What does La Niña mean for North Carolina?

Thursday, November 16, 2017
What does La Niña mean for North Carolina?

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- La Niña conditions are officially underway and that could play a part in what we see this winter.

La Niña and El Niño both deal with warmer or cooler than normal temperatures in the eastern Pacific near the equator.

La Niña occurs when cooler than normal temperatures are observed. This year's La Niña is a weak one so far, and it's forecasted to stay in place through the start of next year.

So how do ocean temperatures in the Pacific impact our weather?

When temperatures are cooler than normal in the eastern Pacific that leads to a lower temperature gradient or the difference between Pacific waters farther north near Alaska.

That lower difference directly impacts the jet stream, making it weaker. The jet stream acts as a highway of sorts for storm systems, and when the jet stream is weaker, a lot of those storms don't go as far south.

La Niña years tend to be drier than average for southern U.S. states like Texas and Florida. Temperatures tend to be warmer than average across the southern half of the country as well and that includes the Carolinas.

What does that mean for our winter?

We'll likely see slightly warmer temperatures and rainfall.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington took a closer look a past five weak La Niña years.

They averaged out the temperatures, rainfall, and snowfall. They found that temperatures during these years usually run about one above normal.

There's a bigger difference when it comes to rainfall. During these years, rainfall runs about 2.7 inches below normal. Snow totals run about a half an inch below normal.

Bottom Line

This just gives us an idea of the general pattern. So, don't fret if you love cold weather.

Even though La Niña years can be warmer and drier, we'll still likely have cold blasts of air and possibly some snow.


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