Oct

La Niña is coming. Here’s what that means for Winter Weather in the Northwest.

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 has announced 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.

Forecasters point out that this is actually the second La Niña winter in a row, a not-uncommon phenomenon that they call a “double-dip.” The most recent period lasted from August 2020 to April 2021. 

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.

What exactly is La Niña?

Scientists stress that La Niña is not a storm that hits a specific area at a given time. Instead, it’s a change in global atmospheric circulation that affects weather around the world.

“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,” states a NOAA webpage. “Different neighborhoods will be affected most at different times of the day. 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.”

What about weather events such as snow, flooding and tornadoes?

Snow is hard to predict, but experts say La Niña could bring increased snowfall over the Northwest, northern Rockies and Upper Midwest Great Lakes region. Parts of the Southwest, central-southern Plains and mid-Atlantic are likely to see less than usual.

While the southern U.S. could see prolonged drought, the northern part of the country — especially the Pacific Northwest — is likely to experience heavy rains and flooding.

So what does that actually feel like on the ground?

The biggest impact of La Niña on North American rain, snow and temperatures tends to be felt during the winter, according to NOAA.

Generally speaking, La Niña winters tend to be drier and warmer than normal across the southern U.S. and cooler and wetter in the northern U.S. and Canada.

The Pacific Northwest, parts of the Midwest and the Tennessee and Ohio valleys can see more rain and snow than in a typical winter.

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