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La Niña and the Snow Drought

Snow drought? Yep, snow drought! In fact, much of the US is experiencing a snow drought so far this winter. The culprit? La Niña! This weather pattern brings with it drier than normal conditions for most of the country as it passes over the US. These conditions, known as a cold phase, are the result of cooler than normal Pacific Ocean temperatures off the coast of South America. In the past half century, strong La Niña conditions have occurred about a dozen times and have ranged in length from several months to as much 2 and even 3 years.

The effects of La Niña on the US climate vary by region. In the Southwest, conditions are drier in late summer and into the winter. The Central plains experience a drier fall and the Southeast a drier winter with warmer temps. In contrast, the Pacific Northwest actually endures a wetter than normal late fall and early winter along with cooler than normal temps. The opposite weather pattern, El Niño, is a warm phase which brings with it above average precipitation for much of the US, although less storminess in the northern region.

Understanding impending climate changes in the regions surrounding your business operations can help you proactively adjust your strategies. Doing so can help you avoid losses while leveraging opportunities.  Preparing for the onset of a warm or cold phase is of particular economic importance to water, energy and transportation managers, as well as agriculture, fishing, forestry, and other seasonally dependent industries. The impact of being prepared for floods and droughts has far-reaching social benefits as well. Let us know if you’d like to include weather data in your next territory mapping assessment.

Just for fun, check out this graphic depiction of developing La Niña and El Niño weather conditions at Geoscience Animations