Seriously? Climate forecasters are calling for a third shitty ski season in a row for Utah. El Nino, will you please put Baby in the corner?! If you live in the Beehive state and live for winters, you might want to rethink your plans for the 22/23 season.
Not only is this bad news for skiers but next summer’s water babies too. Utah’s most popular watering holes like Flaming Gorge, Lake Powell, and the Great Salt Lake reached all-time lows this summer and, without a decent snowpack for 2023, the paddler’s future looks pretty bleak.
Why Does La Nina Torment Utah?
It’s no surprise that global warming and climate change have taken its toll on the world’s ski resorts and things don’t seem to be getting any better. Weather forecasters are going out on a limb already and predicting that the bitch is back. Usually La Nina’s occur every 3 to 5 years and not normally on successive years. However, La Niña conditions will bring around another warm, dry winter to the western part of the U.S. for the third time in a row! Remember last ski season (if you can even call it that)? The latest NOAA outlook says there’s more than an 80 percent chance of that happening again from November to January.
What is El Nino
According to Climate.gov, El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific. With El Nino, you get a warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that brings increased rain to that area. Winds that normally blow from east to west along the equator (“easterly winds”) weaken or start blowing “westerly”.
In California in the 80s, we lived for El Nino. Even now, an El Nino forecast would make a Sierra skier swoon. In fact, five of the top eight El Ninos since 1966 produced at least 170 percent of normal snowfall.
Where The Snow Will Be in 2022/23
If La Nina shows her ugly face, all is not lost for Utahns as long as you have an Ikon pass. The Pacific Northwest will be cooler and wetter along with Southern and interior Alaska. Perhaps start saving up for that epic Alaska heli excursion in April?
All Is Not Lost
There is yet another pattern besides El Nino and La Nina and that’s called Neutral. During a Neutral phase, conditions in the ocean and the atmosphere are near average and all bets are off. So far, Neutral looks to be our best hope.
Climate.gov states that there have been 24 La Niña winters in our historical record. Of those, only one (2016–17) changed to neutral in December–February. And guess what, Folks? Brighton reported nearly 700 inches of snow that season!
Four other La Ninas transitioned to neutral in January–March and one (2000–01) by February–April. Forecasters and computer models right now are fairly confident of a La Nina until at least February 2023 but several models do hint that La Niña will transition to neutral in January–March. If that happens it will only be the fifth time in 73 years. Maybe it won’t be too late to save Utah’s winter.