A few degrees colder could have meant more record snows

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Next Monday, March 20, at 3:28 a.m., the astronomical spring begins. After a very chilly start to March, temperatures are finally warming into the 50s in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas. The last time it was 50 degrees was on Nov. 26, 2016. As I mentioned earlier, the average high for March 20, our first day of spring, is 51 degrees in Coeur d’Alene.

The normal precipitation for this month is 1.94 inches with a normal snowfall is 6.6 inches. As of late last week, Coeur d’Alene already topped its March precipitation normal as over 2 inches of moisture has already fallen. We’ve already seen nearly 12 inches of snow for March, about double normal. Cliff tells me that the record for snow in March was 31.2 inches set back during our big snow year in 2008. Also, we can get the big snows at the end of the month. We got 12.2 inches on March 29, 2008, which led to the closing of area schools.

The wettest March took place in 2012 with 7.51 inches. That was also our biggest year for moisture as 43.27 inches was reported. The previous March record was 5.37 inches in 1916. We have a long way to go for another record-breaking month, but we could come close to second place. Coeur d’Alene has never seen back-to-back months of record-breaking precipitation. But, in this cycle of wide weather “extremes,” anything is possible.

With all of this snow for the season, it’s hard to believe that most of the moisture in February came as rain. Cliff measured 8.01 inches of rain and melted snow last month, another record-breaker. Out of the 8 inches, about 6 inches of that moisture came as rain. Cliff tells me that if conditions would have been a little colder, February could have ended with up 75 to 80 inches of snow instead of the 34.9 inches.

Cliff figured out that since Dec. 1 through the end of February, 62 percent of the moisture that had fallen in Coeur d’Alene came in the form of rain. If two-thirds of the seasonal moisture would have come as snow instead of rain, then we would be very close to the 200-inch season.

In March of 2014, Cliff first predicted a cold and record snowy season around 2020, give or take a year or two. He says that measurable snowfall would start in October and continue through the following April. Places like Rathdrum, Twin Lakes, Priest Lake, Athol and others may see snowfall totals from 250 to 300 inches. Mountain locations could see seasonal snowfall totals from 600 to a whopping 700 inches.

Not only will that winter be unbelievably snowy, but it should also be much colder than normal throughout the inland Northwest. Cliff forecasts that average temperatures may run at least 6 to 10 degrees below normal all winter. There could be at least 27 days in that winter season with subzero readings and two or three mornings below minus 20 degrees. He also expects at least a dozen big snowstorms that produce at least a foot of the white stuff. Wow!

For this pattern to develop, we need to see one of the strongest cold water ‘La Nina’ sea-surface temperature patterns in recorded history develop in the eastern Pacific Ocean regions. At the same time, we’ll be near a solar minimum in terms of sunspot activity. The frigid ‘circumpolar vortex’ should also back up bringing subzero Arctic air into our part of the country that for several months on end and will collide head-on with copious amounts of moisture from a stationary low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska. Over the last month, we’ve had a low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska that has directed storm after storm into our region.

If the prediction holds up, January of that snowy year will likely break the all-time snowfall record of 82.4 inches set back in 1969, when there were a number of building collapses in the region.

His month-by-month winter snowfall projections include: October: 2.6 inches, November: 21.8 inches, December: 44.7 inches, January: 102.2 inches, February: 26.6 inches, March: 13.3 inches, April: 3.9 inches. May: Trace.

If you want to see Cliff’s interview about this big snowy winter, it’s available on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/wxmann.

IN TERMS of our local weather, after the expected mild conditions over the next few days with highs in the 50s, more wet weather is expected through the end of the month. There may be some snow showers develop early next week before temperatures warm up again, perhaps to near 60 degrees near that first day of spring. The end of the month and early April may produce some snow showers as well, but Cliff and I do see warmer and drier conditions arriving in April.

Moisture totals are expected to increase again by the middle of May and continue into early June. The summer of 2016 may turn out to be hotter and drier than normal if sea-surface temperatures continue to climb in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Don’t be surprised if we hear about the formation of the warmer El Nino later in the spring or summer. Stay tuned.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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