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A look at what La Niña could mean for central Virginia weather this spring

Could mean less rain, more heat this spring across central Virginia
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 3:00 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - La Niña has been ongoing for the last two years, and climatologists say we could be in for a rare three-peat of La Niña.

La Niña refers to cooler than average waters in the Pacific ocean near the equator. It is the opposite of El Niño, which would mean there are warmer than average water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Whether the Pacific Ocean is in La Niña, El Niño, or neither (an ENSO neutral pattern) has implications for weather in other parts of the world, including here in the United States.

Specifically, as it relates to spring in Virginia, a La Niña historically has correlated to warmer than average temperatures across the southern half of the U.S., including in the commonwealth.

We are already off to a warmer than average start to the spring, which shows no signs of slowing down as we head into the second half of March. Separate from La Niña, global warming also contributes to a warmer than average temperature trend across all seasons.

Historically, La Niña results in warmer temperatures across much of the U.S. during the spring...
Historically, La Niña results in warmer temperatures across much of the U.S. during the spring time.(NOAA/Climate Prediction Center)

La Niña patterns in the spring tend to lean toward drier than average weather across the southeast. However, this correlation is a little less strong across Virginia than for our neighbors across the deep south (Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana are drier during La Niña periods).

La Nina typically results in less precipitation across Virginia during the spring time.
La Nina typically results in less precipitation across Virginia during the spring time.(NOAA/Climate Prediction Center)

If La Niña continues into the summer, we will likely see more hurricanes than average this upcoming summer. La Niña typically results in a more active hurricane season across the Atlantic because it reduces wind shear (wind shear prevents tropical development, so less of it means a better chance for hurricanes).

We saw this trend occur in the past two hurricane seasons, which were much more active than average across the Atlantic. During last summer’s La Niña, we exhausted the entire list of 21 tropical storm and hurricane names.

La Niña typically results in more hurricanes across the Atlantic due to reduced wind shear.
La Niña typically results in more hurricanes across the Atlantic due to reduced wind shear.(NOAA)

According to the Climate Prediction Center, there is a 54% chance that La Niña continues into the summer. It would be rare to have La Niña for three years in a row, as it has only happened twice in our historical records dating back to 1950.

Whatever La Niña brings us across central Virginia, you can count on the NBC12 First Alert Weather team to give you the First Alert!

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