HIGHLINE COLLEGE |Fri, Apr 3, 2020

Snowfall forecast is up in the air

By Ally Vallente- Staff Reporter

For those worried if this winter will bring more snow fall than last winter, don't grab your snow shovel just yet.

Although there have been reports that January and February are predicted to produce twice the amount of snow than average, UW Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Dr. Cliff Mass says that there is no evidence so far to suggest this winter will be out of the ordinary.

"The best thing we have to determine these types of weather patterns is with the correlation of El Niño and La Niña. Right now it doesn't correlate with either those those. It's a neutral year," Dr. Mass said. "At this point we don't have a good idea of what this winter is going to be like."

If the season correlates to that of El Niño, it means less snow and warmer weather. If it correlates with La Niña, it increases the likelihood of snow.

El Niño and La Niña are two different weather patterns that can have large scale impacts not only on ocean processes, but also on global weather and climate.

Dr. Mass says that using computer forecast models is a key tool to simulate different weather patterns.

However, that forecast is only able to see one to two weeks ahead.

"There is some evidence to suggest that this winter will be warmer than usual in parts, especially in the western and southern parts of the United States," Mike McFarland, a forecaster for the National Weather Service said. "However, there is still time for the [weather] patterns to change."

Factors that are considered include ocean initial conditions, weather and correlation anomalies from 1982 to 2003, hydrological analyses, linear regression, and using an optimal climate model.

Although the chances of another snow storm such as the one last February are small, Highline is still taking precautions.

"If there is another snow storm like the one this past February, we'll be better prepared," said Francesca Fender, associate director of Public Safety at Highline. "We try to keep ourselves accountable for sending out early morning text messages, no later than 6 a.m."

Students can learn about campus closures or later start times through HC Text Alert or on the Public Safety web page.

You can sign up to receive weather alerts at Highline at https://hctextalerts.highline.edu.

"An officer who is on duty will usually go down a checklist to assess safety in parking lots and roadways - areas that we know can get slippery, especially stairways. Then the director of Public Safety will call [the officer] and they'll report back on what they found on the checklist. Then the director of Public Safety will talk to the vice president and then make a recommendation on whether to continue with normal operations, delay the start time, or close the campus entirely for the day," Fender said.

Public Safety also determines whether to close campus strictly based on the conditions at Highline. However, they also take into consideration the local school districts and whether the schools are closed or not.

"If they've closed for the day, then it's a high percentage, or a surety, that we will also close to try and match them as best we can," Fender said. "I know people get upset if conditions are OK here, but they're not OK where they live. And it's just important that students understand that we're basing our decision off of what the campus conditions zone."

If students or staff members don't feel comfortable driving to school, Fender advises that you contact your professor/supervisor to talk to them and let them know.


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