La Niña is here: What does that mean for Central Texas this winter?

Weather Blog

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The climate pattern known as La Niña has officially developed and is expected to continue into 2022, according to the latest advisory from the Climate Prediction Center. The development of a La Niña pattern can have a big impact on the type of weather we see in North America, mainly in the winter.

The mid-October ENSO (El-Niño/Southern Oscillation) analysis and forecast from NOAA points to several factors that suggest La Niña has begun again and that conditions should continue through this upcoming winter.

  1. The central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures were colder than average by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius (see “sea surface temperature anomalies” map below).
  2. Colder than normal sea water temperatures existed below the surface, indicating that colder sea surface temperatures would continue (see “upper ocean temperature anomalies” graph below)
  3. There were signs that the atmosphere (weather) was starting to respond to the changes in sea surface temperature
Sea surface temperature anomalies map (Image: NOAA)
Upper ocean temperature anomalies. (Image: NOAA)

The evidence so far caused the Climate Prediction Center to issue a “La Niña Advisory” which happens when “La Niña conditions are observed and expected to continue.”

The chances of La Niña this winter, which is December-February, are at 87% and a “moderate” La Niña event is expected.

This would mean back to back La Niña winters. We had one over the winter from 2020-2021.

La Niña winter: What does it look like?

In short, La Niña winters are usually warm and dry here in Central Texas.

Our main concern would be for the development of drought. Remember, we were in a La Niña weather pattern last winter during which a drought developed, but we also had a record breaking cold period with snow in February.

But this pattern does not necessarily mean we should expect a repeat of that deep freeze. While winter weather is possible, even in La Niña winters, the typically warmer nature of La Niña in Central Texas would point the odds away from that sort of thing.

WINTER LA NINA PATTERN: Image Courtesy: NOAA Climate.gov

For other parts of the United States, the weather looks wetter and colder in the Pacific Northwest and wetter and warmer for the Midwest, Ohio River Valley toward the Mid-Atlantic. The upper Midwest looks cooler than normal. Much of the southern states should stay drier than normal this winter.

NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center just released their winter outlook on October 21st.

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