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Active storm season forecast with possible La Nina pattern emerging

This satellite image taken Sept. 10, 2020, and

This satellite image taken Sept. 10, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows tropical storms forming in the Atlantic. Credit: AP

A potential La Niña weather system in the tropical Pacific could intensify this year's hurricane season, experts said, though Long Islanders shouldn’t expect to be as impacted as other parts of the country.

The storms from La Niña tend to sweep up from the South to the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes, said David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist who manages the Rutgers New Jersey Weather Network.

"There's not a huge impact on the tristate area," Robinson said.

What to know

  • A potential La Niña weather system in the tropical Pacific could boost the number of named storms this year, forecasters say.
  • The good news for Long Island: Such storms tend to sweep up from the South to the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes.
  • But more storms overall can increase the chance that one will make its way here.

But scientists agree that doesn’t mean Long Island is out of the woods.

If Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science is correct in predicting that an extra two named storms will develop in the Atlantic Basin, raising the total to 20 from 18, the odds increase that at least one will blast its way up the seaboard to the New York metropolitan region.

"More storms can theoretically increase your odds of something coming up the East Coast," Robinson said, adding: "It doesn't guarantee it — they could all go into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico."

Already, Tropical Storm Elsa surprised forecasters by becoming the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Usually the fifth such storm does not strike until August.

"Elsa’s development and intensification into a hurricane in the tropical Atlantic also typically portends an active season. We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean," Colorado State University said in its July 8 forecast.

La Niña arises when the east to west trade winds around the equator intensify, pushing the Pacific Ocean toward Asia, allowing the coldest layers of the ocean to rise to the surface off the west coast of South America.

Then the jet stream veers north, toward the West Coast of the United States, and opens up a pathway for more hurricanes.

Stronger La Niña weather patterns produce below-average snowfall for the mid-Atlantic region, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA last week issued a watch, saying conditions now favor La Niña arising from September to November.

In late May, NOAA experts said there was a 70% probability that 13 to 20 named storms will arise, with top winds of at least 39 mph — about half the minimum wind speed of 74 mph for a hurricane.

NOAA next updates its hurricane forecast in the first week in August, a spokeswoman said.

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