Weather Buzzwords: El Nińo VS La Nińa

Meteorologist Rob Guariano reporting for a SnowPlowNews weather update. In this episode, Rob explains the difference in El Nińo and La Nińa.

El Nińo And La Nińa Stir Up Global Weather


Weather 101 El Nino vs La NinaYou’ve heard the phrases tossed around all over weather forecasts for years now: El Nińo and La Nińa. Both are complex weather patterns resulting from fluctuations in ocean water temperatures. Those ocean temperatures react with the atmospheric temperatures to create some havoc. Generally speaking, these periods last for 9 – 12 months and recur every 2 to 7 years.

So, what’s the difference? Imagine them as brother and sister. El Nińo means ‘The Little Boy’ in Spanish, so think of El Nińo as big brother. La Nińa means ‘The Little Girl’ in Spanish, so consider La Nińa as the little sister. El Nińo is compared to a boy because, well, little boys can be ornery. Little girls aren’t usually as ornery, but they can still be a handful. You know the old rhyme ― “girls are made of sugar and spice” and “boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails”.

El Nińo Is Known As The Warm Phase
Weather 101 El Nino














Big brother, El Nińo, is known as the “warm phase” of the oscillating pattern and typically brings along more extreme weather. Warming Pacific Ocean surface waters cause the tension in the atmosphere that results in warmer than average temperatures over much of North America during winter months. Southern states can expect to be a bit cooler and wetter than normal. The warmer Eastern Pacific waters change global weather dynamics and fosters the odd weather. The effects are strongest during northern hemisphere winters because ocean temperatures globally are at their warmest.

La Nińa Is Known As The Cool Phase

Weather 101 La Nina















Little sister, La Nińa, is known as the “cool phase” and ushers in cooler than normal temperatures. La Nińa will still result in winter storms, but usually not as severe as big brother. During a La Nińa winter, temperatures tend to be warmer in the Southeast and cooler in the Northwest. Southern states will tend to see less precipitation.

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