If you've lived in the Gulf South for more than a few minutes or at least through one or two hurricane seasons you've probably heard the terms, El Nino and La Nina. You probably haven't given too much thought to them but those two climate phenomena do play a major part in our weather here in South Louisiana.

El Nino occurs when sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator warm by 0.5 degrees Celcius or more over the course of one month's time. La Nina is kind of the opposite of that. La Nina happens when those sea surface temperatures are cooler.

Trust me, there are a lot more details than what I've just explained but we're not here to become scientists. We are here to find out why this subtle change in ocean temperatures thousands of miles away affects my plans for this fall.

For example, a strong El Nino pattern usually means a decrease in tropical formation in the Atlantic Ocean because the warmer Pacific waters help create wind shear that disrupts weather systems in the tropics.

Meanwhile, La Nina conditions could allow for more storms to form as that shear over the Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Atlantic Basin are reduced. If you look at the graphic above from Climate.gov you can see why La Nina conditions are often included in hurricane seasonal forecasts.

But the phenomena have other effects on our weather. For example, climate forecasters believe that a prolonged La Nina pattern could mean cooler wetter weather for the northwestern section of the country but warmer and drier conditions here in the Gulf South.

As of now, forecasters with NOAA say there's a slightly better than 50% probability of La Nina conditions forming and staying for a prolonged period of time. Whether that happens we'll just have to wait and see. Then we'll have to react. But at least knowing that the possibility of extremely dry weather or even a drought could be looming will certainly help in planning for the next several months.


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