California Hopeful|as La Nina Stalls

     (CN) — Cooling Pacific Ocean conditions that follow an El Nino and known to hinder winter storms from dousing California have weakened enough that forecasters “La Nina watch” Thursday.
     In wake of one the strongest El Ninos ever recorded, Pacific Ocean water temperatures are gradually returning to normal and there is only a 40 percent chance of a strong La Nina developing this winter, climate scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a monthly update.
     The update sparks optimism that El Nino’s drier sibling won’t materialize over drought-riddled California, despite NOAA scientists in May giving La Nina a 75 percent chance of developing.
     Forecasters predicted strong La Nina conditions in the spring due to a budding swath of cooler subsurface water in the eastern Pacific. But the strong east-to-west trade winds needed to distribute the cooler water didn’t develop, so ocean temperatures are now approaching normal.
     Scientists on Thursday gave neutral conditions in the Pacific this winter — neither El Nino nor La Nina — a 55 to 60 percent chance.
     “The multimodel averages favor borderline-neutral La Nina conditions during the Northern Hemisphere fall, continuing into winter,” the NOAA report states.
     California forecasters and officials are paying close attention to NOAA’s three-month weather outlooks in order to gauge the probability of another wet winter. While El Nino brought healthy rain and snow amounts to many parts of the state last winter, it fell short of dragging the Golden State out of its worst drought in recorded history.
     Traditionally, La Nina conditions are associated with below-average rain, particularly in Southern California. Statewide rainfall totals have been below average in most of the 20 La Nina events measured since 1950.
     While La Nina patterns typically develop immediately after a large El Nino, they can hibernate before appearing as the rain-busting force they are notorious for.
     Following the historic 1982 El Nino, moderate La Nina conditions didn’t fully develop until October 1984.

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