La Niña is a climate pattern that features cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 59% chance La Niña will hang around through August, and a 50% to 55% chance of an even longer run well into the fall, which would be a rare three-year period of below-normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial eastern Pacific that commenced in the summer of 2020.
The summer outlook from the NOAA agency predicts warmer-than-average weather across virtually all of the country except along the West Coast. Much above normal temperatures are expected in the Northeast and Intermountain West to the western Plains, which is concerning because of the threat of continuing drought and rampant wildfires.
The 2022 wildfire season is already off to a fast start in the Southwest, with more than 1.1 million acres burned (1,120,300 through May 3), compared with 523,204 on the same day in 2021, and 698,114 acres scorched by May 3, 2020. Rainfall will likely be deficient in the central states and much of the West.
The cyclical climate regime that impacts the jet stream and storm track is expected to linger through at least a portion of the upcoming summer, based on a report issued by NOAA.
The opposite climate pattern is a warm sea surface temperature regime, classified as El Niño, which presents with a different climatic response in the lower 48 states.
La Niña occurs in relation to fluctuations in the surface air pressure pattern between Tahiti and Australia that causes warm water to flow westward, away from the coast of South America, which allows deep cold currents to reach the ocean surface and provide nutrients for the fishing industry in places such as coastal Peru.
In the spring, severe weather outbreaks are more common in the central and southern states, where air masses frequently clash and storms are intensified by a strong jet stream flowing from the Southwest to the Great Lakes.