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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 03/22/2008

Spring is Here, But Snow Hope Springs Eternal

By Capital Weather Gang

By Steve Tracton

Robins cruising around the yard. Crocuses emerging from the ground. Winter clothing clearance sales. Outdoor sidewalk dining. Snowbirds returning from Florida. Blaring sound and spewing fumes of lawn mowers. Pollen allergy sneezing and wheezing. Cherry blossoms and tourist invasion. Spring break and spring cleaning. March Madness.

Yes, it's finally spring, whether meteorological or astronomical. But, is it really time to throw in the towel and give up totally on winter weather? Not necessarily.

Variations in early spring weather are relatively common in the D.C. area and can be quite extreme. It's literally as if the atmosphere can't make up its mind between winter or spring. Eventually, real spring will win out as summer approaches. In the meantime, conditions can vary back and forth from very cold and even snowy to uncomfortably hot and humid.

On March 28, 1921, the temperature in Washington reached 82° at noon, but fell to 26° by the early morning of the 29th -- a drop of 56° in less than 24 hours. In the last 10 days of March, 1907, daytime temperatures were in the 80s and low 90s. But this proved to be a sucker punch thrown by the atmosphere to get the populace to put their mittens, heavy coats and mukluks into storage. The region was then hit with a right hook in the form of a massive arctic outbreak that brought the minimum temperature on April 2 to 23° and an average temperature 44° the first three weeks of April.

For diehard snow lovers, hope springs (pun intended) eternal. After all, the "Palm Sunday Snowstorm" of March 29-30, 1942, deposited 12 inches in Washington, while 22 inches buried Baltimore. And the "April Fools Day Storm" on April 1, 1924 -- the latest in the season that the region has received 4 or more inches of snow -- produced 5 inches in Washington and 9 inches in Baltimore. The latest measurable snow on record in these parts occurred on April 28, 1889, with .5 inches recorded. Officially, the latest snow on record was a trace on May 10, 1906; but, even though I'm accused often of suffering from "senioritis" and/or daydreaming, I distinctly recall seeing snow flurries on June 1 sometime in the late 70s.

Yeah, I realize all these occurrences were BGW (Before Global Warming), or for the global warming skeptics perhaps they are just remnants of the "Little Ice Age" of the mid 1600s. So, being a realist, I give up for this year and look towards next winter. At least for the next eight months I can travel south to visit my father in Florida without having to worry about missing the next "Big One" in D.C.

The author is the current chair of the D.C. chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

By Capital Weather Gang  | March 22, 2008; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate, Tracton  
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