March 3, 2010 in City

El Niño expected to keep weather moderate until spring

By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson photo

It was a beautiful day for a ride Tuesday. Last year Hangman Valley and Baltimore roads were still under several feet of snow, but this year bicyclists and runners are out in full force to enjoy the scenery of the popular recreation route along Latah Creek.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

By now it’s no secret. It’s been a mild winter.

So mild, in fact, that the first two months of this year ranked as the fourth warmest January and February in Spokane since record keeping began in 1881.

In addition, snowfall totals are on pace to be among the lowest recorded in the city.

Mild weather since the start of the year underscores a prediction that El Niño warming in the tropical Pacific will be kind to the Inland Northwest after back-to-back brutal winters.

Forecasters said El Niño’s influence is expected to continue for now.

“There is no sign of stopping it,” said Ron Miller of the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The early-season prediction of moderate El Niño has actually become a borderline strong El Niño, strengthening the trend toward mild conditions and lower snowfall amounts in the Pacific Northwest as well as heavy precipitation to California and the Southwest, Miller said.

Spokane had an average temperature of 36.4 degrees over the past two months, which is 6.6 degrees above normal.

Similar mild winters occurred in 1934, 1953, 1958 and 1983, with 1934 being the mildest with an average temperature of 38.4 degrees over the two-month period.

The city has seen only two other winters that brought less snow, according to records.

Spokane International Airport, the city’s official weather-monitoring site, has reported 13.7 inches of snow this season.

If no more snow falls this season, it would be the third lowest total since snowfall measuring began in 1892.

It also would be the lowest snowfall total since the official monitoring site was moved from Felts Field to Spokane International Airport in 1947. Observations were taken downtown from 1892 to 1931.

Meteorologists said the higher elevation at the airport at 2,372 feet results in greater snowfall amounts. Downtown is at about 1,850 feet.

Two lower snowfall totals were recorded in the 1933-’34 season, when 9.5 inches fell, and in the 1904-’05 season, with 11.1 inches.

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