Multi-year records set for snow futility in Washington, D.C.

A heavy wet snow falls at Manassas National Battlefield Park on March 6, 2013. One of a number of storms that heavily favored "north and west." (Kevin Ambrose)

A heavy wet snow falls at Manassas National Battlefield Park on March 6, 2013. One of a number of storms that heavily favored “north and west.” (Kevin Ambrose)

Now that we’re into mid-April and have already seen our first 90 degree day, it’s probably safe to say we’re done with snow for the season.  And what a season it wasn’t (at least most of the time).

As predicted in our winter outlook, the region did see more snow than last winter, but not by much.  The 3.1 inch official total for D.C. extends the streak of below average snow to  3 winters in a row, and the last two winters were as snow-deprived as it gets locally.

 The D.C. numbers

To put the 3.1 inch seasonal snow in perspective, it comes out to 20 percent of the current 15.4 inch average. It’s also the seventh lowest total going back to 1888-1889.

To get to the 3.1 inch total, we saw 8 events with 0.1 inches or more snow, for an average snow per accumulating snow event of 0.4 inches. Our largest event of the season, oddly enough, came late in late March, when 1.4 inches fell before sunrise on the 25th. As often is the case, National Airport’s total was lower than surrounding areas, with most other locations receiving  2-4 inches.

That late March event broke the record long streak without a single-day snowstorm of at least 1 inch, but the 2 inch or greater snowfall drought continues in D.C.

Average accumulation per event featuring 0.1"+ snowfall. 2012-13 had the lowest of any season that had more than 1 event.

Average accumulation per event featuring 0.1″+ snowfall. 2012-13 had the lowest of any season that had more than 1 event.

Looking across season to season totals, we find the 5.1 inches in D.C. during the last two winters combined is the lowest on record, beneath the two-winter period ending in 1997-98 which yielded 6.8 inches.

In the last 3 winters, D.C. has picked up 15.2 inches, which is a little less than average for one! This is the lowest 3-year snow total on record, well below the 18.4  inches from the 3-year period ending in 1998-99.

(Interestingly, the 3-year period that includes the record snowiest winter of 2009-10 did not even finish in the top-20 highest given the rather paltry winters bounding it.)

 Baltimore and Dulles Airport snow totals

Compared to D.C., both Baltimore and Dulles picked up considerably more snow, but less than normal. As most events throughout the season strongly favored elevated locations, or places north and west of District, their totals generally lined up with that idea.

local_snow_comparison_2012-13Dulles finished with 12.7 inches of snow, which was 9 inches more than last year. Baltimore ended up with 8.0 inches of snow, or 6.2 inches more than last year. Both totals were well below their respective averages of 22 inches and 20.1 inches.

Baltimore’s multi-year snow drought is similar to D.C.’s with a current two-winter total of 9.8 inches, making it the second lowest on record behind the 6.9 inches ending in 1950-51. On 3-winter counts, the most recent 3 years totaled 24.2 inches, just above the 21 inches for the lowest 3-winter period on record ending in 1951-52.

Dulles’ period of record is much shorter than either D.C. or Baltimore, only going back to the 1960s compared to the late 1800s. Three stretches in this shorter period featured less snowy two-winter periods: the 14.5 inches ending in 2008-09, 15.5 inches ending in 2001-02, and the 16.3 inches ending in 2011-12. 16.4 inches fell in the past two winters at Dulles.  As for 3-winter totals, the 29″ ending in this past winter is the lowest on record, falling shy of the 29.2 inches ending in 2008-09.

 Places That Got More Snow Than Us

In the northeast urban corridor, how snowy this winter was largely depended on altitude and latitude.  High elevations, and locations from New York City and to the north tended to receive the most snow.

Of the big cities along the I-95 corridor, D.C. tops the list for the least snow compared to average at just 20 percent.

Snowfall in 2012-13 as compared to average (1981-2010) in the I-95 corridor from North Carolina to Maine.

Snowfall in 2012-13 as compared to average (1981-2010) in the I-95 corridor from North Carolina to Maine.

Other particularly low totals (given higher snowfall averages) include Wilmington, De. with about 25 percent normal at 5.5 inches on the season, Philadelphia, Pa. at about 36 percent of normal with 8.3 inches and Baltimore, Md. at around 40 percent of normal with 8 inches.

The biggest winners relative to average include parts of Long Island and much of New England, especially parts of southern New England. Islip, Long Island and Bridgeport, CT were up near or past 200 percent normal snowfall at 64.3 inches and 46.9 inches respectively, thanks in large to “Winter Storm Nemo.”

Closer to home, southwest Virginia and parts of the high terrain of West Virginia and western Virginia also did quite well, and certainly compared to last year.  Average to above average snow was reported throughout that area. As an example, Blacksburg, Va., finished (unless they have another April snowstorm!) with 27.9 inches, or 110 percent of average.

If we’re in the “misery loves company” school of thinking, recall that Rick Grow pointed out Asheville, NC is arguably in worse shape than D.C. when it comes to snow in recent times.  They only picked up 0.5 inches this winter — barring some historic fluke to come. That’s less than 5 percent of their normal.

To next winter. For snow lovers, at least our expectations are low.

Also on Capital Weather Gang

D.C. area forecast: Warmer today with p.m. sun possible