Heavy snow falls on the Mall on Jan 14. (Kevin Ambrose)

It is safe to say it will not snow again in Washington until sometime in the fall or winter, so it is time to see who had the best predictions for this past winter.

While the consensus view that Washington would see above-normal snowfall in the winter proved correct, novice and professional forecasters, alike, generally erred in predicting too much snow.

Forecasts tended to concentrate on around 25 inches of snow while 16.9 inches fell at Reagan National Airport, the official measurement location for Washington. The airport’s 30-year average snowfall is 15.4 inches.

It turned out to be more of a normal winter for snow in Washington than an above-normal one.

Reader predictions

First, we would like to congratulate Claudia Garver and Karen Murphy, winners of our 2018-2019 snowfall prediction contest. They both nailed the winter snowfall forecast with their spot-on call of 16.9 inches. While there is no material or cash prize for this contest, Garver and Murphy have earned bragging rights.

Nine additional participants in the contest were within two-tenths of an inch of getting it right (highlighted in yellow) and deserve honorable mention:


(Capital Weather Gang)

(Note: The forecast contest was conducted after November, when Reagan National Airport had already received 1.4 inches, and the contest queried how much additional snow would fall. To compare forecasts with the winter total, we added 1.4 inches to everyone’s predictions.)

Of the 731 participants in the contest, 20 people (3 percent of entrants) were within 0.5 inches of predicting the amount while 40 people (5 percent of entrants) were within an inch. Entries ranged from 1.4 to 113.4 inches.

The average and median forecasts of all participants were a hefty 27.4 and 26.3 inches. Generally, people overshot how much snow would fall.


(Capital Weather Gang)

Capital Weather Gang predictions

To begin, Capital Weather Gang’s official winter outlook, led by Matt Ross, was on the money with its snowfall prediction. It correctly called for 16 to 20 inches at Reagan National Airport.

However, individual forecasts from 22 Capital Weather Gang contributors, gathered for fun, were on balance too high, averaging 24.9 inches. That said, congratulations are in order for Ian Livingston, who aced the forecast with his call for 16.9 inches (or 15.5 inches plus the 1.4 inches that fell in November).

TV station predictions

ABC7, which predicted 15 to 20 inches of snow, had the most accurate prediction among TV news weather teams, joining Capital Weather Gang in correctly calling for slightly above-average snowfall over the course of the winter.

NBC4, which called for 25 to 35 inches, was too snowy and least accurate. FOX 5 and WUSA9, which forecast 18 to 28 inches and 20 to 30 inches, were in the middle, but both also were too high.

Predictions from forecast companies

We compiled seasonal snowfall forecasts from six private forecasting groups, and they were pretty uniform but all too high, ranging from 21 to 30 inches.

The best forecast from this group, while four inches above the actual, came from Judah Cohen of Atmospheric Environmental Research who called for 21 inches. Paul Pastelok at AccuWeather, who predicted 30 inches, had the least accurate forecast.

In order, here is how they ranked (from most accurate to least accurate):

  • Atmospheric and Environmental Research: 21 inches
  • Commodity Weather Group: 23 inches
  • The Weather Company (Todd Crawford): 23 inches
  • WeatherBell (Joe Bastardi): 25 inches
  • Perspecta Weather (Paul Dorian): 25 inches
  • AccuWeather (Paul Pastelok): 30 inches

Later this week, we will take a more in-depth look at Capital Weather Gang’s winter outlook and evaluate what went right and wrong.

Below, find winners of past Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecasts:

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2017-18

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2016-17

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2015-16

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2014-15

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2013-14

Capital Weather Gang snowfall forecast contest winners, 2012-13