Latest winter outlook gives some hope for skiers

We're about halfway through the heart of the October-to-March wet season and it's been anything but for this year.

Not only are many cities well behind for the year in the rainfall column -- Seattle is about 3 inches behind for the year but well over 6 inches behind since the start of October -- but the mountains are reeling with some resorts only have a quarter to half of their normal snowfall.

Snoqualmie Pass had just over foot of snow on the ground as of Tuesday when there should be a 3-foot base by now.

And the short term forecast is not good with another long, dry stretch looming to end December. We've already had dry streaks of 14, 9 and 9 days in October, November and December, respectively, with perhaps another 7-plus day possible.

But! There is some hope for skiers -- and maybe it'll even translate to the lowlands?!?

The new 30- and 90-day forecasts came out last week and suggest there is a slightly better than average chance we'll have a cool winter and early spring -- maybe enough to recover some of the snowpack?

Here is the 30-day forecast map for temperature for January -- "EC" means equal chances of above, normal, or below normal temperatures (precipitation showed the same thing.)

But the 90 day January-March map offers some better hope, with the cooler than normal swaths painted over Western Washington (Precipitation was still "EC")

Now, these maps may be a bit confusing over what exactly they mean because they show a weighted odds of what might happen, so the folks at NOAA have created a tool to localize those maps for exact cities.

Check out this site, which gives the data in clear percentages -- this link is for Seattle:

This shows that Seattle has a 37% chance of a cooler than normal Jan-Mar, a 34% chance of normal, and just a 29% chance of a warmer than normal Jan-Mar period. The odds of cooler weather are even better in the March-May and April-June period with a 44% chance of a cooler period and just a 23-24% chance of a warmer period.

If you want to know what "normal" is -- just click the chart and you get something like this that really spells it out:

Or you can click on "Table Text" there and get the bare-bones text data like this:

It's not as good as, say, a forecast for a series of cool storms that will bring 3-4 feet of snow over a week, but this long-range forecast should at least give some hope for skiers that if nothing else, the odds are in our favor to maybe get a mid-late winter push of mountain snow. We'll cross our fingers!