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La Niña conditions unexpectedly return
WEATHER: Forecasters now predict a drier and hotter winter and spring.
January 31, 2001
By NANCY LUNA The Orange County Register
She's back. The diva of dry weather, La Niña, is rebuilding off the Pacific Ocean - an about-face that means less- than-expected rainfall and hotter-than-normal temperatures in Southern California for the rest of the winter and spring, scientists said Tuesday.
"We're in the triple bounce of La Niña," said NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert, referring to an unexpected third consecutive La Niña season.
The latest forecast could aggravate the state's energy crisis as air conditioners are cranked up sooner - by early spring - as temperatures are expected to rise above average over the next several months.
Last year meteorologists declared La Niña -- the climate condition where a pool of cool water in the tropical Pacific results in fewer storms in the West -- was over. But new data now shows that the equatorial Pacific is producing lower- than-normal ocean temperatures - a key La Niña characteristic, said Wayne Higgins, a meteorologist for the Climate Prediction Center in Maryland.
While dry and hot conditions will be the trend, it won't be as dry as the past two years.
"We expect La Niña will weaken over the next several months, but it's important to note that the February precipitation forecast is now on the below-normal side,'' said Higgins, referring to the month that typically produces heavy rainfall in Orange County.
Two years ago during peak La Niña conditions, Santa Ana's rainfall in February was 0.90 inches. Normal rainfall for that month is 2.67 inches.
Patzert is taking the latest research one step further, saying that a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean suggests a delay of the five- to seven-year cycle of El Niño - a weather pattern that dumps torrents of rain across Southern California.
"As long as the present Pacific pattern hangs in there, it will act as a strong El Niño repellent,'' Patzert said.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 01, 2001
NOAA La Niña page
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