Jump to content

The Misconception of El Nino for West Coast Climate Trends A Fuller Story and The Current Year Weather Predictions

ENSO PDO Snow forecast MJO

19 replies to this topic

#1 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 20 October 2015 - 03:34 AM

The term “El Nino” presented by many news organizations is a partial designation of a 2-3 year sea temperature trend or oscillation in the Pacific equatorial waters (not California) – the other half of the trend is La Nina*. The trend is commonly referred as El Niño-Southern Oscillation or ENSO by the science community.
There is a misconception of many news organizations or perhaps better said, a glossing-over that a single global phenomena of ENSO affects the full west coast of North America. A common phrase will state “El Nino to bring more rain to the West…” with a nice map of green drawn over those States. That perception has also been misapplied by many ski resorts.
Attached File  ENSO-1.jpg (99.61K)
Number of downloads: 31
There are actually two strong drivers (or relationships) of west coast climate trends, the other is the temperature oscillation of ocean waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean. This oscillation averages about every 10 years and is aptly named the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO. Just like ENSO, PDO has a warm, neutral (or transition) and cold phase. When in its strongest phase PDO has the most impact from northern California to Alaska.
Attached File  ENSO-2.jpg (98.98K)
Number of downloads: 54
The transition area between the two patterns is not an exact line – with global patterns a couple of hundred miles is a pretty close approximation…think horseshoes – close is good. This is a frustration from Lake Tahoe to Oregon’s northern ski areas – and rightly so, that’s a heck of a big area but it’s a global pattern so missing by a few hundred miles is pretty close.
Attached File  ENSO-3.jpg (100.91K)
Number of downloads: 50

Next post - Misapplication of ENSO by ski resorts

#2 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 21 October 2015 - 05:56 AM

A clarification of global phases -
With three different phases of each trend we get many permutations, and frustratingly so, many places or regions will be effected differently both with temperature and precipitation...no wonder the ski resort marketing folks seem to get it wrong. Here is Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows webpage in September of this year trying to equate snow depth with ENSO with no mention of the PDO.
Attached File  ENSO-Meadows.jpg (99.03K)
Number of downloads: 27
The University of Washington has made a nice selection app that shows precipitation on a map with each combination of the phases in the northwest – thank you UW.
Attached File  ENSO-UW.jpg (98.99K)
Number of downloads: 41
UW ENSO PDO map app (click on PDO warm button): http://cses.washingt...aps/index.shtml

What else is missing – part A… the seasons
Not mentioned is which part or the year or season the effect of a strong phase can be realized. It may peak in August but show little or no rain indication or it may peak in December showing huge precipitation amounts associated with a winter season – frankly it can be dartboard weather…unless each have a strong phase…like this year.
What else is missing – part B…impacting other regions of the U.S.
The first maps shown were idealized to convey the basic concepts of west coast weather patterns. Large climate oscillations such as the PDO can even affect an East Coast State such as North Carolina.
Attached File  ENSO-NC.jpg (99.13K)
Number of downloads: 29
The site below is produced by state climatologists that show direct evidence of PDO trends along with other trends impacting North Carolina’s weather.

Next ~ This winter's prediction - what the media might have missed

#3 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 22 October 2015 - 05:30 AM

Early Winter Weather Prediction
With both ENSO and PDO in continued warm phases* the prediction accuracy is quite high. This chart shows a short 3 year history with both oscillations becoming “in-phase” in June 2015.
Attached File  PDO-ENSO-2012-2015-for-web.jpg (99.42K)
Number of downloads: 30
The early (Nov-Jan) NOAA winter weather prediction (a combination of ENSO and PDO) for the west coast comes in two parts – temperature and precipitation.
3 Month west coast temperature forecastAttached File  ENSO-NOAA-temp.jpg (99.95K)
Number of downloads: 71
3 month west coast precipitation forecastAttached File  ENSO-NOAA-precip.jpg (100.54K)
Number of downloads: 69
Notice the precipitation transition between California and Oregon is not an exact zone – EC = Equal Chance (or were not sure…). For Oregon and Washington skiers the combination of maps is quite disheartening by showing warmer and dryer conditions for the next 3 months.
Attached File  ENSO-2015-transistion.jpg (97.75K)
Number of downloads: 44
NOAA 3 month map link: http://www.cpc.ncep....onal.php?lead=1
University of Washington’s forecasts also indicate a very lean snow year when considering ENSO and the PDO.
Attached File  ENSO-UW-2015.jpg (99.05K)
Number of downloads: 44
Revisiting Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows marketing forecast – It’s helpful to look at another unbiased forecast entity. Here is Oregon’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry projections for temperature and precipitation for December.
Attached File  ENSO-Ore-dec-2015.jpg (96.74K)
Number of downloads: 45
Unfortunately for northwest skiers it mirrors the other forecasts, but it does give a hint that snowfall in the higher elevations could be better than what occurred last year.
Oregon Agriculture Service precipitation link: http://www.oregon.go...es/Weather.aspx

*First topic footnote - ENSO can be considered a slow moving blob of slightly different sea temperature that sloshes back and forth in the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean**. The “Nino” label was given as the change is most notable around Christmas time… that is better known as “Christ’s child or young boy” in Spanish speaking countries of South America.
Sea temperature is a big driver of global jet streams that ultimately impact North America’s weather.
The PDO has the same historical implications as ENSO – both can be traced by tree rings to the 1600s. PDO was “discovered” in 1997 by a scientist studying salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest.
Forecasting snow by just looking at the entwinement of PDO/ENSO indexes should be considered a sketchy proposition, however some accuracy can occur when each have corresponding strong phases…such as this year.
University of Washington State Climatologist summation
…El Niño and La Niña patterns are only valid during years in which ENSO and PDO extremes are "in phase"…
For students of history, two very dry years in the Northwest with each “in-phase” occurred in 1977-78.
Attached File  PDO-ENSO-2012-2015-for-web.jpg (99.42K)
Number of downloads: 30

**This is a simplified explanation, the forecast is made from many indexes such as: currents, low pressure systems, wind direction, surface temperature, other sea depth temperatures…and other connections (teleconnection) such as mid Atlantic and Russian oscillations…

Simple chart splitting California high and low precip years (scroll mid page): http://www.el-nino.com/
20 other indexes tracked by NOAA: http://www.esrl.noaa...teindices/list/
Weekly NOAA ENSO forecast: http://www.cpc.ncep..../enso_advisory/
Combination Forecast delivered by NOAA for each month for ENSO/ PDO: http://www.cpc.ncep....nal.php?lead=01
North Carolina State Climate Office – ENSO PDO forecast implications: https://climate.ncsu...tterns/PDO.html
University of Washington PDO-ENSO overview: http://cses.washingt.../aboutpdo.shtml

#4 SkiDaBird

    Established User

  • Member
  • 509 Posts:
  • Interests:Skiing

Posted 22 October 2015 - 02:25 PM

Thank you Kelly!

#5 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 27 October 2015 - 05:54 AM

Slightly off topic but of interest…
Another relationship with ENSO is its interaction with hurricane growth. The warmer waters influence two ingredients for formation.
1. Less upper level wind (upper level winds “push-over” or collapses hurricane growth).
2. Provides the fuel (energy) by higher than normal water evaporation – this encourages vertical growth and cloud saturation of the atmosphere.
This image gives a better explanation of the above outcomes.
Attached File  ENSO-pos-hurricane.jpg (99.3K)
Number of downloads: 10
Warm phase ENSO strongly reduces North American Atlantic hurricanes along with less property damage and less loss of life – good things of warm phase ENSO.
This shows the last 30 years (chart gets too busy with increased years) of west coast hurricanes showing strong growth starting in those warm waters**.
Notice some swing back and hit the western U.S.
Attached File  ENSO-Hurricane-tracks.jpg (101.88K)
Number of downloads: 14
Oddly as I was composing this topic a tropical storm started in those warm waters,** increased in strength and became hurricane Patricia with one of the fastest wind speeds on record. As it moved inland, the large precipitation associated with it disrupted a number of football games and tailgate parties in the Gulf States.
Attached File  ENSO-Patricia-track.jpg (99.44K)
Number of downloads: 16Attached File  ENSO-Patricia-wind-lines.jpg (99.34K)
Number of downloads: 14
**This is a slight oversimplification – ENSO temperatures are taken near the equator but long durations of the warm phase also influence water temperature and wind in western Mexico and southern California.

Golden Gate Climate Services owner and meteorologist Jan Null has put together a nice page that covers ENSO misconceptions. http://ggweather.com.../enso_myths.htm
Notice this is California specific and not the full west coast of North America.
Null’s home page: http://ggweather.com/

Hopefully by reading these posts readers should understand the concept or term “climate change” might be better labeled “climate variation”.

Next post – California snow forecast

#6 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 28 October 2015 - 05:49 AM

So the question still remains of what might happen in Southern California, as I recall they have a few ski resorts down in that region. Looking at my ever helpful ski resort map I’ll select Mammoth Mountain due to its elevation (snow, little or no rain) and because they happen to have a longer history of snow records. We need to make a few adjustments when overlaying snow depth on an ENSO chart. Big years need to be adjusted…to be not so big…
Attached File  ENSO-mam-peaks-averaged.jpg (98.46K)
Number of downloads: 13
…so I adjusted all years total snow depths from November to April (other months are available but are not used) to fit on the ENSO chart – deep years such as 2010-11 are at the top of the chart and “the drought year” of 1975-76 is just above the neutral line.
Attached File  ENSO-mamm-final-for-web.jpg (120.51K)
Number of downloads: 22
The chart does show a strong correlation with ENSO phase positive bringing more snow… and we see a number of years with ENSO neutral bringing higher snow years… and we also see ENSO negative bringing higher snow years to this resort.
Attached File  ENSO-mamm-crazy.jpg (138.63K)
Number of downloads: 17
No wonder marketing departments produce these glowing snow forecasts each year.

Next Post: ski resort weather specialists predictions

#7 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 30 October 2015 - 05:19 AM

Turning away from the snow goggle marketing departments to a small group of meteorologists that forecast monthly possibilities for snow at ski resorts brings us to a group called Open Snow: https://opensnow.com/
Open Snow’s forecast chart reflects the ENSO/PDO forecasts made by NOAA climatologists.
Open Snow differs slightly from NOAA’s guesstamate in California by giving a higher chance for snow in the Lake Tahoe region…perhaps Kirkwood with a base elevation of 9,000’ will benefit?
Attached File  ENSO-Open-Snow-forecast.jpg (92.19K)
Number of downloads: 29
Monthly updates: https://opensnow.com/news

#8 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 03 November 2015 - 07:54 AM

History repeating itself…
I was searching to see if any other media outlet had mentioned El Nino for a west coast weather trend and I was rewarded with finding this gem from Bend Oregon’s newspaper The Bulletin. Bend with a population of +100,000 unfortunately happens to be located in the predicted zone of none or little snow.
Attached File  ENSO-Open-Snow-Bend-Oregon.jpg (92.68K)
Number of downloads: 23
Here is the scan from page 1 – top of the fold no less, showing a bold headline from October 28 that suggests El Nino’s association with snow depth…see the Outdoor Section for more details.
Attached File  ENSO-Bend-Or-newspaper-for-.jpg (99.91K)
Number of downloads: 32
Chuckling to myself I eagerly flip to the Outdoor Section in anticipation of the headline, will they miss PDO? I was rewarded with another great headline – even better it was a ¾ page article.
A strong El Nino could wreck the ski season yet again…by Mark Morical
And better yet Morical gives this lead-in summary and I actually laugh out loud which makes my wife shake her head and mutter the words “weather dork”.
…Here in the Northwest an El Nino typically brings above–average temperatures and below-average precipitation…
Attached File  ENSO-Bend-Or-newspaper-2.-f.jpg (101.62K)
Number of downloads: 22

But there is hope.
In the article Morical contacted the Oregon Climate Service and they indicated the PDO (the referenced named was “the blob”) was also abnormally warm giving a one-two punch for Northwest ski areas of little snow and warm temperatures.
PDO just doesn’t get any respect.
The Bulletin’s full article: http://www.bendbulle...weather-monster

#9 Andy1962

    Established User

  • Member
  • 209 Posts:

Posted 18 November 2015 - 07:30 PM

...thought you might like and be amused by this early analysis of 2015-2016 El Nino


#10 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 23 November 2015 - 04:11 PM

Interesting article, they don’t mention the PDO directly but refer to it as a “resilient ridge” (warmer seas = stronger and longer lasting high pressures – those pressure shapes look like a ridge on a contour map)
Also mentioned was seasonal fluctuation “…November rarely dictates and drives the rest of the winter pattern…” which is very true.
Comparing an ENSO index with Whistler precipitation (shown on the page with a yearly bar graph) or any other North Pacific region is a difficult proposition as PDO is the stronger influence along with quick changing Aleutian Islands low pressure effects that can drive huge storms into those areas.
Much to the dismay of the marketing folks of southern Oregon and northern California the ENSO/PDO forecast is holding true – this image comes from Mt. Shasta’s cam set taken on November 19.
Attached File  Shasta-Nov-better.jpg (108.75K)
Number of downloads: 50

#11 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 01 December 2015 - 04:01 PM

PDO strength is also recognized with changes in sea life along the Oregon coast.


The Blob has been around for two years and could continue, potentially meaning more poor salmon returns and bird deaths. - Bill Peterson, fisheries scientist for the NOAA

From an Oregon coastal newspaper The Daily Astorian – The Blob is no laughing matter for marine life, birds. http://www.dailyasto...rine-life-birds
The article references the PDO as the blob…

#12 Andy1962

    Established User

  • Member
  • 209 Posts:

Posted 04 December 2015 - 02:52 PM

Just when we as humans begin to think we understand how a big blob of warm water in the Pacific ocean will affect winter climate in North America, Mother Nature reshuffles the deck and adds another ingredient to the mix: volcanoes.

The Momotombo volcanoe in Nicaragua blew its lid this week after 110 years of silence.


Question how will a big cloud, or several big clouds of volcanic dust in the atmosphere affect North American weather for the next 4 months or 18 months (next winter be colder? or warmer? )

This post has been edited by Andy1962: 04 December 2015 - 06:34 PM

#13 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 19 December 2015 - 05:38 AM

December 19 update…
This week brings true 50” bases* to most Northwest resorts…not even close to what was predicted in October, so what happened to make this big change?
As mentioned in post #1 the PDO has a strong influence on their weather. Looking at the latest index (December 10) notice it now rests at .6
Attached File  PDO-ENSO-2012-2015-almost-n.jpg (99.92K)
Number of downloads: 12
This is considered very close to a neutral reading. It reflects neutral sea surface temperatures, the high pressure region is gone, it is now being overtaken by the Aleutian low pressure and a western wind in the Pacific Ocean at all elevations is more apparent. Almost perfect ingredients for Northwest snow, the “Blob” has now been deflated.
Mirroring the PDO change, Portland Oregon has seen record rainfall for December that could break records set in 1996.
The 3 combinations (consider ENSO has 3 and PDO has 3) gives many arrangements of warm neutral and cool phases; maddening to say the least.

*In attempts to better market their product some resort folks give individual daily snowfall amounts added together as their snow base rather than what actually exists under their feet…

#14 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 04 January 2016 - 01:43 PM

Northwest blessed with many resorts reporting +75” and with 2 weeks of mostly clear weather during the Christmas break…

#15 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 03 November 2017 - 08:41 AM

Latest forecasts: http://ggweather.com/enso.htm
Nice overview: http://iri.columbia....s/enso/current/

#16 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 22 October 2018 - 11:40 AM

Attached File  Blob.jpg (109.84K)
Number of downloads: 2
Late October gives us the start of winter weather forecasts. Here are some predictions for the 2018-19 season.
El Nino is now slightly above average and the PDO is above average (now approaching 80-year dry records in the Pacific Northwest).
Take a peek at the upper posts in this topic for those terms...

Just produced video is a very easy to understand snow forecast for 2018-19 winter.
Video link: https://www.youtube....h?v=qsP384IwXvA
Video guy explains why his forecast is slightly different, mentions PDO stuff etc: https://www.youtube....h?v=Go-Xv0suk8Y

Attached File  Blob.jpg (109.84K)
Number of downloads: 2

#17 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 11 November 2019 - 10:55 AM

With respect to ENSO it is still in a neutral phase – link below gives a good overview. Dubbed La Nada.

Weekly ENSO forecast: https://www.weather.gov/ict/enso
For those located or wanting to ski in the Pacific Northwest the PDO aka The Blob is another forceful indicator. Latest updates show the blob existing but much weaker than 2014-16.
Blob explained: https://opensnow.com...-blob-explained

NWS ENSO PDO combo forecast: https://www.cpc.ncep...nal.php?lead=01

If your reading this topic for the first time it will be helpful to start at the top for a fuller understanding.

ENSO last year vs forecast Attached File  ENSO-19-v-20.jpg (99.76K)
Number of downloads: 8

ENSO simplified: http://www.el-nino.com/

Semi-professional forecast from someone that lives in a ski resort town.
Howard Sheckter “The Mammoth Weather Guy” scroll down to November 9th first - https://mammothweather.com/

#18 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 22 October 2020 - 06:57 AM

Additional links in the above posts...
As of the time of this posting we are in:
- An established La Nina, but of a weak level
- An established PDO of a slight warming index
La Nina precipitation concept: Drier for southern North America and wetter for northern North America
Attached File  La-Nina-forcing.jpg (100.58K)
Number of downloads: 13
Precipitation trends for the next 3 months based on a La Nina ENSO index.
Computers can now forecast 70x70 mile grids… this results in a blocky looking map rather than the common smoothed charts seen on TV.
Attached File  Multi-forecast.jpg (100.63K)
Number of downloads: 18
Overview of ENSO 2020-21 given by long time Pacific Northwest forecaster Pete Parsons…
Equating recent La Nina trends to past similar events shows winters of 59-60, 70-71, 94-95 had same trends in the northwest United States.
Attached File  Year-trends.jpg (100.63K)
Number of downloads: 14

Parsons forecast (ENSO/PDO/MJO) : https://www.youtube....h?v=TZCLFY0wb7k
Overview on ENSO 2020-21 given by NOAA climate services:https://www.youtube....h?v=Wd64xdXLccM

For those new to these types of forecasts please be aware that they are reduced from 10 or so individual forecasts (an ensemble) to a single average or mean line – this is often shown on tv or simpler charts as to make it quickly understandable. The chart below combines 7 forecasts of 10 ensemble runs = 70 forecasts total.
Attached File  70-ensembles.jpg (96.23K)
Number of downloads: 8
Covering all the runs we can see La Nina index from .6 to 3.0 from now until December with the index generally getting larger until February.
Attached File  Enso-could-be-this.jpg (89.17K)
Number of downloads: 10 … a weak to moderate La Nina
70 years of ENSO measurements
Attached File  70-years-ENSO-index.jpg (168.61K)
Number of downloads: 11
My forecast…better early season skiing at Whistler rather than Mammoth.

#19 Kelly

    Established User

  • Administrator II
  • 2,883 Posts:

Posted 24 November 2020 - 11:39 AM

The La Nina index is still holding and is forecasted to remain until early summer…
Perhaps too much of a good thing, Northwest is 200% of average snowfall for November.
Northwest percentage:Attached File  Nov-2020-snow-pack.jpg (99.51K)
Number of downloads: 13
And Banff seeing a marketing disaster with lines up to a ¼ mile to the ticket window – video is worth the look: https://snowbrains.c...banff-sunshine/
Mission Ridge was hoping for a later snowfall…arrow points to the haulrope spool.
Attached File  Miss-Ridge-snow-pack-Nov-2020.jpg (100.03K)
Number of downloads: 20

#20 Lift Dinosaur

    Established User

  • Industry II
  • 2,030 Posts:

Posted 25 November 2020 - 11:02 AM

Re: Mission Ridge- I always said building lifts was better in the snow than the rain, but it still bites! 50% production ...at best.
"Things turn out best for the people that make the best of the way things turn out." A.L.

1 User(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users