Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

La Nina is here again!

Did you know Florida's coastal environments are greatly influenced by weather events occuring on the other side of the world?
 I thought you'd be interested in this bulletin that just came out from the Southeast Climate Consortium.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is the biggest player in the game of year-to-year climate variability. El Niño and La Niña events tend to develop during April-June and tend to reach maximum strength during December-February. Typically they persist for 9 to 12 months. La Niña conditions take place when surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean along the equator turns colder than normal. La Niña can be thought as the opposite of El Niño conditions, in which the same area of the Pacific is warmer than normal.
La Niña affects weather patterns in many areas of the world. In the case of the Southeast U.S.A. it usually brings a drier and warmer winter and spring (November through March). For Florida, central and lower Alabama, and central and southern Georgia rainfall may be 40 to 60 percent lower than normal and temperatures 3 to 4 degrees warmer than normal.
figure 1
La Niña events may last more than one year, in fact, they do tend to last longer on average than El Niño events. Examples of events that lasted longer than one year include the La Niñas of 1954-56 (extreme drought in the southeastern U.S.), 1973-75, and 1999-2001.This year is the second year of a la Niña pattern that started back in July of 2010 and returned after a brief period of neutral conditions during the summer. Figure 1 shows average rainfall anomalies (Nov-Jan) observed during the 2nd year of La Niñas events in the past. Although La Niña events are never the same, it indicates that drier than normal conditions are generally observed in most of the southern U.S.A.The current drought outlook for October 2011 through January of 2012 published by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) confirms this trend signaling for drier conditions in most of the same areas (Figure 2).

While drier conditions might prove more beneficial for certain agriculture crops,  it can also lead to increased wildfires or elevated stress levels in certain estuarine organisms due to less freshwater reaching the coast than normal.
Figure 2