La Niña returns for the third year in a row for the first time this century

B.R. Shenoy
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"It is exceptional to have three consecutive years with a la Niña event. Its cooling influence is temporarily slowing the rise in global temperatures – but it will not halt or reverse the long-term warming trend," Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of WMO, said in a recent report.

The ongoing La Niña climate pattern is expected to persist for the third consecutive winter, resulting in a rare "triple-dip" event, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a U.N. agency.

This is unusual, but not unprecedented, as triple La Niñas have also occurred in 1973–1976 and 1998–2001. La Niña is expected to bring more extreme weather to the world.

What are La Niña and El Niño?

La Niña is a natural climate cycle that takes place over the tropical Pacific Ocean. In the central and eastern tropical Pacific, sea surface temperatures fluctuate between being warmer than average (El Niño) and cooler than average (La Niña).

These two weather patterns, in essence, move warm water in opposite directions. This variability has global implications because the shifting weather patterns cause drought in some areas and storms and flooding in others.


“El Niño and La Niña are the opposite phases of ENSO (pronounced en-so), which is short for El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Operating in the tropical Pacific Ocean, ENSO is Earth's singlest most influential natural climate pattern.”

El Niño and La Niña events typically occur every two to seven years, lasting nine to twelve months, with El Niño occurring more frequently.

Climate change

Climate change is a major cause of rising global temperatures and more extreme weather events, such as La Niña.

We don't know how La Niña will change as the world warms, but evidence suggests that climate change will make La Niña (and its counterpart El Niño) events more frequent and intense.


According to the most recent forecast, the La Niña fall is expected to be hot. Except for the far north, which borders Canada, every state in the country is expected to have above-average temperatures from September to November.

Colorado, Utah, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the New England states have the highest chances of an unusually warm fall.

According to long-term forecasts, La Niña will also result in less rain for most of the country this fall. From September to November, the central United States is expected to be drier than usual.

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