El Nino declared over before it really began

Well, so much for El Nino this winter...

NOAA has officially ended their "El Nino Watch", meaning they no longer believe it's coming and instead, say the Pacific Ocean waters will be near normal -- or neutral -- conditions.

(In fact, some of the latest model outputs suggest possibility for a third-time La Nina (triple-dip?) by January, although the consensus is for neutral conditions.)

Not that I think a vast majority will mind. El Ninos do typically bring a benefit of a quiet, low-to-no snow winter in the lowlands for those who hate dealing with frozen precipitation. But the expense is usually a lower-than-average snowpack -- not good for the ski industry and potentially creating issues for water usage in the following summer on both sides of the Cascades.

Instead, we're now left with a neutral winter, or as some cleverly call it: "La Nada". You'd think something that was going to be near normal instead of an extreme one way or the other would also suggest a tranquil winter, but that's typically not the case in the Pacific Northwest.

If El Nino winters are noted for dry and warm and La Nina winters are noted for wet and cool, neutral winters are noted for storminess. Just about all major wind storms have occurred in neutral years, along with some of our greatest snow events.

Now wait a minute, you might be thinking, weren't we all freaking out over La Nina the past two winters as the storm kings? La Nina winters do, as a whole, tend to be snowier, especially in the mountains (check and check for winters of 2010-11 and 2011-12). The lowlands managed to escape both our last La Nina's with less snow than expected.

Neutral winters tend to be fairly quiet, until they're not. As a whole, neutral winters can be fairly benign but can leave a calling card-type storm, be it windstorm (like Hanukah Eve, 2006; Inauguration Day 1993) or a snow event (Dec. 2008, Dec. 1996) and then go much of the rest of the fall/winter unscathed.

That's not to say we should start now coming up with a name for some inevitable future storm this winter but it's always good to be prepared.

And for skiers and snowboarders, it means you can at least keep the ski wax on the shelf, instead of buried in the garage.

P.S. Way to go Mom!

It's not weather-related but wanted to give a quick proud-son family shout-out to my mom Karen who was chosen as the featured artist for the 2013 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and her design for the official poster was unveiled Thursday night in Mount Vernon. You'll see her artwork everywhere at the tulip fields in April! :)