Thanks, La Nina

  • By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
  • Monday, September 5, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

EVERETT — So it’s been a glorious Labor Day weekend.

Nice temperatures, no rain.

Gardeners in Snohomish County might even harvest more red tomatoes than green.

But La Nina is lurking, and weather forecasters are wondering if she will give us another cool, wet winter and spring.

The Northwest is on a La Nina watch, according to meteorologist Brad Colman at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

That means the coming winter weather pattern could shape up to be similar to that of last year. It’s not certain, but it’s possible.

While it’s too early to forecast what we might see next spring, let’s all just try to stay optimistic. After all, temperatures in May, June and July this year were the coolest on record.

As the La Nina pattern began to dissipate this summer, the weather forecasts first predicted an escape from wet, cool La Nina weather. And not a warm, dry El Nino, either. The term used was “neutral.”

The national Climate Prediction Center then put out the La Nina watch in August. Scientists at the center expect to release an updated prediction Thursday, said meteorologist Dave Unger at the center in Maryland.

“We’re still running on the existing information that resulted in our La Nina watch,” Unger said. “What we are tracking right now in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, though, indicates a 50-50 split between a prediction of a neutral, seasonable year or another La Nina year.”

According to local weather guru Cliff Mass, a professor at the University of Washington, the primary measures of La Ninas and El Ninos are the sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific. Right now, some are high and some are low.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, there is no reliable pattern that says whether we will have an El Nino year or a La Nina, said Colman at the weather service office in Seattle.

The weather pattern of the past spring got locked in and just stayed that way. It’s the same reason the jet stream brought drought to Texas, he said.

“People need to be happy they live here,” Colman said. “Whatever is happening in the Northwest, it’s a lot better than sitting in Kansas.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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