La Nada?

Monday, October 8, 2012
11:03 A.M.

Most people know what El Nino is, and most people also know what La Nina is. But if you throw around the highly scientific term “La Nada,” most people will raise their eyebrows, cock their head, and ask you to repeat yourself. “La Nada” is the term affectionately given to neutral winters, in which there is neither El Nino or La Nina.

Take a look at the picture above. It shows the SST anomalies over the past week in the tropical Pacific. The temps are just about normal in the equatorial Eastern Pacific! And take a look at this diagram below. There were weak El Nino conditions over the summer, but they are dying out. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has noticed this, and on October 4, they dropped their previous estimate of a 69% chance of an El Nino occurring to 55%.

Here’s NOAA’s latest take on the matter.

Due to the recent slowdown in the development of El Niño, it is not clear whether a fully coupled El Niño will emerge. The majority of models indicate that borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions will continue, and about half suggest that El Niño could develop, but remain weak. The official forecast therefore favors the continuation of borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, with the possibility of strengthening during the next few months.

I personally believe that we will see a neutral winter. And let me tell you, I am more excited about the weather than I have been in a very long time.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a La Nada winter. Take a look at the picture below. Every year since 2005 has either been an El Nino year or a La Nina year, and the variations in the past five years have been huge. 2012 is not shown, but it was a La Nina as well.

Forecast models were predicting this year to be an El Nino year. I dislike… no… I feel contempt for El Nino years. They infuriate me. For us, El Nino winters = boring winters. La Nina winters are generally more exciting, and they are a lot snowier for the mountains.

But nobody really talks about neutral winters, and neutral winters could perhaps be the most interesting of all the winters. If you take a look at the major windstorms of the Pacific Northwest, all of them occurred on La Nada winters. All of them! What’s more? Many times, our most dramatic floods come on neutral winters, and even though La Nina winters are snowier on average in the Western Washington lowlands, some of our biggest snowstorms come during neutral years as well! Remember the huge snowstorm of December 2008? That was actually during a weak El Nino year. Go figure!

This is fantastic news. Absolutely stellar. And we are still on track for our first big rainstorm of the year on Monday.

See if you can find the movie that wonderful quote is from. 🙂

Charlie

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