Although January, 2012, has been laced with snow and heavy rain runoff for Washington, it is an extreme contrast to December's unusually dry and calm weather, reports Washington State University Meteorologist Nic Loyd.
In a year of meteorological wild cards, December took the last trick, he says, noting that despite the presence of La Nina, which tends to favor wetter and snowier winter conditions, December was unusually dry and calm across Washington. Low clouds and poor air quality were the most notable conditions, with no-burn days keeping warming home fireplaces cold.
"Normally, December is one of the more active weather months of the year," says Loyd, a WSU AgWeatherNet meteorologist.
"However, a strong ridge of high pressure blocked the storms that might have otherwise reached the Northwest. The high-pressure system persisted over the region from the end of November through Christmas. As a result, Washington experienced very little interesting winter weather until the final week of the year."
La Nina caught up with Washington in mid-January, 2012, with a record snowfall in Seattle, a city not accustomed to white instead of clear droplets from the sky, and lacking much of a force in terms of snowplows and street-clearing equipment.
The January snow reached throughout much of the PNW, with heavy reports of limb breakage in Portland, Ore., 100-mile-plus winds along the Pacific Coast, and heavy snowfalls down the Columbia River Gorge.
The first month of the new year also brought substantial new snow to the Cascades, with Mt. Hood 50 miles from Portland receiving several feet of snow in a few days in mid-January. By contrast, snowfall was very low in the mountains during December, when concerns were raised over snow depths as low as 55% of normal as of Jan. 1.
Web-based information on weather is publically available on AgWeatherNet at www.weather.wsu.edu.
The system gathers climate input data from more than 130 stations throughout Washington, most of the located in irrigation regions of the eastern region of the state.