El Niño fades without westerly wind bursts

From AGU:

Pools of warm water known as Kelvin waves can be seen traveling eastward along the equator (black line) in this Sept. 17, 2009, image from the NASA/French Space Agency Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite. El Ninos form when trade winds in the equatorial western Pacific relax over a period of months, sending Kelvin waves eastward across the Pacific like a conveyor belt. Image credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team

Pools of warm water known as Kelvin waves can be seen traveling eastward along the equator (black line) in this Sept. 17, 2009, image from the NASA/French Space Agency Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite. El Ninos form when trade winds in the equatorial western Pacific relax over a period of months, sending Kelvin waves eastward across the Pacific like a conveyor belt. Image credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team

The warm and wet winter of 1997 brought California floods, Florida tornadoes, and an ice storm in the American northeast, prompting climatologists to dub it the El Niño of the century. Earlier this year, climate scientists thought the coming winter might bring similar extremes, as equatorial Pacific Ocean conditions resembled those seen in early 1997. But the signals weakened by summer, and the El Niño predictions were downgraded. Menkes et al. used simulations to examine the differences between the two years.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is defined by abnormally warm sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean and weaker than usual trade winds. In a typical year, southeast trade winds push surface water toward the western Pacific “warm pool”–a region essential to Earth’s climate. The trade winds dramatically weaken or even reverse in El Niño years, and the warm pool extends its reach east.

Scientists have struggled to predict El Niño due to irregularities in the shape, amplitude, and timing of the surges of warm water. Previous studies suggested that short-lived westerly wind pulses (i.e. one to two weeks long) could contribute to this irregularity by triggering and sustaining El Niño events.

To understand the vanishing 2014 El Niño, the authors used computer simulations and examined the wind’s role. The researchers find pronounced differences between 1997 and 2014. Both years saw strong westerly wind events between January and March, but those disappeared this year as spring approached. In contrast, the westerly winds persisted through summer in 1997.

In the past, it was thought that westerly wind pulses were three times as likely to form if the warm pool extended east of the dateline. That did not occur this year. The team says their analysis shows that El Niño’s strength might depend on these short-lived and possibly unpredictable pulses.

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98 thoughts on “El Niño fades without westerly wind bursts

  1. This is really bad news. Well, at least we are not ENSO negative (yet) and if something at least neutral to slightly warm holds, and, the warm SST off of CA can persist a few more weeks, and, we luck out with the MJO, at very least, we may have normal rainfall this year and not dig the drought hole even deeper.

  2. Always entertaining to “listen” to scientist talk and run their computer models along with their innocent temerity to give these currents their own pet names.
    Around 3,000 years ago, mighty Tongan seamen used their extensive knowledge of these temperature sensitive currents as an important adjunct to their celestial navigation “database”.as they roamed far and wide across the Pacific and beyond.

  3. Colder than a well digger’s ass here in Wyoming today. A little “global warming” would be ok with me. Don’t care what the cause, CO2, ocean currents, TSI, sunspots, electromagnetic variations, geothermal, you name it, I’ll take it.

    • Jim G.,
      Wyoming State Penitentiary (WSP) is in Rawlins. There is an old joke: What do the folks in the WSP know that citizens of Wyoming seem not to grasp? Ans.: The inmates know they are being punished.
      Global warming isn’t going to help you. Become a “first climate refugee”: leave.

      • Like it too much here. The weather keeps the east and west coasters away. We only talk about the bad weather for that reason. Windy all the time, cold and windy in the winter, hot and windy in the summer, etc. Rawlins, on the other hand, is definitely in the armpit of Wyoming weather-wise.

      • Jim and John,
        Hah! My friends and I have long joked that nobody actually lives in Wyoming (or the Dakotas), and that it’s just a government conspiracy to hide [fill in the blank here]. Reasons? A) No one’s ever met anybody who actually lived there, and B) Who would actually CHOOSE to live there?
        rip

      • Windy Wyoming –
        When in Wyoming, we have a family “Wyoming protocol” which is, never have doors/windows on both sides of the vehicle open at the same time. Otherwise it looks like a Hollywood airplane decompression scene, everything light enough gets blown out of the passenger cabin.
        What is a Wyoming wind vane? (Hint: you see them on some mail boxes and wonder what or why it is there.) Once you ask a local or see them in action, you’ll understand.

      • Traveling between states many years ago, I was excited that the next town I’d pass would be “Medicine Bow”, the site of Owen Wister’s “The Virginian” and the related TV series. I was disappointed to find that Medicine Bow was just a wide spot in the road.

      • Alan,
        What do you mean “wide spot”? It is the 4th largest city in WY only slightly smaller than the next largest, the Cheyenne Walmart.

      • I did. Live in Southern Ontario for the summer (my winter) and on Paradise Island, Bahamas for the winter (my summer). Just arrived yesterday. Really good timing as this years “polar vortex” just hit Ontario today. Here, the high was 81, down to 75 now and probably 72 tonight. Where I lived in Ontario, the high was 1 C, down to -4 C. Saves a lot of furnace oil and electricity plus cost of living. I am a climate refuge.

    • Monday’s NOAA ENSO update downgraded their 2014 El Nino probability from 60-65% (Sept-Oct), to 55% yesterday.
      Going… going… going… …..go…..
      Maybe 2015 will be better for a decent El Nino. California needs the rain…. badly.

  4. Once the Met office boot up their new 97 trillion pound mega computer, every event everywhere will be predicted, (though not necessarily in the right order.)

    • Oh, BTW my prediction is that this “cycle”, is a direct result of OHC, and once it reaches it’s triggering threshold the Earth switches to el nino’s, starts pumping warm water to the Arctic, melts the ice, radiates the energy to space, until it discharges the accumulated energy, and the cycle resets.

    • As a farmer in Australia I really like this graph and your assumption. My Father’s generation had great years during the 1950’s. Since 2000 we have had six poor/drought years up till now and we could all do with a break from this current cycle. I wonder what the cyclone seasons were like during the 50’s and did a big event trigger the wetter cycle after 1945?

  5. I’m not sure why they needed a computer model to tell them that one of the differences between the two El Nino development years was the westerly wind bursts. I wonder if they also picked up on the fact that the eastern tropical Pacific was cooler this year too than in 1997, so that the first Kelvin wave this year was traveling into a cooler environment,

    • Bob Tisdale, you are a gem of a man. Both brave and truthful, a rare combination in this modern world, and able to explain yourself in the vernacular.
      I am beyond delighted you frequently post and comment here on WUWT, the most important website in the world.
      As an aside. I am eagerly awaiting the fish tales from Anthony. I’ve fished those waters and THIS will be a test of his “versatility.

      • I think Bob is like a lot of us here. Most of us are old enough to know that the Climate Change community is shoveling loads of BS at the public way, and we are not gonna take it quietly.
        And in particular, Bob has a excellent set of computer skills and scientist’s analystic mindset, plus the time and inclination to push back and look for himself.
        240 years ago in North America it was a few colonial Yankee publishers not taking the BS from a certain King and his army.
        Today, the Left desperately needs and wants to rein in the internet. Just like King George’s officer’s and men closed newspapers they did not like, so too today’s Left will come for blogs like WUWT if we let them.

      • Joel O’Bryan
        November 11, 2014 at 7:18 pm
        Have a read of Bernard Cornwall’s “The Fort” and tell me if this doesn’t put Massachusetts in perspective?

  6. “To understand the vanishing 2014 El Niño, the authors used computer simulations and examined the wind’s role.”
    ..so now they understand it?
    “The team says their analysis shows that El Niño’s strength might depend on these short-lived and possibly unpredictable pulses.
    …nope. “might” and “possibly unpredictable” win again.
    I do believe the climastrologists are studying the wagging tail and not the dog.

      • The saddest thing about a man and a Model is, the woman often is either an anorexic or bulimic and in this case, impossible to dine out with or cuddle. 🙂

    • Interesting question. I’ve been wondering how much heat dissipation went with that one that just went by Japan and then north to the Aleutians?

      • Well, try to tell heat dissipation to the folks in the Central and East USA and Canada , Oh I think I see there ain’t no heat left (that is why they are freezing their buts of. Cold Air is being sucked down behind Nuri from Siberia and the Arctic into the Plains and the East) but then where did it go?! Is there an effect in the North Atlantic into Western Europe? Help!

      • Currently the E Pac ACE is at 142% of normal and the W Pac ACE is at 88% of normal, so it would seem most of the additional energy is being released in the E Pac.

  7. We’re still going to get the bad winter- but not for any reason the Alarmists want us to believe.

  8. I’m confused. The post says chances for an El Nino is fading yet I see the ENSO gauge needle in the sidebar has been nudged more towards an EL Nino. Some rain in SoCal would be very welcome.

    • Mariss,
      One (or many) of Bob Tisdale’s posts discusses this but I could grab it more easily from the source. An issue is whether or not this definition and the region used is the best way of describing or officially saying an El Niño has happened. Note the past tense – one can’t say there is an El Niño until there has been one based on this definition.
      Under the heading NOAA Operational Definitions for El Niño and La Niña; in the link below:
      El Niño: characterized by a positive ONI greater than or equal to +0.5ºC.
      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.

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

    • We are basically in a weak El Nino-like pattern now. December it will strengthen and then weaken into the New Year. Kaput.
      But by 1 Feb 2015 it will be done-finished. While North America is getting hit by its 4th or 5th Polar Air outbreak of the season.
      Maybe another decent chance of an El Nino in 2015 if the SO cooperates.

    • There is a problem at NOAA or at least there was. Eric Werne published the problem here recently.

    • richard, I believe the course discussions you linked were prepared before the 1997/98 El Nino. The 1997/98 and 1982/83 El Ninos were comparable in the NINO3.4 region, but 1997/98 was a much stronger East Pacific El Nino.
      Cheers.

  9. The Trade Winds drive the ENSO, updated to October, 2014.
    http://s22.postimg.org/toyjvsqld/ENSO_vs_Pac_Trade_Winds_Oct14.png
    Data at:
    http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/data/indices/
    And the temperature of the water in the eastern Pacific is what drives the Trade Winds.
    http://s4.postimg.org/o6d0hvs1p/EPUOTA_vs_Pac_Trade_Winds_Oct14.png
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ocean/index/heat_content_index.txt
    Everything was setting up for an El Nino this year as the warm water in the equatorial undercurrent was moving in. The average temperature in the equatorial 300 metre ocean had risen to 1.6C, a relatively high number which (almost) always leads to a strong El Nino.
    But there was too much cool water left in the rest of the eastern Pacific and the warm water moving in just got cooled off. There was no westerly wind bursts as there was no heat energy at the surface to drive it. The upper 300 metre ocean temperatures in March 2014. “Blue Pacific”.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/mnth_gif/xy/mnth.anom.xy.h300.2014.03.gif

    • Bill Illis
      Your second figure showing tight correlation between east Pacific SST and strength of the trades is a clear and elegant demonstration of the Bjerknes feedback.
      The cooler east Pacific is a major part of the new ground state of the Pacific. We’re in uncharted territory.

  10. “Scientists have struggled to predict El Niño”

    Which is no reason for them not to be able to predict then entire planets climate in the year 2100 with 96% certainty or whatever certainty the IPCC is publishing lately.
    Meanwhile a phrase that should be immorilized forever on the climate science wall of shame:

    “possibly unpredictable”

    This should not be confused with defintely predictable, nor defintely unpredictable. The rigor and robustness of climate science provides with great certainty that it is probably or most likely, but defintely without question both possibly unpredictable and predictable.

  11. Is there a correlation between the super El Niño of 1997 and the extreme warmth of 1998? Hmmm. Someone should model it, so we can be 97% certain they’re linked.

    • @brians356 November 11, 2014 at 2:36 pm
      Is there a correlation between the super El Niño of 1997 and the extreme warmth of 1998? Hmmm. Someone should model it, so we can be 97% certain they’re linked.
      ++++++++++++
      Yes – for like $5, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about the answer to your questions about El Nino, La Nina and how it affects the temperatures on earth. You will be crystal clear, as Bob builds layer up layer in first, simple, and then as the book progresses, he reviews while adding little more each chapter. It’s a brilliant and easy read with lots of references to data and easy to understand illustrations.
      Link here: https://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/everything-you-every-wanted-to-know-about-el-nino-and-la-nina-2/

  12. OK, people, calm down. That’s El Niño before taxes. Once the regulatory committees have their way with it, it will sing to the tune with absolute enthusiasm.

  13. The power of El Nino to affect climate changes has more credibility than CO2 according to recent survey
    A survey by Rejesus (2013) U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change published in
    Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 45,4(November 2013):701–718
    Is discussed here http://phys.org/news/2014-11-farmers-scientists-climate.html
    More than 90 percent of the scientists and climatologists surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with more than 50 percent attributing climate change primarily to human activities.
    In contrast, 66 percent of corn producers surveyed said they believed climate change was occurring, with 8 percent pinpointing human activities as the main cause. A quarter of producers said they believed climate change was caused mostly by natural shifts in the environment, and 31 percent said there was not enough evidence to determine whether climate change was happening or not.
    The paper can be read here:
    http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/157312/2/jaae580.pdf
    Here are agricultural workers response to 2 of the statements
    1. The El Nin ̃o/La Nin ̃a cycle of weather patterns is real and affects agricultural production in the area where I farm’
    67.2% agree or strongly agree
    2. ‘‘I believe human activities are causing changes in the earth’s climate’’
    Only 36.7% agree or strongly agree

  14. This is unbelievable. The easterlies have slowed as per the SOI
    https://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/
    It is now solidly in the el nino state for 90 days, and this is currently the strongest negative in the 30 day.
    No one in their right mind thought this was going to be a super nino. It was pushed by people that had an agenda to spike the global temp. The enso event coming on is typical of a cold PDO ( overall ) and follows multiple years of cold mei. You can look at the ONI and see the pattern, the ones that only get to near 1. As it is the ssts are warming now
    But leading off with the 1997 winter example, just because they had some kind of notion back in April this was going to be something like that, is simply trying to justify not knowing what the heck was going on and driving this. It is going to be what some of us ( not only me) thought this was going to be, and you are seeing the results now in the form of the current weather, which is similar to cold attacks early in similar enso events in 68,69 and 1976
    If you go look at them you will see the actual weather being similar to this In fact on this day in 1968, the Appalachians were buried my a monster storm that hit 28.50 on the NJ shore on Nov 11.

    • I was under the impression you and bob had gotten on the same page of late. Ah well, more interesting this way. Have to say though, my 25 cents are on Joe in this case. Been following him way too ling to doubt he’s been right on this all along.

    • I want Joe to be right, or if not, for there still to be a reservoir-filling rain season in CA.
      Joe, What was the ENSO situation in Jan-May of 2012. We got snow and rain in NorCal and Sierras extending late into the season and snowpack well into the summer. Also December of 12 came out with a bang, again record snowpack northern sierras in December 2012.
      Also, how tightly is rainfall amount and strength (or absence) of ENSO correlated in CA?
      Thanks!

  15. I suggested couple of months ago that El Ninos are triggered by rapidly cooling Northern Hemisphere (Measured by UAH MSU NH dataset) and it seems that my EL Nino predictor is working pretty well:
    As you can see, for the current year cooling of the NH wasnt strong enough to trigger full scale El Nino.

    • It means “The Boy,” which is a reference to the Christ child, since the reported phenomenon usually occurs around Christmas time.
      Pools of warm water known as Kelvin waves can be seen traveling eastward along the equator (black line) in this Sept. 17, 2009, image from the NASA/French Space Agency Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite.
      Hmm…if it’s a Sept. 17, 2009, image, why does the image itself have “Sep 20 1997”?

  16. Weather models show a powerful,Pacific jet stream aimed at the West Coast next week. Question in my mind is not will it happen but how far south will the storms/fronts be and how far south will the rains fall?
    Certainly some areas with severe drought will get beneficial rains.

  17. The El Niño is interesting , but the trade winds are driven almost directly by Solar Energy Input driving the Hadley Cells!! Reduced Solar input generates lessor Hadley cells causing less energetic trade winds.
    Most all want an El Niño so that there will be rain/snow in California. Unfortunately, that “weather” is driven by the Jet Stream which is controlled by the Northern Pacific Ocean water temperature. Japan’s waters are very cold. Washington State’s waters are warm. Jet Steam continues its path of south by Japan, north by Washington State. This gives no rain for California!!

  18. Humans should not be living in areas outside the semi-humid, humid tropics, sub-tropics. You basicallly cannot do much with your life (swimming, Sports, visual natural beauty, being able to be outside all the time, lighting, real rain, not drizzle, thunder, real storms, no cold, warmth) recent happyness Gallup polls put top 12 ALL countries within tropics subtropics, mainly South America.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/worlds-happiest-country-would-you-believe-paraguay-n110981
    Talk about the utter stupidity, naivety and ignorance of the warmist ideology. Warmth is related to happinessexcept in extreme poverty (africa)

    • At least we are in Nov and not June. Even a little bit of persistence will mean relatively warm SSTs where it counts, during the big rain months of DJF.

  19. (Quoting)
    “In the past, it was thought that westerly wind pulses were three times as likely to form if the warm pool extended east of the dateline. That did not occur this year. The team says their analysis shows that El Niño’s strength might depend on these short-lived and possibly unpredictable pulses.”
    Dudes, sounds like back to the ol’ drawing board to me…

  20. Why this uncertainty? Just build a computer model. Geez. This is the 21th century.
    You know, maybe the climate system IS chaotic.

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