Our ‘meteorological winter’ wasn’t the coldest

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While most of us observe the spring season later this month, the “meteorological winter” season ended on Feb. 28. March 20 is the beginning of the astronomical spring, or the Vernal Equinox. This is based on the position of the Earth relative to the sun. In two weeks at 3:28 a.m., the sun will be at 90 degrees, or directly overhead, at the Equator, the official start of spring. On Tuesday, June 20, at 9:24 p.m., our summer season begins and many of us can’t wait.

Although we base our seasons on the calendar, most meteorologists and climatologists break down the seasons into groups of three months. For example, the meteorological winter is from December through February. The meteorological summer includes June, July and August, fall begins on Sept. 1 and ends Nov. 30 and the spring includes March, April and May.

According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meteorological seasons are primarily based upon annual temperature cycles. For example, we really start to feel the chilly weather in December and the summer conditions in June. The spring and fall are considered to be “transitional” periods. This system makes it easier for scientists and forecasters to calculate monthly and seasonal statistics. They were created for observing and forecasting weather patterns, which has proven useful for agriculture, commerce and other purposes.

Well, many are telling me that this winter season was one of the toughest in recent memory. On the last day of February, Tuesday the 28th, Coeur d’Alene topped the 100-inch snowfall mark for the fourth time in less than 10 years. For the 2016-17 season to finish in the top 5, we would have to end up with 117.9 inches as the record for fifth-snowiest year was 117.8 inches in 1968-69. Cliff told me that he had 11 inches of snow on the ground on Feb. 1 and again on March 1. We’re very certain we don’t have 11 inches of snow on the ground on April 1.

Back in 2010-11, Cliff measured 121 inches for the fourth-snowiest season in recorded history. In 1915-16, the third snowiest, 124.2 inches fell. In 2008-09, the second all-time, a whopping 145.6 inches of snow fell for the season. Of course, many of us will never forget the snowiest winter season back in 2007-08 with 172.9 inches.

Many residents of North Idaho saw our Facebook video of Cliff’s prediction of 200 inches of snow around the winter of 2020. In case you haven’t seen the video, it’s on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/wxmann. Believe it or not, if all the moisture last month would have come as snow rather than rain, and if our snowfall season started in early November rather than in early December, then we would have probably seen the 200 inches of snow for Coeur d’Alene this season.

Speaking of moisture, Cliff measured an amazing 8.01 inches of rain and melted snow for February. This smashed the all-time record of 6.49 inches set back in 1940. For the 2017 moisture season, we’re already over 11 inches. The normal is 26.77 in?ches for the season.

In terms of temperature for the “meteorological winter” from December 2016 through February 2017, Coeur d’Alene was not even in the top 10 for the coldest readings. The average temperature for the three months was 26.5 degrees. The coldest morning was minus 5 degrees on Dec. 17. There was a stretch from Dec. 5 through Dec. 19 and from Dec. 31 through Jan. 17 when temperatures never went above the freezing mark. In February, there were 19 days when highs were only in the 20s and 30s.

The most frigid three-month period from December through February in Coeur d’Alene was in 1936 and early 1937. The average temperature was 19.8 degrees, the only time the mean reading was below 20 degrees.

January of 1937 was absolutely brutal. The average temperature was only 8.6 degrees and there was 42.5 inches of snow. Coeur d’Alene had an incredible 18 days with lows below the zero mark. The lowest was a minus 22 degrees on January 20, 1937. The average low for that month was minus 2 degrees with an average high of 20 degrees. There was only one day with a high in the 40s. It happened on Jan. 5 with a high of 41 degrees.

AS FAR as our local weather, Cliff and I see more rain and snow through at least the middle of the month. We believe that our annual snowfall total will likely end up between 105 and 110 inches. We also see drier and milder weather finally returning to the area around March 19-25. There’s a chance we’ll see highs warm to near 60 degrees. By the way, the average high on the 20th, the first day of spring, is 51 degrees.

April looks a little drier and warmer than normal as sea-surface temperatures are rising in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Moisture totals are expected to increase again by the middle of May and continue into early June.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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