As early season snow kickstarts the South American winter, the increasing likelihood of a strong El Niño episode suggests a bumper snow season for the Andes!
The grape vine has been rife with talk of the impending South American winter recently: after a couple of lacklustre seasons most weather models and forecasts agree that we’re heading for a strong El Niño episode, which typically means abundant snow fall across the Andes.
As the season approaches, we’re excited to see recent snowfall transforming the South American landscape, blanketing the mountains in a cloak of white, and forming a good early season base for what’s to come. So far the more southerly ski resorts have taken the lion’s share of the snow, with moderate to heavy snowfall from Las Lenas to Bariloche in Argentina, and Nevados de Chillan down to Northern Patagonia in Chile, though further snow is expected in Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva over the coming days.
The following photos give a good idea of how the ski/snowboard areas are shaping up so far:
Nevados de Chillan:
What does El Niño mean for South American Snow?
Basically, the Central Andes are getting stoked for a monster snow season. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, El Niño conditions are highly likely this season – there is an approximately 90% chance that El Niño conditions will continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer, and forecasts suggest it’ll be one of the strongest El Niño episodes of the last three decades. But what does this mean? Powder.
El Niño is one phase of the complex feedback loop known as the Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It’s not really known why the oscillation occurs, but it has drastic affects on the weather in the affected regions: a band of warm ocean water forms in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. The warmer water causes increased evaporation in the same area, resulting in more moist, humid air moving towards South America than usual. When this moisture-laden air encounters the Andes mountains and is forced upwards, the result is heavy precipitation: huge snow storms, bringing monumental amounts of powder.
If you haven’t already booked your summer ski fix it’s definitely worth looking into a trip to the Andes – it’s looking like this season might well be one to remember! You can find an overview of our 2015 South America trips here, or if you need a little convincing take a look at our friends at Stilbezirk’s Endless Winter in 2014.