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Cool, wet conditions in the Northwest, frigid weather on the Plains, and record dry conditions in the Southeast, all signs that La Niña is in full swing.
With winter gearing up, a moderate La Niña is hitting its peak. And we are just beginning to see the full effects of this oceanographic phenomenon, as La Niña episodes are typically strongest in January.
A La Niña event occurs when cooler than normal sea surface temperatures form along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, specifically in the eastern to central Pacific. The La Niña we are experiencing now has a significant presence in the eastern part of the ocean.
The cooler water temperatures associated with La Niña are caused by an increase in easterly sea surface winds. Under normal conditions these winds force cooler water from below up to the surface of the ocean. When the winds increase in speed, more cold water from below is forced up, cooling the ocean surface.