SCIENCE The 2011 La Niña: So strong, the oceans fell

The 2011/2012 La Nina was quite strong, and it was associated with anomalous rainfall patterns everywhere. Here in Texas, it looked like the sky had forgotten how to rain entirely, but it turns out that on balance, the world may have been extraordinarily wet. Coincident with the La Nina, sea level and ocean mass dropped substantially. This is according to a new paper from Carmen Boening of JPL et al.

The abstract says:

we show that the decline in ocean mass, which explains the sea level drop, coincides with an equivalent increase in terrestrial water storage, primarily over Australia, northern South America, and Southeast Asia. This temporary shift of water from the ocean to land is closely related to the transition from El Niño conditions in 2009/10 to a strong 2010/11 La Niña, which affected precipitation patterns world-wide.

There are arguments and observations that point toward an increasing tendency to the La Nina phase. Is this an outlier La Nina event or a taste of the future? If the latter, Australia may turn out very lucky.


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