It’s going to be a February to remember

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As of Feb. 15, a total of 39.7 inches of snow fell in Coeur d’Alene, an all-time record for the month. The old February snowfall record was 39.5 inches set back in 1955. Cliff tells me that no other monthly snowfall record was broken during the first 15 days, which also includes December and January.

Our seasonal total has jumped to nearly 74 inches. The normal is 69.8 inches in Coeur d’Alene. Therefore, we’re going to have another year of above-normal snowfall and more is on the way.

For the third year in a row, February will be the snowiest month of the winter in Coeur d’Alene and other parts of the Inland Northwest. According to Cliff’s records, this will be the 20th February since 1895 when it was the snowiest month of the winter season.

In Seattle, February’s snowfall total now stands at 20.2 inches, compared to the average of 1.7 inches. It’s the city’s snowiest month in about 50 years. From Feb. 8 through 11, Seattle received 17.5 inches of snow which practically shut down the city. Seattle’s average snowfall is nearly 6 inches for an entire season.

In addition to the heavy snowfalls, we also had to endure some very frigid temperatures. We had nine days in a row with temperatures below the freezing mark. The coldest day was the 9th as the high was only 17 degrees.

Although we had the snow along with the very cold temperatures, the heavier snows came when readings jumped into the upper 20s and lower 30s as warmer air moved in from the south. We often see the heavier snowfalls with temperatures near 30 degrees. When temperatures are much colder, the air mass doesn’t hold as much moisture, so snowfall totals are often lower.

We are still receiving emails asking about the big winter for either the 2019-20 or the 2020-21 winter season. During one of those seasons, Cliff and I think we’ll see at least 140 inches of snow in Coeur d’Alene. And, yes, it’s still possible that we could be dealing with a record total of about 200 inches.

For Coeur d’Alene to see a record-breaking snowfall season, in addition to the current low sunspot activity, we would need plenty of moisture from the Pacific Ocean and at least a weak to moderately cooler-than-normal La Nina sea-surface temperature event. For this season, ocean waters were above normal in the Pacific Ocean in late 2018 and we had mostly rain. Then, ocean waters unexpectedly cooled a bit and the North American continent was hit with extreme cold and snow, some of the worst since the 1970s. Now, ocean waters have warmed a bit and a new El Nino was recently declared.

Many still remember the winter of 2007-08. Cliff measured an all-time seasonal snowfall record of 172.9 inches of snow. In Rathdrum, over 200 inches of snow was seen. There was so much snow that people were literally walking over fences. It’s almost hard to believe that we had 54 storms during that snowy period.

With all of this recent snowfall, if we had an entire winter with this kind of pattern, then we would easily receive about 200 inches of snow with 500 to 700 inches in the mountains. And, if the moisture that fell during the first half of this winter would have been more snow than rain, our current snowfall total would likely be over 150 inches.

And, the winter of 2016-17 also had the potential to give us that big snowy year. Cliff measured 8.01 inches of rain and melted snow in February of 2017. Out of the 8 inches, about 6 inches of that moisture came as rain. Cliff tells me that if conditions would have been a little colder, February could have ended with up 75 to 80 inches of snow instead of the 34.9 inches.

He also figured out that since Dec. 1 through the end of February, 62 percent of the moisture that had fallen in Coeur d’Alene during that winter season of 2016-17 came in the form of rain. If two-thirds of the seasonal moisture would have come as snow instead of rain, then we would have been very close to the 200-inch season.

So where do we go from here? Well, there is the potential for more snow, possibly one big storm, into early March. Our snowfall forecast for February is now an incredible 47 inches, but could easily top 50 if we get another big collision over the area.

If the pattern calms down a bit in March, the final snowfall total for Coeur d’Alene is expected between 85 and 90 inches for the season. But, if temperatures stay down and we keep the moisture going in March and into early April, then we could challenge 100 inches for the season. That would be amazing since we started off our winter with a lot more rain than snow.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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