Cold, cold, go away, for you see 'tis May Chill could ease here after some more rain

May 08, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Enough already.

For nearly two months now, Marylanders have been stuck in a loop of chilly, dank weather that has robbed them of the sweet, balmy springtime they've come to expect.

"It's not fair," said Richard Tinker, a meteorologist and the U.S. Climate Analysis Center in Camp Springs. "It's been drippy, annoying, just like a dripping faucet."

Some improvement is due. Next week. Maybe.

The forecast called for rain today and variable cloudiness with the chance of showers tomorrow and Sunday and then on Monday, finally, a sunny day. Highs are to reach the 60s tomorrow, rising to the mid 60s to mid 70s Sunday and Monday. Lows are to reach the 50s throughout the period.

Mr. Tinker blamed the cool weather on a persistent loop in the jet stream that since early March has drawn cool Canadian air down through the south-central U.S., then north again off the Northeast coast.

"Normally you would expect the jet stream to be retreating well into Canada by now. It usually stays well north of us from mid-spring to fall," he said.

Instead, it's stuck.

And worse, in the last several days the southern end of the loop has been cut off, spinning counter clockwise around a low pressure center like a yo-yo at the bottom of a looping string.

"So you get a pool of cool, stormy weather that is hard to move. It kind of just sits on top of you," Mr. Tinker said.

It's that swirling system that has pumped cool, wet air in off the Atlantic across the coastline all week, from the Middle Atlantic states southward.

Coupled with a massive high pressure off the New England coast, the system is generating high onshore winds, high tides, coastal flooding, heavy surf and beach erosion.

The wet ocean air and cold temperatures even brought heavy spring snow this week to mountain sections of North Carolina -- more than they had all winter.

A coastal flood watch was issued yesterday for Maryland and Delaware coastal areas, with coastal flood warnings for the lower Chesapeake Bay. Heavy surf advisories were issued for all of Delmarva. Northeast and east winds gusting to 45 mph today were expected to push high tides at least 2 to 3 feet above normal in most places and possibly to 4 feet above normal in some places.

It can't last forever, though. Can it?

"It's hard to forecast what the long-term pattern is going to do," Mr. Tinker said. But at least the big, spinning storm cell now over the Southeast is slowly drifting north and east.

"It will weaken over time, so that you will see a general slow climb back toward seasonal temperatures. But we will have several more days' worth of unsettled weather," he said.

The National Weather Service's long-range outlook for the period from Tuesday through Saturday, May 16, calls for near-normal temperatures, with highs averaging in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Rainfall should average near normal, they say.

Normal would be an improvement.

After an unusually mild winter with barely 2 inches of snow at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Maryland's weather turned cool on March 11. And, except for a few stray mild days like those of last weekend, it stayed that way, Mr. Tinker said.

Between March 11 and May 6, daily high temperatures at BWI averaged 58 degrees, about 4 degrees below normal. The cold weather has boosted heating demand for the period by 29

percent above normal.

"Between March 13 and April 4, there were 10 days [with `D temperatures] 10 to 16 degrees below normal," he said. March 16 averaged just 27 degrees -- 16 degrees below normal for the date.

The wind chill index reached 8 degrees on April 3, and touched 32 degrees on May 5, "so there have been a lot of periods when it's been quite chilly," Mr. Tinker said.

Maryland's stalled spring has also been cloudier than normal, Mr. Tinker said. The clouds have brought drizzle, but not much significant rain.

BWI has recorded a bit more than 10 inches of rain this year, about 3 inches below normal. Statewide, through April, it amounts to the 15th-driest year in 98 years of record-keeping.

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