‘Complex forecast’ for our chances of winter snow in Western Washington

Wash. — Winter weather rolled through Washington mountain ranges Tuesday night with 1 to 5 inches of snow falling above 3,000 ft.

The early October snowfall was a bit of a surprise and contrasts the El Niño winter experts are anticipating this year.

An El Niño winter generally means warmer and drier conditions.

“We have had these sorts of weather conditions in late October. They are unusual but certainly, they do have precedent” said Washington State’s climatologist, Nick Bond.

He also said that this early snowfall is not necessarily an omen for the coming winter.

Even though it is unlikely, significant snow events have happened during an El Niño winter in the past.

“We have had some recent years with exceptions during the El Niño of 2018 2019 in February 2019. We had a very significant cold, with plenty of snow in the Puget Sound lowlands and continuing cold in eastern Washington that occurred in February,” said Bond.

According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, data currently suggests above-average temperatures. These conditions will also affect precipitation.

“It is a more complex forecast,” said Reid Wolcott with NWS Seattle. “If you go back and look at the data. Even though El Niño years typically have less precipitation overall, there are more rainy days in strong El Niño years like we’re looking at this year. So, there may be less rain overall but more rain days.

Currently, the forecast shows a 95% chance of this El Niño lasting from January to March with a 71% chance it remains an El Niño winter.