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As the snows deepen here in the Northern Rockies and the West in general, a popular watercooler discussion focuses on children. Not just any thumbsuckers, mind you: El Niño and his sibling, La Niña. Depending on your predilection, those two weather conditions are alternately denigrated or celebrated for their impact on regional weather. The National Weather Service defines La Niña as "a periodic cooling of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific along with a shift in convection in the western Pacific further west than the climatological average." Got that? What it can mean, depending on your location, is a heckuva good snow season, or a lame one. But there's still a question out there as to whether or not we're experiencing a La Niña winter.

Is This La Niña?

As the snows deepen here in the Northern Rockies and the West in general, a popular watercooler discussion focuses on children.

Not just any thumbsuckers, mind you: El Nino and his sibling, La Niña.

Depending on your predilection, those two weather conditions are alternately denigrated or celebrated for their impact on regional weather. The National Weather Service defines La Nina as “a periodic cooling of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific along with a shift in convection in the western Pacific further west than the climatological average.”

Got all that? What it can mean, depending on your location, is a heckuva good snow season, or a lame one. But there’s still a question out there as to whether or not we’re experiencing a La Niña winter.

From where I sit in snowy Idaho, life as a skier is pretty darned good. Check the headlines, read the snow report, or just go skiing in most parts of the West and you’ll be a happy camper.

I realize just now that the skiing in parts of the Southwest is rotten. This, too, many feel, is the result of La Niña.

So is such blame-mongering accurate? The debate rages.

In the Oregonian, reporters pitted meteorologists against one another (what do they do? throw laser-pointers at each other?) in a debate over the question.

Here in Idaho, cooler heads prevail. Paul Flatt, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, told New West today that it’s a little of both.

“There’s no definitive answer yes or no,” Flatt said. “The consensus is, the way La Niña is developing, the heavy snow in December wasn’t from a La Niña.”

But, according to climatologists at the national level, Flatt said we might start looking at January and February with the little child in mind.

“From here forward, they feel the precipitation we’re getting now is impacted slightly by La Niña,” Flatt said.

Let’s allow some emphasis on that phrase “impacted slightly.” Flatt is wary even now of laying any blame or credit for the snow we have at the foot of La Niña.

“There is no definitive proof,” Flatt said.

Blame who you want. The snow is great in the Northern Rockies today, and looks to be that way the rest of the week.

About Shea Andersen

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One comment

  1. Hey Shea,

    I’ve been visiting your website and have enjoyed the content for months now, but I think you need to expand your horizons. Channel two aired stories all last week that finally broke the silence about gang violence in Nampa. We were criticized by a few for giving gang members a platform, but most of our feedback thanked us for finally letting the community know exactly what goes through the minds of members of the Northside and Southside gangs. I felt sure I would see something on New West, but am disappointed to see that you have ignored our coverage. Maybe we just need you to be the first of many people who realize that we are building a team of journalists who are serious about covering Treasure Valley news.

    Thanks,

    Steve Liebenthal