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This year, weather extremes go both ways

Thu., April 22, 2010

After two winters of record and near-record snows, the Inland Northwest flipped to the opposite extreme during the winter of 2009-’10 with near-record low snowfall.

Spokane International Airport has received 14.4 inches of snow. The normal is just over 46 inches. In Coeur d’Alene, only 18.2 inches of snow has been measured compared to a normal of nearly 67 inches.

The least snow recorded in the Spokane area was 9.5 inches in 1933-’34. However, that reading was taken at Felts Field, which usually observes less snowfall than Spokane International Airport. The all-time record low snowfall at the airport was in 1980-’81 with 14.2 inches.

Currently, this year ranks second for least snow since observations moved to Geiger. However, this is the fourth least snowy year since 1892, the year measurements started being recorded in Spokane.

In addition to the extreme weather in the Northwest, the past winter of 2009-’10 was the snowiest season on record along parts of the Atlantic coast of the U.S., especially around Washington, D.C. Hard freezes were reported in normally mild Florida and Texas, which destroyed fruit and vegetable crops in January.

Western China lost its entire winter corn crop due to an eight-month drought. It was the coldest winter in at least 800 years in parts of northern China, Mongolia and Siberia. Ice in many rivers and lakes is currently “several meters thick” and threatens to flood thousands of towns and villages later this spring as it melts. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is still predicting “catastrophic floods” across much of eastern Russia, leading to food shortages.

The worst winter in Mongolia killed up to 90 percent of the nation’s livestock, mainly sheep and goats, which are used as currency by the herders. Conditions across much of Mongolia are more like those normally seen in mid-February rather than mid-April.

If we see any additional snowfall or a rain and snow mix in our region, it would likely be late this month as chilly air from Canada moves southward. I still see a slightly cooler and wetter late April through mid-June period across the Inland Northwest. Things should turn much warmer by late June, July, August and at least the first 10 days of September. This period should generally be hot and drier than normal under a strong stationary ridge of high pressure.

There will be as many as 25 afternoons this blistering summer with maximum readings near or above 90 degrees, so get those air conditioners ready!

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrange

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