Back on Jan. 4, commuters and pedestrians faced snow at the Mall in Washington. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

This story, originally published Oct. 30, was updated on November 12 to include NBC4′s outlook (summarized toward the bottom).

Consulting meteorologists and weather companies like AccuWeather and the Weather Company unanimously agree: Washington is in for a snowy winter. So, now, do the forecasters you watch on television.

In recent days, meteorologists at Washington affiliates NBC4, FOX 5, ABC7 and WUSA9 unveiled their 2018-2019 winter outlooks, and all call for above normal snowfall.

The outlooks agree that the El Niño event predicted for this winter will boost the likelihood of snowy conditions.


“Because of the El Niño, we are forecasting the chance for a nor’easter or two, which should translate into above-average snowfall,” the WUSA outlook said.

In all, WUSA — which was first to release it outlook — is predicting 20 to 30 inches this winter.

Topper Shutt, WUSA’s chief meteorologist, predicts the first inch on Dec. 17. He has correctly predicted the date of the first inch of snow the past two winters, according to WUSA.

WUSA9 snowfall forecast for 2018-2019. (WUSA) (WUSA9/WUSA9)


WJLA’s outlook predicts 15 to 20 inches of snow and “potentially up to two feet.” This is slightly less than the WUSA forecast but still near to above Washington’s average of 15.4 inches. The outlook calls for an above average chance for a white Christmas and the bulk of the winter’s snow to fall during January.

“It looks like firing up the snowblowers and getting the shovels ready is a good bet!” its outlook says.

Winter Weather Outlook 2018-2019


Posted by Eileen Whelan on Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Of the outlooks, FOX5′s — which calls for 18 to 28 inches of snow — is the most detailed. It forecasts “persistent cold” in January and “especially February” when it favors “one memorable storm (10-inches plus).” In addition to El Niño, it mentions several additional factors that could tilt the odds toward above-average snowfall:

  • The sun is approaching a minimum in its intensity over a 10-to-15-year cycle and, historically, Washington has seen cold and snowy winters at such times (2009-2010, 1995-1996 and 1986-1987, among others).
  • Warm waters in the northeast Pacific, known as “the blob,” sometimes are associated with a jet-stream pattern that brings cold and stormy conditions to the East (as in the “polar vortex” winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015).
  • The significant snow cover in North America and Siberia seen this fall can be favorable for cold and snowy conditions in the East during winter.



NBC4, the last TV station in the market to release its outlook, unveiled the snowiest prediction. It is predicting a hefty 25 to 35 inches in Washington, double the average, and 35 to 45 inches out toward Loudoun and Frederick counties. It cited a lot of the same factors FOX5 and others did to support its snowy prediction.

“This year ranks among the Top 5 wettest years ever for the region, which has a lot of people asking if that means they should expect a lot of snow this winter,” its outlook begins. “All big indexes point to yes.”

NBC4's snowfall outlook. (NBC4)

While TV forecasters, consulting meteorologists and major weather companies all agree on a snowy winter in Washington, it’s important to remember the reliability of such long-range forecasts is limited. There can be, and often are, surprises. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration winter outlook was somewhat less enthusiastic about snow prospects in Washington.

Capital Weather Gang will also release its winter outlook on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Outlooks by the numbers

Keeping in mind that Washington’s average snowfall is 15.4 inches, here’s what various television forecasters predict:


  • Snowfall prediction: 25 to 35 inches
  • Temperature forecast: Slightly colder than average


  • Snowfall prediction: 18 to 28 inches
  • Temperature forecast: Colder than average


  • Snowfall prediction: 15 to 20 inches
  • Temperature forecast: Colder than average


  • Snowfall prediction: 20 to 30 inches
  • Temperature forecast: Near average