We Got the Scoop on El Niño from Meteorologist Joel Gratz

According to the July 9 weather advisory from NOAA, "There is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 80 percent chance it will last into early spring 2016."  This may also be the strongest El Niño in 50 years, as reported by numerous weather sites including; Weather.com, AccuWeather.com and Wunderground.com.

So what exactly does this weather phenomena mean for snowboarders? Will El Niño bring pow aplenty or will some spots get skunked? We're curious how this weather pattern will all shake out, so we reached out to Joel Gratz, lead meteorologist and founder of the weather forecasting site OpenSnow.com, for the scoop on what this El Niño means for snowboarders this season.

Check out the interview below and flip through the gratuitous snow porn gallery above to get you psyched for El Niño 2015-2016.


BC Pow. Photo: Andrew Miller

Interview with Joel Gratz, Head Meteorologist at OpenSnow.com 

What is El Niño?

This is the term used when ocean water temperatures are warmer than average in the central Pacific Ocean, roughly between Peru and Papua New Guinea.

What does El Niño mean for snowboarders?

Likely more precipitation in the southern one-third of the US and perhaps less precipitation in the northwestern one-third of the US. This could be mean big snowfall and lots of powder in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado, and southern Utah. Snowfall around the big ski destinations of Tahoe, northern Utah, and northern/central Colorado is less certain as these areas are right in the middle (not too far south and not too far north). A stronger El Niño might turn out to be good news for these destinations “in the middle”.


Danny Davis loves the chowder. Photo: Scott Sullivan

What snowboard areas will be most affected by this El Niño?
The greatest confidence is in the forecast is that the southwestern US will see above average precipitation.

When is the next most likely time what we’ll experience El Niño?
During the last 50 years, about one-third of the years have been El Niño, about one-third have been La Niña (colder water temperatures off the coast of Peru), and about one-third have been neither La Niña or El Niño. That said, there are different strengths of El Nino, and the last strong El Nino (perhaps similar to the one we will see this year) was back in 1997-1998.

Pat Moore, Chilean backcountry

Pat Moore in the Chilean backcountry.

What is the best possible outcome for this El Niño?
That’s a tough question because there are winners and losers. The stronger the El Nino, the more precipitation one area will get and the less another area will receive. El Nino changes weather patterns across the world, so while some areas see flooding, others see drought. I’m not sure there is a best case. It is something we deal with and adapt to as best we can.

Stay tuned for more weather stories as we'll be following El Nino and will keep you updated on where to find the pow. In the meantime, check out the recent snow totals in South America here– They've been getting hammered with snow this season. 


Alaskan Line. Photo: Darcy Bacha

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