SEATTLE -- As December attempts to set the record for warmest one in at least the 69 years at Sea-Tac and perhaps the warmest even counting the Federal Building back to 1890, the news as we turn the page to official winter is not good for skiers.
The 90-day long range seasonal models for January through March have come out from NOAA and the news is more of the same, if not even a little worse than before: A very high confidence that the winter season will end up warmer than normal in the Pacific Northwest.
Already we've been measuring snow in the mountains in single digits across many locations for much of December. A storm Thursday night brought a bit more snow to push Snoqualmie Pass to about 13 inches on the ground as of Friday morning with Stevens Pass around 16 inches and Mt. Baker up to 22 inches.
But another warm, Pineapple Express type storm this weekend threatens to melt and wash away a significant chunk of it. And that could be the recurring theme of the winter as well.
Here is the temperature forecast for January through March, showing a very high confidence -- over 60 percent, which is quite high by seasonal forecast standards -- for warmer than normal conditions to continue in the Pacific Northwest, particularly western Washington and northern Oregon. The rest of the West Coast isn't much better, and neither is Alaska.
The rainfall map also shows drier than normal conditions likely in Washington while very wet conditions across California and the South -- very typical of an El Nino winter.
What's Up With El Nino Anyway?
El Nino continues to cause some head scratching in that the sea temperatures have warmed in the Central Pacific to El Nino-type levels, but the atmosphere has yet to take notice. But climate models continue to indicate we're going to get there, even if it might be a weak event.
But while El Nino has yet to really take the wheel of driving the global weather patterns, locally we're still dealing with warmer waters in the Northern Pacific Ocean which has been a major factor in our months-long warm spell and are forecast to remain that way for a while.
Thus, the forecast going forward seems to indicate the West Coast will continue to deal with warmer than normal temperatures for a while. Here are the rolling 90-day forecast maps going forward:
Now, as we've seen even this autumn -- being in a generally warm pattern doesn't mean it can't get cold on occasion -- we've already seen two fairly decent cold snaps with even a bit of lowland snow at the end of November. And the forecast is trending for a cooler pattern for a while as we head toward the end of the year.
But overall, it seems like days in the 50s could outnumber the days in the 40s in the lowlands, and snow events in the mountains could be fleeting.