The U.S. Capitol dome can be seen behind piles of snow removed from parking areas and walkways around the Capitol grounds in Washington on Jan. 26. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

After flirting with winter well into late March and early April, we are finally feeling spring. Our winter outlook, issued back on Nov. 10, seems like a distant memory. But, good or bad, it’s time to talk about how we did. In short — we’ve done better.

To be fair, our temperature outlook was decent. But although we highlighted the potential of a blockbuster snowstorm, our snowfall prediction was way too low, all thanks to that one storm: Snowzilla.

Temperature

On temperatures, we make a seasonal forecast but we also break that forecast down by month. Not all outlooks do this. While we consider it important to get the overall temperature departure right, the average monthly temperature is not just an afterthought — it is an integral part of our outlook. We did a decent job with the overall departure, but not quite as well with the monthly breakdown.

We predicted that winter overall would be 2 degrees above average at Washington, and it finished 3.8 degrees above average. So we correctly predicted it would be a warmer than average winter, but it was borderline well-above average due to the record warm December.

The monthly temperature outlooks were a mixed bag.

  • We called for December to be the warmest month of the winter at 3 degrees above average, and it was an historically warm month at 11.5 degrees above average. But we’re not docking ourselves too much for it — we have never predicted more than a 3- to 4-degree monthly departure in a seasonal outlook and probably never will. It would be foolhardy to do so.
  • We said January would finish 2 degrees above average, but it ended up being 1.1 degrees below average. Certainly a miss.
  • We predicted February would be 1 to 2 degrees above average and it finished at 0.9 degrees above average — a very good call.

In summary, we give ourselves a B on the seasonal temperature prediction, and a C-plus on the monthly calls for an overall temperature grade of B-minus.

Snowfall

Our snow prediction was a total miss regionwide. We predicted 10 to 20 inches of seasonal snow across the Washington region, and we ended up with double that. All three airports experienced around 150 percent of their average snowfall, well above our prediction of 60 to 70 percent.

Of course, most of our seasonal snow fell in the January blizzard — it was an uneventful winter outside of that. And we did correctly identify the enhanced chances of a huge event when we stated “… the chances of a crippling event such as Snowmageddon or the Blizzard of 1996, while always slim (10-15 percent in a given winter), will be somewhat elevated this year (around 25 percent).”

But the fact that our prediction this winter was particularly vulnerable to one big storm doesn’t mitigate the missed prediction by much. As such, we grade ourselves a D for snowfall.

Grade our winter 2015-2016 outlook

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Overall we did so-so and give ourselves a C for the outlook on the whole. It was mediocre. We’ve done better in the past, and we’ve done worse. While we correctly predicted a warm winter, our monthly predictions were not that great, and our snow prediction was a somewhat significant miss due to the blockbuster storm. We’ll get back on the horse in less than seven months and hopefully do a bit better next winter.

Our summer outlook comes out in a mere month, and hopefully it will be another successful one, as it was last year. For now, enjoy spring. The heat and humidity will be here before you know it.

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