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Washington Voices

Summer shaping up to be drier, warmer than norm

Thu., June 23, 2011

In many areas across the Inland Northwest, the first six months of 2011 have been the wettest in recorded history, especially in Idaho and Montana. As of early this week, Spokane International Airport has received 11.01 inches of rain and melted snow. The average for the January through June period is approximately 8.70 inches.

In Coeur d’Alene, a whopping 21.69 inches of moisture has fallen since Jan. 1. The normal is about 13.35 inches. The seasonal average is 26.77 inches, so another wet year is likely, despite a drier than expected summer season.

Speaking of summer, our weather finally felt like that on Tuesday and Wednesday. Summer officially began on Tuesday. That day was also the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s also the longest day, in terms of sunlight hours, in the Northern Hemisphere and, by contrast, the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere.

But the dates of the earliest sunrise and latest sunset do vary from place to place. Proximity in various time zones and elevation will result in these differences. However, the longest day in Spokane did fall on Tuesday with a total of 15 hours and 15 minutes and 47 seconds of daylight.

Our planet has the four seasons because the Earth is tilted on its axis by approximately 23.5 degrees. In our summer, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, allowing us to receive more direct sunlight.

In our winter, it’s the opposite as the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. This results in much shorter days as the sun angle is lower.

Believe it or not, we are about 3 million miles farther away from the sun now than during the winter season. Distance from the sun has very little to do with year-round changes in temperature, as the tilt of our planet primarily dictates the four seasons.

It looks like we’re finally entering a period of drier and warmer weather. I don’t expect the next several weeks to be rainless, but we should definitely see less rain.

The rest of the summer should be drier and warmer than normal. The cooler La Niña sea-surface temperature pattern in the south-central Pacific Ocean is gone. However, ocean temperatures are climbing to the point that we may be talking about a new El Niño in the next two to four months.

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