NOAA issues La Nina watch

NOAA issues La Nina watch

SEATTLE – Washington is currently experiencing one of the strongest El Niño waves ever recorded, but change could be on the horizon next year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña report on Thursday, indicating increased odds of those conditions developing this summer and continuing into the fall.

El Niño is a climate phenomenon associated with increased chances of warmer and drier weather in the Pacific Northwest. La Niña is associated with greater chances of wetter and cooler conditions.

The Climate Prediction Center predicts there is a 79% chance of moving to neutral conditions by April to June and a 55% chance of La Niña conditions developing by June to August.


Credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

This chart from NOAA shows the likelihood of experiencing El Niño, La Niña, and neutral conditions during the month of November.



However, La Niña will not have an impact on summer weather when conditions are expected to become present, according to KING 5 Senor meteorologist Rich Marriott. La Niña and El Niño only affect winter weather, usually starting in mid-December.

There aren’t as great long-range forecasts for summer weather as there are for winter, Marriott said, and forecasters must wait until models can provide reliable data to tease out larger trends.


Credit: Nuclear Weapons

Climatology of a typical La Nina winter



The El Niño forecast is not a huge surprise after a strong El Niño year. Since 1950, more than half of El Niño events have been followed by La Niña, and five of the eight strong El Niño events have preceded La Niña, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

why is that? It’s a mystery. Marriott said scientists do not have a good understanding of the causal relationship between the two phenomena and why one tends to follow the other.

As far as what’s coming right away, climate models show El Niño conditions weakening in January, and El Niño appears to have passed its peak, according to NOAA.

From November to January, the event’s peak intensity was around 2 degrees Celsius, which NOAA said was the fifth highest in records dating back to 1950.

The impact of El Niño conditions on the Pacific Northwest tends to decrease in March and April, leaving the possibility of snowpack rebuilding in Washington in early spring, Marriott said. As of February 9, snowpack in the Cascades region of central Puget Sound was 59% of normal, according to the USDA’s National Water and Climate Center.

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