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16/02/2011 - Wettest January on record in Phuket, Thailand

16/02/2011 - Wettest January on record in Phuket, Thailand

Figures released by the Phuket Meteorological Department, based at Phuket International Airport, have reported a record 77 millimetres of rainfall during January 2011.

January is usually one of the driest months of the year in Phuket, Thailand but this year’s numbers show that more than twice as much rain fell than the Island’s monthly average of 35.9 millimetres.

One researcher at the Phuket International Airport monitoring station attributed the unusual amount of rainfall to the La Niña effect.

Both La Niña and its opposite, El Niño, refer to large changes in ocean surface temperatures.

The La Niña effect is caused by cooler than normal ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern region of the Pacific Ocean which impacts on global weather patterns.

During La Niña, easterly winds strengthen and ocean surface temperatures fall by as much as seven degrees. The La Niña effect causes monsoon conditions across the Andaman Sea and brings with it heavy rainfall.

El Niño occurs across the Pacific Ocean approximately every five years. Typically, the Pacific Ocean surface near the Equator warms by a few degrees. El Niño often causes drought in parts of Australia and Indonesia.

La Niña conditions typically occur every three to five years, although historical evidence records varying intervals of between two to seven years. According to the National Centre for Environmental Prediction, this century's previous La Niñas began in 1903, 1906, 1909, 1916, 1924, 1928, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1988, and 1995. Since 1975, La Niñas have been only half as frequent as El Niños.

The La Niña effect has also been blamed for the recent floods in Queensland, Australia.

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