Check it out: Another La Niña? What Does That Say About Climate Change?

By Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing cooler (blue) and warmer (red) temperatures

The weather we experience any given year is the product of a complex combination of short-term variations (think cold fronts), mid-term cycles (think of El Niño and La Niña years as an important example affecting our region), and long-term trends (think of warming due to climate change). This complexity can lead to years that do not fit either with what’s happened historically, or with what climate change science leads us to expect. Our recent experience with snow in April is an example of such “weirdness.” So I found this news article from the University of Washington really interesting. Check it out. The article discusses a study that suggests that climate change is, in the short term, favoring La Niña years. This is counter to the expected trend towards more frequent El Niño years as the world warms. Bottom line, there are aspects of the changes in sea temperatures that we are seeing that are not well captured in our current climate change models, which in the short term load the dice for La Niña, though in the long term we expect a switch to El Niño. And this is a great window into how the use of models in science works – weirdness is an important step in identifying what questions we still need answers to, and attracting curious minds to try to answer them.

Here’s the study the article discusses. It has a good plain language summary:

Wills, R.C., Dong, Y., Proistosecu, C., Armour, K.C. and Battisti, D.S., 2022. Systematic climate model biases in the large‐scale patterns of recent sea‐surface temperature and sea‐level pressure change. Geophysical Research Letters, p.e2022GL100011. Online Access

To find out more about El Nino and La Nina (also called El Nino Southern Oscillation or ENSO), check out the Climate.gov website on ENSO and their ENSO Blog.

Categories: General