El Niño vs. La Niña: How climate patterns affect our weather

El Niño and La Niña are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide. But, do you know how, or even when, these patterns impact our weather here in the Southeastern United States?

FOX 5 Storm Team Meteorologist Jonathan Stacey explains. Watch the video to join the conversation.

El Niño means Little Boy in Spanish. South American fishermen first noticed periods of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean in the 1600s.

Normally, trade winds push warm surface waters towards Asia.

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El Niño vs. La Niña

However, in certain years, trade winds weaken, pushing warmer water off the coasts of South America.

The warmer waters cause the Pacific jet stream to move south of its neutral position.

With this shift, areas in the northern U.S. and Canada are dryer and warmer than usual.

But in the U.S. Gulf Coast and Southeast, these periods are wetter than usual and have increased flooding.

La Niña means Little Girl in Spanish, and has the opposite effect of El Niño.

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El Niño vs. La Niña

When trade winds are stronger than usual, cooler water surfaces in the Eastern Pacific.

These cold waters in the Pacific push the jet stream northward, and this tends to lead to drought in the southern U.S. and heavy rains and flooding in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the South and cooler than normal in the North.

La Niña can also lead to a more severe hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin.

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