The weather phenomenon known as La Niña is back for a encore, meaning an increased likelihood of a drier and warmer winter and spring for the Southeastern U.S., according to the winter seasonal agricultural outlook from the Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC), a coalition of six universities, including Florida State University, University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Georgia, Auburn University and University of Alabama-Huntsville. 

For Florida, central and lower Alabama, and central and southern Georgia, this could mean that rainfall will be 40 to 60 percent lower than normal and temperatures three to four degrees warmer than normal during this period, which covers from November through March.

According to the SECC, El Niño and La Niña events tend to develop during April-June and tend to reach maximum strength during December-February. Typically, they persist for nine to 12 months.

La Niña conditions take place when surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean along the equator turns colder than normal. La Niña can be thought as the opposite of El Niño conditions, in which the same area of the Pacific is warmer than normal.

La Niña events may last more than one year. And, in fact, they do tend to last longer on average than El Niño events, states the SECC.

Examples of events that lasted longer than one year include the La Niñas of

1954-56 (extreme drought in the Southeastern U.S.), 1973-75, and 1999-2001.This year is the second year of a la Niña pattern that started in July of 2010 and returned after a brief period of neutral conditions during the summer.

Although La Niña events are never the same, drier than normal conditions are generally observed in most of the Southern U.S., according to the outlook.

The current drought outlook for October 2011 through January of 2012 published by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) confirms this trend signaling for drier conditions in most of the same areas.