La Nina equals triple tropical trouble!

La Nina 2022 is a triple dip La Nina--third year in a row

I’ve been talking all year about La Nina, that cooler-than-normal water in the Pacific, which basically means dry weather for Texas and a lack of upper level winds across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Its opposite, El Nino, is warmer than normal Pacific water which creates those upper level winds and those winds can shear apart developing tropical systems. So El Nino is El Amigo in that regard! La Nina not so much.

Third year for La Nina

This year is a triple-dip for La Nina meaning it has been in place since 2020 and now we have a third year of it. As you will recall, 2020 and 2021 were extremely active hurricane seasons. In 2020, we had 30 storms and 14 hurricanes while in 2021 we had 21 storms and seven hurricanes!

You know how I like data and climatology. I found a recent article from Tampa’s WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli extremely fascinating. He and his Max Defender 8 (love that name) weather team compared all the El Nino versus La Nina years since 1990. Their research discovered that in La Nina years the Atlantic has had THREE TIMES as many hurricanes as El Nino years! Take a look at their graphic:

Courtesy Max Defender 8, the weather team from WFLA in Tampa

What this means to us

So those are the stats that Jeff’s team put together and you can see the article right here. He also counted the La Nina and El Nino years from 1990-2020 and they came in 50/50 each:

El Niño years are as follows: 1991, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2015 and 2018 for a total of 33 hurricanes.

La Niña years are as follows: 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2020 for a total of 96 hurricanes.

How did we in Southeast Texas do during these years? Let’s take a look at hits from both hurricanes and tropical storms.

In all of those El Nino years the only hit we took was Tropical Storm Bill which went into Matagorda Bay in 2015. No other El Nino years brought us tropical activity!

In the La Nina years, we had Tropical Storm Dean in 1995, Tropical Storm Frances in 1998, Hurricane Humberto in 2007, Hurricane Beta in 2020 and last year we had Hurricane Nicholas which was also a La Nina year.

I think the jury is in. El Nino years really suppress the hurricane season and certainly do for Southeast Texas. To wit, we’ve had five times as many tropical storms or hurricanes in La Nina years than El Nino years. And 2022 is a La Nina year.

Be prepared and a big thank you to all of those who made our Hurricane Special last Wednesday No. 1 in its time slot which you can see online here. We had a big viewership with that and don’t forget we have a whole Hurricane Headquarters on line right here.

Have a nice weekend!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.