Don’t pull out your winter coat and snow boots just yet: La Niña has officially arrived, meaning Georgia can expect to see above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation this coming winter.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA) released an official climate prediction for the 2017-2018 winter season last week. This ocean-atmospheric phenomenon is marked by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean near the equator.
La Niña conditions include above average amounts of snow and colder temperatures in the northern region of the United States. The southeast region of the country experiences less rain and warmer weather during the winter, especially in states like Texas, Georgia and Alabama. With temperatures in the United States being much higher than the average this past year, it is possible that 2018 will set a milestone for the warmest La Niña year on record.
— NOAA Climate.gov (@NOAAClimate) November 16, 2017
Pam Knox, an agricultural climate specialist at the University of Georgia, explained that, on top of drier and warmer conditions, La Niña ushers in a stronger hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean for the following year.
“Last year was pretty active, but next year will probably be more active,” said Knox. “We could see more storms coming ashore. Maybe not in the same places, intensities or times, but definitely more than usual.”
An increase of hurricanes could negatively affect the growing season for farmers in 2018. Damage from Hurricane Irma destroyed at least 30% of Georgia’s pecan crop back in September. Knox said a drought season is likely to follow La Niñas, which also poses a concern for farmers.
Ed Janosik, an organic farmer from Danielsville, Georgia, isn’t too concerned about the potential drought, since he relies on his farm’s drip irrigation system. However, the strange weather patterns do make him uneasy.
“I just think that climate change has a lot to do with the weather patterns,” said Janosik. “Living the weather everyday, as a farmer, over the years it’s crazy. You can see it go from drought to too much rain, from real mild to a big cold snap… Climate change is a real issue, people ought to look into it. It’s real.”
Currently, there’s no direct link between La Niña and global warming. Typically, La Niña years tend to be cooler than average, providing a balance to the hotter El Niño years. According to NOAA, average temperatures across the United States have been rising, and this factor could negate the cooling effects of La Niña. Knox explained that, while the presence of a La Niña or a El Niño are not indicative of global warming, it is possible that we will begin to see global warming intensifying the symptoms of these oscillations.
If you would like a more in-depth explanation of La Niña and its potential effects on Georgia, take a listen to this podcast:
– Nicole Adamson