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Super El Niño Means Less Snow, Warm Weather for Northeast

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If you're hoping for some wintry weather in cities like Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., or Philadelphia, we have some bad news. While the west has been getting pounded with snow, the northeast is poised to challenge the warmest December on record. That might be good news for Bostonites after last year's epic amount of snow, but ski areas throughout the northeast are cursing an El Niño-influenced weather pattern that's left the east coast high and dry. We break down just how dry the conditions are, what it means for ski resorts, and what this year's super El Niño means for weather in the northeast this winter.

More on El Niño:
What Do You Need to Know About El Niño? These 10 Things.
Was El Niño the Cause of California's Latest Round of Snow?
There's a 90 Percent Chance We're Getting a Strong El Niño
Is El Niño the Solution to California's Drought?
Watch the Enormous El Niño Growing in the Pacific Right Now

As Time Magazine reported, this season's warm weather on the East Coast is thanks to two weather phenomena happening at the same time: a strong arctic oscillation trapping cold air in the north and this year's super El Niño that's now the strongest on record. When the arctic oscillation is weak (as it was the past two winters), cold air creates a Polar Vortex that leaves much of the United States in record-cold temperatures. When the arctic oscillation is strong, it keeps the cold air up where it belongs, in the arctic region.

And while urbanites in the northeast may be familiar with the Polar Vortex, many are less familiar with what a strong El Niño means for their dreams of a white Christmas. Head over here for a great explainer on just what El Niño actually is, but basically this year's El Niño will likely bring warmer temperatures to the northern half of North America and colder temperatures to the southern half. You can likely kiss that white Christmas goodbye.

In terms of precipitation, AccuWeather's chief meteorologist Elliot Abrams says, ""El Niño years notoriously produce a lower-than-average snowfall across the northeast United States." So far this winter, that's been true. On December 4, Buffalo, New York broke a 116-year-old record for the latest date without accumulating snow.

For skiers in the northeast, El Niño can mean a lot less snow. At Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, New York, the ski area has only reported 10 inches of snow this season. And beyond a lack of real snow, it's also been too warm to make snow. In New Hampshire, temperatures haven't allowed snowmaking since December 8.

In Vermont, although 11 resorts out of 49 are open, most don't have many trails open. Killington was the first to open in the East this season, but even it is struggling to keep making snow given the warm temperatures. The Stowe Today newspaper is reporting that Stowe Mountain Resort's terrain is limited and the mountain is "brown all around except where the guns and groomers had eked out some places to play." The US National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont reported on December 13 that less than an inch of snow had fallen through December 12, making it the lowest seasonal snowfall on record.

The strength of this year's El Niño means that the Northeast should expect dryer and warmer conditions than normal at least through the end of January. During another strong El Niño in 1997-1998, New York City recorded only 5.5 inches of snow that winter, compared to an average annual snowfall of 25.1 inches.

The good news is that this weekend it will be colder and should allow ski areas in the Northeast to make snow. The bad news? The warm (and dry) weather will continue after Sunday.

· Here's Why the East Coast Has Been So Warm [Time]
· Snow drought, unusual warmth create 'extremely challenging' season for Northeast ski resorts [AccuWeather]
· El Nino to Blame for Eastern US Snow Drought [AccuWeather]
· On the hill, it's not too bad [Stowe Today]