Perfect storm spells drought and hurricanes?

La Niña is one of many cycles and trillions of statistics teaming up for a forecast of a long, dry period ahead.

In its current modeling of the building La Niña event here on Earth, NASA suggests a strong event is likely this fall.

That model is the most bullish on the strength of this La Niña pattern, with most others indicating a moderate event well
into 2021. 

Moderate or strong events add up to the same general theme in the United States: a building drought with devastating hurricanes along the U.S. coastlines.

La Niña is simply the cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the opposite of the more well known El Niño, which brings warmer-than-average ocean temperatures from Peru to Australia. La Niña results in a broad circulation pattern that brings subsiding air (meteorologists call it adiabatic warming) over North America and rising air in the southwest Pacific and Australia.  

They get more rain; we get more drought. Subsiding air heats up and dries out due to compression in the atmosphere. 

An example of this on a small scale is a chinook wind coming out of the Rocky Mountains into the Plains. On January 15, 1972, a chinook wind in Loma, Montana, sent temperatures soaring from -54°F. to +49°F. in just 24 hours, a record 103°F. change due to downsloping winds.

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Dozens of other slow-evolving climate cycles can have dramatic impacts on the weather around the world, especially here in the United States. It includes the Pacific Decadal Oscillation cycle, which is the warming and cooling of the north Pacific, or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) warming/cooling cycle in the Atlantic (see chart above). These cycles change slowly over years, but they help predict the future “big picture” trends, especially when they all line up. 

nfortunately, these three big ones – and trillions of statistical analyses from WeatherTrends360 – all point to a very rare scenario that brings widespread severe drought and catastrophic hurricanes to the United States.

The last time these indexes lined up was in 2011-2013, along with parallels to other very dry years in the early 2000s, late 1980s, and middle 1950s and 1930s – some of the worst droughts in U.S. history.

La Niñas are famous for other events, such as the record number of violent F3-F5 tornadoes in 1974, the most active season since records started.

In 2012, Midwest crops cooked in the worst drought in decades, and the Northeast was hit by Superstorm Sandy, the fifth-most costly storm in U.S. history.

In fact, most of the top 20 devastating hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred when the Pacific Ocean was cooling into a La Niña phase, partly why 2020 is off to the fastest start in 169 years with nine named systems as of late July. 

Unfortunately, 2020 and 2021 are likely to be similarly active and catastrophic.

An unopened bag of corn has a yield potential of 616 bushels per acre, so says the 2019 record set by David Hula of Charles City, Virginia, when drought was at historic lows.

Unfortunately, we’ll be talking about well-below-trend yields in 2021. 

Have a prosperous and safe harvest this year!

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Bill Kirk is CEO of WeatherTrends360. A FarmCast subscription for forecasts looking out up to 365 days can be found at wt360.com/ag for $399 a year.

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