Students report on El Niño: Will this year be naughty or nice?


By J.D. Kurz’s
Global Science Class,
Pagosa Springs High School
Special to The SUN

Santa Claus might bring you a new pair of skis or a snowmobile this year, but will El Niño deliver the snow?

When El Niño comes to town, locals expect endless snow days, deep turns on the mountain, followed by a white Christmas. Will our stockings be filled with endless powder or rocks and slush?

The Pagosa Springs High School Global Science class delved into a mountain of historic snow and climate data to cut through the hype and emotion to determine if El Niño influences our snowpack.

El Niño is a weather event when trade winds weaken causing warm water to accumulate off the coast of South America. El Niño occurs every three to seven years and typically peaks in December and generally dissipates in the spring. When El Niño arrives, weather conditions are impacted worldwide.

El Niño wears many misconceptions and false beliefs. El Niño is not a storm, but an atmospheric and oceanic condition that can bring moisture toward our area. Since not every El Niño event is the same; the answer for a strong snow year is literally up in the air.

Lately, there’s been a lot of El Niño hype amongst area officials and snow enthusiasts. The purpose of our study is to see if a big El Niño event really does affect the amount of snowfall we receive on Wolf Creek Pass.

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