Just posted a piece on the IRI home page about the latest La Niña. The map I show here tells us where and when in the world we can expect shifts in rainfall due to La Niña. We also produced a set of three video interviews of IRI scientists Lisa Goddard, Brad Lyon, Dave Dewitt and Paul Block, who share their knowledge of the La Niña – El Niño phenomenom, aka ENSO.
La Niña and Rainfall. For high res PDF (3.2mb)
As of mid-January, moderate-to-strong La Niña conditions continue to exist in the tropical Pacific. Scientists at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society expect these to linger, potentially causing additional shifts in rainfall patterns across many parts of the world in months to come. These shifts, combined with socioeconomic conditions and other factors, can make some parts of the world more vulnerable to impacts. However, La Niña conditions do allow the IRI and other institutions to produce more accurate seasonal forecasts and help better predict extreme drought or rainfall in some parts of the world. This enhanced predictability could help societies improve preparedness, issue early warnings and reduce any potentially negative impacts from La Niña.
“Based on current observations and on predictions from models, we see at least a 90% chance that La Niña conditions will continue through March 2011,” says IRI’s chief forecaster, Tony Barnston.
The term La Niña refers to a period of cooler-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that occurs as part of natural climate variability. This situation is roughly the opposite of what happens during El Niño events, when waters in this region are warmer-than-normal (see our past story on El Niño). Both are part of a larger climate cycle known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. Because the Pacific is the largest ocean on the planet, any significant changes in average conditions there, such as those that occur during La Niña or El Niño, can have consequences for temperature, rainfall and vegetation in faraway places.
Read the rest here.
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Forecasts by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and other institutions show that a weak El Niño has developed in the equatorial Pacific, and is likely to continue evolving with warmer-than-normal conditions persisting there until early 2010.
Given this,the IRI is trying to use the opportunity to educate people about El Niño and its cooler sister, La Niña. We decided to do this by addressing some common misconceptions that our scientists come across when talking with people about these important climate phenomena. Such “list” stories are quite effective on the web and are favorites for people to spread via sharing and social networks.
I also kicked off a series of brief audio interviews with our top scientists to discuss how El Niño affects food production, health, water availability and other social concerns. By releasing these over a few months, I can keep communicating to journalists, policy makers, etc., that IRI staff has a deep and broad level of knowledge on the topic. Below are the first few paragraphs of the story. Enjoy, and share!
Forecasts by the IRI and other institutions show that a weak El Niño has developed in the equatorial Pacific, and is likely to continue evolving with warmer-than-normal conditions persisting there until early 2010.What exactly is this important climate phenomenon and why should society care about it? Who will be most affected? We address these questions as well as clear up some common misconceptions about El Niño, La Niña, and everything in between!
First, the basics.
El Niño refers to the occasional warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean around the equator. The warmer water tends to get only 1 to 3 degrees Celsius above average sea-surface temperatures for that area, although in the very strong El Niño of 1997-98, it reached 5 degrees or more above average in some locations. La Niña is the climatological counterpart to El Niño– a yin to its yang, so to speak. A La Niña is defined by cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures across much of the equatorial eastern and central Pacific. El Niño and La Niña episodes each tend to last roughly a year, although occasionally they may last 18 months or longer.
The Pacific is the largest ocean on the planet, so a significant change from its average conditions can have consequences for temperature, rainfall and vegetation in faraway places. In normal years, trade winds push warm water-and its associated heavier rainfall-westward toward Indonesia. But during an El Niño, which occurs on average once every three-to-five years, the winds peter out and can even reverse direction, pushing the rains toward South America instead. This is why we typically associate El Niño with drought in Indonesia and Australia and flooding in Peru. These changing climate conditions, combined with other factors, can have serious impacts on society, such as reduced crop harvests, wildfires, or loss of life and property in floods. There is also evidence that El Niño conditions increase the risk of certain vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, in places where they don’t occur every year and where disease control is limited.
During either an El Niño or a La Niña, we also observe changes in atmospheric pressure, wind and rainfall patterns in different parts of the Pacific, and beyond. An El Niño is associated with high pressure in the western Pacific, whereas a La Niña is associated with high pressure in the eastern Pacific. The ‘seesawing’ of high pressure that occurs as conditions move from El Niño to La Niña is known as the Southern Oscillation. The oft-used term El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, reminds us that El Niño and La Niña episodes reflect changes not just to the ocean, but to the atmosphere as well.
ENSO is one of the main sources of year-to-year variability in weather and climate on Earth and has significant socioeconomic implications for many regions around the world. The development of a new El Niño episode in recent months offers an opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions about the climate phenomenon:
El Niño periods cause more disasters than normal periods. On a worldwide basis, this isn’t necessarily the case. But ENSO conditions do allow climate scientists to produce more accurate seasonal forecasts and help them better predict extreme drought or rainfall in several regions around the globe. (Read a 2005 paper on the topic here.)
On a regional level, however, we’ve seen that El Niño and La Niña exert fairly consistent influences on the climate of some regions. For example, El Niño conditions typically cause more rain to fall in Peru, and less rain to fall in Indonesia and Southern Africa. These conditions, combined with socioeconomic factors, can make a country or region more vulnerable to impacts.
“On the other hand, because El Niño enhances our ability to predict the climate conditions expected in these same regions, one can take advantage of that improved predictability to help societies improve preparedness, issue early warnings and reduce possible negative impacts,” says Walter Baethgen who runs IRI’s Latin America and the Carribbean regional program.
El Niño and La Niña significantly affect the climate in most regions of the globe. Actually, they significantly affect only about 25% of the world’s land surface during any particular season, and less than 50% of land surface during the entire time that ENSO conditions persist.
Regions that are affected by El Niño and La Niña see impacts during the entire 8 to 12 months that the climate conditions last. No. Most regions will only see impacts during one specific season, which may start months after the ENSO event first develops. For example, the current El Niño may cause the southern U.S. to get wetter-than-normal conditions in the December to March season, but Kenyans may see wetter-than-normal conditions between October and December.
El Niño episodes lead to adverse impacts only. Fires in southeast Asia, droughts in eastern Australia, flooding in Peru often accompany El Niño events. Much of the media coverage on El Niño has focused on the more extreme and negative consequences typically associated with the phenomenon. To be sure, the impacts can wreak havoc in developing and developed countries alike, but El Niño events are also associated with reduced frequency of Atlantic hurricanes, warmer winter temperatures in northern half of U.S., which reduce heating costs, and plentiful spring/summer rainfall in southeastern Brazil, central Argentina and Uruguay, which leads to above-average summer crop yields.
Read the rest of the story and listen to an audio interview with IRI’s Director-General, Steve Zebiak.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)
Tony’s take-home message from today’s climate briefing: “Well, the La Niña finally died.”
The new set of forecasts show that conditions are expected to be neutral–as opposed to favoring another La Niña or an El Niño–through at least spring of next year.
I don’t have time to prep a more full report, as I’m getting ready for a reporting trip to the Philippines and Indonesia next month. However, I did want to highlight the flood data from the Dartmouth Flood Observatory that Ale Giannini showed us this afternoon. I had never heard of this valuable resource before, and certainly would have used it in my days as an infographics editor. Ale first put up a composite map of all the floods which have been recorded in 2008 (show here June events are numbered 62-75; click on the image to load the larger version).
Then she showed how a few rainfall anomaly plots for June compared:
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Check out all of IRI’s forecasts here.
The latest set of forecasts from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society indicate that we’re going to see La Niña persist at least into late spring.
La Niña conditions continue in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) exist from the west coast of South America to west of the dateline. Based on the latest observations and forecasts, there is a 96% probability of maintaining La Niña conditions over the coming season.
La Niña is characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ccean, and thus the opposite of El Niño, which is defined by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the same region.
IRI also has temperature and precipitation forecasts here.Filed under IRI related | Comment (0)