How El Niño Is Making For An Epic Ski Season In The West

How El Niño Is Making For An Epic Ski Season In The West

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How El Niño Is Making For An Epic Ski Season In The West


Photo Credit: jcookfisher via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: jcookfisher via Flickr Creative Commons

(Cover Photo Credit: Mt. Rose Facebook Page)

Photos of bone dry lake beds, white ribbons of death, and failed attempts at snowmaking are still fresh in the minds of west coast skiers and riders.

However, those dreary memories of dry winters are fading fast as snow continues to fall in the western United States while the east adopts a season that resembles some weird twilight sequence between fall and winter.

The west is getting its due and thanks to El Niño, California’s epically abysmal streak of below average snowpacks is ending– fingers crossed. The same is true for the pacific northwest. Although Cascadia only experienced a single year of astoundingly low snow, they are just as a happy as Californians are to be leading the country in terms of snowfall totals.

Stongest El Nino Ever? Looks Like It... | Photo Credit: NOAA

Stongest El Nino Ever? Looks Like It… | Photo Credit: NOAA

In case you forgot, Mt Baker Ski Area was forced to shut down in March of this past year due to low snow totals. Normally Mt Baker is tied to absurdly big snow totals such as the 1998/1999 season when it recorded 1,140 inches (that’s 95 feet of snow!). Last year on the other hand played host to a measly 128″ of snow, not to mention multiple warming periods that saw rapid snowmelt.

This year is much different.

So far the snowpack in the west is off the charts. Today national SNOTEL data indicates that Mt Baker’s snowpack is between 139-141% of its normal. Although the Sierra have received less snow than their Washington counterparts, the Tahoe area is doing even better as far as average snowpack is concerned, boasting a snow depth that is 162% of their normal for this time of year!

And there’s one person to give credit.

Chris Farley… Seriously, The Niño has changed a great deal for the western seaboard of the United States and that difference is due to one thing– “THE FLOW.”

The Jet Stream started pushing south in November and now it’s sitting steady!

Ever since, the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) phenomenon is having profound impacts on the frequent storms originating in Alaska. Most of these storms have been pulled into the southerly flow, leaving a white coat on everything down the West Coast on their journey south. Finally, these storms that wind up in California are pulled into the interior US by the jet stream, bringing above average snowfall to the Southwest and Colorado.

And that’s exactly who has the snow right now.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 2.27.43 PM

NOAA Forecast: January-March

And it doesn’t stop there. According to NOAA, El Nino looks to continue its powder party through March. Current models indicate a stable jet stream through the Southwest, giving precipitation and above average temperatures for the southerly western United States until April. Although the Northwest is not projected to receive above average precipitation, if the Gulf of Alaska continues to churn out storms, stellar snowfalls could continue to trend in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Credit: NOAA

Photo Credit: NOAA

Photo Credit: NOAA

Photo Credit: NOAA

The Big Picture

Just exactly how El Niño contributed to the following snowpack could be debated for decades but looking at the correlations to previous strong El Niño years, the parallels are all there– kinda. Big precipitation in California and the Southwest– check. Low snow totals in the northeast– check. Cold and dry in the Pacific Northwest– wait a minute…

Which shows just how mysterious and dynamic the greater weather system that is our planet truly is. Whether or not you like to give El Niño credit, you must to admit– it’s more fun to give Farley credit that nobody at all right?

Cheers To The NINO

Cheers To The Nino!

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