The predicted La Niña for next winter could mean big snow for the Pacific Northwest. Ryan Dee photo.
NOAA has forecasted that this year's El Niño event is coming to an end, and that it may be followed up by La Niña in the coming winter – a transition that is common but not guaranteed, and which could mean a big winter for the Pacific Northwest and even the entire northern third of the United States. Previous strong EL Niño's, like the one we are experiencing now, have given way to strong La Niñas in the past.
The main feature of El Niño years are warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical central and eastern Pacific ocean along the coast of South America. Sea surface temperatures dropped by about 0.4º C during the month of March in the eastern and central Pacific, which according to the blog, is significant and shows El Niño is on its way out.
This graph shows how 2015 monthly sea surface temperatures stack up against previous El Nino years that led to big La Nina years.
La Niña years occur when cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures occur in the central and eastern Pacific. While La Niña does not necessarily follow every strong El Niño, there are several historical cases showing the pattern. As of now, "almost all of the computer models that we use to predict climate are anticipating a transition to La Niña during the second half of this year."
Fingers crossed everybody – Mt. Baker's record-setting 98/99 season, in which over 1,100" fell, happened during a La Niña winter.
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