Monday, March 30, 2015

POSTED: Monday, January 19, 2015, 1:09 PM

Motorists weren’t the only ones ambushed by Sunday morning’s attack of freezing rain – so were the meteorologists.

By the time the National Weather Service officially hoisted the ice advisories, the lacquering already was well under way.

The long and short of it: The air was a few degrees colder, and the rain came a few hours sooner, than expected.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 11:14 AM
In all likelihood, 2014 was in top 3 for world warming.

The Japanese already have declared 2014 as the warmest on record, and at last look it was holding a infinitesimal lead in the National Climactic Data Center’s tallies.

On Friday, NCDC will release its official Planet Earth tally for 2014, and we would be beyond surprised if it didn’t finish in the top three.

Through November, 2014 was 0.01 degree ahead of 2010 in the race for the warmest first 11 months of the year, in records dating to 1880. That’s more than close, given the margin of error.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 10:44 AM
Shoveling snow at the nation's Capitol; D.C. leads Philly in seasonal snow race. ( (CHIP SOMODEVILLA / Getty Images))

Snubbed by this morning’s “slipper” ( southern variant of a “clipper”), Philadelphia’s official seasonal snowfall total stands at 1.6 inches, and holding.

Some small accumulations were anticipated in the Baltimore-Washington area before the storm that was sliding to our south slipped out to sea.

But already, coming into today both Washington, at 2.4 inches, and Baltimore, at 2.8, were running ahead of Philly for the 2014-15 season.

POSTED: Monday, January 12, 2015, 5:48 PM
Not quite this toasty, but U.S. says a major warmup is due next week.

Rarely have we seen so much red on a U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecast map.

Its outlook for the Jan. 18-22 period has the odds favoring above-normal temperatures throughout all 48 of the continental United States – from Maine moose country to the Florida Keys, from Seattle to Death Valley -- and the majority of Alaska.

In its discussion, in simple terms the climate center says that the cross-polar flow that caused temperatures to plummet and appetites to spike upward is heading in reverse.

POSTED: Monday, January 12, 2015, 2:40 PM
Snow gathers on the eyebrows of a Ben Franklin sculpture by artist James Peniston near 4th and Arch streets in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

A day like this is hard to like. For snow-lovers, cold rain is a bitter consolation prize; for sane people, it’s just plain unpleasant.

Even though precipitation this month now is 15 to 20 percent above normal and temperatures significantly below, Philadelphia’s official monthly snow total stands at 1.5 inches.

Adding that tenth of an inch on Dec. 11, the seasonal figure comes to 1.6.

POSTED: Friday, January 9, 2015, 11:34 AM
Shoveling in South Philly last year after the attack of the dendrites. (( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer ))

The BB-like white pellets that we brushed off the car after Friday morning’s snow shower were reminders that no two snowflakes are identical (despite what you might have read on Wikipedia), that not all of them are elegant six-armed natural masterpieces.

The unique character of snowflakes is a major reason that snowfalls play out so differently and often make mockeries of the forecasts.

This week wrought another case study. True, the forecasts, for 1 to 2 inches, overall were quite good: Officially 1.5 inches was measured at Philadelphia International Airport/National Park.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 10:58 AM
Icicles in Blue Bell last winter, when the single-digit temperature made a comeback. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)

Philadelphia evidently is ahead of the world in at least one category, the pace of warming.

The Japanese already have declared 2014 as the warmest on record, and the National Climatic Data Center might well do the same tomorrow.

But worldwide warming so far generally has been a ponderous process, and hardly linear. As has been well-documented, Arctic warming has outpaced that of the rest of the world.

POSTED: Monday, January 5, 2015, 1:23 PM
Snow scene from last January; will we see repeats? (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)

The first officially measureable snow of the season in Philadelphia arrived more or less on schedule – 0.1 inches on Dec. 11, the average first-snow date in the period of record dating to 1884.

So where is the rest of it?

An Alberta clipper system sailing our way s forecast to add about an inch to the seasonal total, but the extended-range forecasts suggest that the school year should proceed uninterrupted for the foreseeable future.

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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