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Winter could be colder, snowier than normal

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | November 3, 2021 7:00 AM

The region should see another La Nina winter, the National Weather Service is predicting. La Nina is the cooling of ocean currents near the equator, which typically results in more storms and colder weather in the Pacific Northwest.

But not all La Nina’s have that result. Last winter was a La Nina winter and with the exception of February, it was generally warmer and drier.

This October was largely warm and dry up until last week, when heavy rains fell, particularly in Glacier National Park. West Glacier recorded 2.32 inches of rain last week and St. Mary had 2.8 inches of rain.

The east side of the park has snow on the ground, including the valley floors. Smaller lakes have started to freeze over east of the divide, as temperatures dipped into the single digits in the past couple of days.

While last year’s La Nina winter was a dud, on average, “back-to-back” La Nina’s are typically a little colder and wetter, the Weather Service said.

Of the 16 recent “back-to-Back La Nina’s, 50% were wetter than normal in Flathead County.

Even last year’s La Nina wasn’t that far from average snowfall in and around the Flathead, with a snowpack that ended up being above 90% for most mountain locales.

The last back-to-back La Nina’s were in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Both saw well above average snowfall, with 88.8 inches in ’16-’17 and 81.5 inches in ‘17-’18 as measured at the airport.

The Weather Service notes the airport typically measures less snow, as it’s windblown. In areas that aren’t, the snowfall was more than 102 inches at another site in Kalispell.

La Ninas can result in some impressive winter weather. A storm on Nov. 23 in 2017 saw winds of 95 mph at Logan Pass.

February is typically the worst month. In 2018, there was a blizzard in the West Glacier-Essex region, with bitter cold and 55 mph winds.

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