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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: Unusually warm April give plants an early start

By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford Washington State University

The last time the Inland Northwest saw such a warm April was in 1934. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and a gallon of gasoline cost 10 cents.

Now, with gas costing $2.20 a gallon and the second term of Barack Obama winding down, we just emerged from an April that was almost as balmy.

It got so warm that on some days temperatures in Eastern Washington were on par with Southern California and even Miami.

On April 20, we broke an all-time record for that date when the mercury in Spokane surged to 85 degrees. It topped out at 80 degrees the day before and the day after. The thermometer read unusually high early in the month as well, with April 1 reaching 68 degrees and the 8th hitting 78.

Consider that the first time temperatures reached 80 degrees in 2011 was on June 22 – two months later than this year. And though you might recall that last April enjoyed above normal warmth, this year we’re talking about significantly above-normal warmth.

While it’s uncommon for April to see temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s, that it happened on separate spells is plain rare. So it’s not surprising that the natural world has reacted by springing to life ahead of schedule.

Master gardeners with WSU’s Spokane County extension office report that April’s plant development was so lush that it seemed more like the end of May. Also, instead of tree and shrub species blooming one after another, many bloomed at the same time.

What caused these bursts of heat? Several strong ridges of high pressure drove up the temperatures and drove out the rain. Early indications are that the month of May will see unseasonably warm conditions as well. As you’re seeing, this week is no exception.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: linda.weiford@wsu.edu

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