La Nina Winter Could Bring Big Snow to Pacific Northwest

August 16, 2010; 9:10 AM
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A light blanket of snow covers the Crystal Mountain ski area in Washington. Thanks to a La Nina weather pattern, ski resorts are anticipating significant snowfall for the 2010-2011 season. (AP Photo/Roy Goodall)

The Pacific Northwest had a less-than-stellar winter in terms of skiing last year as seen in the Vancouver Olympics.

A La Nina weather pattern this year, however, could mean stormier weather for the 2010-2011 season.

It can be difficult to forecast just how much more moisture a wetter-than-normal winter will bring, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist and West Coast resident Clark said. For the Pacific Northwest, though, Clark is predicting that precipitation will be "normal to well-above normal." He described above-normal precipitation as 20 percent or more that is typically received in the region.

"Certainly for the Cascades in Washington and Oregon and the mountains in Northern California, the Shasta Range and such, this could be a boon for the ski industry," Clark said.

Tiana Enger, marketing director for Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, which is about 80 miles southeast of Seattle, said the resort was excited to hear this winter's forecast.

Enger said, "The forecast looks favorable for an above average winter."

"The more it snows, the more people ski," she said. Enger also described Mother Nature as the best advertiser.

According to Enger, a La Nina winter means colder and wetter conditions which lead to more consistent snowfall.

However, Clark also cautioned that increased snow could create conditions ripe for avalanches this winter.

Enger said that while big snow "always heightens the risk" for avalanches, there is a big snow patrol that goes out daily after fresh snowfall to mitigate any risk.

Clark said the winter forecast "could also mean snowier than normal weather east of the Cascades."

"It's hard to say whether this 'stormier-than-normal' weather pattern is going to be 'snowier-than-normal' in the major I-5 corridor cities, from Eugene all the way up into Seattle," Clark said.

Last winter, Seattle had average temperatures as much as 6 degrees above its normal average temperature of 47 F in January and 3.5 degrees warmer than average in February.

In terms of precipitation, Seattle was slightly below normal. The city received almost 12.5 inches of precipitation or about 83 percent of the total precipitation that it expects to receive between December and February.

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