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Understanding La Niña Conditions Going Into the Winter Season

Climate Partners Release Regional Impacts and Outlooks for the Winter

The La Niña climate pattern that is currently developing in the eastern Map of La Nina weather patternequatorial Pacific Ocean provides some general predictable outlooks for the coming winter and early spring. A set of two-page, region-specific overviews give outlooks and present potential impacts for the Midwest, the Great Lakes region, and the Missouri River Basin, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, and the National Drought Mitigation Center, with input and information provided by the Midwest Climate Hub and additional federal, university, and state partners.

See the following for region-specific key points, including predicted conditions and potential impacts on agriculture. Note that there is likely to be within-region variation, which is described more fully in each regional outlook.

The Midwest

  • Conditions: This La Niña pattern brings enhanced chances for below-normal temperatures to the upper Midwest, particularly in the more western areas. The Ohio River Valley also sees enhanced chances of wetter-than-normal conditions, particularly for late winter. Warmer or drier weather events can still occur, but those events may be milder and less frequent across the region.
  • Impacts on Agriculture: Increased snowpack could insulate crops from harsh conditions, and colder temperatures in the upper Midwest could limit certain pests and diseases. Cold outbreaks can adversely impact livestock producers due to increased operating costs and animal stress. Also, with much of the lower Midwest entering winter with abundant soil moisture, wetter-than-normal winter conditions could result in delayed spring planting.

Great Lakes Region

  • Conditions: While no two La Niña events are alike, there are some general patterns that are predictable. For instance, the polar jet stream is typically farther south than usual during La Niña winters. This pattern typically brings below-normal temperatures to much of the Great Lakes region, particularly across the western Great Lakes area. The southern Great Lakes may also see a slight shift toward wetter-than-normal conditions. It should be noted the strength of La Niña may impact lake ice extent and thickness.2021 La Nina Outlook image
  • Impacts on Agriculture: La Niña winters tend have above-normal snowpack across the Great Lakes, which could insulate crops to harsh conditions. Cold outbreaks can adversely impact livestock producers due to increased operating costs and animal stress. Also, the southern and eastern Great Lakes currently has abundant soil moisture, meaning wetter-than-normal conditions could lead to delayed spring planting.

The Missouri River Basin

  • Conditions: The typical winter La Niña pattern leads to increased chances for below-normal temperatures across the upper Basin. The northern Rockies may also have increased chances for above-normal snowpack.
  • Impacts on Agriculture: Dry fall conditions may be an issue for winter wheat if timely rains do not materialize. Winter outlooks from NOAA for November through February are leaning slightly towards above-normal precipitation in northwest Wyoming and much of Montana, with higher chances in western Montana, which could help to begin mitigating drought there. Across the region, concerns for the winter may include calving/lambing issues due to cold conditions in northern areas, and the overwintering of pests due to warm conditions in southern areas.

Questions? Contact the Midwest Climate Hub.