The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C.’s Snowmaggedon stretch was arguably snowier than Boston’s record snow blitz in 2015

Digging out from Snowmageddon in Oakton, Va, February 7, 2010. (Kevin Ambrose)

Boston just had its snowiest 10-day stretch on record (Jan. 24-Feb. 2), but D.C.’s infamous “Snowmageddon” stretch from February 1-10, 2010 featured even more snow in many areas.  It’s a surprising result considering Boston is generally the colder and snowier city.

The maps showing the evolution of snow depth for the two periods in the two cities help tell the story.

Let’s look at Boston 2015, first.

The snow depth map above shows, after two snowy wallops, much of the Boston area buried under 20-30 inch amounts as of this morning, Feb. 3 (2015).  A few of its northern suburbs are shaded in purple, portraying 30-40 inches.

Now look at Washington 2010.

Notice how much more purple there is from the District and points north at the end of its 10-day snowy stretch on Feb. 10 (2010), compared to Boston and its surrounding region (in 2015). Snow depths exceed 30 inches  from the District all the way to Philadelphia.

For ease of comparison, here are the maps of maximum snow depth in the Boston area in 2015 and Washington, D.C. in 2010 – on top of one another:

But even as more snow fell over a larger area in D.C. in 2010 compared to Boston in 2015, if you compare the actual snow totals at Reagan National Airport, D.C.’s official observing station, to Boston’s Logan Airport – Boston is the clear winner.

Between Feb. 1-10, 2010, Reagan National Airport officially picked up just 31.9 inches, compared to 47.9 inches at Logan from Jan. 24-Feb. 2, 2015.  (In fact, Feb. 1-10 is not D.C.’s biggest 10-day snow total.  Feb. 5-14, 1899 tallied 34.2 inches as measured at 24th and M St.)

However, Reagan National Airport frequently is a poor representative of snow totals in the D.C. area – especially in relation to its north and west suburbs.  The totals logged at Dulles (west) and BWI (north) airports of 45.7 inches and 49.5 inches, respectively, were quite comparable to Boston.

Why was the footprint of the D.C. area’s 2010 snowiest period bigger than Boston’s? It probably has to do with the fact the storms to affect the Mid-Atlantic in 2010 were especially  “juicy.”  A moderate El Nino event supplied abundant sub-tropical moisture from the Pacific for these storms which also drew water content from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.  Boston’s storms this year were fed by fewer and weaker moisture streams.

(Capital Weather Gang’s Ian Livingston contributed to this post).