Time to wrap it up for this season….
2015-16 - Season recap:
Snowfall in the NW turned out to be at or above normal for most ski areas. That is better than the El Nino forecast promised.
The El Nino forecast was for 20% below normal snow pack. El Nino was as strong as promised in the tropical Pacific, but displaced a bit, so that shifted our jet stream, a little from it’s preferred El Nino circulation.
December was very consistent and often outstanding – that is when the snow really piled up in the mountains – one of the snowiest Decembers on record. We did see some occasional high snow levels in January and February, which did hurt the pack from time to time, but the snow picked up, especially in March. April was fairly dry and the warmest on record – resulting in an early melt for the lower slopes and lots of sunny spring skiing.
The best news is: Next Season's La Nina = NW SNOW
A La Nina is forecast to develop next season and this is great news for the NW. La Nina’s are very favorable in producing above normal snow for the NW, all with low snow levels. The Climate Prediction Center is already incorporating La Nina into their long range forecast for next winter! It’s not a guarantee, but in my opinion, the La Nina and above normal NW snow connection is the singular most reliable long-range forecast there is - the only one I'd bet on. Again, that is specifically for above normal snow in the NW (BC, WA, North Oregon, Northern Idaho, Western MT). Low snow levels will finally be more the rule, rather than the exception, like the last two years.
If it’s a strong La Nina, like many of the models are suggesting, the snowfall has epic potential. In the strong La Nina of 1998-99 Mt Baker, WA had 1140” of snow (new world snow record)! It doesn’t mean an exact repeat, but it does mean greatly improved odds of plentiful snowfall. Recall, the 1998-99 season got a mediocre start, but by Feb of 1999 it was snowing 6-12” a day – every day- the entire month. They had to halt ski operations at Baker for a couple of days, to dig out the chairlifts – truly a legendary season! The stuff powder dreams are made of....
Thanks for tuning in, have a great summer.
Larry Schick, Meteorologist -- Open Snow NW