El Niño expected to deliver a mild Inland Northwest winter

The Inland Northwest could get a break from severe winter weather this year due to a weak to moderate El Niño developing in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The National Weather Service isn’t forecasting that winter won’t arrive, but it does mean the region should receive less snow in the valleys from somewhat milder temperatures. Based on historic weather records, Spokane could get 34.5 inches of snow, which is 14 inches below the long-term winter average. Coeur d’Alene would get 44 inches of snow, which below is the Lake City’s average of 51.4 inches, and Pullman could get 25 inches of snow.

El Niño

The latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is calling for milder-than-normal conditions across the entire Western U.S. and slightly below normal precipitation for the Inland Northwest. El Niño is a term for the warming of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The reverse is known as La Niña, which can create more severe winter weather in the U.S.

This season, the expected El Niño should affect winter weather by allowing Pacific storms to migrate across the subtropical ocean, coming ashore to the south in California. At times, those southern storms may stretch northward into the Inland Northwest. At the same time, a polar jet stream of high altitude air flow should set up across Canada, blocking cold air from moving into the Northwest. (Spokesman-Review)

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