Long-term winter forecast advice: Be patient

by • November 15, 2017 • Feature, HighlightsComments Off on Long-term winter forecast advice: Be patient52

La Niña offers repeat of last season, with plenty of snow but late in the season

So, there are no guarantees with the weather. It’s the one thing that – no matter how hard we try to control and how many predictions are made – we mere humans cannot dictate.

That said, Rick Thoman, state climatologist based in Fairbanks and one of the only people in the state willing to take a stab at it, said, in a nutshell, we can expect a similar repeat to last year.

The long-term southcentral Alaska forecast is trending toward a lower-than-average snowfall and average to above-average temperatures in the early parts of winter, only to become snowier and colder later in the season, perhaps even after the new year.

The long-term winter weather forecast calls for a snow year similar to that of last year, thanks to the effects of La Niña. At right, Chad Winberg carves up some Placer powder last March.   Courtesy Spike Laskey

The long-term winter weather forecast calls for a snow year similar to that of last year, thanks to the effects of La Niña. Chad Winberg carves up some Placer powder last March.
Courtesy Spike Laskey

“The overall outlook at this point is that there is a likelihood of the La Niña in the tropical Pacific, which for Alaska means we have a better chance for closer to normal temperatures than we do during El Niño,” Thoman said. The key, he added, is the timing, which might track a bit later than in winter’s past.

Last winter also was dominated by the effects of La Niña, he pointed out, and the bulk of the season’s snow came in late winter – some of it as late as March.

For the immediate future, such as the first weeks of November, Thoman said snow lovers can expect warmer and wetter conditions, which could melt snow in lower elevations such as Anchorage, but could be a snowy wonderland for mountain passes and higher elevations.

“That cool signal gets more reliable as we get later into the year,” he said. “We also had a La Niña last year; it’s not unusual to get that two years in a row.”

For now, though, Thoman said, “the first half of the winter, it’s a crap shoot.” Southerly flow patterns also can bring huge dumps of snow and whether that white stuff sticks is sometimes only a matter of a degree or two. If a decent snowfall lands on the ground by Thanksgiving, “odds favor” that it will stick around, he said.

No matter the forecast, winter-sports enthusiasts should think positive, stay informed and educate themselves on snow safety. The fifth annual Southcentral Alaska Avalanche Information Workshop is Nov. 3 at APU, followed by SnowFest, a snow-safety summit with avalanche education awareness programs, on Nov. 3, also at APU. (akavalancheworkshop.org/ or www.alaskasnow.org)

— Melissa DeVaughn

 

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