Final – The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 22 – January 2015 Update – You Make the Forecasts for the 2015/16 Season

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale

WRAP-UP

This is the final post in The 2014/15 El Niño series.  It began back in April 2014 when many people were expecting a strong El Niño due to the magnitude of the downwelling (warm) Kelvin wave. But the development of the El Niño floundered because it was missing something very important:  additional westerly wind bursts to help push additional warm water from the west to the east along the equatorial Pacific.  As a result, there was a general warming of the tropical Pacific in 2014, comparable to a moderate El Niño, as the warm water from the downwelling Kelvin wave rose to the surface. But the warming didn’t initially occur in the east-central portion (NINO3.4 region) of the equatorial Pacific.  It wasn’t until the secondary downwelling (warm) Kelvin waves reached the eastern equatorial Pacific later in 2014 that the surface of the NINO3.4 region warmed to El Niño conditions…and continued to stay there.

Something else happened that might be considered unusual. A pocket of warm water from the initial Kelvin wave was diverted from the Pacific equatorial undercurrent (Cromwell Current) to the south, just east of the dateline.  That pocket of warm water migrated west and then fed back to the equator, where it supplied additional warm water for secondary Kelvin waves in 2014.

El Niño conditions may or may not have existed for much of 2014, depending on the metric used to define an El Niño:

  • According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), El Niño conditions have existed since the boreal summer 2014. The JMA based their findings on NINO3 region sea surface temperatures.
  • Based on NINO3.4 region sea surface temperature anomalies (used by NOAA for defining El Niño conditions in their Oceanic Nino Index) the equatorial Pacific fluctuated in and out of El Niño conditions (NINO3.4 SSTa equal to or greater than +0.5 deg C) until the week of October 15. They have remained in El Niño conditions since then, but they’ve recently cooled back to the threshold of an El Niño…and might drop to ENSO neutral conditions again soon. See Figures 1 and 2.
  • The Southern Oscillation Index is used by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to define El Niño conditions. El Niño conditions (an SOI value of -8.0 or lower) existed from August to November 2014, according to the SOI.
  • Based on NOAA’s unofficial Multivariate ENSO Index, El Niño conditions existed from the bimonth of April/May to July/August, and they’ve returned for the bimonths of October/November and November/December.

And, as noted earlier, based on the sea surface temperatures for the entire tropical Pacific, a moderate El Niño would appear to have been taking place since boreal summer. See Figure 00.

00 Trop Pac SSTa and Evolution

Figure 00

The warming of the tropical Pacific in response to the El Niño processes contributed to the elevated global sea surface temperatures in 2014, but they were not the primary cause.  The primary cause was the unusual weather event in the eastern extratropical North Pacific. See the post Did ENSO and the “Monster” Kelvin Wave Contribute to the Record High Global Sea Surface Temperatures in 2014?

Back to the regular El Niño update:

INTRODUCTION

This post provides an update on the progress of the evolution of the 2014/15 El Niño conditions. The post is similar in layout to the earlier updates. (See the entire 2014/15 El Niño series of posts here.) Please click on the illustrations and animations to enlarge them.

As you’ll note, much of the text is boiler plate. New discussions are preceded by a boldfaced Update.  I’ve also added a “Your ENSO Predictions for the 2015/16 Season” heading at the end of the post to prompt the discussion of what conditions you believe will inhabit the tropical Pacific for the 2015/16 season: El Niño, ENSO Neutral or La Niña.

Included are updates of the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the four most-often-used NINO regions. Also included are updates of the GODAS map-based animations of sea surface height anomalies, T300 anomalies (depth-averaged temperature anomalies to 300 meters), sea surface temperature anomalies, and the cross sections of temperature anomalies at depth along the equator. These animations start in January 2014 for the full progress of this year’s event(s). Also included are a couple of graphs of the BOM Southern-Oscillation Index (SOI) and a discussion of the NOAA Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI).

We compared data for the evolution of the 2014/15 El Niño to the 1982/83 and 1997/98 El Niños in a number of posts early in this series, back when this El Niño was being compared to those two strong events in new reports.  More recently, we changed the reference El Niños for the evolution comparisons to the 2002/03 and 2009/10 El Niños. These reference El Niños are likely stronger than what we might expect in the next few months, but they are far weaker than the ones we used earlier this year.

And since we’ve been watching the downwelling (warm) Kelvin wave as it makes its way east along the equator in the Pacific, also included in this post are evolution comparisons using warm water volume anomalies and depth-averaged temperature anomalies from the NOAA TOA project website.

Then, we’ll take a look at a number of Hovmoller diagrams comparing the progress so far this year to what happened in both 2002 and 2009.

NINO REGION TIME-SERIES GRAPHS

Note: The NOAA NOMADS website is still off-line, so I used the weekly NINO region sea surface temperature anomaly data for Figures 1 and 2 from the NOAA/CPC Monthly Atmospheric & SST Indices webpage, specifically the data here.  The data from NOAA NOMADS was provided with oodles of significant figures, while the NOAA/CPC data are provided in tenths of a degree C. The base years for anomalies through NOMADS were 1971-2000, while the NOAA/CPC data are referenced to 1981-2010. So, along with the changes to the reference El Niños, that explains why the graphs are a little different than what you’re used to seeing.

Figure 1 includes the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies of the 4 most-often-used NINO regions of the equatorial Pacific. From west to east they include:

  • NINO4 (5S-5N, 160E-150W)
  • NINO3.4 (5S-5N, 170W-120W)
  • NINO3 (5S-5N, 150W-90W)
  • NINO1+2 (10S-0, 90W-80W)

Update: Of the four regions, the NINO3.4 region sea surface temperatures are the most commonly referenced.  They are used for the NOAA Oceanic NINO Index, which NOAA uses to identify “official” El Niño and La Niña event.  As of last week, NINO3.4 region sea surface temperature anomalies had dropped back down to the threshold of El Niño conditions and might cool more. NINO3 and NINO4 region temperature anomalies remain slightly higher than the NINO3.4 region.  NINO1+2 region surface temperatures had been elevated for about 6 months, ever since the first downwelling Kelvin wave reached the coast of South America, but they have continued their long-term decline since boreal summer and they are now at 0.0 deg C.

01 Weekly NINO Region SSTa

Figure 1

Note that the horizontal red lines in the graphs are the current readings, not the trends.

EL NIÑO EVOLUTION COMPARISONS FOR NINO REGION SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES

Using weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the four NINO regions, Figure 2 compares the goings on this year with the 2002/03 and 2009/10 events.

02 Weekly NINO Region SSTa Evolution

Figure 2

ANIMATION UPDATES

Update:  The animations have grown long, so I’ve sped them up. Because they’re so long, I’ve linked them instead of posting them

In the first post in this series, we discussed a number of animations of maps and animations of equatorial cross sections that are available from the NOAA Global Ocean Data Assimilation System (GODAS) website.  Each cell of the animation is a 5-day (pentadal) average. Those animations ran from January 3rd to March 29th. The following are updates, again starting in January 3rd.  GODAS only maintains their animations for 3 months.  I’ve stored the maps since the first of the year and have continued to add maps as time progresses.

Animation 1 provides the sea surface height anomalies and the depth-averaged temperature anomalies for the top 300 meters (T300) side by side.

CLICK HERE for Animation 1

Animation 2 is a similar side-by-side comparison, but on the left are maps of sea surface temperature anomalies and on the right are the T300 maps. My apologies for the shift in the color scaling for the range of +0.5 to +1.0 deg C in the sea surface temperature anomaly maps.  That appears to be a quirk in my computer, not the GODAS website.

CLICK HERE for Animation 2

Animation 3 is an update of the cross sections of temperature anomalies at depth along the equator.

CLICK HERE for Animation 3

THE MULTIVARIATE ENSO INDEX

We first discussed the NOAA Multivariate ENSO Index in this series in the post The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 19 – Is an El Niño Already Taking Place?  I’ve borrowed the preliminary discussion there and expanded on it.

The Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) is another ENSO index published by NOAA.  It was created and is maintained by NOAA’s Klaus Wolter.  The Multivariate ENSO Index uses the sea surface temperatures of the NINO3 region of the equatorial Pacific, along with a slew of atmospheric variables…thus “multivariate”.

El Niño and La Niña rankings according to the MEI aren’t based on fixed threshold values such as +0.5 for El Niño and -0.5 for La Niña.  The MEI El Niño and La Niña rankings are based on percentiles, top 30% for the weak to strong El Niños and the bottom 30% for the weak to strong La Niñas.   This is difficult to track, because, when using the percentile method, the thresholds of El Niño and La Niña conditions vary from one bimonthly period to the next, and they can change from year to year. See the discussion of the MEI in the November update for further information.

Update: The Multivariate ENSO Index update discussion and data for November/December have been posted.  Figure 3 presents a graph of the MEI time series starting in Dec/Jan 1979.  And Figure 4 compares the evolution this year to the reference El Niño-formation years of 2002 and 2009.

03 MEI

Figure 3

# # #

04 MEI Evolution

Figure 4

.EL NIÑO EVOLUTION COMPARISONS WITH TAO PROJECT SUBSURFACE DATA

The NOAA Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) Project website includes data for two temperature-related datasets for the equatorial Pacific.  See their Upper Ocean Heat Content and ENSO webpage for descriptions of the datasets.   The two datasets are Warm Water Volume (above the 20 deg C isotherm) and the Depth-Averaged Temperatures for the top 300 meters (aka T300).  Both are available for the:

  • Western Equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 120E-155W)
  • Eastern Equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 155W-80W)
  • Total Equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 120E-80W)

Keep in mind that the longitudes of 120E-80W stretch 160 deg, almost halfway around the globe. For a reminder of width of the equatorial Pacific, see the protractor-based illustration here.

In the following three graphs, we’re comparing data for the evolution of the 2014/15 El Niño so far (through the end of December 2014) with the data for the evolutions of the 2002/03 and 2009/10 El Niños. The Warm Water Volume data are the top graphs and the depth-averaged temperature data are the bottom graphs.  As you’ll see, the curves of two datasets are similar, but not necessarily the same.

Let’s start with the Western Equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 120E-155W), Figure 5. The warm water volume and depth-averaged temperature data show the Western Equatorial Pacific had slightly less warm water or was slightly cooler this year than during the opening months of 2009. But 2014 had more warm water or was warmer than 2002.  For 2014, the warm water volume and temperature to depth in the west dropped as the initial Kelvin wave this year carried some water east, but it has since rebounded.  Recall, some of the warm water from the initial downwelling Kelvin wave has already returned to the west.

05 Western WWV and T300

Figure 5

Update: As a result, the conditions in the western equatorial Pacific continue to be warmer than they had been during the reference El Niños, but the warm water volume and depth-averaged temperature (T300) in the western equatorial Pacific are much lower now than they were at the beginning of the year.

Moving on to the eastern equatorial Pacific:  During those 2002/03 and 2009/10 El Niños, the warm water had traveled east by now. We can see that in the warm water volume and depth-averaged temperature data for the eastern equatorial Pacific.  This year, early in the year, the eastern equatorial data both rose, a result of the initial Kelvin wave carrying warm water from the West Pacific Warm Pool to the east.  Part of the warm water had been consumed—released to the atmosphere through evaporation, or distributed away from the equator, or returned to the west—by mid-year, but then the warm water fed back to the equatorial Pacific mid-year and was carried eastward.

06 Eastern WWV and T300

Figure 6

Update: For December, the warm water volume is closer to the values during the evolutions of the 2009/10 El Niño than the 2002/03 El Niño, but the depth-averaged temperature is less in December this year.

Now for the entire equatorial Pacific, Figure 7:

07 Total WWV and T300

Figure 7

Update: For this year, the warm water initially increased across the entire equatorial Pacific, as warm water from off the equator circulated to the equator. Early in the year, the two TAO project indices were above those in 2002 and 2009.  Then the warm water decreased as it rose to the surface and evaporated or was redistributed away from the equator. Currently, the warm water volume is greater than both reference years, and the depth-averaged temperature anomaly above 300 meters is presently comparable to 2009 and ahead of 2002.

SOUTHERN OSCILLATION INDEX (SOI)

The reasons an El Niño did not continue to form this year in response to the Kelvin wave are well established. First, the atmospheric component of ENSO, the “SO” part, refused to cooperate.  That is, the trade winds in the western equatorial Pacific did not weaken as expected to help reinforce the El Niño development. (The other reason, of course, was the upwelling (cool) Kelvin that formed in the wake of the downwelling (warm).  That trailing cool Kelvin wave helped to counteract part of the warm Kelvin wave.)

The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is another widely used reference for the strength, frequency and duration of El Niño and La Niña events.  We discussed the Southern Oscillation Index in Part 8 of this series. It is derived from the sea level pressures of Tahiti and Darwin, Australia, and as such it reflects the wind patterns off the equator in the southern tropical Pacific.  With the Southern Oscillation Index, El Niño events are strong negative values and La Niñas are strong positive values, which is the reverse of what we see with sea surface temperatures.  Figure 8 presents a time-series graph of the SOI data.  Note that the horizontal red line is the October value, not a trend line.

08 Bom SOI

Figure 8

Update: The December 2014 Southern Oscillation Index value is -5.5, which is ENSO-neutral conditions according to the SOI. (The BOM threshold for El Niño conditions is an SOI value of -8.0.)

The graphs in Figure 9 compare the evolution of the SOI values this year to those in 2002 and 2009, the development years of the 2002/03 and 2009/10 El Niños. The top graph shows the raw data. Because the SOI data are so volatile, I’ve smoothed them with a 3-month filter in the bottom graph.

09 SOI Evolution

Figure 9

Update:  The monthly 2014 values as of December are lower than they were in 2002 and 2009, but the 3-month average is comparable to the 2009 conditions.

For those of you interested in keeping a closer eye on the BOM Southern Oscillation Index, see the BOM Recent (preliminary) Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) values webpage.

Update: For the past month, the daily SOI has been very volatile, bouncing in and out of El Niño conditions…more out than in. The 30-day running-averages have been in ENSO neutral conditions for more than a week, while the 90-day average has been at or near the threshold of an El Niño.

COMPARISONS OF HOVMOLLER DIAGRAMS OF THIS YEAR (TO DATE) WITH 2002 AND 2009

In past updates, in the following Hovmoller diagrams, I’ve used the development of the 1997/98 and 1982/83 El Niños as a reference for this year’s El Niño. That now seems to be overkill, because the feedbacks never kicked in this year…where all of the feedbacks freakishly aligned for the 1997/98 El Niño.  The 1982/83 El Niño was a late bloomer; that is, it didn’t really start to take off until later in the year, and it was a very strong El Niño too.

Now, it’s unlikely that the El Niño would be a strong El Niño. So I’ve switched reference years for this post.

Hovmoller diagrams are a great way to display data.  If they’re new to you, there’s no reason to be intimidated by them. Let’s take a look at Figure 10.  It presents the Hovmoller diagrams of thermocline depth anomalies (the depth of the isotherm at 20 deg C.  Water warmer than 20 deg C is above the 20 deg C isotherm and below it the water is cooler). 2014 is in the center, 2002 on the left and 2009 to the right. GODAS, unfortunately, furnishes the illustrations (not the data) in different dimensions for some years. Thus the dimensions of the Hovmoller in the left are larger than the other two.

The vertical (y) axis in all the Hovmollers shown in this post is time with the Januarys at the top and Decembers at the bottom.  The horizontal (x) axis is longitude, so, moving from left to right in each of the three Hovmoller diagrams, we’re going from west to east…with the Indian Ocean in the left-hand portion, the Pacific in the center and the Atlantic in the right-hand portion.  We’re interested in the Pacific. The data are color-coded according to the scales below the Hovmollers.

10 GODAS Hovmoller - Thermocline Depth Anomalies

Figure 10

Figure 10 is presenting the depth of the 20 deg C isotherm along a band from 2S to 2N. The positive anomalies, working their way eastward since the beginning of 2014, were caused by the downwelling Kelvin wave, which pushes down on the thermocline (the 20 deg C isotherm).  You’ll note how the anomalies grew in strength as the Kelvin wave migrated east. That does not mean the Kelvin wave is getting stronger as it traveled east; that simply indicates that the thermocline is normally closer to the surface in the eastern equatorial Pacific than it is in the western portion.  The secondary (and definitely weaker) downwelling Kelvin waves this year are also visible in the center Hovmoller.

Figure 11 presents the 2014-to-date along with the 2002 and 2009 Hovmollers for wind stress (not anomalies) along the equator.   The simplest way to explain them is that they’re presenting the impacts of the strengths and directions of the trade winds on the surfaces of the equatorial oceans. In this presentation, the effects of the east to west trade winds at various strengths are shown in blues, and the reversals of the trade winds into westerlies are shown in yellows, oranges and reds.  To explain the color coding, the trade winds normally blow from east to west.  Stronger than normal trade winds are associated with La Niñas; thus the cooler colors for stronger than normal east to west trade winds. The reversals of the trade winds (the yellows, oranges and reds) are the true abnormalities and they’re associated with El Niños, which are the abnormal state of the tropical Pacific.  (A La Niña is simply an exaggerated normal state.)

11 GODAS Hovmoller - Wind Stress

Figure 11

The two westerly wind bursts shown in red in the western equatorial Pacific in 2014 are associated with the strong downwelling Kelvin wave that formed at the time. (See the post ENSO Basics: Westerly Wind Bursts Initiate an El Niño.)  Throughout both 2002 and 2009, there were series of westerly wind bursts in the western equatorial Pacific, with stronger ones later in the year.

Update:  We still haven’t had any strong westerly wind bursts to help strengthen the El Niño in 2014.

Figure 12 presents the Hovmollers of wind stress anomalies…just a different perspective.  But positive wind stress anomalies, at the low end of the color-coded scale, are actually a weakening of the trade winds, not a reversal.

12 GODAS Hovmoller - Wind Stress Anomalies

Figure 12

Other than the two westerly wind bursts at the beginning of the year, the western equatorial Pacific has been quiet this year compared to 2002 and 2009.

NOTE: There are a number of wind stress-related images on meteorological websites.  Always check to see if they’re presenting absolute values or anomalies.

And Figure 13 presents the Hovmollers of sea surface temperature anomalies. Unfortunately, the Hovmoller of sea surface temperature anomalies is delayed a few weeks. But as we’ve seen in the comparison graphs in Figure 2, the sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region in 2014 are behind those of 2002 and 2009, but in the eastern equatorial Pacific, the sea surface temperature anomalies this year in the NINO1+2 region had been well above those in our two reference years.

13 GODAS Hovmoller - Sea Surface Temp Anomalies

Figure 13

Update:  I’ve highlighted the longitudes of the NINO3.4 region on the Hovmoller for 2014.  Note how something curious happened this year.  The sea surface temperature anomalies warmed to the east and to the west of the NINO3.4 region.  The equatorial Pacific was releasing more heat than normal this year into the atmosphere, just not in the NINO3.4 region, which is the region NOAA uses for its “official” reference.

YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2015/16 SEASON

What’ll happen in 2015 to bring us into the 2015/16 ENSO season? Will the present El Niño conditions drop back to ENSO neutral and then reform into El Niño conditions by the boreal summer (austral winter) as NOAA’s CFS models forecast?  See Figure 14.

14 NCEP CFS Forecasts

Figure 14

Will El Niño conditions persist through the boreal summer 2015 as predicted by the dynamic models in the IRI/CPC plume?  Or will there be ENSO neutral conditions in the spring and summer of 2015 as forecast by the statistical models? See Figure 15.

15 IRI-CPC Forecasts

Figure 15

What about the strengthening cool sea surface temperatures off the west coast of South America? See Figure 16, which is the most current cell from the CMC sea surface temperature anomaly animation here.  Will they migrate into the equatorial Pacific and counteract the warm water from the last downwelling Kelvin wave and lead the tropical Pacific into a La Niña?

16 - 2015010500_054_G6_global_I_SEASON_tm@lg@sd_000

Figure 16

What’s your prediction?  Too bad Carnac the Magnificent (<– link to Sis-Boom-Bah joke.) isn’t around to help.

Carnac

Carnac

EARLIER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

And for additional introductory discussions of El Niño processes see:

A STINKIN’ COMMERCIAL?

My ebook Who Turned on the Heat? goes into a tremendous amount of detail to explain El Niño and La Niña processes and the long-term aftereffects of strong El Niño events.  Who Turned on the Heat? weighs in at a whopping 550+ pages, about 110,000+ words. It contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 color illustrations. In pdf form, it’s about 23MB. It includes links to more than a dozen animations, which allow the reader to view ENSO processes and the interactions between variables.

I’ve lowered the price of Who Turned on the Heat? from U.S.$8.00 to U.S.$5.00.  A free preview in pdf format is here.  The preview includes the Table of Contents, the Introduction, the first half of section 1 (which was provided complete in the post here), a discussion of the cover, and the Closing. Take a run through the Table of Contents.  It is a very-detailed and well-illustrated book—using data from the real world, not models of a virtual world. Who Turned on the Heat? is only available in pdf format…and will only be available in that format.  Click here to purchase a copy.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy of Who Turned on the Heat? this year as a result of this series.  I learned a lot preparing the book.  I hope you’ve learned a lot, too, reading it.

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86 thoughts on “Final – The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 22 – January 2015 Update – You Make the Forecasts for the 2015/16 Season

  1. thanks Bob. yes, ”Who turned on the heat” is well worth the price. Pitty there is no hard copy but I understand the reasons.

  2. Yes, cold water is again developing all along the coast of equatorial South America, and also in the eastern Pacific. A “No Nino” year.
    P.S. Love your Carnac(Carson was a riot).

  3. If the only tools you have are hammers everything looks like a nail. If all you have is El Nino / La Nina everything looks like an El Nino or a La Nina.
    2014 wasn’t an El Nino year. It was something else, something new. An El Nino that was countered by the Trade Winds instead of amplified.
    From my struggling to follow Bob’s work this looks like a new thing to me. Have there been many other years like this?
    And so my prediction for 2015 is “bland”.
    The charge up of warm water has been partially released in this El Squibbo year.

    • M Courtney says: “From my struggling to follow Bob’s work this looks like a new thing to me. Have there been many other years like this?”
      There’s no way of knowing. The TAO project buoys weren’t complete until the early 1990s.

      • Well than it is new to us and new to our understanding.
        I didn’t mean new to the planet. There’s nothing new under the Sun, as the wise man said.

  4. There was too much cold water left over from previous La Ninas in the eastern Pacific for an El Nino to sustain itself this year and set-up the self-reinforcing feedbacks which tend to enhance it (like a slow down in the Trade Winds). Any warm water moving in in the under-current or at the surface just got cooled off back to normal before any self-reinforcing oscillations could develop.
    The current minimal El Nino episode is over now.
    But the issue of the left-over cool water in the eastern Pacific is something to keep in mind for future forecasting. In essence, it is similar to the argument that there are fewer El Ninos when the PDO is negative but it is more accurate to think of it as the average ocean temperatures down to 300 metres in the eastern Pacific is going to influence the ENSO episode that is developing. It is one of the leading indicators that can be used for forecasting the strength of what is expected.
    There is nothing pointing to a La Nina or an El Nino in 2015 right now so neutral is the best bet.

    • Except that the small would-be el Nino peak is just at the end of the year, the right phasing to possibly set of a reactive La Nina. For this to happen would need some help from some Peruvian upwelling, which is a player in ENSO in its own right, with its own THC-linked agenda.

  5. Based on the work I do with my ANN ENSO software I can say that currently any El Nino development is being suppressed by tidal forcing on ENSO. This ENSO tidal forcing breaker is not going to be there during the next NH winter. So, yes, one year from now I expect ENSO to be in El Niño conditions.
    My guess is that this El Nino is going to look more something like 2002/2003 rather that that of 2009/2010 El Niño.
    After this NH winter has ended the ENSO index is going to drift upward. How fast is difficult to say.
    Recently I’ve been working with solar electromagnetic data with higher resolution and I have had to upgrade the importance I see on the solar influence as an ENSO forcing agent. I expect to soon come up with an improved ENSO prediction which includes this new and improved solar data.

  6. Negative phase of the PDO here we come 🙁
    I’ll go with neutral as my bet for 2015 more out of wishful thinking than any knowledge I have on the subject.
    Great work as always Bob and I’m glad you are able to keep blogging about these ocean effects.

  7. A weak El Nino during this winter will result in a new record mean global temperature for 2015. That’s my prediction. In any case predicting ENSO seems to be a guess over a time scale of a few months. An easier prediction is that the decade from 2010 to 2019 will be the warmest in the temperature record.

  8. Figure 00 indicates the trendline of sea surface temperature anomalies over the past 30 years has a zero slope. If so that suggests the “missing heat” is not collecting in the south pacific. Any ideas where else we might look to find it?

  9. I think the threat of a continued El Nino conditions during 2014/2015 winter are over . At the best, when when the final analysis is done , they may potentially declare a 2 month weak El Nino for November and December 2014 only . I would not follow what the models say for the future . They were off for the 2014/2015 predictions and need further refinement in my opinion. The impact of cooler water just south of the Nino region seemed to have been ignored or downplayed. The predictions for this current El Nino were overhyped from the beginning. . Those who predicted a warmer winter for North America because of the El Nino may have to reconsider as the latest cold wave clearly shows.

  10. I predict it (even though there is no “it”) will be warmer, cooler, wetter, drier, windier, calmer, sunnier, cloudier. There, good as a climate model. Where’s my money?

  11. Bob, is the 3.4 region geographically congruent with portions of the individual 3 and 4 regions? If so, how is the anomoly in the 3.4 region lower than in its component parts?

  12. I will give it an novice shot. Considering the majority of the ACE was in the East Pacific this last year and the large extratropical storms that sucked up and transported considerable heat well north, I see neutral conditions to mild La Nina. Why? From my shoes, what happened this last year fooled everyone more than once. We may be lacking knowledge of other forcings that have escaped our understanding regardless of our current tool set. Knowing the heat transport capabilities of cyclonic systems can significantly impact large areas, I think they did more dissipation than we really understand. Just the fact that we had branching and unusual movement of the kelvin waves should spark questions for everyone.
    Side note on TCHP changes that were made in 2008, did that play a role in our understanding or is it not related at all?
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/cyclone/data/method.html
    There ya have it!

  13. I wish to call attention to a recently published paper in Physics Letters A:
    The Sun is the Climate Pacemaker I. Equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures
    David H. Douglass and Robert S. Knox
    Department of Physics and Astronomy,
    University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627-0171
    Abstract
    Equatorial Pacific Ocean temperature time series data contain segments showing both a phase-locked annual signal and a phase-locked signal of period two years or three years, both locked to the annual solar cycle. Three such segments are observed between 1990 and 2014. It is asserted that these are caused by a solar forcing at a frequency of 1.0 cycle/year. These periodic features are also found in global climate data (following paper). The analysis makes use of a twelve-month filter that cleanly separates seasonal effects from data. This is found to be significant for understanding the El Niño-La Niña phenomena.
    [quote from the conclusion]
    “The climate system is presently (June 2014) in a phase-locked state of periodicity 3 years. This state, which began in 2008, contains a maximum (El Niño) at about 2010 followed by a minimum (La Niña) followed by a maximum (weak El Niño at about 2013). If the climate system remains in this phase-locked state, the next maximum will not occur until about [Nov] 2016 – i. e., no El Nino before that date.”
    This paper and a companion paper on the global ocean may be found at my website
    http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~douglass/recent-publications.html
    David Douglass
    Department of Physics
    University of Rochester

  14. Two things stand out to me:
    The hot subsurface plume in the southern Pacific between Australia and South America
    The hot plume / sea level anomaly along the NE coast of the US

  15. i’m also in for a guess… seems funny. From all i read and understood of the El nino/la nina “actions” i do believe we had an “el nino year” however more displaced from the nino 3.4 region. when the official nino 3.4 region is taken in play i guess for a moderate to border ENSO conditions to persist going slowly to a near la nina condition.
    However when considdering the whole tropical pacific region the cards are different: i guess that this temperature curve will show clear “el nino like” conditions. that will persist or strengthen a little next summer ending in nutral conditions towards 2016.
    the reason why i did “split” my guess this way is that i do somehow believe that the “blob” region is doing something with the trade winds that are necessary for a clear El nino signal in the nino 3.4 region, but the heat of those waves has to go somewhere, so looking with a dose of logic made this guess of an “outspreaded out of focus El nino” in a manner of speaking…
    it’s very hard to really guess this year: the signals of 2014 were very mixed and i think they will stay mixed if the nino conditions would stay…

  16. If we look at the early 1950s as analog years for the current PDO then we had a full year El Nino in 1953 into early 1954. This was then followed by a 2-3 year La Nina. Since the data is very sparse from that period it is difficult to determine if the periods are really similar. However, don’t be surprised if it gets cool.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/ensoyears.shtml
    I don’t think we can put too much faith in models built over the +PDO period. As this year has shown, things are different now.

  17. Since past postings on El Nino / LaNina conditions involved cloud forcings (see 1997-1998), what are the cloud conditions over the regions. Takes a lot of solar UV to heat the waters, generate the winds and create the warm pool. If this years slightly elevated water temps caused more clouds, the energy will not be there and back to neutral will be the case. If the cool waters in the east spread and knock down the clouds another small warm pool may be created, but it took 2 years to generate this years warm pool.

  18. My “forecast” is that La Nina conditions prevail in 2015, the global atmospheric temperature anomaly decreases, but it will be a hot summer in North America and that will be the MSMs AGW talking point for the year. And the USA will have at least one major hurricane make landfall.

  19. Bob,
    Something I don’t recall reading about (I have have missed it) is what effect did the seemingly persistent string of tropical storms off the west coast of Central America have? A lot of heat was removed over the course of a few months.

  20. Most of the agencies monitoring El Nino have been forecasting every month from beginning of 2014 that an El Nino would occur in the next two months. The year 2014 has completed without a full fledged El Nino. Only two consecutive overlapping 3-month seasons SON and OND have had ONI index equal to or above +0.5ºC thresh hold till end of 2014. SON 2014= +0.5ºC and OND 2014 = +0.7ºC
    El Niño: characterized by a positive ONI greater than or equal to +0.5ºC.
    La Niña: characterized by a negative ONI less 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.gujaratweather.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/CPC_ONI_OND_2014.jpg

  21. Well the super duper El Nino of 2014 turned into a flop. Maybe next year…California could sure use the water.

  22. I’m with M Courtney – M Courtney January 6, 2015 at 4:13 am – on having seen something unusual. The deflecting of the warm waters from the equatorial region enough to make them out of alignment with the nino 3.4 and flanking boxes, made the temperature in the boxes not ‘useful’ for this metric. This alone would have given us an El Nino despite lying outside the boxes. However, this misalignment may have been due to intrusion of a large volume of cold water from the south up along the western margin of South America, attenuating the strength of the eastward flow and rising up under the warm water to mix with it and cool it off as it approached the shores of Peru.
    Any slowing mechanism (like a wedge of cold water ploughing into and underneath the kelvin wave) compromises the full strength of the mass of warm water rising to the surface at the South American end and the heat at the surface dissipates into the atmosphere with little warm water volume left beneath to replenish it and sustain it. The result is the the El Nino fizzles out early. I think we should write in our notebooks the development of the huge sea ice anomaly in the Antarctic over the last several years coinciding with this El Ninious interruptus. What we have had for several years is “de Nada” as someone termed it.
    Antarctica shows no signs of falling back to ‘normal’ and I believe this means we are switching over to a period of more frequent El Ninas, maybe even deeper ones than we recorded before. Forecast – global cooling, some resurgence of Atlantic hurricanes (until ACE dissipates with advanced cooling), but, with a shifting northward of the warm water strip of the intertropical convergence zone, maybe Pacific hurricanes could reach southern California moving drought conditions up to central-northern California.
    Wow Bob, d’ye see what your students are doing with all this knowledge!!

  23. My prediction is there will be no El Nino for the 2015-2016 and perhaps La Nina if atmospheric trade winds intensify.
    If solar conditions go to very low levels the atmospheric circulation should become more meridional and this should have an impact on ENSO . I do not know exactly what kind of an impact my guess is to favor La Nina due to the likelihood of the PDO staying in a cold phase.
    Then again I think the climate situation going forward will not be like it was in the past and I expect many surprises going forward.
    For example,
    Antarctic Sea Ice deviations are at record highs and could impact the climatic system. The problem here is what is the threshold of Antarctic Sea Ice deviation to promote such an impact and how long would this condition have to persist? How would this translate to ENSO and the global oceanic circulation ?
    More questions then answers when it comes to the climate.

  24. I prefer using my energy to try to understand what is going on at the present time rather than guessing about a future with thousands of unknown variables.
    I am rooting for a fade to La Nina by spring so we can salvage one of the worst starts to ski season ever. 11,500ft freezing levels in the Washington Cascades with my valley flooded with what little snow we had.
    1999 was a record year for snow at my local hill after the discharge of heat from the 1998 El Nino.

  25. East of the Rockies will experience below seasonal temperatures as air masses that originated in Siberia cross over the North Pole before plunging south into Canada. The cold air crossing the open waters of the Great Lakes will produce narrow bands of lake effect snow, with dangerous travel conditions in the traditional snowbelt regions south and east of the lakes.
    http://s2.twnmm.com/thumb?src=//s2.twnmm.com/images/en_ca/12/weather_pattern0105A-43064.jpg&w=690&h=388&scale=1&crop=1

  26. One of the great mistakes of the BOM was the failure to predict the persistence of Equitorial Easterlies and few Westerly bursts to drive an El Niño. Instead the warm water spread across the Pacific disapating heat as it went North and South, certainly not well modeled by any of the governmental agencies.
    Today the the SOI is down from peaks this last summer, and, if there is a lesson to be learned from last year, one needs the SOI to reinforce any warm water pool Kelvin wave to get a substantial El Niño.
    My prediction: marginal El Niño for the rest of 2015 Spring and then El Niño neutral conditions for boreal Summer, lapsing into La Nina for Christmas 2015 and time to recharge the heat engine.

  27. Gary Pearse
    You said,
    “this misalignment may have been due to intrusion of a large volume of cold water from the south up along the western margin of South America, ”
    As I also posted earlier on this track about the same topic, I agree with you, that the body water off the west coast of South America( approx. 80-140W and 0-40S )may hold a partial but a significant key as to the strength of the EL Nin that may develop . This region is also the domain of the cold PERU current or HUMBOLDT current coming up along the west coast of South America and merging with the SOUTH EQUATORIAL current heading west just south of the equator and south of the Nino regions . The SOUTH EAST TRADE WINDS also blow over this area . It seems that when this area of the Pacific is colder than normal and over a bigger area, there are weaker or no EL Nino’s at all and the opposite happens when this area SST’s are warmer than normal. A good example to demonstrate this is the comparison of the evolution of the 2009/2010 EL NINO with the 2014/2015 El Nino. When the upwelling of this PERU current is strong with extra cold water coming from the SOUTH PACIFIC and the SOUTHERN OCEANS, the chances for an EL Nino are diminished as more colder water and colder SE trade winds will work against the EL Nino developing or growing in strength.

  28. Thanks Bob.
    NOAA’s esrl just updated the post about MEI. You may recognize changes but I do not.

  29. holding my hand to my head in my best Carnac pose…. strong El Nino in 2015/2016…. from wishful thinking rather than any analysis. Perhaps “Murphy” is listening to the more analytical predictions and will side with me!
    Aloha,
    Joe

  30. Thanks Bob for your 2014 El Niño updates, as a farmer they are of more than a passing interest to me.
    The ENSO travails this past year reminds me of an old farmer who told me that he had seen many years similar over his ninety years but no two alike.

  31. But the development of the El Niño floundered because it was missing something very important: additional westerly wind bursts to help push additional warm water from the west to the east along the equatorial Pacific.

    This still applies : all other indicators fall by the wayside.

  32. The BoM’s daily climate predictions by press release are arriving thick and fast here in Brisbane, Australia where we are currently experiencing quite (normal) wet weather. According to the BoM, this wet weather is nothing to be complacent about as we will soon be moving back into an extended dry period in 2015 … they must have a strong view on the formation of the el Nino for 2015.

  33. The kinematics of gravity-driven Kelvin waves are entirely irrotational and coherent. There can be no “pocket of warm water from the initial Kelvin wave” introduced by its motion, nor are such pockets “brought to the surface” thereby.

  34. I also see a La Nina coming, in 2015/2016, as for the magnitude, I’m going all in with a strong one.

  35. Low Solar activity, DWCR (deep water cold return) slowed in the southern hemisphere allowing build up of cold waters off the South American coast. Ice loss in the Arctic is slowed due to cooler temps for the summer here in the Northern Hemisphere also slowing the DWCR from the Arctic, allowing build up in the Atlantic. Cold circulations in general will disperse/defuse any warming which might occur. With slowed circulations heat will not readily move poleward in the oceans.
    I just do not see a heat driver to produce much of anything this next year. Looking for a moderate La Nina phase this year. I keep looking back at solar cycles 3, 4, and 5, waiting for the other shoe to drop and massive cooling to take hold. Back then it took about 20 years before the climate shifted rapidly. Were at 18 years 3 months today..

  36. In for a penny……
    Speaking very generally, the El Nino oscillation resembles a capacitor in a rectifier circuit. In this case it stores and releases huge quantities of heat as part of a global redistribution mechanism for thermal energy. Now looking at the oft shown global temperature ‘in the pause’ diagram – it’s starting to look like a flattened dome. Ignoring the flat linear regression trend line over the entire 18 years, the right hand end (i.e. now) is starting to curve downwards slightly; time will tell if this is significant and the cooling continues. But if it does, and I expect that’s likely, my take re El Nino is that there may not be enough energy to run the oscillator in the way we’ve observed it over the last couple of decades; that is global cooling may switch off the oscillation behaviour and near neutral conditions could persist for the foreseeable future. So it’s like a clock pendulum coming to rest when the spring energy is now longer there. This may be too simplistic a view, sure, as other factors come into play, such as the Indian Ocean Dipole. Anyway, just a thought.

  37. There are many cooling phenomenon occurring concurrently: the PDO entered its 30-yr cool cycle in 2005, the current solar cycle (the weakest since 1906) peaked in 2014 and weakens from here until the next solar cycle begins around 2020 (predicted by some to be the weakest since 1715), and the 30-yr AMO warm cycle peaked in 2007 and is in its downward slide until a 30-yr AMO cool cycle starts in the 2020’s (which perhaps explains why Arctic Ice Extents have been recovering since 2007).
    During 30-yr PDO cool cycles, fewer and weaker El Nino events occur and colder and more frequent La Nina events dominate ENSO. Accordingly, I predict we’ll enter a La Nina cycle in 2015, which will infuriate the CAGW advocates, who were desperately hoping for a strong El Nino in 2014 to offset the 18+ year “Hiatus”…

  38. This is looking really bad. As much as I’d love to see a reprise of El Nino later this year I suspect the basin is too cold overall for that to happen. As noted in various previous posts Negative PDO has a damping effect. This is really, really bad new for California. I wish things were otherwise. On that note, Blockasaurus Rex is back in place again. 🙁

  39. As I already mentioned 3 reports (months) ago, when the SOI was 0.0 for July – August – September, expecting it to become an El Niño before year end was expecting something that hadn’t happened before in our admitedly short records. Yet we have El Niño conditions now (0.7 for Oct-Nov-Dec), and although a full El Niño event will likely not develop (not 5 months with >0.5 anomaly), the rise from 0.0 to 0.7 of the SOI between September and December IS unprecedented. I expected something close to the end of the 1952 season, and what has happened has nothing to do.
    It seems that betting for unprecedented things is not an unreasonable thing to do. The climate can evolve in multiple ways and our records are not long enough to cover all possibilities.

    • Nylo comment on January 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm:
      “Yet we have El Niño conditions now (0.7 for Oct-Nov-Dec), and although a full El Niño event will likely not develop (not 5 months with >0.5 anomaly), the rise from 0.0 to 0.7 of the SOI between September and December IS unprecedented.”
      It should read as ONI instead of SOI.

  40. 3days of intense cloud cover and rain over most of Australia next 3 days, more insolation back to space which should drop temperature anomaly around Australia, Suck the heat out of the sea to the North East and result in cooler Kelvin waves going East.
    Prediction, rather large drop in El Nino index in 6 weeks for 3 months.
    May be too late to stop a small technical El Nino 5 months of 3 monthly > 0.5 temps.
    Hopefully technical reasons for current fall in 3/4 will continue for 2-4 weeks and end the one currently brewing.

  41. Walking home from the shops in a typical Manchester drizzle I thought that at least it is warm rain ,. So much for all those letters on WUWT predicting global cooling. Then it struck me . If it was freezing hard the Met Office, the BBC and the papers would be telling us it was the local effect of catastrophic global warming and the warmer it gets , the more it will freeze in England . OK , so is the inverse true , with global cooling could one get local warming in NW Europe? The climate here is only tolerable thanks to the North Atlantic drift of warm water from the Gulf , pulled across so I understand by down welling cold currents . If the latter get stronger , then more warm water arrives in the proximity of the British Isles . So global cooling causes warming ! I can live with that.

    • The next blob of Siberian cold could be coming down over Scandinavia from their northeast in around six days. I’m not sure it will make it across the North Sea (the models have been bad lately) but if I were you I’d keep a weather-eye cocked to the northeast next week.

  42. My projections for the next 4 years of ENSO:
    http://i60.tinypic.com/awyhcx.png
    In summary:
    – ONI drops below 0.5C this month, i.e. El Nada for 2014. But some rains still for Cali. 🙂
    – ONI goes < -0.5 in June 15 and stays there into fall 2015, i.e. La Nina conditions in 2nd half of 2015.
    – Fall 2016 to 2017, ONI goes above +0.5C. This one will be a weak El Nino with max ONI ~ +0.9. Rains for Cali and SW US.
    – 2017-2018: moderate, lingering La Nina with ONI around -1.0C.
    -2019 to 2025: ENSO neutral conditions to LA Nina-like as PDO remains negative to 2030-2035. Bad news for Cali.
    2025 and beyond: depends on solar activity.

  43. Let’s talk about that consensus opinion (the lilac colored trend line labeled as the CPC CON). Who is on that team, how do they make the consensus, and why does it more often than not shadow the statistical models rather than the much touted dynamical models?
    Background: Statistical models use analogue years to build a model based on what has happened before. Dynamical models build on pet theories (a small few may be pretty good but most use catastrophic warming in the guise of fudge factors as part of the computer code).
    I think I can reliably state that the team consensus thinks that the statistical models rock and the dynamical models suck.

  44. I don’t think that ENSO will do anything decisive until later in the year. April-May should see El Nino conditions increase a bit, and then weaken through June-July. In the Autumn, particularly from November on and through 2016 and well into 2017, I think will see the the development of a strong El Nino episode.

  45. The above maps and charts torture me. And yesterday, I was watching cirrus clouds. They were moving from the NNE to the SSW. Blockasaurus Rex, writ in the high ice crystals. There was hope of rain later this week but now the models are saying it may not happen. Then, back to the northerly flow. W.A.S.S.

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