We've lived in the Bay Area a pretty long time, but there still seems to be perennial confusion over the El Niño/La Niña cycle — like what year we're in, when the last one was, and what it all means. The Chron and the Sac Bee help us out today, and here are a couple of bullet points to get you through:

  • La Niña typically means cold and dry -- but because, as in so many areas, the Bay Area is special, that doesn't necessarily apply here. The predictable cooler and drier winter season is expected to hit Southern California, with a lot of rain getting dumped on the Pacific Northwest. But for us, it could still go either way.
  • A La Niña year does not always consecutively follow an El Niño year, as it is doing this year. This is the first time this has happened since 1973.
  • Last winter was considered a "strong" or "robust" El Niño, with plenty of rain, so a "strong" La Niña is expected this year, whatever that may mean.
  • According to Bill Patzert, a NASA climatologist, the way the cycle is moving through Northern California right now, we should expect a really dry January and February -- in other words, we're going to get all our rain in November and December, and then see a true La Niña winter like SoCal. Get your skiing in early, Tahoe!