Weather roller-coaster may continue

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The Christmas holiday did produce some snow across North Idaho. Unfortunately, the snow that did fall on Christmas Day in Coeur d’Alene melted almost immediately as the ground was too warm. Therefore, the odds caught up with us: We didn’t get that fifth year in a row with a White Christmas in Coeur d’Alene, which would have been a record. Since 1895, it’s about a 50/50 chance of at least an inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

However, outside of Coeur d’Alene, a few areas did report snow. Places like Athol, Rathdrum and some parts of Hayden reported an inch of new snow on Christmas Day. I also had a report of a half-inch of snow about a half-mile south of Worley.

Regardless, Cliff and I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas. Now comes a new question: “What happens after December when we don’t get the White Christmas on that fifth year?”

Well, according to Cliff’s climatological records, the snows usually arrive in January and amounts for the first month of the year are often above normal. In fact, in January 1969, when we had a brown Christmas the prior month, a whopping 82.4 inches of snow fell in Coeur d’Alene. That was an all-time record that still stands and it’s the snowiest month ever recorded.

It’s almost hard to believe, but we had more snow in September and October than we had in November and December. It’s like we had a very early winter prior to Halloween and a very early spring during the last two months of the year. This is a pattern that Cliff and I have never seen before.

The Christmas holiday was also another day full of “extremes” across the country. Pacific storms went south of our area and into California and the Desert Southwest, bringing heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and heavy mountain snows. California officials were warning drivers to stay off the roadways in the southern part of the state as Interstate 5 was closed early Thursday morning.

By contrast, Christmas Day had record highs in the Midwest. It was near 70 degrees in Evansville, Ind., and 60s in Des Moines, Iowa and St. Louis, Mo. It was one of the warmest Christmas Days in history in the center of the country. Amazingly, the Midwest was warmer on Christmas Day than in September and October. That has never happened before.

In other parts of the world, conditions have also been extreme. In the United Kingdom, it’s been a very wet December as heavy rainfall has led to widespread flooding. Some roads were under 3 feet of water as nearly a month’s worth of moisture fell in several days.

In Venice, heavy rains and high tides resulted in billions of dollars in damage. The city’s streets are literally underwater and tourists were moving through water-logged streets carrying suitcases above the water.

On the flip-side, much of Australia continues to suffer from extreme drought. High temperatures a week before Christmas were over 110 degrees in many areas. The average high for the entire continent on Wednesday, Dec. 18, was an incredible 107.4 degrees, its hottest day ever. That broke the previous record by about 2 degrees that had been set 24 hours earlier. The prior record for Australia’s hottest day was on Jan. 7 in 2013 with a high of 104.5 degrees.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in a pattern with sea-surface temperatures that continue to be warmer than normal. Although we’re officially in a “La Nada,” the in-between pattern between cooler La Nina and warmer El Nino, weather patterns are becoming similar to those during an El Nino year. For example, Pacific storms are going into California and the Desert Southwest rather than the Northwest. Conditions in the central U.S. have been warmer than normal and severe drought continues in Australia.

Ocean waters also continue to be well above normal levels in the Arctic regions. That may be a big factor as it was a hot summer in Alaska. Temperatures in this area were 20 to 30 degrees above normal around the Fourth of July. On July 4, Anchorage had a record high of 90 degrees, breaking the previous all-time high by 5 degrees. In late June until July 10, Juneau had a high of at least 70 degrees for a record 17 straight days.

As far as our local weather is concerned, it looks like we’ll be seeing more snow this week and into January. The long-range computer models are showing more moisture, along with colder air, moving into the northwestern portion of the country.

Cliff and I believe our snowiest period will be around the “full moon” lunar phase of Jan. 10. Once we get into late January and February, we don’t think there will be as much snow in North Idaho, but in this crazy weather cycle, anything is possible.

Have a Happy New Year!

— Randy Mann and Cliff Harris

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