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CUENCA DIGESTUnusual weather systems keep Cuenca wet and cool

If this is southern Ecuador´s dry season, why are we getting so much rain? And why is it so cold? According to the experts, there are two explanations.

The first is the strong La Niña that has raised Pacific seawater temperatures by two to three degress.  Ironcially, the phenomenon that brings rain to Ecuador is causing one of the worst droughts on record in the southeastern U.S.

The second explanation are strong high-level air currents in the Amazon region bringing unseasonal moisture over the Andes.

“A strong La Niña shuts off the pipeline of moisture from the south,” says David Miskus, who monitors drought for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It means drought in the U.S. and more rain for Central American and the west coast of South America. Panama and northern Colombia are experiencing flooding while we´re toasting in Texas.”

Hernan Parreno, of Ecuador´s National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI), says that although the La Niña is partly responsible for the current weather pattern, the bigger player is the unusual amount of moist air moving westward into the Andes from the Amazon region.

Parreno says that the current pattern could stay in place until the end of July.

The heavy rainfall was responsible for three deaths on Tuesday when a mother and two of her children drowned in a tributary of Rio Yanuncay, west of Cuenca. The family fell into the swollen river when the footbridge they were crossing broke loose from its moorings.

Officials have warned residents to stay away from rivers until high water levels subside.

Cuenca surpassed its average annual rain total of 29 inches in late June, according to the INAMHI. June is typically the driest month of the year with the period of June through September being the driest quarter of the year.

The weather systems are also making it colder in Cuenca. The average low temperature for July is 48 degrees F. but temperatures have averaged in the low 40s for the past three weeks and in the high-30s in Cuenca´s high-altitude western suburbs. Snow fell at elevations above 12,000 in the Cajas Mountains on Monday and Tuesday.

Rain and clouds have also kept afternoon high temperatures in the low 60s or high 50s. The normal average high for July is 69 degrees.

“We are all looking forward to returning to normal weather,” says Parreno.

Photo caption: A maintenance worker grabs a handful of snow in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca, on Tuesday.