Good Valley winter a hard call |

Good Valley winter a hard call

Jobs Peak is covered in a fresh coat of snow after a series of weekend storms doused the Carson Valley.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

El Niño

Average 8.89” 1981-2010

Year Precipitation

1957-58 10.31”

1963-64 5.16”

1965-66 5.52”

1972-73 8.75”

1982-83 17.06”

1987-88 4.25”

1991-92 5.76”

1997-98 13.28”

2002-03 14.92”

2009-10 8.57”

2015-16 9.57”

Five above average,

La Niña years

Year Precipitation 1955-56 13.25”

1970-71 9.92”

1973-74 7.87”

1984-85 3.83”

1988-89 6.68”

1999-00 5.65”

2007-08 7.04”

2010-11 15.84”

Three above, five below average Precipitation amounts for Minden taken from The U.S Weather Service.

The last time Carson Valley experienced a wet October on the front end of a La Niña weather phenomenon it set a record.

That 2010-11 water year saw a winter with nearly 16 inches of moisture in Minden, where records have been kept since 1906.

With the second wettest October just past, there’s a chance Carson Valley residents could se a good winter,

But forecasters say that just shows that regional phenomenon aren’t always good predictors of local weather.

A powerful El Niño brought an average winter to Carson Valley last year, while October presaged the chance that La Niña might turn in a better result.

The National Weather Service has been tracking the two western Pacific currents since 1950, and has issued forecasts for winters based on that information.

According to an article appearing in Scientific American, there have been 11 El Niño and eight La Niña winters since 1950.

Correlating those years with precipitation totals for Minden showed that the regional weather trends were as likely to mean below average as above average winters for Carson Valley.

For 11 El Niño winters, Minden recorded above average moisture for five, below average for four and two average winters.

The winter of 1982-1983, was by far the largest El Niño year with 17.06 inches during the water year.

Running from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, the water year determines when ranchers receive their surface water allotments.

La Niña years were even sketchier when it came to providing a wet Valley winter. Three winters showed above average moisture while five showed below average.

Only about half of the 20 El Niño cycles since 1950 have brought above average precipitation to California.

While hopes were high for the 2015-16 El Niño, according to an article appearing in the October edition of Scientific American, predicting its regional effects are tricky.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contract researcher Emily Becker reported that last year’s El Niño while one of the strongest three going back to 1950.

“Short-term chaotic effects are always present in weather systems, which ensures that even if one El Niño looks identical to another, its effect on the weather will not necessarily be the same.”