Mississippi is experiencing a La Niña weather pattern for the third straight spring and while that typically means a warmer season than average, it could produce more severe weather than usual.
"We've been in a La Niña pattern since fall and wintertime," said Chad Entremont, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Jackson. "We're still in a La Niña pattern. It just gives a more favorable weather pattern to get more severe weather episodes over a longer period of time like December through April."
According to NWS, La Niña weather patterns occur when temperatures are below normal in central and eastern areas of the Pacific Ocean. The colder waters push the jet stream northward creating a warmer, drier winter in the South.
While warmer and drier may sound good, they can come with a price. Mississippi experienced a La Niña weather pattern in 2022. According to the NWS, there were 184 tornadoes, 108 hail reports and 551 reports of damaging winds for the year.
Late March and early April were particularly active for severe weather. Over a 2-week span, severe storms produced a total of 48 tornadoes in the state.
Typical effects of La Niña in Mississippi
Less precipitation than average
Warmer temperatures than average
Increased risk of damaging winds
Increased risk of tornadoes
Increased risk of EF2 tornadoes and stronger
Increased risk of hail
Greater severe weather threat now through April
Entremont said Mississippi has seen higher than average amounts of rainfall this year, but the overall pattern for a La Niña spring in Mississippi is typically drier. For flood-prone cities such as Jackson, that sounds good as it reduces the chance of the Pearl River coming out of its banks.
However, this doesn't apply to all rivers in the state. During La Niña periods, the South may be drier, states to the north typically have wetter than average seasons. That can result in increased snowmelt in spring along with higher than average.
So, the Mississippi River can have a greater chance of flooding than average in spring.
"In terms of severe weather, look for that more active pattern from now through April," Entremont said. "The chances for tornadoes, hail and wind, they're just higher when we're in this La Niña pattern."
Contact Brian Broom at email@example.com or 601-961-7225.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi at greater risk of severe weather this spring