(Adds background, details, link to full CPC report)
March 8 (Reuters) - The current La Niña phase of the climate cycle will most likely transition during the March-May season to ENSO-neutral conditions, a U.S. government weather forecaster said on Thursday, a development that brings equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures, rainfall patterns and winds closer to average.
The ENSO-neutral condition, affected by neither the El Nino nor La Nina climate phenomenon, is expected to last into the second half of 2018, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said.
The CPC's monthly forecast pegged the chance of ENSO-neutral conditions at about 55 percent during the March-May period. The projection was unchanged from last month when the agency said the La Niña weather cycle was likely to transition into more neutral conditions by spring.
La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and is linked with floods and droughts. It is the opposite phase of what is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.
La Niña emerged in 2016 for the first time since 2012, before fading in early 2017.
Typically less damaging than El Niño, La Niña tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years. During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast United States and cooler than normal in the Northwest, according to the U.S. National Ocean Service.
The Southwest typically sees drought conditions during a La Niña cycle as a high-pressure ridge prevents storms moving west from the Pacific to the states of New Mexico and Arizona.
(Reporting by Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio)
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