The weather is a fickle thing and oftentimes unpredictable. But this year’s weather has been something else entirely. Since May has just ended, it is worth noting that this past month has been the coldest and wettest May in decades. Specifically, this past May has had an average temperature of 52.4 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, rainfall has reached a record 3.84 inches for Seattle. Similarly, this past April was particularly cold. April’s low temperatures managed to set records by becoming the 13th coldest April that Seattle has ever faced, along with the third coldest April during the last 45 years. But considering that it was snowing during the middle of April, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Most of the strange weather during these past two months can be attributed to a La Niña event, which is characterized by colder surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean. Those colder temperatures then have an impact on the weather, as it changes where tropical thunderstorms form and how strong trade winds are. In turn, that leads to certain areas seeing colder and wetter weather, while other areas see hotter and drier weather. For the summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that areas such as California will end up having worse droughts and an increased risk of wildfires throughout the coming summer months. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pacific Northwest is more likely to end up seeing more precipitation over the summer. But there is still good news from NOAA’s prediction. While a majority of the United States has been predicted to be seeing a warmer than average summer, NOAA has predicted that a majority of Western Washington should see normal temperatures during the early summer. Hopefully that means that there will not be a heatwave similar to the heatwave that took place during the same time last year. It is also worth noting that La Niña is currently predicted to be extending further, since ocean temperatures have stayed low enough to provide favorable conditions for La Niña to continue into a third year. The current La Niña event started during the summer of 2020, and has come back strong throughout the past few years.
Extreme weather is nothing new. Last year, Seattle saw its hottest day on record during the midst of a deadly heatwave, which was a result of climate change. However, climate change does not just force temperatures to rise. Research has shown that climate change will make La Niña events more extreme by pushing already extreme weather conditions to greater and greater lengths. That means that the Pacific Northwest has a greater possibility of seeing already cold and wet winters and springs become even colder and wetter.