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February 2011

Brush fire pictures from the Germantown, MD area

These were all taken from the same area where the power lines run north from Rt. 28 up until the end of Brandon Way Rd. in Darnestown, MD. The time I was there was approx. 1:45-2:45 pm. This was from the same area as the GIF animation in the previous post.

If you would like the full resolution, un-watermarked images, please leave a message on the Twitter page, or contact me using the e-mail address in the contact page.

Here’s some pictures from Jason from the same area:

Winds helping a brush fire in Germantown, MD

To add to the wind discussion in the previous post, here’s an animation of smoke from a brush fire (unconfirmed) in the Germantown, MD area:

There is also a brush fire near BWI in Hanover. Very dry conditions and strong winds are helping the brush fires intensify and spread quickly.

EDIT: I thought this was originally just blowing dust, but it was indeed a brush fire… I don’t really have any first-hand experiences with either.

Winds gusting to 60-70+ mph possible in the Mid-Atlantic today

Winds are already gusting to 50-60 mph across the region, and it will be getting even stronger as we head into the afternoon! Gusts of 60-70 mph are possible, and could even reach hurricane force (74+ mph)! Wind speeds of 58+ mph is the minimum reading for a thunderstorm to be considered severe. BWI has already hit wind speeds of 55 mph today, with DCA and IAD just a few mph weaker.

Here’s a crash course in how to determine the strongest wind gusts:

You can use forecast soundings if you want… I have IAD’s sounding from this morning since we’re in nowcast territory.

Here’s the sounding, with the mixing layer labeled:

In dry air, the mixing layer is a volume of air that has temperatures that cool dry-adiabatically (a rate of 9.8 C/km) as you go up. Air is free to mix within this layer, and it is where the wind can blow uninhibited from the top of the layer to the bottom of the layer. The strongest winds in this layer indicates the maximum wind possible. A mixing layer can either be at the surface or aloft.

The wind barbs on the right indicate the winds at certain levels… the lines and flags indicate the wind speed in knots. Winds of ~65 kts are shown at the top of the mixing layer. More information on deciphering the winds barbs: LINK

Granted, this is just the 12z (7am EST) sounding… as the sun warms the atmosphere, the mixing layer will likely go higher up and we could see those stronger winds in the mixing layer this afternoon.

Summer 2011 (JJA) temperature anomaly forecast – First look

The recent warmth has inspired me to post my initial thoughts of how this summer will turn out.

This is more of a gut-cast than a full-fledged forecast. I’m a big proponent using recent verifications (1- to 3-month lead on seasonal anomalies) to predict pattern changes and trends based on analogs with similar ENSO and synoptic setups.

I use summer 2010 (a really fun summer… not!) as 50% of my total forecast using the seasonal anomaly matching method. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the two winters to-date (Dec 1 – Feb 14):

(Maps courtesy of MDA/EarthSat)

The remarkably similar pattern leads me to believe that we could see a semi-repeat of 2010 this summer. It’s all a part of my “nature tends to balance itself out” philosophy.

The other 50% of my forecast comes from weighted ENSO analogs that have similar winter anomalies and match the ENSO trend that most guidance suggests will occur, which is a decrease from a moderate/strong La Niña to a weak La Niña or neutral ENSO state by the end of the summer. The weighted years I came up with are 1956, 1976 and 1985.

Putting everything together, here is my summer 2011 forecast:

And below is the monthly breakdown for June, July and August:

All anomaly maps are based off of the 1971-2000 30-year mean.

What to Watch Fore(cast) – Feb 14-21


Eastern warm up part two – After topping out near 70F in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, the East will see another, even stronger warm up this Thursday and Friday before a mostly-dry cold front moves through.

Unsettled Midwest – Rain moving through Thursday-Friday and a rain/snow storm system on Sunday-Monday will keep conditions rather damp in the Midwest during the second half of this week.

Snow in the West – 1-2+ feet of snow is possible in the western mountains this week as far south as central CA and the Four Corners region as a trough digs into the West.

High and dry in the Southeast – A subtropical high over the Southeast will keep the area enveloped in warm and dry conditions through most of the week.


A persistent subtropical ridge over the Southeast and an upper-level trough over the West will set up an interesting week in weather as the pattern shift brings a welcome relief from the cold to the eastern half of the country. After topping out in the mid 60s to lower 70s on Valentine’s Day, the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast look to go even warmer this Thursday and Friday as winds from the south and west pump warm air into the eastern U.S. This weekend should bring near normal temperatures to most of the East, but even that’s better than the -5 to -10 anomalies the East has been seeing lately. The subtropical ridge will keep storm systems from entering the Southeast for most of the week, so a mostly sunny and dry pattern will keep conditions rather pleasant in that region (though isolated afternoon showers are certainly possible during the second half of the week).

An upper-level trough will take a hold of the West, bringing plenty of cold and snow with it. the Mountain West could see snowfall accumulations of two or more feet this week as several systems dig into the region. As these storms trek east, they will lift northeastward into the Midwest and southeastern Canada. This will mean wet and possibly stormy weather from the Plains up through the Northeast. While this week looks pretty quiet in terms of thunderstorm activity, next week could be a different story.

Mid-Atlantic – The Week Ahead (Feb 13-20)

The main story for this week is the changeover to mild, spring-like conditions throughout the region as an upper-level ridge builds over the Southeast and advects warmer air up from the south and west. Valentine’s Day celebrators will notice a bit of a difference between tomorrow and last Valentine’s Day, which featured highs in the lower 40s, mostly sunny skies, gusty winds and two feet of snow on the ground. This year should have just a little snow, with highs in the upper 50s (could we get a 60F high at DCA?), mostly sunny skies and gusty winds. Well, alright, it’s not that dissimilar to last year, but I’ll certainly take upper 50s over lower 40s.

Temperatures will stay in the above normal category through most of the week, with Thursday and Friday peaking in the 60s throughout the region. So what’s going on while we have these warm temperatures? We’ll be talking about Sun, Sun, and more Sun this week, with a couple of weak and mostly inconsequential cold fronts passing through. The first cold front will move through Monday night, with the other coming though Friday night. It’s looking like the western Appalachians and PA should see some light rain from both of these fronts, but the downsloping surface winds could keep the leeward side of the mountains mostly dry. The models seem to like this idea, but I wouldn’t rule out a stray shower or two on Valentine’s Day or on Friday east of the mountains.

Once the weekend hits, the region will get knocked back down to near normal (or slightly above normal) temperatures as the dry conditions persist. However, enjoy this week as much as you can because we could be looking at a shift in the pattern next week as storm systems try to erode the upper-level ridge in the Southeast.

Snowfall Verification for Feb 9-10

Overall, this storm was an under-performer in the middle of the region compared to my forecast. The models actually did a good job in capturing this “snow hole” in central VA and central NC. Totals in those areas generally ranged from 0.25″-0.5″ and there was some mixing in southern and eastern NC.

Totals in WV maxed out at 2-3″, and there was a small area of 2-4″ in the mountains of NC. The snow in the eastern NC/VA area almost over-performed, with several reports of 4.0″ and even one report of 4.2″ in east-central NC. One area of more persistent banding within the first shot of snow helped a small area of southern MD to just edge into the 1.0″ category, with other reports of 0.5″-0.8″ in the area. This first shot of snow also helped parts of western VA hit 1.0″-1.5″, but those areas were also somewhat isolated.

Overall grade for this one is a C-. The storm underperformed in general, but my key target area of 2-4″ (i.e. the area that seemed like it would get the most) in eastern NC and southeastern VA verified well.