By Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU News
If you enjoy knee-deep snow and a strong shot of cold temperatures, Old Man Winter is raining on your parade.
This January in the Pacific Northwest — unlike the blockbuster one we endured in 2017 — has been, in a word, mild. The above-normal temperatures that arrived to the region on Jan. 5 still linger later as the month wraps up.
Loads of rain, spurts of snow, a flare of wind and a tad of sun accompanied this January warmth.
Though the month has been generally gloomy, the stubborn low-level gray clouds gave way to a rare stretch of pleasant, sunny days Jan. 13-17. High temperatures reached the mid-40s to low 50s in Spokane, Yakima and Pullman, compared to the historical average of the mid-30s. Lewiston-Clarkston topped off at 52 degrees.
On Jan. 18, the mercury dropped several degrees and drenching rain came to lower elevations. Even with slightly cooler temperatures, amazingly, we were warmer than Tampa, Florida. Lows in Spokane, Pullman and other eastern Washington locations held at 33 degrees overnight, compared to a low of 29 degrees in Tampa, where icicles formed on palm trees.
In this region, temperatures ran about 3.7 degrees above normal through Jan. 25, while inching higher as the month ends this week. Monday stands out as the balmiest day, with highs reaching 52 degrees in Pullman, 50 in Spokane and a record-tying 58 degrees in Lewiston-Clarkston.
As for snow, a total of 7.6 inches fell in the lowlands this month — a big contrast to January 2017. Who can forget the howling winds, sub-zero temperatures and 13.5 inches of snowfall? The average temperature ran 9.3 degrees below normal, making it the coldest January in 38 years. The National Weather Service even issued wind child advisories, an alert that is common in the Midwest, not here in the Inland Northwest.
Clearly, this month has been tranquil compared to January last year. As the calendar flips to February, will we slide into more typical winter weather?
From a scientific forecasting perspective, the jury is still out. Perhaps the answer won’t come from satellite data and computer simulations, but from a buck-toothed groundhog named Phil on Feb. 2.
Weathercatch is a bimonthly column that appears in The Spokesman-Review. Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org