The past two summer seasons in the Inland Northwest combined were one of the driest and hottest on record.
For parts of Eastern Washington and Western Montana, the summer of 2007 was the hottest and driest summer ever. Only the fire-ravaged summers of 1967 and 1968 were hotter and drier than 2006 and 2007.
Despite what many longtime area residents claim, a hot summer doesn’t always yield a cold and snowy subsequent winter season.
Sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean regions and the upper-level jet stream flows seem to dictate what kind of winter we’ll see far more than the previous summer’s weather patterns.
Recently, I’ve been asked as to what type of weather patterns normally follow an extremely hot and dry summer.
In other words, “how much snow will fall this upcoming winter and will the skiing be as good as last season?”
Out of the previous 10 hot summers since 1888, only four subsequent winter seasons could be described as unusually snowy in the Spokane area. The other six winters tended to be drier than usual with wide temperature variations.
The total seasonal snowfall amounts ranged from a meager 15.9 inches in 1929-30, which was also the driest summer ever with .07 inches, to 52.7 inches in 2000-01.
For an incredible 132 straight days, from Nov. 8, 2000 to March 6, 2001, Coeur d’Alene never saw bare ground in the downtown area.
Spokane likewise set a new mark for continuous snow cover at 117 days in 2000-01.
The normal snowfall for Spokane’s International Airport is 40.9 inches with 66.7 inches for Coeur d’Alene.
The snowiest winter after a hot and dry summer occurred in 1968-69. The airport measured 77.9 inches. January of 1969 was also Spokane’s snowiest month ever with an amazing 48.7 inches.
Coeur d’Alene picked up an all-time monthly record of 82.4 inches and finished the season with a whopping 117.8 inches of snow.
Area residents remember playing football, basketball and even some golf on a balmy Christmas Day in 1968, which followed an extremely dry, fire-ravaged late summer and early autumn period in the Inland Northwest.
But, shortly before New Year’s Eve, winter arrived with a vengeance for an extended visit as cold and snowy weather moved into the region.
With the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event – La Nina – continuing to strengthen in the south-central Pacific, the chances for a colder and snowier winter season are a bit higher.
It’s been quite chilly already in our part of the country, the opposite of the record heat seen this October east of the Mississippi River.
Moderate to heavy snows fell last week in the higher mountains of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Utah and Wyoming.
This warm spell that many are enjoying now should be replaced by much cooler and wetter weather by no later than the middle of next month.
A mix of rain and snow is expected in the lower elevations with heavier snows in the higher mountains.
If this scenario works out, the chances of an early ski season, or one that at least arrives on time, are very good!
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.