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Does La Niña Mean A Drier, Shorter Winter For Southern California?

Sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean (above). El Niño is c...

Credit: NOAA

Above: Sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean (above). El Niño is characterized by unusually warm temperatures and La Niña by unusually cool temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Anomalies represent deviations from normal temperature values, with unusually warm temperatures shown in red and unusually cold anomalies shown in blue.

La Niña is back.

It’s been a couple of years since satellites and buoys detected the mass of cold water forming along the equator. National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Tardy said when you average out the effect of La Niñas over the last few decades, they tend to indicate we’re in for less precipitation than what we’d get in an average winter.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

RELATED: San Diego Water Managers Seek Better Rain Forecast Information

But, La Niñas can also bring surprises. Tardy pointed to the winters of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. The former was wet, the latter dry. So, why even bother to take note of a La Niña?

Tardy said it can help to inform the big picture.

“It gives us an indication, rather than just flipping a coin, which you don’t want to do cause you want to add some value, it gives some value to the forecast,” he said.

Value, not certainty.

As for El Ninos, Tardy said it’s also a matter of averages. More often than not, they mean a wet winter, but not always.

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The weather phenomenon known as La Nina has formed for the first time in two years. But scientists aren’t certain if that will guarantee a shorter, drier winter than usual for Southern California. Also, there are a lot more bikers on the roads in San Diego, but bike crashes are down. Plus, your fitness tracker may not be all that ... Read more →

Aired: September 28, 2020 | Transcript

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John Carroll
General Assignment Reporter & Anchor

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI'm a general assignment reporter and Saturday morning radio anchor for KPBS. I love coming up with story ideas that aren't being covered elsewhere, but I'm also ready to cover the breaking news of the day. In addition, I bring you the local news headlines on Saturday mornings during NPR's Weekend Edition.

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