Friday, May 14, 2021

Nothing's normal — not even the weather

| March 1, 2021 1:06 AM

February will likely end up as being our snowiest month of the 2020-21 season. Close to 19 inches of snow fell at Cliff’s station last month. December of 2020 had 15 inches of snow in Coeur d’Alene.

There’s no question that this has been another strange year for the weather. During a “normal” year, Coeur d’Alene usually receives about 35 percent more snow than Spokane International Airport.

As of Saturday, the airport had reported over 50 inches of snow, compared to a normal of about 45 inches. Therefore, if the airport doesn’t receive another flake of snow this season, it will still end up above normal.

Spokane has often received more snow than Coeur d’Alene this season. Last Saturday morning, the airport measured a quick 1.6 inches of snow, while Coeur d’Alene only had 0.6 inches.

In Coeur d’Alene, Cliff has reported 53.1 inches, which is below normal. Our average seasonal snowfall is 69.8 inches. If this was a typical year with the airport near 50 inches, Coeur d’Alene’s snowfall total would be close to 77 inches.

For much of this season, the air mass over Spokane has been a little colder than in the lower elevations of North Idaho. We did get a lot of moisture in January, but temperatures were too warm as much of it came as rain in our area.

It seemed like this was a pattern more typical of a warmer El Nino sea-surface temperature event, rather than our current cooler La Nina. In fact, the latest ocean data shows that the La Nina is fading fast and ocean temperatures along the Equatorial regions are starting to warm up.

Some of the computer models are predicting that we could see a weak El Nino by late in the year. If this were to happen, then the chances of a snowy winter would be lower. But, it’s still too early to tell.

About a week ago, it was reported that a team of researchers at the South Australian Museum determined that the Earth had a magnetic “reversal” of the north and south poles approximately 42,000 years ago. This was called the Laschamp event and may have lasted about 1,000 years.

Their analysis was based upon radiocarbon analysis of tree rings from old fossilized kauri trees found in the northern New Zealand wetlands. Each ring on a tree shows an annual growth, and scientists are able to measure and date radiocarbon levels in the rings caused by the collapse of our planet’s magnetic field.

Although scientists are unclear on what happened to life on Earth during that time, according to the study, there is evidence to suggest the magnetic reversal may have led to many dramatic changes in our environment, including the extinction of the Neanderthals.

Geologic history of our planet’s rocks does indicate that there has been a “swap” of magnetic north and south about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, but this new evidence suggests this one happened 42,000 years ago. And, magnetic north has been on the move.

The movement of the magnetic pole in the north has increased its speed from less than 10 miles per year prior to the mid-1990s, to nearly 35 miles per year. In 2001, the magnetic north pole entered the Arctic Ocean and crossed the International Date Line into the Eastern Hemisphere last year and is now heading toward Siberia.

According to Discover Magazine, computer models predict the pole will continue to move about 370 miles toward Siberia over the next 10 years. By the way, magnetic field at the South Pole has been mostly stable.

Our Earth’s geomagnetic field, also known simply as the planet’s magnetic field, is generated from the Earth’s core and protects us from the solar winds and deadly cosmic rays that would severely damage or destroy the ozone layer that shields our planet from ultraviolet radiation. Without the Earth’s magnetic field, there would likely be very little, if any, life on the planet as a large part of the atmosphere would be lost.

One of the big questions is what will happen to life on Earth when the next reversal occurs? Most scientists believe that life will go on without any issues. The only main concern would be a weakening of the magnetic field to allow in more harmful ultraviolet radiation.

It may also be tough for animals, like pigeons and whales, who depend on the magnetic poles for their directions. But, most think the creatures will adapt over time. Although there are websites calling for doom with this scenario, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

In terms of our local weather, warmer temperatures are expected at the end of the week with highs in the 50s. Then, we should see some moisture and colder weather toward the middle of the month.

Our average snowfall for this month is 6.3 inches. Therefore, if we receive normal snowfall for March and April, our seasonal total will be over 60 inches.