October 14, 2010 in Washington Voices

Wetter winter still unlikely to shatter snowfall records

Randy Mann

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, we now have La Niña, the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the south-central Pacific Ocean. For the last several months, this La Niña has been classified as “moderate” but did show a few brief signs of weakening within the last several weeks.

In addition to the cooler ocean waters, solar activity continues to be low. But sunspot numbers have been increasing since August. That may indicate that the sun is becoming more active in terms of solar storms and energy output.

Based on these scenarios, our upcoming winter season should see about 10 percent more snow than average. We should not be near the record-breaking winter of 2008-’09, with 96.5 inches, nor the near-record snowfalls during the winter of 2007-’08, with 92.6 inches. However, I’m expecting much more snow this time around than the puny 13.5 inches measured last season.

Despite La Niña, if the warmer air from the south manages to make it this far north and collides with the colder air from Canada, it’s possible we may see freezing rain and perhaps a dangerous ice storm, especially in the valleys east of the Cascades.

I expect to see widely fluctuating temperature readings, from the milder side to very cold in a short period of time. The most frigid part of the winter should not arrive until at least mid-January. Readings at that time may be near or below zero.

Our normal seasonal snowfall at Spokane International Airport is 45.6 inches. Coeur d’Alene’s normal snowfall is 66.7 inches.

Although I may have to change or update these snowfall predictions, totals at the airport are expected to be 45 to 50 inches. Spokane’s South Hill should measure 50 to 55 inches, with Spokane Valley near 40 to 45 inches. Coeur d’Alene’s totals should range from 65 to 70 inches near the resort, to about 75 to 80 inches in the outlying areas.

Mount Spokane should measure at least 180 to 200 inches of snow, with 300 to 325 inches at Lookout Pass.

Overall, the early part of winter should see more snow than the second half of the season. By early next year, I expect La Niña to weaken, which would likely decrease the chances of heavier snow totals in the region.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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