Sunday, August 7, 2011

Washington Weather and Climate Update -OR- The Rain Man Would Come (Part 2)

A giant iceberg visits Goose Cove, Newfoundland, as photographed in July 2011.

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Rockville Apologia

First things first: I got (by accident?) an invite to one of the two Rockville social events to which I alluded in my previous entry, so I owe a certain Rockville resident with whom I've had a long and rocky relationship in particular a sincere apology.

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The Rainman Cometh ...

This is the (belated) weather entry I intended to post last week discussing the region's record heat and the new 30-year climate normals just released by the National Weather Service.

However, first let me mention that ONCE AGAIN this year, Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) managed to report almost no precipitation yesterday even as the two main regional climate stations -- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) -- reported more realistic and respectable amounts.

The Sterling (LWX) radar in composite mode at 5:22PM EDT, Aug. 6, 2011 showing a heavy rain squall smack dab over the District of Columbia, but DCA -- located about 2 miles south of the Mall area, technically in Arlington County, Virginia -- managed to miss everything. Again.

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I actually think the scummy little rain gauge at DCA is broken, but that likely only pleases the Sterling (LWX) crew even more than hot, dry weather since operational meteorologists tend to be inherently a dumb-ass lot (most of them "oppose" the notion of human-induced climate change, as opposed to climate scientists) with a backwards view of the world.

The LWX radar in composite mode at 5:39PM EDT, Aug. 6, 2011. As I've noted before, the composite mode also captures cloud activity as opposed to base reflectivity mode, which indicates what is falling, so the former tends to look more dramatic. It is good for observing thunderstorms when they are forming.

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In this case, it is intended to appeal to the regional population who watch the Sue Palka-cabra Creature and the slurping, drooling, huge-headed Doug Hill, and that think they are something great. And if there is one group that is truly dumb (even in this region) and loves dry weather, it's the bulk of U.S. population.

Only Bob Ryan of our local TV meteorologists is a good guy who gets it. Why he moved to channel 7 with Doug Hill, I just don't get it.

Remember: THIS is Sue Palka's ideal climate.

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Here is Sue Palka-cabra at home relaxing, entertaining guests.

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But more to the point, though, it rained a fair amount yesterday, with at least a 20 minute drenching downpour right over D.C. and a few other brief showery spells. The area just west of Warrenton had 2 to 4 inches of rain and a flash flood warning was out for a time.

Here is the radar-estimated one-day (Aug. 6, 2011) storm total from the LWX NWS radar. Based on this, DCA should have had at least 1/4" and maybe 1/3" of precipitation, but it did not. You can also see the bull's eye of precipitation over Culpeper -- NOT "Culpepper" -- County.

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IAD officially had 0.55" yesterday and BWI had 0.36. The Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor (DMH) had 0.35". But shitty DCA -- with the Saran-wrap placed over the rain gauge -- had 0.04".

An aerial view of Reagan Washington National Airport in the summertime beside the smelly, polluted, vapid and listless tidal Potomac River.

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If it were up to me, I would move the climate station from DCA immediately -- probably to the National Mall (perhaps the Smithsonian Haupt Garden). It's too bad the airport didn't really shut down for good after what happened in 2001.

So without further ado, here are our annual totals so far (and I'll avoid a comparison with the New York City or Boston areas, since it will only piss me off further) ...

DCA
Month-to-date: 0.33"
Departure / normal: -0.31" / 0.64"
Year-to-date: 18.71"
Departure / normal: -5.40" / 24.11"

BWI
Month-to-date: 0.80"
Departure / normal: +0.10" / 0.70"
Year-to-date: 23.36"
Departure / normal: -1.90" / 25.26"


IAD
Month-to-date: 0.72"
Departure / normal: -0.02" / 0.74"
Year-to-date: 22.34"
Departure / normal: -2.87" / 25.21"

So DCA is actually 6.55" below BWI's total and 6.50" below IAD's total for the year so far.

More generally, in the end, a fundamental truth still stands: The Washington, D.C. area has a shitty, nothing, torridly humid, excessively warm, blah, nothing, useless climate that I hate.

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July 2011 Record Heat

Notes: 1. I wrote this about five days ago. 2. All the images here were taken in D.C. during the Feb. 9 - 10, 2010 blizzard, the third of the unprecedented 3 snowstorms we had that season. This figures into the updated climate normal discussion below.


All kinds of high temperature records were set in the Washington / Baltimore area (not to mention in much of the United States) in July. It was THE hottest July and THE hottest month on record at the three regional airport climate stations, Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Baltimore / Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).


The information below comes from the Sterling / LWX website's public information statement page. I would link to it except the info will be replaced by subsequent statements.

July 2011 averaged 84.5F at DCA or +5.3F above normal**. This surpassed the previous hottest July(s) -- including 2010 (last year) and 1993 -- of 83.1F by 1.4F. It was also the hottest for daily max temp (a disgusting 96.3F) and daily min temp (75.4F); most number of 90F days (25); and longest duration at or above 80F (4 days). There was also a tie for the warmest low min ever (84F on the 23rd and 24th) and (unofficially) second highest dew point (81F) and heat index (121F) on the 21st and 22nd, respectively.

I'll skip an overview of the BWI and Dulles numbers except to say the BWI average July monthly temp of 81.7F (or +5.2F above normal*) beat the previous record of 81.5F set in July 2010, July 1995 and also July 1872. The latter is a very early, pre-BWI Baltimore record when temps were kept at the warmer downtown location (the Custom House, I believe, not to be confused with the new DMH site at the Maryland Science Center).

Dulles -- whose records only go back to 1962 -- had an average July 2011 temp of 81.0F or +5.3F above normal* and the first average ever over 80.0F.


This frickin' heat combined with the lack of meaningful rainfall -- about 20 of 22 thunderstorm chances since late May have missed D.C. / DCA proper -- makes it like living in goddamn Los Angeles.

**NOTE: These normals refer to the 1971 - 2000 period. The National Weather Service has released the new 1981 - 2010 climate data set and the Baltimore/Washington NWS Forecast Office (Sterling / LWX) has just released the new figures for DCA, BWI, and IAD.

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Updated Regional Climate Normals

The new 1981 - 2010 normals are here.

Key highlights:

It got warmer at all three climate stations, especially Dulles where the average annual temp rose by 1.1F. That's a lot.

It got slightly wetter at DCA, up 0.39" to 39.74" and a tad drier at BWI and IAD with changes of -0.06" to 41.88" and -0.26" to 41.54", respectively. However, this masked some notable seasonal changes with noticeably drier Januarys and Augusts and wetter late springs. DCA had the biggest monthly change -- an increase of 0.65" for June.

Mr. Sirius and his boyfriend eat a picnic lunch in the park. It's real love.

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Finally, on the all-important and hyper-political question of snowfall, we have:

DCA -0.7" to 14.5"; BWI +2.0" to 20.2"; and IAD +0.8" to 22.0". I'm also going to quote directly an interesting paragraph from the report:

"Monthly snowfall normals at all three stations have increased in December, but decreased in November, January and March (Fig. 4a-c). Normal snowfall in February has decreased at DCA, but increased the most out of any month at BWI and IAD. The increase in both February snowfall and annual snowfall was strongly weighted by the snowiest month in February 2010 and snowiest winter of 2009-2010 on record at BWI and IAD. If we hypothetically removed the 2009-2010 seasonal snowfall totals of 77.0 inches at BWI and 72.3 inches at IAD, then the 1981-2010 normal seasonal snowfall would decrease by 2.6 inches at BWI and 2.5 inches at IAD. It would also shift the normal seasonal snowfall totals slightly below the 1971-2000 normals."

Left: Stunning cumulonimbus clouds unleash a violent storm over Taber, Alberta, taken in July 2011.

The +0.65" increase to 3.78" for DCA June precip. was heavily driven by the 14.02" that fell in June 2006. If you assumed "normal" amount of 3.13" for that month using the 1971 - 2010 period, then the new 1981 - 2010 average would have been 3.41" or an increase of just 0.28".

Did I mention I hate our climate and Washington, D.C. in general?

--Regulus

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