Baghdad. Midland, Tex. Huntsville, Ala. What do all these locations have in common? They have all seen more snow during winter 2019-2020 than the District of Columbia.
It is no secret we have been starved for snow. The season never really took off, and save for a few light dustings and festive flakes, we are at rock bottom for snowfall. A scant 0.6 inches of measurable wintry precipitation has been observed at Reagan National Airport, the weather observing location for Washington, while Dulles is up to a “whopping” 2.9 inches. Average seasonal accumulations for the date are 11.2 inches and 15.0 inches, respectively.
That makes it the ninth least-snowy winter to date at Dulles, while Washington sits at 7th place. With no snow in the extended forecast, there is a strong chance Dulles could climb further up the leader boards in its seasonal snow deficit. (In Washington, it is already too late to clinch a top two spot, as winters 1972-73 and 1997-98 each drew to a close with just 0.1 inches.)
It has also been the sixth warmest winter to date in Washington, and warmest on record at Dulles.
Tomer Burg, an atmospheric scientist and doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma, found that 78 percent of the Lower 48 has seen more snow than the District’s paltry 0.6 inches so far this winter. He created a map highlighting the regions that picked up more — and less — snow than D.C. The results are telling.
Nashville? More snow than D.C. The same is true in El Paso, the high desert north of Los Angeles and in the Arizona/New Mexico mountains stretching into Mexico. Even the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia’s Appalachian foothills ended up with more snow than the nation’s capital.
Closer to home, it seems the long-fabled “D.C. snow hole” has manifest itself this season. More snow to our north and to the west is expected. But in Fredericksburg, or the Interstate 95 corridor of North Carolina, or much of the Delmarva Peninsula? Come on. We are surrounded.
Here are a few additional locations with more:
- Greenville, S.C.: 0.9 inches
- Richmond: 1.0 inches
- Asheville, N.C.: 1.1 inches
Admittedly, the season has relatively scant snowfall across the board in many Mid-Atlantic cities. It may be thanks to a strongly positive Arctic Oscillation (AO), which has resulted in frigid air remaining bottled up over the northern latitudes rather than spilling south.
On Monday, the AO reached its highest value on record. That has been a major contributor to a springlike winter for much of the eastern United States and Europe.
As an example of the strong effect the AO can have on the region’s snowfall, just a decade ago, the oscillation was strongly negative December through February and the Washington region experienced its snowiest winter on record, some 56.1 inches.
The AO shows little sign of relaxing. In fact, it may again approach record territory late next week. With no easily discernible snow-favoring patterns in the foreseeable future, we have to ask ourselves “is this it?”