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La Niņa signals
La Niņa signals
2 Feb 11 - This winter is on track to become the coldest for the United States as a whole since the 1980s or possibly even the late 1910s, says AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.
And this is just the beginning.
Bastardi thinks three or four of the next five winters could be just as cold as this one, if not colder ... perhaps even the next 20 to 30 winters.
According to Bastardi, studies show that after the first winter following the onset of a La Niņa, the next several winters tend to be colder than normal in the U.S.
La Niņa occurs when sea surface temperatures (SST) across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal. La Niņa and its counterpart, El Niņo, which occurs when SST are above normal, strongly influence weather patterns across the globe.
Current La Niņa unprecedented
The current La Niņa, which kicked in this past summer, is unprecedented after becoming the strongest on record in December 2010. Bastardi thinks this La Niņa, though weaker, will last into next year and not disappear completely until 2012.
"What's interesting about what we're seeing here is that [the current La Niņa] is starting so cold," says Bastardi. Never before have colder-than-normal conditions been observed across the South during a first-year La Niņa winter, as has been the case this winter.
Long-term climate to turn colder
Not only will the next few winters be colder than normal for much of the U.S., Bastardi points out that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which shifts phases usually about every 20 to 30 years, has shifted into a "cold" or "negative" phase.
This change to a cold PDO over the next 20 to 30 years, he says, will cause La Niņas to be stronger and longer than El Niņos.
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