According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) we could be in for a pretty rough hurricane season in 2016 and it all has to do with the relationship between La Nina and El Niño.
El Niño is known for strong westerly winds in the subtropical jet stream that act as a hurricane defense force in the Americas. La Nina, however, is basically the opposite with strong easterly winds that pull warm air from the Atlantic towards the United States. With that warm air comes tropical storms and hurricanes. A rapid change from a strong El Niño to an equally strong La Nina can spell disaster.
Basically El Niño has the potential to serve as a hurricane “shield” while La Nina functions as fuel for the storms. The weather of 2015 was dictated by a massive El Niño. Its unusually strong westerly winds helped shield Florida and the rest of the south east coast from strong hurricanes. Unfortunately El Niño’s time is drawing to a close, and a strong La Nina could be on it’s way. According to the Palm Beach Post, NASA climatologist Bill Patzert says,
“After a really big El Nino, you seem to transition to La Nina, and it can happen rapidly. The 2015 hurricane season was somewhat benign in the Atlantic, but if La Nina kicks in this coming summer, it could go back to spectacular.”
It’s been a decade since a major hurricane has touched land in Florida, which is the longest period between landfalls since records began in the mid 1800s. According to Phil Klotzbach, a climate research scientist at Colorodo State University, “We are very confident El Nino will be gone by next hurricane season. It’s no slam dunk though that La Nina will mean more storms, but I think the odds are it will be a more active season.” Klotzbach continued to say that the southern US has a 97% probability of seeing a named storm touch land this year in either Florida, Texas, or Louisiana.