Forecasters keeping eye on La Niña, which strengthens Atlantic hurricanes

Forecasters are keeping an eye on a possible La Niña climate phenomenon later this year, which can strengthen Atlantic hurricanes.

The National Weather Service’s (NWS) Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that there is a 62 percent chance of La Niña developing in June through August.

La Niña is a climate phenomenon originating from the equatorial Pacific in which trade winds are more intense than normal, which pushes warm water in the direction of Asia and the jet stream north. It is one phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a periodic variation of the sea surface temperature and overlying air pressure.

In a Thursday update, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that La Niña “can also be a supporting character in the Atlantic hurricane season.”

“In a nutshell, La Niña tends to reduce wind shear — the change in wind between the surface and high up the atmosphere,” the update reads. “Less wind shear can make it easier for hurricanes to strengthen. NOAA’s hurricane outlook comes out in May, so we’ll know more then about how La Niña, ocean temperatures, and other factors are likely to affect hurricane activity this season.”

El Niño years tend to bring cold, wet winters to California and the southern U.S. while bringing warm, dry conditions to the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley. La Niña tends to bring the opposite: dry conditions for the whole southern half of the country, but colder, wetter weather for the Pacific Northwest.

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