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La Niña, sometimes informally called "anti-El Niño", is the opposite of El Niño, where the latter corresponds instead to a higher sea surface temperature by a deviation of at least 0.5 °C, and its effects are often the reverse of those of El Niño. El Niño is famous due to its potentially catastrophic impact on the weather along both the Chilean, Peruvian and Australian coasts, among others. La Niña is often preceded by a strong El Niño.

Effects

The results of La Niña are mostly the opposite of those of El Niño; for example, El Niño would cause a wet period in the Midwestern U.S., while La Niña would typically cause a dry period in that area. At the other side of the Pacific La Niña can cause heavy rains. For India, an El Niño is often a cause for concern because of its adverse impact on the south-west monsoon; this happened in 2009. A La Niña, on the other hand, is often beneficial for the monsoon, especially in the latter half. The La Niña that appeared in the Pacific in 2010 probably helped 2010's south-west monsoon end on a favourable note. But then, it also contributed to the deluge in Australia, which resulted in one of that country's worst natural disasters with large parts of Queensland either under water from floods of unusual proportions or being battered by tropical cyclones, including that of category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasi. It wreaked similar havoc in south-eastern Brazil and played a part in the heavy rains and consequent flooding that have affected Sri Lanka.

Recent occurrences

There was a strong La Niña episode during 1988–1989. La Niña also formed in 1995, and in 1999–2000. A minor La Niña occurred 2000–2001. The La Niña which developed in mid 2007 and lasted until early 2009, was a moderate one. NOAA confirmed that a moderate La Niña developed in their November El Niño/Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion, and that it would likely continue into 2008. According to NOAA, "Expected La Niña impacts during November – January include a continuation of above-average precipitation over Indonesia and below-average precipitation over the central equatorial Pacific. For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above average precipitation in the Northern Rockies, Northern California, and in southern and eastern regions of the Pacific Northwest. Below-average precipitation is expected across the southern tier, particularly in the southwestern and southeastern states.

However, an El Niño returned in May–June 2009 and lasted until April 2010. The effects of El Niño in 2009 were already being seen in the fall of 2009 as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida strengthened into a powerful coastal storm.

A new La Niña episode developed quite quickly in the eastern and central tropical Pacific in mid-2010, and lasted at least until early 2011. This La Niña, combined with record-high ocean temperatures in the north-eastern Indian Ocean, has been a large factor in the 2010–2011 Queensland floods, and the quartet of recent heavy snowstorms in North America starting with the December 2010 North American blizzard. The same La Nina event is also a likely cause of a series of tornadoes of above-average severity that struck the Midwestern and Northwestern United States in the spring of 2011, and is currently a major factor in the drought conditions persisting in the South Central states including Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

"La Niña" events between 1950 and 2011:

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