Is Seattle about to be blanked in the snow dept. this winter?
A lot of Seattle snow fans hope for at least one or two blankets of snow around the city during the winter, but is this a year that goes down as a blank instead?
Despite the early disappearance of a snow-eating El Nino for a more typically-snowier neutral winter, this winter so far has seen a measurement-challenging 0.6 inches of snow at Sea-Tac Airport -- and probably lasted about as long as it takes for a jet to taxi from the gate to the runway.
And as the calendar gets set to switch to February -- the "August of winter" -- many are giving up on snow figuring the clock has run out and it's time to start thinking about the April showers and May flowers.
But! While the Seattle winter-time snow clock is probably about midway through the third quarter and there are no current prospects for snow in the lowlands through the first 10 days in February, it's not to say our chances are zero.
Seattle history is littered with some decent February snows, including two years ago -- well, at least in the general "Seattle area" if not Seattle itself. Western Washington had a snowstorm on Feb. 23-24 that brought between 6-18" of snow around the area -- some spots in Skagit County had even more. But the Olympic "Snow Shadow" kept Downtown Seattle and central Kitsap County mainly snow free.
I will admit before that snow, it had been a solid 12 years since a big February snow in 2001.
But according to local weather stat guru and former KOMO Weather Intern Jason Phelps, the frequency of February snows was much greater in the prior years.
"If you look at how often we normally get significant snow in February, it's much more often than every 10 years," he said. "2001, 1994 (8-10" in some foothill places), 1990, 1989 (big early Feb. snow and early Mar. snows), 1986, 1985, 1980, 1976, 1972, 1969, 1963, 1962, 1956, 1955, 1951, 1950, 1949, etc. It even snowed 16 inches on Valentines' Day in 1923. Also 1916 had a Ground Hog's Day snow of 26.5"! In 1884 there was a foot of snow on February 20 as well. And I guess the 10" of snow March 1st/2nd, 1989 came a day late :)"
Personally, I don't really declare the widespread snow chances dead until March 8 -- only because I remember getting caught in a heavy Seattle snow that date in -- 1997? -- on the way to the airport, although the snow ended just north of the airport itself.
As for this year, the odds might be low, but with still some time in the 4th quarter left, they're not zero.
(And then, there is this map from the National Center for Environment Prediction -- a 90 day forecast showing better odds for cooler than normal temperatures from February through April for the Pacific Northwest. It might just portend another chilly spring but at least for snow fans it gives a small ray of hope.)