NEW YORK The La Nina weather anomaly has strengthened and there is a chance it could plague countries around the Asia-Pacific rim until the summer, the government's Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.
In a monthly update, the Center said current "oceanic and atmospheric conditions are similar to those accompanying the last strong La Nina episode in 1998-2000."
The weather phenomenon should last through June and even though there are considerable differences in the computer models, approximately half indicate that "La Nina could continue well into the Northern Hemisphere summer."
That would mean La Nina would last into the annual Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1 and runs to November 30.
La Nina, which means "little girl" in Spanish, usually results in cooler than normal water in the equatorial Pacific which in turn drenches the Pacific Northwest while sparking drought in the parched U.S. Southwest.
In the more famous El Nino phenomenon, waters in the Pacific turn abnormally warm, wreaking havoc in weather patterns around the Asia-Pacific rim.
The CPC said the northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys should see above-average rain. The south and southeastern United States will receive below-average rain.
The Southeastern United States was recently hammered by a bad drought which threatened to reduce water supplies to cities like Atlanta, Georgia.
The center said above-average rains should drench Indonesia and saw below-average rainfall in the central Pacific. But a searing drought has also battered Australia.
(Reporting by Rene Pastor, editing by Matthew Lewis)