QUICK TAKE: While the official winter forecast from the Climate Prediction Center calls for a warmer and drier season across Florida, the effects in and around Tampa Bay may be a little murky.
LA NIÑA: WHAT IS IT?
On Thursday, NOAA announced the arrival of La Niña, albeit a weak version. La Niña is the opposite of its cousin El Niño – it’s characterized by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. It also tends to have the opposite effect of El Niño: The northern third of the country usually is cooler and wetter while the southern third is warmer and drier.
While the official winter forecast from the Climate Prediction Center calls for a warmer and drier season across Florida, the effects in and around Tampa Bay may be a little murky.
Looking back through the last 70 years, there have been 20 La Niña events of varying degree. Of those:
- 11 have been weak
- Six have been moderate
- Three have been strong
The moderate and strong La Niña events are more strongly correlated with warm and dry winters down here. However, for weak La Niñas, the data is fairly mixed, suggesting other drivers of climate (arctic oscillation, North Atlantic oscillation, etc…) have more of an effect.
In fact, of the 11 weak La Niña winters here, Tampa saw above-average temperatures only four times. And precipitation was below average six times.
Therefore, with a weak La Niña expected through the winter months, it’s not such a clear-cut forecast as with other parts of the country. Nonetheless, some of the other climate drivers at this point would still point toward a warmer and drier winter.
While overall we still expect warmer and drier conditions, there will still likely be the occasional cold fronts that bring with them cooler and wetter weather.
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