La Niña wreaks havoc

Tuesday 18th Jan 2011 by theWeather Club

La Niña, meaning 'the girl', is the name given to a climate pattern that takes place in the eastern equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean when sea surface temperatures fall to consistently lower than average over a period of several months. It is the counterpart to El Niño ('the boy'), which occurs when Pacific temperatures rise. These changes in sea temperature have a significant impact upon global atmospheric circulation patterns, with a knock-on effect upon the weather around the world.

The La Niña event currently in progress is one of the strongest in decades, and numerous countries are feeling the effects in the form of some genuinely extreme weather. Over the past month, the extraordinary impact of La Niña upon the Australian weather has been clear for all to see, with a deluge of almost biblical proportions causing devastating floods in what was previously a drought-stricken country. Colombia and Venezuela are also experiencing increased rainfall directly attributable to La Niña, leading to significant flooding in some parts. In Argentina, La Niña events typically result in a reduction in rainfall, and this year has been no exception. With rainfall far below average, the country's Ministry for Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing has declared a state of emergency for the farming industry in Salta and Córdoba provinces. Estimates for the Argentine corn yields have been dramatically downgraded and soybean crops are also being severely affected. As Argentina is an important exporter of crops, the impact is likely to be felt around the world in the form of higher food prices.