El Niño and La Niña are part of an oscillation in the ocean-atmosphere system that can impact weather and climate conditions. El Niño features warmer-than-average temperatures in the waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, while La Niña features colder-than-average waters.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Jason Laney, the big player in the seasonal outlook this Winter is the presence of El Nino or La Nina. But what happens when we are neutral? Well, that is the case this year. So a few other large scale circulations need to be examined like Madden Julian Oscillation & the Arctic Oscillation. The problem with these is that they are not as long term and can’t be predicted as far in advance as say, El Nino or La Nina.
Laney says, “many variables go into making a climate forecast and that weather and climate are not the same. Seasonal outlooks like the one from the Climate Prediction Center are for “climate” and not individual weather occurrences that may show up from time to time.
This year NOAA is forecasting that there is a 75% chance that we’ll be in between the El Niño threshold and La Niña through the fall. This means we will be in neutral through the fall, with a 55-60% chance of continued neutral conditions through the spring of 2020.