Josh Eachus is a meteorologist at WBRZ News 2 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It’s like waiting all year for a present that you know is coming, and then being handed an unwrapped box of coal. Central Gulf Coast residents sweat through eight months of the year and yearn for cool temperatures that typically accompany November, December, January and February.
In this El Niño autumn, however, such a chill just hasn’t gotten established. But, the bugs have. Mosquito populations have exploded.
In Baton Rouge, La., a three week stretch without rain in the beginning of October allowed mosquito eggs to lay dormant. Then, breeding grounds were opened for business after 10.72 inches and then 5.01 inches of rain fell on consecutive weekends. Eggs hatched from standing water over thousands of square miles in South Louisiana and a pre-holiday feast would ensue.
Local residents reported swarming clouds of mosquitoes — a species that becomes particularly active during cool and muggy days, rather than warm summer nights. Fortunately, experts insisted that despite their aggression, this type of mosquito is not a common carrier of West Nile virus.
Louisiana is having its third wettest October-November of the past 75 years, making eradicating the mosquitoes a difficult proposition. In recent weeks, civic efforts have resumed and the horde has eased. Another multi-day rain event is looming, however, so the mosquito population could reestablish itself leaving Santa itching atop his sleigh.
Another factor helping the mosquito outbreak is continuing nseasonable warmth. Freezing temperatures — a significant natural killer of mosquitoes — have been absent. Like most of Louisiana, Baton Rouge has measured temperatures well above normal. Only one freeze has occurred through Dec. 16. In comparison, there had been five to date in 2014.
While mosquitoes are overstaying their welcome, another water-bound bug has come early. Despite the height of crawfish season being more than eight weeks away, Louisiana suppliers are reporting strong early season yields. Mud-bug dealers say the weather has been a big help and it is allowing the shellfish to reach much larger sizes than what is typical for December.
No doubt, bugs are out in the bayou. And the heat isn't just here in Louisiana. Folks as far north as New England will be buggin’ out as the same warm and wet pattern continues through the holiday season.
Every single state in the Lower 48 has had above average temperatures through meteorological fall. From Nov. 14-Dec. 14, there had been 2,266 record highs and only 512 record lows across the United States. Warm records will continue to be pushed as a dominant eastern U.S. ridge remains steadfast with little fight from the northbound polar front jet stream — the usual general leading an army of winter cold air outbreaks.
Despite just a little more warmth than expected along the Gulf Coast, so far, all has been characteristic of a cool season El Niño pattern. That should not come as a shock, especially since this episode will go down as one of the strongest El Niño events on record. One thing that may be surprising — a Climate Prediction Center Outlook map showing the odds of above average temperatures in the eastern U.S. as high as 90 percent — a rare feat! To Bing Crosby, and everyone else dreaming of a White Christmas, that must be a real bugger!