Balmy days finally bury '94 memory


January 14, 1995|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer

This is the weather you prayed for. It's just come a year late.

Temperatures in the Baltimore region crept into the 70s yesterday, fueled by pale, hazy sunshine and a southerly flow of air from the tropics.

The January thaw, in a winter that hasn't yet really frozen up, has greened some lawns and lured a few eager forsythia buds into flower.

It is a welcome contrast to last January's weather, which began two months of repeated ice storms and frigid temperatures.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday the temperature at 2 p.m. demolished the previous record for a Jan. 13, of 66, set in 1972. The mercury reached 71 degrees.

"That's 31 degrees above normal," said National Weather Service meteorologist Fred Davis. It was also just 6 degrees cooler than the temperature at Key West, Fla., at the same hour. At the Custom House in downtown Baltimore, the record high of 76 degrees, set in 1932, remained intact. The high there yesterday was 65.

Yesterday's low temperature of 42 at BWI was two degrees warmer than the normal high, and equal to the high on the same date last year.

The weather service forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies today with a 40 percent chance of showers and highs in the low to mid-60s. Sunday should be in the mid-to upper-50s, with a chance of showers.

Pennsylvania State University meteorologist Fred Gadomski said this week's warm weather traces its origins to the central Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. A jet stream, or current of high-altitude winds, which normally flows northeast toward Alaska and British Columbia, has instead been blowing with unusual power almost directly east toward the California coast.

That has been the cause of the heavy rains in California, and has delivered relatively warm, humid air to much of the rest of the country.

Also, Mr. Gadomski said, a strong zone of high pressure over western and central Canada has prevented arctic air from making its usual wintertime forays south and east into the United States.

"Cold air has been spilling into extreme eastern Canada, and some has worked its way into New England in the last few days. But that's the only outlet for arctic air now anywhere in the U.S.," he said.

The result has been mild temperatures and high humidity. The water vapor in the air, meanwhile, has prevented daytime warmth from radiating into space, keeping overnight lows much warmer than usual.

"In Erie, Pa., [Thursday] night the overnight low was 60 degrees. That's the normal low for July 1. It's an absolute case of July in January," Mr. Gadomski said.

The overall pattern "is consistent with patterns that often occur with El Nino," said Mr. Gadomski, referring to the periodic warming of surface water in the tropical central and eastern Pacific. Scientists say it can have a profound impact on weather around the world.

But Mr. Gadomski cautioned: "I'm always a little skittish about making a direct connection that any one-week weather pattern is directly attributable to a phenomenon like El Nino."

The next big weather news in the Eastern states is likely to arrive next week. One of the storm systems that crashed across Southern California this week is now in the western Gulf of Mexico.

"With the counter-clockwise flow around a strengthening storm system in the Gulf Coast states, there will be winds from the Southeast adding moisture from the tropical Atlantic. That will set the stage for very heavy rain over some portion of the Eastern U.S. during in the next few days."But "one worry we do not have is for there to be any snow in the East." It won't be cold enough.

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