Lafayette Square sunshine, Jan. 25, 2017. (chasingmailboxes via Flickr)

Wondering where this winter is? You’re not alone. The D.C. and Baltimore region is stuck in a snow rut.

The District’s current snow total of 0.4 inches ranks as the 11th least amount of snow on record to date, and it’s a good seven inches below average.

Worse yet for snow lovers? More often than not, winters with big snowfall deficits this deep into January don’t make up for it over the rest of the winter.

So what’s up with this winter?

To start, the winter has been warm. December was about two degrees warmer than normal. So far, January is around six degrees above normal. If you want it to snow around here, it generally needs to be cold.

It has not only been much warmer than normal, but there have also been fewer big winter storms than normal. The image below gives an idea of what the predominant winter pattern has been so far.


Dominant weather pattern this winter so far. Stormiest west, with mainly warmer storms in this area. (NOAA)

Blue shades are indicative of more storminess than normal and yellow colors are where more tranquil weather has dominated. If you’ve been following the news, you know the West Coast is finally having a blockbuster winter for rain and snow.

That hasn’t been the case here in the East, where storms have tended to focus in warmer periods.

Combine the lack of cold with the lack of winter storms, and those yearning to sled are hurting all around the region. Baltimore’s snowfall so far of 0.7 inches is the sixth lowest on record. Dulles’s snow tally of 0.7 inches of snow ties for the second least on record. And in Damascus, only 2.1 inches has fallen, which ranks second lowest in the past 24 years.

Should these numbers hold through the end of the month — and there’s a decent chance they may — D.C.’s ranking among the least snowy winters would move up to eighth place, Baltimore fifth, and Dulles tied with 1972-73 for least snowy to date. It’s getting dire for a snow lover out there.

But what does it mean? 

If we examine the 20 winters with the least snow on record through Jan. 25, ranging from zero to 1.4 inches, very few ended up above average. Eighty percent finished the year below average. Sixty-five percent of those winters did not even crack 10 inches. Ten inches is 65 percent of normal (15.4 inches) around here.

Years with 1" of snow or less through late January. (Jordan Tessler / The Washington Post)
Years with one inch of snow or less through late January. The last column display the percentage of the season’s snowfall which fell after Jan. 25. (Jordan Tessler/The Washington Post)

Glancing into the near-future, there’s still the possibility of some snow Sunday night, which Wes Junker mentioned Wednesday, but it doesn’t look like much. We also foresee a briefly colder pattern ahead, one that appears at least conducive to some snow.

Climatologically, February is our snowiest month, averaging 5.7 inches, slightly ahead of January’s 5.6 inches (the seasonal average of 15.4 inches includes a few inches in both December and March, but snowfall in those months tends to be more hit-and-miss.)

The next three weeks, in particular — through around Presidents’ Day — have historically produced a substantial amount of our annual snowfall.


(The Washington Post)

In other words, it’s now prime season for snowstorms big and small. It doesn’t take a whole lot to get it to snow in late January and early February. To get through the next few weeks without flakes whitening the ground would be quite unusual.

Keep snow hope alive!