From the ABC 7 Weather team

Winter’s absence in December

December 21, 2011 - 09:18 PM
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So, here we are… the eve before the first day of Astronomical winter and what do we have to show for this month so far?? Not much at all… as a matter of fact, we’ve gone in just the opposite direction to what winter is typically like in the nation’s capital in December.

For the first 21 days of this month, winter has gone unnoticed, but wet spring-like weather has been in full throttle. A southwest flow in the atmosphere has maintained well-above average temperatures with cold air absent, even for large stretches of the East! At Reagan National Airport, the average high this month is 52.81 degrees and the average low is 36.5 degrees. Keep in mind December averages for the 1981-2010 climate period are 46.8 degrees and 32.5 degrees for highs and lows respectively.

Wednesday alone, the high temperature was only 7 degrees off the record high of 68 degrees set in 1923 while Dulles tied its record high of 60 degrees and BWI Marshal broke a record, reaching 63 degrees. Speaking of 60s (not the decade or the music, but the temperatures haha), they have been quite common for the first month of meteorological winter. Six days have been at or above 60 degrees.

With all this talk of steamy temperatures, how does this month compare to other warm Decembers. The following table illustrates the top five warmest Decembers at Reagan National, exclusively focusing on the average high for the entire month.

Top Warmest December 54.9 degrees/1889
Second Warmest December 54.2 degrees/1971
Third Warmest December 53.4 degrees/1984
Fourth Warmest December 53.2 degrees/2001
Fifth Warmest December 53.1 degrees/1923
Where We Stand For December 2011 52.81 degrees

The winter solstice rolls around at 12:30 a.m. EST Thursday and the first day of Astronomical winter will feel more like the first day of spring with highs in the lower 60s. Other than a brief shot of more seasonable weather the day after Christmas, the remainder of the month will likely experience above average temperatures.

The warmer trend this month has kept precipitation in the liquid form. Only a trace of snow fell at Reagan National on the heels of a departing storm earlier this month. While there have been many Decembers since the late 1800s with a trace of snow, several years have seen no snow at all in December: 1888, 1889, 1991, 1994 and 2001. Precipitation is still above average with all the rain we’ve had… +1.29 inches for the month and another 1 inch of rain is heading our way overnight Thursday.

If you are rooting for a warm winter, we are on the right track…. If you want cold and snowy weather, it looks like you’ll have to wait until at least mid-January. Perhaps Groundhog Phil will see his shadow, signaling 6 more weeks of winter in early February.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

 

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