La Niña Is Back, Bringing Rain and Drought for Second Straight Year

The World Meteorological Organization predicts that La Niña will result in cooler, wetter weather in Australia. California, Europe and South America will experience much warmer, drier weather.

Dec. 20, 2021
By Ephantus Mukundi

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For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, the weather phe­nom­e­non known as La Niña has devel­oped in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to con­tinue until 2022.

The coun­ter­part of the oppos­ing and bet­ter-known El Niño is expected to inten­sify rain and drought in dif­fer­ent world regions.

2021 will be one of the 10 warmest years on record, rather than the warmest year. This is a short-lived respite and does not… reduce the urgency of cli­mate action.- Petteri Taalas, sec­re­tary-gen­eral, WMO

While El Niño is linked to abnor­mal warm­ing of the east­ern equa­to­r­ial Pacific Ocean, La Niña involves cool­ing this sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of the ocean.

See Also:Meteorologists Confirm Record-High Arctic Temperature

The cool­ing effect causes changes in atmos­pheric cir­cu­la­tion or winds, air pres­sure and rain­fall, dis­rupt­ing weather pat­terns across the world.

According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the 2021/22 La Niña will be weak or mod­er­ate com­pared to 2020/21.

However, it still car­ries the pos­si­bil­ity of affect­ing sen­si­tive sec­tors such as water sup­ply, health, dis­as­ter man­age­ment and agri­cul­ture because some areas are likely to receive more rain­fall com­pared to oth­ers, with some regions endur­ing pro­longed dry spells.

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Anticipated precipitation changes due to La Niña. (Image: WMO)

“[La Niña’s] impacts can really spread around the world because of the way global cir­cu­la­tion works,” Tim Stockdale, a researcher at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, told the Financial Times.

The WMO fore­casts an unusu­ally warm win­ter for the Arctic and north­ern Asia, east­ern North America and Europe. Above-aver­age tem­per­a­tures are also expected in the South Pacific and equa­to­r­ial Africa.

South America, north­west­ern North America, the Indian sub­con­ti­nent, South East Asia and Australia are all expected to expe­ri­ence cooler weather than usual.

The cool­ing impact of 2020/21 La Niña – which is typ­i­cally felt in the sec­ond half of the event – means that 2021 will be one of the 10 warmest years on record, rather than the warmest year,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. This is a short-lived respite and does not reverse the long-term warm­ing trend or reduce the urgency of cli­mate action.”

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Anticipated temperature changes due to La Niña. Image: WMO

La Niña’s effects also include abnor­mally long dry spells in Central Asia and North and South America. Last year’s La Niña has been linked with an ongo­ing drought in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the north­west­ern United States is expected to expe­ri­ence unusu­ally wet con­di­tions through­out the year.

Good for [the Northwest], prob­a­bly not so good for cen­tral, south­ern California,” Mike Halpert, the deputy direc­tor of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s cli­mate pre­dic­tion cen­ter, told ABC News.

The phe­nom­e­non also causes higher-than-nor­mal rain­fall cou­pled with cyclones in South East Asia and Australia, which expe­ri­enced the wettest November 2021 in 121 years of recorded his­tory.

Additionally, more coun­tries are likely to feel the effects of La Niña because vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions have been hit hard by extreme weather events in recent years and the Covid-19 pan­demic.

According to WMO, there is a 90 per­cent chance that trop­i­cal Pacific sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures will remain at La Niña lev­els until the end of 2021 and a 75 per­cent chance of the tem­per­a­tures stay­ing at La Niña lev­els until the first quar­ter of 2022.



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