The first 12 days of May were certainly one of the warmest and driest in recorded history across the Inland Northwest. Normal high temperatures at this time of year are in the low to mid-60s at Spokane International Airport.
From May 6 through Mother’s Day afternoon, high temperatures broke the 80-degree mark in Spokane. The highest occurred on three consecutive days, May 9, 10 and 11, with a reading of 86 degrees. The average temperature at the airport through Sunday was a whopping 10.3 degrees above normal levels before showers and cooler temperatures moved into the region.
Until 0.25 inches of rain fell Monday, only a trace of moisture was reported at the airport in May. The normal precipitation through the middle of May is slightly more than a half-inch. The abnormal heat and dryness was caused by a very strong ridge of high pressure that locked itself over the Inland Northwest.
While our region experienced one of the warmest and driest early Mays in history, snow and cold have been plaguing parts of the U.S. and northern Europe. Severe frosts, snow and a cold spring have damaged wheat crops and delayed corn planting across many areas in the central U.S. In early May, heavy snows were reported in Iowa. Up to 20 inches of new snow has fallen in the mountains of Colorado.
This spring’s weather pattern is the exact opposite of 2012. Last year, many parts of the Inland Northwest reported the wettest spring ever. At the airport, nearly 10 inches of moisture had fallen through the middle of May 2012. This year, we only have 4.38 inches as of early Tuesday. Farmers in the Midwest were planting early due to abnormally warm weather. The high pressure ridge that locked itself over the central U.S. last year moved over our region this time around.
So where do we go from here? It looks like a sun and showers weather pattern through the middle of June. There will be occasional thunderstorms, but moisture totals are likely to be below normal. It’s quite possible that another round of above-normal heat will move into our area in early June and early July. Summer still looks mostly dry and very warm.
I’m still watching the sea-surface temperature pattern in the south-central Pacific Ocean. It’s starting to point to the developing of a new, cooler La Niña later this year. If this happens, then we may see a colder and perhaps snowier winter across our region.