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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 02/17/2009

Snow Drought Approaching Record Levels

By Jason Samenow

* Some Flakes Tomorrow? Full Forecast *

This winter, I've written several pieces (here and here and here) about how the long-term trends in snowfall show a decline in the Washington-Baltimore region. And with only 2.0" of snow so far this winter at Reagan National, this downward trend will only steepen unless we get dumped on in the waning weeks of winter.

To put our pathetic snow production in perspective, if we were to assume no more accumulating snow fell this winter (not likely, but not out of the question), it would conclude our least snowy 4-year period on record (since 1892). It would also end our third least snowy 5-year period, our fourth least snowy 15-year period, and least snowy 30-year (or longer) period.

Maybe we will get some more snow before the winter ends so these statistics aren't so sorry. But we're now beyond the mid-February period when we often get our big snows and average only about 3" between now and the end of winter.

By Jason Samenow  | February 17, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
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While I hope to see a late surge of snowy weather, I recognize the likelihood of a significant snow falls drastically by late February. I've been keeping snowfall records in central and lower Montg. Co. since 1967 and have noted only four storms of 6" or more after February 23rd in those 42 years. Only one of those reached double-digits (March 1993). Also, I have never recorded two consecutive winters with under 10" of snow.
-Rob (Potomac)

Posted by: DOG352 | February 17, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

NWS is reporting 2" total so far this season (1.9" in Jan. + 0.1" on the 4th this month), so you're understating the amount by 10%. That misses the 2-year record by 0.1", but the 3-year is still in play. Must be some of that librul commie pro-global-warming freedom-hating anti-snow-fanboy media bias! :-)

Posted by: CapitalClimate | February 17, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the NWS is counting the snow from the count out by Dulles instead of National. That's to the west of the city, so there's been more out there. I live near to National Airport and I was actually surprised by the CWG's count, I thought it was high.

Posted by: kallieh | February 17, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Growing up in New England and an avid skier I was a serious snow lover, but lately I am not that upset that our snowfall of late is not that great. What I find interesting, however, is that Snowshoe in WV has had near-record snow this year and they really don't seem all that far away and even ski areas like Whitetail, Liberty and Roundtop have some of the best conditions (albeit man-made) that I can recall. It has been a while since Whitetail has had 100% of their terrain open and it is due to the cold and the ability to make their own snow. Even so, I doubt that they will remain open more than another 4-5 weeks even with plenty of snow cover since day trippers in this area look at their front yard in mid-March and think about yard work, not skiing.

Posted by: skipper7 | February 17, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

With only a quarter-inch to half-inch rain [by early estimates] expected tomorrow, we're in a bit of a dry spell, though I don't care too much for those boring-forties soakers we occasionally get this time of year. The only thing that cold rain does for us people is promote pneumonia. There could be a bit of snow at the outset of tomorrow's rain.

Unfortunately March tends to be the windy month in these parts.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 17, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

this winter has been frustrating because it has been cold enough for a lot of snow, but the cold and the wet haven't been synched up. so your data indicate the snowfall totals are falling lately. what can you say about the precipitation (rain or snow totals converted into equivalent amounts of rain) amounts? in general, i'm asking if over the last few years we've had the "right" amount of precipitation, but it's just been in the form of rain?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse


Good point on DCA snowfall. We shall fix.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse


Great question. We'll try to provide some analysis of this in a future post.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

CapitalClimate wrote, "Must be some of that librul commie pro-global-warming freedom-hating anti-snow-fanboy media bias! :-)"

If they only report about the areas experiencing a decrease in snowfall, and they never report about the areas experiencing record snowfall, then yes, it is a bias.

Try Googling "record snowfall". Read any articles/columns about those here at CWG? How many references to those record snowfalls have been made here? Any at all? If you received your weather news strictly from CWG, would you even know about any of those record snowfalls? Have you read anything about Alaskan glaciers growing here at this site? Here is the definition of bias. Look at definition number 3. Do you need more proof of the bias? I can oblige if necessary.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q -- actually, yes, we have read those articles via links here on CWG...

Posted by: Registration1982 | February 17, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

While we shouldn't close the book on the current winter, yet, the second chart in this post does provide hope for next winter. Why? Take a look at the cycle that started with 1995-1996. Big snowfall that year, then 6 years of near to well below average snowfall, then big snowfall in 2002-2003, then (including this year so far) another 6 years of near to well below average snowfall. So maybe winter 2009-2010 we get the next spike after the six down years.

I know -- way too small of a sample to consider anything about the cycle as statistically significant. But snow lovers need some kind of hope to hold on to, right?

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

this may be slightly off topic, but maybe not, given mr. q's comments. it has been recently reported and i hear it at my "skeptic" in-laws house that antarctic ice is suddenly back to 1979 levels. how can this be? i know that some models predict more snow for antarctica, but wasn't the trend toward ice shelves breaking off and less ice for years?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Registration1982 wrote, "Mr. Q -- actually, yes, we have read those articles via links here on CWG..."

Only via links provided by comments left here. You would be hard pressed to find examples of a member of CWG providing those links. Not saying that there aren't any at all, just that they are very few and very far between. Their bias is most definitely in favor of the catastrophic man made global warming theory.

My argument was that CWG won't tell you about any of those things. I apologize for not better phrasing it. But I suspect you knew exactly what I meant.

I am not condemning their bias, merely pointing it out. It is downright silly to argue that they aren't biased.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Re antarctic ice - if your in-laws are getting that bit of "data" from George Will's recent exercise in global warming denial, you should point them to this correction on the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center:

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

Posted by: ErikaFroh | February 17, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

That last line:

"It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts."

should have been in italics too - it's a direct quote from the University's website.

Posted by: ErikaFroh | February 17, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Registration1982 -- Thanks for the comment. It's good to know that not everyone is a selective reader. For example, we've written about the U.K. snow not one, not two, but three times this month.

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Be careful what you ask for, twice this winter I have had snow up to my belly-button here in Idaho.

Posted by: slim2 | February 17, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the link. i saw the george will piece (of #@$%) in the paper too, but i've heard this claim since late december/early january - again from in-laws and other denialists (i have a lot of them in my life, and am constantly playing the role of "reality-checker"). they are referencing something like this:


Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stillman, I admit I haven't read every word that you, or the other CWG members, have written. Consequently I did say, "Not saying that there aren't any at all, just that they are very few and very far between." I am glad to see that you at least mentioned the incredible snow in London.

Can you find an example of the CWG writing about the growth of the Alaskan glaciers?

Can you find an example of the CWG writing about the IOD and its relationship to the drought in Australia? The IOD is causing the drought, not global warming. Have you told your readers that?

I can point to countless quotes here at CWG from scientists that believe in AGW (anthropogenic global warming), how many quotes can you find (that CWG has provided) from scientists who do not agree with the Hansen et al theory of AGW?

Can you find an example where the CWG pointed out that it was land use and not AGW that is responsible for the melting snows of Kilimanjaro?

Can you find an example of where the CWG pointed out the latest data from NASA's Aqua satellite? The data that shows that all of the climate models have overestimated the critical positive feedback from water vapor. Read the first four paragraphs.

I could go on for days. Literally, days.

If you wish to debate whether or not the CWG is biased and partisan, I would be all too happy to have that debate with you.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stillman, have you or anyone at CWG covered the new studies that show that current cloud formation modeling used in the AGW theory are wrong? Not only do the current models have the water vapor feedback wrong (see link above), they have the cloud formation wrong. Have you told your readers that?

Have you or anyone at CWG sought out one serious interview with any of the 700+ scientists who disagree with the Hansen et al theory of catastrophic man made global warming?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

i read the first 4 paragraphs, and they did indeed say they may have overestimated the effects of water vapor. they DID NOT say there is no effect, or that it has a cooling effect or that the earth is not warming or anything that would make a skeptic happy. (actually it would make me EXTREMELY HAPPY if the vast majority of scientists were wrong about global warming - then i could go on emitting CO2 with impunity.)

i, for one would love to see the debate btwn mr. q and cwg.

as far as "bias", it makes me think of creationists who claim the scientific community has a "biased" in favor of evolutionary theory (though the case for evolution is much more settled than that for global warming and the specific effects of global warming).

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, thanks again for letting us know that you disagree with the operators of this site. We all get it, you don't believe in GW & anyone that does is some sort of Liberal Left Wing fool. If you don't like what they write about, then start your own site where you can print all the anti GW info you want. I really don't need you to come on here & tell me how to interpert the articles. I can form my own opinions without all of your Right Wing bias. Only time will tell which view point is right. Feel free to bash me all you want.

Posted by: VaTechBob | February 17, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

i suggest that IF there is some sort of discussion about bias and global warming etc...that it be on a separate thread from the usual daily weather threads because that is not what i, and probably most readers, typically come here for.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

ha! that list of 700 scientists reminds me of the "list of steves."

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Have you told your readers about the research of Professor Noel Keenlyside? The climate modeler who plugged in the PDO (YES, the original models didn't include that, as unbelievable as that may seem), and believes that the world will continue cooling until 2015 or later? Good thing they changed the name from global warming to climate change. ;)

So even though the existing models overestimate the positive feedback from water vapor, and they underestimate the cloud formations, they still call for COOLING for the next 6+ years! Imagine what the models would predict if they corrected the water vapor positive forcing and the cloud formation.

As far as the other commenters, my entire criticism has been aimed quite squarely at CapitalClimate's sarcastic comment about bias. I don't care what you think about religion or evolution or taxes or whatever. I won't debate you on any of that. I do NOT care what you believe about religion, or evolution, right wing vs left wing. I am solely focusing on the bias found here.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 17, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

well, mr. q, looks like they're all gone...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 17, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: Keenlyside et al did not state that the world would continue cooling as you indicate, but rather that significant warming may not resume for several more years due to a variety of factors. The study supported the theory that human emissions of greenhouse gases are now the dominant -- but not sole -- driver of climate change. It demonstrated the complex interplay between anthropogenic climate change and natural variability, which is something that climate scientists wrestle with day in and day out.

This site's coverage of climate science is rooted in the scientific findings of the most authoritative groups on the subject, including the IPCC, NAS, UK Hadley Center, etc. An approach such as what you suggest, whereby we would run as many warming-related stories as we would stories which question such warming, would fail to reflect the state of the science on climate change and would therefore do a disservice to our readers. This is not a political judgment, but rather a question of what is the most accurate approach to covering climate science.

Contrary to your frequent accusation that we are biased in favor of "catastrophic" global warming, our pieces have not covered climate change from that extreme paradigm. In fact, we've criticized those that do so.

If you would like to read up on the history of climate change science reporting, as well as best practices for climate science journalism, longtime environmental journalist Bud Ward has a book available for free download via the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting that you might wish to read. I'd also recommend reading some of Andrew Revkin's past work on this subject and comments on his Dot Earth blog, Columbia Journalism Review's "The Observatory" blog, as well as the work of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 17, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Just leaving a quick comment about the above global warming discussion...

I'm very skeptical when it comes to man-made global warming, and CWG is anything but pushing an agenda on that issue. In fact, if you read the post, all CWG is doing is sharing the hard data; any inference from that data is yours and yours alone.

Now as Andrew pointed out, CWG does publish more "pro" global warming stories than "con," but that just reflects scientific opinion. Many of us skeptics like to believe scientists are very divided on what is causing the past 30 years of warming, but the reality is that skeptical scientists are a fringe group. Fortunately, that fringe group is composed of some very prominent people, but it is still a fringe group. Besides, CWG is also one of the few places that was quick to note that 2008 was the coolest year since 2001, and I thought they were surprisingly critical of Dr. James Hansen recently.

Also, just because London received a lot of snow does not mean global warming isn't going on. There are always going to be weather anomalies no matter what. Making one data point into a trend is no better than taking a 30 year warming cycle and claiming that it'll go on forever (in fact, it's worse). Plus, you don't want to be eating crow later. I remember how one inane WaPo blogger claimed a warm January a few years ago should shut up any global warming deniers; that February then turned out to be one of the coldest on record.

Posted by: nlcaldwell | February 17, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for posting such a thoughtful and refreshing perspective. If only all skeptics could be like you...

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | February 18, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough re Keenlyside, Mr. Freedman. I won't argue that point. I consider it a monumental accomplishment that you have conceded there is a scientist who doesn't think it will warm in the next decade. My original point was your lack of coverage of Keenlyside's research. And that point is still very much valid. As are all of the other points I made to prove your bias.

How about any of my other points? Do you care to address my questions concerning your lack of coverage of -
+ the Alaskan glaciers
+ the IOD and the Australian drought
+ Peter Caldwell's and Christopher Bretherton's research
+ the revelations from the data from the Aqua satellite

Have you EVER had an interview with any of the 700+ scientists who disagree with the AGW theory?

Mr. Freedman wrote, "This site's coverage of climate science is rooted in the scientific findings of the most authoritative groups on the subject, including the IPCC, NAS, UK Hadley Center, etc."

Mr. Freedman, I will wager that if you search through your entire archive of this blog, you will find that I have quoted the IPCC report more than anyone else, yourself included. Care to take that wager?

As far as the IPCC being authoritative, that is a matter of opinion and is open for interpretation. Please allow me to repost something I posted in the past.

- begin quote -

An example of rampant misrepresentation of IPCC reports is the frequent assertion that 'hundreds of IPCC scientists' are known to support the following statement, arguably the most important of the WG I report, namely "Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years."

In total, only 62 scientists reviewed the chapter in which this statement appears, the critical chapter 9, "Understanding and Attributing Climate Change". Of the comments received from the 62 reviewers of this critical chapter, almost 60% of them were rejected by IPCC editors. And of the 62 expert reviewers of this chapter, 55 had serious vested interest, leaving only seven expert reviewers who appear impartial.

Two of these seven were contacted by NRSP for the purposes of this article - Dr. Vincent Gray of New Zealand and Dr. Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph, Canada. Concerning the "Greenhouse gas forcing ..." statement above, Professor McKitrick explained "A categorical summary statement like this is not supported by the evidence in the IPCC WG I report. Evidence shown in the report suggests that other factors play a major role in climate change, and the specific effects expected from greenhouse gases have not been observed."

Dr. Gray labeled the WG I statement as "Typical IPCC doubletalk" asserting "The text of the IPCC report shows that this is decided by a guess from persons with a conflict of interest, not from a tested model."
- end quote -

source of the above quote

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

nlcaldwell, have you even looked at the names of the 700+ scientists? Do you know who Dr. Allegre is? Do you know who Dr. Lindzen is? There may be some scientists that some might wish to call "fringe", but they are the minority. The majority of those 700+ scientists are anything but fringe.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Apparently I am not the only one who sees a bias in the reporting concerning AGW. Roger Pielke Sr. also claims media bias, and "yellow journalism". His words, not mine.

And his criticism is directed at an article found here at the Washington Post; not CWG, but your parent organization.

Quoting Roger Pielke Sr. -
"... the selection of his statements to highlight in prominent news articles, without presenting counter perspectives by other climate scientists, is a clear example of media bias."


"Since mid-2003, there has been no upper ocean global average warming; an observation which is not consistent with the GISS model predictions over this time period.

The recent and current tropospheric temperature data (e.g. see Figure 7 in this RSS MSU data), also show that the global lower tropospheric temperatures today are no warmer than they were in 2002.

The recent global warming is less than the IPCC models predict, and, even more so, in disagreement with the news articles.

Since papers and weblogs have documented that the warming is being over-estimated in recent years, and, thus, these sources of information are readily available to the reporters, there is, therefore, no other alternative than these reporters are deliberately selecting a biased perspective to promote a particular viewpoint on climate. The reporting of this news without presenting counter viewpoints is clearly an example of yellow journalism;"

Source of the above quote -

How about that?!?! He would appear to agree with me. The only difference between what he said and what I said (other than the recipient of the criticism) is that I was actually NICER in my criticism.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | February 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Okay. You covered one thing from the list.

How about any of my other points? Do you care to address my questions concerning your lack of coverage of -
+ the Alaskan glaciers
+ the IOD and the Australian drought
+ Peter Caldwell's and Christopher Bretherton's research
+ the revelations from the data from the Aqua satellite

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I just did a quick count of the columns tagged "Climate Change". I counted 57.

Can you tell me, out of those 57 columns, in which column(s) did you interview a skeptic(s) to get his or her opinion on what you were writing? Can you please identify those columns.

Thank you,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

If you want to know more about some of the skeptics and/or deniers (e.g. Allegre or Lindzen) I suggest reviewing some the analysis of their claims here:

Posted by: John-Burke | February 19, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Don't like either of those? No problem. How about these?

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical...The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology, and formerly of NASA, who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

Source of the quotes is here.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 19, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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