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Predictions call for another wet winter

October 10, 2011

The Sierra Nevada received its first dusting of snow for the 2011-12 season. Mammoth Mountain received 19 inches between Tuesday and Thursday. National weather forecasters are predicting another stout winter season comparable to last year. Photo by Sterling Schat

Winter weather predictions for 2011 are not in line with historic models, indicating the Eastern Sierra could be in for another unusually wet winter this season and a snow line that could be as high as last year’s.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has released a La Niña Advisory, as part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion issued by the Climate Prediction Center.
2010 was a La Niña weather pattern year and the 2011-12 winter season looks to be another La Niña year.
A La Niña weather pattern, along with its companion El Niño, is a weather phenomena that occurs in the Southern Pacific that is still not fully understood. La Niña is accompanied by cooler ocean water temperatures and drought conditions for the Midwestern U.S. This year’s string of massive and fatal tornadoes in the Midwest and the drought in Texas are being blamed on La Niña conditions, according to, a science and technology news website. La Niña is also being cited as the cause of the flooding in Pakistan and Australia and the near record-snowfall seen locally last winter.
According to the NOAA, there has been a weaker second La Niña winter in three of the five multi-year La Niñas in the historical sea surface temperature record since 1950.
“However, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Climate Forecast System, version 1 predicts a moderate-strength La Niña this winter and version 2 predicts a strong La Niña which rivals last year’s peak strength,” states the press release. The report also states that the weather patterns should remain weak through the fall and increase in strength by late fall and into winter proper.
But, this is the weather and even NOAA says that there are margins of error with its numbers and predictions.
Joani Lynch, director of communications at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, said she was not about to make predictions either, but conceded the ski area is anticipating another exciting year.
Mammoth plans on opening the second weekend in November, Nov. 10, to coincide with the Veterans Day holiday weekend, as it has for several years in a row. Lynch added that if weather permits, the mountain will open sooner but the immediate forecast does not call for an opening any sooner.
“We’ll open sooner if we can provide a good product,” Lynch said.
Opening day, the Big Winter Kick-Off, Lynch said it’s called, will include a weekend full of music and movie premieres along with parties and merriment.
The mountain received 19 inches of powder between Tuesday and Thursday morning, just three months after the lifts were halted for the 2010-11 season.

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