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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 10/21/2010

NWS & AccuWeather: Low chance for big snows

By Jason Samenow

Unlikely Snowmageddon repeat for D.C. this winter

* Nice weather stretch: Full Forecast | WeatherFest this weekend *
* Too early for snow? Not at Metro | FEMA: Get ready for winter *

National Weather Service's outlook for 2010-2011 winter precipitation.

The National Weather Service (NWS) and AccuWeather released their winter outlooks this morning and both agree the odds are strongly stacked against a historically snowy winter in the D.C. metro region.

"I'm not a betting man, but I wouldn't be betting for a very snowy winter [in Washington]," said NWS's Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center (CPC).

Halpert and CPC expect the development of a strong La Nina - perhaps in the top five on record -- favoring storm tracks west of the mid-Atlantic across the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. That kind of storm track often brings a wintry mix of precipitation to the metro region.

National Weather Service's outlook for 2010-2011 winter temperatures.

Indeed AccuWeather also forecasts La Nina to strengthen, favoring "harsh conditions across the northern tier of the United States and drier-than-normal conditions throughout the southern tier" leaving the metro region near or just south of the "wintry mess" battle zone.

Though AccuWeather expects less snow in the region overall, AccuWeather chief long-range forecaster Joe Bastardi anticipates winter may begin with a bang for much of the East.

"It wouldn't be surprising if at the end of the December much of the eastern U.S. was similar to what it was last December," said Bastardi.

Of course, last December the D.C. area experienced "Snowpocalypse", its greatest December snow event on record (16.4" fell at Reagan National Airport). But Bastardi - presumably recognizing that - then said "I don't think quite as much snowfall."

For the winter as a whole, AccuWeather predicts above average temperatures for the region and average precipitation. The NWS outlook for our region is pretty similar placing us in the transition zone between stormy weather to our northwest and warm/dry weather to our south and southwest.

Both the current and forecast strength of La Nina increases NWS's confidence about the likelihood of the overall set up and that it will persist through the winter. Although its seasonal outlooks demonstrate skill (better than a random guess) only about half the time, predictability and skill increase during strong La Nina and El Nino events.

Historically, the tell tale signature of strong La Ninas has been warm, dry conditions across the deep South, cold/stormy conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and cold weather in the Northern Plains. Not surprisingly, both AccuWeather and NWS are forecasting these features.

NWS's Halpert cautioned that the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are "always tricky areas" to forecast because the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) - a weather pattern in which snow chances can be reduced or elevated when cold air either remains locked in the Arctic or spills southward - can unpredictably change numerous times during the winter. In 2009-2010, the NAO was in its negative phase, a favorable state for snow, most of the winter. Not to mention, El Nino pumped a steady supply of deep moisture over the region - unlikely to be present this winter.

Capital Weather Gang's detailed winter outlook for the region will be issued around November 1.

By Jason Samenow  | October 21, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Winter Storms  
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Next: Tropical Storm Richard blossoms in Caribbean


Thank God....

Posted by: weatherdude | October 21, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

He said he won't bet on a snowy winter for D.C. but what about Rockville? :) We are further North and West you know?

Posted by: authorofpoetry | October 21, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"I wouldn't be betting for a VERY snowy winter" is not the same as saying "get out your sunscreen".

I signed up for Advanced Snow Dancing at AU; classes start December 1.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 21, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, not the dreaded "wintry mix." I'd rather have a dry, warm winter than sleet and ice.

Posted by: 20009matt | October 21, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm still expecting above temps & below snow this winter. Temps +1.5-3 & snow 4-8".

Posted by: VaTechBob | October 21, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh darn, I was so hoping for a good federal shutdown snowstorm. I love snow!

Posted by: Brandelina | October 21, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Expecting + temps & - snow. Temps + 1.5 - 3 & snow 4-8".

Posted by: VaTechBob | October 21, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it's too early to be dreaming of a white Xmas.
But I am bracing myself for at least one epic ice storm before the equinox.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | October 21, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I hate the wintry mix...but at least higher than average temps are good for utility bills.

Posted by: chunche | October 21, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

@JerryFloyd1 are there any open spots in that class?

So if I don't get a white winter in DC I'll get one in Seattle for Christmas? I hope its not a repeat of 2008 - 2 plows on the island and steep hills kept me housebound for a week of my vacation.

Posted by: Bainbridge | October 21, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Predictions or not, I'm still shopping for a new single-stage snow thrower to replace the one Snowmageddon brought to its knees. Any recommendations? I'm leaning toward a Toro, but Honda's 4-cycle seems like a better bet over the long run.

Posted by: atoms5 | October 21, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I'll probably be getting a white Christmas since I'll be visiting Dad in Cedar City Utah. He's expecting snow next week.

Posted by: wiredog | October 21, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I like VaTechBob's forecast.

Today I started getting snowplowing bids for my subdivision. (In the country, we pay for our own roads.) The contractors say business is brisk. They're lining up/knocking back one S/D after another. Last winter scared folks, they say.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | October 21, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

We might still get "Snowmageddon II" on or around President's Day...the La Nina could be fading by mid-February and a "Miller-A" storm in the western Gulf is possible in that time frame.

Otherwise most of our nor'easters and other storms will be "Miller-B's" developing off Delmarva, or "Appalachian runners" passing us near Elkins...not good for snow, but posing the threat of several CAD [cold air damming] wintry mix or mix/rain events. A lot of folks around here don't really wish to be hit with forty or fifty inches of snow the second winter in a row.

Still waiting on the AUTHORITATIVE winter outlook for this area... the CWG outlook!

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 21, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

What happens if we get the midwest storms pushing up warm air aloft at the same time as a negative NAO or other blocking pattern like we had last winter? Does that mean freezing rain?

Posted by: eric654 | October 21, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse


I would tend to think so.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | October 21, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: sigmagrrl | October 21, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

past paradigms and analogues do not always hold up vs the climatic impact of global warming

expect the unexpected, both locally and globally

Posted by: heatmiser | October 21, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I can deal with not having another record breaking snowy winter.

But there better be some decent (6"+) snow events in the mix.

No ice storms, though... but we may be overdue for those, if memory serves.

Posted by: MKoehl | October 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

i believe this is the same thing they predicted last year. dont get your hopes up for this to be accurate.

Posted by: lolathenews | October 21, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"A lot of folks around here don't really wish to be hit with forty or fifty inches of snow the second winter in a row."

And there are some who do wish it.

Posted by: ennepe68 | October 21, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

@ennepe68, second that nomination! (But I'd be happy with 24" or thereabouts.)

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 21, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

OH MY GOD.. so the God's of the weather have predicted that the South will have warmer temperatures this winter and the Upper Plains & Northwest will have colder temperatures and wetter precipitations this winter. What are we to do. Lets see them bring back last years forcast and see how bad and off they were. This is BS and just a 'shot in the dark' as always. Suck it up and let mother nature do 'her' worse. DC residents learn how to drive in the weather and relax.

Posted by: cubs-n-colts-n-07 | October 21, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I third ennepe68's comments! Bring on the apocalyptic snow events!

Posted by: sigmagrrl | October 21, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"Still waiting on the AUTHORITATIVE winter outlook for this area... the CWG outlook!"

The AUTHORITATIVE reading is the one given by that blue box on my wall. It's never wrong!

Blue box is blue: Sunny
Blue box is wet: Raining
Blue box is white: Snowing
Blue box has holes in it: Hail
Blue box torn from wall and deposited in someone else's yard: Wind

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 21, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

after the summer we had, i think we deserve a snowy winter :)

Posted by: madisondc | October 21, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I think the NAO is still a wildcard here... then again I only put so much weight on seasonal forecasts. The final big storm of last yr was mostly northern stream energy. I would not say we'll get a repeat of that or something, but there are some who believe we are into a multi-year negative phase of the NAO.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | October 21, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

To all those of you who want snow this winter, I say "Move to Canada."

Posted by: Paaa | October 21, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

To all those of you who want snow this winter, I say "Move to Canada."

Posted by: Paaa | October 21, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

October 2009, the weather folks predicted increased snow for winter 09-10 because of the El Nino~. Summer 2009 was cool and wet, apparently that = more winter snow!

Posted by: xraymichaele | October 21, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Thank God....

Posted by: weatherdude | October 21, 2010 11:39 AM
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only GOD will determine what kind of winter we are going to have.

Posted by: mrhney03 | October 21, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

That pesky NAO sure gives forecasters a run for their money.

@JerryFloyd1, I like the way you think!

Posted by: Snowlover2 | October 21, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

"To all those of you who want snow this winter, I say "Move to Canada.""

And to those who think 70 degrees or warmer all winter is great, I say "Move to Florida". (That includes too many weathercasters who act all disappointed when such winter warm spells return to reality.)

Personally, I hope for a moderate amount of snow, though not nearly as much as last year. I also hope this isn't like 2007-08 when there was almost nothing.

Posted by: mkarns | October 21, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

This will b a fairly mild winter in this area, last winters snowfall was a once in 50-75 yr event. A lot of mid 2 upper 40's days with most storms tracking W. Expecting this winter 2 b drier than normal which won't bode well going into the spring & summer. Looks like next summer could b another with + temps &

Posted by: VaTechBob | October 21, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

@Snowlover2, we suffered through probably the most miserable summer since at least the 1930s. So I'm all for putting the SCLB back to work in early December, by which time it will have had 10 months to rest up.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | October 21, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Catastrophic Precipitation Events are an increasing trend. Paradoxically, global warming means increased likelihood of large amounts of warm humid air suddenly taking a chill and depositing lots and lots of snow, or ice, or sleet, or "not actually a tornado but knocks stuff over like one" storms.

Then again, none of the summer birds seem interested in migrating yet, so perhaps the models aren't totally borken yet.

Posted by: thardman | October 21, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Forecasters can't forecast a week from now and you guys believe their forecast for months from now????

You guys are all idiots!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Posted by: bobfanderson | October 21, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

We need all of the employers, government and private, in this area to look at your staff. Now look at your telecommuting policy. Now look at your staff. Now look back at your policy. If you haven't fully implemented telecommuting for normal business operations, spank yourselves. Hard. Now get moving and get everyone who has a portable job and CAN BE TRUSTED out of the office. Now. Before they can say "I'm on a snow plow".

Posted by: merzydoats | October 21, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Up here in Nordern Minnysoda we have a saying about dem weader fellers:

"How would they know???"

Brace yourselves.

Posted by: bpwkhowell | October 22, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

That is just the opposite of what the Farmers Almanac is predicting.
Since we can't do much more than wait and see, it will be interesting to find out which one is the most correct.

Posted by: grobinette | October 22, 2010 5:33 AM | Report abuse

@mersydoats - they have one in my office and it was used pretty liberally last winter. Unfortunately I wasn't one of the lucky ones... but still hoping for snow anyway...

@bpwkhowell - Heh heh. I guess waiting until March is the best way to tell...

@grobinette - that's more my speed! We'll see...

Posted by: MKoehl | October 22, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

CWG, could you find and post the corresponding NOAA and NWS winter outlooks for this past (2009-2010) winter season?

Posted by: InVA1 | October 22, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't it be "AN" historically snowy winter, instead of "A" historically snowy winter?

Posted by: Geojenn | October 28, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

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