La Niña will most likely be joining us for the winter again, according to federal forecasters.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center announced on Thursday(link is external) that La Niña conditions have developed and are expected to continue, with an 87% chance that they will be in place from December to February.
La Niña (translated from Spanish as “little girl”) is not a storm, but a climate pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean every few years and can impact weather around the world.
The U.S. is expected to feel its effects on temperature and precipitation, which could in turn have consequences for things such as hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts.
Here’s how that works.
“During normal conditions in the Pacific ocean, trade winds blow west along the equator, taking warm water from South America towards Asia. To replace that warm water, cold water rises from the depths — a process called upwelling,” NOAA explains(link is external). “El Niño and La Niña are two opposing climate patterns that break these normal conditions.”
Trade winds are stronger than usual under La Niña conditions, so they push more warm water toward Asia. Meanwhile, off the west coast of the Americas, an increase in upwelling sends cold water toward the surface. (The nutrient-rich water also draws more cold-water species, like squid and salmon, to places such as the California coast.)
Cold waters cause the jet stream to move northward and then weaken over the eastern Pacific.
When will La Nina end?
La Niña is favored to end during the February-April period, and an ENSO neutral pattern is still favored to take over, but the odds of La Niña continuing into at least a portion of the spring season have increased.
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