What does this mean for our winter weather?

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For the second straight year, La Niña is officially back, federal forecasters announced Thursday.

The La Niña climate pattern – a natural cycle marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific Ocean – is one of the main drivers of weather in the U.S. and around the world, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring.

It’s the opposite of the more well-known El Niño pattern, which occurs when ocean temperatures are warmer than average.

“La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months,” forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.

NOAA said this year’s La Niña (translated from Spanish as “little girl”) is likely to persist through the winter.

“Everything you want to see in having a La Niña we are seeing,” Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster at the center, told Bloomberg News. “We are pretty confident La Niña is here.”

A typical La Niña winter in the U.S. brings rain and snow to the Northwest and unusually dry conditions to most of the southern tier of the U.S., according to the prediction center. The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic also tend to see warmer-than-average temperatures during a La Niña winter.

In addition, because of La Niña, California may see little relief from its ongoing drought, making its wildfire season even worse, Bloomberg said.

“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,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

This is what a La Niña looks like: Cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equator is indicative of La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean in September 2021.

This is what a La Niña looks like: Cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equator is indicative of La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean in September 2021.

Consecutive La Niñas are not uncommon and can be referred to as a “double-dip.” In 2020, La Niña developed during the month of August and then dissipated in April 2021 as “ENSO-neutral” conditions returned.

The entire natural climate cycle of El Niño and La Niña is officially known by climate scientists as El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a see-saw dance of warmer and cooler seawater in the central Pacific Ocean.

During La Niña events, trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia, NOAA said. Off the west coast of the Americas, upwelling increases, bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter weather to feel La Niña’s impact this year

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