La Niña appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, setting the stage for worsening droughts in California and South America. It will probably also lead to more frigid winters in parts of the US and Japan, as well as greater risks for the world’s already strained energy and food supplies.
According to the US Climate Prediction Center, the phenomenon - which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler patch of water over the Pacific - will likely last through at least February. There is a 57 percent chance it be a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the Center said. While scientists may need months to confirm whether La Niña has definitely returned, all the signs are indicating it’s here.
Signs have been emerging for months that the pattern was likely forming, marking the world’s second La Niña in a row. La Niña - like its counterpart El Niño - usually peaks in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, but its effects can trigger widespread consequences across the globe.
Its onset this season could have a powerful impact on agriculture markets relying on South American crops, which could face dryer conditions, as well as palm oil across Indonesia, where there may be increased flooding. Cold and storms tend to favor the United States’ Pacific Northwest and northern Plains when La Niña emerges, squeezing regional energy markets.