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Snow leads to spring?

Matt Ross @ 12:00 AM

For the next week or so, we will see high temperatures mainly in the mid 40's with some fluctuation. Since our average high is now 55 degrees and rising, this is fairly cold with respect to average, but during the day in the sun at this time of year, mid 40's can actually feel quite pleasant. There is still a storm threat(s) for later in the week through the weekend. Currently most model solutions are keeping the storm threats suppressed to our South, but too close for comfort. If a storm was to affect us, factors such as lateness of the season, precipitation types, sticking, quick melting, etc may all limit potential impact. We will keep you updated as we move through the week.

Winter-spring transition: Marked by a storm?
There is some precedence that occasionally you need one last big storm to break from a winter pattern into a spring one. March 18-21, 1958 was an extreme example of this occurrence. This storm capped off a very snowy winter for DC and was the 3rd of three moderate March snowstorms. This was a very slow moving system that dumped heavy amounts of snow in elevated areas and areas North and West of the I-95 corridor. While DC received 4.8" of wet snow, areas west of town got up to 1-2 feet of snow. The jackpot was Southeastern Pennsylvania which received over 3 feet of snow in some locations. This storm effectively ended winter for DC, as temperatures rebounded into the 40's and 50's for the rest of March, and then quickly into the 60's and 70's in April.

It would be foolhardy to forecast something so extreme, but there is some indication that we could see a storm late this week that would break us out of this winter pattern and into spring. In fact, the onset of more seasonable temperatures in the 50's and 60's looks to arrive in about 7-10 days. We then can look ahead to see when our first heatwave, or 80 degree day will come.

A satellite depiction of another late season snowstorm, March 13, 1993, or the "Storm of the Century", famous for its strength and widespread impact from Florida to Maine, courtesy of NOAA/NCDC.

How long until we can break out the shorts?
If we look back at the last 20 years from 1985-2004, the earliest day DC hit 80 degrees was March 8, 2000 and the latest was May 7, 1988. The average "first 80" was April 5th and the median, April 6th. Out of the 20 years, 8 of these days occurred in March, 10 in April and only 2 in May. Fifteen out of the 20 years had its 1st 80 degree day before April 13th. So climatology says our patience will be rewarded, and chances are excellent that we will see 80 degrees in DC in the next 3-5 weeks.

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