A vast spot in the Pacific Ocean called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation effects weather the world over. This spot is famous for creating oscillating weather patterns known as El Niño and La Niña. Here's how these patterns control winter weather in the United States.
Here's how El Niño and La Niña affect weather. They're both phases of a weather phenomenon called the "El Niño-Southern Oscillation" or "ENSO.” The ENSO originates in the Pacific near the equator. Water in this vast area oscillates between warm and cold. Its effects are felt around the world.
In the US, its effects are most pronounced in the winter months. When the ENSO's water is warm, it's called an "El Niño." This means warmer weather for the Northwest and Northeast, wet weather in the Southwest, cooler temps in the Southeast, and more hurricanes in the eastern Pacific.
When the ENSO cools down, it's called a "La Niña." This causes warm weather for the Southern US, and more moisture in the Northwest and Northeast. The North Atlantic will also see more hurricanes. The ENSO is always fluctuating back and forth but it's not always strong enough to trigger an El Niño or La Niña. An El Niño or La Niña happens every 2 to 7 years on average. El Niño years are slightly more common than La Niña. In 2017, forecasters think a La Niña is likely So depending on where you live, get your sunscreen/raincoat ready!
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