January 11, 2018 / 3:00 PM / 2 months ago

U.S. weather forecaster sees La Niña chances at 85-95 percent

(Reuters) - A U.S. government weather forecaster said on Thursday that La Niña conditions are likely to persist through the Northern Hemisphere winter.

La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and is linked with floods and droughts. It is the opposite phase of what is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in its monthly forecast pegged the chance of La Niña developing at about 85 to 95 percent, with a transition to ENSO-neutral expected during the spring.

“Based on the latest observations and forecast guidance, forecasters believe this weak-to-moderate La Niña is currently peaking and will eventually weaken into the spring,” the agency said.

The agency last month projected the chance of the phenomenon developing through the Northern Hemisphere winter at about 80 percent, with a transition to ENSO-neutral most likely during the mid-to-late spring.

La Niña emerged in 2016 for the first time since 2012, before fading in early 2017.

Typically less damaging than El Niño, La Niña tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast United States and cooler than normal in the Northwest, according to the U.S. National Ocean Service.

Reporting by Karen Rodrigues in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O'Brien

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