QuestionHow much snow will be on the ground at Paradise Ranger Station on 12-1-2011 at 1 am.
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1. During the week of 11-7-2011 forecast models are suggesting about 10 inches on new snow at Paradise (light amounts late Monday and early Tuesday) Then additional snowfall on Friday, 2. On 11-5-2011 there was 4 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise. For the same time last year there was 16 inches, 3. Extended forecasts for 11-13 to 11-19 brings below normal temperatures will normal to slightly above normal snowfall.
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Northwest Winter Discussion Issued 11-3-2011Several of the major organizations that issue extended winter forecasts are calling for above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures, and with that combination we usually get above normal mountain snowfall. Ocean temperatures play a large role in these long-range forecasts. El Nino winters result when sea surface temperatures are above normal, while La Nina can happen with below normal sea surface temperatures. Forecasters are indicating that we are now in a La Nina phase since the sea surface temperatures have been and are forecasted to be at least 0.50 C (0.9 F) below normal. Under normal La Nina patterns the jet stream and the associated storm track is aimed at the Pacific Northwest.
With the La Nina forecast I have noticed skiers dancing in the streets. The number one question on everyone’s mind is are we guaranteed lots of mountain snow for this winter? One answer is a definite maybe and here is why. Looking at the nineteen most recent La Nina events the snowfall at Paradise Ranger Station at Mt. Rainier (5500 feet), fourteen had above normal snowfall and five were below. We get similar results when we look at Stampede Pass (4000 feet near Snoqualmie Pass) looking at thirteen recent La Nina events of which eight were above normal snowfall and five below. Thus the odds are good of getting above normal snowfall but by no means guaranteed.
The International Research Institute (ITI) which is part of The Earth Columbia Institute has some reservations on this guarantee of above average snowfall. They indicate a 60% chance of La Nina but a 40% chance of neutral conditions. Furthermore the IRI indicates some major forecast models suggesting non La Nina conditions. Thus IRI places some doubt on the La Nina.
The other major forecast is from Climate Prediction Center (CPC- part of US Government NOAA) and states that for the Pacific Northwest we will be colder and wetter than average. However the report goes on to state that there is a wildcard to this. The wildcard comes from other major weather patterns that could interact with La Nina throughout the course of a long winter. According to the CPC, “this seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.”
Map below is typical weather patterns for La Nina (forecasted for 2011-2012 winter)