North Sound weather in 2021 was a year of extremes. The year had record crushing heat as well as snow and cold, and nearly everything in between. For some, the turn of the calendar to 2022 could not come soon enough.

The year began with La Nina and finished with La Nina – a rather rare back-to-back phenomenon. La Nina is when the eastern Pacific Ocean tropical waters are cooler than normal. As a result, the North Pacific Jetstream – or storm track – spends more time at the latitude of the Pacific Northwest, and often brings cooler and wetter than average conditions during the cool or winter season. And that was the case as the year began and ended.

The first half of January was the wettest on record with some parts of the North Sound receiving between 6 and 10 inches of rain in just a few weeks. Saturated soils raised the threat of landslides and the rail line between Everett and Seattle was shut down for a few days during the peak of the landslide threat.

Just weeks later, the weather pattern turned sharply colder in mid-February. In what some called perfect timing for Valentine’s Day weekend, the snow began falling Friday evening and ended late Sunday. Parts of the North Sound received around a foot of snow before it warmed up and melted away after the weekend.

On the other end of the extreme in late June, the region was under a heat dome resulting in all-time record trouncing high temperatures.  From June 27th through the 29th, the North Sound suffered through the hottest heat wave ever on record. Everett Paine Field tied its all-time record of 100 degrees set only the previous August. Lynnwood soared to 109, North Marysville hit 107, and Arlington peaked at 103, smashing its previous June 29th daily record by 17 degrees.

The heat wave also melted a big dent into what was a healthy La Nina mountain snowpack. In April, the mountain snowpack was 110 to 135 percent of average. By early July, it was down to 50 to 70 percent of average.

After that heat wave, summer temperatures were generally more average. But the heat wave also dried things out across the region and the dry conditions continued into September, resulting in hundreds of wildfires across Western North America. In mid-August, wildfire smoke revisited the North Sound, souring visibility and air quality once again. This invasion of wildfire smoke was the fourth year out of the last five – a sharp contrast to previous decades going well back into the 20th century.

Then in mid-September, it was if nature’s irrigation was turned back on. The rains returned with a vengeance, reaching a crescendo in November. Soils were once again saturated raising the landslide threat, and rivers were running high with significant flooding in the North Sound all the way into Whatcom County.

The year finished with the return of cold and snow, typical of La Nina. Just after Christmas Day, cold Canadian air swept into the North Sound and combining with moisture moving down the British Columbia coast, produced more snow across the region. Snow totals ranged from a peak of 8 inches on Whidbey Island to 15 inches in Skagit and Snohomish Counties. Snow piled up in the mountains too. With little on the ground before Thanksgiving, the mountains now have from 105 to 120 percent of average snowfall conditions.

During nights when skies cleared combined with the fresh snow, temperatures plummeted. Arlington dipped to just 1 degree above zero on the morning of December 29th, a 102 degree swing from the sizzling 103 degrees recorded in late June.

2021 was quite a weather year – one for the record books. What lies ahead for 2022? Cool wet La Nina conditions will extend into this spring. Anticipate the threat of more lowland snow across the North Sound sometime in January or February.

Beyond this spring when La Nina fades away, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center seasonal outlooks point to another warmer and drier than average summer. Heading into fall and winter, Neutral conditions – in between La Nina and El Nino – looks to prevail. Neutral conditions offer more likely average temperatures and precipitation, but also active stormy weather if history holds true.

As we head into the New Year, here is a poetic look back at the 2021 weather year in review. Happy New Year!

The weather in 2021

Was a year we wanted done

A double dose of La Nina

Made us want to submit a subpoena

As James Taylor sang

It involved Fire and Rain

The June heat was on

We were yelling oh c’mon

All time heat under the dome

We had nowhere to roam

That August wildfire smoke

Made some people choke

Wet November and floods

Homes filled with mud

February and December snow

Leaving us nowhere to go

As we ring in the New Year

Let the weather be less severe


North Sound Meteorologist Ted Buehner worked more than 40 years for the National Weather Service (NWS) from 1977 to 2018. He is now an Everett Post Media team member. Together with Everett Post Weather Minute Podcasts, he provides morning and afternoon commute traffic and weather updates on both KRKO and KXA Radio, and sports reporting on KRKO.