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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/17/2008

Freedman: The Winter That Was (Everywhere Else)

By Andrew Freedman

The winter of 2007-8 served as a reminder for much of the country, and indeed much of the world, that despite the starring role now being played by global warming, Old Man Winter has not completely exited the stage. In fact, wintry weather enjoyed a dramatic comeback this year compared to the wimpy winters of the recent past.

Unfortunately for snow lovers in Washington, however, most of winter's wallop struck outside the Mid-Atlantic this year. At times it seemed that the cities of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York had been put on a federal do-not-snow list as storm after storm turned into rain events.

The Washington metro region's lack of snow is particularly striking when compared to the heavy snow that fell in other areas.

According to NOAA, on a global level the period from December 2007 through February 2008 was the coolest winter since 2001. However, this was still warmer than average. In the contiguous United States, it was only the 54th coolest winter since national records began in 1895. Still, in this warming world, simply a less mild-than-average season was noteworthy.

For example, relentless onslaughts of wintry weather hit Chicago so forcefully that the Chicago Tribune wrote an editorial last week that amounted to an S.O.S. call. The newspaper dubbed the winter a "character builder," which says a lot considering that town's reputation for bitterly cold weather.

The statistics for the "windy city" read like an ad for a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) drug. Since Dec.1, Chicago did not experience more than a two-day break between precipitation events, and often the city was treated to what the Tribune called an "unspeakable mix" of nearly every type of precipitation possible. To date, 53 inches of snow have fallen in Chicago during one of its cloudiest winters on record, which is an especially dismal record to break considering that Chicago's winters are typically quite drab.

Western states also saw above average snows, with NOAA reporting that above normal snowpack in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Oregon will aid drought-starved reservoirs this spring. The Alta Ski Resort near Salt Lake City, Utah, received 170 inches of snow in January alone. Parts of New England also set snowfall records. Concord, New Hampshire received 100.1 inches which beat out a record set in 1886, while Burlington, Vermont had 103.2 inches.

In contrast to the Midwest, West, and parts of the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic didn't get in on the winter weather action this year beyond some wintry mix events. For this region, the weather proved steadfastly loyal to the trend towards wet, and not white, winters. This was particularly galling to the jilted snow fans who visit the Capital Weather Gang. For them, each record snow event elsewhere seemed like a personal insult.

Heck, even southern China had record snows while Washingtonians carried umbrellas to work.

Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., for example, recorded just 4.9 inches of snow. The storm track was almost always too far to the north and west of the big cities for cold air to stay locked in place to ensure a snowstorm.

Washington's paltry seasonal snow total was about the same amount that fell in a few hours in Columbus, Ohio last week, when that city set records for its greatest 24 hour snowfall and greatest storm total snowfall, with 20.4 inches.

According to The Weather Channel's Stu Ostro, as Columbus' storm spun into Canada, Quebec City reported zero visibility in snow & blowing snow, with a sustained wind at 46 mph, gusting to 76 mph. Now that's a snowstorm! Canada's capital city of Ottawa is approaching its all-time record for snow in one season, which was set in 1970-71.

Canada as a whole experienced a return to its traditional cold weather. In western Canada, the weather finally got cold enough to give weary foresters hope for containing the scourge of mountain pine beetles that have been spreading east into Alberta. The beetles have killed 78 percent of British Columbia's pine trees, and it takes sustained extreme cold to kill the pests.

In light of the widespread cold and snow this year elsewhere, perhaps disappointed Washington area snow lovers should raise their profile by adopting a symbol for their cause. I've got one suggestion: harp seals. According to ABC News, a milder-than-normal winter in the Baltic states has been helping to raise the mortality rate of young seals in that region. Hopefully D.C. snow lovers can avoid that sad fate, or maybe they'll simply move to colder locations.

Then again, it is only mid-March. Cherry Blossom blizzard of '08, anyone?

By Andrew Freedman  | March 17, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Freedman, Local Climate, U.S. Weather  
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Yes, a real BUST of a winter! To add insult to injury, most of the rain events and the only big ice storm hit on scheduled DANCE NIGHTS!!!

For future refernce, the next dance nights are April 4, May 2 and May 25. With current luck, these dates will be the severe weather events this spring. In addition each Tuesday night is swing dance night at the Clarendon Ballroom.

Posted by: El Bombo | March 17, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Can't link the relatively mild winter this time in the D.C area to "global warming". It was the direct result of a weak but persistent southeast ridge, centered off the coast, that caused a long-wave ridge aloft and the average storm track to be maybe 100-150 miles northwest of where it averages during the Dec-Feb period...that caused us to be on the rain side of the rain-snow line more than usual.

Posted by: Mike | March 17, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Posted by: Mr. Green | March 17, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Geez, get off the Global Warming band wagon already. There were plenty of locations around the world that had their snowiest and coldest Winters on record, despite what the greatest weather scientist of all time (Al Bore) had to say.

Posted by: Chicken Little | March 17, 2008 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"Still in this warming world, simply a less mild-than-average season was noteworthy", "despite the starring role now being played by global warming"

Andrew, I grow weary of your mindset. The past winter was normal, or a little colder than the average since 1895 in "real standards", even though technically .02F warmer. If the environment within .5 mile of all recording stations had been identical to 1895 standards, it would have been colder than the 112 year average. You should be aware of this. .02F cannot be measured accurately over more than a century.

Attempting to in any way, relate "climate change" to seasonal averages or patterns is nonsense and nonproductive.

Posted by: Willow | March 17, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Would have to agree with the other comments already that linking this not so great(warmer, less snowy) winter to global warming is a little bit of a least so it seems...its a la nina winter, and as Mike pointed out, the SE ridge was the real culprit in all of this.

Posted by: arnoldkh | March 17, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Yup, that was one heckuva SE ridge; it must have extended all the way through Europe to Siberia. Sweden was reported to have had its warmest winter since records began in 1756. Those areas in the Northeast that set snowfall records? They were much warmer than average also.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | March 18, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, Montreal is about to set the all-time record for their snowiest winter ever.

C'mon, Steve. Cherry-picking data points doesn't help your GW argument. Furthermore, this site's attitude on matters like this is bordering on boorish.

Between that and the winter bias exhibited by some on here, it may be time to find my weather from a more unbiased source like the NWS.

Posted by: Ivan | March 18, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Yes, showing a map of the entire globe in the link above is definitely cherry-picking.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | March 18, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, Montreal was also included in the above-average temperature area.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | March 18, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Canadian winter temperature averages are here.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | March 18, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

In fact, January was tied for the 7th warmest since records began in 1941 at Montreal. Official numbers haven't been published yet for February, but an estimate based on daily reports indicates it was the 23rd warmest in the 67 years.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | March 18, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Comments that lack substance and are just attacks on individuals will be deleted.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | March 21, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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