Winter 2009-10 was a broken record of El Niño blabber here at The Ski Channel. It seemed like every week the weather pattern known as “the child” was dumping snow in places like Mammoth, and causing unseasonably warm weather in the East. However, as we anxiously await the start of next winter, there’s a new development currently brewing in the Pacific and it’s now looking like El Niño’s counterpart, La Niña, is very much on the way.
I know these weather patterns can be quite confusing, so I’m going to break it down nice and simple for us skiers and snowboarders to understand. After all, as much as you might care about the potential floods or swells these patterns sometimes cause, you really just want to know where the powder is going to fall, and how much of it you can expect this winter.
For areas like the Northeast that are typically subjected to cold and snowy winters, La Niña often results in creating especially hard winters. Similarly, in the precipitous Pacific Northwest, La Niña winters seem to bring more rain and snow than usual.
Meanwhile, for those living in the dry, arid Southwest, the resulting winter season is even drier than normal.
A general rule to help you but is not always completely true, is to compare the impacts of El Niño and his contrasting sister. Places where El Niño is warm, La Niña is typically cool. Regions where El Niño is moist, La Niña is dry. El Niño winter conditions usually appear very atypical to their regions, and La Niña often brings winters that are typical – only even more so.
Unfortunately, for us skiers trying to figure out what this all means for our respective ski areas, La Niña is a lot less predictable on winter than those brought by El Niño. La Niña results in an irregular jet stream that is more susceptible to changes, so the results are more difficult to accurately forecast.