A-yo for N.A.O.

If you live on the East Coast of North America or in Northern Europe, then brace yourselves—you’re about to experience your first negative North Atlantic Oscillation winter in a long time. Okay, okay, I know that sounds like Spock explaining a toilet vortex in the captain’s log, but this is the real deal. In laymen’s terms, N.A.O. is the Atlantic cousin of the Pacific weather phenomenon El Niño, and for those of you who’ve been riding long enough, you’ll remember that El Niño was responsible for the epic West Coast winter of ’98/99.

So here are the facts: N.A.O. has been in a positive cycle for the last three-odd years—obviously, there’ve been fluctuations, but a positive phase mainly means that Greenland, Iceland, and Northern Canada get all the severe weather while Europe and the East Coast get the fallout in the shape of milder and wetter winters. However, all this year’s early season data collected by weather stations points towards the N.A.O. sea-saw flicking into a negative cycle—which means great news for snowboarders: the East Coast gets nailed by cold air outbreaks loaded with snow and Northern Europe gets pounded by colder air and moist conditions sucked up from the Mediterranean.

The last time N.A.O. flicked to a negative cycle was in 1963, and the UK Met office reported that the Thames foreshore froze over for eight miles, temperatures dipped to minus seven degrees Fahrenheit and Britain was covered in snow for two months—this a place that doesn’t usually get below 40F. Now, imagine what this means in the mountains.

There is a down side to this, however—for every degree the temperatures drop below the average, there will be an extra 10,000 deaths on average. So dig out that powder gun, and once you’ve had your fun up at the hill, don’t forget to go and check on the old folk in your town.