The Hype Machine Keeps on Churning

Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 8:04 pm

El Niño does not guarantee us anything.

I know I’ve said that repeatedly (not just today), but there’s so much hype and misinformation out there, that it needs repeating.  Massive hype articles have been posted all over interwebs lately.  Here are just a few examples from national news outlets that were published today alone:





Ironically, the same people who are causing all the hype are the same ones who are trying the hardest to temper it.  Check out today’s ENSO blog from the CPC.

As stated in my previous posts, I believe a strong El Niño may just barely tip the odds in our favor for an above average year.  Even so, if you assume that in a normal year you have a 50% chance of being above the median snowfall, and a 50% chance of being below, then a strong El Niño year such as this may increase your odds to maybe 55/45.   Just not much correlation there (Figure 1, below).  In Southern Utah, those odds may move to 65/35, perhaps even 70/30, as they have a much stronger correlation between El Niño and above average precipitation during the winter months (Figure 2).

I’m not trying to be the jerk who killed the stoke, but if I don’t manage expectations now, I’m going to have to deal with everybody complaining about what a bust El Niño was again next summer.  Is it possible for us to have very good winter thanks to El Niño? Yes.  Is it possible for us to be below average again?  Yes.  Anything is still possible.


Figure 1



Figure 2


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  • John

    LOL. 80 percent or more of the articles from CNN , MSNBC New and the NY Times are just pure Bull Sh…t
    Don’t buy anything they are selling…

  • Steve

    I’m surprised how many people have told me that northern Utah is going to have a huge year because of the El Nino. After a while I got tired of telling them that it doesn’t mean much for northern utah. But amazing how people latch onto it.

  • Laura

    Thank you for sanity and data. I keep passing your posts on to all my Utah and CA ski pals. We will see what El Niño v. The Blob ends up handing us all in snow and rainfall. We are desperate in CA so anything normal or above won’t cure our water woes but at least it will help a bit.

  • El Nino may tip the odds in our favor for a good season? After suffering the last few years, that possibility deserves a reaction like this:

  • Paul

    in the same sense that you tah tah the El Nino, it CAN with other proper conditions provide a very healthy winter for Northern Utah, I have lived here since the 80s and I have seen an El Nino produce good snow. I have been told that you are a meteorologist and that you are not and you do provide very good forecasting but I have a few friends who are excellent meteorologists and who respect you but say you are being a bit hasty making a solid remark that the El Nino WILL NOT effect Northern Utah this coming year. We will see how this pans out but are you stating that all of the facts and info is in for this coming winter and you are willing to make at least a tiny bet that this El Nino could and probably will produce another crappy year for Park City and surrounding areas. Thanks

    • Hey Paul, I definitely have not made a “solid remark that it WILL NOT effect Northern Utah”. My whole point is that anything can happen — 82-83 was a record breaking El Nino season. 97-98 was halfway decent as well. Those are the two strongest El Ninos on record, but still, the correlation coefficient between ENSO and our snowfall is practically 0, so I’m simply pointing out that it can go either way and that we shouldn’t be getting too excited just yet.

    • Stick Fetchman

      YOU CLEARLY AINT READIN THE POST, DAWG! I read this blog religiously. He never makes a “solid remark” that this will NOT effect N. Utah. In fact, last month he talked at length about how some of the strongest el nino years were the biggest in Utah history. And in this post, it says that it may barely tip the odds in our favor. Don’t read between the lines, buddy.

    • Ingemar Skidmark

      El Nino, La Nina, Snowpocalypse. Park City will still be ballroom ice. Welcome to 21st century snowline, pilgrim.

  • Spank Tickleman

    If we have a huge year it’ll be because we’re due for one and the weather patterns line up for us, El Nino or not…

  • eric lewis

    Well, I am certain of one thing… being “due” for one is hardly a cause of meteorological phenomena! The correlations for Northern Utah are pretty clear, although the data-set for strong El Nino years is very small (3). I am curious, although it is beyond your purview, to know if their is a greater chance that this bodes very well for Taos, which I have some reason to think may be the case. While LCC is my preferred place to do, well, almost everything, sometime you gotta follow the storms!

    • Taos is certainly more traditionally favored in a Niño year, so it’s worth at least seeing how the season is shaping up for them. Here is a New Mexico statewide scatterplot that shows that they do tend to do better in strong El Ninos:

      • eric lewis

        tk, I will wait to see how things develop before booking tickets and flights, and hope, well, we get pounded at least somewhere (hopefully LCC, my favourite place in well, the whole universe I would say!)

  • Sam

    You’ve said before “Chile is often a South American mirror of California. ”

    So…. I’ve seen good things about Chili lately, but overall how’s it doing compared to average, and what if anything do you think this indicates for Utah (especially southern Utah 😉 )

  • scotchipman

    The last 5 strong El Niño events were 1957-1958, 1965-1966, 1972-1973, 1982-1983, and 1997-1998. In these 5 years the Alta UDOT November through April (does not include any Oct. or May snow) snowfall averaged 554″ which is above the 70+ year average of 490″. Not a big increase but it does gives us hope.

  • Bryan

    Working in favor of northern Utah is that the core of the warm ocean water is further north than a typical El Nino. My thinking is that could propel the storms on a trajectory further north as well. That’s my theory; won’t know if it’s right until things play out.

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