It’s time to bid La Niña adieu. After three years of increased Atlantic hurricane activity, fires, and Western droughts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that La Niña is over and ENSO-neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring and early summer 2023.
But what farmers probably want to know is whether El Niño will develop — which tends to be associated with wetter weather in the southern and western U.S. Many computer climate models are predicting a transition into El Niño sometime later this year, with chances reported around 60 percent by fall. However, right now is a very tricky time of year for the models, due to the “spring predictability barrier.”
According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, we haven’t gone more than four years in a row without an El Niño.
El Niño and La Niña occur from interactions between the ocean’s surface and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific. In Spanish, “La Niña” means “the little girl.” It got its name as a direct response to the phrase “El Niño,” which means “the little boy,” the Spanish diminutive often used to denote the Christ Child.
According to Columbia Climate School’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, both weather patterns tend to develop during April through June, and reach their maximum strength during October through February.
Of the two, La Niña is historically connected to more damaging and expensive weather patterns, not well-favored by American agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that, generally, per-acre corn and winter wheat yields tend to be increased after growing periods marked by El Niño conditions, and reduced after growing periods marked by La Niña conditions.
“If the globe jumps into El Niño it means more rain for the Midwestern Corn Belt and grains in general and could be beneficial,” Michael Ferrari, chief scientific officer of Climate Alpha told the Associated Press.
During La Niña’s recent three-year stay, the U.S. experienced 14 hurricanes and tropical storms whose damages totaled $252 billion.