New Year's Eve revelers had an unseasonably pleasant night to ring in 2011. It was a stark contrast to much of 2010, which brought record snow and heat to Washingtonians.
Overall, the year was a warm one, with the average temperature for 2010 closing out at 59.8 degrees, according to preliminary data, said Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service. That makes it the warmest year in the area since 1998, when the average temperature was 60 degrees.
Since 1871 there have been only other three years with warmer recorded average temperatures -- 1998, 1991 and 1990 -- according to National Weather Service data.
The annual average temperature at Reagan National Airport is normally 57.5 degrees.
But the heat wasn't a problem in December, which finished with an average temperature of 34.6 degrees at National, 4.9 degrees below normal.
The amount of precipitation recorded in December, just 1.78 inches, was also below the normal of 3.05 inches.
That made this winter start on vastly different path from that of the 2009-2010 season, in which snowstorms in December and February earned the nicknames "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalypse."
Last winter brought a record 56.1 inches of snow to D.C.
While there's no way to forecast whether the region will be hit with another major storm, Zubrick said, the chances of that happening are significantly lower under the current La Nina pattern.
"The winters tend to be a little milder than normal," he said. A La Nina pattern is associated with a cooling of the western equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean.
Winters with more than 25 inches of snow were recorded at Reagan during just one of the 20 La Ninas that have occurred since 1950, Zubrick said.
Zubrick said it's too early to tell whether the heat will return in 2011.
Last year, the meteorological summer of June 1 to Aug. 31 was the warmest on record for D.C., with an average temperature of 81.3 degrees.
That came amid a nine-month span -- from March through November -- during which the region saw above-average temperatures each month.
For the short term, at least, December's chill is likely to stay. Forecasters are predicting below-normal temperatures for January, Zubrick said.