Dean Hazen, the new meteorologist-in-chief of the Pocatello Weather Forecast Office, has spent his life analyzing climate patterns in numerous regions across the United States, including Florida, Oklahoma and California.
But he says Southeast Idaho is different than anywhere else.
“Every place has its own forecast challenges,” he said. “But this area is particularly difficult.”
Hazen said this difficulty is due to Idaho’s mountainous terrain and the state’s storm systems that originate in the Pacific Ocean.
“We have to work hard to determine our forecasts for the area,” he said. “Partly because the storms from the ocean can change so much before they hit us. Partly because there’s a lot of terrain for the storms to get through.”
Since the beginning of the year, Idaho has been in the midst of one of its warmest winters its seen in decades. The National Weather Service said multiple high temperature records were broken in January and February in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Stanley and Challis, with snow precipitation levels well below the historical averages.
Is this warm weather the direct result of global warming and climate change? Hazen said no.
“You can’t make a direct link to global warming and one particular season,” he said.
He said the scientific reason for the unseasonably warm weather is due to a high pressure system that has predominantly settled over the West Coast and the Intermountain West over the past two years.
“Lately we’ve been seeing that whenever a storm comes in from the ocean, the high pressure system pushes it away from our area and towards the panhandle,” he said. “Then it moves south towards the plains, passing us by.”
On the flip side, Hazen said there’s been a low pressure system in the Midwest and the East Coast. He said this is why the eastern half of the country has been slammed this winter with freezing cold temperatures and blizzards, while most of the western half has been basking in unseasonably warm temperatures.