Weekend Weather Blog: (Meteorological) Winter in Review

Snow((Source: Stock image/Pixabay))
Published: Mar. 13, 2022 at 6:56 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — It’s that time of year where inter is right in the rearview mirror, and spring is just ahead. That means one thing: It’s time to look back at what winter had in store for us - and what a winter it was.

To start out, record warmth overspread the entire area for the beginning of December. Highs were reaching into the upper 50s and lower 60s while we were listening to Christmas music in our cars, and attending the parade in downtown Twin Falls. However, this didn’t last.

By the second half of the month, things took a turn. A very strong cold front brought strong winds the night of December 13 into the morning hours of December 14. Some wind gusts were reported to reach nearly 70 mph in some spots, while snow overspread the Snake River Plain by mid-morning of the 14th. Over the Wood River Valley, upslope flow generates snow the entire weekend, bring over 2 feet of much needed snow to the mountain towns.

After this disturbance rolled through, another, less potent system came through just 2 days later, once again dropping a couple of inches of snow over the Magic Valley and Snake River Plain, and nearly a foot over the South Hills. After about a week-long lull in the weather, snowfall really ramped up.

A parade of systems, virtually coming through every day between Christmas Eve and be beginning of he New Year dropped much-needed snow over the entire area. All of us woke up to a Christmas scene you typically see in the movies - snow coming down fast and piling up virtually all day. All of this snow cancelled out the record warmth and dryness seen in the beginning of the month - leading to the region seeing the third snowiest winter ever

Central Plains snowfall 2021 (Courtesy: IEM)
Central Plains snowfall 2021 (Courtesy: IEM)(IEM)

Perhaps the most impactful storm to come through the region was one that occurred just after New Year’s Day - a system that focused snow in a narrow band that produced snowfall rates of 1″ per hour plus, focused along the Snake River during the morning commute. But after that, the pattern changed, and things got dryer.

While the first week saw the continued snow from the end of December, the remainder of the month saw virtually no precipitation. We did, however, see lots and lots of fog in the valleys. Because of the snowpack, all of the sunshine attempting to come into the region bounced off of the snowpack, keeping cool air confined to the valley regions.

Moisture within the snow was attempted to evaporated away, but wasn’t able to, trapped underneath a layer of warm air above the valley air. This is what’s known as an inversion. The result led to cool temperatures continuing to impact the valley regions, while the mountains saw slightly warmer temperatures than the valleys.

Central Plains January Snowfall and Precipitation
Central Plains January Snowfall and Precipitation(IEM)

With the snow we saw at the beginning of the month, January ended up a touch below average for snowfall, and decently below average for liquid-equivalent precipitation. Temperatures at all of the climate reporting stations averaged 5-7° below normal as well, mainly due to the fog and the inversion in place.

The dry trend continued in February.

Central Plains February Precip vs Snowfall (Courtesy: IEM)
Central Plains February Precip vs Snowfall (Courtesy: IEM)(IEM)

In fact, as a region, February was the driest February ever recorded here in the Central Plains climate division (covering much of the Magic Valley). Snow was obviously below average, but it was not the least snowiest February on record. Temperatures remained below normal, as the inversion continued into the beginning of the month - not necessarily bringing in fog, but keeping the valleys a touch cooler nonetheless.

So where does this leave us now? For the entire winter season, the Magic Valley (as a region) saw around 29 inches of snow. Due to the exceptional snowfall seen during the second half of December and early January, the region was 10″ of snow above normal - something that was much needed around the area. However, it wasn’t enough unfortunately to end the drought. Here’s to hoping March brings some more much-needed precipitation to the area

As far as temperatures are concerned, Twin Falls all in all finished below normal - with an average high temperature from December to the end of February of 35.9, Twin Falls ended up at 2.6° below the normal of 38.5. Jerome faired similarly, finishing with an average high temperature of 33.6, 4.1 degrees below normal. Burley also ended up below normal, finishing with an average high temperature of 36.6 - 2.5 degrees below the normal of 39.1°.

All in all winter was a mixed bag of everything. Here’s to hoping more wet weather is to come for spring.

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