After a year of climate extremes across the country, ranging from hurricane activity to extreme drought and wildfires, experts believe we now have a “double-dip” on the horizon. This means that for the second winter in a row, a La Niña system has developed.
Growing Produce explains it like this:
“La Niña is one part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which is characterized by opposing warm and cool phases of oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. During La Niña winters, the southern tier of the U.S. is often drier and warmer than normal while cooler and wetter in the Northwest.”
What Does This Mean for Growers?
Double-dip years aren’t uncommon, with the most recent instance happening in 2018 and 2019. However, many people don’t realize just how much influence La Niña systems have on weather throughout the country, and not just in the winter. Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, Mike Halpert, explains:
“Our scientists have been tracking the potential development of a La Niña since this summer, and it was a factor in the above-normal hurricane season forecast, which we have seen unfold. La Niña also influences weather across the country during the winter, and it will influence upcoming temperature and precipitation outlooks.”
The effects of this La Niña system are expected to last through the early spring. For growers in the Northwest region, this could mean more rain than usual, especially in the early months of 2022, which could affect crop growth.
Unfortunately for growers in the Southwest, it means that the current drought conditions are expected to continue. An NOAA Drought Task Force reports that it remains to be seen just exactly how far-reaching these drought impacts will be, especially as there’s no end in sight.
“As for when the current event will break, the task force warns that it’s unlikely to be this winter. Thanks in part to the expectation that La Niña will settle into the tropical Pacific by later this fall, odds are that winter preciptation across the Southwest will be below average once again. That means the drought will likely persist well into 2022, and perhaps longer, depending on how unfavorable the coming wet season is.”
Of course, weather conditions can change quickly, keeping growers on their toes so they’re ready to react appropriately. As always, we’ll continue to monitor new climate and weather predictions as they become available and report about them here.