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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 10/ 6/2009

Winter Weather Hype Here & In High Gear

By Jason Samenow

* Full Forecast | Climate Hockey Stick Debate *

Heavy snow falls near Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. March 1, 2009. By CWG photographer Ian Livingston.

Tomatoes are still ripening on their vines, leaves have barely begun to fall, and squirrels are weeks away from their annual pumpkin invasion. Yet I don't ever remember this much hype about an upcoming winter this early. Everyone's talking about the blockbuster winter that's about to hammer, cripple, and subdue D.C. Last week, even my plumber warned me to prepare for a harsh winter.

As it turns out, there's a lot of live bait for this feeding frenzy, though none of it's originating here. The Capital Weather Gang's winter outlook won't hit the streets until later this month. But I've traced three initial sources for the hype, starting with nuts and AccuWeather, and ending with a local T.V. personality...

Keeping reading for insight into the hype, but first enter this poll....


1) Acorn Assault

Acorns are falling at a feverish pace, pounding skylights, and pelting patios. Anecdotally, at least, the acorns seem out of control. So is this an indicator of a rough winter? Yes, according to the Farmer's Almanac which lists an "unusual abundance of acorns" as one of 20 signs of a hard winter. Has anyone observed any of the other 19?

2) AccuWeather Meteorologist Gone Mad, Deja Vu

Last year Henry Margusity, author AccuWeather's "meteorological madness" blog, made this prediction for winter 2008-09: "I think the I-95 corridor folks from Richmond to Boston could finally have the snowstorms they so wished for. I think at least one or two major nor'easters will hit that area with snow events in the 6- to 18-inch range." He predicted 20-30" for our region... a mere 250% too high (we got 8-12")

This year he's forecasting even more, 30-40" (double our average) and writes: "I do like the idea that a few storms will end up bombing out along the coast and it's not out of the question that the major cities along the I-95 corridor north of Richmond get a true blizzard." Sound familiar?

What can I say except every blind squirrel finds a nut once a while... Based on the current nut glut, this could be Henry's year!

3) A Local Forecaster Calling for Chance of Snow, NEXT WEEK!!!

I'm a big fan of WUSA's Kim Martucci, also known as WeatherKim. She writes highly entertaining blogs, and tweets all the time. Not to mention, she's a good meteorologist. But when I read her blog yesterday, my reaction was simply, to quote John McEnroe: You cannot be serious. The headline in her post -- in red bold letters no less --read "SNOW." And to tease the possibility, she showed a picture of the Knickerbocker storm (January 27-28, 1922), the top storm in the area's history, which dumped 28" downtown. The most it's ever snowed here in October: 0.3" (October 10, 1979).

Her rationale for teasing the snow was one run of one forecast model. If I earn a dollar for every time a computer model run forecasts snow between now and April, I will be a rich man. Not to mention, that particular run taken literally might have produced a few hours of wet snow in elevated areas well to our west (Sunday night), and probably just dealt cold rain in D.C. proper (due to warm surface temps).

Let me put it this way, if there is any accumulating snow between Sunday and Tuesday at WeatherKim's residence, I will personally shovel her driveway or front walk.

Hype-ful or hype-free, various outlets will release their winter outlooks over the next 8 weeks. We'll break them down right here...

By Jason Samenow  | October 6, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Delightful Week Continues
Next: PM Update: Cold Front to Bring Showers Then Wind


Be afraid, be very afraid! ALL signs point to this being the winter of snowy doom. Every tv station's Emergency Snow Team should be ready--STORM WATCH 2010 IS UNDERWAY!

Posted by: shoveit | October 6, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's hoping the canal freezes this year for some outdoor pond hockey! Not to mention xc skiing in my neighborhood! I'll wait for CWG's forecast, though, before digging up my woolly socks. I'd much rather have a slightly colder, snowy winter than the usual raw, freeze-over-at-night winters we get here.

Posted by: capsfan16 | October 6, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

when scanning the post, i thought I read 'nuts at Accuweather'. After I reread the sentence, I was dissapointed that you were describing nuts and Accuweather seperately. ;)

Posted by: Peter_L_inmclean | October 6, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I've got to be skeptical...All last winter we had all those flurries, including the shot of thundersnow on the morning of New Years Eve...and all we got was that one rather average snowstorm as met. winter was drawing to a close on March first, per the picture above!

This fall features an incipient El Nino. Don't expect a whole lot of snow, though I'm expecting the much-needed rain crowd to make my dance nights and scheduled excursions as miserable as possible with their breezy little deluges. If the El Nino is strong enough, we could see a repeat of the infamous ninety-seven/ninety-eight Nino with the only big snow and ice storms affecting [or even crippling] parts of New England, Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
Right now it looks as though unseasonal winter thunderstorms [the rainy variety, that is, not thundersnow] may be a bigger threat around here than a major blizzard. I hope I'm proven wrong.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 6, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Via Andrew Sullivan:
Asperatus: A New Cloud Type Discovered

Posted by: wiredog | October 6, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Jason, a silly question perhaps, but have any of the Almanac's "20 signs" been tested statistically, either in historical restrospect or prospectively as to their predictive value?

I know that there are all kinds of "crop futures" trading markets on Wall Street (and Chicago, etc.) that speculate (or perhaps just hedge their business losses) upon weather 3-4 months down the line. Surely they must have seized upon whatever factors have proven out more or less scientifically. But I'm curious what *are* those factors which are more or less predictive (even to a low, but positive, correlative value)? Are there any for winter severity?

I mean, the Almanac is fun folklore and all, and I hope it never goes away, but it hasn't started to incorporate scientifically tested observations, has it? Sorry for the naivete. (Perhaps this is fodder for a whole piece by one of the CWG some time in the future.)

Posted by: B2O2 | October 6, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Somethings Never Change!! Time break out the crystal ball!!

Snow in October ??

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | October 6, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen that forecasting beyond three to four days can be difficult. Even today, it was more cloudy than thought this morning or from last night.

So I take all talk of long range forecasts with the knowledge that it is hard to know what will happen, and I have to question the credibility of those who speculate too much.

Having said that, all this talk is fun. Snow talk brings me back to growing up in the Piedmont of North Carolina and the countless times we got teased with iffy forecasts, but every once in a while, got enough to get out of school and go sledding, etc.

Snow is magical, and I hope we get some this year.

Posted by: jaybird926 | October 6, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The government winter energy forecast was released today: warmer (and cheaper) than average.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | October 6, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I saw fuzzy caterpillars today. Bring on the snow!

B202, the above linked caterpillar post suggests that caterpillar stripe width is not a scientifically valid method to predict the weather. But the lore is certainly interesting to think about... how could a tree "know" to produce more acorns ahead of a bad winter?

Posted by: spgass1 | October 6, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

We have been noticing the extra-large spiderwebs (another of the Almanac's 20 signs of a hard winter) for weeks, wondering what exactly they're trying to catch in those things!

Posted by: ladderlassie | October 6, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse


I'm unaware of scientific studies that validate any of the weather folklore. Probably because that's what it is -- folklore.

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | October 6, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse


This message brought to you by your local grocery stores.

Posted by: KSVA | October 7, 2009 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Don't know whether the folklore covers black walnuts, but the tree in back of my house is having a bumper crop this year- never seen it like this! "Bumper crop" indeed- one of those things falls on your head, you are going to have a very hurty head.

Posted by: ChevyChase3 | October 7, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Always go with the opposite of what AccuWeather says. Combine that with Bombo47jea's El Nino and I'm setting up to be disappointed. Now when it snows I'll be extra excited!

Posted by: MaltyCharacter | October 8, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I'll believe when I see it. Snowy winters are like the Redskins anymore, We get all hyped at the start of the season, only to be disappointed at the end of it.

Posted by: irish031 | October 14, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

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