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From today's Bozeman Chronicle:





The past three winters have been among Bozeman’s top five snowiest on record.

This winter could bring more of the same.

“Snow amounts similar to last year are possible,” said Jim Brusda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls.

La Nina has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has upgraded last month’s La Nina Watch to a La Nina Advisory.

In Montana, La Nina typically means a wet, snowy winter.

Last season, 134 inches of snow fell in Bozeman – about 42 inches more than normal, according to measurements taken at Montana State University.

“That’s about three significant snowstorms above normal,” Brusda said.

Only the 1996 winter season dropped more snow on Bozeman than the last three winters. A record 158 inches fell that year. Last year’s 134 inches of snow tied with 1981 for Bozeman’s third-highest snowfall since the weather service began keeping track in 1892. A total of 126 inches fell during the 2009-2010 season, and 138 inches in 2008-2009.

But despite it being snowy, Bozeman hasn’t been colder.

The average temperature last year was 47 degrees, half a degree higher than normal.

El Nino and La Nina occur when tropical Pacific Ocean water warms or cools to irregular levels. Basically, the weather pattern shifts between warm (El Nino) to neutral or cold (La Nina) about every three to four years, according to the NOAA.

The name El Nino, which means “little boy” in Spanish, refers to the Christ child. Peruvian fishermen gave the name to a warm current that appeared each year around Christmas. La Nina, sometimes informally called “anti-El Nino,” means “little girl.”

Brusda said it’s hard to predict what the effects of La Nina will be this ski season because it doesn’t generally kick in until late winter or early spring.

Last winter, April was Bozeman’s snowiest month, with 31 inches of snow.

In the past week or so, though, Bozeman has cooled off with average temperatures falling from the 70s to the 50s.

“The mountains are starting to get their snow, and the valleys are cooling down,” Brusda said. “It’s definitely cooler and definitely fall-like. We’re slowly transitioning into winter.”

Actually, Bozeman should have received about 6 inches of snow by now, he said.

“So far, winter is arriving a little late,” Brusda said.