WeatherWeather Science


A rare three-peat La Nina is expected this winter

La Nina precipitation map
Posted at 3:24 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-13 09:08:09-04

A rare triple dip La Nina winter is expected, according to scientists at the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

ENSO Forecast late 2022-2023

The current forecast indicates over a 70% probability of La Nina conditions continuing up until January, with a higher likelihood of returning back to neutral by spring versus remaining in a La Nina pattern.

According to the CPC's 73 years of records, this will be the 3rd time La Nina has persisted 3 winters in a row.

What does this mean for Colorado?

The La Nina/El Nino (ENSO) conditions have a large-scale effect on global weather and climate patterns. Both hurricane season and the cold season (late Fall through early Spring) see an influence from ENSO. Smaller scale weather patterns, like the North American Monsoon, do not respond directly to ENSO.

This summer's good monsoon season is helping to chip away at current drought conditions. Drought conditions which were exacerbated by several winters on La Nina.

As soon as the monsoon season ends, southern Colorado's weather pattern will be heavily influenced by La Nina this fall. Remember how the first snow at the Colorado Springs airport didn't fall until December 31st in 2021? And the wind storm that topped 100 mph in Colorado Springs on December 15th? The mild, dry, and windy fall of 2021 may be similar to what we expect this year.

North America La Nina Pattern
Typical La Nina fall and winter pattern for North America

Typically in southern Colorado, La Nina winters trend drier than normal with less frequent snow storms and sometimes warmer than normal. Wildfire activity has been low in Colorado this summer thanks to wetter than normal conditions, but wildfires may persist into fall as the monsoon ends.

The saving grace in this forecast? Spring. The current expectation to return to ENSO neutral by Spring may come at a pivotal moment to "save" our seasonal snowfall. Typically, March and April are very snowy for Colorado and that may come to fruition next year with a weakening La Nina.


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