El Niño and La Niña events are the dominant modes of natural climate variability on Earth, which is why the state of the tropical Pacific is continuously monitored. El Niños and La Niñas impact weather patterns globally. As a number of recent papers have argued, the dominance of La Niña events in recent years is responsible for part of the cessation in global surface warming outside of the Arctic, so by inference, those papers are also stating that a string of strong El Niño events were responsible for part of the long-term warming from the mid-1970s to the turn of the century. There’s nothing new about that; for years we’ve been discussing the naturally occurring, sunlight-fueled processes that drive El Niño events and cause long-term warming of global surface temperatures. If this subject is new to you, see the link at the end of this post for an overview.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) provides the following summary of their ENSO forecasts in their January 30, 2014 El Niño/La Niña Update:
- ENSO conditions are currently neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña);
- As of mid-January 2014, except for a small possibility for weak and brief La Niña development during the next couple of months, outlooks indicate likely continuation of neutral conditions into the second quarter of 2014;
- Current forecasts indicate approximately equal chances for neutral conditions or the development of a weak El Niño during the third quarter of 2014, reflecting increased chances for development of a weak El Niño.
It appears no one is suggesting that a full-fledged La Niña will form for the 2014/15 season. As of the week centered on February 5th, the sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific indicated that the tropical Pacific was experiencing La Niña conditions, though not an “official” La Niña. See the monthly sea surface temperature update for January 2014.
What’s your prediction? Please provide links to the variables you monitor. Here’s what I predict.
I predict, if we see El Niño conditions, global warming enthusiasts will cheer, because they have forecast, in turn, that record high global temperatures will accompany the next El Niño. And I predict, if we see La Niña or ENSO-neutral conditions, skeptics will cheer, because global surface temperatures should continue to remain flat. (Other than that, I don’t make predictions.)
The ENSO wrap-up from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for February 14, 2014 provides a similar loose forecast. (For those who live north of the equator, keep in mind the BOM is discussing austral seasons.)
And NOAA’s CPC has a similar mix of possible scenarios in their Weekly ENSO Update dated February 10, 2014—though the NCEP’s models are forecasting El Niño conditions starting in April-June 2014. See page 27.
The WMO briefly mentions the problems with ENSO predictions during this part of the year. They write:
It must be noted that model outlooks that span March-May period tend to have particularly lower skill than those made at other times of year. Hence some caution should be exercised when using long range outlooks made at this time for the middle of the year and beyond.
ENSO predictions at this time of year are hampered by a problem called the Spring Prediction Barrier. See the discussion at the IRI website here. But a series of new papers claim to have overcome that hurdle.
The recently published Ludescher et al (2014) Very Early Warning of Next El Niño (paywalled) are predicting El Niño conditions by late 2014. The abstract reads:
The most important driver of climate variability is the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which can trigger disasters in various parts of the globe. Despite its importance, conventional forecasting is still limited to 6 mo ahead. Recently, we developed an approach based on network analysis, which allows projection of an El Niño event about 1 y ahead. Here we show that our method correctly predicted the absence of El Niño events in 2012 and 2013 and now announce that our approach indicated (in September 2013 already) the return of El Niño in late 2014 with a 3-in-4 likelihood. We also discuss the relevance of the next El Niño to the question of global warming and the present hiatus in the global mean surface temperature.
Global warming enthusiasts have already started cheering for an El Niño. See the Michael Slezak article in NewScientist titled El Niño may make 2014 the hottest year on record. And Andrew Freedman of ClimateCentral begins his post Study Sounds ‘El Niño Alarm’ For Late This Year:
A new study shows that there is at least a 76 percent likelihood that an El Niño event will occur later this year, potentially reshaping global weather patterns for a year or more and raising the odds that 2015 will set a record for the warmest year since instrument records began in the late 19th century.
Ludescher et al (2014) appears to be based on Ludescher et al (2013) Improved El Niño forecasting by cooperativity detection (paywalled). We discussed the earlier Ludescher et al paper in the July 2013 post El Niño in the News. I closed that post with:
DID GLOBAL WARMING CAUSE THE EL NIÑOS OR DID EL NIÑOS CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING?
Numerous datasets indicate that El Niño events are fueled naturally. Additionally, satellite-era sea surface temperature records indicate that El Niño events are responsible for the warming of sea surface temperatures over the past 31 years, not vice versa as Li et al (2013) have suggested. If this topic is new to you, refer to my illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” [42MB].