2018 Idaho Water Year Summary

Overview:

The 2018 Water Year was pretty good for Idaho overall. The hydrologic system was still benefiting from the extreme moisture received the previous year which provided excellent reservoir carryover and above normal streamflow through the fall and winter.  

Precipitation patterns favored northern Idaho and portions of the Upper Snake Basin in eastern Idaho, resulting in normal or above normal precipitation for these regions. By winter’s end, basin snowpack percentages for these areas were around 120 percent of median. Large snowpacks in adjacent areas of British Columbia and western Montana helped set the stage for spring flooding across the Panhandle region.  In contrast, precipitation was subpar for much of southern Idaho with some locations receiving only 50 to 70 percent of normal. The Owyhee Basin in far southwest Idaho had the lowest snowpack percentage in the state at 45 percent of median.

Dry and very warm conditions through the summer brought a return of drought conditions to the Panhandle region while drought conditions expanded near the Nevada and Utah border.  Streamflows fell below normal in a number of basins from late spring through summer as very dry weather persisted.

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Temperature:

Mean temperatures for the 2018 Water Year were above normal for almost the entire state. The southern half of Idaho, particularly the higher elevations, experienced the greatest anomalies with much of the area in the top 10 percentile.

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Fall and winter temperatures were normal or slightly below normal for the northern half of Idaho. Meanwhile, fall temperatures across the southern half of Idaho had a warm tendency. Springtime brought above normal temperatures to the entire state which spurred a strong snowmelt runoff for northern Idaho and portions of eastern Idaho. Summertime temperatures were generally around normal across the northern half of the state while southern Idaho experienced above normal temperatures.

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The storm track favored northern and central Idaho during the first quarter of the 2018 Water year resulting in normal to above normal fall precipitation across the northern half of the state.  Most of southern Idaho wasn’t as fortunate and started the water year off rather dry. Precipitation patterns continued to favor northern and central Idaho along with much of eastern Idaho during the winter and early spring. This served to build a healthy snowpack in these areas and set the stage for a good runoff season.  Across southwest Idaho winter precipitation lagged considerably which raised concerns for drought and agricultural water supply. By the end of June, hot and dry weather typical of summer settled in across the state and very little precipitation was received through the remainder of the water year.

Precipitation:prec1

 

Although a small percentage of annual precipitation occurs during the summer, it was an exceptionally dry period across the state. Almost all of Idaho was in the bottom 10 percentile for July through September precipitation and many areas experienced near-record dryness. For example, Lewiston experienced its 6th driest July through September on record.

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Snowpack:

By late winter a robust snowpack accumulated across northern Idaho, portions of the Upper Snake Basin in eastern Idaho, and adjacent areas of western Montana and British Columbia.  In contrast, much of south-central and southwest Idaho missed out on a lot of the winter storms resulting in a subpar snowpack, especially near the Utah and Nevada border. By early April, when Idaho’s overall snowpack typically peaks, basin percentages were around 120 percent of median from the Panhandle region south across the Clearwater Basin, and across portions of the Upper Snake Basin. In south-central and southwest Idaho, snowpack percentages dropped off to around 70 percent of median or less. The Owyhee Basin had the lowest early April percentage at 47 percent of median.

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Streamflow:

2017 set the stage for the 2018 runoff season. With the exception of a couple basins, streamflows for the 2018 Water Year started strong and were normal to much above normal through the fall, winter, and spring. Abundant water in the hydrologic system kept water flowing in some streams that are typically dry during the fall and winter, such as lower reaches of the Big Lost River in eastern Idaho.  Rapid melting of the large snowpack and full reservoir systems pushed spring snowmelt flows to much above normal for portions of the Panhandle, Central Mountains, and upper Snake River regions. As a result, spring flooding occurred across portions of the state, especially the Panhandle region. Despite the strong spring runoff for much of Idaho, streamflows fell below normal in many basins from late spring through summer.

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Reservoirs:

Reservoir storage got a head start due to excellent carryover from the previous water year and most major reservoir systems were able to fill.  Large snowpack in British Columbia, western Montana, and northern Idaho resulted in near-record or record high runoff prompting large flood control releases on some river systems. Even in parts of southwest Idaho where lower snowpack resided, large reservoir releases were necessary to accommodate high snowmelt inflows. As the irrigation season hit full stride reservoir systems were drawn down near a normal pace and ended the water year with near average carryover for the next water year.

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Drought:

Abundant fall precipitation erased drought conditions during early stages of the 2018 Water Year. However, above normal temperatures, subpar snowpack, and limited spring rains across the south allowed drought to creep back into the picture by late spring over southwest Idaho.  As has been the trend in recent years, above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation dominated through the summer. This allowed drought to expand across southern Idaho into the West Central Mountains as well as the Panhandle Region.

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September 2018 Climate Statistics

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With only a trace of rain, September 2018 was one of the driest Septembers on record. There were only 9 others with no measurable precipitation in 152 years of Boise area records, and only 5 others in 78 years of airport records.

Total precipitation for the four months from June through September was only 0.36 inch. June-September periods with so little precipitation are unusual, but not unique. For example:

1994 .44
1901 .39
1898 .37
2018 .36
1957 .31
2012 .31
1933 .27
1966 .27
1935 .19

Temperatures averaged only slightly above normal.  September began with near normal temperatures under dry westerly flow aloft. The flow backed into the southwest on the 5th as a high-pressure ridge built over the northern Rockies. This resulted in the last 90-degree highs of the summer on the 5th, 6th, and 7th.

A cooling trend commenced on the 8th as an upper-level low-pressure trough from the Gulf of Alaska approached the British Columbia Coast. As the trough edged closer, a dry cold front passed Boise on the 10th, followed by cooler north Pacific air. Highs were only in the low 70s from the 11th through the 13th.

The trough remained parked over the west coast through the 18th, keeping temperatures a few degrees below normal. It finally moved inland on the 19th, then continued east out of our area on the 20th.

Brief warming followed on the 21st and 22nd, with highs in the low 80s, but another north Pacific trough was on the way.

Rather than stalling over the coast, this trough continued on an eastward track, pushed along by a building upper-level high-pressure ridge offshore. The trough was east of our area on the 24th. Like its predecessors, it produced no rain in the Boise area.

East of the ridge, northwest flow aloft over the Pacific Northwest states kept temperatures 5 to 10 degrees below normal, with highs of only 69 on the 24th and 25th, the first highs in the 60s since June 17. The low of 38 on the 24th was the first low in the 30s since May 2.

As the eastern portion of the ridge edged inland, warmer air raised temperatures above normal from the 27th through the 29th, with highs in the low 80s.

During that time, an upper-level low was drifting slowly eastward toward California. By the morning of the 30th, it was centered over the Oregon-northern California coast. Its only effect on Boise was a few clouds and slightly cooler temperatures.

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June 2018 Climate Statistics

June`s average temperature was one degree above normal, giving a ranking of 23rd warmest in the 79 years of Boise Airport records. Highs reached or exceeded 90 degrees on 6 days, which is exactly normal for June. There were no record highs or lows.

It was a month of changeable temperatures, owing to a procession of upper level troughs and ridges from the north Pacific. Highs ranged from 63°F on the 17th to 94°F on the 25th.

It was one of the drier Junes, with only a quarter inch of precipitation. Along with June 1957, it ranks 20th driest at the Boise Airport.

Measurable rain fell on only four days: the 7th, 9th, 17th, and 18th. With the exception of the 17th, rainfall totals were under a tenth of an inch.

On the 14th a trough from the Gulf of Alaska stalled over the northwest states. Cooler air aloft flowing into the trough from western Canada caused it to intensify, and it strengthened further as it entrained moisture from east of the Rockies. On the 17th, 0.13 inch of rain fell at the airport, but much heavier amounts were reported in northern and eastern Idaho and portions of the central Idaho mountains between the 16th and 18th.

Strong winds were observed on three occasions early in the month. At 7:30 pm on the 3rd, outflow from a shower ahead of a strong cold front produced a gust of 53 mph from the south, resulting in blowing dust reducing visibilities. At 6:25 pm on the 7th, outflow from a thunderstorm gusted to 41 mph from the southeast, accompanied by brief moderate rain. And at 12:50 pm on the 9th, a gust of 43 mph from the northwest followed another strong cold front.

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April 2018 Climate Statistics

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April was characterized by changing weather patterns. Migrating high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs at upper levels brought alternating periods of above and below normal temperatures, but overall there was a gradual warming trend, and the monthly average was slightly above normal.

Most precipitation fell during the first 16 days of the month, when half the days had measurable rain. The final 14 days were dry, except for a couple of trace events. As a whole, April was slightly drier than normal.

The first half of the month also saw three strong wind events. Boise fared somewhat better than the surrounding region, where there was local damage, as winds in the Treasure Valley weren`t quite as strong.

On the 2nd a rapidly moving upper level trough from the Gulf of Alaska crossed our area. It was accompanied by a strong jet stream, and a thunderstorm which dropped small hail on some parts of the Treasure Valley.  Some of the jet energy reached the surface as the cold front came through, producing a gust of 49 mph at the airport.

On the 7th another cold front crossed the Boise area, propelled rapidly inland by an initially strong upper level trough approaching the Washington coast.  The front triggered thunderstorms, one of which generated a gust of 55 mph from the northwest at the airport.  Over a quarter inch of rain was measured with this storm. The trough itself faded out as it progressed inland.

On the 12th a deeper, colder trough moved over our area. Two tenths of an inch of snow fell at the airport, but it melted quickly.

On the 16th an even deeper trough pushed inland, accompanied by a quarter inch of rain and a trace of snow.  That system was followed by a more settled, warmer period, with temperatures near or above normal from the 19th through the 28th. On the morning of the 18th another weather system was poised just off the northwest coast, but instead of heading for Boise, it went south to California on the 19th then east over the Colorado plateau on the 20th.

Our area was dominated by high pressure from the 20th through the 27th.  On the 27th the temperature maxed out at 90°F, two degrees shy of the record.

The early taste of summer was ended by a cold front on the 28th, followed by a slow moving upper level trough on the 29th.  The combination of cold air aloft and surface heating in the trough created instability which triggered convective showers but only traces of rain at the Boise Airport. The trough remained on the 30th and was expected to linger a few more days.

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Idaho Spring Flood and Water Resources Outlook

M1The potential for spring flooding due to snowmelt is elevated for portions of eastern Idaho and northern Idaho. The spring flood risk for the rest of the state is average or below average. There remains an elevated risk of spring flooding across portions of the Upper Snake Basin due to above average mountain snowpack. This includes the mainstem Snake River above American Falls Reservoir and the Henrys Fork near Rexburg. An elevated flood risk also exists across the Panhandle Region where some of the highest snowpack percentages in the state reside. Elsewhere across Idaho, early May snowpack conditions suggest a low probability of spring flooding due to snowmelt. The primary factors in the development of spring flooding are the occurrence of persistent above normal temperatures, and rain on snow precipitation events. Even for areas where drought conditions exist, or that have low snowpack, spring flooding is possible under the right conditions. Additionally, burn scars can have a significant impact on local flood potential during spring snowmelt and rain events.M2

Water Supply

National Weather Service April through September water supply volume forecasts for northern and eastern Idaho, and the mainstem Snake River across southern Idaho range from 115 to 150 percent of average. Elsewhere, water supply forecasts are 85 to 110 percent of average for most of the Central Mountains and only 30 to 70 percent of average for south central and southwest Idaho. The lowest forecast percentages are in far southwest Idaho in the Bruneau and Owyhee River Basins at less than 40 percent of average.M3

Temperature and Precipitation

As of May 1, temperatures for the 2018 Water Year have been average or slightly below average across the northern half of the state while most of southern Idaho has experienced a little above average temperatures. Water Year precipitation was above average for the Panhandle, Spokane, and Clearwater Basins. The Clearwater Basin had the greatest anomalies in the state at 130 to 150 percent of average. The Salmon Basin and Upper Snake Basin near the Wyoming border were generally 100 to 130 percent of average. Elsewhere in southern and southwest Idaho the Water Year precipitation was mostly in the 70 to 90 percent of average range with pockets of around 60 percent.

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Snowpack

As of May 2, the highest snowpack percentages in the state ranged from 138 to 145 percent of median in the Clearwater, Spokane and Northern Panhandle Region. Not far behind were basins in eastern Idaho such as the Little Lost and Birch Basins, Henrys Fork, Teton, and Snake Basin above Palisades at 120 to 130 percent. The Payette, Boise, Salmon, Wood and Lost Basins ranged from 74 to 109 percent of median. Southside Snake River Basins along the Nevada border were a mixed bag ranging from a low of 17 percent of median in the Owyhee Basin to a high of 86 percent of median in the Raft River Basin. Northern Idaho basins and those near the continental divide reached their peak snowpack in mid to late April. The low elevation snow is gone and melting of the high elevations will increase over the next few weeks as temperatures warm.

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Reservoirs

Reservoir storage across Idaho is in good shape. As of May 1, storage in major reservoir systems throughout Idaho was 100 percent of average or greater, except where systems were heavily drafted to make space for anticipated snowmelt runoff. Weather patterns and irrigation demand will continue to drive operations through late spring as reservoirs are topped off. Wet spring weather or extended periods of warmth resulting in rapid snowmelt and large reservoir inflows could result in significant fluctuations in reservoir discharge and downstream river levels.

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Drought

Idaho is currently free from any official drought classification according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, below average precipitation for the Water Year and poor snowpack has put much of southern Idaho in the abnormally dry category. Weather and precipitation for the remainder of spring will determine whether or not conditions improve or deteriorate for areas experiencing the dryness. Good reservoir storage will ease drought concerns for those served by major storage projects.

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Long Range and Seasonal Outlooks

The outlook for May favors above normal temperatures across the state. The May precipitation outlook favors above normal precipitation for southeast Idaho and below normal precipitation for the northwest half of the state. The seasonal outlook for June through August favors above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.

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On-line Resources

Water Supply Volume Forecasts…
National Weather Service-Northwest River Forecast Center www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/ws/
National Weather Service-Colorado Basin River Forecast Center www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/id/snow/

Snowpack Information…
National Weather Service-Northwest River Forecast Center www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/snow/
National Weather Service-National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/id/snow/

Reservoir Storage…
Bureau of Reclamation Reservoir Storage www.usbr.gov/pn/hydromet/select.html
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/basin.html

Drought Information…
U.S. Drought Portal www.drought.gov
U.S. Drought Monitor www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
National Drought Mitigation Center www.drought.unl.edu/

Peak Flow Forecasts…
Northwest River Forecast Center www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/peak/
Colorado Basin River Forecast Center www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/rmap/peak/peaklist.php

Temperature and Precipitation Outlook…
Climate Prediction Center www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

 

Interested in measuring precipitation? Join the CoCoRaHS observing network.

Join CoCoRaHS Today!cocorahs

CoCoRaHS is a practical, enjoyable and useful activity. If you have an interest in weather and would like to help your local community, as well as scientists and others interested in precipitation, then CoCoRaHS is for you. It only takes a few minutes a day and gives you the chance to participate in real hands-on science. You’ll be amazed at what you learn as you become more aware of the variable weather that impacts you, your neighbors, your state and our entire country.

Data on the web

Volunteers submit their observations using the CoCoRaHS website or apps. Observations are immediately available to the public via maps and data analysis tools, and to data users via the CoCoRaHS Web API. Data users such as scientists, resource manages, decision makers and others have come to rely on the high density, high quality measurements provided by CoCoRaHS observers.

CoCoRaHS is Educational

CoCoRaHS offers learning opportunities too. In addition to training materials, newsletters and the ‘Message of the Day’, members also enjoy opportunities to attend Webinars featuring experts in weather, climatology and other pertinent disciplines. CoCoRaHS offers classroom resources for K-12 teachers. Students get to collect and submit real scientific data – all while meeting State and National Standards in science, math, geography and more!

What is CoCoRaHS?

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, is a non-profit, community based, network of volunteers who measure and report rain, hail and snow in their backyards.

A brief History

CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado in July 1997. A very localized storm dumped over a foot of rain in several hours while other portions of the city had only modest rainfall. The ensuing flood caught many by surprise, caused $200 million in damages, and resulted in five deaths. CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. CoCoRaHS became a nationwide volunteer network in 2010 and is now international with observers helping provide critical precipitation observations, benefiting their country’s needs.

Volunteers of all ages welcome!

Individuals and family volunteers of all ages and all walks of life are the foundation of the CoCoRaHS network, Anyone can help. It only takes a few minutes to check the rain gauge and report your observations.

Training: “the Key to our success”

It is important that all CoCoRaHS precipitation reports be accurate and consistant. Training is provided on how to install gauges, properly measure precipitation and transmit reports. CoCoRaHS precipitation reports are accurate and very useful.

Why is there so much interest in rain, hail and snow?

Precipitation is essential for life. It varies greatly with topography, storm type and season. It really is true that it may pour on one side of the street and be dry on the other. A portion of a field may be pounded by hail while others nearby receive no damage. Snowfall may pile up in one neighborhood and only dust another. Rain, hail and snow are fairly easy to measure, and the data collected are very important. Meteorologists, hydrologists, engineers, builders, farmers . . . you name it, everyone seems to care about rain, hail and snow. That’s why we ask, “How much fell in your backyard?” There are limited observations across southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon, compared to the rest of the country, so we would love to have your observations. To learn more about the CoCoRaHS program and to see where your fellow observers have recorded rain amounts, visit http://www.cocorahs.org/.

Invite your neighbors, relatives and friends by sending them this “Join” link: http://www.cocorahs.org/application.aspx

Spring Snowpack and Flood Outlook – April Update

The potential for spring flooding due to snowmelt in 2018 is well above average across most of northern and eastern Idaho and Montana. Meanwhile, the spring flood potential is slightly below average for southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon.

The storm track over much of the winter brought above normal precipitation values to much of the region. However, it was a tale of two cities on the northern end (cooler) and the southern end of the storm track. Cooler conditions on the northern portion of the storm track led to above normal snow values across Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana, while the southern end of the storm track brought warmer conditions to Oregon, southwest Idaho, Nevada and Utah, leading to a below normal snow pack. The following graphic illustrates the amount of snow pack compared to normal for mid April.

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March 2018 Climate Statistics

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The changeable weather of March 2018 was typical of late winter and early spring. The progression of low pressure troughs and high pressure ridges brought alternating periods of warm and cold temperatures, yielding a close-to-normal average. There were no record highs or lows.

Episodes of active weather and moderate precipitation occurred as each trough and its accompanying cold front entered our area.

The 0.54 inch rainfall on the 14th tied the record for the date set in 1927. The 1.89 inches for the month was 0.50 inch above normal and ranks in the wettest 20 percent of Marchs at the airport, and the wettest 25 percent at all Boise locations.

Snowfall for the month was 2.6 inches, mostly falling on the morning of the 25th. The monthly normal is 1.3 inches.

The first four days of March were dominated by an upper level trough which brought cold temperatures but little precipitation. The 23°F on the 4th was the low for the month.

Temperatures rose above normal on the 8th as an upper level ridge began to build over the region.

The ridge reached its maximum amplitude on the 12th, allowing temperatures to rise into the low 60s. As the ridge began to exit, southerly flow ahead of the next upstream trough pushed the temperature to 69°F on the 13th, the high for the month.

The trough sent a strong cold front inland, and convective showers ahead of the front were preceded by northwest winds gusting over 30 mph. When the showers reached the Boise airport just after 4 am, moderate rain began and persisted for about an hour before tapering off and ending. The trough drifted slowly inland on the 16th and 17th, preventing temperatures from rising above the upper 40s on those days.

The last weather maker of the month was another strong upper level trough which stalled off the coast of British Columbia on the 22nd.  This trough extended far enough south to tap subtropical moisture.

Like its predecessor, moderate rain preceded the cold front on the afternoon of the 22nd. The front passed the airport at about 7:30 pm, accompanied by the first thunderstorm of the spring season.  The strongest convection and heaviest rain stayed west and north of Boise.

As the trough moved inland and weakened on the 25th, it produced the last measurable precipitation of the month, falling as 2.1 inches of snow. The cold north pacific air was responsible for a high of only 45°F that day, the chilliest maximum since the start of spring.

Following this system, west-northwest flow aloft returned temperatures to near normal from the 28th through the 31st.

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February 2018 Climate Stats

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February 2018 can be described as three seasons in one month.

It began with early spring. The 1st through the 9th had the same average temperature as the last half of a normal march. The 59°F on the 2nd tied the record for the date set in 1881. The 61°F on the 3rd eclipsed the old record of 60°F  in 1953.

Temperatures from the 10th  through the 18th were near normal for late winter.

It was back to mid-winter from the 19th through the 28th, which averaged colder than a normal December.

The average temperature for the entire month was deceptively close to normal.

February is usually the driest winter month at Boise. This February had only 56 percent of normal precipitation, despite heavier than average snowfall. Measurable precipitation fell on only 4 days.

Snowfall totaled 7.4 inches, over twice the normal 2.8 inches. There was at least patchy snow cover each day during the last week of the month. The 4.9 inch snowfall on the 22nd set a record for the date.  The old record was 4 inches in 1912. The greatest snow depth at the Boise Airport was 5 inches on the 22nd.

A warm upper level high pressure ridge off the coast was responsible for the spring-like weather from the 1st through the 9th. It also kept most of the precipitation associated with Pacific weather systems east of our area.

The ridge gradually shifted west, allowing northwest flow aloft to transport cooler but not unseasonably cold air into the Intermountain region from the 10th through the 18th.  One weather system embedded in the flow was strong enough to bring Boise a quarter inch of precipitation on the 14th, including half an inch of snow.

The ridge continued to drift west as a very cold upper level trough deepened over western Canada. Strong northerly flow on the west side of an upper level low over Hudson Bay pushed the trough south of the border. The cold front ahead of the trough passed Boise at about 9 pm on the 17th. Following the front, the wind increased from the northwest, and a peak gust of 43 mph was recorded at the airport just after midnight.

Temperatures initially were not unseasonably cold, but by the 19th modified arctic air had begun to filter into the Treasure Valley, while the true arctic front was stalled in the central Idaho mountains.

Although the coldest air stayed well to our north and east, clear skies, light winds, and very dry air allowed the temperature to drop into the single digits in the Boise area by sunrise on the 20th. The low of 9°F at the airport was the coldest since the 8 degrees on December 24, 2017.

The cold pattern persisted through the end of the month, with a deep upper level trough anchored over the western U.S. and western Canada. Temperatures remained unseasonably cold, and weather disturbances moving into the trough from Alaska brought periods of snow.

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