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article imageEl Nino's impact is not over as its sibling looms — Part 2

By Karen Graham     May 6, 2016 in Environment
After experiencing a record El Nino, signs are pointing to the formation of La Nina, the flip-side of El Nino, and the odds of La Nina forming have jumped to 70 percent. There is a lot of interest in how strong La Nina might be and how it will affect us.
La Nina and El Nino are extreme, large-scale changes in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, with La Niña sometimes referred to as the cold phase of ENSO and El Niño as the warm phase of ENSO.
Just as scientists did when tracking El Nino, they will use the same parameters in tracking la Nina. La Nina is characterized by colder ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Under normal conditions, we see warm water along the equator in the western Pacific Ocean and cold water along the equator along the eastern Pacific Ocean.
So when conditions are set for a La Nina event, there will be unusually cold ocean temperatures along the equator in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean. In other words, the normal band of cold ocean water extends further west as La Nina grows.
La Nina around the world
El Nino and La Nina have global impacts on our weather, with La Nina producing just the opposite effects from El Nino, especially in the tropics. While Australia and India, along with Sub-Saharan Africa have been experiencing severe drought with El Nino, La Nina will bring wetter than normal conditions, resulting in flooding and landslides.
La Nina conditions can last from nine months to as long as two years and usually recur on average every three to five years. In the U.S., drier conditions in the Southwest, Central plains, and Southeast are usually seen in the fall and winter. In contrast, the Northwest is usually wetter than normal. Basically, winters are warmer in the Southeast and colder in the Northwest.
Will we see an economic impact with La Nina?
With El Nino finally weakening, damage to economies around the world has exceeded $10 billion in losses. Sugar and rice production were hit especially hard, causing price hikes in both commodities. The droughts and heatwaves in Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa caused a considerable amount of damage.
Flooding on the streets of Norfolk  VA as a result of Hurricane Sandy
Flooding on the streets of Norfolk, VA as a result of Hurricane Sandy
Depending on the severity of the coming La Nina, there could be both good and bad news. For example, in India, where farmers are dependent on monsoonal rains for their livelihood, past La Nina cycles have resulted in an average 8.9 percent increase in GDP for the country, according to the Economic Times.
In the United States, CNN Money reports, La Nina cycles usually coincide with an increase in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes, and they can cause substantial damage to infrastructure and the economies of the eastern Seaboard. During the last significant La Nina, in 2010, the U.S. experienced a record winter snowfall, heavy spring flooding and drought across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
The bottom line? It is still too early to tell how strong La Nina will be or how long it will last. There are predictions, based on models, but to assume any of them will come to pass is guessing, at best. Digital Journal will follow the tracking of La Nina and pass on any significant information.
More about la nina, economic impact, opposite of el nino, longer lasting, Flooding
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