La Niña likely by winter, potentially bad news for Virginia snow lovers

There is a 60% chance La Niña develops this fall into the winter

La Niña likely by winter, potentially bad news for Virginia snow lovers
A La Niña is likely to develop this fall into the winter. (Source: NOAA)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - La Niña is likely to develop this fall into the winter, and if you are a snow lover in Virginia, that’s potentially bad news.

La Niña happens when the water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean is significantly cooler than average. It is the opposite of El Niño, which happens when water in the equatorial Pacific is much warmer than average.

La Niña refers to cooler than average water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.
La Niña refers to cooler than average water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean. (Source: WWBT)

Climatologists refer to La Niña and El Niño as ENSO. When the Pacific Ocean is not in a La Niña or El Niño phase, it is considered to be “ENSO neutral”. So far in 2020, we have been in an “ENSO neutral” phase. This “ENSO Neutral” phase combined with other factors (such as warmer than average water temperatures in the Atlantic) has been responsible for the above active hurricane and tropical storm season in the Atlantic ocean.

A La Niña weather pattern has implications on weather in other parts of the world, including right here in the United States. In a typical La Niña weather pattern, the jet stream (fast moving river of air that steers our storms and controls the temperature) usually shifts farther north.

If the jet stream is farther north, that means a warmer and drier winter season for the southeastern U.S., which is bad news if you are a snow lover in Virginia.

A typical La Niña weather pattern means warmer and drier weather in the southeastern U.S.
A typical La Niña weather pattern means warmer and drier weather in the southeastern U.S. (Source: NOAA Climate.gov)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a “La Niña Watch”, and predicts a 60% chance of La Niña developing this fall into the winter. Of course, that means there’s a 40% chance a La Niña does NOT develop, so it’s not a sure thing it will happen.

If a La Niña does not develop, the Pacific Ocean would almost certainly remain in an “ENSO Neutral” phase, which would bring a better chance for a typical winter in Virginia with a few snow chances.

Even if a La Niña does develop, that’s not a guarantee that the entire winter will be warm and dry. There may still be an occasional colder blast, and if the cold air lines up with a storm system, we could see some snow.

All hope for a snowy winter is not yet lost, Virginia snow lovers.

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