Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 2:57 PM

In its report last week the U.S. Drought Monitor expanded its “abnormally dry” zone to include all of Bucks and Montgomery Counties, portions of Philly and Chester County, the Delco delta, and all along the Main Line.

That map will be updated Thursday, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the yellow spread a little more, even with a shower or two tonight.

For the month, officially Philadelphia has had 1.69 inches of rain, or under 45 percent of the normal 3.65 inches, at the National Weather Service’s station at Philadelphia International Airport.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 11:32 AM
Two tornados approach Pilger, Neb., Monday June 16, 2014. The National Weather Service said at least two twisters touched down within roughly a mile of each other Monday in northeast Nebraska. (AP Photo/Eric Anderson)

Despite the lifting of a hiring freeze several months ago, the National Weather Service still has over 500 vacancies -- a 14 percent shortage -- according to the weather service’s union.

As a result, union officials say, meteorologists – including the bosses in some forecasts offices --  are working on overdrive and overtime, and combat fatigue might be having an impact on forecast quality.

In the Eastern Region, which covers the densely populated areas from the Carolinas to Maine and from Ohio eastward, 81 positions  -- 15 to 18 percent -- are unfilled, said David Solano, the regional union official and a hydrologist at the weather’s service river-forecast center, in State College  

POSTED: Thursday, September 25, 2014, 5:10 PM

The coastal storm now pulling away has been a not-so-gentle reminder that the seasons very definitely have changed. Now comes some more-pleasant reminders.

The U.S. Forest Service has begun posting its foliage updates, based on eyewitness reports, although what we’re seeing on the site right now doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry map is well-detailed and for our money is one of the best foliage sites out there.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 1:02 PM

We’ve noticed a harvest of dust recently, a symptom of the general dryness that has ripened across the region.

The precipitation deficits on the Jersey side of the Delaware aren’t as dramatic, but rainfall totals are way below normal for the last 30 days in Philadelphia and the neighboring Pennsylvania counties.

Based on the latest available data from the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, in State College, through yesterday rain was a mere 33 percent of normal, a 2.8-inch deficit.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 3:25 PM

Recalling how the consensus forecasts worked out last winter, we mention speculation about the coming winter with maximum feasible caveats.

To paraphrase the Ad Council’s famous words, perhaps friends shouldn’t let friends make seasonal forecasts.

That said, on the first full day of the astronomical autumn, we note that the most-recent Climate Prediction Center outlook sees the odds favoring warmer than normal temperatures for the November-January period.

POSTED: Monday, September 22, 2014, 4:35 PM

Last Wednesday the Arctic sea-ice cover appeared to reach its annual minimum, and the coverage was the sixth-lowest in the period of satellite record, dating to 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The areal coverage -- 1.94 million square miles -- was significantly more robust than 2012’s record-low 1.36 million miles.

But it was a  slight decline over last year’s minimum – 1.97 million square miles – which was nudged to seventh place, and only about 75 percent of the 1981-2010 average, about 2.4 million square miles.

POSTED: Friday, September 19, 2014, 11:40 AM

How autumn became known as “fall” remains unclear, but it is a wonderfully succinct definition of the season that will begin, astronomically at least, on Monday.

This is the season when the colorful foliage filters the oblique sunlight like so much stained glass, but it is also the time when things do, indeed, fall. And one of those things most definitely is darkness, something an old friend and colleague mentioned this morning.

Today, the time between sunrise and sunset is a 2 minutes and 36 second shorter than yesterday’s, the biggest single loss of daylight of the year.

POSTED: Thursday, September 18, 2014, 4:10 PM

This year has a decent shot at becoming No. 1 in records dating to 1880, based on U.S. data.

Last month was the warmest August on record worldwide – temperatures were 1.35 degrees above the 20th Century average of 60.1 Fahrenheit – according to the National Climatic Data Center. (The NCDC margin of error = plus or minus 0.22 degrees.)

Thus, the first eight months of 2014 moved into third place among all December-August periods over the past 135 years, by the NCDC’s count.

About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

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