Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Not Cool

Last year's El Niño helped keep a lid on what was forecast to be a busy hurricane season (actually, it was the opposite, if I remember right: stronger than normal winds from the west literally sheared off storm-cloud layers).

Unfortunately, the pattern is reversing:

Forecasters warned Tuesday that a La Nina weather pattern — the nasty flip side of El Nino — is brewing, bringing with it the threat of more hurricanes for the Atlantic...

"We're seeing a shift to the La Nina, it's clearly in the data," NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher said. La Nina, a cooling of the mid-Pacific equatorial region, has not officially begun because it's a process with several months with specific temperature thresholds, but the trend is obvious based on satellite and ocean measurement data, he said.

"It certainly won't be welcome news for those living off the coast right now," Lautenbacher said. But he said that doesn't mean Atlantic seaboard residents should sell their homes.

Forecasters don't know how strong this La Nina will be. However, it typically means more hurricanes in the Atlantic, fewer in the Pacific, less rain and more heat for the already drought-stricken South, and a milder spring and summer in the north, Lautenbacher said. The central plains of the United States tend be drier in the fall during La Ninas, while the Pacific Northwest tends to be wetter in the late fall and early winter.

Of course, it's impossible to know for sure what will come with a given storm season; however, if you want to look at hurricane season records from the last La Niña event (1998-2001), you can find them here.

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