What kind of winter can YOU expect?
Once again, it’s that time of year when all of us skiers are wondering what the 2009-2010 winter has in store for us. Will it bring big snow storms with lots of power skiing and technical ski lines filling in for sickbird descents, or clear and dry weather with lots of blue skies allowing for long tours and overnight trips into the mountains? As usual, the predictions from the experts are somewhat varied and here’s what I’ve found.
Inter-Mountain– Winter temperatures will be above normal, with the coldest periods in early to mid-December and early February. Precipitation will be above normal, with below-normal snowfall from Reno to Salt Lake City and above-normal snowfall in most other areas. The snowiest periods will occur in early and mid-November, mid- and late December, and mid- and late January. April and May will be slightly warmer and wetter than normal.
Pacific Northwest-Winter temperatures and precipitation will be near normal, on average, with above-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will occur in early to mid- and late December, mid-January, and early to mid-February, with the snowiest periods in mid-December, early January, and mid-February. April and May will be warmer than normal, with near-normal rainfall in Washington and drier-than-normal conditions elsewhere.
Pacific Southwest-Winter temperatures will be near normal in the north, on average, with above-normal rainfall. In the south, temperatures and rainfall will be below average. The stormiest periods will occur in early November, mid- and late December, and late January. Expect the coldest periods to occur in early and late December, early January, and early February. April and May will be cooler and rainier than normal.
Northeast-Winter will be colder than normal, on average, primarily due to persistent cold temperatures in January, with only brief thaws. Other cold periods will occur in mid-December and mid-February. Precipitation and snowfall will be below normal. Watch for a snowstorm around Thanksgiving, with other snowy periods in mid- and late December and mid- and late January. April and May will be slightly cooler than normal, with below-normal precipitation continuing and raising concern of summer drought.
This winter will see a winter during which temperatures will average below normal for most of the nation. A large area of cold temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to west of the Appalachians. But, temperature will be near or close to average near the coasts.
Near normal amounts of precipitation are expected over the eastern third of the country, as well as over the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains, while drier-than-normal conditions are forecast to occur over the Southwest and the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes. Only the Central and Southern Plains are expected to receive above-average amounts of precipitation. While three-quarters of the country is predicted to see near- or below average precipitation this winter, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any snow weather, and significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone.
Once again, it looks as though there is a strong El Nino Pattern developing in the equatorial zone. This weather phenomenon tends to split weather systems approaching from the pacific, sending flows southward into California and north into Alaska and Canada. Though El Nino historically has been known to bring drier weather to the inter-mountain region, it also offers equal chances of wetter weather for Wyoming and Montana. So really, it can go either way for us here in the Tetons.
NOAA gives out long term weather predictions based on current conditions and creates maps in three month intervals relative to temperature and precipitation. Currently, NOAA’s forecast maps show a strong correlation to conditions relative to a El Nino situation in the Pacific. Drier weather conditions are predicted across the northern mountain ranges like the Pacific Northwest and Northern Montana, an equal chance of above or below average precipitation in the Inter-Mountain Region, Northern California and New England and above average precipitation in the mountains in the southern part of the country. All of this is based on just how far south the split jet-stream will push storms coming in from the west.
Either way, we know that winter is on it’s way and no matter where you live and ski, let’s all keep our fingers crossed that it leans on the wetter side of things. How ‘bout it?