Courtesy Texas A&M
Q: You hear a lot about El NiÃ±o and La NiÃ±a. Whatâ€™s the difference?
A: The main difference between the two involves water temperature, explains Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. More specifically, El NiÃ±o and La NiÃ±a â€“ both Spanish for “the childâ€ â€“ refer to anomalies of sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean. “During an El NiÃ±o event, which can last almost a year, the waters in that region are warmer than usual,â€ he says. “The opposite occurs during a La NiÃ±a event â€“ the waters tend to be cooler than usual. But the important thing is that both events can affect weather patterns in the United States and around the world.â€
Q: How do they change our weather?
A: Both El NiÃ±o and La NiÃ±a events are more likely to affect the seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns during the winter than in any other season, McRoberts says. “In general, a La NiÃ±a period means drier weather patterns for Texas, whereas El NiÃ±o is more likely to bring wetter weather during the cold season. There have been numerous studies done on how El NiÃ±o and La NiÃ±a affect weather patterns in other seasons, and this includes hurricanes and their intensity. Some research indicates that the types of hurricanes that affect Texas are more common during La NiÃ±a periods than during neutral or El NiÃ±o periods.â€