(NEXSTAR) — The long season of La Niña has finally ended, meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have confirmed.
The La Niña climate pattern, which has been present practically uninterrupted since the summer of 2020, started weakening in recent months. Now, La Niña has officially been replaced by “ENSO-neutral conditions,” the Climate Prediction Center (a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service) said in its “Final La Niña Advisory” Thursday morning,
“ENSO neutral” means neither La Niña nor El Niño is present. Forecasters expect these conditions to last through early summer.
We may switch from ENSO-neutral conditions to El Niño at some point this summer or fall, but it’s too early to predict the timing or strength of an El Niño season, meteorologists said.
Both La Niña and El Niño usually grow strongest in the winter.
A strong El Niño for fall and winter, if it were to develop, would be the inverse of what we’ve seen the last three years. It would likely mean a cold, wet winter for California and the Southern U.S. El Niño usually means a warm, dry winter for the Pacific Northwest and Midwest.
The absence of La Niña and El Niño, as we have now, can make spring weather more unpredictable.
“The crystal ball is even blurrier than usual,” Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center, told Nexstar last month. “ENSO neutral effectively means that conditions across Tropical Pacific are closer to average, so there isn’t a big disruption in the atmospheric circulation that is offered by El Niño La Niña.”
The latest outlook for spring indicates warmer-than-average weather for southern states. It also predicts dry conditions for the Four Corners states, as well as Florida. The Great Lakes region, on the other hand, is most likely to see above-average precipitation through May.
Whether we’re in a La Niña year, El Niño year, or neither is determined by sea surface temperatures near the equator over the Pacific Ocean. The temperature of the water and air above it can shift the position of the jet stream, which impacts the types of weather we see on land.