Not your average climate change: El Niño + La Niña = El Niño + La Niña

Parts of California, like Lodi and Los Angeles, have been hit hard by rain. Orange County has been battered. Most people find it difficult to explain El Niño and La Niña, two meteorological events…

Not your average climate change: El Niño + La Niña = El Niño + La Niña

Parts of California, like Lodi and Los Angeles, have been hit hard by rain. Orange County has been battered.

Most people find it difficult to explain El Niño and La Niña, two meteorological events that are related to their impacts on climate. Although the other weather pattern, the so-called Indian Ocean Dipole, which influences global temperature, helps make the phenomenon possible, it does not make it visible to the naked eye, as is sometimes the case with climate scientists and meteorologists.

El Niño is defined as an abnormal warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, which sets the stage for weather that is typically warmer than average, with its counterpart, La Niña, set up by the opposite development and cooling of the Pacific.

Why Is it called El Niño?

You could say it’s a recurring pattern, as long as we remember the name, La Niña, which means “little winter.”

How Often Does It Happen?

La Niña occurs four times more often than El Niño, and can last for up to five years. It is due to winter, too.

While El Niño tends to happen about every two to three years, La Niña occurs every other winter.

The impacts are more extreme during La Niña events, in part because their effects may be amplified by regional climate systems, like El Niño in the western United States and La Niña in the eastern Pacific, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a research organization in Boulder, Colorado.

El Niño occurs when water in the tropical Pacific Ocean warms 1 degree Fahrenheit above average. La Niña events tend to occur when water drops 1 degree Fahrenheit below average.

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La Niña

So why is it called La Niña?

The cooler-than-average temperatures of La Niña appear to coincide with less frost during the winter, from mid-October to April in the Southern Hemisphere and from May to December in the Northern Hemisphere.

Why is it called El Niño?

The warm waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean rise 1 degree Fahrenheit above average during El Niño. La Niña occurs at odds with this pattern, which makes the ocean warmer and generally causes much more snowfall during the winter in the western United States.

Is There Anything Else Different?

On average, El Niño appears more often and has more significant impacts during winters that are followed by La Niña. That’s because La Niña occurs 4 times more often and effects are more significant, often lasting for years.

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