Summer of Wind and Fire Ahead for the US ; LA NINA as Clean-Up Operation in Los Alamos Begins, Forecasters Predict Climate Will Wreak Havoc across Nation with Hurricanes and Drought
Marshall, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
WAVES OF fire across one side of the country and walls of water buffeting the coasts on the other. As the city of Los Alamos burns, America can look forward to more of the same - and worse - this year.
La Nina, the phenomenon which is the other side of the climatic coin from el Nino, is expected to bring a vicious crop of hurricanes to America's Atlantic and Gulf coasts, according to the annual forecasts released last week. And it is also, in part, responsible for the fires which are sweeping through the South-west, including that which has wrecked Los Alamos in New Mexico. Firefighters were still struggling yesterday to contain the flames which have engulfed the city and threatened nuclear weapons facilities.
"Everything is being done that can be done," said New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. "And yet, we may just be seeing the beginning of what is a real catastrophe." The fire started as a deliberate attempt to clear brush, which got out of hand as winds rose and the flames crossed a containment zone. The official who ordered the fire started was suspended from work on Thursday.
America's climatic problem starts with a swath of the Pacific Ocean which is cooler than normal in la Nina years and warmer than normal in el Nino years. The phenomenon was first noticed by fishermen off Peru: in Spanish, el Nino is "the little boy"; la Nina, the "little girl".
The el Nino/Southern Oscillation, as it is known to meteorologists, is one factor in world weather, but it causes changes to climatic patterns across the globe. Last year la Nina brought hurricanes and fires, and the chances are high that this year will be worse. In the winter, the Pacific jet stream is diverted to the north of the US, taking rain into the North-west.
That means less rainfall in the South and South-east, producing drought. In the summer the jet stream's shift north diminishes the strong winds in the mid-Atlantic. These windswould knock the tops off the storms that blow up over the warm ocean and their absence allows hurricanes to form andmake landfall in the Caribbean or on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the US.
The impact of those conditions can already be seen. …