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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 5/2009

InaugurationCast: Critiquing Predictions

By Jason Samenow

Testing the limits of long-range predictions

Through January 13, CWG's chief and lead meteorologists -- Jason Samenow and Dan Stillman, respectively -- will provide dueling forecasts for Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. We'll also feature reader predictions. Starting Jan. 14, we'll shift to a single CWG team forecast, in hopes of more confidently honing in on the forecast details.

For three days running, Dan and I have stuck with our initial inauguration weather predictions. We've seen nothing to change our thinking about how weather patterns will evolve over the next couple of weeks. For those of you who have already read our predictions, we've added to our predictions a discussion about what we agree with and disagree with about each others' forecast.

So keep reading for these discussions and predictions, two new reader predictions (blasmaic and jtae55) and some inauguration weather history. And don't forget to comment with your own inauguration weather predictions.


(No changes from yesterday)

Forecasting 18-days out is a bit of a crap shoot, but you can look at some of the large scale patterns and consider how they might evolve to help in developing a forecast. You can also review past years that featured similar weather patterns and examine what the weather was like around January 20th in those years. So I did all of that and drew the following conclusions:

*Chances are good there will be ridge of high pressure over the West coast of the U.S. that will cause most of our weather to come from Canada where it is cold.

*There probably won't be a strong blocking pattern over the Atlantic to hold cold air in place for long periods of time.

*There may be a ridge of high pressure off the Southeast coast that tries to steer some mild air towards our area.

Taking these factors together, I don't think it will be unusually cold or warm. I do think there will be a better than average chance of storminess either just before or sometime during Inauguration Day and precipitation could come in several types.

The Bottom Line...
* Morning low: 28-33
* Swearing In (noon): 32-37
* Daytime high: 36-41
* Weather: Cloudy
* Confidence: Low

Dan's critique: Like Jason, I also don't think it will be unusually cold or unusually warm. But if I was forced to pick one extreme over the other, I'd put a gentlemen's bet (because I'd never risk actual money on a forecast two weeks out) on there being a better chance of it being unusually warm than unusually cold (since as explained in my forecast I'm leaning toward above-average temperatures in the first place). As for a sky forecast, as little confidence as I have in temperature and precipitation forecasts this far out, I have even less in cloud cover predictions. So I'm not ready to even entertain a "cloudy" forecast as Jason has.
(No changes from yesterday)

Let me start by saying how much I cringe at the misleading implication of forecasts beyond a week that us meteorologists can reliably predict a specific day's weather that far in advance. So you can only imagine how I feel about trying to forecast more than two weeks in advance. That said, I'm game for throwing my forecast out there with the rest of them, as long as we understand this is mostly just for fun until we get a lot closer to the event.

My forecast is based on several pieces of data I studied, a look at the weather in Januarys past, and a bit of gut instinct. With the Climate Prediction Center forecasting below-normal temperatures Jan. 9-15, I'm thinking that by the 20th we'll have veered in the other direction -- above normal. But I also don't see a January thaw happening that late in the month, so I won't go too much above normal.

As for precipitation, I'll start the bidding at a 30% chance of rain, with the threat of frozen precipitation staying north and west of D.C. I'm not gonna call for a big winter storm, mostly based on my hunch that an atmospheric index called the NAO may be in the positive range, after rising from negative toward neutral several days earlier.

The Bottom Line...
* Morning low: 31-36
* Swearing In (noon): 39-44
* Daytime high: 46-51
* Weather: 30% chance of rain.
* Confidence: Low

Jason's critique: I think what Dan may be overlooking in his outlook is the impact of the Pacific/North America pattern or PNA. Long-term indicators suggest it may still be in its positive phase which would most likely mean relatively warm weather out West and cold weather in the East. That's why I'm hedging towards a cold forecast versus a warm one. I'd also like to see Dan go out on a limb and predict the sky conditions... You can do it!


Posted by blasmaic

Rain, turning to freezing rain, and then snow. Driving will be treacherous as snow will accumulate on top of 3/8ths of an inch of ice on major roadways. Freezing rain collecting on power lines is expected to cause widespread electrical outages throughout the regions. Temperatures will drop into the low teens after nightfall and winds from the northwest will cause deadly wind chills.

Posted by jtae55

It will be sunny and dry with temperatures in the 50s on Inauguration Day. The trend this winter seems to be the Washington area missing the snowstorms which have hit most of the rest of the country including Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Cleveland, New Orleans and Las Vegas just to name a few. So the outlook will be little or no snow here much like the snowless winter of 1997-98.

Note: If you want your Inauguration forecast featured here in one of the coming days, summarize your prediction in a comment below.


Truman, 1949: Noon Temp: 38F. Mostly sunny and windy. - Courtesy National Weather Service

By Jason Samenow  | January 5, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration, Inauguration Forecasts  | Tags:  dc weather inauguration, inaugural weather, inauguration forecast, inauguration weather, inauguration weather forecast, weather inauguration  
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Next: Forecast: Some Ice Possible Tuesday


Increasingly cloudy, Noon-time temperature 44 degrees, light rain late.

Posted by: DOG352 | January 5, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

My prediction for Obama Day:

Conditions: Partly Cloudy with a risk for afternoon and evening showers possible ending as a brief mix.

Morning Temps: 38-44 degrees
Afternoon High: 52-55 degrees
Party Time Temps: 41 degrees and windy as a cold front blows through with showers possibly ending as a brief mix as temps fall rapidly.

Posted by: stinkerflat1 | January 5, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Well, since I've been praying on the I Day weather conditions for oh about 5 months now. I am predicting that it will revisit 1951.

Morning Temps-40s and 50s
Swearing in-a whopping 65 degrees amidst Sunshine and Blue skies!!!!
Afternoon High-a Toasty 70 degrees-the record high from 1951 for Jan. 20.

And despite DC's money hungry tactic of keeping bars open so that the millions of guests are drunken knumskulls....there will be no violence or super crazy incidents. Everyone will be basking in the sunshine and having a grand ole time!

Posted by: spa1 | January 6, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

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