What Are We In For? 

Local soothsayers give their take on the upcoming winter

As one winter is over, everyone from skiers to snowmobilers to trained meteorologists begin dropping hints about how heavy or wimpy the next "snow year" will be. The BW weather center has been hearing (and concocting) conflicting reports all summer, so to get the straight dope on the next few months, we contacted the lead meteorologists at all four local television stations.* All of our respondents, humble forecasters that they are, said that they prefer to forecast on either a weekly or storm-by-storm basis, rather than make grand seasonal generalizations. Luckily, we were able to get them to overlook that stance for long enough to give us their predictions.

kelly franson, channel 2

There will be some snowstorms that pop, and some snowstorms that fizzle, but with the return of the infamous El Niño, we're likely to have more of the latter this year in Idaho. With warmer sea surface temps, the storm track tends to push north and pass us by. But we have on occasion managed to beat the odds in previous El Niño episodes, so I wouldn't give up hope on getting some good snow.

scott dorval, channel 6

Most scientific winter prediction indicators are pointing toward a dry winter in Idaho and most of the West but there is one long time weather predictor that disagrees. That would be the trusty Farmers' Almanac, which actually uses a traditional 189-year-old secret mathematical formula. They expect a mild but snowy winter in the Northwest.

Boise averages 20.9 inches of snow each winter. I expect us to see below normal snowfall this year ... roughly 10-15 inches. We will see the usual 1 inch here and there, but I expect one or two good storms with 4 or 5". Don't expect the snow to stick around too long, either, with milder than average temperatures. Keep in mind that Boise records its official snowfall at the airport, which is usually much drier than other parts of the valley. Unfortunately, the dreaded inversions will return and maybe more often than usual. Last year, our central and southern mountain snowpack was 20 percent to 40 percent above average. It looks like we may end up at least 10 percent below average this year.

vin crosby, channel 12

Unfortunately, I believe this season will be somewhere in between the light and pathetic side. Back in August, I reported that the folks with Climate Prediction Center were hinting toward a possible El Niño. El Niño conditions were confirmed with their updated forecast on October 5, which said it would continue into spring of '07. And as of October 30, the latest report says strengthening is likely through April to June of '07. El Niño exists when the waters around the tropical Pacific are .5 degrees Celsius above normal for five consecutive months. At this point, the water temperatures in the Pacific are 1 to 1.5 degrees above normal and many meteorological and global weather patterns indicate El Niño is here and will stay through the winter. And over the past seven years, when we had El Niño, our snow scenario has been we get a good snow around Thanksgiving into early December ... then it's pretty lame. We'll get a little here and there until late spring, when we get another good dumping of snow. Of course, that comes when most ski areas are closing! The temperatures are above normal in the Pacific Northwest too through El Niño so any snow we get, more than likely temperatures will not be cold enough to hold it. Based on those past trends and the strength of this El Niño, I'm leaning toward the light-to-pathetic side, hoping that I'm wrong, but realizing that there is also a good chance we could end up in between the pathetic-to-terrifying side based on the strength of this El Niño.

* Only Channel 7 declined to participate in this article.

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