FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Leslie
FORECASTERS PREDICT LA NIÑA WILL LINGER UNTIL JUNE -- AT LEAST
Record snowfall and sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast, heavy rains in the Northwest, and conditions that have fueled tornado outbreaks in the South resemble the characteristics of La Niña predicted last September by meteorologists with the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The latest forecast from NOAA's National Weather Service reveals La Niña will linger through June, if not longer.
La Niña, the climatic opposite of El Niño, is defined as cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather patterns. Conditions for this cold episode strengthened throughout the tropical Pacific in December, as sea surface temperatures continued to drop. A month later, many Americans are feeling the effects.
"The conditions we're seeing that are generating weather extremes this winter are largely consistent with La Niña," said Ed O'Lenic, a forecaster at the NWS' Climate Prediction Center. "Everyone should be prepared because extreme weather may reoccur this cold season," he added.
Scientists at NOAA's Storm
Prediction Center, the national center for severe weather
forecasting, report a preliminary count of 101 tornadoes since
the new year, breaking the national record for the most tornadoes
ever recorded during the month of January. The previous high
total was 52 in January 1975.
Thirty-one tornadoes touched down in parts
of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, on Jan. 17, followed
by another outbreak of 55 tornadoes across the South on
La Niña pushes unusually warm air farther to the north and unusually cold air farther to the south, making conditions ripe for severe, warm-weather events -- such as tornadoes -- to happen in the winter, O'Lenic explained.
The latest forecast calls for continued abnormal wetness in the Northwest, the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley; abnormal dryness in the Southwest to the central and southern Great Plains, and in Florida and southern sections of Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida and areas in the Southwest can expect above- normal temperatures. Sections of the Northwest, plus areas from Minnesota across the Great Lakes to northern Pennsylvania, New York and New England, will experience abnormally cold temperatures. In addition, extended periods of rain may cause widespread flooding well into next week over an area extending from Iowa, eastward to the Atlantic Coast of Southern New England.
Joseph Schaefer, director of the Storm
Prediction Center, said that while climatic events such as El
Niño and La Niña "set the stage" in determining
large scale precipitation patterns, the conditions that cause
tornado development act on a much smaller scale. "Be prepared.
Remember that tornadoes can occur in winter," he cautioned.
The plan also should include keeping a
Weather Radio nearby. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts up-to-the-minute
NWS forecasts and warnings 24 hours a day. The radios also come
with a tone-alert feature, which allows users to program it to
automatically sound an alarm once a watch or warning is issued
for their immediate area -- even when they are asleep.