Last year, she brought 800 inches of white stuff to Squaw. This year, fields of grass on Vail’s back bowls. And now, scientists believe La Nina might also be responsible for worldwide flu pandemics.
A new study published online Monday in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) found a link between the weather pattern and the outbreaks of 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009. La Nina—characterized by below-average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific in fall and winter—affects the migratory patterns of birds, which may in turn promote the development of dangerous new strains of flu.
When the birds’ migration pattern is altered, the birds’ contact with each other is also altered, creating the gene swapping conditions that lead to new strains of the virus. (The swine flu pandemic of 2009 is largely attributed to gene swapping between bird and pig flu viruses.)
As for what virus strains the current two years of La Nina will bring, no one knows yet. Let’s just hope she softens the blow with lots more snow.