The last day of January is going to feel more like the first day of spring as mild air moves into the region from the southwest this week.
High temperatures are expected to climb into the low 50s today and Wednesday. Those are not record breakers, but the overnight lows are forecast to be in the mid-40s, which is unusually mild for January.
The freezing level was at 6,500 feet above Spokane on Monday, and was expected to climb to 7,500 feet today. Mixed rain and snow were reported at ski lodges Monday.
This comes in the middle of what’s regarded as one of the mildest winters in recent history. So far, the coldest temperature of the year was 8 degrees on Jan. 2 and 4.
The Inland Northwest generally sees the temperature fall to zero or lower at least once during the winter.
Only 3.9 inches of snow fell in January at Spokane International Airport. The total snowfall since October now is 24 inches, about half of the 50 inches that falls in a normal winter here.
Ken Holmes, forecaster for the National Weather Service, said a warm-up in late January is not unusual. “This is kind of a typical January thaw scenario,” he said.
But the West Coast has been under the influence of a wet and mild weather pattern that’s caused heavy rains and warmer-than-normal temperatures in recent months.
A resurgence of the tropical phenomenon known as El Nino is believed to be causing this, scientists said.
Three weeks ago, a nearly identical pattern brought flooding to California and rain to Spokane, where the temperature hit 48 degrees on Jan. 10.
Warming of the ocean in the tropical Pacific is causing storms to form offshore between Hawaii and California. These storms are penetrating farther north this week.
A ridge of high pressure that blocked storms from coming into the region last week moved farther east, opening a path for the storms.
Rainfall at the airport Monday was 0.22 inches. More rain is expected today. The high temperature was 47 degrees on Monday.
The high is forecast to be 52 degrees today and 51 degrees on Wednesday.
The record high temperature for Jan. 31 is 58 degrees, and 57 degrees for Feb. 1.
An overnight low of 44 degrees is forecast for tonight. That is three degrees warmer than the record warm minimum temperature of 41 degrees for Feb. 1.
Weather forecasters said computer predictions show a chance of winter weather returning over the weekend, at least in the mountains, with a cooling trend early next week.
The latest report on snowpack for the Yakima River basin shows the outlook is good for irrigation. The snowpack is at 140 percent of normal there. That’s consistent with reports from northeast Washington and North Idaho in recent weeks.