We recently passed the halfway point of meteorological winter. Winter runs from Dec. 1 until March 1 in the meteorological world. How has the season stacked up so far in the Inland Northwest? Challenging in some ways and steady in others. Here’s a summary of Spokane’s weather from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15.
Despite the abundance of snow that fell during December, we ended up with a less-than-average snowfall amount by mid-winter. A total of 17.3 inches of snow fell during the season’s first six weeks, when on average, we get 20.3 inches during that period. Here’s why: the above-average amount of snow that fell in December (16.9 inches compared to an average of 13.8 inches), was undermined by the far below-average amount that fell during the first two weeks of January (0.4 inches compared to an average of 6.5 inches).
December was cold and snowy, with an average snow depth of about 11 inches and a peak of 15 inches just before Christmas. Instead of being walloped by a major snowstorm, snow accumulated across multiple days. Measurable snowfall occurred on 12 of 31 days – with the heaviest snowfall events being 5 inches on Dec. 10, 3.6 inches on Dec. 8 and 2.7 inches on Dec. 20. Also in December, 23 days were colder than normal.
An arctic air mass engulfed the Inland Northwest a few days before Christmas. Beginning on Dec. 20, there were four consecutive days when temperatures ran at least 20 degrees colder than normal. The coldest temperatures occurred on Dec. 22 when Spokane experienced a low of minus 10 and a high of 4, making it the coldest date of 2022 and 2023 so far.
Leading up to Christmas Day, several rounds of snow and freezing rain disrupted travel on roads and in the air. At Spokane International Airport, many flights were delayed and some canceled. Meanwhile, motorists encountered slippery highways as snowplow crews worked to keep up with icy conditions and falling snow. Then, on Dec. 27, temperatures rose into the mid -40s with more than a half-inch of rainfall that caused localized flooding, mounds of slush and large puddles.
After riding a weather roller coaster in December, the first half of January was more like a kiddie train ride. Temperatures were mild. The area experienced only a light freezing rain, and it barely snowed. In fact, high temperatures ran above freezing almost every day. Even the overnight lows occasionally ran above freezing. And one more thing: Snow was consistently on the ground during December and none by Jan. 15.
But that changed last weekend. At the cusp of winter’s second half, 1.8 inches of snow fell in Spokane Saturday night into Sunday shortly past midnight. This work week has been fairly pleasant, with calm conditions, some patchy fog, normal temperatures and even occasional sunshine. But big changes are in store. Two systems are expected to roll through the Inland Northwest. The first should bring snow and blustery winds to much of the region tomorrow and Saturday. And a second system swooping down from western British Columbia could deliver a blast of arctic air Saturday night through Tuesday . Low temperatures could hover around zero on Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service Spokane.
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.