Following two extremely wild years across the Inland Northwest, things settled down in 2009 on the meteorological and climatological fronts.
As of early this week, the Spokane International Airport had received 15.30 inches of moisture since Jan. 1. The normal for an entire season is 16.67 inches, so we’ll have another year of below-average precipitation.
Thanks, at least in part, to El Niño, the warmer-than-normal, sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean, snowfall totals are starting out below average levels. As of Monday, only 8.8 inches was measured at the airport. The normal on that date is about 20 inches.
On Dec. 31, 2008, we had 23 inches of snow on the ground. Roofs were beginning to collapse. There were horrible driving conditions in all directions.
By comparison, this late December has less than an inch of snow in most areas. The heavy snows this winter have been in the Central and Eastern U.S. This is quite typical for an El Niño event. Cold air from the Arctic regions pours southward over the Great Lakes, clashing violently with copious amounts of moisture riding up the Atlantic coastline and the Gulf of Mexico from a supercharged subtropical jet stream flow.
The average (mean) temperature for 2009 is 47.2 degrees. This reading is just below the annual normal of 47.3 degrees at the airport.
Our warmest day in 2009 was 101 degrees on Aug. 1. It was our only day with triple-digit temperatures this past summer. However, we did see 27 days with highs at or above 90. The latest 90-degree day of 2009 occurred on Sept. 23.
The coldest reading at the airport in 2009 was a bone-chilling 8 below zero on Jan. 3. We came close to the zero mark on March 11 with a low of 2 degrees, and again this month with a 1 degree temperature on Dec. 8. During an El Niño event, January is usually the snowiest month of the season. I do see a bit colder and snowier-than-normal January in our region.
The warm waters in the Pacific Ocean should, however, mean less snow than normal in February, March and April and, possibly, an early arrival of spring. I’ll have more details later. Happy New Year!