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El Niño Coming to Mammoth Mountain

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Here in Mammoth Lakes, CA, there is lots of talk about El Niño this year.  And every time there’s an El Niño, there’s anticipation of a great winter with lots of powder days and epic stories.   El Niño is famous for disrupting normal weather patterns all over the world as a result of warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific. This brings rise to a greater than normal probability of monsoon like rains along the Pacific Coast of California.

El Nino
But how will it affect Mammoth is really what we’re talking about.  Back some years ago, I was pretty fired up to correlate which of the El Niño years were accompanied by higher than average snowfall in Mammoth.  This graph shows the total snow fall for each year since 1969.  Since then, Mammoth has had five seasons with better than 500 inches of snow fall — these are our big years. Average snowfall for Mammoth Mountain is about 300 inches per year. Of those five big years, much to my disappointment, only one occurred during Very Strong El Niño.   In fact, the other four occurrences were accompanied with either a weak El Niño or even a weak to moderate La Niña (cooler than average water temperatures).

The short answer is, El Niño is not a silver bullet for big winters.  In fact, most of our big winters, when we receive of 400 inches or more of snow (300 is about average), did not coincide with an El Niño event.

What’s unique this year, is the strength of El Niño.  This one is of the Very Strong variety.  So strong, the weather community has dubbed it Godzilla.  And here’s the clincher; there have only been two Godzilla strength El Ninos since 1950. Each time has been a much higher than average snow year.  My theory is we in for a real winner season.

Anecdotally, I ran into our local weather guru the other day, and I asked him about my findings.  He smiled and said, Tune up your snowblower.

lots of snow Mammoth

If my theory is correct, we should start to experience the effects in October. I’m skiing powder on the opening day of Mammoth.

Mammoth Welcomes Godzilla !

Written by JAY COLE

NOAA’s El Niño Portal forecast:  http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/

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