Temperatures are in the 60s in Washington, and there’s a hint of spring in the air. But don’t be fooled. Winter’s not over, not by a long shot.
Cold and somewhat elevated snow chances are likely to return in early February.
Capital Weather Gang’s Matt Rogers, who specializes in long-range prediction, is eyeing the return of a wintry pattern starting around Feb. 5. It’s then that weather models forecast the jet stream to bulge north over Alaska and crash south over the eastern U.S. This creates a warm-West cold-East setup, resembling the frigid pattern that developed in late December and early January.
“It could be an impressive setup again,” Rogers said. “I’m thinking it could last two to three weeks.”
As with any forecast two weeks (or longer) into the future, the exact time of the arrival, the intensity, duration of the cold are difficult to project. This time next week, we should be able to begin providing some more specifics.
So, assuming it turns cold, will snow chances improve?
Cold weather is no guarantee of snow in our region. We learned that from late December to mid-January, when hardly any snow fell despite historically frigid weather. Thanks to the La Niña pattern, which developed in the fall, we’ve only seen moisture-limited weather disturbances tracking through the region from the west while juicier storms miss to the south.
Could the region see another bitter cold, but mostly dry stretch?
Rogers hesitated and called the snow outlook “tricky.” Because cold air is a necessary ingredient for snow for Washington, its chances tend to increase when temperatures fall, he said. He added that it helps that the cold will coincide with early-to-mid February, the snowiest time of the year historically.
But Rogers concluded snow prospects will continue to be tempered by the underlying La Niña conditions. “I see an incremental increase in snow potential based on climatology in February but we still have some head winds from La Niña,” he said.
Capital Weather Gang’s winter weather expert Wes Junker agreed with Rogers’s assessment. Once the cold arrives in about two weeks, “snow potential might be a little better than normal,” he said.
In the mean time, the snow outlook is dismal.
While jumping around quite a bit, temperatures are forecast to average about 5 degrees above normal through early February, generally favoring rain over snow. The majority of days are forecast to have highs above 50. Junker described the resulting snow potential as “seriously below normal.”
Patience, snow lovers, and cautious optimism.