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September 15, 2006

El Nino is Coming

From Oregon, it appears that El Nino is coming which is bad news for them. El Nino tends to dry out the Pacific Northwest, but dumps snow and rain on California and the Southwest.

There's worrisome signs for the upcoming ski season. Climate scientists with the National Weather Service see El Niño conditions developing over the ocean. Correspondent Tom Banse explains what that means for our weather.

El Niño is the name for a warming pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon affects weather around the globe.
Instead, Southern California and the Southwest will get some of our rain. Mass says this El Niño is still revving up.

Please let this be true for us in Arizona and Southern Utah. This site explains the effect in more detain and has actual data corresponding to the increases or decreases in average snowfall associated with El Nino:

El Nino strongly favors only Southern California, Arizona and far southern Utah, with milder effects extending to the southern Sierra and New Mexico. It may surprise people how small the correlations are at Tahoe and in southern Colorado. Everyone remembers the record Sierra snow during the record El Nino of 1982-83. But the 3rd and 4th strongest El Ninos (1992 and 1987) were severe drought years at Tahoe, and there are several good La Nina seasons, probably assisted by colder temperatures minimizing low elevation rain. The most southwestern locations in Colorado (Purgatory, Telluride and Red Mt. Pass) have even smaller correlations than North Tahoe.
With the exceptions noted above (Brian Head and Steamboat) El Nino/La Nina have minimal predictive value for Utah and Colorado ski areas.

Here is what their chart says about BH and the Southwest:

Area Monthly Seasonal Seasons
Southern California Composite (7,000 - 8,000) 24.6% 56.6% 31
Arizona Snowbowl, AZ (9,500) 23.0% 58.8% 15
Brian Head, Utah (9,770) 21.0% 50.2% 15
Arizona Snowbowl, AZ (10,800) 20.5% 50.7% 16

The monthly correlations are not large enough to have much predictive value. But by combining 6 consecutive months together to form seasonal data, the correlations for some areas get into the 50% range. This fits with observed experience that in big El Nino or La Nina years the expected effects occur from time to time but not consistently.

Posted by Justin at September 15, 2006 12:17 PM


Looks like El nino has skipped us this year. Here in the great Pacific Northwest we have had a record wet month, and it's only half over. Mother Nature decides the weather, and man predicting it will always be just a roll of the dice.

Posted by: Sidheag at November 16, 2006 07:42 AM