La Niña: Good or Bad?

October 13, 2016
La Niña

Here’s the news – La Niña, that cool pool of water in the Tropical Pacific, is back.

It’s baaaack! La Niña has returned to the Pacific.  Source: NOAA

Here’s the question: Is that good or bad news?

Here’s the answer: It’s good news for the East Coast and not for Texas. It’s great news for a mellow autumn and rough news for mid-winter cold. It’s good news for retailers and ski resorts, it’s bad news for Christmas air travel. In short, it is a mixed bag of weather.

In the second week of September, the water in the Tropical Pacific became 0.9˚F (0.5˚C) colder than normal. This was low enough that the US weather service officially announced that a new La Niña had begun. Over a million square miles of ocean water were cooling the air above it, making the air dry and cold. This changed the air pressure, which changes wind patterns and weather. When such a huge amount of air is changed, it changes weather all around the globe.

Some of the weather changes were great. In general, La Niñas produce warmer and drier autumns, allowing some of those Midwestern crops that were planted late during the spring floods enough time to ripen. This will help the price of food. Unfortunately, the La Nina will also dry conditions in Texas, which could really use some rain.

La Niña also tend to shift the wind and air pressure patterns that steer Atlantic hurricanes. Since the event began in September, hurricanes have been shooting up the Atlantic Ocean, rather than skimming the East Coast, like Hurricane Irene. Storms in the Caribbean have gone due east rather than veering north into the Gulf Coast, like Tropical Storm Lee.

La Niñas frequently create global wind patterns that tend to steer Atlantic hurricanes away from US shores. Source: NOAA

La Niñas also tend to better the odds for cool, snowy mid-winters. This may make Christmas air traffic a mess, but it is the answer to skier’s prayers. This tends to increase midwinter clothing sales, a gift to retailers. And it provides a pretty, white Christmas.

Just remember this Christmas, as you watch the snowflakes fall—it all started with some cool water in the middle of the vast Pacific.

 

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

SUPER DISCOUNT!

Celebrate Almanac Tradition and Save 57% with a Charter Membership in The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club

Best Value Club

You are invited to join The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club at a Special Savings!

An incredible value—57% off for you!
For traditional Almanac fans:
Just $29.97! You save 57%!

Get the best value for your Almanac dollar with these essentials. Claim you Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club Charter Membership today!

YES, sign me up now!