We’re finally seeing some measurable snowfall in the Inland Northwest. The first half of the current snow season was one of the driest in many years.
Heavy accumulations have been confined to Alaska; Valdez has already hit a record of more than 27 feet of snow. That’s what that area would normally see during an entire snow season, which extends into May. In the past 60 days, record snowfalls exceeding 20 feet in places have buried much of southeastern Alaska. Roofs have collapsed and a Russian tanker loaded with fuel oil was trapped in ice. Temperatures in central Alaska have dipped at times to near minus 50 degrees
In our region, we expected to see more snow by now because there is a La Niña, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Since 2007, La Niñas have coincided with heavy snowfalls across the region.
This current La Niña is considered much weaker when compared to the ones dating back to 2007. We’re also seeing an increase in solar activity, or sunspots. During the heavy snow years, there were very few, if any, solar storms.
The current La Niña is showing signs of weakening. In late 2011, there was a remarkable increase of cooler ocean temperatures along the South American coastline and the equatorial regions, with readings as much as 2 to 4 degrees below normal in some isolated areas, but those regions have diminished in the past several weeks.
It’s possible this La Niña may have already peaked and won’t come near the 2010 La Niña, which was one of the strongest ever recorded.
We’ve now entered a new six-week weather cycle that is expected to bring us above normal moisture and colder temperatures. Snowfall totals will likely be above average through early March, which is great news for area ski resorts. There also will be periods of rain in the lower elevations that could lead to some localized flooding.