Let it snow, let it snow: How much snow will fall this winter?
Author: Topper Shutt , Miri Marshall
Published: 11:10 PM EDT October 27, 2017
Updated: 9:50 AM EDT November 4, 2017
WEATHER 0 Articles

If you are a snow lover, like us, you want El Nino winters.

Remember the blizzard in 2003 around Presidents' Day? And who can forget the winter of 2009-10 that produced 56 inches of snow -- making that our snowiest winter on record. Well forget about it.

What’s winter looking like for this year?

The bottom line is: this winter has a 60 to 65 percent chance of being a weak La Nina winter.

Let’s break it down for you:

Think of these two weather phenomenons as warm ocean water and cold ocean water.

El Nino is the warm phase of the cycle and La Nina is the cold part of the cycle.

It’s the relationship between these two in the Pacific Ocean near the equator that affects the ocean’s water temperatures and in turn has a huge impact on our weather patterns.

These cycles can be really strong, really weak or neutral and they can be the overriding force in our winter and that's why we care about them.

It all starts along the equator in the Pacific Ocean. If the waters are warmer average, we have an El Nino.

La Nina winter snow 

If the waters are colder than average, we have a La Nina and a weak La Nina is what we’re expecting this winter.

With a weak La Nina comes below average snowfall throughout the entire Metro area.

We average about 17” of snow downtown but this year we predict the average goes down to 11 inches or so.

Why do weak La Ninas produce so little snow cursing the snow lovers?

It’s because the northern branch of the jet stream gets forced up above the Mid Atlantic taking the storms to our west. That draws up warm air from the south resulting in rain and not snow.

La Nina Temperatures 

OK. So what does that really mean for snowfall in the DMV?

If the average high for any day in January is 43 degrees but we reach 45 degrees, then technically it’s above average but still chilly.

And if this winter’s weak La Nina gets a stronger, then temperatures could end up a bit warmer.

And what everyone really wants to know, will we have a White Christmas and when do we think the first snow fall or an inch or more will be?

Considering we only have about a 10 percent chance in any given year to see snow here on Christmas, this year we're saying it won’t be a White Christmas.

White Christmas in DC 

Remember, that doesn’t mean it has to snow on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, but rather just have an inch of snow or more on the ground.

Our last white Christmas was in 2009. Over an inch of snow was on the ground from our leftover blizzard the week before.

We think the first inch or more of snowfall will happen on Friday, January 26th.

Average snowfall map 

Average Snowfalls

  • Southern Maryland: 5 to 10 inches, 10 to 18 inches either side of I-95.
  • Northern and western suburbs: 18 to 26 inches
  • Far northern, western suburbs and the mountains: 26 inches to 35 inches.
  • Expert Below Average Snowfalls this Winter
  • 5 to 10 inches for the southern and eastern suburbs, including La Plata and Upper Marlboro
  • 10 to 15 inches either side of I-95, including Fairfax, the District and Rockville. To the north and west more but still below average.
  • 15 to 20 inches along and east of the I-81 corridors, including Winchester to Leesburg to Frederick.
  • 20 to 25 inches between Hagerstown and Cumberland
Snowfall forecast 2017-2018

Average vs. Predictions

  • Winchester: 26 inches vs. 19 inches
  • Leesburg: 24 inches vs 17 inches
  • Woodbridge: 18 inches vs. 15 inches
  • Fredericksburg: 17 inches vs. 10 inches
  • Hagerstown: 10 inches vs. 20 inches
  • Frederick: 25 inches vs 18 inches
  • Bethesda: 19 inches vs. 13 inches
  • Bowie: 16 inches vs. 12 inches
  • La Plata: 15 inches vs 8 inches

The Metro area doesn't average that much snow per year but we are in a part of the country that can generate the largest snowstorms, Nor’easters.

For example, winter of 2015-16, our area only had four inches of snow, but then the blizzard hit and dropped 17.8 inches at once with two feet in the suburbs.

So while we’re calling for below average snowfall, one big storm can bust up the forecast.

Also with a weak La Nina Winter, we should see slightly above average temperatures.

Topper’s Winter Tips

  • Check your furnace
  • Add some insulation in the attic
  • Add caulk around windows and doors to seal cracks to prevent cold air from penetrating inside your home. When you control drafts in your home, it will be noticeably warmer