Final La Niña Advisory
La Niña—the cool phase of the ENSO climate pattern in the tropical Pacific—transitioned to neutral in February. Neutral conditions are likely to continue through summer, meaning forecasters will be looking at long-term trends and other climate phenomena for making seasonal climate outlooks. (What kind of phenomena? See 'Posts about things other than ENSO' on our ENSO blog index page.)
What Is ENSO
El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO” for short. The pattern shifts back and forth irregularly every two to seven years, bringing predictable shifts in ocean surface temperature and disrupting the wind and rainfall patterns across the tropics. These changes have a cascade of global side effects.
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La Niña strengthens the normal atmospheric circulation across the tropical Pacific Ocean. One side effect is a strong high pressure area in the Northeast Pacific. Like a boulder in a river, this high pressure changes the flow of storms as they approach the western U.S., favoring wet winters in the Northwest and dry winters across the South.
More U.S. impacts
More About el Niño
- ENSO @ the Australian Bureau of Meteorology
- ENSO @ the World Meteorological Organization
- ENSO @ the International Research Institute for Climate & Society
- ENSO @ Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE) (Spanish)
- ENSO @ the Centro Internacional para la Investigación del Fenómeno de El Niño (CIIFEN) (Spanish)
March 2023 ENSO update: no more La Niña!
El Niño and La Niña have weaker impacts during Northern Hemisphere summer than they do in winter. Summer impacts include warm conditions in northeastern Australia and cooler than average conditions across India and Southeast Asia.
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Understanding the ENSO Alert System
On the second Thursday of each month, scientists with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in collaboration with forecasters at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) release an official update on the status of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Here is a description of the categories and criteria they use.
- Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for the development of El Niño or La Niña conditions within the next six months.
- Advisory: Issued when El Niño or La Niña conditions are observed and expected to continue.
- Final advisory: Issued after El Niño or La Niña conditions have ended.
- Not Active: ENSO Alert System is not active. Neither El Niño nor La Niña are observed or expected in coming 6 months.
El Niño criteria
- Average sea surface temperatures in the Niño-3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean were at least 0.5°C (0.9°F) warmer than average (5°N-5°S, 120°W-170°W) in the preceding month, and
- the anomaly has persisted or is expected to persist for 5 consecutive, overlapping 3-month periods (e.g., DJF, JFM, FMA, etc), and
- the atmosphere over the tropical Pacific exhibits one or more of the changes commonly associated with El Niño:
- weaker than usual easterly trade winds,
- reduced cloudiness and rainfall over Indonesia and a corresponding increase in the average surface pressure, or
- increased cloudiness and rainfall in central or eastern part of the basin and a corresponding drop in the average surface pressure.
La Niña criteria
- Average sea surface temperatures in the Niño-3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (5°N-5°S, 120°W-170°W) were at least 0.5°C (0.9°F) cooler than average in the preceding month, and
- an average anomaly of at least -0.5°C has persisted or is expected to persist for 5 consecutive, overlapping 3-month periods (e.g., DJF, JFM, FMA, etc), and
- the atmosphere over the tropical Pacific exhibits changes commonly associated with La Niña, including one or more of the following:
- stronger than usual easterly trade winds,
- an increase in cloudiness and rainfall over Indonesia and a corresponding drop in average surface pressure,
- a decrease in cloudiness and rainfall in the eastern tropical Pacific, and an increase in the average surface pressure.