NOAA’s Official Southern California 2016/17 Winter Outlook:

Sergei Poljak |

Eric Boldt, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), discusses the rainy season outlook for the Southern California Region in an Oct. 3rd video. 

While I encourage you to watch the video personally (it is very informative and based on science, unlike the farmers almanac and other predictors you’ve seen thus far), there are several Key Points:

  • No clear predictor for precipitation in Southern California this winter (or the entire West Coast for that matter)
  • 55-60 % chance of ENSO Neutral conditions.
  • The median precipitation during an ENSO Neutral year is slightly below average, although the mean is slightly above average (remember stats class, folks), suggesting that when rains do come they tend to come hard. This means that the actual odds slightly favor a below normal rainy season.
  • On average, El Nino events receive 30% more precipitation, and La Nina events 30% less. There has only been one La Nina year in history with above average precipitation, that being the legendary 2010-2011 winter in which copious amounts of snow fell across the U.S.
  • There is a 35-40 % chance of a weak La Nina event materializing, and if this does happen, it will chance the rainy season outlook significantly.
  • It is likely that there will be above average temperatures across the region, as well as the entire southern tier of the U.S.
  • No matter what, it will rain at some point this winter, and you should be prepared for mudslides!

Precipitation in SoCal does affect snow amounts at places like Big Bear and Mammoth, but more importantly is the drought outlook in such a populated region. As much as I love Mammoth, I am much more concerned about a worsening, long-term drought.

Los Angeles in the foreground, with the San Gabriel mountains gleaming after a winter storm.
Los Angeles in the foreground, with the San Gabriel mountains gleaming after a winter storm.                 PC: NBC Los Angeles

It should always be noted that, historically speaking, long term forecasts are notoriously inaccurate. Last winter, El Nino conditions prompted scientists to predict above average precipitation in the southern tier of the U.S. and below average in the northern tier. In the end, exactly the opposite occurred, with the Pacific Northwest getting steadily hammered, while the drought worsened in Central and Southern CA.

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One thought on “NOAA’s Official Southern California 2016/17 Winter Outlook:

  1. Mammoth may serve SoCal skiers, but its latitude is the same as SF, and no surprise Mammoth weather is closer correlated to SF than LA.

    Last year was indeed a spectacular bust of El Nino for SoCal, which has only occurred before in 1986-87 among the stronger El Nino years.

    The past 5 years are by far the worst drought in the history of the SoCal ski industry. 2 and 3 years drought stretches are fairly routine.

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