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The "Intersnowy" Periods (97-02, 04-09, 17-Present)


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As this winter has transitioned to a variable pre-cicada Spring, one thing stands out about the past several winters. Sure, the last AN winter for IAD and DCA was just 2 winters ago, but as a whole the past few years have been filled with futility, at least for the metro areas. In fact, with a meager 34.1" of snow during the past five winters, DCA is currently experiencing its least snowy 5 year stretch on record. While that record stands out, the theme of a string of non-snowy winters is not a new thing. The 5+ consecutive snowy winters of the 60s are a distant memory at this point, and the divide between snowy and snowless becomes more defined with each of these "cycles". However, is there anything from previous snowless stretches that resonate with what's going on right now? That's what this thread is for. While I do not have a recollection of the past two stretches of famine, I'll be mentioning them here, and other people can chip in with their memories of those timeframes. Here I define the periods as being roughly 6 years, so if that still rings true for us, we'll be revisiting this thread in 2022 (and a 2 year Nina would back this idea up I suppose). 



One Super Nino (97-98)

Two Neutrals (96-97, 01/02)

One Weak Nina (2000-01)

One Moderate Nina (1998-99)

One Strong Nina (99-00)


Airport Snowfalls:

DCA - 44.4" (7.4"/yr)

IAD - 82.6" (13.7"/yr) 

BWI - 70.8" (11.8"/yr)


From a first glance, this stretch seems somewhat comparable to what we've been dealing with recently in the DC metro area, but it is also notable to mention that the least snowiest winter for two of three airports (DCA, BWI) happened during the only Nino in this period. The idea of a strong Nino affecting the PAC base state has been floated around recently, so perhaps any residual effects stem from that short-lived Nino, but coming off of the tails of the snowy 95-96 winter (which also happened to be a Nina), this is an interesting period of study. I know the stories of the two week stretches in both March '99 and Jan '00 still are spoken about today, but are there any other timeframes which are of similar importance? 



Two Weak Ninos (04-05, 06-07) 

One Neutral (03-04)

Two Weak Ninas (05-06, 08-09)

One Strong Nina (07-08)


Airport Snowfalls:

DCA - 60.4" (10.0"/yr)

IAD - 77.7" (13.0"/yr)

BWI - 84.5" (14.4"/yr)


This stretch of winters were the most interesting to me, as every winter outside of 07-08 seemed to have their own quirks. Feb 07 and Jan 09 also stand out with some anomalous cold, and the somewhat uniform distribution of snowfall among the three airports seems to make this the least "snow droughty" period of the three. However, despite this, not a single winter produced AN snowfall at the three main airports, and instead modest snowfalls dominated the timeframe. I'd love to hear some of your guys' memories from those events for sure.



Two Weak Ninos (18-19, 19-20)

Two Weak Ninas (16-17, 17-18)

One Moderate Nina (20-21)


Airport Snowfalls:

DCA - 34.1" (6.8"/yr)

IAD - 60.6" (12.1/yr)

BWI - 49.9" (9.9/yr)


Unlike the other two periods, I actually have a recollection of what happened during these past five winters, so it was interesting to compare/contrast it to those two prior stretches. 18-19 clearly sticks out as a sore thumb for DCA and IAD, followed by 19-20's impressive futility. While DCA has only had one warning level (5"+) snowfall during this timeframe, BWI has had two, and IAD has had four, which shows how prevalent the gradient has been. I mean, this winter could be seen as a breaking point in the futility stretch for many of the areas that benefit from being in the north or western parts of our subforum. For me, the few things that stand out for me mainly happened from Jan 17-18 through 18-19, as I also found out from the Extreme Run thread that the two week period from late Dec 2017 to early Jan of 2018 was DCA's coldest two week stretch since Jan 1994, which is surprising considering how little it's mentioned. Jan '19 also comes to mind, but other than that, the snow drought has lived on in the general metro areas. This is coming off one of our more prolific "feast" stretches, which includes IAD's snowiest three year stretch, so it is only fitting that the past five years would set a record for futility. I would not be surprised to update this thread next year, but it will also be interesting to see how we view this period given enough time. 

     Now, I'd like to open this thread up to see what this subforum can remember from these three different periods. Which stretch of famine has been your favorite/least favorite? The most interesting thing to me is how evenly proportioned these famines have been. Heck, even the below average period before 95-96 was roughly 6-7 years. Perhaps it has to do with our return periods of Ninos, favorable patterns coinciding with winter, or both, but I thought I'd put this out here to open up some discussion. Let me know what you guys think!

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On 4/2/2021 at 8:16 AM, WinterWxLuvr said:

The DCA total in the 04-09 period had to be helped by the March 09 storm. Not sure what that total was though

Not entirely, as that total was just 5.5" at DCA, so just a fraction of the overall snowfall from that timeframe. In comparison, the Jan '19 snowstorm accounted for roughly 1/3 of the snowfall during the past five seasons for DCA. That's quite the contrast to IAD where it was just 1/6 of the snowfall for the airport during the same timeframe, despite similar totals of around 10". 

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On 4/1/2021 at 7:57 PM, blueberryfaygo said:

wow.. take 2003 out of the equation and that stretch from 97-09 was really bad!  I think there was something decent in the winter of 07.. maybe late in the season.. but that was it...

2007 had the major glacier sleetbomb. That was VDay 2007. 

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On 4/4/2021 at 6:27 PM, Kmlwx said:

2007 had the major glacier sleetbomb. That was VDay 2007. 

Revisiting this, I'm also pretty sure that it was our coldest month for the three airports in the 21st century until Feb '15 stepped into the ring.. can't confirm right this instant but that's what I remember reading. Decent backloaded winter for sure, but still -climo at the three airports. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/13/2021 at 5:40 PM, Roger Smith said:

100th anniversary of the Knickerbocker storm coming up in January. 

Also the 10th anniversary of the winter of 2011-12. 

Take yer pick. 

I pick BOTH, for the entire Mid Atlantic Region, this upcoming winter, 2021-2022.

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