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Colder and snowier winter shaping up

THURSDAY, DEC. 9, 2010

Temperatures plunged to near 10 below zero across the Inland Northwest on Nov. 23. If you think that’s cold, the mercury plunged to an unbelievable 68 below zero in Siberia in late November as well. It was so cold that exposed skin would freeze almost instantly. In fact, one person took warm water and threw it up in the air in Siberia and the water evaporated in seconds.

Winter has not officially begun, so don’t be surprised to see more days with temperatures below zero in our region. The best chances are during the full moon lunar near Dec. 21 and Jan. 19.

Milder air will be pushing into our region into early next week before colder air moves in from the north. As of early Tuesday, the chances for rain increase this weekend. However, there’s still a good possibility for a white Christmas as snow looks likely during the upcoming full-moon phase just ahead of Christmas.

As mentioned last week, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene broke the all-time November snowfall record. At the airport, 25.9 inches of snow was measured compared to a seasonal normal of about 45 inches. East of Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum measured more than 51 inches of snow in November.

Based on climatology, however, a snowy November usually leads to average to below average snow totals for December through March. This happened in 1955, 1973 and 1985.

We’re right in the middle of a strengthening La Niña, the cooler-than-normal, sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Sunspot activity, or storms on the sun, are still low. But, the sun has been showing signs of increased activity over the last few weeks.

Unless there is a sudden warming of ocean waters in the next four to six weeks, the winter of 2010-11 across the Inland Northwest will likely be colder than normal overall with above normal snowfall. Despite the expected colder and snowier than average weather, there will be a number of days with rain and milder temperatures.

I don’t expect to see more record snows in December and January, but there will be plenty of snow the for area skiers and snowboarders in the higher mountains. Remember, we’re still stuck in a long-term cycle of weather extremes so anything is possible.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@ longrange

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