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El Nino Looms; Don't Fret Too Much

By Taylor May
Published: 01/12/16 Topics: Comments: -

December 2015 brought us some great snow here in the Pacific North West. Just a few weeks ago there were amazing morning runs to be had at Stevens, Crystal, Snoqualmie, and others.

However, as much as we don't want to admit it, El Nino is on its way. What does that mean for us Northwest Skiers? Better than last year, but less snow than the average. Typically, El Nino hits the West Coast after New Years. This year looks to be no different, with Alaska experiencing warming temperatures, and California getting some much needed rain. The Northwest is right in the cross hairs for the rest of the winter.

El Nino is a complicated event relating to cyclical temperature changes in the southern Pacific Ocean and atmosphere. These cycles are made up of warm (El Nino) and cool (La Nina) phases, which phases lasting a few months, to a few years. 2016 is set to be a strong El Nino, which means the Polar Jet Stream and Pacific Jet Stream will split and create an area of low pressure off the West Coast, bringing rainstorms to California and parts of Alaska. Don't fret too much about the word “strong” though, as there isn't always a direct correlation between high temperatures and a strong or weak El Nino; sometimes weak El Nino's produce the hottest, driest winters.

A strong El Nino doesn't mean NO snow, but we should expect warmer than average temperatures for the rest of the winter. These conditions should persist from eastern Oregon all the way up to skiing grounds in British Colombia. Given our season last year, even a decrease from the average would still be an improvement!

Taylor May – Contributor
Northwest Skiers Magazine
01/12/16

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