The cold and snowy winter of 2013-2014 will return Sunday night as rain starting in the afternoon turns to some sloppy snow overnight. Accumulations will be a dusting to an inch in northern areas, so even a delay is unlikely. Temperatures will be much colder than normal next week as the polar vortex (one should be careful with using this word- it has a specific meaning) dips south. There is the potential for a little more snow Wednesday morning, but models have trended further south and out to sea with the coastal storm, which makes sense given the polar vortex diving south, usually pushing storms away from us. Even so, there is a good chance that we’ll get a half inch to two inches of snow, though more or less is possible depending on how conditions change between now and Wednesday night.
The real potential for a snowstorm is March 1st-8th, when the polar vortex retreats back north. The pattern is favorable for snow in the DC area, but this is late in the season so we have to fight the rain/snow line harder than usual. However, in the past DC has gotten over a foot of snow as late as March 29-30th.
March is also a month infamous for big forecast busts as well as big storms. Recall last March, when we were predicted to get around a foot and only got 1-4 sloppy inches. In March 2001 an even larger bust occurred when models predicted 24-36 inches and we got a dusting of sleet followed by sunny skies. The reason for this is that in March, forecast models still use winter data and analogs, so they are more likely to make big errors in the evolution of late winter storms, which is what occurred in March of last year (the warmer temperatures weren’t the problem; it was the lack of the expected constant heavy snow). This is something to keep in mind going into March, which is arguably the trickiest month to forecast.
After around March 15th, there are signs that the cold air will finally let up and spring will come, but confidence is low in exactly when the cold finally lets up and I would not be surprised if it lasts much longer.
Article by Josh Karpatkin, MoCo Student staff meteorologist