February 23, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald

La Nina, La Nada, El Nino – it's easy to get confused about these weather patterns. In the last 10 years, they have cycled more closely together than any other time in history. Once again, La Nina has appeared, but is expected to be short-lived.

University of Kentucky Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy keeps his eyes on the sky so to speak, keeping watch on the temperatures of Pacific waters that can so radically impact our weather in Kentucky and the rest of the United States.

"The quick cycling of La Nina, La Nada and El Nino is the reason for the up-and-down weather we've experienced," Priddy said. "It's part of the reason for our cold outbursts. In the last 10 years, La Nina and El Nino have been bigger and more frequent."

Now, La Nada may be a relatively new term to most Kentuckians. Priddy said it's the official term for when weather conditions are near normal. Most future weather models show La Nada sticking around through summer and into fall.

For Kentucky, that means near-normal temperatures and rainfall, which is good news for farmers who depend so heavily on the weather. Priddy said it looks like Kentucky will not have to worry about a drought this year and conditions will probably resemble the summer of 2000, which Priddy reminded "wasn't too bad."

"I've been surprised recently," he said. "Recent rainfall in Kentucky put the entire state back to near normal conditions. Just a few days before the rains, the Palmer Drought Index had Western Kentucky in a moderate hydrological drought and central Kentucky in Incipient, or mild drought. Within a few days, fields got so soaked that it was almost too wet."

Priddy is concerned about what a few weather models are predicting for late fall and winter in the pacific, however. Some actually show a mild to moderate recurrence of El Nino. El Nino is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

"When we went from La Nina to El Nino in a one-month period, it was unprecedented." Priddy said. "Now, with the possibility of El Nino returning so quickly…well, it's just not ever happened this fast before; usually it takes two to four years before El Nino comes back."

Thinking back to the 1998 El Nino conditions, we are reminded of the drought, mud slides on the West Coast, etc.

"El Nino coming back is the worst-case scenario," Priddy warned. "It would cause topsy-turvy weather patterns for 2002, and we don't want to see that happen."

But for now, Kentucky can look forward to a summer of La Nada, "the nothing," – at least where the weather is concerned. The UK Agricultural Weather Center maintains a web site with current weather conditions, as well as future predictions and other weather-related items of interest. You will find it on the World Wide Web at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/


Tom Priddy 859-257-5850