U I climate and weather expert concerned with warm winter

MOSCOW, ID - Recently our region has been experiencing some unusually warm temperatures that make it hard to believe we're in the middle of January.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin discusses the warm winter with people on the Palouse and explains what we could see in the next couple months.

The University of Idaho kicked off a brand new semester on Wednesday.

"I'm excited to start off the new semester," said U of I student Rosie Mary. "Fresh start, new classes."

With students skateboarding. squirrels scurrying, and cows sunbathing, it's hard to believe it's the start of a spring semester.

"Super warm," said U of I student Emily Taylor. "It's awesome."

"I was really nervous coming up to Moscow because I don't do cold weather very well but, you don't really even need a jacket right now," said Mary.

It's hard to complain when we're seeing nothing but blue skies and highs in the mid-forties in the middle of January. But, the lack of precipitation is concerning to some people.

"We're running around 25-50% below normal in terms of the typical amount of precipitation we see this time of the year," said U of I Professor of Geography John Abatzoglou. "And we also are seeing the same numbers reflected in our snow pack."

U of I Climate and Weather Expert John Abatzoglou said the widespread dryness in the western part of the country is due to a unique weather pattern.

"What we're having here in the west the dancing partner to the polar vortex, so it's a warm ridge that we have in place which is basically acting to send all the storms way up to our north into Canada and Alaska," said Abatzoglou.

The lack of snow is taking its toll on winter recreation. But Abatzoglou said a dry water year affects much more than just the ski season.

"It will hurt us down the road if we don't catch up," said Abatzoglou. "So come summertime, we will see low flows in our streams, we might see increased fire danger, water availability may become scarce."

But Abatzoglou said there's a good chance we'll see more moisture within the next few months.

"The good news is that we have good experience in playing catch-up, and four of the last late winters and springs in the Palouse have been well above normal in terms of precipitation," said Abatzoglou.

In the meantime, students will be enjoying the clear weather.

"It makes you a little bit happier when you can see a blue sky," said Mary.