La Niña is about to ghost winter in the West like a Tinder match.
Much of the Tahoe Basin woke up Monday morning to a dusting of snow covering the scorched landscape like powdered sugar sprinkled over burnt French Toast. Let’s stop and look for a moment, shall we?
— Squaw Alpine (@squawalpine) October 17, 2016
— Kirkwood Mountain (@KirkwoodMtn) October 17, 2016
— Northstar California (@Northstar_CA) October 18, 2016
And even one in black and white:
…You get the picture.
The pre-ski season resort hype machine is working overtime. Think of the mid-October tease to winter the same way as when you walk into Target this time of year looking for a bag of assorted Mars candies to, um, “give away at the office” only run into Buddy the Elf’s boudoir.
And you think, Christmas? Already??…Whaaaaat???
Samesies with all the hoopla from that first little storm. What used to be seen by the faithful as Old Man Winter’s pre-ejaculate, followed by another few weeks of thinking about baseball and holding it in, then the big explosion—has now turned into a really intense marketing ploy inferring that if there’s ALREADY snow on the ground in mid-October, think of what January will bring!!!
….And oh, here are our megaconglomerate pass deals because you’re FOR SURE gonna make the trip out to Vail this year.
Never works out that way. But that’s what marketing people are supposed to do, get you excited for something that will probably never happen. I mean, they’re the Jäger Girls of ski towns.
But before all the Facebook comments get “You don’t know what you’re talking about, I read it’s going to be the BIGGEST WINTER EVER!!! on Unofficial” crazy, allow me to wind it back a year when the rumors of the “Godzilla” El Niño were all the rage.
— Squaw Alpine (@squawalpine) August 28, 2015
Apparently the ever-warming planet played the role of Mothra.
And the prediction on this site, based on, you know, the science of our steadily warming planet and our sweating/dying oceans was more on point.
By April, this is what had come of the El Super Gordo Niño prediction: “It’s looking pretty grim,” said Anthony Barnston, the chief climate forecaster for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in New York. “This winter was really disappointing.”
Disappointing is probably the least alarmist way of putting it. Disappointed is something you are after a co-worker brought you surprise Taco Bell but no mild sauce. There probably needs to be another adjective that describes a continued climate spiral that will assuredly kill us if we don’t die in our cars first. Like, ugh. “Last winter was really ugh.”
Last fall, many scientists and climatologists predicted El Niño would give California the best chance for drought respite with above-average rains and snow pack. In reality, the sub-average season was far from a drought-buster.
The unthinkable heat that has permeated California since 2011 is more pronounced than ever. By April, Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, revealed that there was 58 inches of snow on the ground in the Sierra which held 26 inches of water content. It wasn’t nothing, but it fell well short of an average year. Fast forward to June, the planet’s hottest month in 137 years of record-keeping, followed by record heat in July, August and September. This summer ratcheted up the 14th through 17th straight months of record-breaking scorchers. If the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is to be believed, there will be little relief for the remainder of the fall…and on.
In terms of actual precipitation, or lack thereof, Southern California was hit hardest in the state reporting 58 percent of average rainfall heading into summer. “We never got out of fire season, so all we need is a little [lightning] and half a dozen pyromaniacs for a lot of fires,” said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert.
And it could get worse.
It will get worse.
Forecasters, who originally called for an El Niño—caused by the eastern Pacific warming up in the the summer then cooling in the fall (<–the whole ocean’s cooling part never happened)—which can trigger a favorable window for precip come winter, are now backing off La Niña predictions. La Niña, which used to accompany El Niño in back-to-back years, is characterized by periods of below-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Equatorial Pacific and can cause wetter winters in the northern part of California and the Pacific Northwest and drier ones in Southern California.
But guess what? That whole sea surface cooling thing, um, never happened. So the perma-warm ocean lets you know one thing about the weather pattern: it’s going to continue to stay hotter and drier than ever before.
Because here’s the deal with weather (and, come to think of it, elections) folks. We are through the looking-glass. We’re actually ants on the other side of it being burned by magnified exposure to the sun’s rays. Take all you knew of normal and all you want to see that reminds you of yesteryear and roll back the moonroof and toss it out onto the freeway like an empty bag of In-N-Out Animal Style fries. Because, fuck it.
…Or think of global climate change as a social disease: In the ‘70s and ‘80s it was just a pesky rash that could be taken care of with a shot of penicillin and you’d be on your way. In the ‘90s it became herpes. Occasional flare-ups, but you could live with it. Now we have a diagnosis of full-blown AIDS. We were not careful. We ignored the warning signs. And now we are living with an illness that will only lead to our demise.
At least we can try to educate others and by others I mean send out a space capsule which says, “Do not fucking do this to your planet.”