Archive for March, 2013

Do you live in the Washington D.C. area and have an occasion to celebrate?  I have a new recommendation for you. I would like to introduce you to a bar on wheels called the Trolley Pub of Arlington, VA.

You're telling me I can drink and bike and not get a DUI?

You’re telling me I can drink and bike and not get a DUI?

Warm weather is approaching in the Northeast and Midwest and this might be your cure for those cold weather blues.  Get 6-14 of your friends together (heck you and your buddy could just ask random people to join, who wouldn’t want to do this?!) for a two hour tour (that will run you $420 total, or $30 per person) and get your pedaling legs and drinking arm (you might need both hands to keep a steady grip on your brew, what about potholes?) ready for a good time.  Smaller tours for groups of 1-6 are $35 per person. The tour promises to stop at your favorite local watering holes in the Claredon, VA neighborhood (that’s right, I’m calling a Spinachead outing and we’ll report back to you), or you can cruise with minimal stops while people watching.

Have no fear there is a conductor who will do all the steering for you, he even has an electric backup in case you get distracted (or have one too many) while pedaling. The tour options are not yet published on their website (a route should be planned for the National Mall), but you can follow Trolley Pub’s updates on their website here. We at Spinach appreciate public transportation, such has bike systems, and we also appreciate a good brew – our favorite things combined into one.  This also gets you outdoors, another thing we like.

Consider this the best heads up you’ve gotten on this first day of Spring 2013.  Trolley Pub is booking requests now. We’ll let you know how it is.

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This grandma was told she should be green.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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As everyone around Washington, DC is likely aware of by now, “Snowquester” has been and will be a BUST for snow in DC and most of the neighboring counties. I highlighted in my Monday post:

Models have been trending more favorably for accumulating snowfall over the last day, but don’t be surprised to see forecasts waver between now and even while the storm is impacting our area since small shifts in the track of the system will have significant impacts on where the snow/rain line meanders.

Indeed, the East/West (mainly West) oscillation of the rain/snow line has been the determining factor as to whether many of us are experiencing significant accumulations of snow or a minor rain/snow event, leaving most of us with minor (if any) accumulation in and around DC.

This image highlights just how significant the rain/snow line has been with respect to accumulating snowfall in the presence of heavy precipitation.


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The system impacting the Washington, DC area is expected to deepen (strengthen) significantly through the rest of the day, with many now calling for accumulations in the range of the “major impact scenario” I outlined in yesterday’s post. I personally think the below estimates from the National Weather Service (NWS) are overdone, but wanted to give an idea of what the upper limits are. Some areas will achieve totals in the range outlined by the NWS, but it will depend on where the heaviest bands of snow establish themselves. I still have confidence in the accumulation totals I forecasted yesterday morning, but the upper bounds are more likely and Prince Georges has the best chance to exceed expectations.

To avoid contributing to what is likely going to be a very dangerous evening commute, I would recommend working from home for those who can.

Given the heavy weight of this wet snow, power outages will be likely in areas that receive 6+ inches.

Two noteworthy safety concerns: 1) Driving conditions will deteriorate throughout the day, 2) shoveling snow is a known trigger for heart attacks.

Stay safe and be smart!


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This system is proving to be quite the forecasting challenge. As noted in my previous email/forecast, the most significant factor that will determine how much snow the DC metro and neighboring counties accumulate is the rain/snow line.  While the rain/snow line related to snow storms impacting our region is often a factor of horizontal cold fronts, this situation is particularly unique in that the rain/snow line with be more so determined vertically through a boundary of colder air aloft and warmer air near the surface.  Ground and air temperatures near the surface will be above freezing at the onset of precipitation tonight, and while there will be plenty of colder air aloft to support precipitation in the form of snow, there will be enough “warmer” air near the surface to keep precipitation as rain or a rain/snow mix at times tonight through Wednesday afternoon, before an almost certain full transition to all snow by Wednesday evening at the latest.  I’ll outline general major and minor impact scenarios FOR DC AND NEIGHBORING COUNTIES (this is important to note since there could be significant variations in accumulations even within the District) and then provide my forecast. Of the potential outcomes, there is high confidence tomorrow morning’s commute will consist of moderate to significant traffic delays with hazardous road conditions, while tomorrow evening’s commute will be dangerous. Unless there is a drastic change in forecast, schools in DC and all counties mentioned below will be closed tomorrow.


 Major Impact Scenario:

Precipitation begins in the form of rain Tuesday night, but becomes heavy enough before midnight to support sufficiently cold enough temperatures at the surface for a transition to all snow.  Snow will be heavy at times, likely seeing a strong band move through the region late in the afternoon/early evening as the core of the low pressure system pulls out East/Northeast.  The system is slowed in its northward progression by a blocking high sitting over the NE U.S./Canada, allowing for a lasting period of snow that wraps around the backside of the low pressure system and our region experiences additional minor accumulations through very early Thursday morning.

 Snow accumulations

DC: 8-10” (highest totals to the west, lower totals to the east)

Arlington, VA: 6-10” (highest totals to the west, lower totals to the east)

Fairfax, VA: 10-14” in the far western portion of the county, 8-10” central, 6-8” eastern portion

Montgomery, MD: generally 8-10” for most of the county with a possibility of 10-14” in the far West

Prince Georges, MD: wide ranging depending on location within county. 8-10” in the extreme NW, 6-8” for the NW half of the county, 4-6” in the eastern half of the county with 2-4” in the extreme SE.


Minor Impact Scenario:

Precipitation begins in the form of rain Tuesday night. Heavier amounts of precipitation necessary to lower surface temperatures enough to support a transition to all snow stays to the West of DC and neighboring counties to the South and East, resulting in a mostly rain and rain/snow mix to persist through much of the day Wednesday before a transition to all snow as the system exits our region Wednesday evening.  The system takes a more easterly path into the Atlantic and the impact of the ridge of high pressure to the North is negligible, resulting in precipitation ending Wednesday evening. Late period of snow from the backside of the system allows for some accumulation before the system and any associated precipitation exit completely.

 Snow accumulations

DC: 1-3” (highest totals to the West, lower totals to the East)

Arlington, VA: 1-3” (highest totals to the West, lower totals to the East)

Fairfax, VA: 2-4” in the western portion of the county, 1-2” in the eastern portion

Montgomery, MD: generally 2-4” for most of the county with a possibility of 4-6” in the far West

Prince George, MD: wide ranging depending on location within county. 2-4” in the extreme NW, at best 1-2” the NW half of the county but likely an almost all rain event for the entire county with an inch or less of accumulation


My Forecast

Models were trending most of the day yesterday for a rain/snow line remaining to the East of DC for the majority of the event, then regressed West of DC late last night only to suggest once more a rain/snow line to the East of DC this morning.  Given the vertical complexity of the rain/snow line in this instance, I don’t think the issue will be completely resolved prior to the precipitation entering our area, but will actually throw a few unexpected transitions of precipitation type tonight through Wednesday afternoon before a full transition to snow Wednesday afternoon/evening. It is a certainty precipitation will start as rain for everyone, then I believe there will be a transition to accumulating snow for most during the overnight hours before becoming a rain/snow mix during the morning into possibly the early afternoon (leaning more toward earlier transition rather than later) before a full transition back to all snow for most of us. The system exits to the East/NE, bringing intermediate bands of light to potentially moderate snow that persist through midnight and perhaps linger into the early morning hours Thursday.  As highlighted by the wide range of potential snow totals over the relatively small area mentioned above in the major/minor scenarios, the timing of a transition to all snow will vary, but will generally occur in from west to east at a roughly 45 degree orientation (from SW to NE).

 Snow accumulations

Western half of DC: 6-9″

Eastern half of DC: 4-7″

Arlington, VA: 4-8″ (highest totals to the west, lower totals to the east)

Fairfax, VA: 8-12″ in the western portion of the county, 5-8” central, 3-7” in the eastern portion

Montgomery, MD: 8-12″ far western portion of the county, 6-9” central, 5-8” in the eastern portion

Prince George, MD: wide ranging depending on location within county. 6-8” extreme NW, 4-8″ western half, 3-6” eastern half, 2-4” extreme SE.


School Closure Outlook: High confidence for widespread closures Wednesday.


Federal Government Outlook: Does it really matter??? I kid, only medium confidence in closures due to likelihood of eastern portion of DC accumulating lesser amounts than rest of forecast region.

Gil Cedillo

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I appreciate the recent blog post by the EPA Office of Environmental Justice. First, because it is outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recap on her top priority while she was at EPA and second, because it pays homage to a great community leader.  Though I may not be the protesting type, I strongly support those who organize and stand up for fair treatment, which all U.S. citizens deserve.  When it comes to environmental protection I support those who stand up for fair treatment even more.

In her final video message, Lisa Jackson spoke about the work of Hazel Johnson.  A founder of a Chicago nonprofit called “People for Community Recovery”, Hazel Johnson was often called the “Mother of Environmental Justice.”  If you’re new to the term of environmental justice (you haven’t been reading my old posts) it typically refers to the fair and equal treatment of all races so that people do not bare disproportionate environmental impacts such as air, water, and soil pollution.

During Lisa Jackson’s term as Administrator I too have seen a renewed focus on environmental justice.  The EPA Office of Environmental Justice released Plan EJ 2014, and 17 federal agencies have continually met to form the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.  I presume Hazel would have been very supportive of Lisa Jackson’s work on EJ, but still concerned that these issues are ongoing.  Hazel coined the term “toxic donut” a term referring to encircling industries that were polluting in her Chicago neighborhood.  Lisa Jackson saw (as did I during my undergraduate degree) a similar pattern in Cancer Alley, a stretch of industries from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana; many of these types of patterns are all across the U.S. from Texas to California to New Jersey.

Hazel’s top priority was for communities to be brought to the decision table when siting industrial facilities.  To me that seems like common sense. Sometimes that’s not the case and many community residents are ignored. But progress has been made and toxic sites have been cleaned up, so that should be applauded.  However the work is never done.  Not until Americans take a strong unified stance on how they use and obtain energy.  Open conversations about consumption and energy sources are the only ways to prevent things that Hazel and Lisa have so commonly seen.  You can see the EPA Blog post and video here.

A few weeks ago, the largest environmental march to date was organized in Washington D.C.; it was a march from the Washington Monument to the White House to tell President Obama to deny the Keystone Pipeline and reduce our use of fossil fuels.  It was organized by the Sierra Club and many local environmental groups across the nation.  I wanted to see it for my own eyes so I braved the cold and watched for 30 minutes.  The march was organized and civil, and many had signs to reject the Pipeline.  After the State Department’s release of a draft environmental impact statement, I don’t think pro-enviros are too happy.  I took a couple photos just so you could feel like you were there:

"Obama how dare you frack your momma" - said the crowd

“Obama how dare you frack your momma” – said the crowd

En route to the Washington Monument

En route to the Washington Monument

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.

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In the midst of a record 767 days since the DC area last received 2 inches or more of snowfall from one event, a system is currently organizing over the Intermountain West that will give the DC metro area it’s best chance since Snowmageddon for significant snow accumulations late Tuesday through Wednesday.  Before taking drastic measures to prepare for “Snowquester,” it is worth noting there is still a significant amount of uncertainty with this system.  The uncertainty surrounding this system isn’t so much “if” the DC area and surrounding counties will be impacted with significant amounts of precipitation, but more so what form of precipitation we will receive. While models are becoming more consistent with the track of system, minor disparities in track and intensity could mean the difference between DC metro receiving a mostly rain/wintry mix of precipitation that accumulates 1-2 inches at most and a major snow event that could accumulate 8-10 inches of snow. I’m expecting models to continue shifting between now through when the system is impacting our area given the complexity of this system, so at this point I think it would be most useful to summarize the current scenarios projected by the GFS and ECMWF (the two more reliable models) and provide my preliminary forecast.


1) GFS scenario — The system takes a more northerly track and intensifies significantly off the Southern Virginia/North Carolina coast after phasing with a weaker low from the South.  Precipitation begins as rain in the DC metro area and surrounding counties Tuesday night, but as the system strengthens off the coast precipitation rates will increase, helping a faster and sustainable transition into heavy and wet snowfall that makes it to the ground before melting.  The combination of air temperatures and intense snowfall rates will dictate surface temperatures — which will be above freezing at the onset of precipitation — and be a key factor in how much accumulation occurs.  Assuming surface temperatures decrease enough to support accumulating snowfall by early/mid Wednesday, snowfall accumulations in the DC Metro area could range between 6 – 10 inches.

2) ECMWF scenario — The system takes a more southerly track and experiences less intensification than expected in the GFS scenario as it moves off the Atlantic Coast.  Precipitation begins as rain in the DC metro area Tuesday night and the lack of intensification allows atmospheric and ground temperatures to remain above freezing through most of Wednesday, resulting in the majority of precipitation to fall in the form of rain.  As the system exits Wednesday night and colder air is fed into the area from the backside of the system’s northerly winds, a transition to snow has the potential to accumulate 1-2 inches in the city.  **It’s worth noting the ECMWF significantly outperformed the GFS in modeling Sandy and the recent blizzard in the Northeast.**

3) My forecast — At this time I believe the latest output of the GFS and ECMWF to be the extreme maximum and minimum impact scenarios of what could happen, respectively, and the most likely scenario is an average of the two (although most models have begun favoring more snowfall).  I expect precipitation in the DC metro area to begin Tuesday evening in the form of rain, intensifying through the day Wednesday that allows for a transition to moderate wet snowfall by late morning/early afternoon Wednesday that accumulates 1-4 inches (4 inches more likely than 1 inch) by the time precipitation ends late Wednesday.  The further West, SW, and NW you are from the city (and especially at higher elevations) your chances to see closer to 6 inches of snowfall increase significantly, and places like Charlottesville and Roanoke could see closer to 10-12 inches. Areas East of I-95 will likely see limited — if any — precipitation in the form of snow from this event.


Again, there is high confidence that the DC metro area will see significant amounts of precipitation from this system, but the remaining uncertainty revolves around what type of precipitation we will receive. Models have been trending more favorably for accumulating snowfall over the last day, but don’t be surprised to see forecasts waver between now and even while the storm is impacting our area since small shifts in the track of the system will have significant impacts on where the snow/rain line meanders.

I plan on posting an updated forecast Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

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