WASHINGTON — In the midst of an epic El Nino, federal meteorologists say its flip side, La Nina, is around the corner.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center on Thursday reported that the current strong El Nino is weakening but likely to stick around a couple more months. At the same time, NOAA issued a formal watch for a fall arrival of La Nina, saying there is a 70 percent chance for the flip side of El Nino.

Prediction center deputy director Mike Halpert said it often means dry weather for the U.S. Southwest and parts of California, which haven’t quite recovered from a four-year drought.

“A dry winter next year won’t be good, I can assure you of that,” Halpert said.

What may be truly confusing is this summer’s Atlantic hurricane season, Halpert said. At the start of the summer, Earth may still be in the tail end of an El Nino, which often reduces the number of Atlantic hurricanes. But by the time the hurricane season hits its fall peak, it should be a La Nina, which tends to increase the number of storms.