February 28, 2010 in Idaho Voices

Sea turtles might be better off in the Pacific Northwest

Michelle Boss

It has definitely been a warm start to 2010. Temperatures across the Inland Northwest have been running about 6 to 8 degrees above normal since the first of the year.

Looking at temperature data over the last seven weeks, two Washington cities, Winthrop and Ephrata, have seen their warmest temperatures on record. The first seven weeks of the year have been the third warmest for Spokane and the second warmest for Pullman.

As far as precipitation goes, the Inland Northwest, like much of the western United States has been relatively dry. Despite recent rainfall, Spokane is about half an inch below normal for both the water and calendar year. Coeur d’Alene is running nearly three quarters of an inch below normal. Of course the lack of moisture has kept this season’s snow totals near record lows.

As of Feb. 25, Coeur d’Alene had seen only 17.8 inches of snow, 40.5 inches below normal. The Spokane airport has received only 13.7 inches – about 27 inches below normal.

The last time we saw such a “snowless” winter was during the 1997-98 season, when Spokane received only 15.5 inches. I have to say the area ski resorts have been suffering as well.

What little snow that has fallen has been subjected to melting and refreezing, resulting in less than ideal skiing and snowboarding conditions. The El Niño pattern that has given us more dry days this winter, however, has brought helpful precipitation to other parts of the country. Previously drought-stricken areas of the South and Southeast, including most of Texas and Georgia, are in much better shape according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Remember the record cold in Florida last month, when temperatures in the 30s had people scrambling for winter jackets? Humans weren’t the only ones shivering. I ran across an interesting article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which talked about other “creatures” who were almost literally “frozen stiff” due to the unseasonable cold.

About 5,000 sea turtles who would normally be enjoying the balmy weather of Florida, were rendered immobile by the recent cold weather in what is known as “cold-stunning”.

These cold-blooded animals were stranded in shallow lagoons in the Cape Canaveral area and St. Joes Bay in Florida’s panhandle when water temperatures dropped as low as 39 degrees.

Fortunately, rescuers were able to retrieve a large number of the stunned animals and transport them to warmer waters. Maybe these turtles should consider heading northwest for the remainder of this winter.

As I write this article, I’m listening to the robins singing their spring song outdoors, and thinking that Punxatawney Phil woke up on the wrong side of the country!

Michelle Boss can be reached at weatherboss@comcast.net

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