Fruitful February

A month ago the d-word was coming into vogue for parts of the northwest due to paltry precipitation and sub-par snowpack. Thanks to a fruitful February the current situation is significantly improved. Snowpack is currently above normal across basins in western Montana, near normal across much of Idaho and below normal over the southern and western parts of the inland NW. These numbers are approximately a 20% increase (as a percent of normal) from a month ago.

Mar 2 SWE

Missoula Montana was perhaps the winner with over 40″ of snow in February (snowiest Feb and overall 3rd snowiest month on record, 1948-present).  The 40″ in February exceeds the average annual snowfall total since 2000 in Missoula.  Missoula also had its wettest February on record with 2.52″ of precipitation and its third coldest February (thus explaining the high snow:rain ratio in excess of 15:1).

Holden Village, WA nestled along the east slopes of the Casacdes near Chelan at 3200 ft recorded 142″ of snow in February. February was about as dreary as it gets in the INW. I only recorded 5 days with zero precipitation during the month at my CoCoRaHS station.

In contrast to the blocking pattern that redirected storms well north of the region in January, a very strong jet stream directed into the NW allowed for the parade of weather systems to impact the area. The zonal (west-to-east) winds at 300hPa were about 10 m/s above normal (or 50% above normal) across the NW.


As climatological winter departs (December-February), our first day of spring was anything but.  Parts of the northern Idaho panhandle set all-time record low maximum temperature records for the month of March on March 1st. Including a whopping 5F for a high in Missoula (or 40 degrees below normal!). Yuck.

February brought below normal temperatures to the INW. Some of the seasonal forecasts are bullish on a warmer than normal spring for much of western North America.  After several crud-filled springs in recent years this would be welcomed.  I won’t get too excited and start planting tomatoes in March though (been there, done that).



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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