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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 03/ 8/2008

Is It Still Winter?

By Capital Weather Gang

By Steve Tracton

Considering today's weather - providing a taste of both spring and winter - the answer to this question of season may not be as obvious as the response to the old Groucho Marx query, "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?"

Like me, you probably learned in grade school that fall ends and winter begins on December 21, and spring begins on March 21 (in the northern hemisphere). But we hear sometimes about another measure, referred to as "meteorological winter," which begins on December 1 and ends February 28 or 29.

To us meteorologists, this makes sense since it covers the usually three coldest months that are accompanied by ice and snow, and allows for neater packaging of weather data and seasonal averages.

But for those who aren't weather devotees, the three week difference opens the door to media hype. How many times have we heard that a snowstorm almost anywhere, let's say in mid-December, happened even though winter is still a week or so off?

Or on an unusually warm day in early March, with trees budding and scenes of folks laying in a park taking in the sunshine, you'll hear the media proclaim something to the effect that spring doesn't actually begin for two more weeks.

Sometimes it works the other way around. Thus, a snowstorm during the first or second week in March will more often than not be billed as occurring even though it's meteorological spring.

So, is it still winter?? I personally don't know or really care. As a well-known "snow crow," I'll take snow whatever the season.

By the way, Daylight Saving Time (DST) this year begins tomorrow. What to do? The first thing I think of is the old mnemonic, "spring forward, fall back." That worked just fine when DST began in April. But March 9th? It's not spring yet - or is it?

The author is the current chair of the D.C. chapter of the American Meteorological Society. Previously, he was a a program officer for marine meteorology at the Office of Naval Research, and before that a research scientist for 31 years at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. He holds a Ph.D. in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By Capital Weather Gang  | March 8, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Local Climate, Tracton  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Wet, Windy, Wild Weather
Next: Forecast: A Calming Chill


It is Spring! No more snow ----not that we really ever had any! Let it RAIN!

Speaking of Rain....

El Bombo, your dance today looks like it won't be a washout! Clear sky's out west!

Posted by: Greg | March 8, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post, Steve! Marine met at ONR - I hope that was a dream gig. To me, it's spring when I see my first robin every year, regardless of the weather or the calendar; saw one yesterday, so I'm cool with it being spring now. The sooner I can get back to sailing, the better.

Posted by: ~sg | March 8, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Meteorological winter covers the months of Dec, Jan, Feb, and the entirety of March? I always thought meteorological winter ended with the end of February, since the seasons are then neatly parceled into three month blocks. If not, which season got shortchanged?

Posted by: JB | March 8, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

JB: That's a typo. You're right: meteorological winter ends at the end of February. Just fixed. Thanks.

Posted by: Jason, Capital Weather Gang | March 8, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

A severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for Harford Co. Md. ne of Baltimore until 3 pm.

44 degrees at 2:30 after a high of 51 at 1:30, westerly winds gusting to 43 mph with occasional showers.

The summit of Grandfather Mt. in western N.C. reports 12 degrees, with snow now falling over much of extreme w. N.C., s.w. Va. and W.Va. except the e. panhandle.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Daffodill blooming. Makes it spring for me

Posted by: pvogel88 | March 8, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Severe thunderstorm warning until 3:45 for s.w. Delaware and Wicomico Co. Md.

High wind warning now in effect until 5 a.m. with gusts to 60 mph for much of the Shenandoah. I have received gusts to 46 mph
with a mixed rain/snow shower last 15 minutes, temp. 41.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

A massive wind storm and rain just hit the Leesburg area with winds estimated between 60-70 mph! My grill (one of those massive grills) was just blown over. Trees bending - thunder. Very bad and dangerous!

Posted by: Greg | March 8, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING now in effect for Frederick and Montgomery Co. until 4:15!

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Hail occurring in Merrifield along with a heavy downpour.

Posted by: ~sg | March 8, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Crazy weather here in Loudoun during the last 10 minutes, similar to Greg. Got very windy, I'd imagine 60+ (I had to dodge branches running to the door), lightning, hail, and now the clouds are zipping along at an incredible rate!

Posted by: Model Monkey | March 8, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

And the power's flickering...but no wind, lightening or thunder locally.

Posted by: ~sg | March 8, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Was just in Chantilly- blue skies overhead, but a wall of black cloud looking West on Rt. 50. After seeing the radar and reading the above, it was really quite dramatic.

Posted by: CM | March 8, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Lights flickering. Massive dark clouds. Wind really kicking up.

Posted by: Sara in Oakton | March 8, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Had fog and drizzle this morning, heavy rain about an hour ago, now the temperature has risen to 60F with a light southern wind and clear blue skies. I'm waiting for my storm..

Posted by: arnoldkh | March 8, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Really dark in Bethesda. Big, heavy drops starting to fall. Strong gusts of wind as well.

Posted by: Peter [Bethesda] | March 8, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Henry Margusity from Accu Weather nailed this storm potential 48 hrs. ago, long before anyone else. He received some rather strong criticism on this site for his prediction.

His foresight has been vindicated.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Wow from Darnestown! I was on a walk with my dog and 3 year old, when the nice warm sun went under this huge black fast-moving cloud. In ten minutes it was raining hard, (we barely got home) then we had 10 minutes of hail and then two big wind squalls, I would estimate gusts of at least 50 mph. Temp went from 62.4 to 44.8 in 25 minutes when the hail was falling. That was pretty awesome, and still the main windstorm to come.

Posted by: Curtis | March 8, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

We're catching it in Sykesville! My neighbors recycling bins are tumbling like tumble weeds. Just heard thunder. Temp dropped bigtime. Went from sunny,mild to overcast,cold and windy within 10 mins. You could see and feel it happen. Amazing.

Posted by: jmr1 | March 8, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING until 5 p.m. on the northeast side of D.C.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Augusta Jim: As far as HM goes "even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again." But seriously it was a good call, so I'll give credit where credit's due. Given the cold air moving in aloft I thought about forecasting hail for this afternoon last night ... shoulda, coulda, woulda...

Posted by: Jason, Capital Weather Gang | March 8, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

23 at wisp in western maryland 63 in dc

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

This line of "heavy showers" is nowhere near half of the counties listed. They also said THESE STORMS WERE LOCATED ALONG A LINE
EXTENDING FROM 58 MILES NORTH OF MAYO...Mayo, Virginia is on the VA/NC BORDER. What the heck???


Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | March 8, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

And...the lowest pressure today I've seen was 988 mb, according to my little weather station thing. That's the equivalent of a strong tropical storm. Wow.

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | March 8, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Four huge trees down blocking Route 28 between the Monocacy River and Dickerson.

Posted by: JT | March 8, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I believe we both agree that Henry can sometimes be a little sensational in his predictions, but we also both agree that this was a "good call" on his part!

Henry often projects a worse case scenario based on a composite model interpretation at any given point in time. He often stresses with a "caveat emptor", this is not what will happen, but what might happen. He obviously has a great following, because even those who criticize severely, continue to read his column.

5:20 - 35 degrees in the Valley, mostly cloudy with snowshowers to the west, with a northwest wind gusting to 45 mph.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

HM 48 hours in advance? Hard to tell, his blog (which is not on my to read list) only goes back through yesterday, though sometime this week I know he had me on the 3-6 snow line. Just checked it for reference now and somehow he has posted a 9pm update on todays date...for what that is worth....not knocking him, but I don't really see how his forecast was/is any different then what the models/NWS forecasted....JB was a little more on top of it (also not on my to read list).

Posted by: Mike from the Blue Ridge | March 8, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

By comparison, nothing happened in this part of Silver Spring. The lights flickered twice somewhere between 3 and 4 pm, at the same time the sun had disappeared and the wind had picked up.

Posted by: Murre | March 8, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Snow will be coming our way mid-week

Posted by: The Tooz | March 8, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I would call this a big severe weather day here... showers were able to tap higher winds above the surface and cold air aloft allowed for some hail (which I've now seen 2x today as we just had some more). Low topped convection produced little or no lightning and winds in squalls were only marginally higher than the synoptic conditions were making them already. Saying HM has been vindicated and/or was being overly criticized here is something of spin IMO.

Posted by: Ian, Capital Weather Gang | March 8, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I know I promised that if God spared me the other night I would buy a weather radio this weekend. Well God did. So, I am trying to. Have you ever tried to find one in a store??? Plus, there are so many out there. Can someone recommend a good weather radio with multiple power sources that is affordable on a tight budget? Also where can I buy it locally? Thanks. And God, if you are listening, I am trying really hard to keep my end of the bargain, so don't strike me with lightning okay?

Posted by: ep | March 8, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

ep: I got one from for my birthday last July. Best thing I've ever gotten.

They have a whole bunch more. Just type "weather radio" into the search bar at the top of the page.

As to where you can get them locally, I know that you could probably get them at Radio Shack or Best Buy. Walmart has weather radios but they're just general weather band. You want a radio that will sound a siren when a warning/alert is issued for the county/counties you specify.

Here is NOAA's Weather Radio site:

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | March 8, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Im not here to defend HM, but for the record.

Thur. pm, Henry outlined an area, including D.C., prone to possible severe storms, high winds and a few tornados on Sat.

At 4:27 p.m. Thur. a post said, "What is Henry "Big Daddy" smoking now? He has our immediate area and the Mid Atlantic region outlined for a "threat of significant wind damage and a few tornados in the Fri./Sat. RAINstorm. Neither the CapWxGang NOR the NWS have mentioned anything about this. I swear, Margusity's brand of "forecasting" is starting to border on reckless and irresponsible."

At 8:10 pm, I responded, "Don't be too anxious to criticize HM"

At 9:56 p.m. Thur., you posted the following: "It's trended far enough east on most models to make me believe severe not a risk in this area for Sat."

Do you consider an allegation of being "reckless and irresponsible" strong criticism? This is no spin.

You said at 9:56 pm Thur. "severe not a risk in this area for Sat"
The NWS posted numerous SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS for the D.C. region this afternoon. Were they premature? or perhaps irresponsible, as it was alleged toward Henry on Thur?

My remarks are not intended to create discord, only to set the record straight. Next time around, perhaps you will be correct and Henry incorrect.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Anyone think 3/18 is gonna pan out....Jk...:)

Here we go again with GFS. I predict this pattern

1.) 10 days out Models currently show a big snowstorm/below freezing temps
2.) Henry M (Accuweather) Forecasts another Big Daddy 9 days out
3.)5 days out, Models begin wo wiaver warm/cold side of storm
4.) Models still hold storm but each run slowly brings up warmer temps.
5.) All models go warm side of storm at 4 days out
6.) 2 Days out./ No Chance of snow/Severe weather outbreak seem high instead of snow.

7.) Day of storm. wE are all wearing shorts, 67 degrees and steady rain and gusty winds.

Rest of the south gets dumped on 10-12 inches.

Posted by: Conman | March 8, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

EP, you could try REI or Hudson Trail outfitters for weather radios.

Posted by: Murre | March 8, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Dreamland | March 8, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

You got the right idea!!!!

3/18 probably will not pan out, but more important, at this point in time it appears that we will not likely have an early spring and winter threats may persist later than normally expected in this area.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | March 8, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse


Henry M mentioned that the NAO is going to "crash" negitive next weekend. He also seems certain of this next storm and mentions that places will see snow with the next storm that didn't with this one....Whatever that means????

Today was my day to read Long Range GFS until hurricane season....until... I saw the 3/18 and Henry's M,'s jabber....I just cant get away from the Models who cried wolf.

Re: Those Models forecasts you posted are like an censored PG-13 movie.

Posted by: Conman | March 8, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

OOps...I meant to write. "Today WAS my LAST day to read the GFS models... until..

Posted by: Conman | March 8, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going to root for those models that showed snow - dreamland or not. Spring break starts the week of the 17th. LMAO!

Well, I might - I'm an admitted snow lover and an admitted dreamland lover. But, I still love snow and big weather stuff. The air pressure got down to 988 mb today. That's the strength of a strong tropical storm. Now how cool is that?

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | March 8, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who thinks it will snow next weekend is crazy and is dreaming lol. I mean IMO i think it just stupid to say the word snowstorm for our area next weekend or for the rest of march. I am not saying we wont see some flurries here or there but nothing to talk about. You could actually say winter never really started around here lol. I dont think people should bash HM i mean IMO i think he has done a overall good job this winter. Id say he did pretty good with this one. He hit the severe weather today b/c there was numourse warnings today. So IMO if HM dident mention the possabilty of tornados today then if it happend people would bash him b/c he missed it. So just b/c the weather doesent play out the way you want it to dont bash the weather people just b/c something did or dident happen.

Posted by: Robert Jewell | March 8, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I didn't bash HM. I enjoy his posts. He doesn't hold anything back. He hasn't been wrong much this winter. His forecast was pretty accurate with the "Big Daddy" We just didn't get snow here.

He tends to throw conservative forecasting out the window and jokes about it. I think its kinda cool.

Cap Blog is still #1 and that will not change.. This site by far gives the best, most accurate forecasting and expidited updates as they arise. arise...Kudos guys.

As much as I canot put faith in the GFS. I still enjoy seeing the 3/18 forecast.
Lets hope by some miracle that the "crashing" NAO will erode the strong Bremuda High thats been the snow killer all winter for us.

Posted by: Conman | March 8, 2008 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I enjoy is stuff as well. I think he's good at what he does. I would love to see a snowstorm but i wouldent put 50 cents on 3/18

Posted by: Robert Jewell | March 8, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Henry is the master hype machine. What he says rarely ever happens.

Posted by: Period | March 9, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

I love HM and his hype! It really cheers me up to hear him talking about his next Big Daddy storm, and it gives me hope for more snow... even if it doesn't happen.

Posted by: Kenny | March 9, 2008 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Greg, I didn't have a dance yesterday. My next ones are tomorrow (Clarendon Ballroom) and Friday (Elks Lodge). Unfortunately, we could get another rainy "windbag" on Friday, though Sterling is now saying that it may have passed by the time evening comes. Tomorrow evening will be my first dry dance in a while, and I'm expecting the attendance to pick up a bit.

Otherwise, we may not be having winter, but Ohio sure IS! Boy I wish we could get that 20-plus inches, and another day off!!! It would sort of compensate for darkness at 7 AM due to the return of DST three weeks early. In addition, if this Ohio snow mess continues, we may get a nice picture of Fausto Carmona staring at a snow-covered Jacobs Field ~ for the second year in a row! Remember, last year the Indians had to play a couple of their April home games in retractable-roof covered Milwaukee. It could happen again, folks. (Perhaps the MLB schedulers could consider scheduling their early-season games with an eye on possible weather issues.)

Posted by: El Bombo | March 10, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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