Will La Nina return this winter? Early predictions say ‘maybe’

Newsroom Snow Science Will La Nina return this winter? Early predictions say ‘maybe’

Seems like as a prelude to every ski season the water cooler conversation among skiers and riders turns to that mystical weather force we call La Niña. It can bring tons of snow to some parts of the country and resorts and can leave others high and dry. Here’s the early scoop on La Niña and how it might affect your winter. Take it as a hint of what’s to come.

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.

images of la Nina
Follow the La Nina arrow in this diagram.

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

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 El Niño) winter.

In the absence of La Niña (or El Niño), forecasts for an entire winter are usually not very instructive. However, when La Niña (or El Niño) influences the weather patterns, meteorologists can often 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.

A La Nina winter
This Alta skier is knee-deep in a La Nina winter. Will it return?

Forecasters are projecting a return of La Niña this winter, but perhaps with less gusto than last season. Image Courtesy of NOAA.

La Nina was the dominant weather force in the winter of 2021. In fact, the temporary global cooling effects of La Nina were not enough to prevent 2020 from being one of the warmest years on record.

But enough with science speak—how will La Niña affect your winter plans?

La Nina can persist for two years, but those seasonal forecast agencies who go in for long-range predictions are calling for fairly neutral conditions for the rest of 2021 into next summer.

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.

NOAH officially declare the 2021 El Nina as “over” in late spring. Willis return for our next ski season. Well, who knows? The National Weather Service says chances are 50-50.

But regardless of global climate patterns, there is a 100 percent guaranteed forecast for the winter: It will snow and you will have fun.

Here’s a fun. fact: Who do weather watchers turn to for early predictions. To the Farmer’s Almanac, first printed in 1792. Almanac’s editors claim that their forecasts traditionally have been accurate 80 percent of the time. When it comes to weather, we’ll take that.

Copyright © 1995-2021  Mountain News Corporation.  All rights reserved.