Saturday, May 25, 2024

Could we see a repeat of last season's snowfall trend?

| February 13, 2023 1:06 AM

On Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil, the infamous groundhog, saw his shadow. According to folklore, this means six more weeks of winter. This is not good news for some folks east of the Rockies as February has already produced some frigid weather. However, in our part of the world, Cliff and I have been getting a lot of questions asking, “what’s happened to the snow?”

Each year, Phil is hauled out of his fake tree stump on Gobbler’s Knob, about 2 miles east of town, every Feb. 2 at precisely 7:25 a.m. to see if he can see his shadow. The town celebrates this event with a festive atmosphere of music and food.

If Phil supposedly catches his shadow, he’s scared back into his den for six more weeks of slumber. The winter season, in turn, will drag on for least another six weeks. If Phil does not see his shadow, then spring is right around the corner. Believe it or not, approximately 84% of the time, Phil sees his shadow.

Assuming there is six more weeks of winter, it will be tough for residents in the central and eastern portions of the country. Earlier this month, a hard freeze created slick and power outages in Texas. New England experienced some of the coldest weather in decades. In the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s the middle of summer, it was the chilliest start to February in 20 years as snow was reported in the mountains of Australia.

If you want to talk about extreme cold, Mount Washington in New Hampshire, where it’s the highest peak in the U.S. Northeast (6,288 feet), reported a wind chill temperature of -108 degrees Fahrenheit on Feb. 4. The area is famous for its extreme weather as the Mount Washington Observatory recorded an air temperature of -47 degrees with winds gusting to an incredible 127 miles per hour on that date. The -47 degree temperature tied the station’s all-time record low set in 1934. Mount Washington holds the record for the fasting wind speed in the Northern and Western Hemispheres of 231 miles per hour April 12, 1934.

Here in the Inland Northwest, our current snowfall season seems to be very similar to last season’s snowfall. For example, after a snowy fall season, the seasonal total at Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene on Jan. 11, 2023, was 50.7 inches. On that date, it appeared that we were well on our way to our predicted 80-plus inch season. However, since Jan. 11, only 6.2 inches of snow has fallen with only 0.1 inches measured for February through the first 12 days of the month.

Despite the very low snowfall total for February, there have been other years with no snow or just a few tenths. Most recently, in February of 2005, only 0.2 inches of snow fell in Coeur d’Alene. As of this weekend writing, it did appear that our region was going to have a chance for snow tonight and tomorrow and again toward the end of the week. There is the possibility of bigger snows in our region next week and through the end of the month based upon the long-range computer models. We’ll have to wait and see if this trend of snowy weather develops.

We have noticed that weather patterns, especially here in the Northwest, will occasionally repeat themselves. For example, in terms of total snowfall, we had very similar conditions at this time last year. On Jan. 11, 2022, there was a seasonal total of 50.2 inches of snow to date. Like this year, it appeared that we were going to see above normal snowfall totals in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas for the 2021-22 season.

From Jan. 13 through March 31, 2022, only 6.4 inches of snow fell in northwestern Coeur d’Alene. From that point, it appeared that the snowfall season was over. Then, the snow returned in April with a total of 10.1 inches. A record 7.8 inches fell on Tax Day, April 15, 2022. Amazingly, we had more snow April 15 than what fell from the middle of January through the first week of April.

For the last two years, we had a much snowier than normal fall season with very little snowfall in the northwestern part of the country during the early-to-mid winter period. Cliff and I believe that we’re not finished with the snowfall season, but we have wondered if we’re going to have to wait until April once again for another big batch of snow. These are strange and very unusual weather patterns to say the least.

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