Will El Nino produce another winter with no snow?

by Steve Lyon

Weiser Signal American of Weiser, Idaho

Meteorologists are predicting a strong El Nino this winter, which could have negative implications for precipitation totals in southwest Idaho and the Treasure Valley.

Weather experts base their forecasts for an El Nino year on warming sea surface temperatures in the tropical central and eastern portion of the Pacific Ocean. Water temperatures have risen by 2 degrees.

This spring, conditions began forming for an El Nino and they have been strenghtening since, leading to the forecast that an El Nino is in place right now.

"We do think it's going to have some impact. It's not real well understood how that will play out," said Troy Lindquist, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boise.

The outlook for the northern half of the U.S., which includes Idaho, is drier than normal condition and above average temperatures.

If so, that would be essentially a repeat of last winter, when snowpacks were low across the Weiser River drainage.

"It's possible we may end up with poor lower elevation snowpacks," Lindquist said.

During an El Nino year, the southern tier of the U.S. stretching from California to Texas to Florida could see an increase in moisture during the winter months.

"Those areas more often than not see wetter conditions," Lindquist said.

The western end of the Treasure Valley received more than three-fourths of an inch of rain in October, according to the National Weather Service.

The 79 inches that fell was above average for the month by 16 of an inch. Nearly a half-inch, or 53 inches, fell in a 24-hour period from Oct. 18-19.

The days of 80 degree temperatures are long gone, along with 70-degree temperatures.

The hottest day recorded in October in Weiser and the western end of the Treasure Valley was 87 degrees on Oct. 10, the NWS said.

The coldest temperature the area experienced in October was 33 degrees on

Oct. 27.

There were five days last month with high temperatures above 80 degrees, all prior to Oct. 15. The last day the high temperature reached at least 70 degrees was Oct. 22.

Freezing temperatures below 32 degrees are supposed to arrive this week in the western Treasure Valley with cold overnight lows.

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