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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

The December 5th coincidence

By Kevin Ambrose and Ian Livingston

The Capitol, Capitol Christmas Tree and snow in the air on December 5, 2007. An Alberta Clipper dropped several inches across the area. National recorded 2.6" on the day, the 4th snowiest December 5 on record. Kevin Ambrose

Last year, on December 5, the Washington area experienced its first snowstorm of what would become an historic season. That was the fifth time in eight years that Washington had a snowstorm on December 5. It is quite unusual for Washington to see measurable snow in early December, but it is very amazing that the city received snowstorms on December 5 with such frequency. It's quite a weather coincidence.

For our new book, "Snowmageddon: Washington's Record-breaking Winter of 2009-10", we did a brief examination of this odd -- yet almost predictable -- occurrence that snow lovers on this blog, or other local weather blogs, surely know about. A perusal of the comment section here and elsewhere in recent weeks have shown many references to December 5, even before there was any threat, even if a remote one, of snow showing up on the models.

Keep reading for a little more about December 5 snow and how it ranks up against some other "snow days" in D.C.

A snowman in Washington, December 5, 2009. Ian Livingston

Looking back, since weather records began in Washington during the 1880s, there have been roughly 180 storms with accumulating snow in December, and 11 have dropped accumulating snow (greater than a trace) on December 5.

Washington's largest December 5 snow occurred in 2002, with 6.1" of accumulation. A list of all years with December 5 snows of .1" or greater include: 1893, 1902, 1904, 1910, 1926, 1954, 1984, 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009. If including a trace of snow, the list expands to 25 years -- including 2003 which saw 1.7" accumulate on the 6th.

Graph showing number of times it has snowed 1" or more at D.C. on a given date, from 1888-2010 (the historical record period of snowfall).

Though last year's December 5 snow dropped less than 1" at National (.2 to be exact), a stronger (though admittedly still fuzzy) signal emerges when examining just the storms that dropped 1" of snow or more in D.C.

December 5 still holds considerable weight in the month with 7 occurrences, though the top date is the 10th with 8. The only day in December without a 1" snowfall is the 1st.

A holiday decoration weighed down in snow, December 5, 2009. Kevin Ambrose

In a similar examination of December 5 snow that has fallen in Baltimore, Frank Roylance of the Maryland Weather blog shared some statistics on Baltimore snow throughout the rest of the year. For comparison, we've included a few of his stats for days with 1"+ snowfall next to ours.

Date with most frequent snowfall:
D.C., 1/20, 1/28, 2/6, 3/1* with 12; Baltimore, 1/7 with 13.

D.C., 1/26, 1/27, 2/8, 2/11 with 11; Baltimore, 1/28 with 11.

Jan-Feb snowiest months (by total days with 1"+):
D.C., 207 in Jan, 196 in Feb; Baltimore, 206 in both.

*3/1 includes 2 days of snow on 2/29.

By Kevin Ambrose and Ian Livingston  | December 2, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Latest, Local Climate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Wintry temps to dominate
Next: December 5 snow threat decreasing


Oh, you guys know how I love Dec. 5...looks like something white will be in the air this time, but not necessarily on the ground. For that - check out the new GFS run for Dec. 12-14 and you can know that we are in it for the long haul now...the 00Z run had very little, but the 06Z has a true snow day for us...more than anything, its just a reminder that this is the time of year where these things become a possibility. Good thing for us is that the GFS has been fairly consistent in showing "something" in our vicinity or nearby toward the end of that weekend...something for sure to watch when we all get back to work on Monday. Likely going to be pretty busy on this site!

Posted by: DullesARC | December 2, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

That first picture would make an excellent Christmas card.

Posted by: wiredog | December 2, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

How I long to see those snowflakes swirling down.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | December 2, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Did last year's Dec. 5 snow start off as rain and change to snow? I was in NYC that day, where it was raining. Returning home on the train that evening, there was snow as soon as the train reached the NJ meadows, with heavy snow falling from the Newark Airport station down to Trenton.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | December 2, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

my friend has a daughter who's about 8 or 10 or something and has a birthday on dec. 5. she probably thinks it's SUPPOSED TO snow on her birthday.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 2, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of snow is there a reason a big blob of snow just showed up on your radar and other radars? It's as close as Fauquier County and moving into PW County. Imaginary snow aka virga?

Posted by: rwalker66 | December 2, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Kevin and Ian, those are lovely photos. I agree that #1 would make an excellent Christmas card.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | December 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Did you know that when I was in the 7th grade that I walked home from school in a snowstorm? The total was 11 inches. How do I know? It was my birthday!

Posted by: MKadyman | December 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

This comment probably belongs under the London-snowmageddon article, but are there average annual snowfall stats available for the major cities in Europe? Just curious how they compare against DC...

Posted by: lobp | December 2, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

It was my Grandma's birthday on Dec. 5th, so I always am aware of the date. She hated the snow and moved from Rochester to Miami to escape it- which in turn gave her a Floridian for a Granddaughter who is snow obsessed.

walter-in-fallschurch-December 8th is my birthday and I am now conditioned to think I am supposed to get snow as an early present.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 2, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Did you know that when I was in the 7th grade that I walked home from school in a snowstorm? The total was 11 inches. How do I know? It was my birthday!

I guess that I should have said that it was Dec 5th!

Posted by: MKadyman | December 2, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'll b heading down to NC Fri., just S of Danville, staying with a friend who's going to the ACC Championship Game with me Sat. night in Charlotte. I'll b heading back home Sun., wonder if I'll c any snow on the way home.
Go Hokies beat FSU.

Posted by: VaTechBob | December 2, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Your new book? "Snowmageddon: Washington's Record-breaking Winter of 2009-10" And no link? Where can I get this book? It would be a great keepsake to go along with the photos we took ...

Posted by: chrisduckworth | December 2, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

chrisduckworth, there should be a post soon with info on buying it, but if you go to and search for Snowmageddon you'll find it. ;)

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | December 2, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Had to chime in to say that first photo is absolutely beautiful -- congratulations to Kevin, the photographer. If the Post sold them as Christmas cards, I'd definitely buy a box.

Posted by: 7900rmc | December 2, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I are highly aware of this phenomenon...December 5th is our anniversary! Here's hoping it snows this weekend as we celebrate our 34th with an evening on the town!

Posted by: pjh2 | December 2, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Let it snow.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 2, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

When and where is the "Snowmageddon" book signing and will it be sold via Amazon at some point?

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | December 2, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

boy...lucky ducks... it NEVER snows on my birthday... (july)

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 2, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

oh, and that top picture is beautiful.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | December 2, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of lucky-ducks, last year I got me a blizzard for my birthday (Feb. 6). It has snowed plenty on my 45 birthdays, but so far "only" twice with true blizzards (the other was 1977 when we lived in PA - also an epic winter). Can't wait to purchase this book!

Posted by: curtmccormick | December 2, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the first photo, the Capitol Christmas tree lighting for 2007 was on December 5, during the snowstorm. On that snowy evening, I set up a camera and tripod with many other photographers to shoot the ceremony. I think I was the only photographer using a flash, which I often use at night to capture the snow in the air. Thanks for the comments. By the way, we hope to have a Snowmageddon book post soon.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 2, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I started tuning in to Capital Weather Gang on the tail end of February snowstorm no. 2, and was simply FASCINATED by the scientific weather talk and the build-up to the blizzard. Is there anywhere I could read archived Capital Weather Gang columns leading up to the December 09 snow, and the 1st February blizzard?

P.S. for my birthday on February 11th, I spent the day shoveling 27 inches of snow off of the outdoor unit of my heat pump -- my husband broke his leg during a "snow fall" (pun intended).

Posted by: luvhh1 | December 3, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

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