January 27, 2011 in Washington Voices

Second half of winter likely to be less snowy

By The Spokesman-Review
 

With January coming to a close next week, it appears that the second half of this winter will see less snow than the first half. At Spokane International Airport, 50.3 inches of snow has fallen since November. Coeur d’Alene has measured nearly 80 inches of snow. However, the fast start to the snowy season has slowed way down in recent weeks.

If we don’t see another flake of snow in the Spokane area, we’ll still be above normal for the season. During an average year, the airport receives 45.6 inches of snow.

The harsh weather pattern that brought our region storm after storm late last year has moved to the east. Areas in the Midwest and East are experiencing heavy snowfalls and bitterly cold temperatures as a series of storms move across those areas. The chilly weather has been felt all the way down into Florida. With the frigid conditions to the east, milder air has been moving northward into the Inland Northwest. Much of the moisture since late December has fallen as rain, especially in the lower elevations.

A new pattern of high pressure is expected across our region between now and at least the middle of February. I do expect to see occasional storms, perhaps some snow, but overall precipitation totals should be below average. The high-pressure system also means dry and warm weather over California and the desert Southwest.

Based on climatology, when our region sees moderate to heavy snows in November and December, milder, and sometimes drier conditions, are experienced in January and February as the wintry weather moves to the east. But, in late February and March, Old Man Winter will occasionally move back into the Northwest. I do expect to see increasing snowfall totals in late February and March, but amounts will be much less than what we saw in November. It’s possible the airport could end up near 60 inches of snowfall.

One of the big reasons for the cold and snowy weather across the North America is La Niña, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Since late last year, La Niña has strengthened and does not show any sign of weakening. The cooler ocean waters, combined with the relatively low sunspot activity, may lead to a chilly end of this winter and a wet start to the spring. Stay tuned.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.


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