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 NiÃ±a.
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 NiÃ±a winter.
I realize just now that the skiing in parts of the Southwest is rotten. This, too, many feel, is the result of La NiÃ±a.
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 NiÃ±a is developing, the heavy snow in December wasn’t from a La NiÃ±a.”
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 NiÃ±a,” 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 NiÃ±a.
“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.