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A Tale of Two Januarys

Dan Stillman @ 1:30 AM

The warmth of early January sure does seem like a distant memory. Remember when temperatures broke 60 degrees five times -- once even climbing past 70 -- during the first half of the month? In fact, temperatures were above normal for the first 14 days of the year (see January temperature graph below). A couple of more warm days and I'm sure some scientists, as typically happens, would have started blaming global warming, although maybe not NOAA's Chris Landsea, who resigned from a U.N. climate research team after taking issue with the team leader's assessment that global warming contributed to last year's active hurricane season.

In any event, the reality of winter has struck with a vengeance during the second half of January. Temps have remained stubbornly below average since the 15th, unable to make it out of the 30s (see January temperature graph above). That could change, though, at least for a day ...

Today's forecast: Southerly winds and overcast skies will give us one of the warmer mornings we've had in a while, with temps in the low 30s. Expect mostly cloudy skies with a chance of light rain or freezing rain in the morning. Not expecting major problems since temps will be at or above freezing early in the day, then rising into the low 40s by afternoon.

The bottom drops out once again as a strong cold front passes through late this afternoon and takes the temperature down to the mid-20s tonight. Tomorrow will feature northerly winds at about 15 mph and temps steady in the mid-20s. The only saving grace -- clear skies as high pressure builds in.

Temps in the teens and single-digit windchills make a comeback tomorrow night. Continued cold but less windy on Friday, and warming into the upper 30s and lower 40s for Saturday and Sunday. Looks like the southern storm that we've been keeping our eye on for the weekend will take its time getting organized, not advancing toward the Mid-Atlantic until late Sunday or early next week. Models aren't showing anything for snowlovers to get excited about -- yet.

From the "Are You Kidding Me?" File ...

NBC4 reports that legislators out west are petitioning the federal government to classify the northern snakehead fish as an endangered species -- yes, that would be the same snakehead that threatens to disrupt natural ecosystems throughout the Chesapeake Watershed, and that water management authorities have been fighting to eradicate since the invasive species was discovered in a Crofton, Md., pond in 2002. Apparently, the lawmakers are just trying to call attention to problems with the Endangered Species Act and are not serious about protecting the snakehead. Still, the whole thing sounds a bit misguided if you ask me.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

Washington-area meteorologists were lightly ribbed for overestimating how much snow this past Saturday's storm would bring, while Raleigh, N.C., forecasters were nearly lynched for blowing two wintry weather predictions last week. Even when forecasters are right on the money, however, it seems they can't avoid being made the scapegoat. The National Weather Service, and virtually every media outlet in the D.C. area correctly predicted that about an inch of snow would fall between the morning and late afternoon last Wednesday (admittedly, some areas inside the beltway saw as much as 2 inches). Despite the mostly accurate warnings, many District streets (and presumably some in Maryland and Virginia as well) were left untreated. The slick conditions, combined with pre-inaugural activities throughout the city, made for one of the worst evening commutes in recent memory. District Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini laid blame on -- of course -- local weather forecasters. "It was really hard to get our salt trucks and plows right into the areas where they were needed. The problem was we weren't counting on Mother Nature giving us two inches right at that time," he was quoted as saying in a Washington Post article.

C'mon Dan ... If you truly had no idea the snow was coming when it did, then I suggest you stop paying whoever it is you're paying for weather information and make your home page.

Images courtesy Weather Underground and USGS

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