I Wonder: Are we expecting a snowy winter?

I Wonder: Are we expecting a snowy winter?

Credit: Mike McLenna/KTVB file

Snow plow drivers worked the I-184 Connector just before Christmas in 2008. Will we see a similar weather pattern again this year?


by Don Day KTVB.COM

Bio | Email | Follow: @DonLDay


Posted on October 25, 2009 at 3:22 PM

I wonder if we are expecting a snowy winter. Last year brought lots of moisture. Can we expect the same this year?

BOISE - Snow in the valley. Kids love it, drivers hate it and collision shops have a field day.? Last year, the Treasure Valley was dusted with snow over and over - starting with an early storm in October, a virtual avalanche before Christmas and a smattering of other snowy days sprinkled throughout.

But will 2009-10 be a repeat of last year - or something else entirely?

For the answers, we turned to Idaho's Chief Meteorologist Rick Lantz, who has been tracking wintry storms in the Treasure Valley for 27 years.

He says, forecasting beyond a few days is an inexact science - and looking down the road months out is hard to predict.? But by looking at weather patterns and the temperature of the ocean, forecasters can get an idea of what's to come.

This year, our weather pattern is controlled by the El Nino phenomenon.? During an El Nino cycle, the water is one to four degrees warmer in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.? That warmer water also heats up the air above it.

"When the ocean temperatures start to warm up, that has a direct effect on the air above it," Lantz said. "Some of that warmer air that's coming up out of the south is going to cause some heavy rains throughout some areas of the country."

By looking at El Nino years from the past, meteorologists and are better able to understand how it will affect individual areas - like the Treasure Valley.

"We're looking at a little warmer than usual for December and January," Lantz said. "That will not be a whole lot different than the past couple of winters, other than the fact that the precipitation will be in a different form."

That different form? Yes, rain.?

"It won't be quite as cold, so we'll be looking at a little bit more rain in the picture.? That doesn't mean that it won't snow, but many of these storms will also be producing winter rain."

If you enjoy winter sports, this type of winter will still work out. Even though the warmer weather pattern could keep the snowflakes away in valley locations, it will still be cold enough for snow higher up the mountain.

"This is the kind of winter that people here in Idaho like seeing," Lantz said. "It looks like the type of winter that's not so bad here in the valley, but we're still getting the snow in the mountains for recreation and also for the reservoir level."

Farmers and skiers are likely to be happy with what's to come - but school kids hoping for a few unexpected days off of school could be disappointed.

Past I Wonder stories