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Lower temperatures, less rainfall for 2011
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012
By Brian Clark, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
PROSSER, Wash. — From record heat to record cold and everything in between, the Washington 2011 weather year had it all.
"Despite the unusual weather in Washington last year, it can be understood more easily by thinking of 2011 as a year in which the seasons were delayed by one month,” said Nic Loyd, meteorologist for Washington State University's AgWeatherNet.
Temperatures rose into the 60s at times in mid-January and again in mid-February of 2011. However, a late-season arctic blast sent temperatures tumbling into the single digits in central Washington on the morning of February 26. This unusual event heralded the beginning of what was to be the coolest and windiest spring in recent memory in central Washington.
"Despite the delayed crops that resulted from the below normal springtime temperatures, there were benefits as well,” said Gerrit Hoogenboom, director of AgWeatherNet. "The mountain snowpack increased throughout the spring, which led to an abundant summer water supply.”
Cool conditions continued into July, and normal summertime heat didn’t begin until August. Summer finally arrived in September, with near record heat in many locations. Areas north of Wenatchee surpassed 100 degrees and Prosser recorded high temperatures above 90 degrees for five consecutive in mid-September.
The first autumn frost in the normally cold locations of central Washington came late, allowing for a safe harvest of a delayed apple crop. December had almost no precipitation in Washington until Christmas. The heavy rain that began the last week of the year saved western Washington from experiencing the driest December on record. Overall, the rainfall was still below average.
All in all, 2011 ended just as it had begun: with very unusual weather. Temperatures in Washington were generally below average. The 2011 average temperature at WSU Prosser was one degree below average and both the high and low temperatures were cooler than normal. Despite the cool conditions, 2011 was far from a record year. For the period of record (1990 to 2011), 1993 was the coolest year, with an average temperature of 49.4 degrees.
A more detailed review of Washington’s 2011 weather is available at the AgWeatherNet website under the News link. AgWeatherNet is a web-based, public system that provides access to near real-time weather data, along with decision aids for agricultural producers and other users.