(3TV/CBS 5) - Our state could be facing another dry winter, thanks to a weather pattern called "La Niña."

A week or so ago, a “La Niña” watch was issued for the eastern Pacific. It’s not like any of the watches we're used to in the short-term weather business, but is issued by the Climate Prediction Center.

Surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific, mainly off the coast of South America, have shown to be indicators of certain types of weather in North America. La Niña represents cooler-than-normal sea water temperatures. It’s the opposite of El Niño, which is a warming of sea temperatures. Somewhere in between is ENSO Neutral, which is a fancy way of saying the sea temperatures are in transition from warm to cold or vice versa.

We're on La Nina Watch

Here’s a map of the relative sea surface temperatures right now. The yellow indicates temperatures that are warmer than normal. The blue, cooler.

Relative sea surface temps right now.

Yellow warmer, blue cooler.

And the area we’re watching closely for the development of La Niña this winter is off the coast of South America.

The area where El Nino was first discovered.

While there’s a 70 to 80% chance of a La Niña winter, that doesn’t necessary mean the weather will fall in line with what’s “supposed” to happen. Right now, as you can see from this winter forecast, Arizona should expect less than average precipitation.

Long range winter outlook 2021-22.

That graphic is based mainly on the La Niña forecast but definitely not a lock. We could easily have a winter with average or above average precipitation. If you’ll recall, as we start the monsoon that’s just wrapping up in Arizona, most of the long range forecasts were pessimistic about getting much rain. As we know, that changed quickly.


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