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Weather experts forecast a La Niña season

Jet Propulsion Laboratory oceanographer and climate forecaster says there is an 82% chance of decreased rainfall in La Niña seasons.

November 19, 2011|By Daniel Siegal

As the region prepares for storm season, scientists are predicting another year of La Niña weather patterns, which typically cause a colder and drier winter than usual.

Caused by cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, La Niña recurs every few years.

Last year was a La Niña season as well, and although it didn't rain consistently, when it rained it poured, said William Patzert, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory oceanographer and climate forecaster.

"Here in Southern California, after two weeks in December, my forecast was already busted," Patzert said. "Last winter is an example of where the statistics led us astray."

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Patzert said that a moderate-to-strong La Niña season has an 82% chance of decreased rainfall.

La Niña years generally only receive 10 to 12 inches in the region, while El Niño years average 18-20 inches.

Average annual rainfall in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, which is monitored in Newport, is just under 11 inches, according to Newport's website. Annual rainfall in Irvine is 10 to 13 inches, according to the city website.

There's no guarantee in any forecast, however, Patzert said.

"Last winter was a good example. There's more in the climate system than La Niña," said Patzert.

Still, Patzert said that Southern California residents shouldn't be worried about any torrential downpours coming soon.

"Odds are cool and dry," he said.

In fact, Patzert said he's hoping for more rain.

"I'd love to see a lot of rain," said Patzert. "It suppresses the fire season, and aside from some bad driving habits on the freeway by Southern Californians, in all other ways it's a benefit for us."

daniel.siegal@latimes.com

Twitter: @ValleySunDan

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