Here in the United States, nearly 30 states (~2,000 mile stretch) are facing extreme winter weather conditions that have are leading to a large variety of problems. Red Cross Chapters have set up 73 warming centers and emergency shelters to help through the extreme cold and blizzard-like conditions. As previously mentioned, the weather is further stretching the Red Cross’ national blood supply to record low levels. If you have a chance, please consider donating.
In Australia (pictured), Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland with the force of a Category 5 Hurricane (gusts up to 186 mph). This is the same area recovering from massive flooding in an area larger than Texas, including the nation’s third-largest city of Brisbane. The Cyclone struck near the town of Innisfail, and the Australian Red Cross is on the ground helping the region. Initial reports indicate impacts were far less than feared, however the region’s crops have been destroyed and a further drenching of rain is causing trouble.
So what is with all this extreme weather? The root cause is a La Niña effect, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as “cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean.” This is the opposite of El Niño, which has warmer than normal water, both of which impact weather by changing the direction of the winds and high and low pressure systems. For North America, La Niña typically results in wetter conditions and that means lots of snow.
Photo: Evacuation center in Innisfail, Queensland, Australia prior to cyclone Yasi.