Spokane on pace for warmest February on record - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane on pace for warmest February on record

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Mother Nature has forgotten winter in the Inland Northwest. Mother Nature has forgotten winter in the Inland Northwest.
SPOKANE, Wash. - It seems that Mother Nature has skipped an entire season. She almost literally forgot about winter for the Inland Northwest and to be honest, many people perfectly OK with this. However, skiers and snowboarders feel completely the opposite, practically begging for snow, at least, in the mountains.

We are now almost halfway through February. We hit five days in a row over 50 degrees. Six days total over 50 degrees in the month of February so far. But here is the real kicker: only two days in the month have had high temperatures in the 30s, when our average high normally for this time of year is about 38 degrees. I'll admit, a bit strange. So let's take a look back in time.

Record Average Temps

Last year, many of you may remember that the first part of February was extremely cold. High temperatures last year, for the first ten days, failed to reach 30 degrees and overnight lows for the first seven of eight days didn't even make it into double digits. We even ended the month eight degrees colder than average which ended up being the 19th coldest February on record.

Looking back farther, we have to go back to February of 2010 to find the last time that February had above average temperatures for this month. Then get this: Going back even farther we go back to 2005 where we saw six days in a row above 50 degrees to end the month and ended about 4.7 degrees above our average.

So there you have it, while this is fairly unusual to see a stretch of weather in February so warm, a closer look shows that we have seen below-average temperatures for eight of the last 10 years in the month of February. 

Looking at the East Coast, record snowfall has happened in several areas and now, this weekend, record cold temperatures are expected. So what causes this to happen? We've all heard the term Polar Vortex, but there is a better explanation.


During winter months, a very strong area of low pressure generally sits over the Arctic Ocean and the farthest reaches north. During the winter months though, it moves. Just like the weather and the jet stream, everything wanders a bit and for this arctic low it slides farther south.

This low is extremely strong and sits at all different levels of the atmosphere, also known as a triple point. To get it to slide farther south though, you get a strong ridge of high pressure out west over California that pushes the jet stream to the north into the panhandle of Alaska before it comes in contact with the arctic low and starts pushing the jet back south. Think of the jet stream as the cutoff between warm and cold air. So when it pushes south, generally into Montana and then even farther south toward even Texas at times, it then starts back north along the eastern seaboard once it comes in contact with another ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Mexico. When this happens that's when this arctic low moves farther south and brings with it much colder temperatures and what folks are calling the Polar Vortex.

Always remember that weather is cyclical and always changing. Patterns shift all the time and the weather is always evolving.

So while Mother Nature may have forgotten about winter in the Inland Northwest this year, don't expect this to be an annual thing.

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