October 27, 2011 in Washington Voices

La Niña influence in region’s winter uncertain

Randy Mann

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, La Niña, the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature phenomenon in the south-central Pacific Ocean, has returned. For the last several weeks, this La Niña has been classified as weak, but has recently has shown signs of strengthening that may soon be classified as a moderate La Niña. It’s also possible that this event may become strong by the end of the year.

During our heavy snow years that were influenced by La Niña, solar activity was extremely low. But, sunspot numbers have been increasing dramatically over the last few weeks which may indicate that the sun is becoming more active in terms of solar storms and energy output. There have been several years when we’ve had a La Niña and a higher number of sunspots that led to below-average snowfall totals.

Based on the current information, the Spokane International Airport should end up with approximately 49 to 53 inches of snow for the 2011-’12 season. The normal is about 46 inches. I predict from 52 to 56 inches of snow in the Spokane Valley with 55 to 59 inches falling along Spokane’s South Hill. Coeur d’Alene’s snowfall total is projected to be from 77 to 81 inches. The first measurable snowfall over much of the region is expected near Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

I don’t believe this year will rank in the top 10 for highest or lowest snowfall, but anything is possible in this cycle of wide weather extremes.

Below are the 10 highest snowfall records for Spokane.

1. 2008-’09: 97.8 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,

1. 1933-’34: 9.5 inches

2. 1904-’05: 11.1 inches

3. 1980-’81: 14.2 inches

4. 2009-’10: 14.4 inches

5. 1901-’02: 14.5 inches

6. 1923-’24: 14.6 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.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrange weather.com.

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