July 21, 2024

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How much snow the DMV could see this winter

3 min read

Snow lovers have good reason to be excited for the upcoming winter. A strong El Nino should produce a more active winter weather set up.

WASHINGTON — The last few winters have been lackluster to say the least in terms of snowfall for the DMV. For the 2022-2023 season, the region saw less than half an inch all winter long at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport; even less snow was recorded at Baltimore/Washington International.

But this upcoming winter could bring good news for snow lovers. While it’s best not to get your hopes too high, we are working with a strong El Nino pattern this winter, which can mean feast or famine in terms of snowfall. The WUSA9 Weather Team thinks this strong El Nino winter will be feast, not famine in the snowfall department, but let’s dive into the why below. 

The global weather pattern can play a big role in what we see during any given season. During a La Nina pattern — like the DMV had last winter — strong trade winds blow east to west, pushing warm surface water toward Asia.

But every few years, the pattern flips. 

During El Nino, those winds weaken and can even shift direction, pushing all of that warm water back along the coast of Central and South America. That water temperature strongly influences the position of the pacific and polar jet that can impact the weather we see across the country.

In the United States, a moderate to strong El Nino historically increases the likelihood of a warmer winter across the northern part of the country with pretty average precipitation, a colder and wetter winter in the southern tier and drier than normal conditions through the Midwest. The impacts in our region can be a little less predictable.

The strength and location of ocean heating during El Nino years can play a big factor in the snowfall we may see. A strong El Nino is defined as one with winter water temperatures at or above 1.5 degrees Celsius above normal.

During a strong El Nino, half the time we have above average snowfall and half the time we end with well below average snowfall. For example, in the winter of 2015-2016 the DMV had over 22” of snow, essentially from one blizzard, but in the winters of 1972-1973 and 1997-1998 we recorded only .1” of total snowfall. In fact, those two winters are tied for the least amount of snow in the DMV.

In terms of temperatures, it is literally a coin flip. Of the recent winters that were strong El Nino patterns, four were slightly colder than average and four were milder than average. The good news if you’re hoping for snow is that statistically, snowy winters are not our coldest winters anyway.

So what are we forecasting for this year? WUSA9 is forecasting above average snowfall for the entire DMV except southern Maryland.

  • Reagan National Airport: 17” (average: 13.7”)
  • Dulles International Airport: 26” (average: 21”)
  • Rockville, MD: 24” (average: 21”)
  • Fairfax, VA: 25” (average: 21”)
  • Waldorf, MD: 14” (average: 16”)
  • Bowie: 17″ (15″)
  • Leesburg: 29″ (22″)
  • Winchester: 30″ (18″)
  • Hagerstown: 38″ (33″)
The winter of 2023 - 2024 could be snowy for parts of the DMV

Comparatively, here’s what we saw last winter: 

  • Reagan National Airport –  .4”
  • Dulles International Airport – .4″
  • Baltimore/Washington International – .2″

Only two other winters recorded less snow.

When we look at 30-year winter snowfall averages, National is at 13.7 inches, Dulles 21 inches, and BWI 19.3 inches. If we look at all the available snowfall data dating back to 1887 the Downtown DC average is 17.6″.

Drum roll please. Here is our prediction for the first snow:

RELATED: NOAA releases winter weather predictions

RELATED: El Niño: VERIFY Fact Sheet

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2023-11-18 04:30:14

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