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Idaho Voices

Early coolness a predictor of snowy winter

Sun., Sept. 5, 2010

My husband wants us to purchase a snowblower.

Normally, one wouldn’t be thinking about such purchases during the last month of summer, but a few events have pushed the idea to the forefront.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, the waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have cooled, marking the beginnings of La Niña. I know I don’t have to remind anyone about the La Niña winters of 2007-’08 and 2008-’09.

Secondly, on the last day of August, numerous records were broken because of the unseasonably cold weather. High temperatures in the low 60s broke the record for “coldest high temperature” in both Wenatchee and Ephrata, Wash. At the Mullan Pass weather station (elevation 6,100 feet), the high was only 45 degrees! Spokane and Coeur d’Alene also saw afternoon temperatures around 15 degrees below normal, with highs only in the lower 60s.

Finally, a preview of winter weather came early at the summit of Big Mountain in Whitefish, Mont., (elevation 6,817 feet), which received three inches of snow last Sunday. Of course, incidents like these – and even La Niña conditions – don’t necessarily point to another record breaking winter season, but it’s likely that we’ll see above normal amounts of snow.

Speaking of wintry weather, last week’s cool temperatures made me think about how much time our gardens have left. Average date of the first freeze comes early across North Idaho, around mid-September, though for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, Mother Nature tends to keep things above freezing until the first week of October.

Switching gears, it’s not the cold, but the heat, that has made news across the northeast United States. While we experienced a relatively mild summer, folks from Washington, D.C., to Caribou, Maine, have really been sweating it out over the last five months. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, 28 cities in the northeast set record highs for average temperature from March through August.

Though temperatures locally never surpassed mid-90s and Southern California saw the chilliest July on record, 17 nations across the globe recorded all-time high temperatures this year.

And it’s nice and warm across the tropical Atlantic. Ocean temperatures need to be at a minimum of 80 degrees to support tropical storm formation, and September is the peak month of the Atlantic hurricane season. As I write this, hurricane Earl is threatening the Eastern Seaboard, tropical storm Fiona is right behind it threatening Bermuda, and farther out lies tropical depression Gaston.

Michelle Boss can be reached at weatherboss@comcast.net


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