As El Nino winds down, meteorologists are beginning to predict the appearance of a La Nina, which is known as El Nino’s counterpart.
“La Nina is the diva of drought, which is not what we want to see,” Bill Patzert, climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, told the San Bernardino Sun. “We got a little relief, but we’re still in a drought. And we don’t want to go deeper into this drought.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 70 percent chance for a La Nina to appear in the fall.
“What is easy to predict is that there will be a La Nina,” said Richard Minnich, a University of California Riverside earth sciences professor. “What is not easy to predict is the magnitude of it.”
While El Ninos are formed by a large concentration of warm water building in the eastern Pacific, La Ninas occur when colder water is stored up in the eastern Pacific.
Even though Patzert calls La Nina the diva of drought, this is only true in certain regions. Unfortunately, Southern California is one of the regions that usually suffers from extremely dry weather, along with the Southern Plains, Gulf Coast and desert Southwest, during the fall and winter of a La Nina.
On the other hand, the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Tennessee Valley and parts of the Ohio Valley normally receive above-average precipitation during a La Nina.
La Ninas typically last nine to 12 months but have been known to linger for two years. They tend to follow El Ninos, but not always. The last La Nina was in 2010.
In the past, extreme El Ninos have been followed by dry periods, such as when the 1997-98 El Nino was followed a four-year dry spell.
“The bottom line here is, be careful with statistics or with what normally would be expected,” said Patzert. “What I learned this winter is that normal is a cycle on a washing machine.”