Fires and first freezes

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Last week was the hottest week of the summer season in Coeur d’Alene and the rest of the Inland Empire. Highs reached the mid 90s last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before much cooler air arrived over the weekend as readings were about 25 degrees cooler.

The expected wet weather for Sunday came just in time as wildfires were breaking out across the Pacific Northwest. After a summer with air qualities in the “good” category, the recent smoke sent numbers into the “moderate” range over much of the region last week. However, this wasn’t nearly as bad as 2018 as we had a stretch of days with readings in the “unhealthy” to “hazardous” category.

The first week of August was likely the longest stretch of hot weather we’ll see for the summer season. The average temperature for the first 8 days of this month was 93 degrees. There will probably be a few more days with highs around the 90-degree mark, but Cliff and I think the rest of August will have seasonable temperatures.

After the shower activity across the Inland Northwest, there will be a break of dry weather before more showers and thunderstorms are expected toward the middle to the end of the month. Our normal precipitation for August in Coeur d’Alene is 1.23 inches.

Cliff and I think we’ll have occasional rainfall in September as moisture totals should be at or a little below the average of 1.48 inches. Based on the current pattern of cooling sea-surface temperatures, October may also below normal overall. But, later in November and December, much of the North Country could be in the grips of Old Man Winter. Once again, time will tell.

Cliff and I don’t expect to see a hard freeze in Coeur d’Alene until around the early-to-mid portion of October. However, lows below the 32-degree mark may be reported once again in some of the outlying areas early next month.

Based on his records dating back to 1895, the lowest temperature in September was 17 degrees. That occurred on September 24, 1926. The following morning, September 25, 1926, the low was 22 degrees. Also, that chilly period was the only time when measurable snow was reported as an inch fell on September 23, 1926.

Since 2000, the only September freeze in Coeur d’Alene happened on September 24, 2005. The morning low on that date was 32 degrees.

Since 1895, the average date for the first freeze in Coeur d’Alene is October 16. The coldest reading ever recorded for October occurred on October 31, 1935 with a low of 8 degrees. More recently, the chilliest temperature was 19 degrees on October 9, 2009. It was 20 degrees on October 10, 2009. Two days later, in the same year on October 12, the mercury dipped to a frigid 15 degrees. That was the worst early October coldwave to hit the region in history.

But, it’s still summer and more warm weather is expected into next month. Unfortunately, areas to the north and south are drier than normal. Despite the wet spring, the recent dryness has increased wildfires in Alaska and Canada. In British Columbia, there have been over 600 wildfires this year and there are over 35 that are currently active as of the weekend. According to the British Columbia Wildfire service, 31 of those blazes were started in just 48 hours last week.

One of those fires, the Eagle Bluff fire near Gallagher Lake has been partially blamed for the smoke around the Northwest last week that helped to send our air quality levels into the moderate category.

In Alaska, approximately 2.5 million acres of land has burned this year. As I mentioned several weeks ago, conditions have been the worst in recorded history. The Arctic region has been ravaged with wildfires since June. Major blazes have been reported across Greenland, Siberia and Alaska. Record heat has also been observed and average temperatures were over 10 degrees above normal in some of these areas. The fires in Siberia have continued to burn for over two months.

According to many scientists, the intensity, duration and the northern extent of these blazes are “unprecedented.” It was recently discovered that illegal logging has been largely responsible for the fires in Siberia.

As of late last week, over 3.5 million acres have burned so far in 2019. That figure is down from nearly 5.5 million acres from January 1 to August 10 in 2018. In 2017, the number of acres to date burned from wildfires was approximately 6 million. According to data from the National Interagency Fire Center, there are about 21 big fires in Alaska with 2 in Washington and 8 in Idaho. California only has 3 fires, but that figure could go higher this month and into September. Let’s hope not.

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