Friday, February 6, 2009

"What would a slumdog know?"
- Indian police officer, interrogating Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire
Jamal, the 18-year old main character, quietly responds: "The answers."

REVISED UPDATE: SUN FEB 8 - 1:45 PM. I don't claim to have all the answers here about the weather, but I can make this educated guess based on my analysis of climate patterns and upper level atmospheric data:

1. Arrival of the false warmup will permit Mid-Atlantic residents a five to seven day break to regroup, (if you started Saturday) to get outside and pretend that Spring is on the way.

2. Climate indicators (our good friends the NAO, PNA et al.) are hinting this is a false warmup, and from February 13 forward to end of the month, the East Coast could be headed back into a cold, stormy and snowy pattern. Fellow teachers: My suggestion is if you have a major project/lab/multi-day activity in the works, don't wait to get it moving. If there's another interruption, at least your goals are in motion. This is not hype, but prudence.

3. Despite the impending warmup, are also headed into the snowiest period of the entire year for central Maryland, according to climate records: The time frame of early to mid February is replete with big snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic. Notable storms in that time criteria since 1899 as recored at BWI include Feb 15-18, 2003 (28") ; Feb 1996 (2 storms in early month, not incl. Jan 96 blizzard); The Ice Nightmares of February 1994 [who could ever forget that one! ] ; Feb 11-12, 1983 (23") ; Feb 18-19, 1979 (20") ; Feb 15-17, 1958 (15"), Feb 11-14, 1899 (21") Summary: At BWI airport, seven of the top twenty snowstorms since 1891 occurred during a tiny 13-day slice of the calendar: Feb 5 to 18. My elbows get sore just LOOKING at that list.

Source: "Maryland Winters" by Barbara McNaught Watson, published by the National Weather Service, Sterling, VA,

SYNOPSIS: THU FEB 5 - 11:00 AM. Some residents of Lancaster County PA and the Philadelphia region discovered 6 to 12 INCHES of snow on their front step yesterday morning. Can you imagine the surprise in Lititz, PA when their residents went to bed expecting LIGHT SNOW ACCUMULATING UP TO TWO INCHES. I am not making this up. Some areas of Delaware County across Philly and into New Jersey received 8 to 10 inches. If you have the time, are a serious weather watcher, and want to see something just amazing, start on this page from the Mount Holly, NJ NWS. It shows the "Zone Forecasts" for the Philly region. Now go forward or backward from the page # to see how the snowfall forecast kept changing..(in less than 24 hours mind you). Chester County, PA started with 1 to 3, then 2 to 4, then 4 to 6. The Lancaster situation was even more incredible. Take a look at the last sentence of the 1:09 AM Wed Feb 4 Discussion, it's currently denoted as "version 18" in their archives. Now fair is fair, I busted on the last storm too. Which would you prefer..a "non-storm" bust, or to wake up with an extra 12 inches on the car? Oh to have been a student in that school district on that particular morning!

How could this happen? What went wrong with the forecast? (A plug for my teacher colleagues, wouldn't all this make for an intriguing lesson?) Much like the storyline of Slumdog Millionaire, the answers might have been with us all along: a product of our "knowledge and intuition" as remarked by Justin Berk, a meteorologist for whom I have great respect, and is with ABC2 News in Baltimore. The "why" behind this surprise snow might be just as "plausibly bizarre" as a young man from the slums of Mumbai, India appearing on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

As promised, I will be presenting a brief evaluation of the January ice event and the Groundhog storm. That includes the What Went Right/What Went Wrong analysis of my forecasts. But I emphasize "brief" because my father likes to say: "Asking the other Mr. Foot about the weather is like going to a fire hydrant for a sip of water." I'll let Dad take the credit for an accurate call on that one, don't you think? ;-)

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