Washington, D.C. March 6, 2015. (docindigo76 via Flickr)

Despite a few more “cool” shots not out of the question, winter is quickly becoming a distant memory. However, as is custom here at the Capital Weather Gang, we grade our outlooks, good and bad.

If you don’t feel like reading any further, in summary, we did pretty well this winter. Not a home run, but a mostly successful effort.

[2014-15 Capital Weather Gang winter outlook]

Please read on for a more detailed analysis of our performance.

With temperatures, we make a seasonal forecast, but – unlike many outlooks – we also make a month by month prediction. While we consider it more important to get the overall temperature forecast for winter right, the monthly breakdowns are not just an afterthought. We did very well with our forecast for the overall winter difference from average, but not as well with the monthly predictions.

We predicted the average winter temperature to be 1 to 2 degrees below normal at Reagan National Airport (DCA), and it finished 1.7 degrees below normal. A virtual bullseye.

The monthly breakdowns were a mixed bag:

  • Our December prediction was average to 1 degree below average, and it was a very warm month: 4 degrees above average. While we did call for December to be our warmest month with respect to normal, that was still a somewhat bad miss.
  • January was also a miss, but by not as much. We called for our coldest month at 3 degrees below average, and we finished 0.4 degrees below average. That’s certainly not a good prediction, but could have been worse. At least we got on the right side of average.
  • We predicted February to finish 1 to 2 degrees below average, and it finished a whopping 8.7 degrees below average for our coldest February since 1979.  We are never going to predict a month to be more than 3 to 4 degrees below normal in a seasonal outlook. So in that sense, we will never get an extreme cold month “correct”. But calling for a somewhat cold month and getting an extremely cold month is not a bad call, but rather a mediocre one, in our opinion.

In summary, we give ourselves an A+ on the overall winter temperature forecast, and a C- on the monthly predictions. In our opinion, this performance merits a grade of B or B+ for the temperature portion of our outlook.

With respect to our snow prediction, we didn’t nail it but did well:

  • At our main grading station, DCA, we got the amount almost exactly right. We predicted 16 inches and we received 18.3 inches.
  • At BWI and Dulles Airport, we fell a bit short. Predictions of 21 inches and 25 inches respectively, were eclipsed by seasonal totals of 28.7  and 36.9 inches.

2014-2015 snowfall map for the D.C./Baltimore metro area and surrounding Mid-Atlantic. (Katie Wheatley)

[Another overachieving winter in the D.C. area]

Overall, the D.C. metro area received around 20-40 inches of snow this winter, and our prediction was in the 15-30 inches range. We correctly predicted above normal snow, but it ended up slightly snowier than our outlook. Particularly since we got so close at DCA (the same station we grade temperatures at), we give our snow grade a B+.

The outlook overall was successful. We would consider it a B+ outlook, but closer to a B than an A-.

We could have done better on some of the details, especially the monthly temperature breakdowns, but we correctly captured the flavor of this winter. Somewhat cold and somewhat snowy.

Our summer outlook comes out in a mere month. No hints yet, but hopefully we can put out another successful product. For now, enjoy spring. The heat and humidity will be here before you know it.

Winter outlook grade

This is a non-scientific user poll. Results are not statistically valid and cannot be assumed to reflect the views of Washington Post users as a group or the general population.


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