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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 01/ 9/2008

Winter Starts Slow, Will it Finish Strong?

By Matt Ross

After yesterday's record-breaking warmth and a rather tame start to winter, one naturally wonders, is winter cold and snow going to be a no-show? Our updated, long-term winter outlook calls for January to cool down after a hot start, a warm February and the potential for a colder than average March. Including the 3-5" the metro area received in December, total winter snowfall is expected to be around 12 inches in the District and points south and east (compared to an average of 16 inches), with amounts generally in the 15-20 inch range north and west of town (in Fairfax and Montgomery counties). For complete details, keep reading...

We caution that while great advances have been made in seasonal forecasting, there is still a large deal of uncertainty in forecasting in the long range.

Outlook Update

When this outlook was originally developed in late November, we wrote: "This winter will be one of huge variability. While we definitely will see colder/stormier periods, the traditional heart of winter could be very warm." So far this forecast has verified pretty well, although the magnitude of the warm periods has been a bit greater than forecast.

We continue to believe March will likely be the coldest month with respect to normal with February the warmest, although our confidence for the February forecast is low. March is likely to see above average snowfall with below average snow still likely for January/February. Snow lovers may find solace in the fact that several of the analogs (years where similar weather patterns to this year were apparent) we used to develop this outlook featured 8"+ snowstorms for DC and we believe that the risk of a moderate/big snowstorm remains higher than usual (see yesterday's feature: "Where's All the Snow?"), though less than 50%. The bust potential for this forecast is also higher than usual as we will often be caught between competing weather regimes, with dry, warmer conditions in the Carolinas and what may be a cold and snowy winter for Southern New England and the Northeast.

Overall 2007-08 Winter Temperatures: Normal to +1 (degrees F)

  • December: Normal to +1 (degree above normal) [Update: December ended up being +2.2 degree above normal, a bit warmer than predicted]

  • January: Normal to +1 [Update: So far, January's temperature is averaging a whopping +6.6 degrees above normal. A cool down will be necessary for this forecast to verify. We think there's a decent chance of a cool down, but, for this forecast to verify, it might not be enough to overcome the initial warmth.]

  • February: +1 to +2

  • March: -1 to -2 (degrees below normal)

Snowfall: Below Normal, but near the median

  • National Airport (DCA): 12" [Update: So far, National has received 2.6" of snow, on track with this prediction.]

  • Dulles Airport (IAD): 18" [Update: So far, Dulles has received 2.5" of snow and is running a bit behind this prediction.]

  • Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI): 18" [Update: So far, BWI has received 4.8" of snow, on track with this prediction]

  • Fairfax/Loudoun/Montgomery Counties: 15-20" [Update: These areas received about 3-6" of snow from the one storm in early December, and are basically on track this prediction.]

  • DC/Arlington/Alexandria/Prince George's County: 12-16" [Update: These areas received about 2-4" of snow from the one storm in early December, and are basically on track this prediction.]

By Matt Ross  | January 9, 2008; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Winter Storms  
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