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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 08/24/2010

Is 2010 the most extreme year for D.C. weather?

By Jason Samenow

* Cool & cloudy: Full Forecast | NatCast | Hurricane Tracking *

Our friends at the fine local lifestyle blog "We Love DC" recently posed an interesting question in their post headlined "DC Mythbusting: Most Extreme Weather Ever": a town where the summer always feels like the most humid ever, and the winter always seems like the most miserable ever, has this year really been out of the ordinary?

They then turned to the National Weather Service and yours truly for opinions:

We've got two weather guys to help bust (or confirm) this myth. First, there's Logan Johnson, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Logan says, "There may be some truth to this idea that its one of the most extreme years on record. This past winter was the snowiest season on record, and then this summer is so far the hottest summer on record (average temperature since June 1)." So we've definitely had two really intense seasons.
Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang also confirms this. Jason says, "I can't think of a more extreme year. It's quite a feat that we broke the snowfall record from 1899 - I didn't think that would happen in my lifetime. And this summer's heat has also been remarkable - the hottest to date on record."

Do you agree 2010 is the most extreme weather year locally or can anyone recall a year that would give 2010 a run for its money?

By Jason Samenow  | August 24, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Capital Weather Gang  
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I can easily agree we had the snowiest, if not the coldest, winter in many year. However, I'm not sure about the heat. Weren't you Capital Gang folks yourself telling us just he other day that we had more 90+ days, by far, in 1980?

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | August 24, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Where can I find the statistics for this summers' temps?

I saw in recent posts how many days we had in the 90's, but how many days did we top 100? It seemed like there were a lot of those, which would definitely impact the average temp for the season.

Records can be used in subjective ways-- it all depends on the definitions we are using. Was it hotter in 1980 when there were so many more days in the 90's? Or should average temperatures be the standard for "hottest summer?"

It is why I get skeptical when Andrew posts about global warming-- sometimes a spin can be put on things in order to prove a point. Not that both sides on the issue aren't guilty of doing that. It's hard to find an unbiased read on statistics. Very frustrating.

Posted by: scienceteacher3 | August 24, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

It all depends on the meaning of "extreme". It's meaning here is in the sense of breaking records (most snow, hottest summer), i.e., significant departures (record breaking) from expected "normal" (climate).

What's probably more important is not necessarily whether a single or series of events is extreme, but whether it has significant impact on lives, property, etc.

A significantly active hurricane season does not have much impact if none of the storms hit land. One Cat 4/5 storm moving over Florida (e.g., hurricane Andrew 1992; today is the anniversary) can have profound impact. A light rain is far from extreme, but if it occurs at rush hour and freezes on contact with roads, in can have (and has in the past) severe impacts.

I'm on the side of 2010 being both extreme and high impact.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | August 24, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Have we set a record for annual calendar year snowfall?

Were any cold records set in Jan-Feb?

The 1980 heatwave was ferocious. (The warmest average monthly temp I can find, 82.8, in August 1980).

So far, the contrast between winter snowfall and spring-summer warmth/heat is greater than I've seen in my 44 years here.

But with four-plus months remaining in CY10, "It ain't over, 'til it's over."

We could wind up with four relatively bland weather months that leaven the meteorological year.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | August 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

LOL - you have to ask?
And it's not over yet!

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | August 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse


We've had 4 days of 100+ this summer (so far) at Reagan National. One place for stats is here -- ... the second product in the selection list (Preliminary Monthly Climate Data) may have the kind of stats you're looking for, available for various locations and months.

Posted by: Dan-CapitalWeatherGang | August 24, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan!!

Posted by: scienceteacher3 | August 24, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

For more on warming trends, here are some good charts and some info on the heatwave that hit Europe in 2003:

Posted by: jaykimball | August 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The winter of 1976-77, due to the incredible amplitude of the Jet Stream, was bitterly cold for months on end, starting in the fall and lasting until February. Cold and snow moved past Miami even to the Bahamas.

The winter of 78-79 also had a LOT of snow...though not as much as last winter.

The winter of '93-94 was also bitterly cold, with a lot of ice storms.

The hottest summers I can remember next to this one were 1980 and 1988. '88, especially, had 90-100 degree days (sometimes over 100) months on end....I remember Dulles reaching 104.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | August 24, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

This is not the most extreme year I've been through in the area.

The winters of 1976/77, 1993/94 and 1978/79 have been mentioned by MMCarhelp above. The great Christmas cold wave in or around 1980, the post-"Air Florida" cold wave, and the 1985 "Reagan Inaugural" cold wave represent the cold extremes I've been through during my time here.

I also remember the hot summers of 1980 and 1988. Wasn't 1980 the year that triple-digit heat extended past Labor Day??? One or two summers during the 1970's and 1990's were also hot and dry.

During 1985 the spring was also rather dry.

Then there were the two instances before our time when temperatures rose to 106 degrees.

What has been extreme this year were the three huge snowstorms [counting 12/2009!] and the four or five severe thunderstorms we've experienced thus far. Normally we experience one or two such storms each year and they terminate notable heat waves [which, by the way, seems to be happening this summer].

As the Cape Verde season powers up, the extent and severity of the 2010 hurricane season remains to be seen. Thus far, Danielle seems to be well-behaved as a "fish storm" east of Bermuda. The next Cape Verde tropical wave is now emerging of Africa; its extent and severity remain to be seen...but it seems on the way to becoming Earl. I do remember 1996 when the powerful Edouard turned out to sea but was soon followed by the equally powerful Fran which continued westward to the Carolinas and then our area. Whether we're due for a repeat of 1996 or the next "Isabel" is impossible to determine at this time.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | August 24, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

@MMCarhelp, definitely the winters of 76-77 and 93-94 are closer to being "extreme" than anything I've seen this year, including this year's two amazing Feb. snowfalls.

I walked back and forth across the Potomac River in January 1977, in sneakers. When you're a politican and can walk on water in D.C., now that's extreme.

Truly remarkable winter/summer contrasts this year, yes. Extreme? Let's wait a bit. We're not even 2/3s of the way through this year's weather show.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | August 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Correction to the above post, second paragraph:

When you're NOT a politican and can walk on water in D.C., now that's extreme.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | August 24, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The coldest winter 76-77, snowiest 09-10, hottest 80. While this past winter was the snowiest, the av temp was only about -1.5 below, certainly not bitter cold. As far as this being the most extreme, I would have 2 agree at this piont it has been. Record snow 2 record or near record heat has 2 qualify as extreme. I still expect more 90's over the next 6-7 weeks.

Posted by: VaTechBob | August 24, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

We had extreme heat, snow, and wind in spots. No extreme rain or cold, but the year is not done yet. I'm hoping September is extremely nice, but if it's hot and we make it to 69 ninety degree days then I will at least get paid for my suffering (sorry Walter!)

Posted by: eric654 | August 24, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget the earthquake. That was extreme to the MAXXX.

Posted by: samdman95 | August 24, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

I think almost anyone can make a case that DC may never see a year as extreme as this again in our lifetime. Between the record snow and record heat. As several mentioned already, this winter was not notable for it's extreme cold, but extreme snow events. Looking at the forecasted temps for next week, it seems reasonable that we will get 60 90 degree days, though I still don't think we get to the 67 days 1980 had. And I still think we get grazed by a hurricane around September 15th (I'm thinking something like Floyd going to our east as in 1999). And we still have 4 months to go. What a year it's been.

Posted by: cloudking1 | August 24, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

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