The April cold is everywhere

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The weather around North Idaho last week felt more like early February rather than early April. We had cold rain, snow and occasionally gusty winds. Many people have made it clear that they are ready for winter to be done and to bring on spring.

Our normal high temperature at this time of year is in the mid-50s. From April 1-7, highs in Coeur d’Alene were only in the 40s. In fact, it was a very chilly 43 degrees on Friday, April 6. That was only a degree off the low maximum record with a high of only 42 degrees, set over a hundred years ago.

Cliff, who we all know is a great resource for weather information, told me that last Friday was the coldest April 6 in Canada and the United States. Scientists believed that the last time it was this cold across North America on that date was possibly as far back as the mid-1600s. By the way, during the mid-1600s, the Northern Hemisphere was in the middle of the “Little Ice Age.” Cliff and I both agree that these weather patterns are nothing short of “crazy and amazing.”

The early April coldwave was an intense one as the frigid air mass extended from eastern Washington all the way to the East Coast. That’s extremely unusual to see this kind of cold in April. Late last week, freeze warnings were issued down into the Gulf Coast regions. In Havre, Mont., the high last Friday was only 18 degrees, compared to a normal of 51 degrees. Some have said this city had the worst winter in the nation.

Last Saturday morning, low temperatures across the northern U.S. were unbelievably cold. Havre and Great Falls, Mont., went down to 6 degrees. In North Dakota, it was 2 degrees at Grand Forks and minus 3 degrees at Williston.

In terms of snowfall, Cliff measured 0.3 inches on April 6, which takes the seasonal total to 90.2 inches, right on with the original predictions. It’s also remarkable that we ended up with this total as there were two 6-week snow droughts during the winter season. On three different occasions, the snowfall came all at once, something that’s never happened in recorded history.

One possible reason for the unusual late-season cold spell are the extremely low sunspot numbers, or storms on the sun. Over the last 30 days, there were 25 with no visible sunspots. The other 5 days had about 10 to 15 sunspots.

As mentioned in other columns, our sun goes through a cycle about every 11 years with high and low activity. We’re currently headed toward a new solar “minima,” which is not expected to hit the bottom area of the curve until around 2020. It’s only April of 2018 and we’re already seeing extremely low sunspot activity.

Cliff continues to talk about the potential for a big snowy winter during the 2019-2020 season, or perhaps shortly after. We have the low sunspot activity, but we also need a strong, cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event, La Nina, to help bring in the big snows. As usual, only time will tell.

As far as this current wet weather is concerned, Cliff and I believe that we’ll have more showers and afternoon thunderstorms at least into early-to-mid May. Temperatures will also remain a little below normal through at least the end of the month, so keep the jackets handy.

As of late Sunday, Coeur d’Alene has received about 1.57 inches of moisture for April. The normal for this month is 1.77 inches, so it certainly looks like we’re going to have another wet month. Then, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll turn to the drier and warmer side later in May and June.

The big moisture totals will lead to more growth of vegetation across the region, which could create another tough wildfire season. During this wild cycle of wide weather “extremes” for many years, we’ve seen many instances of places going from drought to floods and vice versa in a short period of time.

Last year, there were over 3,400 blazes across the Inland Northwest that burned 1.2 million acres. Officials are already expressing concern over the upcoming season.

Across the rest of the country, officials are already gearing up for another bad year of blazes. The most likely areas for major wildfires would be from Southern California eastward to Texas. Drought conditions have returned to Southern California and many places in the southern portions of the central U.S. have only seen a few decent rainstorms since late last year.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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