Forecaster: Two phenomena responsible for world's bizarre weather
A graphic outlining sea temperature anomalies the first week in January shows drops in the Pacific as air temperatures rise between the U.S. and Europe (continents in gray). La Niña and the North Atlantic Oscillation are to blame, an expert says.
January 13th, 2011
03:35 PM ET

Forecaster: Two phenomena responsible for world's bizarre weather

The catastrophic weather events taking place across the globe – from Brazil’s and Australia’s flooding to the Eastern United States’ heavy snowfall – have two likely explanations.

Tony Barnston, lead forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, said two phenomena – La Niña and the North Atlantic Oscillation – are likely responsible for the patterns we’re seeing.

Though La Niña is different every time, it can be simply defined as a drop in water temperature in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean. This particular La Niña appeared in July, Barnston said, and will last through spring.

During La Niña, there is less rainfall in the tropical Pacific and a horseshoe pattern of warm water typically forms in the North Pacific, the coast of Southeast Asia and the seas around Indonesia and Australia (check out the graphic above).

In this case, though, “the whole globe looks to be compensating,” Barnston said, noting that it’s difficult to determine if  La Niña spawns individual weather events.

While Southeast Asia and Australia can typically expect warmer oceans and more rainfall during La Niña, the affected area stretches farther west this year and includes Sri Lanka and the southern tip of India, Barnston said.

There is presently a massive rescue operation under way in Sri Lanka to save victims of flooding that has already killed at least 13 people. Floods have killed another 40 people in the Philippines, and Australia has been inundated with deadly flooding reportedly estimated to cover an area the size of France and Germany combined. To the east of La Niña, South America's north coast has been slammed with rain, and hundreds have been killed in Brazil's flooding and mudslides.

La Niña usually means warmer temperatures in the United States, particularly the Southeast, but this year the North Atlantic Oscillation is trumping La Niña.

Since November, we have been in the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, Barnston said, meaning that air temperatures between the eastern U.S. and Europe will drop. This causes temperatures to rise in places like northeast Canada, Greenland and Iceland, as the mercury drops on thermometers in the eastern U.S.

Weather experts call it a see-saw pattern, and it will eventually affect water temperatures, though that’s a secondary effect, Barnston said.

So while La Niña would normally mean dryer, warmer weather for folks in the southern United States, “the North Atlantic Oscillation has superseded the La Niña” this year, bringing El Niño-like winter temperatures and snow to the Southeast, he said.

CNN meteorologists reported earlier this week that snow was present in every U.S. state but Florida.

Though La Nina typically lasts until April or May, the North Atlantic Oscillation can move from a negative to positive phase mid-winter. Barnston said the Southeast “could be warmer and dryer than normal later this year if the North Atlantic Oscillation ceases and desists.”

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Filed under: Australia • Brazil • India • Indonesia • Philippines • Sri Lanka • Tropical weather • U.S. • Weather • Winter weather
soundoff (963 Responses)
  1. Valecia

    @ Just Look Around..I've been thinking the same thing...the big picture – what is really going on. Only a few will pay attention others will just shrug it off and say to themselves "killings have been going on since mankind" but at this rate that seems like it is never going to stop? Can these killing ever be stop? is what we should be trying to figure out.... he world is being drag through a filthy cesspool that will lead into the depths of degradation....Man has polluted, befouled, perverted, and misused every good thing God ever put within his reach.

    January 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan the Man

      This article is WRONG....... It is the weakening magnetic field being hit by heighten solar storms is causing this weather, seismic activity and the deaths of the animals. Research it. Google it! Google "South Atlantic Anomaly" – It's a 3000 mile hole in the magnetic field protecting earth. The earth is responding, trying to repair as this happens with eruptions from volcanoes. We have seen 5 erupt and several awaken in Jan alone. It will only get worse. Do your research!!!!!!

      February 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    This is not La Niña or the North Atlantic Oscillation this is called the start of the global shift. Either all the Forecasters are in denial or don't want to start a global fear but as we reach closer to Winter Solistice We will see more of this happening. I am not saying that it is going to be a some catastrophic even where the world ends but we will see changes.

    January 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • drklassen

      We're well *past* winter solstice.

      January 17, 2011 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan the Man

      This article is WRONG. It is the weakening magnetic field being hit by heighten solar storms is causing this weather, seismic activity and the deaths of the animals. Research it. Google it! Google "South Atlantic Anomaly" – It's a 3000 mile hole in the magnetic field protecting earth. The earth is responding, trying to repair as this happens with eruptions from volcanoes. We have seen 5 erupt and several awaken in Jan alone. It will only get worse. Do your research!

      February 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Skullz

    Did anyone notice how the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in happened in April 2010 and the 'La Nina' effect started in May 2010.. .. Do you think maybe it was all that oil that got dumped in the Gulf that might up upset the Gulf Stream? This would make the worlds weather go crazy.
    The chemical they used to clean it up, called Corexit 9500, does not get rid of the oil, it just break it down into smaller particels. This would change the density of the ocean.. changing the ocean currents.. if not stopping them entirely. Makes sense to me..

    It has nothing to do with the bible, and everything to do with humans.. in particular, greedy power crazy businessess.. though you could liken them to the devil.. because if there is a devil.. Dick Cheney is definiely doing his bidding

    February 1, 2011 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dan the Man

    This article is WRONG. It is the weakening magnetic field being hit by heighten solar storms is causing this weather, seismic activity and the deaths of the animals. Research it. Google it! Google "South Atlantic Anomaly" – It's a 300 mile hole in the magnetic field protecting earth. The earth is responding, trying to repair as this happens with eruptions from volcanoes. We have seen 5 erupt and several awaken in Jan alone. It will only get worse. Do your research!

    February 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan the Man

      3000 mile hole...sorry!

      February 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SLT-A77

    Esattamente dove posso trovare questo particolare piattaforma Weblog?

    November 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nandrolone

    . Alcuni dettagli davvero interessanti che hai scritto su di me news.blogs.cnn.com Aided molto, proprio quello che stavo cercando: D.

    December 5, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. winstrol

    Sito messaggio eccezionale. Ho intenzione di bookmark news.blogs.cnn.com e controllare molto più spesso. Mi piace molto il modello di sito web

    December 11, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. MsTonja

    I'm just waiting to see what will happen on 1/20. I have been seeing this date in dreams, on my receipts, and I seem to look at the clock at exactly 1:20 each day. Then I am awakened at 1:20 in the morning for the past 6 months. After all I have been seeing with the birds, fish and floods, I hope it's nothing catastrophic that will happen. By the way, 1/20 is also my birthday and inauguration day. Hmmm, I am patiently waiting. Family says, "Play that number in the lottery." But, I think it's more to it than that. What do you think out there?

    January 14, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. charlie

    Nothing to big. You don't have to worry MsTonja :)

    January 14, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. The_Mick

    One year, on 1/18 I went to the shop foreman at the plant where I was a chemist and said, "I need a 1 1/8" long standard thread placed on this bar. At that moment, a worker walked in and reported, the chlorine count in tank A is 118. So I played the lottery. Not a one or an eight came up! I'm skeptical, but some say we all get the message, but we don't always know how to interpret it. For example, a man born of 7/7/1877 was the 7th son of a 7th son and was taken to a racetrack on his 27th birthday. In the 7th race, he bet on a horse named "7th Heaven." The horse came in 7th!

    January 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. BusyPerson

    I have been seeing 11:11 for the last 8 10 years. I don't know what that means. I also have awakened at 11:11.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scotty2010

    Tonja, how the heck have you been seeing the date 1/20 on your receipts? Have you been jumping ahead a few days and doing some shopping or something? Or do you mean $1.20?

    January 14, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kay

    I think you should save your money :-)

    By the way, why don't YOU tell us what happened on 1/20 that was astonishingly different in YOUR life...and tell us on 1/21.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. steven

    your not right mister im the smartest man in the world. Im right about everything

    January 14, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. dude

    Happy birthday...That's about the size of it.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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