Friday, February 4, 2011
La Niña We Hardly Knew Thee
For fish lovers in the pacific northwest the prospect of a La Niña winter is enough to make us lick our chops. Strong La Niña conditions are associated with productive marine conditions during the spring when millions of salmon and steelhead smolts are hitting the Pacific for the first time. These first few months in the salt are far and away the most important factor determining survival within that cohort and the run sizes that the river see's in subsequent years when fish return to spawn. Legendary years like 2001 and 2009 when more than 600 thousand steelhead passed Bonneville Dam came on the heels of strong La Niña winters the year before, when outmigrating steelhead and salmon entered the productive waters of the pacific. This winter is supposedly one of the strongest La Niñas on record but so far hasn't delivered the cold weather and hefty snow pack we're accustomed to. Chances are the ocean will still be more productive than usual, but the strange weather has rattled the confidence a little in the predictability of the climatological pattern. Cross your fingers, if it holds up like its supposed to fall 2012 could be amazing.