Chance of La Niña winter rises, forecasters say. Here’s what it means for your state

·2 min read

There’s now a 87% chance that La Niña may return between December and February — up by 17% from original forecasts.

This means that weather patterns will look a little different this winter and spring — depending on your location, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center announced Thursday.

It’s also the second consecutive La Niña winter, something that forecasters refer to as a “double-dip.”

“Our scientists have been tracking the potential development of a La Niña since this summer, and it was a factor in the above-normal hurricane season forecast, which we have seen unfold,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a news release. “La Niña also influences weather across the country during the winter, and it will influence our upcoming temperature and precipitation outlooks.”

For example, the nation’s southern tier, which stretches from Southern California to the Gulf Coast states, could experience a warm and dry winter, McClatchy News previously reported.

Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, meanwhile, may see cooler, stormier winter months, NOAA said.

La Niña determines weather around the world

La Niña, which means “little girl” in Spanish, is not a storm that affects one area at a certain time, but rather a climate pattern that influences weather around the world.

The weather phenomenon is based on “cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator,” the federal weather agency said.

“Think of how a big construction project across town can change the flow of traffic near your house, with people being re-routed, side roads taking more traffic, and normal exits and on-ramps closed,” NOAA said. “You would feel the effects of the construction project through its changes to normal patterns, but you wouldn’t expect the construction project to ‘hit’ your house.”

For example, if more precipitation hits the Northwest, “there may be consequences for the Midwest and parts of the South later in the winter, specifically Ohio and the Tennessee Valley,” D’Heureux told Fox 8 news in August.

“It’s like throwing a rock into a pond — it skips and has a ripple effect,” D’Heureux told the news station. “The atmosphere behaves similarly. There are waves in the atmosphere.”

La Niña is here to stay

La Niña weather is “expected to last through the early spring,” NOAA said. It could also ramp up hurricane activity for the remainder of the season.

There’s also El Niño, which has less stronger trade winds than La Niña, NOAA said. It occurs when warm water is pushed east toward the west coasts of North and South America, which leads to the northern U.S. and Canada becoming drier and warmer than usual. In Gulf Coast states, El Niño can produce more rain and flooding.

The weather agency will release its official winter forecast on Oct. 21.

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