Weather Blog

Seattle about to tie record for least snowy winter?

Seattle about to tie record for least snowy winter?
Photo: Ken Sjodin

It's looking more and more likely Seattle is about to get skunked in the snow department this year, and skiers and snow fans would probably agree that it stinks.

Coming off one of the snowiest winters in recent memory in 2008-09, the winter of 2009-2010 is currently in a 10-way tie for least snowy winter on record -- and we're going back all the way to 1851 when Seattle was settled.

As of Tuesday, Seattle had just received a "trace" of snow for the winter season, meaning snow was observed but didn't accumulate at all or didn't accumulate enough to measure.  Actually, that's happened on two dates -- Monday (March 8) and Dec. 13.

According to local weather statistical guru Jason Phelps, that is tied with 9 other winters where all we recorded was a trace:

1914-15, 1924-25, 1933-34, 1941-42, 1957-58, 1982-83, 1991-92, 2002-03, and 2004-05.

Interestingly enough, Jason says there has never, ever, ever -- again, back to those days of the Dennys and Mercers and Terrys -- been a winter recorded in Seattle where we didn't see at least a trace of snow. Now, there might be a little "apples and oranges" here since the observation sites probably drifted around, but you get the picture -- even in the warmest of winters, we should at least see *some* snowflakes, even if they don't add up to anything.

Of course, since this is the year of El Nino, you might be asking yourself: "Were those El Nino years?"

I only have the data back to 1950, but for the five winters that we're tying with, yes, indeed, all five of those winters were El Nino winters, and all about equal intensity.

You can see for yourself at this chart that shows El Nino and La Nino years. The red numbers indicate El Nino months, the blue numbers are the cooler La Nina months, and black are considered neutral.

It's also interesting to see just how much El Ninos have outweighed La Ninas this past decade.  If trends hold, I bet we start to drift back toward neutral this winter on our way to another La Nina in 2011-2012. Suffice to say, I doubt the winter of 2010-2011 is going to be adding to this nearly snowless streak :)