Colder-than-normal La Niña winter predicted second year in a row

La Niña climate conditions could yield lower-than-normal temperatures in Wrangell and the rest of Southeast this winter.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center last month released its 2021 winter outlook for December through February.

La Niña climate conditions have emerged for the second winter in a row, according to the National Weather Service.

That means there’s a good chance Southeast could receive above-average snowfall and below-average temperatures again this year, said Cody Moore, meteorologist at the Weather Service office in Juneau.

One caveat, Moore said, is that just because last winter was above-average cold due to La Niña doesn't mean this winter is guaranteed to be the same.

Since 1950, the longest La Niña was 37 months, from the spring of 1973 through the spring of 1976, according to the National Weather Service.

Of all the La Niña winters since 1976, Moore said – 14 in total, including last winter – nine were below normal for temperatures, and five were near normal.

However, Moore said, the current forecast shows the potential for colder-than-expected temperatures.

“It's looking like a moderate tilt toward below-normal temperatures for the first part of the winter, November to January,” he said. “And possibly looking at equal chances for above-normal precipitation.”

La Niña refers to persistent colder-than-normal sea surface temperature anomalies across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, according to the National Weather Service. La Niña is part of the phenomena known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation. An oscillation is a motion that repeats itself over a period of time. For ENSO, that period is typically between three and seven years. Its opposite counterpart is El Niño, which has warmer-than-normal sea surface temperature anomalies across the same equatorial waters.


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