La Niña vs. El Niño | How much snow this season?

NOAA 3 Month outlook from Sep 20What do we really know about what kind of winter lies ahead?

The fast answer is that around the Salish Sea it could be wetter than usual. It is harder to predict the temperature.

If you are a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this is probably bad news. If you like to head into the hills to play with the snow, this might be one of the better years.

If it is hard to forecast what it going to happen next week, how can anyone possibly make any predictions about the upcoming season? The experts are talking about Little Girl — La Niña. [If you cannot see the rest of this article, click on the title… ]

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The first map (above) is from NOAA’s 3-month outlook for precipitation probability published on September 20. “A” means “above normal.”

Here is the NOAA Three-Month Outlooks. This is where I learned that these folks anticipate that we will have more than the usual wetness in the Lower Mainland. I suspect that the contents of that link will change over time. That’s why I made that excerpt of the current map.

Here are the factors that NOAA is considering:

  1. La Niña and El Niño
  2. Trends – approximated by the difference between the most recent 10-year mean of temperature or 15-year mean of precipitation, and the 20-year climatology period (1971-2000).
  3. The tropical 30-60 day oscillation
  4. The Pacific North American oscillation patterns
  5. Persistently dry or wet soils in summer and snow and ice cover anomalies in winter. NOAA comments that these tend to persist for long periods and act as a kind of memory in the climate system.
  6. Statistical forecast tools
  7. Dynamical forecast models
  8. An objective consolidation (used as a first guess)

The really interesting factor is the issue of La Niña.

  • La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific
  • El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific

The Climate Prediction Center comments: La Niña conditions will further develop during the next 3 months… During this period, potential impacts over the contiguous United States include wetter than normal conditions over the Pacific Northwest and drier than normal conditions over the southwestern states.

The warm El Niño and the colder La Niña seem to oscillate on average every 3-4 years. Nevertheless, it cannot be predicted that an El Niño episode will automatically follow this La Niña.

The consequences of La Niña are likely to result in higher temperatures across most of the continent this winter, but it could be cooler west of Alberta and Montana.

Wet + cold = lots of snow in our mountains during the early part of winter. I should mention that I cannot find a source that will actually make that prediction.

How far can we speculate? If the oscillation occurs, could we have a warm and dry El Niño for the winter of the Whistler Olympics?


8 Responses to “La Niña vs. El Niño | How much snow this season?”

  1. 1 viatt October 5, 2007 at 6:57 am

    I love this stuff Robert…I think you and I are the most active two mateur meteorologists here on Bowen.

    Earlier in the summer I asked a question about why we had a colder than usual summer and why the usual North Pacific high formed so far south of us, push storms northward. I received a few answers that are quite interesting:

    Will be interesting to see how the winter shapes up.

  2. 2 Robert October 5, 2007 at 8:38 am

    Hi viatt, Thanks for that link! The question resulted in good discussion and even more interesting links. (Adding viatt blog to my blogroll – thanks again.)

  3. 3 Robert November 5, 2007 at 7:50 am

    I wrote this article only a month ago. Readers should follow the link to the NOAA Three-Month Outlooks (above). The expectations for the months ahead, especially for the region around the Salish Sea, have already changed.

  4. 4 Robert November 9, 2007 at 3:25 am

    I can see that lots of folks are finding this blog article. For making your own short-term forecast, note this article, and the link to our web page of weather resources:

  5. 5 rollie cook December 1, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    It’s December 1st, snowing like crazy on Salt Spring Isl. and I’m looking at my latest seed catalogue, dreaming of melons and tomatoes. Kind of silly maybe.

    We had a cool summer and the tender melons and tomatoes didn’t do very well. I”m wondering if we will have a summer like last year’s and if so I should be less ambitious and stick to beets and cabbage. Any thoughts on the summer of 2008?

  6. 6 Robert December 1, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    @rollie, in a different life in central Canada, when we had a sunny patch of dirt, I used to love this time with all the seed catalogues – thinking about what would be interesting to grow next summer. I was not one of those people who try to perfect the garden by making only small annual adjustments. I enjoyed experimenting with new vegetables.

    The seeds would arrive, and we’d begin our growing season indoors in February. Elizabeth & I created a product for planning a vegetable garden using intensive gardening principles called, The Planting Board. We sold the rights to it to McKensie Seeds.

    Sorry, I have no idea what it will be like during the summer of 2008. Last summer was unusually cool and damp, so if we return to something more normal, it might be warmer and dryer. You might try some shorter-season varieties — anything to avoid an over abundance of beets and cabbage!

  1. 1 First warm day of the season - tomorrow. La Nina weakening. « Salish Sea Trackback on April 11, 2008 at 7:13 am
  2. 2 Season’s snow forecast | La Niña or ENSO « Salish Sea Trackback on November 3, 2008 at 9:35 am

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