December 15, 2015

Mountains of Snow

For Northwest snow lovers, this is turning out to be a good year, with FAR more snow than during the snow-drought winter of  2014-2015.  Let's begin by showing the snow depths of December 15 this year and last (see below).   Hugely more snow this year in most areas, particularly over the Olympics and central/southern Cascades.

The Northwest Avalanche Center provides a summary of the snow at ski areas and other locations twice a month (see below).  The per cent of normal at these areas range from 60% at Stampede Pass to 119% at Mount Baker.  Overall, a very typical year.  If  you want to see something amazing, check out the snow totals for last year (last column).   Hardly anything!  Last year Baker had 6 inches if snow, this year, 80 inches.

Just to see what is on the ground, here is a recent picture at Whistler

 And two at Mount Baker

But ready to get really excited?  Here is the snow forecast for the next 72 hours.  Eastern WA and Oregon get covered, up to several feet in the mountains.

Next 72 hours?  Several more feet in the Cascades and lots of snow over the Sierra Nevada.

Why so much snow you ask?  Because we are stuck in a very favorable, La Nina type pattern with high pressure over the subtropic Pacific and cool, northwesterly flow over our region (see upper level map).  In this situation, we have a series of disturbances moving into our region from the Gulf of Alaska, with relatively low freezing levels.

We will go into the holiday season with loads of snow for skiing and recreation.

Santa is worried about too much snow.


  1. There was wet snow, not settling, just south of Bellingham on I5 this evening - temp was 36 degrees.

    Is there any chance of lowland snow in the northwest Interior, over the next few storms?

  2. How awful for White Pass resort: all this snow but no road available to reach it!

  3. So what happened to El Niño Cliff? This looks more like La Niña!

  4. Thank you MJO for a taste of glorious La Nina winters within an El Nino. Can't wait for next year...hope ENSO drops to neutral/negative. But for's time to enjoy the pow!

  5. We are still in El Nino, especially based on Pacific water temperatures.

    The key thing to remember is that there is not a 100% correlation to El Nino's and our weather patterns.

    TYPICALLY El Nino years are warmer and snow is less. But that is not absolute.

    Also, it is not uncommon in El Nino patterns for us to get snow up to and through the New Year only for it to peter out and us go "dry" the rest of the winter.

    So this is perfectly in line with an El Nino, just on the outlier.

  6. Hi Cliff, do you expect a shift to El Nino conditions in January?

  7. Was at Summit @ Snoqualmie yesterday and a ski instructor said typically it happens in pairs. So a good snow year one year often means the next year is good too. Last year wasn't good and apparently the year before wasn't either. Do you see this is indeed true, typically?

  8. Heya, Cliff.

    Any chance we can see a comparative per previous years? It's mostly out of curiousity, just to see what the prior five years have been - mostly because I remember getting no lowland snow in the 2013-2014 season, either. (Granted, a lack of lowland snow is not a good indicator of highland snow....)

  9. This El Niño ranks up there with Y2K and Al Capone's vault. Well done (sad clap).

  10. Cliff, when will we get a massive snowstorm in the lowlands. I want to see Jim Forman in full, tilt boogie mode. I also want some primo cold to knock back the pests.

  11. Loup Loup Ski Bowl not shown on the list opened today. 43" of snow to date as of today.

  12. No updated post?? I'd rather hear it from you than from the city, even though this is probably only going to effect Lakemont and Somerset if it goes the way they're calling it now. It's 35F here at 210' elevation a bit north of Phantom Lake, so it's not much of a stretch to imagine snow.

    From: City of Bellevue
    Date: Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 12:09 AM
    Subject: Snow possible in south Bellevue early Thursday

    The latest forecast calls for changing weather, with 1 to 2 inches of snow in the hills of South Bellevue, above 500 feet elevation, through early Thursday morning. City Transportation crews are ready to respond and needed equipment is standing by.

    More information is available on the city's Extreme Weather Response webpage ( and Snow/Ice webpage (

  13. Echo Kevin: what's the long-term outlook for lowland snow this winter season? My weirding ways point to no low snow this winter, but would love to know what the weather wizards have to say...

  14. Wet snow falling prettily @11:30 AM on Lummi Island. Not sticking of course & temps are > freezing.

  15. A piece meal approach to climate can be misleading.

    Local impacts of El Nino are not as predictable as sunrise and sunset. Past El Ninos brought heavy rains to central America leaving California with normal to dry winter conditions. There are other factors at play such as The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). This century, there is a wild card in the mix. Most of the world's oceans sea surface temperatures are above the 20th century average. We have to look at the whole planet to understand climate.

    NOAA's top ten warmest global monthly departures from the 20th Century average:
    1) 0.99°C, Oct 2015
    2) 0.97°C, Nov 2015
    3) 0.91°C, Sep 2015
    4) 0.89°C, Mar 2015
    5) 0.88°C, Feb 2015
    5) 0.88°C, Jan 2007
    7) 0.87°C, Aug 2015
    7) 0.87°C, Jun 2015
    9) 0.86°C, Feb 1998
    10) 0.85°C, May 2015

    (Look for new records to be set for January and February)

    Major stations that set (not tied) new all-time heat or cold records (for any month) in November 2015
    Saint Laurent do Moroni (French Guiana, France) max. 37.9°C, November 3: New Territorial record high for French Guiana
    Pirapora (Brazil) max. 41.2°C, November 6
    Montes Claros (Brazil) max. 40.3°C, November 6
    Barra (Brazil) max. 40.0°C, November 6
    Januaria (Brazil) max. 41.4°C, November 7
    Middle Point (Australia) max. 41.6°C, November 8
    Pretoria Unisa (South Africa) max. 40.3°C, November 11
    Johannesburg (South Africa) max. 36.5°C, November 11
    Frankfort (South Africa) max. 36.9°C, November 11
    Oudestad (South Africa) max. 40.8°C, November 11
    Estcourt (South Africa) max. 39.6°C, November 11
    Towoomba (South Africa) max. 42.4°C, November 11
    Gabarone Airport (Botswana) max. 41.5°C, November 11
    Ladysmith (South Africa) max. 40.7°C, November 11
    Bulawayo Airport (Zimbabwe) max. 38.6°C, November 12
    Gokwe (Zimbabwe) max. 38.2°C, November 13
    Januaria (Brazil) max. 41.5°C, November 13
    Maumere (Indonesia) max. 36.6°C, November 13; increased to 36.9°C on November 30
    Ampenan (Indonesia) max. 36.6°C, November 22
    Cipo (Brazil) max. 42.0°C, November 26

    The recent Conference of Parties (COP21) set a goal of limiting global warming to 2.0C but prefers 1.5C. Good luck with that! We are almost at +1.0 C in 2015 with CO2 at only 400ppm. The world will warm by more than 2.0C this century even if all agreements limiting CO2 by COP21 are met or exceeded. Our only option is to adapt as best we can.

    I think the Saudi's understand that the greatest threat to their oil production is not U.S. fracking but renewable energy sources. Cheap oil boosts consumption. Expensive oil encourages wind generators and solar collectors.

    As we all know, a serious problem with oil is price volatility. How do you make a solid long term business plan when fuel costs change wildly from year to year. Two years from now fuel prices could double or triple or not. A civil war in the Saudi oil fields and the Canadian tar pits will be back in play.

    Energy independence is a goal. Renewable energies and electric vehicles will move America in that direction.

    Are not Americans weary of energy manipulation by oil producing nations? Gasoline prices were cheap in the 1990s and Americans bought low mileage SUVs then gasoline prices soared. Next, Americans bought high mileage vehicles and gasoline prices plummet. Americans are buying big vehicles again. See a pattern?

    Whether you believe in AGW or not, we should all share the common goals of American energy independence, price stability, clean water and air.

  16. Over 60" of snow at Paradise according to Snotel, but tops of trees at the kid's sledding area still poking through the snow. C'mon storm!

  17. The death of the long lived blob is very welcome. RIP Blob.



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