Arrival of La Nina, threatening more droughts, storms and supply disruptions


A choppy La Nina appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, paving the way for worsening droughts in California and South America, freezing winters in parts of the United States and Japan, and increased risks to energy supplies and food already strained in the world.

The phenomenon, which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler sheet of water over the Pacific Ocean, will likely last until at least February, the US Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. There’s a 57% chance it’s a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the center said. While scientists may take months to confirm if La Nina is definitely back, all signs point to she’s here.

“Whatever you want to see by having a La Nina, we see it,” said Michelle L’Heureux, forecaster at the center, in an interview. “We’re pretty confident La Nina is here.”

Signs have emerged for months that the pattern was likely forming, marking the second La Nina in a row. La Nina, like its counterpart El Nino, typically peaks during the northern hemisphere winter, but its effects can trigger widespread consequences across the world. Its appearance this season could have a powerful impact on agricultural markets that depend on South American crops, which could face drier conditions, as well as palm oil in Indonesia, where flooding could increase. Cold weather and storms tend to favor the Pacific Northwest and the northern plains of the United States as La Nina emerges, choking regional energy markets.

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Fishermen on the shores of Lake Oroville during a drought in Oroville, Calif., Oct. 11. Photographer: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg

Because of La Nina, California may see little relief from its ongoing drought, further exacerbating the wildfire season. The most populous U.S. state typically receives most of its annual water from rain and snow distributed between November and April, a pattern La Nina threatens to disrupt by shifting storms north. La Nina will also likely be bad news for farmers in southern Brazil and Argentina, where the phenomenon can lead to drought, affecting an already ravaged production of corn, coffee and soybeans.

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In addition, the hurricane season in the Atlantic, which has already produced 20 named storms, could be more advanced because of La Nina. This is because it tends to disrupt the wind shear that normally tears storms apart before they get too strong. With few late-season storms threatening oil and gas production and processing in the Gulf of Mexico, expensive real estate along the U.S. east coast will be vulnerable.

Related: US Consumers Are About To Pay A Lot More For Energy This Winter

La Nina’s impact on the northeastern United States might be more difficult to diagnose. Sometimes a La Nina model pulls storms inland, letting more snow and rain fall over the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys, bypassing major cities on the east coast, L said. Happy. The emergence of a La Nina model often brings cold weather in the northern United States, but milder climates in the south. Last year’s winter was the eighth warmest in the world in 142 years of record keeping, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information.

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Forecasters are confident that La Nina will persist through the winter as temperatures on the ocean floor are cooler than normal. In early spring, La Nina will likely fade and the Pacific will return to a neutral or near normal state.

Probably, of course, is the key word here. While forecasters are almost certain that La Nina has formed, it’s difficult to predict long-term temperatures and precipitation rates as other weather conditions can interfere with La Nina.

“The climate outlook is associated with probabilities because they are never guaranteed,” L’Heureux said.

Top photo: Arid lands surround farmland along the Pardo River during a drought in Caconde, Sao Paulo state, Brazil on August 24.

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.

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