"The central equatorial Pacific Ocean could stay colder than normal into summer and beyond. That's because sea level is already about 10 centimeters (4 inches) below normal, creating a significant deficit of the heat stored in the upper ocean," said JPL oceanographer and climatologist Bill Patzert. "The next few months will reveal if the current cooling trend will eventually evolve into a long-lasting La Niña situation."
A La Niña is essentially the opposite of an El Niño. During a La Niña, trade winds in the western equatorial Pacific are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific. La Niñas change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air, resulting in less rain along the coasts of North and South America. They also tend to increase the formation of tropical storms in the Atlantic.
"For the American Southwest, La Niñas usually bring a dry winter, not good news for a region that has experienced normal rain and snowpack only once in the past five winters," said Patzert.