Many parts of the U.S. have experienced heavier snowfall this winter, and much to the delight of skiers and riders, have led to some pretty powdery conditions in mountainous regions of the West. According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, changes in equatorial oceanic temperatures and strengthening trade winds, or climactic “anomalies” as they are called, have led to the development of a climate oscillation event affecting weather patterns across the U.S. and globe. In short, La Niña is back.
Many in the snowsport community are likely ready to pay homage to the “Little Girl”, who has already brought a series of storms and epic snow to the West. La Niña ought to have its greatest effect on ski resorts in the Northwest, but the big story may be in southern Colorado where resorts are boasting snowfall at nearly 175 percent of normal, according to Tony Crocker’s Ski Season Progress Report. Telluride’s tally reached 181 inches as of January 28, due in part to some record-breaking snowfall in December.
La Niña is a weather phenomenon that occurs periodically every five or so years and tends to alter climate patterns across the globe. It develops when there is a build-up of cool water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which is compounded with strong Easterly winds that further this cold-water upwelling. Cooler sea surfaces then affect atmospheric temperatures, which can shift jet streams and cause changes to global temperatures and precipitation amounts. For the U.S., this generally translates to cooler, wetter conditions in the Northwest and drier conditions in the South.
Hoping to witness La Niña’s climate-altering effects in person, I made a trip to the mountains for a few backcountry turns. Knowing that others would be there to enjoy the climate-anomaly conditions, I got an early start to claim my share of the powder stash. I brought along my light and fast Talon 33, which is perfect for making laps off the pass. Its quick on and off capability is also great for stopping and snapping photos of ski partners as they catch up on the skin track.
The NWS Climate Prediction Center is expecting that La Niña conditions are likely to continue through Spring 2009, perhaps to the chagrin of some, but surely to the delight of snow lovers. Check out snow accumulations and outlook forecasts for more info on snow and spring conditions.