What El Niño Can Do For You

Dec 11, 2009
Outside Magazine

It just dumped about two feet of snow here in Durango, Colorado (The Powder Feed Headquarters), and it got me thinking: What does El Niño have in store for us snow hounds? To find out, I rang up a guy in the know: Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Predication Center. 

"El Niño is the big driver this winter," he said. "What El Niño does is it changes ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, which help shift patterns of tropical rainfall. That rainfall concentrates over the eastern Pacific and impacts the jetstream across the Pacific Ocean. Storms typically move from that jetstream." Here's what the mumbo jumbo means in terms of seasonal weather patterns from December through March:  

More precipitation in southern areas of the country, from all of California, across the Southwest, Texas, and Florida. At high elevations, this can mean copious amounts of snow. 

Less precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. (All you Mt. Baker folks, these are just projected trends not weather forecasts, ok?) 

Warmer temperatures across much of the West and central U.S., particularly north-central areas like Montana. 

• Colder temps in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. 

• Equal chances of above-average or below-average snow years in the Northeast, since weather patterns there are dictated more by Atlantic flows. 

Some handy graphics from NOAA, also known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 

Winteroutlook_precip_300 Winteroutlook_temp_300
 --Kate Siber 

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