Skiers and snowboarders, it’s not the end of the world. Just a sneak peek.
Meteorologists are saying skiers and boarders shouldn’t be concerned that a mediocre 2013-14 ski season followed by a historically bad 2014-15 season is the start of a trend.
“It’s not global warming,” said Cliff Mass, University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor. “It was an anomaly. It was absolutely crazy warm.”
Last winter there was a persistent ridge of high pressure creating warm temperatures. “It wasn’t associated with El Niño. It wasn’t associated with climate change,” Mass said.
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“There was nothing like it before, and nothing like it after for a long time, I’m sure,” Mass said.
But Mass says it did give an interesting look into the future and what global warming might do to the region’s snowpack and ski industry.
“Last year was so similar to what we expect to be normal in 2070,” Mass said. “It was basically our global warming stress test. It wasn’t caused by global warming, but it showed us what it will look like.”
There was nothing like it (last winter) before, and nothing like it after for a long time, I’m sure.
Cliff Mass, UW atmospheric Sciences professor
Mass says skiers and snowboarders should see ski season returning to something closer to what they’re used to enjoying.
The forecasts for this winter once again call for strong El Niño conditions. And, yes, that typically means dryer and warmer temperatures than normal.
But even strong El Niño conditions produce much more snow than last season. Both Mass and Dennis D’Amico of the Northwest Avalanche Center say a typical El Niño winter usually brings closer to 80 percent of normal precipitation, rather than last year’s 20 percent of normal in the Cascades and 5 percent in the Olympics.
Confidence is low among skiers and snowboarders, however, as ski areas are reporting fewer season pass sales than normal.
Ski areas are working to inform skiers and snowboarders that the El Niño forecast isn’t necessarily bad news.
“We’ve had some great winters in El Niño years,” said Guy Lawrence of the Summit at Snoqualmie.
“It will be much, much better than last year,” Mass said. “I’m very confident about that.”