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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

El Niño or La Niña? More like La Nada

By Randy Mann

There is evidence that global weather patterns are influenced by the warming and cooling of ocean waters off the west coast of South America and along the equatorial regions in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

Since late 2008, sea-surface temperatures in that region were much cooler than normal. This phenomenon, combined with low sunspot activity, may be to blame, at least in part, for the record snows in the Inland Northwest during the last winter season.

The cooler sea-surface temperatures are called “La Niña.” The latest information now has an expanding area of warmer ocean waters along the equatorial regions, especially along the west coast of South America.

Earlier this year, La Niña was strengthening and it looked like the cool sea-surface temperature phenomenon was going to hang around for a while, but there has been a dramatic reversal within the last month. Whether this new trend toward the warm side will continue remains to be seen. Over the last two to four months, we’ve seen a back-and-forth pattern between the warming and cooling of ocean waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

At this moment, it appears we’re in a “La Nada” sea-surface temperature pattern, or in between El Niño and La Niña. However, we could easily see a new El Niño or go back to a La Niña over the next several months.

Scientists are uncertain why the ocean temperatures fluctuate. Long-term climatological cycles and underwater volcanic activity may play a role in the warming and cooling of ocean waters.

If the current trend of rising ocean waters continues for the rest of this year, and solar activity begins to increase as expected, then the winter of 2009-’10 may be much milder, with below-normal snowfall. But, if La Niña returns and sunspot numbers remain low, then another snowy winter may be in store. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, there could be a stray shower near the mountains, but the Memorial Day weekend looks dry and warm. June will likely have less moisture than last year and temperatures may be above normal levels.

I’m still predicting a rather short but very hot and dry summer season. The warmest weather should be near the July 7-15 full moon cycle. Don’t be too surprised to see an afternoon or two that week with readings near 100. The fall of 2009 will likely be wetter and cooler than normal.

Contact Randy Mann by e-mail at, or go to for additional information.

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