Welcome back Powder Cowgirls and Cowboys, it’s time for my annual digestion (Tums please!) of NOAA’s regurgitation of all those oceanic temp sensors, satellite imagery, and like-years analytics into their official “2018/19 Winter Outlook.” While these seasonal predictions have a high percentage of missing the proverbial boat in terms of a truly accurate long-range forecast, I would like to point out that NOAA’s last two seasonal predictions (above average precip’ La Nina’s) were spot on in the Northern Rockies. Let’s hope they’re wrong this time though…
Hey - it’s Halloween and I had to scare ya’ a bit - but in reality, it’s not so bad an outlook. Basically, there’s a 70-75% chance of a weak El Nino pattern developing from late-November to mid-January. In our neck of the woods an average El Nino equates to warmer than average temps and less than average precipitation. In reviewing past winter’s stats since 1950 on similar weak El Nino patterns, it’s worth noting that Montana, in general, has had mostly average winter precipitation totals (100% of average) during these years.
Current oceanic monitor readings show that our weak El Nino most resembles that of the 2014/15 winter. Leafing through seasonal snowfall data from 2014/15 at Big Sky, Bridger, Lookout and Whitefish it once again looks like typical East vs. West (of the Continental Divide) variations. Big Sky received 237” in 2014/15 and 268” last season. Bridger Bowl received 165” in comparison to 2017/18’s 221”. Over on the Westside, Whitefish accumulated approximately 185”, which pales in comparison to last year’s 400” total. Lookout Pass, similar with 174” in 2014/15 and 425” last year. So, with typical scientific reasoning against these resort’s actual annual snowfall averages, it does appear that areas West of the Divide might be around 75 -85% of average snowpack with Eastside areas possibly faring a little better in the 80-90% of average range.
Images courtesy of NOAA.
Admit it fellow Snow Riders, we’re all a little spoiled after the last two winters. I compared last year's snow totals above for reality sakes as last year ran about 150% above normal. Just about any season after last season would pretty much be drier...
While NOAA's meteorological indicators tend to signify warmer and drier averages for this coming Montana winter I should once again remind that these super long-term forecasts are a scientific craps shoot. So roll the dice and hope for 7s or 11s! We could end up 120% + (like in weak El Nino 53/54 & 77/78 winters). In the meantime, think positive and I’ll start posting forecast’s around mid-November with Snotel snowpack updates from across both sides of the Divide to start revving up the stoke!!
Much obliged for your time.
Powder Out –
Shout outs go to the POW - Protect Our Winters folks who continue to do an amazing job in educating our our young (and old) snow-riders on the mega-important issue of climate change. Check out their awesome new movie "Ode to Muir" when it rolls through your town. And fellow Montana Snow Riders ...please don't forget to VOTE!
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