It’s Spanish for “The Nino!” Depending on where you live, you either love that little boy or you hate him with a passion — pun intended. There have been some serious El Nino doomsday predictions floating around the interwebs recently. But no need to nerd out on those stories because we’re going to drop some science here on the GlacierLife.
Only the man made snow holds around Chair 6 at Whitefish Mountain Resort on April 9, 2015. Photo (C) Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com Inc. 2015
We’ve all heard of El Nino and La Nina, but what happens when you’re shifting between these weather cycles and where does it all come from? The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The warmer waters essentially slosh, or oscillate, back and forth across the Pacific, much like water in a bath tub. For North America and much of the globe, the phenomenon is known as a dominant force causing variations in regional climate patterns. Sum up… Nino is warming waters and Nina is cooling waters in the Pacific Ocean and they run global warming like Rick Rubin.
2014-15 winter’s ENSO report from the NOAA is chalk full of charts, graphs and data that would make even the most hardcore amateur meteorologist’s head spin like Candide Thovex. On average during ENSO ‘tweener cycles the Northern Rockies generally receive above average snowfall, but we’re talking from Missoula, MT north into Canada. Last winter the switch to El Nino took hold which meant warmer and dryer temps throughout the inland Northwest and parts of the Northern Rockies. In like a Lion and out like a Lamb.
Last fall during the Northern Rockies Avalanche Workshop Greg Pederson of the USGS gave a talk on snowpack history that was pretty revealing regarding high and low snowpack years i.e. while on average our climate is getting warmer and dryer there is always variability and spikes in snowfalls can happen during even the worst cycles. So, regardless of the averages it is no excuse to throw in the towel. In fact it is even more incentive to pump your quads, prime the sled, re-glue your skins, wax up those fatty’s, double check that beacon and get ready for winter because you might have to hike a little higher or a little farther to get the goods. They’ll still be there waiting for you.
Drew Pogge skins below the northeast face of Mount Stimson that rises to 10,141 feet above sea level. Craig Moore / GlacierWorld.com
Feeling charitable regarding the climate? Visit POW and make a donation (or buy some swag). Curious about global implications of changing weather? Read the latest from and The Guardian