If there were cries of a disappointing La Nina before last weeks mega snow storm turned into a whimper, it's an all out scream/tantrum now. E-mails and Facebook posting and Tweets are all lamenting the lack of really big snow storms this winter so far despite stories of it being among the stronger La Ninas on record.
And as Seattleties look at an upcoming week of rain and temperatures into the 50s with warm air likely holding into the end of the month, many have written off the 2010-11 La Nina as the biggest flop since New Coke.
But speaking of New Coke, I'm sure talk of a mega La Nina flop on par with the drink's then-more-recent failure were prevalent in January of 1989. Just like last year, the oceans then went a very rapid shift from El Nino in the early months of 1988 to a raging La Nina by early spring -- a few months ahead of our current shift, but nonetheless in a similar pattern.
By winter, temperature readings were roughly tied with the strongest ever recorded, and had we had the weather research, Twitter, Facebook and the current version of the internet then, I'm sure there would have been predictions of doom that fall and winter too.
But by mid-January, they probably would have wondered -- where was our big winter? At Sea-Tac, it had snowed a whopping 1" on Jan. 8 with a high of 47, so it didn't "stick" around too long. They had had a few flurrie days here and there but as January drew to a close, it had been moderately rainy, fairly mild, and exceedingly boring.
Where was La Nina???
Then came February. On Feb. 1, a big arctic blast marched into Western Washington. The high that day was only 32, and Sea-Tac Airport reported a whopping 5.8" of snow -- meaning it was probably quite a bit more elsewhere. The low that night was 15.
On Groundhog Day, the high temperature only made it to 18 degrees in Seattle with a low of 11. Feb. 3 wasn't much warmer - a high of 20 and low of 10. On the 4th, it was something we hadn't seen in a while and haven't seen since - a single digit low temperature in Seattle: 7 degrees.
Cold air held firm with lows of 14, 18, and 20 for the next three days,although no more snow fell. In fact, it would be dry for 13 straight days -- now tied as 5th longest dry streak in the rainy season. The lack of precipitation allowed Seattle the rare chance to slowly moderate without a big snow-to-rain event as we saw earlier this week.
The rest of the month was the opposite -- mild and rainy with 10 straight days of moderate rain and 12 of the next 13 were wet.
Then March approached. Winter is surely done by now, right?
Another snow storm hits on March 1. 6 inches of snow fall in Seattle proper with another 1.4" on March 2. This event is short lived though as we climbed back into the 50s a few days later -- followed by 17 straight days of rain -- very typical of La Nina.
So I'm sure by March 20 when spring started and the temperature climbed to 62, people were probably ready for La Nina to end. Just like in 1985, I'm sure there were some people ready for New Coke to end too :)
Now, this doesn't mean that there will be more snow storms in February and March, just that there is precedent for what appeared to be a really lame La Nina scored some points at the buzzer.
(Incidentally, ask anyone in the UK (coldest winter in decades, if not ever) and Australia (Brisbane's destructive flooding) if the La Nina has been a bust. Maybe our turn is just later?)
Snow coverage in 1989
Just for kicks, I had our editors dig up our news coverage of the events. Not much has changed, except for hair styles and the cars. (Where's all the SUVs?)