Pattern of ‘extremes’ continues for our region

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The Inland Northwest continues to endure one extreme weather pattern after another. Many forecasters and scientists are saying this part of the country has been the most “extreme” for 2017 thanks to the cold and wet winter and spring, and now one of the hottest and driest summers in history.

The question that I’m hearing now is, “when will the heat and smoke subside?” Well, Cliff and I think that this hot and dry pattern is going to be with us for at least the next one to two weeks. But, there may be an isolated thunderstorm that sneaks in from the mountains. The “new moon” cycle around Aug. 21 may bring us an increased chance of showers and thunderstorms.

The reason it’s so smoky is that the clockwise circulation around the huge high pressure system has been pulling smoke from the wildfires in Canada and Montana. We’re also getting some of that bad air from Washington as well as the 2017 fire season in the West may be one of the worst in recorded history.

About 670,000 acres are currently burning from more than 40 fires in the Far West. Montana has 12 blazes as of late last week. There are eight fires in both Oregon and Idaho, with five in Washington. California has nine wildfires. From Jan. 1 through Aug. 5, more than 5.7 million acres have burned, which is the third highest since 2010. By comparison, in 2011 more than 6.1 million acres burned from Jan. 1 through Aug. 5.

In British Columbia in Canada, there have been more than 860 wildfires for the summer season. Conditions are so bad that firefighters from Mexico and other areas are coming in to help with the blazes. Nearly 1,900 square miles of land has “gone up in smoke,” making this summer the worst for wildfires in 60 years in British Columbia.

In addition to the smoke in the West, high temperatures across our region continue to be well above normal. For the summer season, July was 3.8 degrees above normal while August is currently 4.9 degrees higher than average in Coeur d’Alene. Cliff tells me that the hottest summer was in 1967 when we were 9.5 degrees warmer than normal.

However, this summer is certainly one of the driest in history. Since June 30, Coeur d’Alene has only measured 0.03 inches of rain. In Spokane, there has been no measurable rainfall for July. Cliff informs me that we’re in the “top 5” in terms of dry summers here in Coeur d’Alene.

Seattle, the city known for clouds and rain, will break a record for the longest streak without any measurable moisture. The last time Seattle reported measurable rainfall was on June 17. With no rain expected, Seattle will surpass its old record of 51 consecutive days without at least 0.01 inches of moisture from July 7 to Aug. 26, 1951.

This hot and smoky summer comes in the heels of the wettest spring in history. And, despite the record long dry spell, Seattle and Portland are currently experiencing their second wettest year to date. For example, Portland, Ore. has received 29.26 inches of rain and melted snow for the 2017 season, which is 9 inches above average. In Seattle, the airport has picked up 28.40 inches, also 9 inches above average.

In Coeur d’Alene, our seasonal total stands at 25.91 inches, compared to a normal of about 15 inches to date. Our yearly average is 26.77 inches.

And, let’s not forget we had one of the coldest and wettest winter seasons across the Northwest. Coeur d’Alene topped the 100-inch snowfall mark for the fourth time in less than 10 years with 115.4 inches. That is the sixth highest total in recorded history.

For the fall of 2017, it looks like it will start out warmer and drier than normal. Cliff and I expect to see the moisture increase later in October and November. However, we’re in-between the warmer El Nino and cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern, which is referred to as “La Nada.” These situations are a little tricky, especially forecasting winter weather events.

It all depends on the position of that huge high pressure system. If the high doesn’t migrate to the east or back toward the west, our winter could end up drier than normal. This wouldn’t surprise us as we often see the opposite extreme the following year. In other words, we go from wet and cold to dry and mild. Right now, we still think it will be a more “normal” winter season, but that could change. Stay tuned.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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