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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 02/ 3/2010

One cold and snowy day on the National Mall

By Ian Livingston

Revisiting Saturday's snow...

* Brief break from snow: Full Forecast | Big snow Fri.-Sat.? SLCB *
* Weather Checker: Subpar forecast for this past Saturday's snow *

Snow falls at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Saturday, January 30, 2010.

What may be remembered by many as the "sneak attack" snowstorm of January 2010 this past Saturday was an oddball around the Washington metro area. Most obviously, trends that were far from promising for snow lovers reverted back to the "right" direction as the storm approached, something of an emergent theme for winter 09-10 it seems. Also, it was quite cold both at the ground and above, which provided for a very fluffy -- lovingly known to skiers as champagne -- relatively high-ratio snow.

Keep reading for more photos and further explanation for the powdery consistency of Saturday's snow...

Just as my photographer friend Kevin Ambrose was eagerly awaiting the opportunity, I had been intently watching the potential storm for days. In the end, the cold joined forces with the precipitation, resulting in an uncommonly fluffy snow event.

Snow falls on the Washington Monument.

Snow falls near the National Mall.

My journey to the Mall began at Old Ebbitt Grill, where I met with some fellow weather fans for an early-afternoon feast and some good old-fashioned meteorological geekiness. During my walk, from around 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., temperatures hovered near 18 degrees with wind chills near 0F. Somehow it did not deter me -- not right away at least.

Snow obscures the view of the Lincoln Memorial as seen from near the World War 2 Memorial.

A typical D.C. snow event is thick and heavy -- much like last night's snowfall -- and often mixed with sleet, rain and other assorted objects. This one was not. Instead of huge clumpy flakes, much of this storm fell as a finer but still dendritic "mist" (see snow type guide). When the snow was light, and seemingly non-accumulating, it was slowly piling up. During more intense periods a quick thump of an inch or more over a short time was common (see a view from the WWII Memorial toward the Lincoln Memorial 1/2 mile away).

Reflecting Pool, World War II Memorial and Washington Monument.

Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument obscured by snow.

Many storms in this area have liquid-to-snow ratios around 10:1 or 12:1. In other words, for 1" of liquid either 10 or 12 inches of snow falls. Both Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International (National not included because of an apparent faulty reading of .13" liquid to 6.4" of snow) airports reported ratios on the order of 20:1 with this event, while some spotters reported around 15:1. The ground-level cold, aided by optimal temperatures and conditions in the snow growth region of the clouds, was conducive to the light and fluffy snow which buried the area despite modest liquid numbers.

Snow falls on the Lincoln Memorial.

Capitol Building just prior to sunset.

By Ian Livingston  | February 3, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Photography  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Models stay consistent with major snow potential
Next: PM Update: Big snow becoming likely


Nice post, Ian. And as always, great photos. Keep those batteries charged for Saturday.

Posted by: NoVaSnow | February 3, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Very nice photos; the first one definitely should be entered in a photo contest and/or even more widely circulated.

Accuweather estimated 6"-10" inches for the storm, this on the Tuesday before it happened. But they backed off and by Wed. some TV forecasters were saying the snow wasn't going to happen.

There was more flipping and flopping by forecasters last week than you'd see at the Burger King on a busy day. And in the end it was mostly 6"-10".

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | February 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if anyone has pics from the Mall this morning...the heavy wet snow can be very picturesque when it's sticking to the trees.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 3, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Took some wonderful pictures with my phone while driving in on Spout Run and GW Parkway this morning.

Posted by: NoVAHoyaDan | February 3, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you got that the DCA snow-water ratio for last Saturday's storm seemed faulty; it was an amazing 49:1. I don't know if you noticed, but the December 18-19 2009 storm report from DCA gave about 37:1, still pretty amazing. What's with those instruments?

Posted by: doubtingdavid | February 3, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

doubtingdavid, the Dec 19 numbers were later corrected through a co-op liquid number from close by. The ratios ended up just over 11:1 from their correction. There has been some debate about what is wrong at DCA and in some cases the other reporting stations.. one meteorologist who chimed in thought it could have to do with the heated buckets "deflecting" falling snowflakes.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | February 3, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Great post, thank you so much! I agree that the accompanying photos were also very nice.

I too question temp and precipitation readings from DCA; For folks living in lower Montgomery County, it seems as if readings from BWI are closer to my rain gauge and snow ruler on most events.

DCA low temp readings also seem oddly disconnected from its own dew point readings.

Rumors that DCA warms up its snow measuring equipment before use are almost believable!

Oh well, again, thanks for the nice post.

Posted by: ubimea | February 3, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Ian. Last Saturday was a cold day to be outside slogging around the Mall.
Hope that you'll be posting some pics of snow pasted trees from last night's little dumper.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | February 3, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ThinkGreen | February 3, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Great shots, Ian. Maybe the gang should buy you and Kevin some new cold weather gear after all of the snowstorms you're shooting this week ... stay warm out there!

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | February 3, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful pics. I love the timeless quality of these snowy pictures of our National Mall. Could have been taken today,yesterday or thirty years ago.

Posted by: cherubino1 | February 4, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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