Here comes La Niña: This winter may pack big snows

Newsroom Long Range Forecast Here comes La Niña: This winter may pack big snows

It’s time to talk about the weather and those twin weather-makers that make a difference in whether we’ll get more or less snow to slide on in different parts of the country. Their names are, of course, El Niño (little boy) and La Niña (little girl). They may be twins in one sense, but they have distinctively different personalities and are actually opposite climate patterns. Early predictions for the winter of 22-23 are that winter, and La Niña, is right around the corner.

What Is La Niña?

La Niña means that water temperatures in a large area of the central Pacific Ocean (around the equator) are below normal. These below-normal water temperatures influence global weather patterns, especially during the winter for the U.S.

This strong influence on winter weather is important because it provides some confidence in the seasonal snow forecast a bit ahead of the season’s start. Many people and even meteorologists are skeptical of long-range weather forecasts; especially those that purport to predict amounts of snow or rain for the next half a year. That skepticism is generally warranted—except perhaps during a La Niña (or even an El Niño) winter.

“La Niña tends to organize the wintertime jet stream in a way that favors the Pacific Northwest and Northern Tier of states with the most consistent winter snowfall, writes OnTheSnow meteorologist Chris Tomer. La Niña tends to leave California and the Southern Tier of states drier and warmer than normal. This pattern is not conducive to atmospheric river setups.  The drought can deepen as a result.”

images of la Nina
Below normal water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean give La Niña her fury. Image Courtesy of NOAA.

La Niña’s Impact On Previous Seasons

In the absence of La Niña (or El Niño), forecasts for an entire winter usually are not very instructive. However, when La Niña (or El Niño) influences the weather patterns, meteorologists often can provide a more confident seasonal forecast by looking at snowfall from past La Niña seasons. In short, La Niña gives us a historical guide to forecasting the future.

What Will La Niña’s Impact Be On This Season?

La Niña has been the dominant weather force in each of the last two winters, and it’s rare for La Nina to go for a hat trick. Yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) is forecasting a third consecutive La Niña. Triple-dip La Niña’s like this are rare, only occurring 3 times in the last 73 years, according to meteorologist Chris Tomer. Furthermore, Chris Tomer shared with OnTheSnow that early indications are that this could be the strongest of the three recent La Niña events.

The Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI), which is a measurement of El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate patterns, factors in five different variables and assigns a value. The MEI value is currently the strongest (coldest, negative) value since 2010. The latest ensemble forecast spread from the Climate Forecast System shows a strong fall La Niña that fades early 2023.

In his long-range forecast for OnTheSnow, Tomer says that for the most consistent winter snowfall look to Whistler/Blackcomb, Banff, Kicking Horse, Fernie Alpine, Revelstoke, Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, Whitefish, Discovery, Schweitzer, Brundage, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Sun Valley, Mount BakerStevens PassCrystal, and British Columbia ski resorts.

Whistler Blackcomb mountain view, Canada.
©Whistler Blackcomb

La Niña Impact On The Future

Professor David Dilley of Global Weather Oscillations, GWO’s senior research expert says, “We can expect the severe regional cold outbreaks around the world to gradually expand and become more dominant and long-lasting during the next several winters.” One of the first signs of global cooling was beginning during the 2020 winter, says GWS, across the high altitudes, stretching from Alaska across Central Canada to Greenland. Alaska experienced its coldest January and February on record that winter.

Final Thought

Regardless of global climate patterns, there is a 100 percent guaranteed forecast for the winter: It will snow and you will have fun. Be sure to subscribe to our  newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Once the snow starts flying, meteorologist Chris Tomer will be sharing weekly snow and weather forecasts.

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