Enterprise-Record (Chico)

West Coast snowfall is ‘once in a generation’

- By Isabella O’Malley

Portland, Oregon received nearly a foot of snow in a single day in what proved to be its second-snowiest day in history. Mountainou­s areas of California experience­d nearly unpreceden­ted snowfall accumulati­ons — more than 40 feet since the start of the season. At the airport in Flagstaff, Arizona, 11.6 feet have fallen this season, second only to the winter of 1948-49. Even Phoenix suburbs woke up on Thursday to a dusting of snow that covered cactuses and lush golf courses.

What is going on with all the snow?

“This rain and snow bucked the trend and it’s highly unexpected,” said Ryan Maue, a meteorolog­ist and former NOAA chief scientist. “It’s like once-in-ageneratio­n.”

Meteorolog­ists say the explanatio­n for the robust winter season is not so simple, nor is it a direct result of the current La Niña climate pattern, with the cooling of central Pacific ocean surface waters affecting weather.

“The short answer is no, La Niña alone is not the main cause of this weather,” said Daniel McEvoy, a researcher with the Western Regional Climate Center.

Bianca Feldkirche­r, a meteorolog­ist for the National Weather Service, said a persistent blocking pattern over the Pacific Ocean plus cold air migrating south from the Arctic have created the conditions for widespread snowfall along the West Coast.

“Not only were you getting significan­t snowfall in areas that already see snow, you were also seeing snowfall on lower elevations in Southern California, which is super rare,” said Feldkirche­r.

For example, the forecast on March 1 warned of snowfall for parts of Phoenix, which Feldkirche­r said is “super unusual” for this time of year. And last week, Portland saw abnormally high snowfall rates and recorded nearly 11 inches — the second snowiest day in the city’s history.

With respect to human-induced climate change, meteorolog­ists say it’s challengin­g to nail down what part it is playing in the West Coast’s peculiar winter season.

But increasing­ly extreme weather is expected as global temperatur­es rise. “Heat produces moisture, moisture produces storms, and heat and moisture bind to produce even more severe storms,” Feldkirche­r said.

Forecastin­g technology keeps getting better. So much better, it may even soon be able to forecast extreme events with higher accuracy. “In the near future, I do not think climate will cause issues with our weather forecastin­g capabiliti­es,” said Maue.

 ?? KEVIN NUNN — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Snow covers shrubs and the top of a cactus east of Phoenix, Ariz., on Thursday.
KEVIN NUNN — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Snow covers shrubs and the top of a cactus east of Phoenix, Ariz., on Thursday.

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