Winter weather prediction – what could La Niña mean?   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Weather, Hydro power, Clark Fork, Spokane River, Electricity, Natural Gas

Post compiled from information provided by Patrick Maher

Temp
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
Temperature Projections
Precip
Climate Prediction Center: January, February, March 2011
Precipitation Projections
It’s a long way from the Inland Northwest to the equator in the Pacific Ocean, but what’s happening there will probably have an impact on the region this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is projecting that the Pacific Northwest will have a colder and wetter than normal winter thanks to La Niña, which is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. The cooler water temperatures ultimately impact weather around the world and often lead to extreme weather events. Last winter was an El Niño year – the opposite weather pattern of La Niña - with higher than normal temperatures and little snow.

If the La Niña predictions hold true, it could again mean increased mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest and in western Montana. We know that’s good news for skiers, but what could it mean for Avista?

Above average snow in western Montana could mean increased hydro generation at our Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids facilities depending upon actual snow fall amounts in the mountains and how the spring snow melt unfolds. The more gradual the snow melt, the more Avista can make use of the water in the rivers. The same applies to our six Spokane River hydro projects. About 60 percent of our total hydro generation comes from the Clark Fork basin with 23.5 percent coming from the Spokane River basin.

However, you never know what Mother Nature is going to do. According to the National Weather Service, not every La Niña is the same with a wide range of possible snowfall outcomes. For example, in Spokane the La Niña winters of 1949/1950, 1955/1956, 1974/1975, 2007/2008, and 2008/2009 resulted in over 80 inches of snowfall for the winter season. However, only 30-32 inches of snow was observed in the La Niña winters of 1967/1968, and 1970/1971. So while above average snowfall is more likely for a La Niña winter, it’s not a guarantee. But, it may be a good bet to have your snow blower gassed up and ready to go this winter, just in case.

Regardless of what this winter brings, we’ll have enough electricity and natural gas to safely and reliably meet the energy needs of our customers and provide them with first-class customer service.
 
More info
Avista obtains weather data from a number of sources such as the National Weather Service, Northwest River Forecast Center, DTN Weather and the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Avista uses long-term charts like the ones above from the Climate Prediction Center as information; however, short-term weather forecasts are one of the tools that are used to help determine the amount of electricity and natural gas that Avista may need to purchase in the daily or spot market to meet customer demand.

Forward looking statement
This article contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the article and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009, and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010.
 
Posted by  System Account  on  11/10/2010
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