The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced the end of the La Niña weather pattern after three years. As forecast models begin to predict a strong El Nino later this year, or possibly even a ‘Super El Nino,” local communities begin to prepare for any inevitable weather incidents.
La Niña is a weather phenomenon characterized by colder-than-average surface ocean temperatures in the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Its counterpart, El Niño, is associated with warmer surface ocean temperatures. Both events impact weather patterns, ocean conditions, and marine life.
For many meteorologists, a “Super El Nino” could impact then weather patterns of the later months of 2023, and possibly further:
Climate models are quickly trending toward the potential for strong or even Super El Niño later this year, which would have profound societal, environmental, and economic impacts worldwide.— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) March 28, 2023
The last Super El Nino in 2016 led to the hottest year on Earth in recorded history. pic.twitter.com/NRjx4996gf
The terms La Niña and El Niño refer to the weather phenomenon involving fluctuating surface ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific throughout the year. During La Niña, there is a higher likelihood of warmer and drier air. However, this winter saw colder and wetter conditions despite the La Niña pattern. El Niño, conversely, is linked to a higher probability of above-normal rainfall in California. The El Nino pattern in 2016 led to the hottest year on Earth in recorded history.
Weather forecasters are currently suggesting that an El Niño pattern could be on its way, with a 60% chance of it occurring later this year, possibly as early as this summer. This development would make it more likely for the East Pacific to experience hurricanes, generally tracking to the south, and wetter winters in California.
The winter of 2015-2016 saw one of the strongest El Niños on record, resulting in high wave energy along the west coast and significant coastal erosion on many California beaches. In 2017, La Niña returned, followed by El Niño in 2018 and 2019, which has not been seen since.
California is currently in a neutral phase, meaning that conditions are between La Niña and El Niño. This could lead to unpredictable weather over the next few months, making it crucial to keep an eye on local forecasts, whether one is weary of rain or not.