It’s Official: La Niña is back

She's baa-aack. La Niña, the weather phenomenon that resulted in record retail sales, skiers visits and faceshots, looks to be returning for round two this season. SNEWS checks out the latest forecast from NOAA.

The National Weather Service made it official; it looks like La Niña is back for another year.

That’s right, the same weather phenomenon that helped spur record snowsports retail sales of $3.3 billion, record skier visits of 60.54 million and contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. 

On Sept. 8, forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center upgraded the previous month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory. In a statement, NOAA officials said they will issue an official winter outlook in mid-October, but added that La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.” 

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

According to NOAA, La Niña typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time.

--Peter Kray

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