Another La Niña Fall Means U.S. Drought Will Get Even Worse

Another La Niña Fall Means U.S. Drought Will Get Even Worse
Lake Mead's declining water levels are a result of a climate change-fuelled megadrought and increased water demands out West. (Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

It’s looking like we’re heading into a third year of La Niña.

According to a recent forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, La Niña conditions are going to continue to the end of this year, which would be its third fall and winter season in a row. The weather pattern is categorised by rising temperatures and stronger hurricanes. The presence of La Niña also means more drought conditions in the U.S., where millions of people are already dealing with water scarcity.

The current La Niña conditions began in the spring of 2020, and they reached an intensity that has made it one of the strongest springtime La Niña events “in the historical record dating back to 1950,” Michelle L’Heureux, a NOAA climate expert, told Axios. It’s fuelling weather patterns that are resulting in dry conditions all over the U.S. right now.

The country’s current widespread drought is being felt by millions of people. Low water levels are affecting hydropower in California, and elected officials in the state and in Texas have implemented water restrictions. These drought conditions in turn increase the threat of wildfires across the U.S. West and Southwest. Just last month, President Biden declared a state of emergency for five counties in New Mexico that were impacted by wildfire.

La Niña also fuels hurricane season. Last month, NOAA released a forecast for a busier-than-average Atlantic hurricane season, projecting that the number of storms in the 2022 season would surpass the 30-year average, making this the seventh year in a row that NOAA made a similar prediction.

Lengthy droughts and hurricanes are not new — both weather patterns are part of the natural world. But the climate crisis is making them worse, and the Southwest continues to experience the worst megadrought in over 1,000 years. It’s likely that more counties across the Southwest will have to implement water restrictions as freshwater sources struggle to keep up with demand.