A Note Regarding The NOAA ENSO Meter

UPDATE: Ric Werme is graciously producing a new updated meter for the WUWT sidebar, see comments. – Anthony

by Bob Tisdale

There have been a number of comments at WattsUpWithThat wondering if the NOAA ENSO Meter, Figure 1, is broken. The ENSO Meter reading has been at 0.0 deg C for over a month, even though weekly NINO3.4 SST anomalies, based on the NOAA Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature data, has been below the threshold of a La Nina event (-0.5 deg C) for three weeks. Refer to Weekly ENSO Index SST data from NOAA. Those comments questioning the ENSO Meter included my August 22, 2011 at 7:08 am question to Anthony Watts on the La Niña returns thread. There was a reference to the meter again today in the WUWT post It’s official: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says La Niña is back.

Figure 1

Leon Brozyna’s August 22, 2011 at 9:12 am comment on the La Niña returns thread suggested the ENSO Meter was based on the NOAA Oceanic NINO Index , also known as ONI. (ONI is the 3-month average of NINO3.4 Sea Surface Temperature anomalies based on the NOAA ERSST.v3b dataset.) Leon’s comment made sense since ONI was the only ENSO index showing a 0.0 deg C anomaly for that period. I wanted to confirm that when the ONI data was updated earlier this week so I could write a post about it, but the ONI reading for the “season” of June-July-August was also 0.0 deg C. The ONI data didn’t change, and the meter didn’t budge, so that was no help.

I wrote to Anthony Watts today regarding the ENSO meter, and he had already sought the answer directly from NOAA. NOAA confirmed that the ENSO meter is based on the Oceanic NINO Index.

And that means the ENSO meter will be 0.0 deg C until the ONI data is updated in early October 2011.

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36 thoughts on “A Note Regarding The NOAA ENSO Meter

  1. Which just goes to show that the CPC can speak out of both sides of its mouth with ease. On Sep 6, they released the monthly update, showing 0.0, and declaring ENSO neutral. Today, two days later, they have their press release trumpeting the return of La Niña. But there won’t be an update to the ONI until maybe Oct 3. Meanwhile, we can keep watching the weekly numbers released every Monday become more negative.

    PS. It’s nice to know my gut feeling about this (the meter) was right.

  2. So, Is there a weekly NINI 3.4 source on the web? I can find some monthly ones, e.g.

    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/el_nino.dat which says last month should be logged as -0.10:

    2011  1     -1.33     -0.87     -1.50     -0.33
    2011  2     -0.86     -0.72     -1.10      0.10
    2011  3     -0.76     -0.47     -0.87     -0.64
    2011  4     -0.20     -0.18     -0.48     -0.32
    2011  5     -0.10     -0.09     -0.16     -0.10
    2011  6      0.29     -0.05      0.08     -0.01
    2011  7      0.00      0.05     -0.06      0.00
    2011  8     -0.30      0.05     -0.25     -0.10

    How does the graphic get generated? I don’t have good tools for doing it, but if seriously motivated….

    We ought to be able to do better than monthly updates!

  3. The ONI is “the three-month running-mean SST departures
    in the Niño 3.4 region.” I don’t think it’s been three months yet.

  4. heh- well, if you predict both possible outcomes, you’re going to be right half the tim – a better score than they could otherwise hope for.

  5. I’d sure like to see that thing kick over to the Nino side for a while. We really could use the rain here in Texas. It seems the whole state has become a tinderbox.

    Yeah, I know it’s not The Worst Ever, but it sucks enough for me.

  6. Leon Brozyna says:
    September 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Ric Werme says:
    September 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    > In the first para, Bob has a link to several years of weekly values, the Weekly ENSO Index SST data. See:

    > http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/data/indices/wksst.for

    Oh, Duh! I went to the WUWT ENSO reference page instead of looking under my nose.

    > I never did play with any of the numbers, but I really expected this latest update to go negative.

    Do we know when that graphic gets updated? Yes! It was last updated on August 4th. Not only that, but I see a whole bunch of .gifs for different temperature offsets! That means I have everything I need for a weekly update. Except time. I’ll be away this weekend.

    I’ll see what I can do.

    Hey Anthony – here’s a stopgap. Well, final fix on your part, something that will buy me some time on my part. Change the link to http://home.comcast.net/~ewerme/wuwt/elninometer-current.gif . Hmm, there will be a lot of references, but I don’t think Comcast will squawk. I have another ISP that might handle it fine, no time to check tonight.

    I’ll send you direct Email too.

    REPLY: implemented, thanks – A

  7. Hey, wait a minute! The monthly site I found, ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/el_nino.dat says the August anomaly is -1.0, oops, that’s wrong, I should be looking at column 4, which is +0.5. However, the link Bob provided says

                    Nino1+2      Nino3        Nino34        Nino4
     Week          SST SSTA     SST SSTA     SST SSTA     SST SSTA
    ...
     27JUL2011     21.9 0.5     25.3 0.0     26.8-0.2     28.4-0.1
     03AUG2011     21.5 0.3     25.0-0.2     26.4-0.4     28.3-0.2
     10AUG2011     20.9-0.1     24.6-0.5     26.3-0.5     28.4-0.1
     17AUG2011     20.5-0.3     24.5-0.5     26.0-0.7     28.2-0.2
     24AUG2011     20.2-0.5     24.3-0.6     26.1-0.6     28.3-0.2
     31AUG2011     20.0-0.7     24.4-0.5     26.1-0.6     28.3-0.2

    and this says the value before Aug 4 is -0.4. Oh well, I’ll be using the weekly figures, which are consistent about referring to a return to La Niño conditions.

  8. Ric Werme, the weekly figures can fluctuate quite strongly (although they seem to need at least 3 months to bounce from La Niña to El Niño levels). The official definition for a real ENSO event is that you need 5 consecutive ONI values (overlapping 3-month means) below or over the threshold values to have a real La Niña or El Niño (see http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/ensoyears.shtml ). I guess we won’t see a single three-month average below -0.5 before November 1st.

  9. Ric Werme says:
    September 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    If you’re gonna play with the numbers, remember that it’s not just apples and oranges but apples, oranges, and grapefruit, i.e., there are the weekly numbers, monthly numbers, and the monthly numbers for the ENSO ONI (which “drives” the ENSO meter) are for the preceding three months.

    Weekly – (apples)

    http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/data/indices/wksst.for

    Monthly – (oranges)
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/el_nino.dat

    Monthly – (grapefruit)

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

    Actually, the monthly ENSO report comes out weekly. But the ONI is only updated monthly. The most recent was Sep 6, which came out at 0.0, which leaves the ENSO meter stuck for another month. The Sep 6 ONI update covers the preceding three months of Jun, Jul, & Aug, while the Aug ONI update covered May, Jun, & Jul.

  10. Anthony wrote in the update: “Ric Werme is graciously producing a new updated meter for the WUWT sidebar, see comments.”

    Thanks, Ric. So for future reference, the new WUWT ENSO meter is based on the weekly Reynolds OI.v2 SST anomaly data.

  11. Huge thanks for all you do around here, Ric! Anthony’s efforts (I’d almost say “heroic efforts”) are greatly enhanced by yourself and other “helpers” to make this blog the gem it is!!!

    Best,
    Frank

  12. Leon Brozyna: You provided a link to the monthly NINO indices for the ERSST.v3b dataset:
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/el_nino.dat

    Based on the “read me” file for that data…
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/Readme
    …the fourth column (second column of data) should be NINO3.4 SST anomalies. But that dataset is not NINO3,4 SST anomalies. Take a 3-month average of that data and compare it to ONI. They should be one and the same, but they’re not even close. I’ll notify NOAA via email.

  13. With soo many people working together on this site, it has created quite an independant team.

    You guys are hard to beat!

  14. Well, that was a busy, fairly disjointed night. I was also trying to get a headstart on a RGGI update post.

    It was certainly time to get fed up with the old meter!

    From Bob Tisdale:

    FYI, the weekly NINO3.4 SST anomalies … are updated on Mondays.

    Thanks, that saves me one thing I needed to learn. I might have time Sunday PM to work on an automatic updater. If not, I can do Manual Mondays.

    From Leon Brozyna:

    there are the weekly numbers, monthly numbers, and the monthly numbers for the ENSO ONI (which “drives” the ENSO meter) are for the preceding three months.

    Thanks for the fruit salad. One colloquial term for readers to keep in mind is “La Niña conditions” which looks at the recent monthly anomaly while the requirement for a “La Niña episode” is as Espen noted. From the Powerpoint, the definitions for oranges and grapefruit:

    NOAA Operational Definitions for El Niño and La Niña

    El Niño: characterized by a positive ONI greater than or equal to +0.5C.
    La Niña: characterized by a negative ONI less than or equal to -0.5C.
    By historical standards, to be classified as a full-fledged El Niño or La Niña episode, these thresholds must be exceeded for a period of at least 5 consecutive overlapping 3-month seasons.
    CPC considers El Niño or La Niña conditions to occur when the monthly Niño3.4 OISST departures meet or exceed +/-0.5°C along with consistent atmospheric features. These anomalies must also be forecasted to persist for 3 consecutive months.

    So with the ENSO meter now referring to a weekly measurement it will be apples, i.e. the weekly Reynolds OI.v2 SST anomaly. Tasty! Call it the ENSO snapshot or ENSO weekly or something better. It might be a good idea to note that in the title or describe it in http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/enso/

  15. I guess it would be better to give it a different graphical representation and provide it along with the original one, otherwise somebody might make fun of this page for having ‘Special Denialist ENSO meter’.

  16. Ric Werme says:
    September 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Excellent … you’ve got a firm handle on things.

    But beware the much dreaded EXCEPTION (you just knew there had to be one of those lurking around here somewhere). While the weekly ENSO numbers are posted on Mondays as Bob said, the monthly ONI doesn’t always happen on the first Monday of each month. Case in point … August. The weekly numbers were posted August 1, but the ONI update didn’t happen … it wasn’t officially released until the following Monday, although NOAAWatch was able to get the results early and updated the meter on Aug 4.

    Now, let’s see how long it’ll be before someone complains that the new meter you’ve worked up doesn’t agree with the official monthly ENSO value.

    ++++++++++++++++

    Bob Tisdale says:
    September 9, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I hope NCDC appreciates being notified that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing !

    BTW, I like that new look at your blog. It’s been awhile since I last visited … the old format took forever to load on my dialup connection, so I didn’t visit as often as I would have liked. Appreciate the effort you put in to make the conversion.

  17. I hate to interrupt your scientific banter.

    But do you guys realized that you have probably just spoiled some poor client scientist alarmist’s model theory …. I can see it now …a whooping mad scientist “3 weeks and it is still fitting my model prediction!” …. and along comes Mr Watts up!

  18. SOI data indicates it is a bit premature yet to be calling a La Nina. July was 9.1 and August back to 2.6. The index is heading higher but it looks too soon to be sure we are heading to a full blown La Nina.
    SOI data

    http://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/soigraph/index.php

    Recent daily data

    http://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/30daysoivalues/

    Data files

    http://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/soidatafiles/index.php

  19. Warwick Hughes says:
    September 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm
    SOI data indicates it is a bit premature yet to be calling a La Nina. July was 9.1 and August back to 2.6. The index is heading higher but it looks too soon to be sure we are heading to a full blown La Nina.

    The BoM Monthly Subsurface Pacific Ocean Equatorial Temperature Anomalies down to 400 Meters do not seem so ambiguous:

    and even the red-shifted change of colour scheme does not disguise the scale of the east equatorial Pacific cold tongue:

    Isn’t it the case that when the Nino SST 3.4 index goes below -0.5 C, then its a La Nina?

    If it looks like an elephant, stomps like an elephant and smells like an elephant; IT IS AN ELEPHANT.

  20. The SOI is a function of air pressure at Tahiti and Darwin – does not derive from SST’s.
    The SOI is not in a La Nina phase yet.
    Perhaps the NOAA meter should not be termed an ENSO Meter – but maybe an El Nino SST meter.

  21. Warwick:

    Thank you for your SOI notes. One question, though – when does the SOI reflect La Niña conditions? Okay, two – can it be used as a La Niña predictor?

  22. No change in the ENSO meter this week – still at -0.6.

    Oh boy, another week before I have to finish my auto updater. (Which is
    nearly done except for FTP-ing the image to Comcast.)

    Weekly SST data starts week centered on 3Jan1990
    
                    Nino1+2      Nino3        Nino34        Nino4
     Week          SST SSTA     SST SSTA     SST SSTA     SST SSTA
     ...
     03AUG2011     21.5 0.3     25.0-0.2     26.4-0.4     28.3-0.2
     10AUG2011     20.9-0.1     24.6-0.5     26.3-0.5     28.4-0.1
     17AUG2011     20.5-0.3     24.5-0.5     26.0-0.7     28.2-0.2
     24AUG2011     20.2-0.5     24.3-0.6     26.1-0.6     28.3-0.2
     31AUG2011     20.0-0.7     24.4-0.5     26.1-0.6     28.3-0.2
     07SEP2011     19.7-0.9     24.2-0.7     26.1-0.6     28.2-0.3
  23. Ric Werme says:
    September 12, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Last week’s Official report came out on Monday showing the most recent three-month ONI value at 0.0, so it was listed as being neutral. Two days later (Sep 7) came the press release from CPC announcing that La Niña conditions exist. (Don’t those guys at CPC even talk to one another?) So, today the latest Official report is out with, you guessed it, an announcement that La Niña conditions exist.

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

    And in three weeks, when the newest ONI is posted, it’ll probably finally show that La Niña conditions exist … or maybe not, since the ONI upon which the definition is based is for a three month period. Assuming the next three weeks come in at -.7, I get a three month value at -.46, so it’s a squeaker, assuming that it’s rounded up to -.5. But, no matter how you slice it or dice it, if this La Niña winter is anything at all like our La Niña winter of last year, I’ll be happy … we had a slightly below average snowfall here in Buffalo with no massive lake effect storms … I can live with that.

  24. The BoM have just updated their ENSO Wrap-Up
    Pacific approaches La Niña. Positive Indian Ocean dipole develops.
    Issued on Wednesday 14 September
    Steady cooling of the central Pacific Ocean since early winter has increased the chance of La Niña returning during the last quarter of 2011. Current ENSO indicators are approaching values typically associated with La Niña events. Read on at…………….

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

  25. Found on Tips & Notes, copying here so I don’t lose it:

    geo says:
    September 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    As an FYI, ESET NOD32 4.x (a leading anti-virus program) has decided that “home.comcast.net/~ewerme/wuwt/elninometer-current.gif” is simply not the kind of girl one brings home to mama.

    No doubt this is a false positive, but thought you might like to know.

    Anyone else seen this? It’s just a stupid .gif. Perhaps they don’t like
    the home.comcast.net or ~ewerme parts.

  26. Oops – I forgot to check this morning to see if the automatic update worked. It didn’t. Fixed and checked out, it might work next Monday.

    BTW, the Nino 3.4 figure dropped from -0.6 to -0.7.

  27. How come the index for August changed from Ric’s post Sep 8? Before, the August index was -0.1 from fourth column.
    Copied today from
    ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/ersst/v3b/pdo/el_nino.dat
    2011 1 -1.33 -0.87 -1.50 -0.33
    2011 2 -0.86 -0.72 -1.10 0.10
    2011 3 -0.76 -0.47 -0.87 -0.64
    2011 4 -0.20 -0.18 -0.48 -0.32
    2011 5 -0.10 -0.09 -0.16 -0.10
    2011 6 0.29 -0.05 0.08 -0.01
    2011 7 0.00 0.06 -0.06 0.00
    2011 8 -0.38 0.00 -0.29 -0.26
    2011 9 -0.60 -0.24 -0.54 -0.73

    May West in Texas — so dry spittin’ cotton

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