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Metro Vancouver is 'transitioning' out of a La Niña pattern. Here's what to expect next

Environment Canada weighs in on the possibility of El Niño impacting the region.
The Metro Vancouver weather forecast has been influenced by La Niña in 2023 at the start of the year but a transition will occur, says Environment Canada.

After three years of being impacted by La Niña conditions, Metro Vancouver is expected to transition to a "neutral" state. 

La Niña, "the girl" in Spanish, names the "appearance of cooler than normal waters" in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, according to the Canadian government; it is the opposite of an El Niño weather event. 

Locally, the weather phenomenon tends to produce snowier and cooler-than-normal conditions over the mountains. 

In late December, a couple of powerful winter storms brought record-breaking cold temperatures and snowfall to the region, wreaking havoc on the transportation network. 

Environment Canada Meteorologist Bobby Sekhon tells V.I.A. that there will be a transition from La Niña to ENSO-neutral starting in February. ENSO stands for El Niño–Southern Oscillation.

By March to May, the chance for ENSO-neutral conditions in the Northern Hemisphere is 82 per cent, according to a recent update from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center.

El Niño and the Metro Vancouver weather forecast

The effects of the weather anomaly will linger into the spring, as there isn't a definitive cut-off point. But as to what type of conditions should be expected next winter, it is far too early to tell, Sekhon noted. 

There has been some speculation that the next winter could be impacted by El Niño, which generally brings a wilder winter to the west coast. 

At this juncture, however, it is difficult to forecast what the conditions will be beyond the spring and summer. Currently, the national weather forecaster doesn't have a signal above 60 per cent that the next winter will be impacted by El Niño.

"It's not a sure bet by any means," Sekhon underscored, noting that the strength of the signal is basically "50/50" and doesn't provide a clear estimate of the next winter. 

Typically, La Niña or El Niño don't start to impact Metro Vancouver until late December. But myriad factors influence the local weather, including cooler-than-average waters off B.C.'s south coast that are part of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The pattern produces cooler-than-average temperatures in its "negative phase." 

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