We could see less snow next winter as La Niña is gone

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Since last year, we’ve been talking about the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature phenomenon, La Niña. The latest information indicates the phenomenon is officially gone. During most La Niña years, our region will often experience higher-than-normal snowfall seasons. That was the case once again for the 2017-18 season, as an above normal 90.3 inches of snow was measured at Cliff’s station in Coeur d’Alene.

Sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific returned to near-normal levels this month, indicating that we’ve now moved into a La Nada, or in-between the cooler La Niña and warmer El Niño sea-surface temperature events. Last month, ocean waters were cooler along the west coast of South America, indicating that La Niña was barely holding on to life. This month, however, the cooler waters have moderated and are expected to climb for the rest of this year.

Most of the computer models used to predict the La Niña and El Niño events now predict that La Nada will continue through at least the summer season. Then, as the fall and winter approaches, many of the computer forecast models are indicating a 50-50 chance of a weak El Niño forming in late 2018.

If sea-surface temperatures continue to warm up to the point where a new, warmer, El Niño is declared late this year, the winter of 2018-19 for the Inland Northwest may experience less snow than normal. However, despite this new outlook, there’s still the possibility for a white Christmas. Cliff was telling me that we’ve had three years in a row with a white Christmas. Based on his climatological records dating back to 1895, when there are three years in a row with a white Christmas, there has always been a fourth. It’s too early to tell, so stay tuned.

In addition to La Nada, we’re also keeping an eye on the solar activity. For the last three months, there have been many days with no sunspot activity. We’re heading toward a solar “minimum” which is expected to peak around 2020. Therefore, if we get an El Niño later this year and then it quickly flips back to a La Niña, we may be looking at some snowy and very cold winter seasons in Coeur d’Alene and across the Inland Northwest.

In terms of our local weather, we’ve been seeing a pattern of sunshine and very warm conditions to cool and showery weather. Early last week, we had three days with high temperatures in the 80s. It was beginning to look like we were going to have our first 90-degree day of the season. On May 13, the mercury climbed to 84 degrees. On the 14th, it was very warm as the high was 87 degrees, exactly 20 degrees above normal. The following day, May 15, it was 86 degrees.

With the recent rainfall, May’s precipitation in Coeur d’Alene stands at 1.18 inches. The normal for May is 2.37 inches. Although, it looks like we’ll see some scattered showers and perhaps a few isolated thunderstorms this week, this month’s final total may end up a little below average.

Cliff and I still anticipate a drier than normal summer season, but not as dry as 2017. Still, fire danger levels will be increasing, so be careful.

So, when do you think we’ll have our first 90-degree reading of the 2018 season? Give us your guess and you’ll have the chance to win up to $700 of gift cards from area restaurants and food servers.

The contest is located at www.cdacontest.com. It will run until May 31, or when our first 90-degree temperature is hit, so time is running out. But, you only get one guess per email address. (By the way, I promise that email address will not be shared or sold.) As always, our temperatures will be monitored by Coeur d’Alene’s long-time climatologist, Cliff Harris. He will provide the exact date and time when Coeur d’Alene hits 90 degrees (89.5 degrees).

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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