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Colder than Average, With Snow Aplenty

The guys over at, one of the great volunteer endeavors on the web locally, have issued their winter weather outlook for the Washington area, and they're predicting colder than usual conditions with about 20 inches of total snow. This would be the coldest winter since '03-'04, with several storms dumping six-plus inches on us. To which I say, hooray!

The long-range forecasting business has a notoriously low batting average. This is because the whole thing is based on some pretty flimsy science. The idea of forecasting a season ahead is only a couple of steps beyond the old Farmer's Almanac scheme of predicting the future. And our friends at Capital Weather are honest and forthright enough about all this to note that the federal government's forecasters disagree with them and think this winter will be warmer than average, with about average precipitation. You can compare that forecast with others that are more in line with Capital Weather's (Accuweather and yes, the Farmer's Almanac) here.

Anyone can play this game, so come ahead with your own fake expertise.

By Marc Fisher |  November 24, 2006; 7:57 AM ET
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The collies are late this year in predicting the winter weather. A bigger fuller coat means colder than normal. Last year they predicted a average to above average winter in temps with their coats and they were right. So far this year looks like the weather may be warmer than average. However the extreme amount of acorns on the ground suggest a winter of epic proportions with lots of snow, a long snowpac and very cold temps. I am currently checking with my friends with herding dogs to get a consensus on the winter. Since my girlfriend is flying in Xmas eve there will be a horrible blizzard/ice storm that day. Something that hasnt happened ever during my time living DC. Cant remember it snowing ever on Christmas Eve in DC going back to 1959.

Posted by: VA Herder | November 24, 2006 9:16 AM

Mark is just setting us up so next he can write his 1000th column about how DC people can't handle the snow. Maybe he can interview the smug woman who moved to Colorado (where they're used to snow...duh!) again.

Posted by: magoo | November 24, 2006 11:15 AM

It snowed on Christmas Eve just four years ago (December 2002). I got stuck on the Beltway and Rockville Pike in it and had to wait until Christmas Day to join a family gathering.

Personally, I nonetheless hope Marc's forecast is correct. I like a substantial amount of snow (not too much). If I wanted it to be 70+ degrees throughout the winter, I'd move to Florida.

Posted by: MHK919 | November 24, 2006 11:43 AM

I'm looking forward to a couple of heavy snowfalls. The few times it's happened since I've live here has made for some enjoyable commutes. Most people are off the roads; I just put the Jeep in 4WD and just cruise in to the office (at a slightly slower, snow-muffled pace), where I get much done since hardly anyone else is there.

Posted by: TimC | November 24, 2006 12:09 PM

After 35+ years of living here, I've gotten pretty good at forecasting how bad the winters and summers here will be, and I'm just not getting a bad winter feeling this year. Actually, the best barometer for forecasting winter weather is where I live. The years that I had the longest commutes were the worst years for wintry weather, and since I've been living by a metro stop, we've had hardly any snow. So unless I move, don't expect much white stuff this year.

Posted by: Dee | November 24, 2006 12:50 PM

VA Herder: We have a boarder Collie that was just a puppy last fall, but just in the past 2 weeks he is getting really full - he looks a couple pounds heavier. He is a skinny dog so the extra hair makes him look great. Don't know how full is full for him given his age, but I'd love to have a snowy winter.

I think the collie coats are cool way to gauge the winter. Farmer's Almanac says mild winter, if that means anything. I think they use the wooly caterpillar as gauge - haven't heard about the aterpillars yet this year.

Posted by: cmac | November 24, 2006 1:00 PM

The science is in no way flimsy. The problem is that weather prediction is incredibly complex. It is very difficult to have all the necessary data, and it is even more difficult to model everything going forward. I don't think that anyone doing long-range weather prediction would say that they are sure what will happen, rather they predict that there is a greater or lesser chance of certain things happening, given what we know about the initial conditions.

Posted by: not flimsy science | November 25, 2006 6:18 AM

And these are the same guys who purport to the future a la global warming.

Posted by: Stick | November 27, 2006 8:14 AM

I say a big "NO" to a snowy winter. Snow days are just not worth it around here because it takes close to two weeks to recover what with the plowing- or lack thereof, unshoveled sidewalks in the neighborhoods, cars parked 3-4 feet from the curb and blocking a traffic lane, idiocy at the supermarket, etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: Kramer | November 27, 2006 9:13 AM

Are these the same weather men who prediced an apocalyptic hurricane season in 2006? Yet not one hurricane hit the southeastern US in 2006.

Personally I say, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 10:45 AM

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