March 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Break from the chill could be coming soon

Randy Mann
 

In just over a week, spring will officially arrive in the Inland Northwest. No one will argue that it’s been a tough winter for many of us. But, outdoor winter enthusiasts have loved the snow.

For the 2008-’09 season, Spokane International Airport has measured 88.5 inches of snow as of Tuesday morning. The normal for the date is about 43 inches. The all-time seasonal snowfall record of 93.5 inches was set in 1949-’50.

As I mentioned in a previous article, we often see the coldest and the hottest temperatures during a full moon lunar cycle. Our recent frigid conditions did occur near that full moon. But, it does look like we’re finally going to see a break from the chilly weather as a strong ridge of high pressure is expected to build into our region next week that will lead to milder temperatures.

As we head toward the end of the month, the ridge is likely to break down and open the storm door.

Rain, and even more snow, should be increasing around that time.

Despite the warmer readings early this month, the average temperature for March is about 5 degrees below normal. The next six weeks should be cooler and wetter than normal with a few warm spells mixed in.

Some of our chilly weather is blamed on the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature event, La Niña, in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Within the last few weeks, La Niña has weakened as ocean waters near the coast of South America and along the equatorial regions have been turning warmer. There are even a few spots of above-normal sea-surface temperatures. Whether this trend of rising ocean temperatures continues over the next several months remains to be seen.

In addition to the cooler La Niña, sunspot numbers (storms on the sun) have greatly decreased.

Within the last 30 days, there were only eight days with low sunspot activity with about 10 to 12 sunspots showing up a few days ago. The rest of the 30-day period had no solar activity.

Some scientists thought that the sun would start to become more active, but that trend has not yet developed.

We have a long way to go, but if there is no significant warming of ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and sunspot activity remains low, we could see above-normal snowfall in 2009-’10 for the third year in a row. Stay tuned.

Next week, I’ll have an updated spring outlook and a summer forecast.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.


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