Climate Change

La Nina is back; what does that mean for Africa, Asia

The Horn of Africa could see below average rainfall; East Africa will see drier than usual conditions

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 30 October 2020
The 2010 floods in Pakistan were attributed to La Nina. Photo: Wikimedia Commons__

The La Niña weather phenomenon is back in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean after nearly a decade’s absence, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its latest Global Seasonal update released October 29, 2020

La Niña will result in sea surface temperatures between two and three degrees Celsius cooler than average, Maxx Dilley, deputy director in charge of Climate Services Department at WMO, was quoted as saying in a press statement.

However, 2020 is on track to be one of the warmest years on record and 2016-2020 is expected to be the warmest five-year period on record, Dilley said.

La Niña could last into 2021, affecting temperatures, precipitation and storm patterns in many parts of the world, according to WMO.

There is a high possibility (90 per cent) of tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures remaining at La Niña levels through the end of 2020 and maybe through the first quarter of 2021 (55 per cent).

The La Niña of 2020 is expected to be moderate to strong. The last time there was a a strong La Niña event, was in 2010-2011, followed by a moderate event in 2011-2012.

There were a series of floods in Pakistan and Northwest India in 2010 that were attributed to the weather phenomenon.

La Niña means the large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, together with changes in the tropical atmospheric circulation, namely winds, pressure and rainfall.

It has the opposite impacts on weather and climate as El Niño, which is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Africa and Asia

The Horn of Africa and central Asia will see below average rainfall due to La Niña, WMO said.

East Africa is forecast to see drier-than-usual conditions, which together with the existing impacts of the desert locust invasion, may add to regional food insecurity, WMO warned.

La Niña could also lead to increased rainfall in southern Africa, WMO said. This was indicated by some recent seasonal forecast models, it added.

La Niña could also affect the South West Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone season, reducing the intensity. 

Southeast Asia, some Pacific Islands and the northern region of South America are expected to receive above-average rainfall.

In India, La Niña means the country will receive more rainfall than normal, leading to floods.

 “El Niño and La Niña are major, naturally occurring drivers of the Earth’s climate system. But all naturally occurring climate events now take place against a background of human-induced climate change which is exacerbating extreme weather and affecting the water cycle,” Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, was quoted as saying in a statement.

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