Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Ski Resort Life

La Nina Brings Winter Drought…and Worldwide Flu Pandemic?

A new study discovers a link between the La Nina weather pattern and influenza pandemics.

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.

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.