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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Weathercatch: October weather flaunts, just like its autumn leaves

The formation of fog increases during October in the Inland Northwest. It appeared over the Palouse on Sunday morning.  (Linda Weiford)
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

“October is the month of painted leaves,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1862. Were he alive today, he might include pumpkins, hoodies, hot apple cider and the weather. After all, the month brings a meteorological shakeup that’s as much of a seasonal spectacle as its colorful autumn hues.

Sandwiched between the summerlike mild temperatures and dryness of September and the winterlike coolness and precipitation of November, October’s atmosphere is in a near-constant mode of push and pull. Consequently, it’s typically heaped with more weather changes and quirks than any other month.

Here are some examples of what heads our way in the Inland Northwest during this pivotal month of the year:

  • Increasing fog. Did you see the morning fog that cast silvery tendrils against a backdrop of rolling hills and autumn leaves on Sunday? Lengthening nights, increasing moisture and cooler temperatures cause fog formations to increase during October.
  • Lingering warmth. It’s not unusual for the early part of the month to deliver sunny skies and warm temperatures in a parting shot from summer. The delightful weather that moved in on Wednesday fits the bill, and it’s expected to get nicer. Plenty of sunshine and highs in the mid-70s are predicted in the Spokane area this weekend.
  • More precipitation. Although October sometimes runs on the dry side in our region, it typically marks the beginning of the wet season. Spokane’s average rainfall rises from 0.58 inches in September to 0.8 inches in October.
  • Cooling temperatures. In the Spokane area, the average high dips from 66 degrees in early October to 50 degrees by Halloween. The average overnight low drops from 42 degrees to 34.
  • First freeze. Although the overnight low hovers around 34 degrees by Halloween, there’s still enough variability during the month to produce a first freeze when temperatures dip to 32 or below. October’s daily high temperatures rarely drop to 32 degrees or below. Since 1881, when the National Weather Service began recording temperatures in Spokane, we found two exceptions. The first was during an extraordinarily early cold spell in 1935, when the daily high temperature ran in the upper 20s from Oct. 29-31. The second was a high of 31 degrees on Oct. 28, 1991.
  • Early season snow. Spokane’s snow records began in 1893. Since then, the area has received measurable snowfall in 20 out of 130 years during October. It’s interesting to note that two of those occurred in recent years. In 2020, a record-breaking 7.5 inches of snow fell during the month, and 3.6 inches fell in 2019.

From summer’s sequel to winter’s prelude, October weather is never dull.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek.