El Nino, La Nada and Forecasting Tools Explained

With the snow season upon us, we all like to become amateur meteorologists. Thankfully, we can also lean on the pros.

Wayne Flann — a 30-year veteran of the Whistler Blackcomb ski patrol with a long list of credentials — has partnered with Arc’teryx to provide updated forecasting for Canada’s British Columbia (BC) coastal mountains. On the Arc’teryx Bird Blog, Wayne defines some meteorological terms that can help us better understand weather patterns and how they are predicted:

El Nino: This is a warming of the surface water in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. It occurs every 4-12 years and causes unusual global weather patterns. Typically, the effect on the BC coastal mountains is fewer storms, less snowfall and warmer temperatures. A rise of 1.5 degrees will spawn a moderate El Nino. Currently, the surface temperature is only 0.5 degrees above normal.

La Nada: This is a less commonly used term. La Nada is the pattern we have been in for the past two years. It describes a neutral situation caused by the Pacific sea surface temperature and winds being normal. La Nada, while caused by neutral conditions, is far from benign. It is the cause of California’s drought, our low snowfall last season and our unusually dry summers.

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO):  This is the go-to tool that meteorologists use to predict the long-term forecast. Over the past few months it seems the predictions are changing frequently, so apparently there are some limitations in this process. Interestingly, NASA recently reported that the Earth just experienced its warmest six-month stretch ever. Warming temperatures could change the way the tools behave.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO): This is the information collected about the surface sea temperatures north of 20 degrees in the Pacific Ocean. For the past few years it has been in a cooler phase, which can also affect the ENSO. Stronger El Nino’s occur when the PDO is in a warmer phase.

As for expected snow conditions north of Arc’teryx headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Flann has some predictions:

My blog reported as far back as March that some meteorologists were predicting a super El Nino for this winter,” Flann writes.”More recently, I’ve posted articles predicting a 65 percent chance of an El Nino coming this winter. Sea surface temperatures may still rise into December and beyond and this adds uncertainty but at least the likelihood of another La Nada is looking slim.”

For the entire story, head over to the Arc’teryx Bird Blog to read “How Much Snow? Wayne Flann’s View Of The 2014/2015 Winter Conditions In The BC Coastal Mountains.”

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