'Moderate to strong' La Niña weather event develops in the Pacific
A moderate to severe weather event has developed in La Niña in the Pacific, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The naturally occurring phenomenon leads to a large-scale cooling of the sea surface temperature.
This La Niña, which is expected to last through the first quarter of 2021, is likely to have a cooling effect on global temperatures.
But it won't prevent 2020 from being one of the warmest years in history.
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La Niña is described as one of the three phases of the weather event known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
This includes the warm phase called El Niño, the cooler La Niña and a neutral phase.
A La Niña occurs when strong winds blow the warm surface waters of the Pacific from South America to Indonesia.
In their place, colder waters emerge from the depths of the ocean to the surface.
This event leads to significant weather changes in different parts of the world.
If a really strong La Niña event were to occur, research suggests that the UK and Northern Europe could experience a very wet winter.
Usually, La Niña means that countries like Indonesia and Australia can get much more rain than usual, and a more active monsoons occur in Southeast Asia.
Canada and the northern United States are likely to experience more storms, often resulting in snow conditions.
Southern US states can be hit by drought at the same time.
The last time a strong event developed was 2010-2011.
According to the WMO, there is a roughly 90% probability that tropical ocean temperatures in the Pacific will remain at La Niña levels for the rest of the year.
There is a 55% chance that the conditions will persist in the first quarter of next year.
While a La Niña event usually has a cooling impact on the world, it is unlikely to make too much of a difference by 2020.
"La Niña usually has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but this is more than offset by the heat trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases," said Prof. Petteri Taalas of WMO.
"Therefore, 2020 remains on track to be one of the warmest years in existence, and 2016-2020 is projected to be the warmest five-year period ever," he said
"La Niña years are now even warmer than years with strong El Niño events in the past."
The WMO says it will announce the La Niña now to give governments the opportunity to mobilize their planning in key areas such as disaster management and agriculture.
One important aspect of La Niña is the impact it could have on the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season.
A La Niña event reduces wind shear, which is the change in winds between the surface and the upper levels of the atmosphere. This allows hurricanes to grow.
The hurricane season ends on November 30th and so far there have been 17 named storms out of the 19-25 predicted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
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