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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

D.C.'s wild weather ride in 2010

By Ian Livingston

Year in review

Seasonal quick-look: Winter 09-10 | Spring | Summer | Fall-Dec. '10


2010 was a year of extremes throughout the Washington, D.C. metro region. On the heels of the snowiest December on record to close 2009, it didn't take long for the monumental, historic snows of February 2010 to arrive. February's cold and snow was followed by a very mild spring before blistering heat arrived in June. Then came the region's hottest summer on record, and the warmth persisted into fall. But as December rolled around, another flip occurred. This time to serious cold, and the month proved among our most wicked of recent Decembers.

It's been a bit of a ride! Let's take a closer look at what 2010 brought us when it comes to records and weather conditions season to season.

WINTER 09-10 (JAN-FEB)


Benches on the Mall after the Blizzards of 2010. Photo taken Friday morning, Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose.

Following Snowpocalypse in Dec. 2009, Jan. "averaged" rather normal temperature wise. However, it was cold early, mild near the end, then cold and snowy at the very end. Jan. 2010 was the first Jan. in 10 years with above average snowfall, thanks in large part to the storm on the 30th that dropped 6.4" of snow in D.C. -- the third most snow for the date. When it was over, the Dec.-Jan. period ranked as the 6th snowiest ever at D.C.

The area's unparalleled stretch of snow that began on Jan. 30 continued unabated for the first third of Feb., capped off by Snowmageddon and Snoverkill over a several day period. This one-two-punch of double-digit snowfall was the first occurrence in recorded history, and the 28.6" of snow that fell from Feb. 5-10 was the most snow on record for a 7-day period, besting 28.0" in 1922.

The 32.1" of snow -- 31.9" from Feb 2-10 -- that fell at National during Feb. was the second greatest monthly total on record for D.C., only falling behind Feb. 1899 which saw 35.2" in the city. Though the final snowfall of the year occurred in Feb., the massive accumulation in the month pushed Washington to its snowiest winter on record with 56.1" total. The previous record holder was 1898-99 with 54.4" of snow.

While National's 56.1" barely broke D.C.'s previous record, Dulles and Baltimore crushed theirs. At Dulles the 73.2" easily surpassed the old 61.9" record from 1995-95. Baltimore's records dating back to the 1800s were also topped in a huge way, with 77.0" compared to the #2 62.5" in 1995-96. In the broader region, numerous 80-90"+ reports were recorded for a winter tally. Truly once in a lifetime D.C. area snow! Who knew what was lurking?

SPRING (MAR.-MAY)


The sun begins to set behind a fountain at the World War II Memorial. May 19, 2010. Photo by CWG photographer Ian Livingston.

Mar. and Apr. are transitional months, but in 2010 they flipped warm and never looked back. No freezes were recorded in D.C. during Mar. for the first time ever, making the Feb. 27 freeze the earliest final freeze on record. Mar. eventually finished 8th warmest on record. Apr. sang the same tune, starting warmer than any other Apr., and finishing the 5th warmest on average. By the end of Apr., a bit of a dry spell became apparent as well.

May kept the above normal temperature streak alive. Meteorological spring, or Mar. through May, finished as the second warmest on record with an average temperature of 60.5, slightly behind 60.7 in 1977. And while meteorologists generally don't keep the books by astronomical seasons, astronomical spring finished as the warmest on record. Precipitation remained below normal for the second month in a row.

SUMMER (JUNE-SEPT.*)


The sunset Thursday evening at the Manassas Battlefield Park. Photo taken Friday morning, Sept. 2, 2010. Photo by CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose.

If you were here, you know it was down right hot. D.C. saw its warmest ever June at 80.6 degrees. If that wasn't sufficient, along came the hottest (tied) ever July (or calendar month all-time) with a reading of 83.1. After a big start, it was an easy "win" for warmest meteorological summer (June-Aug.) ever.

June 2010 tied for the most 90+ days in June all time with 18. July featured lots of heat and some big heat, including back-to-back 100+ days on July 6 and 7. July 6 scorched D.C. to the bone. Washington's 7 consecutive hours of 100+ tied (1930) for the most hours in a row 100+ and the noon reading of 100+ was the earliest in the day that mark has been reached.

There were 67 days with highs of 90 degrees or greater in D.C. during 2010.[1] This mark tied with the previous #1 spot held by 1980. There is little doubt that 2010's heat at least matched the intensity of 1980, and more than likely topped it in all but a few categories. For example, 90+ days started early and stayed late. The 99 recorded on Sept. 24 was the latest 99 or higher in D.C., the previous latest occurring on Sept. 8, 1939 at 100. The Sept. 24 reading was also the hottest reading ever for astronomical fall.

By and large, summer was dry 'til the end. All the sunshine meant little rain, and June continued the below-average rainfall streak started during the spring. July saw enough to break the spell, yet Aug. became the fourth out of five months in a row with less rain than typical. Drought conditions progressed across the area at times, but proved short-lived, at least in the Metro area.

Amidst the dry spell, several episodes of severe weather -- fueled by intense heat -- burst through the area, with the most notable on July 25, Aug. 5 and Aug. 12. While Sept. started dry, it finished well above normal rainfall, buttressed by a daily record -- and #3 biggest total for the month -- 4.66 inches of rain on Sept. 30. Baltimore's daily record 6.02" for the day also set a record for the most rain on one day in Sept.

Record highs were broken on 6 occasions during the summer.[2] The 4 100-degree days ranked #5 all time at D.C., and Baltimore's 7 such days tied the all time record highest with 1988 and 1930. There were eight heat waves (3 or more consecutive days 90+) during the warm season.[3] Record high minimums were set on 7 different days.[4] The 4 lows 80+, all record highs, represented the first time in history Washington has seen that many in any year.

FALL AND EARLY WINTER 2010-2011 (OCT.-DEC.)


Light snow covers the ground on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle. Dec. 16, 2010. Photo by CWG photographer Ian Livingston.

Oct. lengthened the above average temperature streak at D.C. to eight months, and Nov. to nine. In addition to the record high minimums in the typical "summer" period, Oct. brought two more. One came on the 26th (63-tied) and the other on the 27th (68). The first recorded freeze of the 2010-11 winter was the 11th latest ever. Perhaps more interestingly, it was the finale of a 274-day streak with no freezing temperatures. This ranked #2 for such a mark, behind 1980 which had a 275 day stretch.

Several additional episodes of severe weather impacted D.C. and the broader area during what is the usual "off season" for that activity around here. The most intense aerial assault came around midnight on Nov. 17. Storms caused numerous wind damage reports as well as a confirmed tornado near Baltimore.

Warmth persisted into the first hours of Dec. and briefly returned to ring in 2011. Most of the month was cold and windy. Though only the 30th coldest December on record in Washington, with an average temperature of 34.6, apparent readings were sent lower by persistent winds that included 4 days with gusts past 40 mph and 14 with gusts past 30 mph. It was the coldest Dec. since 2000, when the average temperature was 31.8. Despite missing a blizzard, the 2.1" of snowfall was slightly above the 1971-2000 average of 1.5".

RANDOM 2010 WASHINGTON STATS

Rainfall total (Jan.-Dec.): 34.78" (1971-2000 avg. 39.35")
Snowfall total (Jan.-Dec.): 41.6"
Days with no rain: 215 (58.9%)
Days with more than 1" of rain: 6
High temperatures, max / min: 102 (Jul. 6 & 7) / 23 (Jan. 30)
Low temperatures, max / min: 81 (Jul. 24) / 16 (Jan. 3 & 31, Feb. 7)
Days 98+ high temperature: 11 (tied 4th - record 1930, 15)
Days 95+ high temperature: 27 (tied 2nd - record 1980, 28)
Days 90+ high temperature: 67 (tied 1st - 2nd, 5 years most recent 1991, 59)
Days 80+ high temperature: 135 (tied 3rd - record 1970/2000, 136)
Days 70+ low temperature: 82 (1st - 2nd 1980, 74)
Days 32 or below high temperature: 11 (record 1904, 35)
Days 32 or below low temperature: 72 (record 1904, 118)
Days with measurable snow: 13 (record 1935, 21)
Days with 1"+ snow: 9 (record 1893/1899/1935, 12)
Days with 1"+ of snow on ground: 24 (record 1904, 46)

NOTES

* Sept. is included in "summer" in part because it contained 90+ days and astronomical summer runs through the latter part of the month.

[1] Apr., 2; May, 3; June, 18 (tied for record); July, 21; Aug., 13; Sept. 10.

[2] June 24 (100), June 27 (99), July 7 (102), July 24 (101), Aug. 10 (98), Sept. 24 (99).

[3] June 12-14, June 19-29, July 4-9, July 14-25, Aug. 4-6, Aug. 8-11, Aug. 29-Sept. 3, and Sept. 22-25

[4] June 21 (78), June 24 (75), July 7 (80), July 8 (80), July 24 (81), Aug. 11 (80), Sept. 25 (74)

Special thanks to National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington for compiling monthly reports on weather of note. These reports are available on their climate page under "Monthly Weather Summary (CLM)."

By Ian Livingston  | January 3, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Latest, Local Climate, Recaps  
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Next: Top weather story in 2010: Record snow or heat?

Comments

Ian, this is great data and I'm very pleased to see DCA topped the 40" snow mark, since I thought we may have missed this.

If and when you have time, would be nice to have data for:
IAD & BWI CY2010 snowfall
No. of DCA CY10 Thunderstorms (below normal?)

The nefarious, omnipresent stinkbugs were a byproduct of the heat (and lack of rainfall?). I "dispatched" three yesterday. I thought December's cold would have put paid to them and the indoor migration was over. Perhaps an entomologist could weigh in on this, since they are still plaguing us -- from the Blue Ridge to D.C.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Ian: Great summary, and the photos were OK too. :)

JerryFloyd1: I was "dispatching" about 2 stink bugs per hour yesterday. The warmer weather reawakened them. It's the same basic weather scenario that I discussed in my recent stink bug post.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Found a live stinkbug OUTSIDE yesterday.

It was not overly dry in my area [Baileys Crossroads] except during the first three weeks of September...due to large amounts of rain during the severe weather events in July and early August. Biggest issue: the much-unneeded rain crowd kept trying to schedule deluges for my major dance events and errands during 2010. Let's hope the rain in 2011 doesn't fall so predominantly on dance or errand days.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 3, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Kevin, I just read your Dec. 7 stink bug post at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2010/12/stink_bug_weather.html
so I reckon the last few days were stink bug Indian summer. No attic where I live but if Bombo47jea found a live one outside on 01/02, they may still be migrating indoors.

Thankfully, I don't own any yellow clothing!

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

To the best of my knowledge I've never seen a stink bug. Sounds awful.
Kevin of CWG - please please provide some of your wonderful local weather photos for screensaver files.
2010 was wonderful too.
But it made us work our butts off between the shoveling & the watering.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | January 3, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

FD47, seriously? I can send you some of mine (please specify in units of 100 or 1000). On the plus side, I had a flock of about 20 turkeys cross my yard yesterday so hopefully they can ignore that smell and just eat.

Posted by: eric654 | January 3, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Ian & Kevin - great photos as always! (and great statistics summary of course!)

Anyone else interested in snowfall breakdown? We got a TON of snow yet "Days with 1"+ snow: 9" makes it seem much less of an impact (i.e. intense storms that focused snow in a small period of time -- wow.)

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Great post Ian, thank you! Death to stinkbugs!! Found 2 in my house yesterday.

Posted by: kathyb39 | January 3, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

FD47: Perhaps Ian and I can do a weather photo screensaver post with download links. We will talk to Jason.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

What a year! Kudos, Ian, for compiling such useful, interesting data.

While I loved every second of our record snows, I voted for the record heat. The combination of such awful heat and drought produced, by far, the year's worst weather. Precipitation this year was highly uneven: Washington National Airport recorded eight months of below-normal rainfall, finishing the year fully 4.57" below-normal. Suffocating heat and high winds also exacerbated the drought and dried out soils very quickly. Not good news for our vegetation, reservoirs, water tables, or my beloved trees.

As the voice of the MNR crowd, let 2011 be a year with plentiful RAIN and cloudy, cool, dank days!!!!

Posted by: TominMichiganParkDC | January 3, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

JerryFloyd, I'll take a look and get back to you here.


Camden, I'm not sure I recall the specific daily totals off the top of my head but the dates are: Jan 8, Jan 30, Feb 2, Feb 3, Feb 5, Feb 6, Feb 9, Feb 10, Dec 16. I can look at the totals later.

Tom, I agree.. I think. The snow was probably more statistically significant but the heat wins in my book because of longevity etc.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ian, thanks for researching the additional snowfall/thunderstorm data, since I realize this falls outside the scope of your original (and very well-written) article.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

wow... jan 30 - feb 10: good times, good times...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | January 3, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

It is kind of annoying that you use DCA data as opposed to IAD or BWI. For example, you said that we didn't get below freezing until the 11th. I live near IAD and we were below freezing by late Oct./early Nov. And the snow totals. The 75 inches or so at dulles is much more impressive than the measly 56 at DCA.

Posted by: BobMiller2 | January 3, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

BobMiller2, DCA is the official climate location for Washington. As far as I can tell, while perhaps sometimes flawed, the numbers from DCA are more representative of the city than Dulles. I do try to note key items from the other locations -- and did with seasonal snowfall data -- but as you can see this already ended up really long just focusing on one!

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

One more DCA record in CY10: most number of Cooling Degree Days: 2124. (Previous record: 2006 in 1980)

I could take a 40"-plus snow year anytime, but hope never to experience another year of such intense heat. Don't want any 'gators lurking in Glover Park.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

JerryFloyd, the yearly snowfall total (Jan-Dec) at IAD and BWI were 53.3" and 58.1" respectively. I'm afraid I can't give you much of value on T-Storm days. I could count them up but that type of data is not included in the daily historical record so it would have no comparison. From what I can tell I'd say we were below normal for storms, at least in spring.. we did end up catching a number later in the year.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, Ian, because for all the kvetching (including from me) about the between DCA/IAD snow totals, the 23% difference between the two locations isn't astounding. Especially since IAD had c.a. 14" more snow than DCA during the Feb. 5-6 storm.

There was heavier snow to the north, as you pointed out in your original post, so I can't get too worked up about the BWI/DCA difference.

The IAD yearly total is very close to what I very unscientifically measured in Glover Park. (We creamed IAD during Snoverkill.)

Overall a very good summary and given your diligence and accuracy, I wish you were writing for Weatherwise.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you guys, excellent, as always. Kevin, I just read the stink bug article. We are overrun with them (brown house), semi rural and they destroyed the garden this past summer as did the heat. Literally taking out 20 a day during the warmer days, now. The orchards were hard hit this past year and I am very concerned about this coming year.

Posted by: Gooddogs | January 3, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Jerry, I think there are certainly issues with DCA but the more I study local records / snowstorm history / etc., I don’t find it as problematic as some seem to. I believe last year’s numbers there may be a little underdone.. perhaps on the order of a few inches.

That said, Feb 5-6 particularly, I can buy that they had a lot of trouble accumulating early. That alone can probably account for some discrepancy between even nearby locations. Year to year, snowfall wise, I think a good bit can be blamed on elevation and the river.

However, I don’t think a place like American University gives the “correct” picture of D.C. either. I recorded over 70” at two locations in upper NW last year, but I work in Dupont Circle and have been on the Mall during storms. There is no doubt there is less, sometimes way less, snow in those parts of the city. When you compare over the course of 100+ years, a small difference here or there is not as 'important' either.

As far as temperatures and everything else I see no real issue with DCA. There are some days early in the year when it’s cooler there because the river is still cold etc. Every location, no matter how perfect, is going to have a few quirks.

Thanks for the compliment, these things always end up being more time consuming than planned to make sure they are accurate and there could always be more to include.. But it is fun to write and this type of back and forth after makes it more worth it!

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | January 3, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Ian you're welcome and I was inaccurate. The DCA/IAD snowfall discrepancy was closer to 29% than 23% so I was a too charitable re: difference snowfall measurements.

70" is pretty close to what we had in Glover Park last winter (informal measurements but other Glover Parkers reported similar totals).

Different weather-related topic: there's an interesting, short piece in the January 2011 issue of "The Glover Park Gazette" about General Albert Myer, who founded the Signal Corps in Glover Park in 1869 and, after being transferred to Ft. Whipple, Virginia, established the forerunner of today's NOAA NWS.

As I suspect many meteorologists and local history buffs know (but I certainly didn't), in 1881 Ft. Whipple was renamed Ft. Myer in the honor of the general.

Might be worth a CWG post one of these days (or maybe you all have already covered this).

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 3, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Ian, fantastic article! Great for reminding me how brutal DC summers can be. Also, the memory of digging out our car on Columbia Rd to move from the "Snow Emergency Route", yeah right!

Posted by: df540148 | January 4, 2011 6:17 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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