May 2011

Spring 2011, defined climatologically as March-May, goes down as the wettest on record locally and for several spots in the NW, with many spots at 150-250% percent of normal.

Here’s a time series of accumulated precip for the Moscow station:

For the water year, we are looking at the 4th wettest year to date since 1890 in Moscow, although I suspect this is somewhat biased as the station has moved east over the years (originally on the UI campus, now a couple miles east on hwy 8).  The well above normal precip has not been restricted to the inland northwest, but rather a broad portion of the western and northern tier of the country.  The wet conditions along with below normal temperatures this spring (2.5-4F cooler than normal) here this spring are consistent with the moderate, but fading, La Nina. However, it’s important to point out that La Nina likely only accounts for one component that made up our winter/spring, with the rest associated with higher-frequency features of the climate-weather continuum.

Finally, I know this sounds like a broken record, but, this moist-cool regime we’ve been in is not expected to let up in the next few weeks per the mid-range outlook:

We shouldn’t be too surprised at this “persistence” as the climate system does have a built in memory bestowed by ocean-atmosphere and land-atmosphere interactions. And while it’s part of human nature to complain about the weather, at least we haven’t been faced with the sort of weather extremes that much of the south and midwest have seen in the last two months.


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About John Abatzoglou

John is an associate professor of Geography at the University of Idaho. John's interests are centered around climate and weather of the American West and their impacts to people and natural resources of the West. John and his Applied Climate Science Lab at the University of Idaho have published nearly 100 papers and book chapters on climate science, meteorology, and applied climate science connecting climate to water resources, wildfire and agriculture. The research group also develops web-based climate services that connect climate data with decision makers to help improve climate readiness of societies and ecosystems.

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