Friday, March 20, 2009

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The Long Goodbye?

AS OF 7:44 EST, FRI MARCH 20, SPRING 2009 OFFICIALLY SPRUNG. While I admit being a closet spring-a-ling (shocking I know), the question must still be posed: Will the atmosphere recognize astronomical realities and do it's part in letting nature take her course? Or will this be an another year of persistent irregularity marked by a long, chilly, rainy slog into an abrupt summer? Personally, I count the days to April 1 because March occupies my # 1 spot for all-time least favorite month of the year.
UPDATE: Snowed last night at my parent's in suburban Philadelphia. Had to break the news to them this morning: "Hey, Mom...did you look outside? Her reply: 'OH my gosh would you look at that.' This of course can means only one thing. Photographic evidence forthcoming.
Details and analysis will be added in the coming weeks of what climate patterns are suggesting as we go forward into hurricane season. A wrap-up of the 2008-09 winter will also be included for archiving and reference purposes in preparing for next winter. Until then, please accept my hearty thanks and appreciation for an educational and inspiring dialogue these past few months. I hope the lively nature of our discussions helped compensate for an under-performing winter. All new powderhounds are hereby invited to join our cadre of 'cane-chasers as attention turns to tracking tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin this summer. If you need an early glimpse of what tropical meteorologists are considering, you can review the Klotzbach/Gray 2009 forecast, and this intriguing report from PhD student Ryan Maue at the Florida State Department of Meteorology.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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SYNOPSIS: THU MAR 12 - 1:45 PM. The Sterling, VA latest Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) for portions of southern Maryland - central and southwestern Virginia suggest the weather is conjuring up some mischief to round out the week. At mid-morning today then again at 1134 AM the NWS made some adjustments to the outlook and area forecasts. Though they are holding off with accepting a northward trend in precip overnight, the reality may be different. Even if current forecasts hold, the likelihood increases that schools in southern Maryland may face surprise delays Friday morning. Even your local forecasts on the Weather Channel are beginning to insert "snow showers" for tomorrow from Baltimore on south. It may indeed be time to invoke the seldom-used LOW model: LOOK OUT WINDOW.

(1) Moisture from the stalling frontal boundary is over-running a 1040 mb High pressure at all critically analyzed levels of the atmosphere: 500mb, 700mb and 850mb. Embedded in the southwest to northeast flow are several shortwaves to cross the Mid-Atlantic overnight.

(2) Rules of climatology are not ruling the day as temps will remain nearly 10 degrees below normal. While the atmosphere over the metro areas remains dry from surface to 12,000 feet even the NWS admits rapid influx of moisture aloft in this cold regime will saturate the air. Relying on guidance and climate norms, without taking into account the trend in plain sight will make for a lot of surprised people Friday morning.

3) Latest NWS update states 1-2" of accumulating snow (or sleet/freezing rain) overnight in the following MD/VA counties: Charles, St. Mary's, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Loudon and even DC means there is a surprise risk of those schools being delayed on Friday. While the ground may be warm, remember this snow will fall at the point when temps are lowest overnight.

WHAT'S REALLY AT THE END OF THIS RAINBOW? If the current trend is any indication, forecasts regarding this snow/ice event across the Tennessee Valley are not going as planned. Just atake a look at the Water Vapor loop and be stunned at the moisture influx. I think we have a serious problem developing for the Mid-Atlantic that sneaking up on everyone right before their eyes. DID YOU CLICK ON THAT FIRST LINK OR JUST PASS OVER IT?

Uh, huh. Caught you there. Now, stop skimming. Go back and look at the RADAR. You see what I see? Tell me none of this makes it into the Mid-Atlantic, or that 12 hours of warm air advection into a cold dome is not enough to overcome low dewpoints. Now, take a look at the US Hazards projection made YESTERDAY (3-11-09) for the period starting TODAY. Umm, Hello Dolly? There's more going on than just "heavy rain." For all the hoopla about" lack of shortwaves" in the southern stream to prevent development of winter precipitation, reality must sure be biting about now. (Frequent readers and storm watchers know who I'm talking about and where this was said.) Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories cover eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee right now. As if that was planned. Just as peculiar is the northeastward creeping of that "pink stuff" on our Mid-Atlantic radar. Obviously most of that is "virga" which is precip falling but evaporating before ground level, but throw in 12 hours of that and you'll have frozen precip reaching the surface by daybreak.
10:15 AM: The game's a-foot (no pun intended). A heads up to all central and southern Maryland teachers, administrators, and especially MSA coordinators: Your best laid plans for tomorrow might be spooked as if it were Friday the 13th. (Oh, wait.. tomorrow is Friday the 13th.) Consider yourself duly advised.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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...and the month which will be?

SYNOPSIS: WED MAR 11 - 9:45 AM. Teachers, students and coaches alike are no doubt rejoicing in the return of mild Spring-like weather, albeit sporadic. What a difference one week makes! This time last week many in the school community were still basking in the glow of a extended weeked. The see-saw warm to cold back to warm reminds us all that March is a volatile month, and the whipsawing looks to continue into next week. Here's a breakdown of the trends going forward for the Mid-Atlantic region:

WED TO THU: A vigorous cold front passes, and Wednesday afternoon temps might make a brief run towards 65 F along the I-95 corridor. Tonight, scattered light showers will be followed by winds shifting to the northwest. Much colder overnight into tomorrow, with lows nearing 32 and daytime highs holding at or under 45.

FRIDAY: Cold Canadian high pressure settles in behind the front, with highs not cracking 45. A stark difference from last week's 5-7 day forecasts for highs late this week in the mid 50's.. a ten degree difference!

SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Colder than normal, daytime highs in the 40's, lows near 30. While the GFS continues to scare up versions of a southern storm it is likely the most any of us will see from this is clouds and a brief spattering of wet snow. High pressure pressing in from the north looks to keep most precip south of the Baltimore area.

ST. PAT'S DAY TO THE EQUINOX: Long range indicators suggest an unstable pattern from the 16th leading up to the 21st. Will MSA's be affected by wintry weather? All I can say is that 2007 featured a snow day for central Maryland schools on 3/7, then on 3/16 many schools were either closed or had early dismissals, and Easter Saturday 4/7 featured accumulating snow across the region. You can hold fast to the belief that "it's over" but only Mother Nature's vast wisdom can make that determination!

Below: A photo gallery of the Foot girls in a week of contrasts, from cold and snowy on Monday to basking in the sunshine amidst a melting snowgirl by Friday.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

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"Hope Springs Eternal..."
- Alexander Pope, 18th century English poet, in the 1734 An Essay on Man

LOOKING AHEAD: SUN MARCH 8 - 5:45 PM. A welcome respite from below normal temperatures ends at mid-week, when the weekend pre-Spring warmup gives way to 60's and 50's by Wednesday. While Spring-a-lings have Hope Eternal that the Snow Queen is vanquished, by next Thursday Luck o' the Irish could turn for Powderhounds woofing to see one more "White in the Winter night."
Climate data shows that March mischief can be just as crippling as early December or mid-February. Case in point: The March 1962 Ash Wednesday Storm, as discussed on Frank Roylance's Baltimore Sun Weather Blog. Signs that something is brewing between the 13th and 16th are already popping like crocuses among the GFS and European models. Even the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs is weighing in on the potential. For a detailed perspective on this potential, review meteorologist Larry Cosgrove's 3-part report from the Houston Examiner. My specifics on long range pattern indicators are forthcoming over the weekend. If this photo from a global warming protest rally held by Snowmen is any indication of what's lurking, then we are in trouble. Note: If your server blocks the image below, it can be viewed at the Washington Post's Capital Weather site.

Snowman Rally

For now, I suggest you make plans to go out and play! A daytime escape to resplendent Longwood Gardens perhaps? Maybe you'd prefer to revel in Spring locally at Irvine Nature Center, or see what's bubbling up at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens? Just go while you still can - for the Ides of March are upon us. :::Insert foreboding doomer music here!:::

STORYTIME: WED MARCH 4 - 9:45 AM. In Tuesday's belated celebration of Read Across America Day, observed each year on the birthday of one Theodor Seuss Geisel, some hard-working elementary school teacher no doubt read "The Cat In The Hat Comes Back."
The story captures a daytime tale of two elementary school-aged children, a brother and sister, at home following a heavy snowfall. They have stern instructions from their Mother to clear the sidewalks, "this was no time for play or fun, there was work to be done." Sure enough, "the Cat" returns to unleash another unwelcome barrage of disruption to the family's personal effects. In a valiant effort to clean up the interior evidence, the Cat and his little cat minions from A to Y inadvertently discolor the surrounding snowfall to a deep cotton candy pink. At this point, Mom is probably just getting off the beltway to arrive home shortly. Her children are understandably in a dither. The saving grace is an impossibly invisible "little Cat Z" who possesses a magic formula-potion-chemical something called "VOOM!" This peculiarly effective substance instantly cleans all the pinkified snow.. as well as renders clear the sidewalks and driveway, right before Mom returns. "And so," says the Cat, "if you ever have spots, now and then, I will be very happy to come here again."
The moral of this story as it pertains to us? Perhaps our late week warmup will be just the VOOM! you need to clean up all the snow and ice, because if you're among those with "Hope Springs Eternal"...I must warn you now: The Cat In The Hat IS Coming Back. This time, he may not have enough VOOM! to clean up what could happen. The following date I release every year, just so you're aware of WHAT the Cat MIGHT bring BACK: MARCH 19-21, 1958. If you need clarification, perhaps our seasoned powderhounds can relate a tale or two.

Monday, March 2, 2009

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"This is the time to remember,
'cause it will not last forever..."
- Billy Joel, in This is The Time from his 1986 album The Bridge

The March 2009 Kahuna from Space

March 3, 2009: Satellite image of Mid-Atlantic snowfall. Courtesy of NASA's MODIS.
If your server blocks this, click here for a wide angle Eastern seaboard view.

POST-STORM DISCUSSION: MON MAR 3 - 2:45 PM. Thank you to all who made this such an enjoyable and memorable late winter event. If you're still curious as to "who got how much," take a look at the latest accumulation tally for Maryland as featured on Frank Roylance's Baltimore Sun Weather Blog, and reported by the Sterling, VA NWS. Though I am mindful of the suffering this storm caused some families in it's wake, a winter storm does reintroduce a different perspective for a short time, and it re-orients us to our proper place in the natural world.
I realize not everyone rejoices at the sight of heavy snow (the road crews, the emergency workers, to name a few). But I would venture to say all that struggle is worth it because somewhere, a little child is experiencing his or her first memorable snowfall. A picture like the one below reminds me that the most precious moments can happen in just going about your everyday life. The challenge is to let nature slow us down enough to be in the moment with them. Being able to share in those simple joys with a child is so important, because sometime, when you show them the picture, or recount the tale, they might just say: "I remember that day."

L'il Foots measuring the snow

I'm sure all your experiences were rewarding and unique in their own way. The calendar says "Madness" will soon be upon us, but I have a sneaky feeling, as do others on this site, that Spring may have to wait it's turn this year. The North Atlantic Oscillation, the European model and even the GFS are hinting that we are not done yet. For now, I insist you take a moment to drink in some heart-warmingly delightful photos of the storm taken by one of our commentors on her blog: SpruceHill. It will be time well spent.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

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My original statement issued at 11:15 PM Sunday March 2 centered on these ideas:
(1) Doubt that a 12" snowfall will be widespread, and a rarity versus commonplace.
(2) By sunrise Monday 3/2: initial 6" along Maryland I-95 corridor, 5 or less in Carroll and Frederick Counties
(3) Banding adds another 1-2", a final at BWI airport and our Fallston reporting station of 8".
(4) Some Local amounts in Annapolis, Dundalk, Aberdeen could approach 10" but on grassy areas, with 5" on roads.
(5) Saturday 2/28 Preliminary Call was 6" on grassy areas and 3" on untreated secondaries/sidewalks. (should have stayed closer to that one!)
STORM GRADE ANALYSIS: % DEVIATION OF ACTUAL FROM PREDICTED: If all percentages are added to reach a total culmulative number and divided by the total number of forecast points (9), we reach this concluding data: As of 2:15 PM 3/2 there are 414.33 storm grade points out of a possible 900: 414/900 = 46% E. Taking a page from my English colleagues, it looks like I get an E for mechanics and an A for effort. Does that fairly quantify an overall C for the event? I'm not sure the powderhound statisticians among us would buy that interpretation! Data below:
Towson: 2.5 / 6 = 41% E. Fallston: 4.5 / 8 = 56% E. Westminster 4.0 / 5.0 = 80% B. Aberdeen: No data yet. Dundalk: 5.25 / 8 = 65% D. BWI Airport: 5.1 / 8 = 64% D. Annapolis: 5.8 / 8 = 72% C.
Southern York County: 6.0 / 9 = 66% D. Philly suburbs: Average of 5.5 / 9 = 61% D.
Martinsburg: .01 / 3 = .33% E----- (total bust)
PREVIOUS SUMMARY: MON MAR 2 - 8:00 AM. Congratulations on what looks to be a near-clean sweep of not only schools throughout the metro areas of Philly, Baltimore and DC, but many county government offices and courts, colleges/universities and even some federal institutions, including Fort Meade, the Naval Academy and a 2-hour delay for the DC Federal government workforce.

The heavy snow that redeveloped across the Mid-Atlantic from mid morning to noon was due in part to the "banding" discussed earlier as the coastal low pulls away, enhanced by the passing of the closed 500 mb upper level low directly above us. This last round of snow should being tapering by 12 noon in Baltimore, but continue into the mid-afternoon across eastern PA. The enhanced fluff factor of this snow energized by the upper low may push totals to near the forecasted amounts, but some of those numbers will fall short. At least there's no bag in the forecast for me. Monitor the latest NWS snowfall reports for the metro regions of Baltimore/DC and Philadelphia (which includes northern DelMarVa).
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"Jump on the wind's back, and away we go!"
- Peter Pan, in early 20th century works by the Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie

1. COMMENTS: OPEN FOR BUSINESS AGAIN. They were disabled last night because WE ALL needed to sleep and not stay up all night obsessing over the storm (or reading comments!) There's an old saying that my friends and I used working on summer camp staff: "My body is going to kill me." To all the Junior Powderhounds out there, make your plans for snow shoveling $$, it's your last chance to cash in on winter's gift of money from the sky this season.
2. SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Despite your concerns about the dry slot and other perceived weakening of the storms, I am confident that enough snow will fall overnight to produce a CLEAN SWEEP of public and private schools throughout the Baltimore metro region. Eastern shore is also a lock, as will be northern Virginia. The areas I'm concerned will miss out on closings may be places like Washington County, the WV panhandle, and perhaps even Frederick County. Southern York and suburban Philly districts will pull the plug, as they may get more than Baltimore. As for questions about Tuesday, the number to watch is 8. If your area snowfall is generally at or above that, then your district is likely delayed Tues and possibly closed.
Thank you to all who made this such a thrilling storm to track and forecast. A shoutout goes to Mr. Winterman16 in Carroll County, MD for calling a major snow event 1st week of March, when everyone else was in spring-a-ling mode, attaboy dude! Now get some sleep and go make mongo money tomorrow shoveling! See you all at 5:30. Oh, and one more thing for my fellow powderhounds (uneasy or not): It's snowing. Are you happy now? ;-)
BIG KAHUNA SYNOPSIS: SUN MAR 1 - 6:45 PM THE I-95 SPECIAL IS HERE, BABY! The Mid-Atlantic's potentially biggest snowstorm since February 11, 2006 is set to impact our region over the next 36 hours. As outlined in the Winter Storm Warnings across the Northeast, a developing coastal storm along the southeast could deliver up to 10 inches of snow in parts of eastern Maryland bordering the Chesapeake Bay. Amounts over 10 inches may occur in the southern Appalachian mountains as well as from Delmarva north and east to New England. With the heaviest snow likely to occur Sunday night into Monday morning, school closings will be widespread from southwestern and central Virginia to DC, along the I-95 corridor including the Baltimore and Philadelphia metro regions. If 8 or more inches accumulate as measured at the Fallston, MD reporting station, then closings/delays will persist into Tuesday.

March Madness 3-1-09 NAM

STORM IMPACTS AND TIMING as of 7:00 AM 3/1/09 Based on interpretation of the 00Z NAM 3-hour precip projections, viewed in this loop. This timing outline is for the region bordered to the north by US-30 in southcentral PA, along I-81 to Front Royal, VA, east on Route 66 to Washington, and north on I-95 to Elkton, MD. For simplicity, here is a google map representation of this region.
OVERNIGHT: Light snow and sleet has overspread the region, accumulated around 1/2".
SUNDAY: Snow and sleet will taper off and possibly stop altogether by noon as the secondary system deepens while moving along the Carolina coast. During daytime hours, sun angle and warm surfaces will permit roads to remain wet and limit accumulation on grass to less than 1" of snow/sleet. Once influence of sun's rays wanes after 3 PM, surfaces will begin to chill.
SUNDAY NIGHT: The heaviest snow will occur overnight to sunrise, with rates near 2 inches an hour at times along the I-95 corridor.
MONDAY MORNING: From Cecil County south to Anne Arundel County as well as DelMarVa, the possibility of "banding" on backside of the departing low's precipitation shield may raise initial totals of 6" by Monday morning to 8" or higher. Areas likely to receive highest accumulation will be along the I-95 corridor. Counties north and west of the major cities, such as Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Loudon should see less than 5 inches total.
ACCOUNTABILITY STATEMENT: Details of this preliminary snow/timing forecast will be revised until approximately 5:00 PM Sunday, at which time the "storm grade accumulations" are issued and left unchanged until end of the storm. Now all we have to do is what Peter Pan said in the headline.