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Richmond Area Weather

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I hope you folks will indulge me in allowing the creation of a new topic “Richmond Area Weather”. It’s a topic interesting to me, and I’d love to be able to share that interest if you’ll allow. I feel the topic is germane to this forum because one of the attributes that businesses and individuals often look for when relocating or starting up in an area is climate desirability. The climate also often dictates the type of construction that is suitable in an area.

If you’re interested in keeping this as a rolling topic, I’d be happy to provide updates and insight into current happenings in Richmond area weather. I would generally drop a comment or two each week, and leave the filler discussions to you folks. (For daily updates and weather chatter, feel free to follow my weather bloggy-thingy on Twitter at @HenricoWxGeek .) I am a National Weather Service trained spotter for the Wakefield NWS office, and a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. I also run the Twitter page for that organization - @CentralVaAMS. We have meetings about every two months, and anyone who is interested in weather can attend. I will post the times for those as they become known.

So, to kick things off, I just thought I’d post some general climate data for the area. Hope you folks find this interesting! Thanks.

Summary of the Richmond area climate: Richmond’s climate is temperate and typical of the middle-Atlantic region where the summers are hot and humid, and the winters are cold and wet. It can be generalized as partly cloudy year round. Annual temperatures typically vary from 29 degrees to 89 degrees and are only occasionally below 16 or above 96. (Wikipedia)

The area is situated geographically as to where it is on the battle lines between continental air masses that flow over the mountains from the Northwest, and maritime air masses (including hurricanes, nor-easters, and basic low pressure systems) which frequently approach the area from the southeast and southwest. Consequently, the area alternates between cooler/dryer air and warmer/moist air. The clash can set up significant snow and rain storms and also prolonged droughts, depending on which air mass is prevailing at any given time.

The area’s altitude is not a significant climate factor, except that there are some moderate temperature gradients between the lower end of the metro area (around 100 ft), and the far western suburbs (around 350 feet). This is just enough to sometimes make the difference between just rain and several inches of snow from east to west across the metro area.

The listings below give an overview of the area’s climate with Richmond data being taken from the lower eastern end of the metro at Richmond International Airport, as well as from the higher western end in Short Pump. Some comparisons have been made to other US cities with similar climates.

Average Annual Rainfall

Richmond  44 in

Short Pump  43 in

Average Annual Snowfall

Richmond 11 in (similar to Knoxville, Oklahoma City, Seattle)

Short Pump 13 in (similar to Asheville, Lexington, Wichita)

Average High/Low for Hottest and Coldest Months

Richmond   July 90/68  Jan 47/28

Short Pump   July 87/67  Jan 46/26

Average Number of Days Where Temperature Falls Below Freezing

Richmond  81

Short Pump  89

Overall Average Annual  Temp

Richmond  59 (similar to Louisville, Nashville, Washington)

Short Pump  57 (similar to Baltimore, Kansas City, St Louis)

Average Elevation Above Sea Level

Richmond  167 feet (similar to Boston, Washington, Newark)

Short Pump 312 feet (similar to Memphis, Fairfax, Harrisburg PA)

Edited by Henrico Weather
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9/12/19 Update: There are currently 2 tropical features that could potentially affect the Richmond area. The one shown in red will not directly pose any threat to the immediate area, since it will most likely enter the Gulf and threaten coastal interests in TX, LA, AL, MS, FL. There is always the possibility that the remnants could ride up the Appalachians as a low pressure system and (hopefully!) give us some rain early next week.

The second feature, shown in orange, has some potential to develop into something more substantial than it is currently exhibiting. The current projected track takes it into the Caribbean sometime mid next week. It is way too early to determine the full track of this storm, or even if it fully develops. There is always the potential for significant effects from a tropical feature like this, but it could also just as easily turn out to sea before it gets this far.

I'll post up further developments as these two features evolve.

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As promised, here is the information for the next meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. All local AMS meetings are open to the public and FREE. You do NOT have to be a member to attend. Meetings are held about every two months, and a speaker or topic of interest are always on hand (last meeting we had NBC12 weatherman Jim Duncan). The next meeting will be October 19th at the Henrico Math & Science Innovation Center. See announcement below for details....

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Come out to the next meeting of the Central Virginia Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) at 1:00 pm, Saturday, October 19th at the Henrico Math Science Innovation Center (MSIC), 2401 Hartman Street, Richmond, Virginia, 23223. Our host will be Carroll Ellis, Geoscience Educator and Flight Director of the Challenger Learning Center. Park in the main parking lot. The meeting will start in Room D-9.
 
Meeting agenda, subject to change:
 
Welcome/Introductions
 
Reminder: Mid-Atlantic ChaserCon 2019 - Saturday, October 26th, 9-5 pm, Science Museum of Virginia, great list of speakers, tickets now on sale at Mid-Atlantic ChaserCon 2019. The Central Virginia Chapter of the AMS is manning the registration table. We need several volunteers to assist! Please email me if you can help out.
 
Meeting Host: Carroll Ellis, Geoscience Educator and Flight Director of the Challenger Learning Center, MSIC.
  1. Tour of the Weather Emergency Operation Center
  2. Tour of the Challenger Learning Center
  3. Discussion of the "War on Earth Science"
  4. Tornado Fujita Scale Activity
  5. Tour of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's extensive air quality monitoring site
Next meeting: Chapter Holiday Party, Thursday evening, December 12th.
 
Reminder: Please take the time to fill out this short Central Virginia AMS Chapter survey:
All Central Virginia Chapter AMS meetings are welcome to all with an interest in meteorology/weather (professional meteorologists and weather enthusiasts). Although encouraged, chapter members do not need to be members of the AMS.
 
If you know anyone who would like to be included in chapter email notifications or if you would like to be removed from the email notification list, please let me know. Please feel free to invite others and distribute this email.
 
Thank you.
 
Dan Salkovitz
Meteorologist
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Secretary, Central Virginia Chapter AMS
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Current US Drought Monitor shows most of Richmond area as "Abnormally Dry" with areas just to the west as "Moderate Drought". With no significant rain in the extended forecast through the end of the month, these conditions could be expected to worsen. 

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For most in the area, if they were aware of it at all, it sounded/felt like thunder. If you were asleep you probably wouldn't have even been woken by it. The epicenter was less than a mile from my house. This activity is related to the same deep fault that triggered the Louisa quake that caused damage throughout the region several years ago. Small shakes like these happen fairly regularly in central Virginia. 

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Drought conditions continue to build in the Richmond area and across the state. This map shows that September rainfall was only about 10% of normal in the Richmond metro. With no significant rain in sight for at least the next 2 weeks, and temperatures WAY above normal for this time of year (80 to 90) don't be surprised if you start seeing water restrictions around the region in the near future. 

Twitter - @HenricoWxGeek 

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Richmond has tied or set new record high's, for their respective dates, 4 out of the last 6 days in a row (if today's projected high plays out.) Wednesday's high marks the hottest October temperature ever recorded in Richmond, and that record may be broken today, with a high near 100 expected. High/low records are usually broken by a degree or two. Yesterday and today will not even have been close, blowing past the old records by 4 to 6 degrees. September went on record as both the 5th hottest AND 5th driest September ever recorded in Richmond, a combination that has resulted in some pretty serious drought-like conditions around the area.

Some much cooler temperatures (translate that to near normal) will be coming in on Friday through the weekend with highs in the 70s. However, dry conditions will persist for the next couple of weeks. There may be some showery weather on Monday or Tuesday, but nothing near what is needed to alleviate the drought. No water restrictions have been applied yet, but when it gets to this point, I always like to self regulate and try to use water sensibly.

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Edited by Henrico Weather
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23 hours ago, Hike said:

Calling Henrico Weather, what is this wet stuff falling from the sky - some have called it rain,  glorious rain.

I don't know that I've ever seen such stuff before! Whatever it was, it left 1.6 inches of it in my gauge out here in the Short Pump area.

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Edited by Henrico Weather
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Been a while since I've updated, so I thought I'd touch base. Most of the reliable long range winter forecasts have been out for a couple of weeks, and they are all over the place. I've seen everything from snowmageddon to warm and rainy. Usually there is at least some degree of agreement, but we're just not seeing it for the upcoming winter. Linked is NOAA's official forecast for the US.... https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/winter-outlook-warmer-than-average-for-many-wetter-in-north

You can see that Virginia shows up under their warmer-than-average shading on the temperature map, and in the average precipitation in their precipitation map. That would tend to indicate a slightly warmer winter, with mostly rain and perhaps a few snow events. It should be noted, though, that their October long range forecast for November has already been pretty far off the base temperature-wise, and that deviance will continue with the cold snap currently in store for the upcoming week.

There are quite a few long range models, however, that are indicating cooler-than-average temperatures and slightly higher precipitation for the winter. That would tend to lean toward a more snowy solution for the next 3 months.

What many have said has thrown a wrench into the predictions, is the unanticipated extent of the Siberian snow pack growth. Wide and deep coverage of that part of the world, tends to make things cooler down-flow of the area. So, cooler air draining southeast off of Siberia will tend to make the Canadian snow pack more extensive and, rolling downhill, the northern US, and subsequently central and eastern areas of the US.

Weather prediction is always a crap-shoot due to so many variables when predicting the weather 60, 90, 120 days out - almost a folly. NOAA and some of the other modelers will probably have a little better idea of how the winter will look once we get past mid-November, and will re-visit their winter forecasts. In the meantime, take all of these long range forecasts with a grain of salt. I always point out that I am decidedly NOT a meteorologist, but merely an observer of weather. I just pass along what other very smart people have worked long and hard on. But, based on everything I've seen from other sources, my uneducated guess would be that we would probably see a fairly average winter, meaning rollercoaster temps with some cold blasts and a little snow on occasion. Average winter snowfall for our area would be around 11 inches east of I-95, 13 inches in western Henrico and Chesterfield, and up to 15 inches going west into Goochland and Powhatan.

Based on the big divergence in models, it will be interesting to see how things play out! You can follow me on Twitter at @HenricoWxGeek

Edited by Henrico Weather

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4 hours ago, eandslee said:

Are you on Facebook as well?

Just as myself. I don't have a weather page there. A good one to follow on Facebook is "Virginia Weather Network". Incidentally, they are one of the ones calling for a snowier winter. Last long range snow map for the winter that I saw from them, had the east side of Richmond with around 20 inches for the season, and the west side with about 24. I like theirs better!

https://vawx.net/2019-2020-vwn-winter

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Edited by Henrico Weather
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If you hear a Virginia weather forecaster say we are currently experiencing CAD conditions, they aren't referring to some guy making untoward advances to a female.

CAD refers to a common weather phenomenon in our area know as Cold Air Damming, also known as "the cold wedge". It is a condition where warmer air is trying to push into our area from the southwest, but has a difficult time eroding the cold air, due to a damming effect from the Appalachians.

Yesterday and earlier today exhibited a classic example of this.  A warm front was approaching from NC, but stalled over our area. At one point the Short Pump area was hovering around 39 while it was in the 50s in Colonial Heights. 

Similarly, this morning when it was 39 in Short Pump, it was 48 in Blacksburg, an area that's generally 3 to 5 degrees cooler than us. See image below for a graphic representation of this from this morning. 

As you can see from the map warmer air had pushed up the western side of the Appalachians, but was having a hard time moving into central Virginia.

For this particular event, we were cold, but still above freezing. Sometimes when the entrenched air is a bit colder, this setup can cause some classic ice storms in our region, as the warmer air moves up and over the dammed-up cold air at the surface. The temps in the upper atmosphere can be in the 40s with precipitation falling as rain, and as it falls through the colder air, it can refreeze as sleet if the dammed-up cold air layer is thick, or freeze after it hits the ground (freezing rain) if the layer is thinner. 

Your Richmond area weather lesson of the day!

Follow me on Twitter at @HenricoWxGeek

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Edited by Henrico Weather
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