When, Oh When, Will La Niña End?

October 13, 2016
La Niña winter

La Niña is still strong and still here. Expect more cold stormy blizzards. Ugh! When will winter finally give us a break?

A typical La Niña winter.
Click to enlarge.

Source: Climate Prediction Center/NCEP/NWS

Part of the problems we’ve had is that this winter had two huge weather patterns tag-teaming us—the La Niña and the Arctic Oscillation (AO). In early winter, the AO went negative. The winds around the Arctic weakened and let the cold polar air mass hit Southern California (remember the Pineapple Express floods?) and Florida. Now it’s mid-winter and La Niña rules the weather. Thanks to the Pacific weather pattern, even more cold air visited the states, chilling the Super Bowl.

To put it in football terms, our team just got slammed by two enormous tackles. We didn’t have a chance!

So when will these winter storms finally get the hint and go away?

The Arctic Oscillation is basically a wild card. Fortunately, our understanding of La Nina is better. Scientists have been studying the global impact of the Pacific phenomenon for over a century. Here in the US it normally means cooler temperatures in the Northwest all winter long. In the Midwest and Eastern states, the La Niña usually shapes a warm early winter, a cold mid-winter and a warm late winter and spring. In strong events, like this one, the mid-winter also carries storms down to Dixie.

Since countries all over the world are affected by the La Niña, nations all over the world have created models predicting its behavior. The result is—a mess.

International computer models for how long this La Niña will last are (literally) all over the chart. Click to enlarge.

Source: NOAA and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

Basically, almost all of the models agree the miserable phenomenon peaked. It’s as bad as it is going to get. They agree it will last into spring. Most think it will fade before the summer – except for models in the US, Great Britain, Korea and Japan.

If the models are right, the winter storms will ease up in the last weeks of February and most of the nation will enjoy a warm spring. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Going back to football terms (O.K.—I partied through the Super Bowl) – we are almost to the goal line! We have almost made it through this cold and stormy winter to a nice springtime. Except—watch out for that blasted Arctic Oscillation. It’s a wild card!

The temperatures here got down to -22°F and I’m 300 miles north of the Mexican border! Tell us about what winter is doing in your area. (If you are in one of the few warm parts of the nation—here’s your place to brag.

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

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