Scientists worried La Niña & more weather extremes could follow strong El Niño

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – After one of the strongest El Niño’s on record led to a soggy winter across the East, scientists are now turning their attention to the phenomenon’s counterpart.

“What often happens with strong El Niño’s is they’re often followed by a La Niña event. Researchers believe that this is a cycle,” explained Scott Curtis, an atmospheric science professor at East Carolina University.

During La Niña, water temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific cool, sometimes well below normal. Just like El Niño, La Niña can shift weather patterns across the globe, bringing with it the possibility of extreme weather.

Eastern North Carolina could start seeing impacts as soon as the fall.

“Eastern North Carolina may have a greater probability of getting struck by a hurricane during the September, October, November time period,” said Curtis.

During La Niña, winds that could tear apart tropical systems are diminished, leading to the possibility of stronger storms and more of them. However, there is a possible silver lining if you aren’t a fan of wet weather.

“That storm track is gonna shift northward and you’re not gonna have that energy coming off the Gulf of Mexico, which can drive rainfall in the eastern part of the United States,” explains Curtis.

A La Niña during the winter often brings drier than normal conditions to the East. La Niña doesn’t always directly follow El Niño, but the official forecast gives nearly a 60% chance of one developing by the end of the year.

Scientists expect to have a much better idea on if La Niña develops by the end of summer.

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