Rocky Mountains have less snow more warmth

Jan 12, 2012

Idaho isn’t the only state in the west that’s been dry for more than a month. Most of the Rocky Mountain region is experiencing lower than normal snowfalls and higher than normal temperatures.

The general lack of winter forced the cancelation of Idaho’s State Special Olympics Winter Games. Boise’s local ski area, Bogus Basin, isn’t even open yet. In 69 years, Bogus Basin has never seen such a snowless season.

It’s hard to complain about the weather when the sun is shining and the temperatures are relatively warm, but one question on nearly everyone’s mind is where is the snow?

The answer might be found in the defensive line during any NFL football game. During the 2009 NFL season, Oakland Raider Louis Murphy was praised for a series of blocks leading to a touchdown.

Weather and football are not likely allies, but in this case, a high pressure ridge is acting the part of the defensive line. That keeps the low pressure systems that bring snow and rain at bay.

“We’ve been in a blocking pattern. There’s been a big ridge of high pressure over the western United States and that’s blocked the storms from coming in and bringing the snow that we normally get," reports Jay Breidenbach, a meteorologist with NOAA’s National weather Service in Boise.

We’re currently in the middle of a La Nina weather cycle. It’s a four to seven year period where cooler ocean temperatures develop near the equator. That disrupts the jet stream. And like last year, meteorologists predicted big snowfalls and lots of precipitation this winter. Breidenbach says only 25 percent of La Nina cycles are dry.

"So, that’s why it’s best to place your bet in the cool and wet category.”

But betting doesn’t always turn up a win, which can be frustrating for guys like Breidenbach.

“Well (laughs), a lot of people, a lot of my friends, they know I’m a meteorologist and they’ll say ‘Jay, what’s up with the weather?’ Like it’s my responsibility. Well, it’s my responsibility to forecast it but sometimes it’s a little difficult to control Mother Nature. Actually, it’s impossible.”

And he says we aren’t facing a serious situation…yet.

“All of the snowpack that built up last year the reservoirs filled to capacity. The net result was by the end of the summer, the reservoirs were still quite full. So we probably have enough water to get us through the irrigation season coming up, but maybe not refilling them.”

Breidenbach adds that his skis are waxed and ready for whenever the snow might fall.