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Las Vegans can expect a warmer, drier winter thanks to La Niña weather patterns

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Associated Press
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Forecasters says La Niña weather patterns could bring a dry winter to the West, which suffered through a record fire season this year. Above, Santa Barbara County Fire Department firefighters extinguish a roadside fire next last month.

Southern Nevadans can expect a drier than normal winter thanks to Pacific Ocean weather patterns, a UNR climate expert predidts.

Federal forecasters say La Niña climate conditions have emerged for the second winter in a row, likely leading to wetter weather in the East, a more active hurricane season, and a warmer, drier winter in the Southwest.

La Niña, which means little girl in Spanish, is the name for weather phenomena where changes in Pacific Ocean water temperature move the jet stream north, bringing less moisture to the Southwest.

"We often see that the storms that come across the Pacific and bring us rain here in the Western U.S. are hitting a little bit further north,” said ​Stephanie McAfee, a UNR climatologist and geography professor.

McAfee told State of Nevada that because of last year’s La Niña, “the winter of 2020 to 2021 was definitely notably drier” in the Las Vegas area.

“Southern Nevada got less than half of the winter precipitation they would expect,” she said, adding that a changing climate makes studying weather phenomenon “a little bit more difficult to track.”

McAfee said while Southern Nevada is likely to have a dry winter, it is not clear what the weather will be in the Reno area or upstream on the Colorado River.

“In Northern Nevada, the relationship between La Niña and what winter is like, is not very predictable at all,” she said, and “it's not as good a predictor when we're looking at where the water comes from” on the river to fill Lake Mead.

​Stephanie McAfee, climatologist and geography professor, UNR

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.