Big Snow In La Nina Winters?

We ran a story tonight; about the city getting “prepared for an early and harsh winter”.  That was paraphrased a bit, but that was the general idea.  Well, La Nina winters often start a bit slow and then get going later, so there’s no reason to think we have an “early winter”.

So does a La Nina winter mean we have a big snow year coming here in the lowlands?  I don’t think anyone knows.  Check out the last 6 La Nina winters’ snowfall accumulations.

Not very impressive is it?  Now in 2007-2008 there was a lot of snow once you got above about 500′.  And in 1995-1996 we had a huge windstorm, flood, and several close calls with snow.  But the big snow years recently?  Generally neither La Nina or El Nino.  That could be called La Nada (“the nothing” in Spanish).

This means there is no guarantee that we have a big snow winter coming up.  Of course the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is only one ingredient to each winter’s weather.  There is always the Atlantic Oscillation (AO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and other indices that measure global weather movements and patterns.  I feel we are only just beginning to understand how these all relate and interact with each other.  The science has a long ways to go. 

Far more likely is above average precipitation and above average snowfall in the Cascades this winter.  Last year performed well for both, although timing was a bit strange (January rain and lack of snow in the mountains).

Let’s talk more about that.  It’s another good year to pick up a season pass for ski areas.  This winter will be a moderate to strong La Nina again.  Did you know 12 of the last 13 La Ninas have dumped heavier than average snowfall in the Cascades?  Some of those have been absolutely huge snow years.  Seems like pretty good odds doesn’t it?  And no, I’m not getting a free season pass or free tickets up on Mt. Hood either; that should assure you I’m totally unbiased.  The big question will be WHEN the big snow falls.  The tendency in the past has been for the heaviest of the snowfall in the 2nd half of winter (January or beyond), but last year we had a great start, quieter mid-winter, then late winter and spring was the best.  Some of the best years have been relatively quiet until well into December, then the powder starts piling up.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

147 Responses to Big Snow In La Nina Winters?

  1. PDX Weather Nut says:

    Certainly has the potential to be an interesting winter. Of course we said the same thing about this time last year and all the valley got was the same old cold depressing rain.

  2. Brian says:

    drip…drip…drip…a sign of pineapples to come?

  3. The forecast “mess-ups” the past 2 days are not of the magnitude of the famous mess-up back in Dec 29th of 2009. Don’t sweat this one Mark. Like the cover of Bob Lynott’s famous book says “Why can’t they get it right”… 🙂

  4. More strati form rain and it’s increasing in coverage…

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Jeez…this week of forecasting needs to end quickly…

    • Boydo3 N. Albany 500' says:

      drip…….. drip……….

    • HIO Phil (Punxsutawney) elevation 189' says:

      Models are not being very helpfull. 12z GFS didn’t show this much rain this evening. At least for Hillsboro.

      I guess you just need to know which model run for which period to pick. Someone else pointed out to me that the 18 and 00z GFS predicted this evening pretty well. From 48 hours ago!

  5. Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

    So what happened to the warmer weather we were supposed to have today….In fact there’s more showers moving in this evening

  6. o.c.paul says:

    I remember last year’s AMS meeting. So much hope for a cold and snowy winter. I won’t be fooled this year. There are too many un forseens. No sir, no buying into the winter hype for me. It has to snow for two hours before I believe it this year.

  7. When does the “mostly dry” part of the forecast start?

  8. bgb41 says:

    18Z GFS – I am “extremely dumbfounded!”…All rain has now been mysteriously shut off till the end of the month. Bizarre!!

    Sure would be nice though to get some cool nights in the 30s with some nice fall colors instead of all these nights in the low 50s day after day. I have a real hard time believing this run anyways.

  9. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Looks like we’re still on track for Indian Summer next week. Lets see if we can pull it off correctly, Karl!

    http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2011/10/indian-summer.html

    Good luck finding Leah, Cliff (I really like my dog as well).

  10. SEdrools says:

    Rain drops on and off all day. No chance of breaking 65 in this blanket of clouds.

  11. Longview - 400 ft says:

    Came across this today and thought I would post it.

    Tsunami – Japan

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1605260179420

    I hope it works!!!

  12. Runrain says:

    SPECTACULAR day here in Cannon Beach. Partly sunny, warm (mid 60’s), and not a breath of wind on the beach. No crowds either (yet!)

  13. Looks like CNN will be featuring a photo or two of mine on the air today between 12:45 and 1 PM. Yahoo…wish I got paid for it!

  14. CorbettTez says:

    Hey Mark, is it going to stay windy out here at the West end of the gorge right on thru the weekend? Or will we get a little break Sat/Sun before it kicks up again on Monday? Just planning our outdoor activities for the next few days! Currently 17-30 mph winds here in Corbett with the temp around 54

  15. Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

    Another cloudy morning. I’m still waiting for the sunshine to come out.

    • Punxsutawney (aka HIOPHIL) at work by Sunset High elev ~280' says:

      Good luck, light rain here. Just barely starting to get the ground wet.

    • Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

      nice….more unforecasted rain 😆

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