Long-term forecast calls for snow, but be patient — it may take awhile to arrive

by • November 6, 2017 • Feature, HighlightsComments (0)580

So, there are no guarantees with the weather. It’s the one thing that – no matter how hard we try to control and how many predictions are made – we mere humans cannot dictate.

That said, Rick Thoman, state climatologist based in Fairbanks and one of the only people in the state willing to take a stab at it, said, in a nutshell, we can expect a similar repeat to last year.

Winter-weather lovers delight: The long-term forecast calls for snow, but it might be slow to arrive. By the new year, freshly groomed corduroy like this should be blissfully plentiful.
Courtesy Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage

The long-term southcentral Alaska forecast is trending toward lower-than-average snowfall and average to above-average temperatures in the early parts of winter, only to become snowier and colder later in the season, perhaps even after the new year.

“The overall outlook at this point is that there is a likelihood of the La Niña in the tropical Pacific, which for Alaska means we have a better chance for closer to normal temperatures than we do during El Niño,” Thoman said. The key, he added, is the timing, which might track a bit later than in winters past.

Last winter also was dominated by the effects of La Niña, he pointed out, and the bulk of the season’s snow came in late winter – some of it as late as March.

For the immediate future, such as the first weeks of November, Thoman said snow lovers can expect warmer and wetter conditions, which could melt snow in lower elevations such as Anchorage, but could be a snowy wonderland for mountain passes and higher elevations.

“That cool signal gets more reliable as we get later into the year,” he said. “We also had a La Niña last year; it’s not unusual to get that two years in a row.”

For now, though, Thoman said, “the first half of the winter, it’s a crap shoot.” Southerly flow patterns also can bring huge dumps of snow and whether that white stuff sticks is sometimes only a matter of a degree or two. If a decent snowfall lands on the ground by Thanksgiving, “odds favor” that it will stick around, he said.

No matter the forecast, winter-sports enthusiasts should think positive, stay informed and educate themselves on snow safety.

The fifth annual Southcentral Alaska Avalanche Information Workshop is Nov. 3 at APU, followed by SnowFest, a snow-safety summit with avalanche education awareness programs, on Nov. 4, also at APU. (akavalancheworkshop.org/ or www.alaskasnow.org)

— Melissa DeVaughn


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