Winter of 2012-13 area snowfall predictions

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Every year in late October or early November, I issue my annual city-by-city winter snowfall predictions for our part of the country. In late December, shortly after Christmas, I'll update these seasonal snowfall outlooks as weather patterns dictate.

Last winter, in 2011-12, we measured a healthy 83.4 inches of the white stuff at my station on Player Drive. More than 50 inches of snow fell in January and February of 2012. Our 118-year normal Coeur d'Alene snowfall since 1895 has been 69.8 inches.

It seems that it's 'feast or famine' locally in North Idaho when it comes to snowfall, one 'extreme' to the other depending upon sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean regions and other various weather factors.

For example, during a chilly 'La Nina' event in the winter of 2007-08, we gauged an all-time record 172.9 inches of snowfall on Player Drive. The next winter saw 145.6 inches of snow in town giving us an incredible two-season total of 318.5 inches, more than 100 inches greater than the 1915-17 total of 217.6 inches of snow. Many buildings in the area collapsed in early January of 2008 and again in early 2009.

Then, in 2009-10, thanks to an unusually warm 'El Nino' event in the eastern Pacific waters, our Coeur d'Alene snowfall was a puny 18.4 inches, a whopping 51.4 inches below normal, again one 'extreme' to the other in short order.

This time around, Randy Mann tells us that we are currently in a cooler and wetter 'La Nada' sea-surface temperature cycle, or the in-between El Nino and La Nina events.

Since 'La Nada' tends to produce between 5 percent and 20 percent more snowfall than normal across the Inland Empire, here are my city-by-city, station-by-station seasonal snowfall projections for the upcoming winter of 2012-13:

1. Area ski resorts should see somewhere between 195 inches at Mt. Spokane to 410 inches of snow this winter with the heaviest totals near the Idaho/Montana border at Lookout Pass.

2. Priest Lake: 96 to 100 inches.

3. Spirit Lake: 93 to 97 inches.

4. Twin Lakes: 92 to 96 inches.

5. Rathdrum: 90 to 94 inches.

6. Sandpoint: 89 to 93 inches.

7. Wallace: 88 to 92 inches.

8. Hauser Lake: 86 to 90 inches.

9. Kellogg (town): 85 to 89 inches.

10. Hayden Lake (above 2,400 feet): 84 to 88 inches.

11. Athol/Garwood: 83 to 87 inches.

12. Hayden (town): 80 to 84 inches.

13. NW Coeur d'Alene (my station on Player Drive): 77 to 81 inches.

14. Fernan Lake: 78 to 82 inches.

15. Dalton Gardens: 76 to 80 inches.

16. St. Maries: 75 to 79 inches.

17. Hope: 74 to 78 inches.

18. Kalispell, Mont.: 72 to 76 inches.

19. Coeur d'Alene (downtown near The Coeur d'Alene Resort): 68 to 72 inches.

20. Post Falls: 67 to 71 inches.

21. Harrison: 65 to 69 inches.

22. Missoula, Mont.: 61 to 65 inches.

23. Spokane (South Hill): 55 to 59 inches.

24. Spokane Valley: 52 to 56 inches.

25. Bayview: 51 to 55 inches.

26. Spokane International Airport: 49 to 53 inches.

Next week, we'll feature the likely weather prospects for the winter of 2012-13 across the entire U.S., zone-by-zone.


Our prolonged cycle of WIDE WEATHER 'EXTREMES' was certainly evident locally in North Idaho and the rest of the Pacific Northwest during the month of October.

The first 12 days of the month were bone-dry and unusually cold. Our lowest reading last month was on Oct. 5, when the mercury dipped to 28 degrees at my station on Player Drive with a hard freeze killing some of my wife Sharon's leafy plants. Our highest temperature of 72 degrees occurred on Oct. 10. Leaves remained on the trees much longer than usual this fall of 2012. A 'trace' of snow fell in town on Oct. 24.

Our record-breaking mid summer/early fall drought of 84 days didn't end until our long-predicted 'major weather change' on the 'new moon' phase of Oct.13 arrived precisely on schedule. Our only measurable rainfall locally in town between July 20 and Oct. 12 was a puny .23 inches on Aug. 21 from scattered thunderstorms.

During this period, normally much wetter Seattle gauged only 0.06 inches of precipitation, the most severe dry spell in the city's recorded weather history dating back to the early 1880s.

But, once the rains finally returned on Oct. 13, they never stopped through Halloween and the writing of this column on Thursday morning, Nov. 1. Remember, previous to the record three-month drought, we 'enjoyed' the wettest spring season on record in North Idaho dating back to at least 1895 in Coeur d'Alene.

Our total October 2012 precipitation on Player Drive was 2.98 inches, 0.76 inches above the normal monthly rainfall of 2.22 inches. We could still break our all-time record annual precipitation mark of 38.77 inches in the ICE STORM year of 1996, if we see above normal rainfall in November and December as expected with the current 'La Nada' (in between El Nino and La Nina) sea-surface temperature event in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Between 25 and 35 inches of snow should fall in Coeur d'Alene between now and Jan. 1, 2013. We'll have more details on this snowy outlook next week. Stay tuned.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. Email

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