forest in western Canada. A region three times the area of Maryland has been infested so far, and there appears to be nothing to prevent the insects from spreading eastward across the Rockies. In a situation which should globally warm the hearts of free-marketeers everywhere, the economy of the region is booming as loggers race to harvest the destroyed trees in order to feed the demands of the U.S. McMansion market.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

An extra layer of body fat might not have seemed like such a bad idea in the Washington DC metro area today as temperatures struggled to make it to the mid 40s forecast here yesterday, despite the strong sun of waning winter. Not too far away in south-central Virginia and nearby North Carolina, there were hints of the approaching season; Farmville, South Hill, Emporia, and Roanoke Rapids were all well into the 60s.

Also as featured in this space yesterday, any flakes which fell last night around the area were extremely few and far between, amounting to at most a dusting. The inexorable push of warmer air from the southwest may set off a few sprinkles or snow showers late tonight or tomorrow morning, but amounts will be negligible.

The next significant precipitation event is likely to occur around the Monday time frame. This afternoon's model predictions coming in as I post keep the storm development very far to the south, however. Stay tuned during the week as the Snow Lover's Crystal Ball gets warmed up for a possible last workout of the season.

Tonight and Tomorrow

For tonight, clouds will increase towards morning with lows near 31. There is a slight chance of light rain or snow showers late tonight or tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be variably cloudy with highs near 49.

Katrina's Continuing Legacy

Six months after Katrina, the WaPo notes the effect of the storm's legacy on the Mardi Gras celebrations which end today on Fat Tuesday.

The PBS News Hour last night featured the devastating effects of Katrina on New Orleans' hospital system, especially Charity Hospital. Previously the city's only fully equipped trauma center, it is now operating out of tents set up in the Convention Center. Dr. Peter Deblieux, director of emergency medical services at the hospital, says,
It's not appropriate. We are caring for patients in a tent. It's understandable a month out -- might be understandable two to three months out. And here it is six months operating within a tent system to deliver care to our patients. They deserve appropriate health care: Not health care within tents; not health care within a fragmented, broken system.
NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross today has an interview with Jeanne Dumestre, a founder of the legendary New Orleans music club Tipitina's. Her home was seriously damaged by the storm. The show also includes a profile of pioneering jazz pianist Professor Longhair and an interview with musician and songwriter Allen Toussaint, who is trying to help rebuild the city through music. The show aired this afternoon on WETA-FM and is repeated on WAMU-FM at 3am tonight. Streaming audio is also available on the NPR web site.

Hurricane season begins in 92 days.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Glancing Blow

A weak low-pressure trough, supported by strong jet-stream energy at upper levels, brought some widely scattered snow flurries to the Washington DC metro area around lunch time. At mid afternoon, radar showed similar scattered activity around the Baltimore area. Some more flurries may break out into this evening, but no accumulation is likely in the immediate metro area. In the higher elevations well to the north and west, some amounts up to an inch are possible.

The Arctic front which blew into the area Saturday night led to a low this morning of 21°, but in spite of weak sunshine, temperatures are moderating this afternoon to near 40° (still 10° below average). The coming week (see details in Jason's post below) has high potential on the bustometer scale, especially for temperature, as the Arctic air to the northeast battles encroaching warmth from the center of the country. The next chance for significant precipitation is shaping up on the horizon of model predictability as a possible rain/snow event on Monday. chart from NWS data, photo &copy Kevin Ambrose

Tonight and Tomorrow

Tonight will be mainly overcast with a slight chance of scattered snow flurries, lows in the upper 20s. Variable clouds tomorrow will be accompanied by highs in the mid 40s.

Where Did the Snow Go?

The strong storm which helped push the Arctic front through our area this weekend bypassed New England, but Newfoundland was absolutely hammered with up to 2 feet of snow in some areas. The capital of St. Johns was paralyzed by drifting snow. City officials estimated that it could take as much as 2 weeks to get back to normal.

Photo from CBC

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

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