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Climate and Environment

La Niña May Return For A Third Year In A Row. That's Not Great News For The Drought

An image of a world globe centered in the Americas, with temperature descriptions through U.S. regions of drier, wetter, colder and warmer conditions.
A rendering shows the La Niña weather pattern.
(Courtesy NOAA Climate)
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La Niña is poised to make its third appearance in a row this year, a first since 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

La Niña — the colder counterpart to the warmer El Niño — is part of what’s called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that happens annually.

We’ve had Niña for the last two years— and, unusually, NOAA is projecting it to appear again this year, from December through March.

Eric Boldt, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, said that’s reflected by colder water temperatures over the tropics in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean.

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“That pushes the jet stream and the storminess over into the far western part of the Pacific Ocean and ends up missing us here in Southern California more often than not,” Boldt said. “And most of the storm track goes way up into the Pacific Northwest and we don't see as much precipitation during the winter.”

That means a continued drought because we rely on that winter rainfall for our water supply and if we don’t get enough, we don’t make up for it for the rest of the year, said Boldt.

“What our concern is, is that we're going to have a third year of below normal rainfall,” Boldt said. “So we need to consider more restrictions on water use and ways of conserving water.”

Boldt also expressed concern about the levels of dryness. Most of the current water reservoir levels are below historical averages across the state.