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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: Blame the unseasonable ‘river in the sky’ for much of the June rain

July 6, 2022 Updated Wed., July 6, 2022 at 8:56 p.m.

 (Courtesy)
(Courtesy)
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

Now that June has come and gone, what’s the first word that comes to mind when you recall the month’s weather?

How about “wet”? By June standards, it was wetter than normal, not only in western Washington but here in the Inland Northwest.

With 2.46 inches of rainfall, Spokane posted its 11th-wettest June on record, according to the National Weather Service Spokane. Considering the average precipitation total is 1.18 inches for the month, the city ran well above normal.

Meanwhile, the 3.94 inches of rain that fell in Pullman made it the all-time wettest June ever recorded.

Typically our region enters the dry season in June. So what happened?

Most of the rain occurred during the first half of the month, triggered by several storm systems and a late-season atmospheric river that bore down on the Pacific Northwest. The atmospheric river – a narrow corridor of overhead water vapor that streamed from the tropical Pacific – unloaded drenching rains and abnormally cool temperatures. The bulk of the rain fell in Western Washington and Oregon. Seattle recorded 1.10 inches of rainfall in a single day on June 9, almost as much rain that normally falls in the entire month.

As the atmospheric river moved farther inland across the Cascade Range, downpours decreased in intensity but remained strong by eastern Washington standards, especially for the month of June. (Most atmospheric rivers occur in the fall and winter.) The heaviest rains associated with the pattern hit the Inland Northwest and northern Idaho on June 12-13. On June 13, not only did 0.72 inches of rain fall in Spokane, but it marked the coldest day of June, with a high temperature of only 51 degrees – 22 degrees below normal for that date. With the summer solstice a little more than a week away, the combination of rainfall and cooler-than-normal temperatures had many of us feeling seasonally disoriented.

This changed on June 22, when the high temperature in Spokane hit 80 degrees for the first time in 2022. That date tied the record for the latest 80-degree day since records began in 1881. The mercury typically hits 80 degrees in Spokane in mid-May.

Finally, on June 27 there was no doubt that summer was here when Spokane reached a high of 93 degrees, the hottest weather of the year so far.

June 2022 was wetter and cooler than normal, but not drastically so. Nonetheless, conditions may have felt jarring compared to the same period a year ago. Where Spokane didn’t hit 80 degrees until June 22 this year, the first time it hit 80 degrees in 2021 was on May 6. And while 93 degrees certainly felt hot on June 27, last June’s heat was more intense and prolonged. For example, June 2021 closed with seven days of 90-degree-plus days and four days at 100 degrees or higher. Also, Spokane saw 11 days of measurable rainfall this June, compared to only two days in June 2021.

Speaking of rain, July 2022 certainly got off to a soggy start, with widely scattered thunderstorms and showers moving into the Inland Northwest on Saturday evening and intermittently striking in parts of the region on Sunday and into the Fourth of July.

The next few days are expected to be rain-free, with daytime temperatures reaching near 80 degrees and overnight lows hovering in the upper 50s. July weather at its finest.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: ldweiford@gmail.com.

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