Great news, powderchasers: El Nino is here. Forecasters speculated that El Nino could have arrived during summer 2014 and perhaps make an appearance during winter 2014-15, but—as you skiers and snowboarders know—that didn’t happen.
“There’s a 90% chance that the current El Niño will continue through the summer, and forecasters estimate the chance that it will continue through the end of 2015 at greater than 80%.”
How can we be sure El Nino is here?
El Niño, or “the boy Christchild,” which often reveals itself around Christmas, is marked by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Historically, it brings above-average snow to the Andes. The warmer temperatures weaken trade winds and feed storms above, providing an opportunity for more intense weather to make landfall.
According to the March 2015 NOAA article there’s been “some suggestions of borderline atmospheric El Niño conditions, but until this month we were below that borderline. This month, we’ve finally crept above it, and, thus, NOAA is declaring the onset of El Niño conditions.”
In March 2015, NOAA released an official El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Advisory with a note that the continuation of the coupled warmer-than-average sea and atmospheric temperatures could lead to a slow increase of El Nino conditions. Over the last two months, it seems that warm ocean temperatures needed for an El Nino event have indeed strengthened.
Will it be a strong El Nino?
El Nino 2015 is here, but just how strong it will be is still a bit unclear. However, the recent surge in oceanic temperatures is positive for those hoping for a banner snowfall year in South America.
“In a historical sense, if this is going to be a real strong El Niño event like we had in 1997-98, we will see a real strong evolution,” said Mike Halpert, Deputy Director for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in a tetongravity.com article. “If not, it probably takes that off the table. It might keep going with weak to moderate strength.”
“All I can really say is over the past couple of weeks the ocean has started to warm, and it’s hard to say whether that will continue,” said Halpert.
How does a strong El Nino affect Chilean ski resorts?
In 1972, 1983 and 1997, Chile experienced some of the biggest snowstorms of the 20th century. The 1997 season lasted well into October, and some Chilean ski resorts received a staggering 450 inches of snow. Typically, the South American ski season winds down in September.
Make sure you don’t miss out on what could be a record-breaking winter in South America. Start planning your Valle Nevado ski vacation by requesting a customized quote or calling one of our knowledgeable Mountain Travel Experts at 800-610-8911.
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Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.