Forecasts Predict La Niña Conditions for Third Year in a Row
Forecasts suggest that we’ll have La Niña -- a weather pattern linked with flooding and drought -- for the third fall and winter in a row. This "triple dip” has only happened twice in the last seventy years. The current La Niña started in late summer 2020, and is one of the strongest La Niñas in recent memory, and it hasn’t let up: May of 2022 was the "second-strongest La Niña month on record,” according to Azhar Ehsan, who chairs Columbia University’s El Niño/La Niña forecasting.
Why This Matters
La Niña worsens summer heat, drought, hurricanes, and flooding across the world. We’re already seeing the effects of prolonged La Niña conditions. Record flooding in Australia already caused tens of thousands to evacuate, while India and Pakistan’s blistering spring heat wave has also been linked to La Niña. When the current La Niña formed in 2020, the Atlantic set a record for the number of named storms. The US West and Southwest are in the midst of a megadrought and if La Niña conditions persist the drought will get worse, in turn, putting the region at risk of a brutal wildfire season once again.
Human-caused climate change intensifies the effects of La Niña. "[It] means longer and more intense heat waves, longer-duration droughts, larger and more costly wildfires and more devastating floods, such as those we have observed recently,” climatologist Bill Patzert explained to the LA Times.
Down to Earth: La Nina and its Significance in a Warming World, June 16, 2022.
Predictions for This Year’s La Niña
While the second and third years of La Niña tend to be less severe, Columbia University’s IRI Forecast Group reported in May that 2022's La Niña could be particularly intense, given that the spring was so hot.
Low water levels are worsening hydropower in California, and the government has already imposed water restrictions. These dry conditions lead to risks of wildfires, and last month, President Biden declared New Mexico's wildfires a state of emergency.
Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub director, said "We’ve had two of these back-to-back starting in the fall of 2020 and into present day. We thought it would maybe weaken, and it did weaken a little bit this spring, but it has strengthened, and the forecasts indicate it’s more likely than not that it continues into a third year.”
CBC: Rare 'triple-dip' La Niña could mean a wild winter ahead for Western Canada, June 17, 2022.
La Niña conditions have impacts as far-reaching as the Indian subcontinent, where the fluctuation of ocean surface temperatures causes high pressure over the eastern equatorial Pacific and "a moisture-laden wind movement from East to West Pacific and Asia.”
"It means, if there is active La Niña, there is high probability of flood in Bangladesh," said Dr. Rashed Chowdhury, an adjunct at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University, in an interview with the Daily Star.
While Chowdhury also stated that predictions are never 100% accurate, this week in Bangladesh, several regions were flooded with cataclysmic rains with warnings from the nation's flood forecast of more precipitation to come. As of Thursday, around six million have been affected, many are without access to food, water, or essentials, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced and 100 were reported dead across Bangladesh and India. Authorities are actively working to secure medical aid and clean water.
The Print: What is the La Niña that is behind India’s severe weather?, November 18, 2021.
CBC News: Days of heavy rain cause flooding in China, India, Bangladesh, June 22, 2022.