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After D.C.’s warmest January in 73 years, we predict a very mild February, too

January ranked as the District’s third-warmest, and even the month’s coldest day and night were remarkably un-chilly

Plum blossoms by the World War I Memorial on Monday. (Joe Flood)
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January was about as warm as it gets in the nation’s capital — ranking as the third-warmest on record. Flowers bloomed, and snow was nowhere to be seen. The month’s coldest high (40 degrees) and coldest low (29) were both the mildest on record.

February will probably be rather mild as well.

The Capital Weather Gang is projecting the month to be 4 to 7 degrees warmer than normal — featuring an average temperature of 44 to 47 degrees.

Although January was rather dry, we are expecting a healthy amount of precipitation this month. We project between 2.6 and 3.5 inches of rain (average is around 2.6 inches).

But what about snow? February is normally D.C.’s snowiest month, and the 0.4-inch dusting Wednesday morning got the month off to a fast start. But the monthly average of 5 inches will probably be difficult to attain given the mild weather expected. We’re projecting just 0.5 to 2 inches, following the snow shutout in January.

D.C. finally gets first snow of the winter, fifth-latest on record

Inside the February forecast

Despite a brief cold spell coming this weekend, forecast models are highlighting another long stretch of very mild conditions into the middle of the month. Highs in the 50s and even 60s are slated to return next week. These same models project that precipitation amounts will be close to normal.

Model projections for the second half of February are for mild weather too, but indicate that precipitation could increase. Atmospheric signals suggest that the drier-than-normal tendencies associated with La Niña may fade.

The forecast for a warm first half of February for Washington carries moderate to high confidence. The second half features low confidence, as there are other atmospheric moving parts that complicate the outlook. These include changes in the tropics and the prevailing high-altitude winds. Some models hint that colder and snowier weather systems could develop.

January recap

Washington’s average January temperature of 45.2 degrees was 7.7 degrees warmer than normal. Only January 1950 and 1932 were warmer than 2023.

Extreme cold was notably absent. The month’s lowest temperature of 29 degrees (on Jan. 15 and 16) tied 1937 as the warmest on record for the month. The coldest high temperature of 40 degrees on Jan. 14 was also warmest on record, above the previous mark of 38 degrees set in 1937, 1990 and 2006.

While all but one day was warmer than average in January (as shown on the calendar below), record highs were set only on Jan. 3, when Reagan National, BWI Marshall and Dulles airports all hit 69 degrees.

The historically warm month lacked precipitation. Just 1.65 inches of rain accumulated, which was 1.21 inches drier than normal. It marked the driest January in five years, and the 18th-driest on record.

We experienced several cloudy days with light precipitation, but soaking rains were rare.

No measurable snow fell, making the month just the 16th snowless January on record.

How was our outlook for January?

At the start of January, we correctly projected a warm month with below-normal precipitation. While the direction of the forecast was correct, it was even milder than we anticipated. We predicted the average temperature would end up 2.5 to 5.5 degrees above normal, whereas it was actually 7.7 degrees above normal. We called for 1.5 to 2.8 inches of rain, compared to the 1.65 inches that fell. We predicted a trace to 2 inches of snow, and there was a trace.

So, we’d grade ourselves a B+ on this one.