Taken @JacksonHole during the La Nina winter of 2010/11 | Photo Credit: Matt Valentine
Taken @JacksonHole during the La Nina winter of 2010/11 | Photo Credit: Matt Valentine

“There’s a 75% chance that La Niña will be in place by the fall, meaning sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific at the equator will be more than 0.5°C below average.” NOAA Climate Prediction Center

With this past year’s historic El Nino on the outs, many are wondering whether La Niña will show its face this the upcoming ski season. That speculation is based largely on the dramatic effect of the 2010/2011 La Niña event, which brought huge storm totals to the majority of the western United States.

And although we can’t say that Squaw will receive the 810″ it received during the last La Niña event, we can say that a La Niña is likely this upcoming season. 

Photo Credit: NOAA
Photo Credit: NOAA

That conclusion is based largely on equatorial sea surface temperatures. Those sea surface temperatures have undergone a steady decline since peaking at 4.5°F above normal in November of 2015. Just recently, those temperatures began dropping faster and faster and if that trend continues, we could see a quick transition out of El Niño by early this summer and into La Niña by October.

Related: 2010/2011 Season Snow Totals in North America

Secondly, a large segment of cold water, nicknamed “the big blue blob,” exists just below the water’s surface. That abundance of cold water should also help drop water surface temperatures over the coming months.

"The Big Blue Blog" | Photo Credit: NOAA
“The Big Blue Blog” | Photo Credit: NOAA

La Niña Facts:

  • To qualify as a La Niña event, the three-month-average sea surface temperature in the Niño3.4 region (the Oceanic Niño Index) must remain at least 0.5°C below the long-term average for five or more overlapping three-month periods.
  • The strongest La Niña on record was in 1973/74, when the sea surface temperature dipped to -1.9°C below average from November–January 1973/74.
  • Of the 14 La Niñas in recorded history, 9 immediately followed El Niño years.
  • All La Niña events in our record have started within two years of an El Niño.
  • Only once on record has El Niño lasted through two straight winters, 1986-1988.
  • Multiple year La Niña’s have happened three times. The La Niña event that followed the 1997/98 El Niño lasted for thirty-three months, through three winters!


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