Local snow records threatened in ’19-’20

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Recent storms have dropped some new snow over the northern mountains and pushed moisture totals to near-normal levels for October in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding regions.

Consider it a preview of snowfalls to come.

Longer-term, Cliff and I expect to see an increase of moisture across the area in November and December. Based on current patterns, we should also have another year with above-normal snowfall across North Idaho, probably near 100 inches in Coeur d’Alene.

Based on the current low sunspot activity, it’s possible that snowfall totals in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas could be much higher than normal. And, yes, this season, or the next, there is a chance that we could see snowfall totals challenging Coeur d’Alene’s all-time record of 172.9 inches set in 2007-08.

However, we have to watch the cooler waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean as we also need a La Nina for record-threatening snows. If sea-surface temperatures are too warm, much of the moisture could fall as rain. We’ve already had record snows in February, September and October of this year, so we’ll have to wait and see.


During that harsh winter of 2007-08, we had a very chilly and strong La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern, when there were also very few sunspots. The stream of moisture continued as the next winter of 2008-09 was the second snowiest on record in Coeur d’Alene with a whopping 145.6 inches.

The two winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09 back-to-back produced an incredible 318.5 inches of snow in town, more than 100 inches greater than the previous two-year total of 217.6 inches combined in 1915-16 and 1916-17. A record number of building collapses occurred in our region of the country between December of 2007 and January of 2009. I remember that I had to have my roof shoveled off twice.

Rounding out the top five snowiest seasons, in 2016-17, 115.6 inches of snow fell at Cliff’s station near Coeur d’Alene Public Golf Course, making it the fifth snowiest in recorded history. 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. Since 2007, we’ve seen the snowiest 4-out-of-5 seasons in Coeur d’Alene’s recorded history.

Thanks to the big February snow total of 56.0 inches, we measured 90.3 inches of snow for the 2018-19 season, a bit above the average for Coeur d’Alene since 1895 of 69.8 inches. That February 2019 total smashed the all-time record of 39.5 inches set back in 1955 as we picked up about 80 percent of our annual normal for snow in the 28-day month.

For February and March 2019 combined, there was a total of 58.9 inches, which broke the two-month record of 57.4 inches set back in February and March of 1955.

There was also plenty of snow on the ground last March. Cliff measured 22 inches which, of course, was another record for so late in the season. The previous record was 16 inches in early March 2008.

For the 2019-20 season, it’s also possible that we could see a day that breaks the record for the most snow in a 24-hour period. On Feb. 25, 1955, 16.4 inches fell in Coeur d’Alene. Amazingly, more snow fell on that single day than accumulated during the entire “open” winter seasons in 1908-09, 1914-15, 1933-34, 1941-42, 1943-44 or 1987-88.


Despite the recent big snow years since 2007, by extreme contrast, thanks to a warm, wet “El Nino” phenomenon in the waters of the eastern Pacific, our total snowfall of the entire winter of 2009-10 was a mere 18.4 inches, which was 51.4 inches below the normal on Player Drive of 69.8 inches. What a difference a year made, weatherwise and otherwise.

By the way, the least snow for a winter season that was reported in Coeur d’Alene happened during the 1933-34 season, when only 11.2 inches fell. Based on our long-term predictions and the fast start to this season’s snowfall, the chances of an “open winter” are extremely small.

We seem to be in a long-term pattern with above normal precipitation. Cliff figured out that from Dec. 1, 2016 through the end of February 2017, 62% of the moisture that had fallen in Coeur d’Alene came in the form of rain. If two-thirds of the seasonal moisture HAD come as snow instead of rain, then we would have already seen our 200-inch season.

At the Spokane International Airport, just over 40 miles to our west, the snowiest season occurred in 2008-09 when 97.70 inches of snow fell. Out of that total, 61.5 inches of snow fell at the airport in December 2008.

In terms of our weather for the rest of October, conditions are expected to turn drier toward the middle to the end of this week. The final week of this month is also looking dry and very chilly, which includes Halloween. As we move into the first week of November, the rains should return to the North Idaho and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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