La Niña has officially arrived

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After a recent incredibly strong El Niño episode, it looks like the tides — or at least the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures — have shifted.

Conditions have aligned (in some cases barely, but enough) to the point that "La Niña has officially arrived," according to Emily Becker, writing over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) ENSO blog.

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And though these aren't strong La Niña conditions, they will affect the winter weather forecast for the United States. Basically, they increase the chances that winter will be drier and warmer in the southern US, but the north of the country is likely to be colder, wetter, and therefore, snowier than normal.

These predictions are at least fairly similar to those of rough-looking winter forecast that Accuweather sent to Business Insider, predicting mild temperatures in the South and particularly cold temperatures in the upper Midwest, along with wet and stormy conditions in the Northeast (though the La Niña predictions are still uncertain for the Northeast).

Learn more about the recent impact of El Niño in California

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California braces for El Nino
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California braces for El Nino
Glendora resident Frank Salazar stockpiles sandbags to protect his home from flooding in Glendora, Calif., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. After all the talk, El Niño storms have finally lined up over the Pacific and started soaking drought-parched California with rain expected to last for most of the next two weeks, forecasters said Monday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Residents Trina Gonzalez, left, and Todd Peterson stockpile sandbags to protect their homes from the rain in Glendora, Calif., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. After all the talk, El Nino storms have finally lined up over the Pacific and started soaking drought-parched California with rain expected to last for most of the next two weeks, forecasters said Monday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
These false-color images provided by NASA satellites compare warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures from the strong El Nino that brought North America large amounts of rainfall in 1997, right, and the current El Nino as of Dec. 27, 2015, left. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the strong El Nino in the Pacific Ocean shows no sign of weakening. The Pasadena lab said Tuesday that the Dec. 27 image of ocean warming produced by data from its Jason-2 satellite is strikingly similar to one from December 1997 during a previous large El Nino event. (NASA via AP)
Homeless people shelter from the rain under camping tents in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. A weather pattern partly linked with El Nino has turned winter upside-down across the U.S. during a week of heavy holiday travel, bringing spring-like warmth to the Northeast, a risk of tornadoes in the South and so much snow across the West that even skiing slopes have been overwhelmed. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Roofer Michal Swiderski works on putting in a new roof of his home in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. While drought-plagued California is eager for rain, the forecast of a potentially strong El Nino event has communities clearing out debris basins, and urging residents to stock up on emergency supplies and even talking about how a deluge could affect the 50th Super Bowl. Roofers, on the other hand, are seeing an uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Roofer Michal Swiderski preps his roof to replace it for new shingles of his home in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. While drought-plagued California is eager for rain, the forecast of a potentially Godzilla-like El Nino event has communities clearing out debris basins, and urging residents to stock up on emergency supplies and even talking about how a deluge could affect the 50th Super Bowl. Roofers, on the other hand, are reveling in the uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Roofer Michal Swiderski pulls nails from his roof while replacing it for a new shingle roof on his home in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. While drought-plagued California is eager for rain, the forecast of a potentially Godzilla-like El Nino event has communities clearing out debris basins, and urging residents to stock up on emergency supplies and even talking about how a deluge could affect the 50th Super Bowl. Roofers, on the other hand, are reveling in the uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Roofer Michal Swiderski works on putting in a new roof of his home in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. While drought-plagued California is eager for rain, the forecast of a potentially strong El Nino event has communities clearing out debris basins, and urging residents to stock up on emergency supplies and even talking about how a deluge could affect the 50th Super Bowl. Roofers, on the other hand, are seeing an uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Roofer Michal Swiderski preps his roof to replace it for new shingles of his home in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. While drought-plagued California is eager for rain, the forecast of a potentially El Nino event has communities clearing out debris basins, and urging residents to stock up on emergency supplies and even talking about how a deluge could affect the 50th Super Bowl. Roofers, on the other hand, are reveling in the uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
A roofer with Hull Brothers Roofing & Waterproofing checks the waterproofing of an air-condition duct before resurfacing townhomes roofs at the Marina del Rey seaside community of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. Roofers are reveling in the uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Roofer Joel Camberos with Hull Brothers Roofing & Waterproofing resurface townhomes roofs at the Marina del Rey seaside community of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. Roofers are reveling in the uptick in business as homeowners ready for the prospect of downpours after four years of dry weather. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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La Niña is basically the opposite of El Niño, meaning that instead of warm conditions in a particular part of the equatorial Pacific, the water is cooler than average. Since surface temperatures are more than half a degree cooler than average, there's strong atmospheric circulation in the tropics of the Pacific, and forecasters think it will stay cooler for several overlapping three month periods (July to September and August to October both count), we've officially hit the La Niña point.

This — just like when the opposite happens — can change weather around the globe.

Still, these particular conditions are fairly mild, and the effects are slightly complicated by the fact that the Niño region is surrounded by shockingly warm waters.

SSTA_map_ENSO_Nov8_largeSean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

Chances are about 55% that these conditions persist through midwinter.

Here are some of the other specific effects we might see:

  • More clounds and rain over Indonesia.
  • Strong winds over Hawaii.
  • A wet and cold winter in northern states, especially in the upper Midwest (see maps below).
  • Drought persisting in California and the Southwest, potentially expanding into the Southeast.

Here are NOAA's precipitation predictions:

PrecipitationOutlook_Winter2016_4960_with_legendSean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

And temperature projections:

TemperatureOutlook_Winter2016_4960_with_legendSean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

There are still a lot of unknowns here, mostly because long-term seasonal forecasts are still really complicated, according to Mike Halpert, also writing for NOAA's ENSO blog.

"Seasonal climate forecasts are not as skillful as weather predictions," Halpert writes, "and phenomena like El Niño or La Niña only provide some clues, not certainty, as to what might occur during an upcoming season."

It's possible that conditions won't match the predictions, according to Halpert, though over the long term, he says they're still more right than wrong. So if that's the case and you live in a northern state, you might want to get your coats and boots ready.

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