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Golfing Weather in January ... How Abnormal Is That?

Dan Stillman @ 12:10 AM

Forecast First

Today: A cold front will trigger rain showers lasting until around noon, possibly mixing with a few snowflakes as the precipitation shuts off. Temps will drop during the day from a morning high around 50, through the 40s during the day, and into the upper 30s after sunset. Gusty west and northwest breezes will make for blustery, wind-chilled day.

Tonight: Clearing skies and diminishing winds. Lows near 30 in town, mid 20s in the 'burbs. Tomorrow: The cold air is gone as quickly as it came. We're back into southerly flow as sunshine warms us to a high in the low-to-mid 50s. Friday: Can you say 60 degrees? It's definitely a possibility.

The Weekend: Continued warm on Saturday -- high in the upper 50s to near 60 -- but with increasing clouds and a chance of rain, especially later in the day. On Sunday it looks like any morning clouds will give way to sun and only slightly cooler temps -- highs in the mid 50s.

Winds of Change for Booz Allen

It's been a Washington-area tradition since 1980. Every year, as the heat and humidity builds in late May or early June, the nation's top golfers arrive for the local PGA Tour stop known as the Booz Allen Classic (formerly the Kemper Open).

Starting next year, however, it's out with the shorts and sunglasses, and in with the long pants and windbreakers. The PGA is moving the tournament to October, and there's speculation that the entire event could be in jeopardy if Booz Allen decides not to sponsor the event after this year.

Normal is Not the Norm

Is this normal? That's the most common question I get when temperatures seem out of whack with the season. It's not an easy question to answer.

The weather is rarely "normal" as defined by the average high (or low) temperature. The "normal" high for the day is usually calculated by averaging the high temperatures recorded for the same date over a 30-year period (typically 1971-2000). There's a problem, however, with calling that average temperature "normal."

Just like a baseball team is more likely to go through winning and losing streaks, as opposed to winning and losing every other game, temperatures tend to go through warm streaks and cool streaks. I would say that it's actually abnormal to have "normal" temperatures for more than a few days at a time.

I've been thinking that rather than always referring to the "normal" or "average" temperature, weather forecasters should instead note the "normal" or "average" range of temperatures. For example, a quick calculation for a date in early January finds that while the average high for the date is 46 degrees, the standard deviation is 8 degrees. For the statistically challenged among us, that means that from 1971-2000 about 70 percent of the high temperatures recorded for the date fell in the range of 46 degrees plus or minus 8 degrees. In other words -- between 38 and 54 degrees.

Now that's a pretty large range, so I'm not sure if standard deviation is the ideal statistic to use here. But I wonder if providing some type of range, rather than a specific average high or low temperature, would be more informative for the public at large? There's also the idea of calculating typical durations for warm streaks and cool streaks. Such a statistic would put our current warm streak in context.

Your thoughts?

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