Grading our 2012-13 winter outlook

Snow coats the trees on Capitol Hill, March 25, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose) Snow coats the trees on Capitol Hill, March 25, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

As always, we grade our winter and summer seasonal outlooks in spring and fall respectively.  In short, we did OK this winter, with our temperature forecast a bit better than our snowfall forecast.

Link: Winter outlook 2012-13 for Washington, D.C.: near normal cold and snow

Grading snow was somewhat harder this year with such variability across the metro area, so your feedback is especially important as to whether you think we graded ourselves fairly.  Please read on for our honest grading.

Let’s start with our temperature predictions.  Overall, the 2012-13 winter finished around 3 degrees above normal, which ties for the 9th warmest winter since Reagan National (DCA) became the official observation station in the mid-1940s.  We predicted a winter just slightly warmer than normal (0-1 degrees above).  I think this is a C+ call.  While our outlook was correctly on the warm side of normal, the winter as a whole was quite a bit warmer than we predicted.

Our monthly calls for temperatures were somewhat better as we were on the correct side of normal for all 3 months.  We called for December to finish 1-2 degrees above average and it finished over 5 degrees above average.  January, we forecast to be 2 degrees above average, and it ended up just over 4 degrees above average. And February finished about 1 degree below average, close to our prediction of 2 degrees below average.  We correctly predicted that February would be our coldest month outright and it was. I think our monthly calls merit a grade of B.

Considering our monthly and overall temperature forecasts together, the temperature aspect of our forecast earns a B-.

Our snow predictions were a mixed bag, particularly since there was such variability in snowfall totals across the region, largely from the 3 events on December 26, March 6 and March 25.  While we correctly predicted that 2012-13 totals would fall short of our seasonal snowfall norms, they fell well short in many areas.

The 3.1 inches recorded at DCA, the 7th lowest amount on record since the 1880s, was substantially below our predicted 10-12 inches.  However, Dulles, which received almost 13 inches, came quite close to our 16-20 inches predicted range.  BWI fell in the middle, as the 8 inches that fell was only around 50 percent of our forecast total of 15-18 inches.

The winter was characterized by number of marginal snow events which accumulated nicely in the western suburbs (especially Leesburg and west), but were underwhelming as you headed further east.  This gradient was much sharper than the disparity between our seasonal snowfall averages across D.C. metro area.  This explains why we had a very good snow outlook for much of Loudoun county, a mediocre one for Fairfax and Montgomery counties, and a pretty wretched one for D.C. proper and the south and east suburbs.  Overall, I would grade our snow forecast a C.  The March events saved us from a D+ or worse.

Overall, our 2012-13 winter outlook gets a C+.  I think it was a better than average outlook, but we missed the mark just enough, that it was more mediocre than it was good.  Early signs indicate a potential El Nino event developing, which would signal a colder, snowier winter for 2013-14.  But after the past two winters, that isn’t saying much.

Let us know how you think our forecast was by taking the poll below:

Related:

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners

2012-2013 winter outlook
2011-2012 winter outlook
2011-2012 winter outlook recap
2010-2011 winter outlook
2010-2011 winter outlook live chat
2010-2011 winter outlook recap
2009-2010 winter outlook
2009-2010 winter outlook recap
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2008-2009 outlook live chat
2008-2009 winter outlook recap
2007-2008 winter outlook
2007-2008 winter outlook recap
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Jason Samenow · April 15, 2013