El Nino Watch for USA & Canada Winter

For the people who love to follow the snow and regularly commit a bunch of money months in advance for an overseas snow holiday, keeping an eye on the weather becomes second nature. Predictions and snow depths can suddenly take on a new meaning, lifting you one moment, and plunging you into the depths of despair the next.

Here's what some of the official and non-official sources have to say about the winter unfolding north of The Equator.

The publishers of The Old Farmer's Almanac, which uses a secret formula relating to magnetic storms on the Sun's surface say; although solar activity is decreased, they predict above normal temperatures for most of the USA except in the Southwest because of the arrival of a weak El Nino.

NOAA's official forecast, using an openly shared formula based on physics, complex mathematical models and thermodynamics, is very similar. Their forecast calls for a thirty three percent chance for warmer than normal temperatures with a thirty three percent chance of above average snowfall.

The official forecast for Canada from the CCCS summed it up by saying the west coast will experience warmer than normal temperatures, the prairies will most likely see a typical winter, and their neighbours on the east coast are in for very cold winter.

How El Nino impacts the European Winter is a relatively unexplored subject, but a recently published study establishes a link between El Nino and the weather in Europe in autumn, which generally means wetter and milder conditions than usual.

Although forecasters were right in predicting a mild autumn for Europe, temperature forecasts for winter are colder than normal with snow forecasts to be normal or above normal, which is great news for skiers and boarders heading to Europe.

Now if we're heading to the USA or Canada, things may be not looking too crash hot depending on where you're heading and how you interpret the forecasts. To avoid thoughts of terrible despair we should remind ourselves that forecasts are probabilities - the measure of the likelihood of an event happening.

Simply, the weather is dynamic and the slightest shift in weather patterns and temperatures will cause the lineal mathematical computer models we use in forecasting, to significantly waiver and begin to crumble.

There is an enormous amount of uncertainty when it comes to predicting weather and Mother Nature has a way of surprising us when we least expect it!

A snap shot of base depths at some of the more popular resorts in the USA and Canada today Dec 18;

Breckenridge 94cm

Snowbird 91cm (Top)

Mammoth 76 cm

Heavenly 86 cm

Big White 109 cm

Whistler 25 cm

Lake Louise 174 cm (Top)

*NB: Seven day snow forecasts for Canada are really encouraging with lesser falls predicted for the USA

Our motto - keep smiling and keep riding.

* El Nino and La Nina are opposite phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, a scientific study of the temperature fluctuations between atmospheric and ocean temperatures in the central Pacific.

Robert Sack-Blecher