Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:20 PM GMT on March 09, 2006
La Niña continues to influence our weather, and has strengthened some in the past month, according the the latest discussion issued today by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. They predict that La Niña will continue at least until June, and probably into October. If this prediction holds true, we are likely to see another very active hurricane season in the Atlantic, as wind shear is typically quite low over the Atlantic during La Niña conditions. Dr. Bill Gray's forecast (issued December 6) is calling for 17 tropical storms (average is 11), 9 hurricanes (average is 6), and 5 intense hurricanes (average is 2-3). It will be interesting to see if the stronger than expected La Niña conditions will cause him to raise his numbers in his forthcoming April 4 forecast for the 2006 hurricane season. The NOAA hurricane forecast will be issued in mid-May.
Figure 1. Heavy La Niña rains fell in mid-February over the Philippines, triggering a devastating mud slide that killed over 1500. Image credit: NASA's TRMM project.
La Niña has brought increased rains to portions of Ecuador, northern Peru, Hawaii (which suffered moderate flooding problems last week), and of course the Philippines, where a devastating mud slide killed over 1500 on the island of Leyte. On the flip side, La Niña has brought drought conditions to the south-central and southwestern U.S. Phoenix, Arizona has recorded its 142nd consecutive day without rain today, and Flagstaff has recorded only 2.6" of snow this winter--77 inches below normal, and 110 inches below last year's snowfall. The Snowbowl ski area near Flagstaff was unable to open this year for the first time in its history. Rain is forecast to fall over much of Arizona on Saturday, but not enough to significantly dent the drought.
My next update depends on the weather--severe weather and tornadoes are expected over much of the southern U.S. today, and we'll see what storms develop. Already this morning, tornadoes have been reported in Arkansas and Tenessee, along with damage from 70 mph thunderstorm winds and baseball-sized hail.
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