Utah’s El Niño winter could mean warmer temps

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After three consecutive winters of La Niña, this year’s winter forecast is looking a little different. Utahns can expect an El Niño winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

El Niño occurs when ocean temperatures are warmer than normal for a longer period of time. NOAA explained these warm ocean waters sometimes cause “increased rising air motion and above-average rainfall in the eastern Pacific.”

La Niña is the opposite. Waters in the Pacific are cooler than normal, making the east winds stronger and pushing cooler air to northern states and warmer air to southern states.

El Niño winters usually have the biggest effect on the northern-most states and southern-most states with regards to temperature and precipitation.

According to NOAA’s 2023-2024 season outlook for Utah, only the northwest area of the state will be impacted, showing a 33%-44% chance of a warmer winter than normal. The precipitation prediction is displayed as being “normal” or as having an equal chance for the entirety of the state.

This graphic depicts the probable temperature outlook for the states impacted by El Niño. The graphic can be found on the Climate Prediction Center, National Weather Service website.
This graphic depicts the probable precipitation outlook for the states impacted by El Niño. The graphic can be found on the Climate Prediction Center, National Weather Service website.

Linda Chang, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, explained Utah is a state that is right in the middle — not usually seeing mass effects whether it is La Niña or El Niño.

“Utah sees very little impact,” Chang said. “Utah usually doesn’t have any strong signals.”

Isaiah Strong, a junior in BYU strategic management, is an avid snowboarder. He expressed his feelings about this upcoming snow season.

“If it was warmer, I’d be happier,” he said regarding snowboarding. “My favorite weather to snowboard in is when it’s sunny right after there was a big snowstorm, so there’s tons of fresh powder and the snow absorbs sound, so it’s quiet and peaceful when I ride.”

Jaden Roberts, another snowboarder and BYU student, shared his experience on the slopes last year with the La Niña winter.

“The snowboarding season was amazing last year, it was the most I think since 2019 … a lot of snow, and fresh snow is the best kind to snowboard in, just because it’s forgiving, it’s soft and gives you confidence to just send it,” he said.

Roberts explained it was during a wetter season that he learned to board. However, he still has his preferences.

“It’s fun, when I was snowboarding while it was wet, it was hot. I was in a T-shirt and sweats, but I got soaked,” he said. “I prefer good old powder though.”

Whether or not El Niño will highly impact Utah, cold is on its way.

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