It's the February that winter forgot here in Washington, D.C. Meteorological winter officially wraps up next Wednesday, but if you did not know the date, you may guess we were already well into spring.
Temperatures the next three days in particular will be anywhere from 20-30 degrees above the normal late February highs which are typically in the upper 40s and lower 50s this time of year. Instead, the forecast is calling for low to mid 70s across the region, peaking on Friday afternoon with what is expected to be the warmest February day in Washington in 6 years (since 77 degrees on February 18, 2011). The current forecast high of 76 degrees on Friday is only two degrees shy of the daily record of 78 degrees - which has stood since 1985.
Many will start the day Saturday morning near the 60 degree mark with temperatures peaking in the 70s for a final time in the afternoon before a strong cold front brings the threat of some springlike thunderstorms for the second half of the day. The National Weather Service says there is a marginal risk of severe weather, meaning there is the threat for a couple of stronger storms but a severe weather outbreak is not expected.
The next three days are just the pinnacle of what has been a February for the record books across - not only the D.C. region - but much of the eastern half of the county. Assuming we do actually reach at least 70 degrees in the next three days, that will make six total days for the month of February. That will be the second most on record since seven 70 degree days were seen back in February of 1976. Speaking of 1976 - which is currently the warmest February on record in DC - 2017 will be trying hard to take the top spot over the next three days. Assuming our forecast is at least close to correct over through the weekend; it is likely that by Monday morning - 2017 will stand alone atop the February charts by nearly a full degree. Temperatures returning to the 60s for the final day of the month next Tuesday will only widen its lead!
February ends a winter which - to put it gently - did not go as forecasted in the D.C. region. Two major climate indicators that were heavily favored in our winter outlook - cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific (La Niña) - and well above normal Siberian snowfall - failed to have any significant impact during the second half of winter despite the cold start in December.
2016-2017 will end up being a relatively rare winter where the month of December will register as colder than both January and February - something that has not happened since the winter of 2005-2006. As things currently sit, this is the fifth warmest winter in D.C. history, and likely to be in the top three warmest winter by the time we close the book next week. This has not been the winter that snow lovers were hoping for either! Washington has received just 1.4 inches of snow on the season - the third lowest on record.
So is it over? Can we call it a bust and close the book? Well, there is still March yet to go! Long range forecast models from both the American and European forecast offices are indicating a brief period of colder weather sometime between March 7th and March 14th - which just may be winter's last 'gasp' before spring settles in for good. March 'cold' is generally very different from January and February 'cold,' as it tends to be less extreme. That being said, could we snow? Sure, D.C. averages 1.3 inches of snow in March. But but this certainly has been anything but an average winter. With the sun getting higher in the sky daily, it becomes more difficult to sustain the temperatures needed for snowfall. With the storm track through the bulk of this winter mostly up through the interior of the United States, we are not holding our breath here for anything meaningful in March. The statistics do not favor us either. Of the 18 times D.C. has not reported measurable snow in February, only nine times has there been subsequent snow in March - and none of those cases totaled more than 4 inches of snow. Sorry snow lovers, it seems it just was not meant to be this year.