This will come as no surprise to anyone. Last month was the warmest February on record in Washington, and here’s the kicker: It was also warmer than an average March. (If it was March. But it was February.)
The average temperature in D.C. last month was 8.7 degrees warmer than a normal February and nearly 1 degree warmer than a normal March. It surpassed the previous record-warm February, set in 1976, by 0.8 degrees. The temperature did not drop below 20 degrees once last month, there was never any snow on the ground and highs climbed to at least 70 degrees on six days.
It was only the second time since 2000 that D.C. had zero measurable snow in the month of February, and the rainfall total was just 0.68 inches — nearly 2 inches below normal. That quickly catapulted the region into a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It was the third-driest February since 2000, following 2009 and 2002.
February’s extremes tell the story. The coldest day of the month came early, when D.C. failed to crack 40 degrees on Feb. 10. The warmest day was Feb. 24, with a high of 77 degrees.
Interestingly, the only two Februarys that have been drier than this one since 2000 were also during developing El Niños. In those years, things started to get wetter in the second half of spring — especially 2009.
Sixteen “daily” records were broken at our three airports during the month and all of them were warm.
- Feb. 7: Record high of 73 (old record 64 in 2008 and 1887)
- Feb. 8: Record high of 74 (old record 68 in 2015 and 1900)
- Feb. 8: Record warm low temperature of 51 (old record 42 in 1882)
- Feb. 23: Record warm low temperature of 53 (old record 51 in 1922)
- Feb. 24: Record warm minimum of 54 (old record 52 from 1975)
Dulles International Airport
- Feb. 7: Record high temperature of 72 (old record 65 in 2009)
- Feb. 8: Record high temperature of 71 (old record 70 in 1965)
- Feb. 8: Record warm low temperature of 52 (old record 41 in 2009)
- Feb. 19: Record warm low temperature of 50 (old record 46 in 1981)
- Feb. 23: Record high temperature of 77 (old record 73 in 1985)
- Feb. 23: Record warm low temperature of 52 (old record 51 in 1975)
- Feb. 24: Record warm low temperature of 53 (ties record from 1985)
- Feb. 7: Record high temperature of 72 (old record 64 in 1904)
- Feb. 8: Record high temperature of 72 (old record 70 in 1965)
- Feb. 8: Record warm low temperature of 51 (old record 44 in 1965)
- Feb. 19: Record warm low temperature of 49 (old record 47 in 1976)
The big-picture weather pattern was pretty variable in February, but the prevailing feature was a big ridge over much of the Central and Eastern United States. The Midwest, in particular, was super-warm under this high pressure ridge.
February forecast review
How’d we do?
The temperature forecast
We called for an average temperature 3 to 5 degrees warmer than normal. The anomaly was actually 8.7 degrees warmer than normal — right direction, wrong intensity.
The rain forecast
We called for near normal rainfall, but it was much drier than expected with only 0.68 inches falling.
The snow forecast
We went below normal, but it was way below normal with only a trace falling on two days, matching only 2004 in the 2000s for something this snowless.
The temperature (warm) and snow anomalies (below normal) were correct directionally, but not strong enough in intensity. Rainfall was a failure as our drought trend deepens.