DC Mythbusting: Most Extreme Weather Ever

Photo courtesy of
‘seems so long ago’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99’

We’ve seen fire, and we’ve seen rain. We’ve also seen earthquakes, heat waves, blizzards, floods, and, of course, thundersnow. The DC region has seen more than its fair share of crazy weather this year, leading many people to say that this is the most extreme year of weather on record for DC. But in a town where the summer always feels like the most humid ever, and the winter always seems like the most miserable ever, has this year really been out of the ordinary?

Photo courtesy of
‘Bench in the Water’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

We’ve got two weather guys to help bust (or confirm) this myth. First, there’s Logan Johnson, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Logan says, “There may be some truth to this idea that its one of the most extreme years on record. This past winter was the snowiest season on record, and then this summer is so far the hottest summer on record (average temperature since June 1).” So we’ve definitely had two really intense seasons.

Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang also confirms this. Jason says, “I can’t think of a more extreme year. It’s quite a feat that we broke the snowfall record from 1899 – I didn’t think that would happen in my lifetime. And this summer’s heat has also been remarkable – the hottest to date on record.”

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘ekelly80’

So not only did we have two very intense seasons, but they happened back to back. Logan says, “The combination like that, an extremely snowy winter followed by an extremely hot summer (record breaking on either end) is completely unprecedented for the DC area as far as I could tell. Snowy winters are not usually followed by hot summers… so this is indeed very unusual as the snowfall records go back 120 years.”

It’s a unique time to be in the District, as we’re witnessing what Jason calls “manic weather” on both ends.  But we’re certainly not alone, as the weather has been extreme throughout the rest of the world too.  Flooding and heat waves have dominated the news recently, and so far this has been the warmest year globally to date ever recorded.  So now for the million dollar question– how does this relate to global warming?

The Capital Weather Gang recently posted an interview with Stu Ostro with The Weather Channel that gets to this link.  In the interview, Stu talks of the difficulty and complexity of attributing specific weather events to climate change, and the distinction between weather and climate.  But even still, he says that he can draw connections between some individual weather events and global warming using data, patterns, and impacts.

So, myth confirmed: the weather in our region has been unprecedented, and this has been one of the most extreme years of weather on record.  Oh yeah, and it’s only August.  After all we’ve seen this year, there can’t be much crazy weather left, right?  Well, I’ll leave you with this parting thought from Jason: “Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that hurricane season remains quiet.”

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at) WeLoveDC.com!

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