March 20, 2014 in Washington Voices

Weather: Springing away from a cold winter

By The Spokesman-Review
 

With the equinox, one of the coldest winter seasons in recent memory across much of the U.S., especially east of the Rockies, comes to an end.

Ice coverage on the Great Lakes topped 92.2 percent this season. The all-time record was a 94.7 percent ice coverage that was measured in 1979. With forecasts of milder weather, it’s not likely that the Great Lakes will break that record.

I don’t think many folks will mind the warmer temperatures. It was the coldest winter in history across parts of the northern Great Plains. There were 93 days in a row when Grand Forks, N.D., didn’t even go above zero.

Lake Champlain, which separates northern Vermont and northern New York, is the sixth largest in the country and as of March 9, “Lake Champlain is frozen solid, except for two stretches of open water where two ferries carry passengers between Vermont and New York. The only open water within miles is attracting thousands of ducks and bald eagles looking to eat the ducks,” according to the Associated Press.

About a century ago, the lake would routinely freeze over during the winter. In the 1990s, during the peak of the Earth’s temperature, it only froze over three times. Lake Champlain last froze over completely in 2007.

An article in USA Today said the severe winter season has led to damages of about $5 billion. However, when you factor in travel and transportation losses and other business disruptions, the figure comes close to $10 billion.

Despite the high cost of this winter season, it does not rank as the costliest on record. In 1993, one storm caused more than $9 billion in damage. Superstorm Sandy had a cost of $65 billion and the 2012 Midwest and Great Plains drought was $35 billion in losses.

We could see additional crop losses from drought and heat in the nation’s midsection later this summer, in addition to another tough fire season for the West and other severe weather conditions across the country later this year.

In terms of our weather, the first 10 days of March were the wettest on record across parts of the Inland Northwest. And, some areas did see a 60-degree temperature on March 12.

Today is the first day of spring and our weather pattern is expected to be a bit milder than normal with occasional showers and thunderstorms.


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