October 2013: Block Party and Snowfall Forecast Challenge

Hope you enjoyed the block party while it lasted. It was a dry party, which is not the best way to start off the water year, but did bring several beautiful days in the latter-half of the month with many spots reaching the 60s and low 70s. A blocking regime, associated with a stationary and broad-scale high pressure off the coast of the western US during the “wet” season is either notorious or beloved depending on ones perspective. These patterns are fairly stationary and are analogous to placing a giant boulder in a stream: flow will be diverted around the block, in this case the jet stream was displaced well up into NW Canada before diving south in the lee of the Rockies.


The blocking regime coincided with the dramatic drop in daylight hours and overnight lows typical of this time of the year that assists in bringing out the rich golden and amber hues of deciduous trees. In a typical October, frontal systems will sweep through and bring both wind and rain and shorten our fall show. However, the persistent ridge inhibited any real disturbance for around a 3-week period.  Check out the trace of hourly wind speed from the Spokane airport below. Nothing above 10 mph for a long-long time.


While this was great for fall colors, the lack of any mixing allowed for several days of fog across the sheltered valleys of the northern ID panhandle and northeastern WA.

These calm conditions also coincided with the shutdown of the federal government and suspension of prescribed burning on federal lands.  This was quite a window that was missed, given the decent amount of precipitation to wet fuels (and reduce wildfire issues) at the end of September. Fortunately, some prescribed burning has been done since, although probably far less than would otherwise have been accomplished.


Despite being a dry month, October was cool across much of the western half of the United States including the inland Northwest with most spots around 2-4F cooler than normal.  I severely underestimated the thermal buffer of our new greenhouse during a particularly cold night on Oct 28 when the overnight low in Pullman was 20F. Green tomatoes are the new zucchini. Green tomato bread probably won’t go over so well.

Snowfall Challenge 2014

‘Tis the season to submit your well-informed guesses on the amount of snow that would fall over the upcoming winter season. Last years winner, FireGirl has not let me forget her victory. The forecast this year is to predict the total snowfall accumulation for our reference station, Moscow, ID through 31 March, and the April 1st snow water equivalent at the Aneroid SNOTEL station in the Wallowa Mountains of NE Oregon. The forecaster with the highest average skill score between the two forecasts will be crowned in early April.   The poll will be open through the end of next week, closing Nov 17th.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by John Abatzoglou. Bookmark the permalink.

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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