March came in like a roaring lion, across the Inland Northwest.
For the first two days of the month, the Spokane International Airport received 5.7 inches of snowfall, bringing the seasonal total to 37.5 inches. The normal is about 41 inches. It’s hard to believe that at the end of January, the airport had only 9.8 inches of snow for the season.
In Coeur d’Alene and other places in North Idaho, snowfall totals are much higher. As of early Tuesday, Coeur d’Alene has received more than 66 inches since the start of the season, and more than 50 inches since Jan. 28.
The intense cold and snow has changed to rain and warmer temperatures that will likely cause some lowland flooding through the rest of this week.
While our region was getting snow, California received some much-needed rain. Within a short period of time, many parts of the Golden State have gone from severe drought to flooding. However, despite the heavy rainfall, moisture totals are still below normal levels and it won’t be long before the region dries up from the rebuilding high pressure system.
This recent major weather change may be the result of some cooling of sea-surface temperatures along the equatorial regions and the west coast of South America over the last month. Climate scientists state that we’re in a La Nada, the in-between the cooler La Niña and the warmer El Niño sea-surface temperature pattern. Historically, when ocean waters cool to below normal levels, rain and snow increases in our region. This has certainly been the case for February.
Many of the climate models are projecting the sea-surface temperatures to warm up later this year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we’ll likely stay in a La Nada pattern into summer and could be talking about a weak El Niño late in the year But, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a weak La Niña form in the next several months.
Looking ahead into the rest of March and spring, I still see warmer and, hopefully, sunnier days around the middle of the month. It’s possible that we will see afternoon high temperatures soar into the 50s and perhaps into the 60s near St. Patrick’s Day. Long-range computer models have a building ridge of high pressure bringing in warm southwesterly winds from the Pacific Ocean around this month’s full moon on March 16.
Spring arrives in two weeks, on March 20. Don’t forget to turn those clocks ahead one hour Saturday evening as Daylight Saving Time begins.