February 2013 was a relatively lackadaisical month in the inland northwest in the opinion of this climatologist. Temperatures were boringly normal for maximum temperatures, with minimum temperature being a couple of degrees above normal across the northern tier of the region.
The first three weeks of February were remarkably dry, only to be spoiled (for this stories purposes) by a more active pattern that helped salvage monthly totals to being below normal, but not exceptionally low. The main exception is the western Columbia basin which has been shut out along with much of California (which experienced its driest two-month start to the calendar year since the Gold Rush). Richland, Washington’s 0.43″ of precipitation since New Years is its driest start to a calendar year as well. Fortunately, much of the water used for irrigation in the western Columbia basin doesn’t fall directly overhead, but rather in mountainous regions.
In terms of snowpack, most SNOTEL stations in the inland northwest are reporting subpar totals with many stations in the bottom 20 percentile for their period of record including Bogus Basin which is currently at the bottom of the pile with it’s lowest SWE measurements on record (data only goes back to 1999 for this location).
So now, that I’ve hunted for some interesting tidbits in an otherwise boring month comes the following statistics from NCDC’s records page for the state of Idaho:
Warmest TMAX: Out of a possible 160,166 records: 2 (Broken) + 3 (Tied) = 5 Total
Warmest TMIN: Out of a possible 159,881 records: 0 (Broken) + 3 (Tied) = 3 Total
Coldest TMAX: Out of a possible 160,178 records: 2 (Broken) + 1 (Tied) = 3 Total
Coldest TMIN: Out of a possible 159,852 records: 1 (Broken) + 0 (Tied) = 1 Total
In total, only 0.03% of daily observations had record maximum or minimum temperatures. Now that is excitingly boring way, or boringly exciting. I suspect the extremely quiet Pacific-North-American pattern this winter has contributed to this monotony.
Welcome to climatological spring. Climatologists refer to the four “seasons” as winter (Dec-Feb), spring (Mar-May), summer (Jun-Aug) and fall (Sep-Nov). In the inland northwest, March typically does not resemble what most people would call spring, except for the growing number of daylight hours. Other proxies for spring that better reflect the integrated aspects of climate and manifested through flora and fauna and our hydrologic system are usually better measures that spring has sprung. A NASA funded project to enhance climate literacy ICENET has some nice visuals of the transition into spring last year in Moscow. Toggling between April 19 and 24th reveals the dramatic onset of wonderful greenness.