What is going on here? 

Snowfall in North America has been dismal this year with ski resorts across the U.S. and Canada experiencing continued warm weather, dry spells, and odd rain patterns – resulting in horrendous conditions for those who enjoy winter sports or were hoping for a white Christmas. 

What does this mean? 

The lack of winter weather isn’t just impacting snowfall. The Great Lakes ice cover also hit the lowest level in fifty years. All the havoc is being caused by a strong El Niño. El Niño (and La Niña) are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean which can affect weather worldwide. An El Niño year can cause dryer and warmer winters than usual. However, that isn’t the only factor. Human caused climate change resulted in 2023 being the hottest year on record and as a result, our oceans have heated intensely this year. Warmer oceans (and warmer temperatures) mean the impacts from the El Niño system are predicted to be even more dramatic.

Why should we care? 

It’s not just ski season which is on the line here. The more dramatic an El Niño year, the more dramatic the impacts to our global economy and to our safety and wellbeing. Lower agriculture and fishing yields, a more extreme wildfire season, and heavy rainfall are all just a taste of a punishing El Niño. These impacts could lead to economic losses upwards of USD $3 trillion by 2030. Climate change is predicted to make it even worse as increased global temperatures are tied with increased extreme weather events. 

All hope is not lost for the winter season’s snow sports enthusiasts. While it might be increasingly rare, cold air from the North hitting moisture from the South could create the snowfall needed for some good mountain days. Winter is just getting started!

Be curious! 

  • Learn more about how our weather and climate change are related.
  • The Carbon Brief has a fun interactive map showing where human influence impacts extreme weather! 
  • We’ve discussed the harmful impacts of manmade snow – so know before you go! Choose your ski resort destination based on natural snow-pack.

Featured image by Rob Bye, via Stocksnap.

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