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La Nina said to be bringing U.S. drought

La Nina said to be bringing U.S. drought
The image depicts places where the Pacific sea surface height is higher than normal (due to warm water) as yellow and red, while places where the sea surface is lower than normal (due to cool water) are shown in blues and purples. Green indicates near-normal conditions. Credit: NASA/JPL

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The La Nina weather event, dubbed "the diva of drought," is peaking and increasing the odds the southwestern and southern United States will be dry, NASA says.

The space agency said sea surface height data from its Jason-1 and -2 satellites show the milder repeat of last year's strong La Nina has recently intensified.

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This is the second consecutive year the satellites have measured lower-than-normal sea surface heights in the equatorial Pacific and unusually high sea surface heights in the western Pacific, a NASA release said Wednesday.

The height of the sea surface in a given area is an indicator of ocean temperature and other factors that influence climate, it said.

"Conditions are ripe for a stormy, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and a dry, relatively rainless winter in Southern California, the Southwest and the southern tier of the United States," climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.

"This La Nina could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled recent deadly wildfires," he said.

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