Arctic outbreak: La Nina could bring more lowland snow to Washington

SEATTLE -- It's time to dig out the powder skis.

La Nina is back.

Forecasters say La Nina, the cooler, wetter cousin of El Nino, is returning for the second straight winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday a weak La Nina has formed and is expected to stick around for several months. La Nina is a natural cooling of parts of the Pacific that alters weather patterns worldwide.

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La Nina typically brings drier conditions to the U.S. South and wetter weather to the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. Indonesia, the Philippines, northeastern South America and South Africa often see more rain during La Nina winters.

Q13 News Meteorologist M.J. McDermott says last year was also a "weak La Nina year." This year looks to be a tiny bit stronger; which again means heavy snowfall in the mountains and likely snow in the lowlands.

"The chance of lowland snow increases with La Nina," McDermott said.

La Nina can increase the chance of cold air coming down from the north. "Frigid air," is rare in the Pacific Northwest, and a blast to the senses.

"We could maybe even see an arctic outbreak," McDermott said.

The last moderate La Nina year was the 2011-12 winter, data shows. A storm in January 2012 pounded the area with snow and rain, knocking power out for more than 200,000 in the area.

Though the winter will be good for skiers, getting over the passes could be tough. Folks should pay more attention than usual to the pass and lowland forecast, Q13 News Meteorologist Tim Joyce said.