If there’s one word to describe Spokane’s weather so far this October, it’s probably “mellow.”
Usually by now, we’ve experienced a downpour or two, a couple of days of strong winds, a dust storm and maybe even some snow. For example, you may recall that in 2019, a record-breaking 3.6 inches of snow fell on Oct. 8 to 9. In 2020, we had another record breaker when 6.9 inches arrived on Oct. 23. On Oct. 5, 2011, a band of thunderstorms spawned a tornado in Whitman County that briefly touched down in a wheat field 50 miles south of Spokane.
October 2021 is a whole different story. Last weekend, which marked the start of the month’s latter half, we raked autumn leaves in T-shirts. Temperatures climbed as high as 70 degrees with plenty of sunshine, similar to the conditions we saw at the beginning of the month. Then came cooler, but still pleasant, temperatures and a little rain. Recently came another stretch of warm, blue-sky days.
Yes, the weather has been mellow this month. Especially compared with October 2016. Do you remember it?
By the close of Halloween that year, 6.23 inches of rain had fallen on Spokane, shattering the city’s record for the most rainfall in a single month . (October’s normal precipitation amount is 1.17 inches.) The drenching rains that October were extraordinary in both magnitude and consistency. The month started wet and ended wet, seeing only six out of 31 days without rain.
By Oct. 15 this year, just 0.08 of an inch of rain had fallen in Spokane. By the same date in 2016, 2.84 inches of rain had fallen – with much more soaking on the way. In fact, the total amount of rain that fell that month was roughly one-third of the average precipitation for an entire year. Our region saw plenty of gusty winds as well.
Some of that turbulent weather was fueled by a tropical typhoon centered east of Japan that curved its way into the North Pacific Ocean. As Typhoon Songda moved aloft, it merged with a jet stream, which, in turn, absorbed some of the typhoon’s moisture and energy. Arching its way toward the Pacific Northwest, the system morphed into a series of powerful storm systems that unloaded rain and wind in Washington state.
Where October 2016 was supersaturated and unruly, this October has been so easygoing it could be confused with September.
But as we move deeper into the month, Mother Nature appears to be changing course with a few bumps here and there. A wetter and more active weather pattern is likely this weekend and into next week, courtesy of a stronger Pacific jet stream that’s beginning to impact Washington and Oregon. Temperatures will be cooler, but closer to normal for this time of year.
Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: email@example.com
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.