In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that it was still waiting for the arrival of El Niño, a warming of Pacific waters near the equator. But it's beginning to look increasingly likely that El Niño may not arrive this year, leaving the U.S. locked into a strange weather pattern limbo between El Niño and it's cold-water cousin, La Niña.
So do you want the bad news, or the worse news? The bad news is that this in-between weather pattern -- commonly referred to as La Nada, or "the nothing" -- is very difficult to forecast. That's according to the Washington Post, which notes one meteorologist who says La Nada is like "teenagers without rules. Unconstrained and unpredictable."
The worse news is that this La Nada, with its wind and ocean current patterns, could soon deliver to Alaska's shores a new wave of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami which has been drifting across the Pacific.
At least that's the prediction for Washington state, which recently developed a plan for managing the expected onslaught of seabound debris, according to radio station KPLU. Washington and the British Columbia coast of Canada are on the frontlines of the flotsam, which also drifts north along Alaska's Southeast archipelago before swirling into Southcentral Alaska waters and the Gulf of Alaska.
NOAA has a team dedicated to predicting the path of the tsunami debris, as well as an email that concerned beachcombers can contact to report suspected Japanese tsunami trash (disasterdebris(at)noaa.gov). Alaska has already seen its fair share of trash coming ashore, as has the Pacific Northwest, including a long dock and a shipping container inside of which was a mostly intact motorcycle.
The La Nada is looking increasingly likely, as the expected El Niño continues to be absent. There is still a chance that the warmer-weather pattern might show up, though that doesn't mean Alaska -- or anywhere else -- will be in the clear from wacky weather. When it comes to wild winter weather, El Niño, La Niña and La Nada all seem to take the blame for heavy snow, high winds, cold snaps and warm spells.
Same weather, different name.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com