La Niña is triggered by temperature conditions in the Pacific Ocean, but the phenomenon can influence weather patterns across the globe. La Niña generally means drier, warmer conditions in the southern half of the United States and wetter weather in the northern half, while its opposite – El Niño – typically brings hot and dry conditions to northern states, and an increased risk of flooding to the south. El Niño and La Niña episodes usually last between nine and 12 months, but can occasionally last for years, according to NOAA.
While the odds clearly favor a warmer than average winter in Georgia, it’s important to remember that cold weather can and likely will still occur, said Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia.
“It is important to keep in mind that conditions in a La Niña are not set in stone and can vary for a particular event,” Shepherd said. “Weather is your mood, climate is your personality. So, a cold day says nothing about climate change, just like your mood today says nothing about your personality.”
Looking back at the year so far, temperatures across the planet continue to reflect the strong influence of human-caused global warming.
So far, January to October ranks as the sixth hottest such period in the historical record dating back to 1880. Temperatures globally have been more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, and by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31, NOAA scientists say it is virtually certain that 2021 will rank as one of the hottest years ever recorded.
“The year — 2021 — is virtually certain to rank among the 10 warmest years on record globally, with the highest probability of ranking as the sixth warmest year on record,” said Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.