Climate change: will La Niña more frequent in the future?

Good odds of La Niña staying for now

According to the latest WMO forecast on June 10, 2022, there is a 50 to 60 percent chance that La Niña will last until July or September of this year. This will likely result in more Atlantic hurricanes hitting eastern North America through November and fewer Pacific hurricanes hitting mostly Mexico. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center predicted a 51% chance of a La Niña in early 2023. The strange thing, according to L’Heureux, is that unlike previous triple dips, persistent La Niña has yet to occur after a strong El Niño , Which usually warms the ocean for a year or two. “I keep asking myself: Where does the momentum for this come from?” says L’Heureux.

Does global warming favor La Niña?

The central question is whether climate change is altering El Niño and whether La Niña conditions will become more common in the future. Researchers have observed a shift in El Niño over the past few decades: the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that strong El Niño and La Niña events have been more common since 1950 than in previous centuries. However, the commission was unable to determine whether this was due to natural variability or climate change.

Overall, IPCC models actually suggest that warming oceans due to climate change are leading to more El Niño-like events, says Richard Seger of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. Oddly enough, Seager says, observations over the past 50 years have shown the opposite: As the climate warms, the front of deep, rising waters in the eastern tropical Pacific has remained cool, creating more La Niña-like conditions..

Some researchers argue that the records are too few to clearly show what is going on. Or there are simply too many natural fluctuations in the system for researchers to be able to identify long-term trends. But it could also be that the IPCC models are missing something very much, says L’Heureux, “and something that is a much more serious problem.” Seager thinks the models are really wrong and The planet will experience more La Niña-like patterns in the future. Models can be biased because they do not capture the cold waters of the eastern Pacific. Seeger said more and more researchers are taking this idea seriously.

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