Signs point to another La Niña event and a cooler-than-normal Alaska winter

Conditions in the Pacific Ocean are increasingly pointing to the formation of a La Niña weather event this winter that could bring "cooler than normal" temperatures to Alaska, according to the National Weather Service.

That could be a good sign for Alaskans who like snow on trails and roads that aren't glazed with winter rainfall, said Rick Thoman, the service's climate science and services manager for Alaska.

"I'm probably like most Alaskans in that I'm hoping for a nice winter, which for us is reasonably snowy, enough snow to do stuff outside, and with thawing confined to spring," said Thoman, based in Fairbanks.

Cooler temperatures may not mean more snow, Thoman said. But with less thawing, snow on the ground will have a greater chance of sticking around.

Weather experts see several signs a La Niña will form, including that surface water temperatures near the equator in the eastern Pacific have fallen below normal, the service said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

La Niña is an oceanic pattern of cooling that is the flip side of the Alaska-warming El Nino.

There's roughly a 60 percent chance that a La Niña winter will develop and lead to cooler temperatures from October through February, Thoman said.


The agency's Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society have instituted a La Niña watch to monitor conditions, he said.

More information about the prospects of a La Niña year and forecasts for this winter will be released soon, he said.

Last winter was also influenced by a La Niña weather pattern, Thoman said. It's not unusual to have the patterns occur in back-to-back winters. The last two-year cycle occurred in 2011 and 2012, he said.

The average winter temperature recorded from December through February at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 18.7 degrees, Thoman said.

"This increases the chances for Anchorage to be below that number," he said.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or