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What La Niña means for Michigan winter

It’s all about the jet stream

NOAA
NOAA (NOAA)

(This first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter, a daily deep dive into local topics and news -- sign up for it here!)


You’ve likely heard the terms El Niño and La Niña, but in case you don’t know, here’s a quick breakdown of what they are:

El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO” for short.

El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)
El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) (NOAA)

The pattern can shift back and forth irregularly every two to seven years, and each phase triggers predictable disruptions of temperature, precipitation, and winds. These changes disrupt the large-scale air movements in the tropics, triggering a cascade of global side effects.

This year, we could have a La Niña: A cooling of the ocean surface, or below-average sea surface temperatures (SST), in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Over Indonesia, rainfall tends to increase while rainfall decreases over the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The normal easterly winds along the equator become even stronger.

What does this mean for Michigan?

Local 4′s Paul Gross broke this down on the Morning Show this week. It’s all about the Jet Stream!

During a La Niña winter, the arctic jet moves south and typically brings above-average precipitation to our region. It could be snow -- or rain, but that remains to be seen.

La Nina Jet Stream.
La Nina Jet Stream. (WDIV)

You can also see the precipitation predictions from the NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory, prediction the risk of seasonal climate extremes related to ENSO.

Risk of Seasonal Climate Extremes in the U.S. Related to ENSO
Risk of Seasonal Climate Extremes in the U.S. Related to ENSO (NOAA)

So, bottom line: It could be stormier this winter, if it all happens, which the Climate Prediction Center placed at 60% last week. Probably nothing we can’t handle! We’ll be inside anyway.

La Niña watch continues.


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