Will El Niño really bring a white Christmas?

If you looked up at the local Mountains Monday morning we finally had reason to celebrate.  The first real good dusting of Snow could be scene on the local mountain tops. Local Ski resorts have been using the cold nights to make snow too.  The result?  Most local resorts are open for business be it on a limited basis. 

From past experience it already feels like an earlier winter both here and up north. Last week, Mammoth Mountain got more than three feet of snow in a single day.That helped to open the mountain earlier than we have seen in recent past years. So all signs right now are pointing to a White Christmas.  Many of the resorts are using El Niño in their marketing campaigns in an effort to increase business after quite frankly, several poor years of skiing and boarding.

But will El Niño really be the great savior for our local mountains this year? It is really hard to say to be honest.  Nobody wants to rain on their parade.  But that’s exactly what might occur because most El Nino generated storms are of the slightly warmer variety which in turn means higher snow levels sometimes higher than even the local resorts.

Most of the long-range snow forecast for the upcoming winter were made back in August, meaning they are already several months old.In the weather business that doesn’t present itself to great accuracy.However, during a strong El Nino, these long-range forecasts can be more accurate than normal because the effects of El Niño are generally well understood (though there are no guarantees!).

Scientists at NOAA (the US government agency that measures and forecasts environmental conditions) look at many forecasts and historical weather patterns to arrive at their long-range winter forecast. Here is the forecast separated by season (fall, winter, spring), and variable (temperature, precipitation).

Forecast models are all over the place this year due to El Niño. Yes, even the computers can disagree. With that said most agree toward Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico as the US regions that will most likely see above-average precipitation.

Also, note that temperatures are forecasted to be near or above average for many areas along the west coast and into the northwest, which could lead to higher snow levels and more rain at low and mid elevations.

White Christmas?  I guess only time will tell.

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