As I look outside early Tuesday, when this column was written, it’s another morning of clouds and cold temperatures.
Mid-December through mid-January was the snowiest period ever seen. Even if we don’t see another flake of snow this season, the combined winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09 will be the snowiest in recorded history.
With the recent snows, the Spokane International Airport has climbed to 84.5 inches of total accumulation. The record is 93.5 inches of snow set back in 1949-’50. Last year, as many of us remember, 92.6 inches of snow fell at the airport. But many towns in North Idaho smashed their all-time snowfall totals. In northwestern Coeur d’Alene, an amazing 172.9 inches fell. As of early this week, the total is slightly over 120 inches.
Along with the heavy accumulations of snow, this winter season has been cold. The average temperature for December was only 21.9 degrees, which was 5.3 degrees below normal. Despite four days with 40-degree temperatures, January was 1.4 degrees below normal with a mean (average) temperature of 25.9. As of early this week, the chilly trend continues with February’s average reading of 29.3 degrees about 2 degrees below normal.
The winter of 2008-09 has also observed plenty of extreme weather worldwide. On Feb. 2, London was brought to a standstill by a snowstorm that dropped 8 inches on a city where snow is an uncommon occurrence. Traffic was backed up as there were only two snowplows available.
Last week, the National Weather Service confirmed that the Big Black River area in extreme northwestern Maine near the Quebec border hit minus 50 degrees on Jan. 16. This was the coldest reading ever recorded in the state. The old record was minus 48 degrees in the same general area on Jan. 28, 1925. The minus 50 degree temperature tied the Jan. 30, 1934 record for all of New England of minus 50 degrees set in Bloomfield, Vt.
After a brief period of milder weather, we should enter another round of above normal snowfall next week through the first week of March. It’s still possible that we’ll challenge, or even break, the all-time snowfall record at the airport. It’s going to be close.
This recent weather pattern is similar to the one in the mid-1930s. In 1936, for example, at the height of the Great Depression, many areas set all-time records for both extreme heat and cold in the same year.