October 8, 2009 in Washington Voices

Less snow, more rain in this winter’s forecast

Randy Mann
 

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, we now have an El Niño, the warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the south-central Pacific Ocean. For the past month, this El Niño has been classified as moderate but has shown signs of weakening in the past week to 10 days.

In addition to the warmer ocean waters, solar activity has been minimal for the last two years. But, sunspot numbers have been increasing a bit over the past week, which may indicate that the sun is becoming more active in terms of solar storms and energy output.

Based on these scenarios, our upcoming winter season should see far less snow than the record-breaking winter of 2008-’09, with 97.7 inches, and near-record snowfalls during the winter of 2007-’08, with 92.6 inches. It’s also likely that we will see more rain than snow, especially early in the winter due to warmer temperatures, particularly at elevations below 2,500 feet. Even the area ski resorts will probably see occasional rainfall up to 5,000 feet during the milder periods.

If the warmer air from the south comes into our region and collides with the colder air from Canada, we may see periods of freezing rain and perhaps a dangerous ice storm, especially in the valleys east of the Cascades.

As far as temperatures, I do expect to see widely fluctuating readings from the milder side to very cold in a short period of time. The most frigid part of the winter should not arrive until at least mid-January.

Our normal seasonal snowfall at the Spokane International Airport is 45.6 inches. Coeur d’Alene’s normal snowfall is 66.7 inches.

Although I may have to change or update these snowfall predictions, totals at the airport are expected to be near 41 inches. Spokane’s South Hill should receive about 47 inches with Spokane Valley near 40 inches. Coeur d’Alene’s totals should range from 52 inches near the resort to about 60 inches in the outlying areas.

In the higher mountains, Mount Spokane should receive about 165 inches of snow, with about 275 inches at Lookout Pass.

Overall, the early part of winter should be milder and drier than normal with near- to above-average moisture and colder-than-average weather during the second half of the season.

In the near term, the next change to the wetter side should arrive before Halloween. We may see some snow around the 2,500- to 3,000-foot elevation. Halloween looks mostly dry and cool. More showers are expected to arrive in early November.


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