Category Archives: Weather & Sky

Spectacular Skies Over Pittsburgh

Rainbow just before sunset in Pittsburgh, 11 May 2024, 7:30pm (photo by Kate St. John)

15 May 2024

Last week the sky above Pittsburgh was spectacular over and over again.

  • Stunning storms on May 8
  • Beautiful sunrise on the 9th
  • Northern lights on the 10th
  • Double rainbow on the 11th.

No storm photos from me (!incredibly close lightning) but I photographed sunrise on the 8th.

Sunrise on 9 May 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Alas I missed the northern lights on Friday.

But was treated to the double rainbow on Saturday (with raindrops on the window).

Rainbow just before sunset in Pittsburgh, 11 May 2024, 7:29pm (photo by Kate St. John)

Photographer Dave DiCello takes dramatic photos of Pittsburgh every day from the West End overlook and captured every one of these spectacular sky events.

For more sky photos see:

This week is sunny or cloudy but nothing remarkable.

The sky is taking a break after a busy week.

(credits are in the captions)

Seen Last Week

Coltsfoot gone to seed, Frick Park, 9 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

16 April 2024

Last week was so full of news, from peregrines to floods, that I had to skip my usual “Seen This Week” report. Meanwhile Spring isn’t holding still. Wildflowers are blooming and the early ones have already gone to seed. Here’s a selection of my best photos from last week, April 8-11.

Above and below, three photos from Frick Park. All of these are alien and some are invasive but they are pretty.

  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), at top, is found in disturbed soil.
  • Speedwell’s (Veronica persica) tiny flowers bloom in fields and lawns. A dewdrop dangled above this one from a blade of grass.
  • Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) is abundant along creeks and river banks including Duck Hollow and Nine Mile Run. Very invasive, but pretty, which is why it was imported as a garden plant.
Eyebright, Frick Park, 9 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Lesser Celandine, Frick Park, 8 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last Thursday I visited Barking Slopes for just an hour before the rain chased me away. Even though I didn’t have much time I saw more than 15 species in bloom including:

Large-flowered Trillium, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Spring Beauty, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Trout Lily, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Blue Cohosh flowers, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Large-flowered bellwort, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Star Chickweed, Barking Slopes, 11 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Spring is here! Get outdoors so you don’t miss it.

(all photos by Kate St. John)

Honeybees Go Home for the Eclipse

Total solar eclipse, Berea, Ohio, 8 April 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

9 April 2024

For three minutes yesterday afternoon, people in a wide swath of the U.S. from Texas to Maine were wowed by the total solar eclipse. Jeff Cieslak was in the totality zone in Berea, Ohio and captured the photo at top. Look closely at the dark edge and you’ll see solar prominences (flares).

Map of the path of 8 April 2024 solar eclipse totality (image from NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

Pittsburgh and Dubois, PA, just east of the totality zone, were both close enough to experience a 97% eclipse. Our light level was like dusk and the temperature got cooler. Charity Kheshgi captured the partial eclipse in Pittsburgh at 3:17 to 3:20pm.

View of the 97% eclipse in Pittsburgh, 8 April 2024 at 3:19pm ET (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Meanwhile Marianne Atkinson noticed a change in honeybee behavior at her home in Dubois, PA. She’s providing a honeybee feeder this spring, filled with sugar water, to feed hungry bees in the early days before the flowers bloom. Yesterday morning her feeder was mobbed with honeybees and was running dry.

Honeybees at the feeder, Dubois, PA, 7 April 2024 (video by Marianne Atkinson)

There were too many bees for her to safely refill the feeder so she put out a second one (white rim). It was mobbed, too.

Honeybees at two feeders in Dubois, PA, 8 April 2024 before the partial eclipse (photo by Marianne Atkinson)

And then the eclipse began. Marianne describes what happened.

I had just added a second honey bee feeder this afternoon, not long before the eclipse started. But, during the eclipse at 97%, there were very few bees on either feeder! The yellow feeder only had two bees and the gravel feeder had 3 bees. I took this opportunity to add more nectar to the yellow feeder, since it was empty.

[Meanwhile] The many American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins were chattering away in the trees nearby during the whole eclipse. The sky had gotten a little darker, but not dark like a solar eclipse in totality. There were clouds during most of the eclipse, with occasional peaks of sun or seeing it through thin clouds. I was able to view it off and on.

— email from Marianne Atkinson, Dubois, PA, 8 April 2024

Honeybees are diurnal and they return to their hive at dusk to spend the night indoors. Apparently the light level during a 97% eclipse is low enough to prompt bees to go home. After the eclipse the honeybees came back quickly to both feeders. Marianne said, “They had just recently discovered the pea gravel feeder, but did not waste any time in utilizing it!”

Did you notice any special animal or insect behavior during the eclipse? Leave a comment with your observations.

(credits are in the captions)

Seen This Week

Bloodroot blooming at Independence Marsh, 31 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

6 April 2024

This week March went out like a lamb and April came in like a lion.

After photographing garden flowers on Easter morning I traveled out to Independence Marsh in Beaver County. I did not find my target bird, rusty blackbirds, but I did find spring flowers: Dutchmans breeches, cutleaf toothwort, bloodroot (above) and the first tiny bloom on shooting star (below).

Early bloom on shooting star, Independence Marsh, 31 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

As soon as March was over, things went wrong. I should have known when I saw this troubled sky of mammatus clouds on Saturday, 30 March. Not a good sign.

Mammatus clouds presage a week of rain, snow and graupel in Pittsburgh, 30 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

It rained and rained and rained on April 1-3, setting a record of 2.68 inches on April 2. Streams and basements were hit hard while the rain was falling. The rivers rose, as shown at at Duck Hollow on 4 April with the Monongahela River at parking lot level. (more flood photos and videos here)

Duck Hollow parking lot — A River Runs Through It — 4 April 2024, 7:19am ET

Later that same day, Thursday 4 April, the temperature fell and so did graupel.

Graupel falls o n4 April 2024 (video by Kate St. John)

Today it’s cold but the precipitation has finally stopped.

Meanwhile ….Remember those beautiful tulips I posted last Sunday, Easter morning?

BEFORE –> Tulips on N. Neville St on Easter morning, 31 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

And remember the deer I saw between two highrises in Oakland on 24 March?

A deer browsing the garden at a highrise in Pittsburgh, 5:30am 24 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Well, the two met up and the tulips did not fare well.

AFTER –> Same tulips eaten by deer on N. Neville St as of 2 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

That was on N Neville Street. Here’s N Craig Street.

BEFORE –> Tulips in front of a highrise on N Craig St, Easter morning, 31 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
AFTER –> Tulips eaten by deer on N Craig St, 4 April 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Deer damage has come to the “asphalt jungle.”

(photos by Kate St. John)

Duck Hollow Flooded & It’s Still Raining

Monongahela River floods the Duck Hollow parking lot, 4 April 2024, 7:20am (photo by Kate St. John)

4 April 2024

This morning I checked NOAA’s National Water Prediction Service and saw there was a major flood today on the Monongahela River at Braddock Lock & Dam, just upriver from Duck Hollow. It looked like it would crest this morning …

Monongahela River gauge readings & prediction for Braddock Lock and Dam, 4 April 2024 at 5am (graph from NOAA & USGS National Water Prediction Service)

… so I rushed down to Duck Hollow just after sunrise and here’s what I saw.

It was so deep that the parking lot garbage can was floating. Needless to say there were no barges or ducks on the river.

The birds were singing as I filmed the river at the mouth of Nine Mile Run.

Was I there for the crest? I took a two minute video while the water was rising. See the pink line indicating the high water mark in these slides from my video.

As it turns out the river crested today at 4:00am EDT.

Monongahela River gauge readings at Braddock Lock and Dam, 4 April 2024 (graph from NOAA & USGS National Water Prediction Service)

The National Weather Service says we’ve broken the record for the wettest start of any year in Pittsburgh since record-keeping began in 1871.

No wonder there’s a flood.

(photos and videos by Kate St. John; diagrams from @NWSPittsburgh)

Flood Stage!

Monongahela River flood at Duck Hollow, 10 Sept 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

2 April 2024

CORRECTION (3 APRIL at 7am): When I first published this article, I didn’t realize I was using outdated maps so my analysis was wrong. NOAA changed to their mapping tool on 28 March; the new tool is much better. Maps, links and the flood assessment have been corrected.

Today (2 April 2024) it will be warm in Pittsburgh (71°F) but very wet with severe thunderstorms, 2-3 inches of rain, and up to 4 inches in localized downpours. There’s a Flood Watch through this evening for rivers, creeks, streams, and flood-prone locations.

It is unlikely that the Monongahela River will flood as much as it did in 2018, above in September, below in February. But it will reach flood stage.

The river is expected to rapidly rise Wednesday (3 April) and crest at 26.7 feet early Thursday (4 April), just below the moderate flood stage. As of Wednesday morning, it was over 21 feet.

Post Gazette, 3 April 2024
Monongahela River flood at Duck Hollow, 17 Feb 2018 (photo by John English)

Our streams, creeks and low-lying roads will be in trouble. Water could rise suddenly. Watch out for flash floods on a road near you.

Flooded road (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The National Water Prediction Service provides a dynamic water prediction map for the entire U.S. updated with current conditions (circles) and water level predictions (squares around the circle). The colors on the 4/3/2024 at 9:00pm map below mean:

  • Purple = Major Flood
  • Red = Moderate Flood
  • Orange = Minor Flood
  • Yellow = just below or nearly at Flood Stage
  • Green = no flood
  • tiny blue dots mean No Data
screenshot of map from National Water Prediction Service at water.noaa.gov, 3 April 2024, 9:00pm ET

The map shows that the Youghiogheny River at Sutersville, PA is in Major Flood (purple) and so are several places in Ohio.

Click here to see the current National Water Prediction Map for Pittsburgh.

If you’re curious about flood conditions and forecasts throughout the U.S., visit water.noaa.gov.

water.noaa.gov as of 3 April 2024 at 7am

Seen This Week

Sunny and 75 degrees at Schenley Park, 4 March 2024 at 4pm (photo by Kate St. John)

9 March 2024

The weather doesn’t know what to do with itself in Pittsburgh. Some days it rains all day (today for instance). Some days it’s hot and sunny. Some days it’s chilly and overcast. This week we saw it all.

On Monday and Tuesday hot sunny weather (74-75°F) encouraged everyone to get outdoors. I waited a while to get a photo, above, without a lot of people in it. Just around the bend the sun was so low in the sky at 4:40pm that it made long shadows.

Long shadows and 75 degrees at Schenley Park, 4 March 2024 at 4pm (photo by Kate St. John)

That beautiful day came after a foggy rainy weekend, seen at Duck Hollow below. The Monongahela River was running high because of all the rain.

Duck Hollow, 2 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

All kinds of critters were busy this week including a striped red ant on a trail in Schenley Park. What ant is this? Can you tell me its name?

Striped red ant, Schenley Park, 4 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Monday I also found two refugees from water-logged soil on a sidewalk in Oakland. Not earthworms, these are invasive Asian jumping worms. Not good! Click here to see a brief clip of them squirming.

Asian jumping worms on the sidewalk on Craig Street, 4 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Thursday 7 March I found new leaves of (maybe) corydalis at Todd Nature Reserve.

New corydalis leaves? Todd Nature Reserve, 7 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

And on the way home I stopped at the Tarentum Bridge to check on the peregrines. The male was perched nearby while the female incubated eggs in the nest. This (lousy) digiscope photo shows the female’s wingtips visible in the nest box as she incubates with her tail toward us. This is early for most peregrines in southwestern PA but not for this bird. She’s always early.

Female peregrine incubating at the Tarentum Bridge nest, 7 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

p.s. Don’t forget to turn your clocks AHEAD tonight. (egads! I fixed that awful typo. Thanks, everyone, for pointing it out.)

Upset Clock (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John)

Will Spring Have a Setback This Weekend?

Coltsfoot closing at dusk, Schenley Park, 4 March 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

7 March 2024

Two days ago it was so balmy in Pittsburgh that we wore T-shirts outdoors. The high on Monday 4 March tied the 74°F record, honeysuckle leaves popped out and I found coltsfoot blooming in Schenley Park. The week before was warm, too. Here’s what was blooming Feb 23 to March 1.

The weather is going to turn cold this weekend. Will spring be dealt a setback on Sunday?

In my city neighborhood Saturday night’s predicted low will be 35°F, still above freezing and significantly above normal. The map below shows the low temperature anomaly predicted for this Saturday (Sunday’s map won’t be available until tomorrow). Sunday’s forecast says it will go down to 30°F, barely below freezing.

Predicted low temperature anomaly for Saturday 9 March 2024 (map from Climate Central)

On Monday the weather warms up again. It’ll be 60°F on Tuesday.

I’m not too worried about a Spring setback in the City of Pittsburgh. NOAA’s March 2024 forecast looks pretty hot.

U.S. temperature outlook forecast for March 2024 (map from Climate.gov)

(credits are in the caption)

Seen This Week

Sunrise in Pittsburgh, 7 Feb 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

10 February 2024

Beautiful sunrises, calm reflections and high water at Duck Hollow were on tap this week in Pittsburgh.

Wind-less clear skies along the Monongahela River at Duck Hollow, 4 Feb 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Pastel sunrise on 8 Feb 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

The week began as Winter but ended even warmer than early Spring. The tulips in my neighborhood are well above ground, fortunately without flower buds. One week from today, on 17 Feb, the weather forecast calls for temperatures as low as 19°F.

These tulips think it’s already spring, Pittsburgh, 7 Feb 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

The tulips survive in my too-many-deer neighborhood because they’re surrounded by buildings and tall fences with no obvious exit other than a narrow driveway.

I thought that the maze of buildings and driveways would protect these Japanese yews in front of Newell-Simon Hall at Carnegie Mellon, but deer found their way in and munched the bushes down to sticks. There’s a lot more to eat here. The deer will be back.

Deer damaged yews at Newell-Simon Hall, CMU, 7 Feb 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Where Did the Sun Come Up Today?

Sunrise in Pittsburgh, 17 Jan 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

18 January 2024

Because the Earth’s axis doesn’t change how it tilts as it orbits the sun, the sun is higher in the summer sky and lower in winter. Meanwhile sunrise and sunset march north and south along the horizon from solstice to solstice.

You can see both effects in this composite photo by Tunç Tezel (The World At Night) showing the sun’s path at summer solstice, equinox and winter solstice in BursaTurkey, embedded from NASA APOD.

Sun’s path on Winter solstice, Equinox and Summer solstice in BursaTurkey (image by Tunç Tezel (TWAN) embedded from NASA’s Astronomy Photo Of the Day on 19 Sep 2023

In my own way I’ve kept track of the same thing. When we lived in Greenfield our house faced west so I noted where the sun set for both solstices and the equinox. Now we face east and I haven’t done that yet for sunrise, but I already have some markers.

Here’s my eastern view at sunrise yesterday morning. This can be a marker.

The eastern horizon at sunrise, 17 Jan 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

I also have four photos of sun pillars which are good sunrise markers.

Put together on an eastern view photo, it looks like this. You can already see the sun marching along.

Four sunrise points along my horizon (photo by Kate St. John with markup)

I did not add yesterday’s sunrise to the marker photo because it was too close to 11 January, but the sun did indeed move northward in 6 days. See composite photo below.

Comparison of sunrise location on 11 Jan and 17 Jan in Pittsburgh (photos by Kate St. John)

I’m well on my way toward completing the sunrise markers but it will take a year to do it. I need both solstices and the equinox.

Try it for yourself. Any horizon will do even if you’re in a valley. During one year take 3 to 12 photos, either just the solstices & equinox or one photo per month. Note the date and the sun’s location on the horizon. Put the markers on your horizon photo as I have done above.

So where did the sun come up today?

Ummm … Not today in Pittsburgh. It’s too cloudy to see the sun.