Monday, September 24, 2012

Tonight's Low: 43˚F.

Ale riding in excellent snow conditions
during February 2011 (Canyons, UT).
Now that temperatures are FINALLY more reasonable (thank you, Earth), my hopes for a better winter than last year are starting to rise. By "better," I'm referring to colder, snowier conditions, so no offense to the warm-weather lovers out there (even though you have above-freezing for the majority of the year in Pennsylvania - now it's our time). Riding in the rain last season was miserable.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center forecast from September 6, 2012, predicted that El Niño conditions are likely to develop during September. Powderchasers.com sent an email alert earlier this month, highlighting some of the areas in the United States that may experience nice snowy winters due to the El Niño situation.

ENSO Model Predictions, Image from NOAA
The NOAA dynamical models forecast a borderline-to-moderate strength event (YAY!) and the statistical models predict a borderline-to-weak El Niño (meh.). Dynamical models tell us what we can expect to observe based on our ability to represent natural processes through detailed mathematical expressions. Statistical models tell us what we expect to observe in the future based on what we've already seen happen in the past.

So, based on our past observations we can expect a weaker El Niño, but based on our understanding of climate physics we can expect a moderate-strength El Niño. And why is the moderate-strength prediction better for east coast snow...?

El Niño events occur when the tropical eastern Pacific waters are warmer than normal. This results in more rain in the eastern Pacific and the Americas. This also results in wetter conditions for the eastern United States, which means more snow for Pennsylvania as long as it stays cold enough.

El Niño (Warm Episode) relationships, from NOAA

Keep in mind that Snowmaggedon 2010 occurred during a peak in El Niño.

Transworld Snowboarding video

Now, that Snowmaggedon 2010 is a story to tell at some point. It involved waking up at 3:30 am after only having slept 1.5 hours (was like waiting for Santa -- couldn't sleep), to shovel snow off the car (took 2 hours), to finally hit the road around 5:30 am (a normal 1.25 h drive turned into a 3 h drive), to finally arrive at Seven Springs around 8:30 am (right around when PennDOT closed the PA Turnpike). As long as everyone can stay safe, I'm hoping for another snowpocalyptic event this season. 

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