After a volatile March and beginning of April, we are settling into a more persistent warm, even summery pattern. As the threat of winter weather has faded, we need to look at how our winter outlook fared. We always grade them, even if it isn’t pretty.
Although we did correctly identify that this winter would be warmer and less snowy than average, we failed to capture the extreme nature of the warmth and lack of snow. We’re never going to predict such an extreme winter in a seasonal outlook. No one has enough skill to make such aggressive predictions before winter even begins, so it would be foolhardy to do so. However, we hedged a bit too close to average to give ourselves too much credit.
We make a seasonal temperature forecast but we also break it down by month. Not all outlooks do this. Although we consider it important to get the overall temperature departure right, the average monthly temperature is not just an afterthought.
We predicted that winter overall would be around 1 degree above average at Washington, and it finished 5.6 degrees above average, for our third warmest winter on record. So we correctly predicted it would be a warmer than an average winter, but it was well above average.
The monthly temperature outlooks were a mixed bag.
- We called for December to be around average, and it finished around 2 degrees above average. Not bad, but forecasting “average” is easy.
- We said January would be our coldest month at 1 degree below average, and it finished around 6 degrees above average. This was a bad call and our worst of the three months.
- We predicted February would be 3 degrees above average, and it finished at 8.7 degrees above average for our warmest on record — even warmer than March this year. We consider this a reasonably decent call, at least better than December. We’re never going to capture a record warm month, but I think we got the overall idea right.
In summary, we give ourselves a C on the seasonal temperature prediction, and a C-plus on the monthly calls for an overall temperature grade of C/C-plus.
The snow outlook went a similar direction. We correctly identified that we would receive less than average snow, but it ended up being way below average. As with temperatures, we failed to capture the extraordinary lack of snowfall.
We predicted around 10 to 15 inches of seasonal snow across the Washington region, and we ended up with only about 4 to 8 inches. All three airports experienced well below normal snow. For a few days, it looked like the March 13 to 14 event might salvage our winter. However, despite its high impact, the change to sleet kept totals way down.
We give ourselves a C-plus on snow. After three snowy winters in a row, we identified that this would be a below-average snow winter. However, as with temperatures, we missed the extreme lack of snowfall.
Overall we did so-so and give ourselves a C-plus for the outlook on the whole. It was mediocre. We’ve done better and worse. Although we correctly predicted a warmer than average winter, we missed the boat on just how extreme it was. I think our snow call was a tad better than our temperature call, but the idea was the same.
Up next: Our summer outlook comes out in May. We’ve done really well with our summer outlooks for the past few years. In fact, you have to go back to 2011 for our last real bust. Hopefully we can continue the streak, and also do better with next winter, as we haven’t had the same level of success with our winter outlooks.
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