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Maybe Mild

The Inland Northwest could see a warm winter

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Snowboarding at Schweitzer
  • Snowboarding at Schweitzer

With 80-degree temperatures lingering into October, it's not terribly surprising. Early season indicators suggest the Inland Northwest may see a slightly warmer winter than usual as El Niño weather conditions raise Pacific Ocean temperatures amid an already fairly toasty fall.

John Livingston, a meteorologist with the Spokane office of the National Weather Service, explains a moderate El Niño developing in the tropical Pacific may drive up average temperatures by as much as 2 to 3 degrees.

"Less snow in the valleys and more rain," he predicts, based on previous years of comparable El Niño activity.

As with all weather predictions, especially those projected so early in the season, that could change. But he notes there are some helpful initial indicators.

The NWS Climate Prediction Center also expects above average temperatures to continue through the end of the year based on the latest observations of weak or moderate El Niño activity. The center also predicts decreased precipitation across parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Livingston says meteorologists last year predicted a "normal" winter. The season proved fairly mild with a couple Arctic outbreaks involving prolonged cold snaps of temperatures in the teens. At first glance, this year may be milder still.

In Idaho, Silver Mountain Resort general manager Jeff Colburn says he has closely watched early forecasts throughout the fall and his staff is preparing for a better than normal snow season with a more consistent snowpack earlier in the year.

"Everything we've seen so far says we're looking at a good winter," he says. "We've got everything brushed up, cleaned up and ready to go."

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