Unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean, near the equator, tend to increase rainfall. This can cause flooding and even drought throughout the globe. This phenomena is called El Nino.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates a network of buoys that measure temperature, ocean current and winds in the equatorial band. The buoys transmit data for researchers and forecasters around the world in real time.

The NOAA reports that the largest El Nino occurrence was in 1997, replacing the 1982-83 record.

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Weber State students navigate through ice and snow on campus. Students are encouraged to be cautious when walking and driving to prevent injury (photo by Liz Ruttenbur/Signpost)

Every year the NOAA makes predictions on the upcoming winter seasons.

Utah falls within the NOAA’s EC (equal chances) zone for precipitation. This means that Utah could experience anywhere from an above average to below average snowfall. However, they currently are predicting a warmer than average winter for the state.

“The events that make winter memorable such as big snow storms depend on conditions in the atmosphere that are not predictable on time scales that are more than a week or two,” said Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s deputy director.

Those born in Utah are accustomed to the major fluctuations in weather. For out of state students, especially those who come from warmer climates, driving in Utah winter weather can be challenging.

“Don’t think that just because you drive a four-wheel drive vehicle, that it will help you stop,” said Kathleen Herndon, department chair of the English department at Weber State University.

Some students advise leaving plenty of room between you and the other car.

“Please don’t drive on my tail while on the freeway, especially if it’s snowing,” said former Weber State student, Crystal Cline.

The Utah Department of Transportation offers their own tips for a safe winter commute:

  • Stay home if the weather’s bad.
  • Check all road conditions and weather forecasts (1-866-511-UTAH) or commuterlink.utah.gov
  • Clear all snow and ice from your vehicle’s windows, mirrors, lights and license plates.  Drivers can be cited if their windows are covered or partially covered.
  • Reduce driving speeds.
  • Avoid quick stops, starts and turns. Any jerky movements could result in a loss of control.
  • Use extra caution on bridges, overpasses, on and off ramps and shady areas. These areas are most likely to freeze first.
  • If your vehicle starts to skid, steer into the direction of the slide.
  • Buckle up.

Parking lots that have not been plowed can be a real challenge for students, staff and faculty.

Genevieve Bates, secretary of the master’s of English at WSU, recommends pulling through the entire parking spot, “You don’t want to back up in the snow. It’s easier if you pull all the way through the spot and park downhill so you have a straight shot out of the parking lot.”

Parking lots can result in slips and falls. James Humphreys, a facilities management employee at Weber State, gave his advice.

“Turn sideways and make sure both feet are solidly on the ground, and use your door as leverage to help you stand,” he said.

Humphreys also advises wearing shoes with good traction and emphasizes not wearing heels because they do not give as much contact with the ground.

“Make sure you keep a bag of salt in your car also. It can be placed under your tires to give better traction when starting on icy lots,” Humphreys said.

Facilities management advises students to take their time when trying to get anywhere on campus. “It’s better to be late and arrive safely than to get hurt and not arrive at all,” Humphreys said.


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