The big weather change is here

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Our big weather change arrived on schedule last week as rain and snow moved across our region. Our first measurable snowfall for the season happened last Friday, Nov. 3. As of early Sunday afternoon, Cliff has measured over 7 inches of snow. Port Angeles, Wash., on the western side of the state, had some light snow with a snow and rain mix in Seattle last Friday.

Later this week, we’ll have more rain and snow with another good chance of rain and snow around the early portion of next week in the lower elevations with additional snow in the mountains. The middle of this month, around the 18th or 19th, looks promising for more snow in the lower elevations.

I heard that area residents were switching out their regular tires for snow tires in record numbers for so early in the season. Winter seems to have begun a little early. And, it’s only the beginning.

Conditions in the Gulf of Alaska, where many of our storms originate, have become fairly active in recent weeks. The weather pattern is set up to allow more storm systems to stream across North Idaho and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. Cliff and I expect to see more snow in the mountains and even in the lower elevations. However, as is always the case, at this time of year, some of that moisture will probably come as rain.

November of 2017 is expected to end up with above average precipitation and snowfall. The normal snowfall for November is 8.7 inches. Last year, in November of 2016, we had only traces of the white stuff. But, things quickly changed last December as 35.4 inches of snow was reported. When the season for snow ended on June 30, 2017, Cliff measured a whopping 115.6 inches, compared to a normal of 69.8 inches. That was the fourth time in less than 10 years that Coeur d’Alene reported over 100 inches of snowfall for a season.

Back in 2010-11, Cliff measured 121 inches for the fourth snowiest 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.

With a strengthening cooler than normal sea-surface temperature pattern, La Nina, in the south-central Pacific Ocean, the chances are very good that we’ll have another year with above normal snowfall. Cliff and I are currently predicting 85 to 90 inches of snow for the 2017-18 season. But, it’s possible we may have another season with over 100 inches. It seems that we’re off to an early start already.

Thanks to the cooler La Nina and low sunspot activity, we could also see more frigid temperatures near the zero mark in December and January. Many of us will remember that the first three weeks of January of 2017 were certainly one of the coldest in history. From the 1st through the 17th, Coeur d’Alene’s high temperature was below the freezing mark.

During that time, the normal high temperature during that time was only 25 degrees, or 11 degrees below normal. The average low at Cliff’s station the was only 12 degrees. We don’t think we’ll have a long streak of frigid weather like we did last January, but there will be plenty of cold weather this late fall and winter season.

The coldest winter in recorded history was from December of 1949 through February of 1950, the time-frame which scientists classify as a “meteorological winter.” The mean temperature during those frigid three months only 12.4 degrees. January of 1950 was brutally cold with an average high of 22.2 degrees and an average low of 0.1 degrees.

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 in recorded history since 1895.

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 reading was minus 22 degrees on Jan. 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.

Cliff tells me that area residents are asking if this will be the big year with snowfall totals in Coeur d’Alene near 200 inches. At this point in time, we don’t think this is the season. But, anything is possible. If over half of the moisture that fell last winter came as snow rather than rain, then we would have seen that 200-inch total in Coeur d’Alene. Regardless, it could be an interesting winter season.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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