NOAA Winter Predictions: What It Means For Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – The weather pundits around the nation seem to be agreeing on a La Nina winter again, but whether or not the weather will be a mild form of La Nina or a heavy snow-inducing one is still, well, up in the air (above: Cannon Beach).
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its winter predictions this week, saying the U.S., Oregon and its coastline are in for another La Nina winter. It's the second year this condition is dominating the winter season, and it means wetter days and cooler than normal temperatures.
Many meteorologists have said this will be a milder La Nina winter than last year's, but NOAA is not so sure. Scientists there believe this one is gathering strength, but something else is waiting in the wings in the Arctic region that could make for snow and storms around Oregon – and possibly larger erosion events along the Oregon coast.
“The evolving La Niña will shape this winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “There is a wild card, though. The erratic Arctic Oscillation can generate strong shifts in the climate patterns that could overwhelm or amplify La Niña’s typical impacts.”
NOAA officials said the Arctic Oscillation is always there and flip-flops between positive and negative phases. When it's in a negative phase, the Arctic Oscillation pushes cold air into the U.S. from Canada. The Arctic Oscillation went strongly negative at times the last two winters, causing outbreaks of cold and snowy conditions in the U.S. such as the “Snowmaggedon” storm of 2009.
“Strong Arctic Oscillation episodes typically last a few weeks and are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance,” Halpert said in the NOAA release this week.
This seems to spell the possibility of more snow in the Portland area and around inland Oregon. What it all means for the Oregon coast is hard to discern, especially if it means more wild storms or less of them.
“The forecast for Oregon favors above average precipitation during the winter season, but doesn't say anything about the number of storms,” Halpert said. “Wetter than average can be obtained by a few strong storms with large precipitation totals, or a large number of smaller storms. At this point, there's really no way to distinguish.”
Big storm systems are watched closely by many tourism entities and especially avid beachcombers and naturalists, who know that such events – as long as they're not destructive like the massive gale of 2007 – create a lot of winter sand erosion and thus reveal all sorts of treasures hidden beneath the beaches.
This was how the famed historic cannon were found at Arch Cape in early 2008: there was some 10 feet or more of sand taken away from many beaches that winter.
The current weather predictions from NOAA could mean some more snow episodes on beaches, which is always a surprise delight. But what does it mean for sand levels and more treasures getting revealed?
Jonathan Allan, with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries office in Newport, said erosion events can't be predicted ahead of time based on climate predictions.
“Based on the last few years, La Nina's have tended to produce generally lower wave energy conditions (i.e. fewer large storms), which generally means less erosion,” Allan said. “However, we have no way of saying how much this impacts beach sand levels since this is a highly variable response along a particular shore, responding to a multitude of factors.”
See Oregon Coast Weather page for updates and forecasts for towns like Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Rockaway, Tillamook, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Newport and Yachats and more.
Below: snow at Newport in 2007.
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