KXAN Austin

The end of La Niña is finally in sight

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The International Research Institute for Climate and Society’s (IRI) recently released forecast said to expect La Niña conditions to persist through roughly the end of the calendar year.

During La Niña conditions, water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are cooler than normal. This typically leads to a drier weather pattern in the southern half of the United States, a significant contributor to the lack of rain in Central Texas this year.

According to Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, “In mid-July, sea surface temperatures in the central-eastern equatorial Pacific remain below-average. Key oceanic and atmospheric variables have remained consistent with La Niña conditions, although weakened.”

Graph showing La Niña probability (Image credit: International Research Institute for Climate and Society)

The average La Niña typically lasts around 9-12 months and in some cases, up to two years. The current La Niña began in September 2020, so the recent weakening could be signaling the approaching end of the pattern, as a La Niña lasting more than two years is exceedingly rare.

While the IRI is giving this La Niña a 70% chance of lasting through the early winter, they are expecting that ENSO-neutral conditions will take hold with the arrival of 2023. ENSO-neutral is the absence of a La Niña or an El Niño.

What does this mean for Central Texas?

The influence of La Niña tends to be more pronounced in the winter months, and here in Central Texas, typically favors a warmer and drier winter season. A La Niña pattern is also correlated with an increase in hail and tornado events in the spring and a more active Atlantic hurricane season. That being said, a lack of La Niña (or ENSO-neutral) pattern by early next year, in theory, would result in more “normal” or average-like seasonal weather patterns.