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Temperature, precipitation records make year remarkable

Our long-term cycle of wide weather extremes continues across the globe. According to information from the National Climatic Data Center, 93,224 temperature and precipitation records have been tied or broken across the U.S. since Jan. 1. Based on this figure, I would estimate at least a half-million weather records have been broken worldwide this year.

Of the 93,224 extremes so far in the U.S. in 2009, 43 percent were precipitation records, 28.7 percent were warm records and 28.4 percent were cold records.

In our region, we observed one of the most prolonged early-October cold spells in recorded history. This frigid period saw the mercury plunge to 15 degrees in Coeur d’Alene and 20 degrees at Spokane International Airport on Oct. 11, the coldest reading ever observed so early in the fall season.

In areas east of the Rockies, summer 2009 was the third-coldest in recorded history. Frosts and freezes killed crops in the fields, mostly north of Interstate 80, at the beginning and the end of the season. The first early-October snows ever observed happened in Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, where many saw the snowy field when the New England Patriots played the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 18.

On the flip side, according to an article Oct. 7 in USA Today, Arctic sea ice during the summer months was the third-lowest on record. These data were reported by scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. Arctic sea ice usually melts to its lowest annual level in September before it refreezes in the winter. Compared with 2008, there was a little more sea ice this year, but it was still well below the long-term average since satellites began tracking Arctic ice in 1979.

As far as our near-term weather is concerned, after this brief mild period, I do see the arrival of more cold weather and possible snows during the new moon cycle of Nov. 16-23.

Conditions should turn drier and milder in the late fall and early winter. The chances of a white Christmas are down to about 30 percent as we have an El Niño, the warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperature, in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Most of our snow and colder temperatures will likely arrive in the Inland Northwest after the first of the year.