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Tom Sherry's 2020 winter forecast: Moderate to strong La Niña expected

This year, Tom is expecting Spokane and North Idaho to see a moderate to strong La Niña winter. Here's what that means.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Every year, KREM’s Chief Meteorologist Tom Sherry gives his long-range winter forecast for Spokane, eastern Washington and North Idaho.

This year, Tom is expecting the Inland Northwest to see a moderate to strong La Niña winter. Here is his full long-range winter forecast for 2020-2021.

How La Niña winters impact snow fall

La Nina winters come when sea surface temperatures cool. A strong La Niña occurs when sea surface temperatures are very cool. The last time this happened in the Inland Northwest was in 2010, when we saw about 70 inches of snow.

In 2010, two feet of snow fell in November.

During a La Niña winter, we have a much more active polar jet stream, about 24,000 to 30,000 feet up in the sky. What happens up there determines what's going to happen down here since we have a strong polar jet stream ripping right over the Pacific Northwest. It just keeps bringing in cold wet air from the Gulf of Alaska and then occasionally sucks in dry continental air from up above from the Arctic and northern Canada. 

This will keep us in a deep freeze so we'll get the snow dropping, then we'll get the cold arctic air dropping down from the north.

How much snow will we see?

Any snow that falls is going to stay on the ground but really, what it means if the computer models are correct, and we keep cooling, then we could be well in excess of 60 inches of snow for the Spokane area. 

That's at least 16 inches more than Spokane's average of 44 inches of snow. 

Credit: KREM

Colville gets about 43 inches of snow on average. The area will likely get 60-plus inches of snow this year.

Moses Lake is one of the drier locations, and averages less than two feet of snow annually. This area will likely get 35 inches of snow.

In Pullman, 42 inches of snow normally falls in the winter. Like Spokane, the area will likely see 60-plus inches of snow.

If you live in Sandpoint, you'd normally get 58 inches of snow. This year, you're going to get in excess of 70 inches of snow.

Coeur d’Alene, even during a normal winter, gets a lot of snow, you get about 70 inches of snow on average. This year the area could get 85-plus inches of snow this year.

Credit: KREM

How long will snow stick around?

This winter, a lot of the snow that falls is going to stick around. We may only get five or six days in a month when it actually snows.

Whatever falls on the ground could stick around for several months.

Tom’s suggestion for enjoying winter

“It's a great opportunity if you like reading books and staying inside and being cozy do that,” Tom said. “If you love getting outside and skiing and ice skating and cross-country skiing, sledding with the kids and the grandkids, then I think we're going to have a great winter for that. So just give yourself more time, be more patient and just say, ‘Hey, this too shall pass and in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy it.’”