La Nina Likely Waiting in Wings to Follow El Nino: U.S. Climate Center

A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday said the El Nino weather phenomenon under way was likely to dissipate by the Northern Hemisphere’s late spring or early summer and possibly transition to La Nina conditions later this year.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said in its monthly forecast that most models showed the strong El Nino would weaken in the coming months, with the chances of La Nina conditions increasing into the fall.

Typically less damaging than El Nino, La Nina is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. Severe La Ninas are linked to floods and droughts.

With the forecast, the CPC joins others, including Australia’s weather bureau, in projecting La Nina may follow El Nino.

The forecaster said on Thursday it saw support for La Nina to emerge, though “considerable uncertainty remains.”

El Nino is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every few years, triggering heavy rains and floods in South America and scorching weather in Asia and as far away as East Africa.

Strong El Nino conditions have continued in recent weeks and are likely to keep affecting temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States in the upcoming months, the CPC said.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)