Area residents might remember this as the winter without a winter. As we inch closer toward actual spring, February — a month known for its big snowstorms — has a chance to conclude with the longest warm spell in recorded history. And the month is likely to rank among the two warmest.
A little over halfway through February, the District has already seen record warmth. The two days in a row of 70s earlier this month was, by itself, quite unusual. The prospect of more 60s and possibly even 70s ahead only adds a punctuation mark on February, as well as the nearly snowless winter.
‘Winter’ so far
The 2016-2017 winter (December-February) temperature to date is an astounding sixth warmest on record, in tallies back to 1872. I say astounding, but it is of course just part of a growing list in recent years.
The late February forecast
Over the next week to 10 days or so, high temperatures should flirt with 60 and above more often than not. Such temperatures are much more typical of April.
A few days above 65 or even 70 are possible. Consider average highs are around 50 as we close February.
A record long warm streak is possible
We have a chance to put together a historically long streak of days above 60 degrees, starting Saturday.
Chances are good we can put up at least a three- or four-day streak of 60 or above, even 65 or above. A streak of five days at or above 60 in February would enter record territory.
There is an outside chance we could put up five or six days in a row of 60+, but it will depend on how significantly a “backdoor cold front” drifting in from the north early next week impacts temperatures. These kinds of fronts are notorious late winter (and early spring) warmth killers and always bear watching.
A near-record number of days in the 60s and 70s is possible
By the time February is over, it’s reasonably likely that the number of days in the 60s and 70s will rank among the most on record.
D.C. goes into this warm stretch with three days above 60 degrees and two above 70 degrees so far in February. If all goes to plan, the city should add on at least half a dozen more of the 60-degree days, and probably at least one or two of 70 degrees or higher.
Nine days in February in the 60s or higher would place this year in the top six on record for that count (No. 1 is 14 in 1976). If we can get to four days in the 70s, it would tie for second most on record (No. 1 is 1976 with seven such days).
Warmest February on record?
With all these warm days in the pipeline, the average temperature for February is also in the running for warmest on record.
This February ranks as fifth warmest on record month-to-date, and is likely to rise in the rankings. Plugging in the best available model data suggests the monthly average temperature ends up around 46 degrees. That would rank second warmest on record between 1976’s top-ranking 46.9 degrees and 1990’s 45.2 degrees. If temperatures end up warmer-than-predicted, there’s an outside chance 1976’s record is broken.
February 2017 is destined to cap off what will be remembered as a non-winter, adding to the ever-growing list of bizarre warm periods in recent years.