Yes, the rumours are true. The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that La Niña (AKA the death of our summer plans) will be back for a third time in a row. Just when we thought the drama was behind us and endless rainy days and humidity were done and dusted, even more wet weather is on its way to ruin it all.
Basically, La Niña is a complex weather pattern which brings increased rainfall across both northern and eastern Australia. According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr. Andrew Watkins, La Niña also increases the chance of cooler-than-average daytime temperatures and even the chance of tropical cyclones. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right?
Now, the questions on everyone’s mind is, ‘how long will this last?’. It’s a fair question, and one we definitely need the answer to before we book in that beach trip.
Below, everything we know about how long La Niña could continue to last in Australia.
How long will La Niña last in Australia?
After initially kicking off in November 2021, we expected the increased rainfall to last until January 2022—well, that was what BoM had predicted at the time.
Now, the weather forecaster has declared that those in eastern Australia will be enduring yet another La Niña throughout spring and summer, with models indicating it will last until early 2023.
“The problem with a triple La Niña is that the ground is very wet already, our rivers are quite high, our creeks are full and our dams are quite full,” Dr Margaret Cook, environmental historian and lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast and researcher at Griffith University said, as per ABC News. “So we have less capacity to absorb this enormous amount of rain.”
In fact, while experiencing two La Niñas in a row isn’t rare, having three is rather, well, unheard of. Since we had access to modern records in 1900, researchers have been able to see one or two triple La Niñas in the past, with each round coming right after experiencing an El Niño the year before.
According to Zoe Gillett, climate scientist at the University of New South Wales and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, this triple weather event is different from the others because there was no El Niño the year before.
“It’s a bit intriguing, something we will be trying to understand in the coming years,” she said, as per ABC News.
“I had a bit of a look at the numbers and in 1954 to 1957, and in the 1998 to 2001 events, the third La Niña was the weakest of the three events,” she added. “But for the 1973 to 1976 event, the second La Niña was the weakest.”
“These past events [therefore] don’t provide us with much guidance about what we can expect for this possible third consecutive La Nina.”
As for when we can expect our third (and hopefully final) La Niña to finish up, it previously looked as if we’d be experiencing the wet weather until at least the end of 2022.
“We know that La Niñas and also El Niños tend to die off in autumn,” Dr Gillett told ABC News in September. “The current forecasts suggest that La Niña will persist until at least the end of the year.”
However, the BoM is now predicting we’re looking at increased rainfall until early 2023. By that point, the key indicators of La Niña — including the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) — are looking like they’ll return to ‘neutral’ conditions.
But given that our surroundings are still bearing the effects of the last two La Niñas, this third weather event could see even more destruction and damage around Australia.
So, will this be our best summer ever? Probably not. It’s looking like it won’t be the worst, however, so we’re willing to take the silver linings wherever we can. On the upside, increased rainfall is brilliant news for our farmers in rural areas, and it does decrease the likelihood of severe bushfires which are known to spike during summer.
Our plan is to hold tight for the next few months and ride the wave until the end of January. Any sunny days will be a true blessing, and we’ll no doubt be seeing you (and everyone else in Australia) at the beach when they happen.