2010 closing out with a range of extremes

The weather continues to make headlines around the world. Huge storms in the U.S. and on other continents have created travel headaches for many people.

Although winter officially began Dec 21, much of the northern U.S. and southern Canada have already endured record snows and bitterly cold temperatures.

In November, an all-time record 25.9 inches of snow fell at Spokane International Airport. On Nov. 23, the mercury fell to minus 10 degrees at the airport.

In the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south, an incredible 22 feet of snow was measured on top of Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, at 11,000 feet. The all-time annual snowfall record at the base was 139 inches.

The extreme weather was also plaguing Europe. London’s major airport, Heathrow, saw numerous flight delays and cancellations due to heavy snowfall in mid-December.

The wild weather is being blamed for driving up commodity food prices. For example, after the wettest spring on record, Australia’s wheat and sugar cane crops are suffering, while drought in the western part of the continent has cut annual wheat yields. In Brazil, dryness has also hurt yields. Late fall dry weather has affected pre-winter development of wheat in China. Snowfall is contributing to sowing delays that threaten crops in Italy.

In the U.S., ice on key shipping waterways has slowed the flow of corn and soybean barges. Some of the waterways of the Illinois River may actually close due to the cold weather.

The heaviest rains in more than two decades – up to 20 inches in some isolated spots – have spawned flooding, mudslides and road closures across Southern California. Rainfall records in Southern California weren’t just broken, they were obliterated. The weather station in Pasadena gauged a whopping 3.45 inches of rain on Dec. 19. The old record was 1.53 inches in 1987.

The California storms have moved to the east as blizzard conditions were reported in the eastern U.S. earlier this week. Up to two feet of new snow fell in the region, resulting in thousands of flight cancellations and the closure of New York City airports. Columbia, S.C., saw its first white Christmas in recorded history, and an inch of snow fell in Atlanta on Christmas Day.

The New Year looks to start off bitterly cold across the Inland Northwest. Don’t be too surprised to see temperatures fall below the zero mark in many parts of the region. Some warming is expected in our area next week.

Have a great New Year!

Contact Randy Mann at randy@ longrangeweather.com.

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