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Increase in La Niña and sunspots alters snowfall estimate

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, we now have a La Niña, the cooler-than-normal, sea-surface temperatures phenomenon in the south-central Pacific Ocean. For the last several months, this La Niña has been classified as moderate, but has recently shown signs of strengthening after hints of weakening in early October.

In addition to the cooler ocean waters, solar activity continues to be low, but sunspot numbers have been increasing over the last few weeks, which may indicate that the sun is becoming more active in terms of solar storms and energy output.

Based on these scenarios, I still believe that our upcoming winter season should see about 10 percent more snow than average. At Spokane International Airport, snowfall totals should be near 50 inches by the time the season ends on June 30.

Over the last three seasons, our region has placed in the highest and lowest categories for snowfall records. I don’t believe this year will rank in the top 10 for highest or lowest snowfall record, but anything is possible in this cycle of wide weather extremes.

Following are the top 10 highest snowfall records for Spokane.

1. 2008-’09: 96.5 inches

2. 1949-’50: 93.5 inches

3. 2007-’08: 92.6 inches

4. 1974-’75: 89.0 inches

5. 1992-’93: 87.3 inches

6. 1955-’56: 83.2 inches

7. 1964-’65: 81.7 inches

8. 1996-’97: 80.5 inches

9. 1951-’52: 79.6 inches

10. 1968-’69: 77.5 inches

In terms of least snowy winters, here are the top 10 for Spokane, which includes last year’s puny 13.5 inches.

1. 1933-’34: 9.5 inches

2. 1904-’05: 11.1 inches

3. 2009-’10: 13.5 inches

4. 1980-’81: 14.2 inches

5. 1901-’02: 14.5 inches

6. 1923-’24: 15.3 inches

7. 1943-’44: 15.3 inches

8. 1913-’14: 15.8 inches

9. 1929-’30: 15.9 inches

10. 1972-’73: 16.0 inches

It appears we’re entering our cooler- and wetter-than-normal weather pattern across the Inland Northwest. Based on current weather patterns, I still believe that most of the region’s ski areas should be able to open by Thanksgiving weekend. Even Mount Spokane should be able to open by no later than early December.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@

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