Pineapple Express and Alaskan cold bring snow to Whistler 

Jim ‘Dr. Weather’ Roemer predicts a great season for the Pacific Northwest

click to enlarge Fresh Tracks A skier enjoys 34 centimetres of powder on January 6, as storm front dumps 130 cm in the past week. Photo by Randy Links, Whistler Blackcomb.
  • Fresh Tracks A skier enjoys 34 centimetres of powder on January 6, as storm front dumps 130 cm in the past week. Photo by Randy Links, Whistler Blackcomb.

Jim Roemer is not actually a doctor, but he has saved many a ski vacation over the years through his website, www.bestskiweather.com.

Nicknamed “Dr. Weather” by his friends in the industry, Roemer’s real job is to provide long-range weather forecasts for investment funds that need to know their money is safe in various crops and resources. Working from his home in Vermont, he also provides his services to several ski operators who need to know what trends are at work when planning for the winter season.

But at heart he’s a ski bum, helping other ski bums to plan vacations and chase powder around North America.

“I can tell them where to go weeks in advance by looking at the data, and giving them the right info,” he said, addressing a small but very interested group at Millennium Place last Friday that led off Gore-Tex Deep Winter Experience.

“That said, weather is still completely unpredictable. I think weatherman is the only job in the world where you can be wrong 90 per cent of the time and still keep your job. It’s very complicated. They have supercomputers where they can plug in every bit of data they have for a hundred years, and hundreds of variables, and that can still be wrong.

“It literally comes down to chaos theory, where if a bird flaps its wings around the world it can set off a chain reaction that makes it rain.”

Roemer is right more often than 10 per cent of the time (hence the nickname), and bases his weather predictions on a wide range of data that he has decided is important for snowfall — historical data, global trends like La Nina and El Nino, high and low pressure systems, wind speeds, wind direction, the flow of the jet stream, water and air temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska, the direction of winds, rain in Indonesia, moisture in the air northeast of Hawaii, global warming, and other factors.

Making things more complicated, Roemer also collects historical data that lets him see how these factors have affected snowfall in the past. When weather cycles are similar, then similar weather can be the outcome.

For example, 2007 and 1999 were record years for Whistler. Both happened when the coast was visited by a Pineapple Express from Hawaii, bringing moist air from the Pacific Ocean to the Pacific Northwest, where it was cooled by a cold front hanging over the Gulf of Alaska. La Nina — a weather phenomenon that sometimes means big snow years for Whistler — is also in full effect.

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