Quicky Early July 2015 ENSO Update: NINO3 (not NINO3.4) Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Reached 2.0 Deg C Last Week

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale


NOAA’s weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the NINO regions (based on Reynolds OI.v2 data) are furnished on Mondays. This week’s update for the week centered on July 1, 2015 shows the surface temperature anomalies have reached 2.0 deg C in the NINO3 region of the eastern equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 150W-90W). NINO3 sea surface temperature anomalies are used in the JMA’s El Niño outlooks.

On the other hand, the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-1250W), which NOAA uses to define an El Niño and its strength in its Oceanic NINO Index, is still at 1.4 deg C, which is below the 1.5 deg C threshold of a strong El Niño. But it’s early in the development of an “average” El Niño, which typically peaks in December.

The weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the easternmost NINO1+2 have recently exceeded the values reached during the 1991/92 El Niño, but they are lagging behind the weekly values for the 1997/98 El Niño. And at the westernmost NINO4 region, surface temperatures are slowly dropping, seeming to be the response as more warm water is pushed eastward.

And there was another westerly wind burst at the end of June/early July, which, even though it wasn’t very strong, should help to strengthen the El Niño in coming months.


The weekly NINO region sea surface temperature anomaly data for Figures 1 and 2 are from the NOAA/CPC Monthly Atmospheric & SST Indices webpage, specifically the data here. The base years for anomalies for the NOAA/CPC data are referenced to 1981-2010.

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)

Figure 1

Figure 1

And for Figure 2, the evolutions of the sea surface temperature anomalies for the four NINO regions in 2015 are compared to 1997 as a reference for a very strong El Niño and compared to 2014 as a reference for a very weak El Niño. Keep in mind that 2015 started the year at or near El Niño conditions, where that was not the case in 1997 and 2014.

Figure 2

Figure 2


In the post ENSO Basics: Westerly Wind Bursts Initiate an El Niño, we discussed how westerly wind bursts prompt the downwelling Kelvin waves that appear early in the development of an El Niño. Later in the process of El Niño evolution, westerly winds bursts also help to push more warm surface water than normal eastward along the Pacific Equatorial Countercurrent. So they too help to strengthen an El Niño.

The most recent update (pentad centered on July 2)at the NOAA GODAS website includes the 12-month Hovmoller of wind stress (not anomalies) along the equator through July 2nd. See Figure 3. It shows yet another westerly wind burst in late June/early July. That westerly wind burst should be the response to the two tropical depressions that recently straddled the equator in the west-central tropical Pacific.

Figure 3

Figure 3

That’s all for now. I’ll try to provide the full update next week.

58 thoughts on “Quicky Early July 2015 ENSO Update: NINO3 (not NINO3.4) Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Reached 2.0 Deg C Last Week

  1. This year is quite unlike the others on the chart because 2015 started the year at or near El Niño conditions.
    To me, that means either:
    A) The El Nino will be a doozy because we are starting to jump up from the 7th floor.
    B) The El Nino is ongoing right now and just slow as the warm water spreads slowly – in which case there will be no big jump up.
    I’m curious as to what happens towards Christmas. What do other people expect?

    • I was thinking along the same lines. It will be a very interesting El Niño to watch.

    • “What do other people expect?”
      I’m expecting climate hysteria before December in Paris.

    • The PWP does not seem to be overly warm at the present. This likely means the normal El Nino process of warm water spilling back to the east will not be as strong. In addition, the subsurface anomalies are cool in this area. Once the trade winds increase this water will begin moving east and will undercut the warmer surface waters in the Nino zones which should enhance the next La Nina.
      I think it all gets down to when the trade winds pick up.

    • Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo at Weatherbell.com are a little surprised at not only the strength of the El Nino at this time but also by all the warm SST anomalies around Australia and in the Indian Ocean. This is not what they expected so I’m not sure they know what to expect. I think they think it will start to back down sooner rather than later. A super El Nino in a cold PDO cycle would be highly unusual.

      • A super El Nino in a cold PDO cycle would be highly unusual.

        I wonder if this is going to be a massive discharge of the last bit of built thermal energy that has collected, and that temps will start to drop afterwards.
        I have no evidence, just a gut feel, and we’ll know fairly soon.

      • This is why I think we are running out of juice. Consider the decreasing strength of the La Nina’s and the decreasing strength of the El Nino’s http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/mei/ . If indeed ENSO processes are a discharge/recharge system http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/docs/ENSO_Revision.pdf that has both a noisy annual to less than decadal, and a decadal oscillation, it is, well…
        anybody’s guess….and this anybody guesses that we are slowly, jerkingly, stepping down and heading towards a series of recharging La Nina’s. We still have a couple year’s of warm weather to stock up on fuel, food, and blankets. So while the Sun shines forth and El Nino’s give us warm weather, check your roof for snow stability, caulk your windows and doors, and lay in extra insulation.

      • That is not what I said. What I said was diagnostic, not prognostic. The diagnosis was that this was very different from the 97 enso event and NOT WHAT IS EXPECTED for the super nino, as warm water around Australia means lower pressure and you can see that in the SOI, which has not fallen nearly as low as what seen in 1997 at this time! As far as a prognostic statement, we have said all along that this will go to the levels of 57-58 and 65-66, but the super nino as others have opined is certainly in the mix, and would mean I am underdone. If you want to label me as surprised it is because of the OBSERVATION, and pointing out this has not happened before. I made no forecast for waters around Australia, but have commented numerous times on the observation I am making. We do believe ENSO 3.4 will be warmer than 1.2 in the winter, a crucial forecast tool for US winters. . As a side note, the SOI has not even challenged 97-98, which would cast some doubt on the how strong the linkage is and the actually affect in the atmosphere so far. The most mind boggling event is the record phase 6/7 amplitude of the MJO, which is something I can not find in any record Cheers

      • Hi Will
        Let me further illustrate my point with these 2 links. The SOI this year
        vs 1997
        I believe the cold water Around Australia in 1997 promote higher pressures early an lead to a quicker deeper SOI, which I think shows what is going on in the atmosphere in tropical Pacific, which has a huge effect on input into the westerlies further north with time. As you can see 1997 was well ahead already

      • Warm SSTs in the Indian Ocean usually work against a Strong or Super El Nino. Compare the Indian Ocean SSTs in 1997 (fairly cool anomaly) with this year’s (warm). Also there is a very high amplitude MJO currently crossing the West Pac. The MJO often causes Westerly Wind Bursts (WWBs) or Kelvin Waves similar to ENSO. The current MJO could be giving this El Nino a bit of a push. But, once it exits the West Pac, this El Nino might also lose some of its punch due to relatively warm temps in the Indian ocean. We shall see. Very interesting situation.

    • I expect heavy wet snow in the Rockies and very bitter cold in the mid west. Going to be s big water content year in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada ranges. it all depends on the Polar jet and its southward intrusions.

    • A little more salt and pepper in tyme for Parisian hot pots. Main ingredient: Pressed Turkey. Be good and ready to CET down (or jet off to the south), winter is coming up next. The mean is chaos, the standard deviation is another matter entirely however.

  2. Random reminder dept, inspired by Bob’s list of data sources. The ENSO meter on the right side navigation bar uses data from http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/nino_3.4.txt . It’s close to NOAA’s data, http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/wksst8110.for , which I’ve used, but that occasionally breaks. My system tries to update things on Monday at 1100UTC, and tries several more times over the next couple of days if the web page hasn’t been updated.

  3. How ironic that fossil fuel activists are hoping and praying for this El Nino ahead of Paris COP, when ocean circulations have nothing to do with CO2.

  4. Here in the East of France , we had our El Nino already: it crossed the Mediterranean sea and not the Pacific; but we are waiting for a second one in december coming from all over the world

    • I think they have had some unseasonable rains in past few months.
      If last time is any clue, they will have a real soaker of a wet season, starting earlier than usual in the fall.

  5. New paper is out today in Science, from NOAA.
    They have completely erased any hint of pause.

  6. This seems like the el Nino that never wants to materialize. How well do oceanographers really understand el Nino as far as predicting climate in California?

    • Charlie, I’m not sure what you mean with “This seems like the el Nino that never wants to materialize.” With the sea surface temperature anomalies shown above, it not only materialized, it’s presently a moderate to strong El Nino.

      • Charlie, and with respect to California, don’t the increases in precipitation normally take place in winter? And aren’t they tendencies? There are no guarantees with weather.

      • Thanks. Then I guess my question would be at what time frame could California see significant rainfall? I believe this question was already asked though. Does el Nino always mean a high precipitation pattern in California? Excuse me for my lack of knowledge.

      • @Bob – We have already seen an increase in rain from Tucson to the Cleveland National Forrest east of San Diego. Usually there is no late spring/summer rain in Yuma, AZ, until August. The desert here is looking healthy green, and on the way to San Diego last Wednesday I was struck at how beautiful and green it was once we began to climb off the desert floor to cross the mountains on the way to the coast.
        Strangely, the rain seems to be coming from the east and south and doesn’t seem to make it past the mountains east of San Diego. It was cool to us in San Diego, but very dry and sunny.

    • It’s been raining everyday here in the Eastern Sierra. Flash floods and hail, but not winter type drought breaking quantities.

    • It will be announced before December of this year – “The Missing Heat Has Been Found!” – mark my words.

  7. Here on the back side of the Northern Sierra we have been experiencing a lot of unusual rainy weather. Quite uncharacteristic for this part of the desert at this time of the year. The first couple of weeks of June we spent in Hawaii and also experienced unusual wet and rainy weather on the dry side of the Big Island. My guess is that all of this warm rainy weather both in Hawaii and in Nevada was El Nino related. I look forward to many more months of El Nino driven weather as a consequence.
    Not sure what is happening on the Western slope but I think it is dryer over there.

    • You folks are getting hammered today (again). Not much of a dry season this year in the Sierra. I know every year you get a lot more of the SW Monsoon than we get out here at the coast. But this year you are getting a strong SW Monsoon, plus, all the cut off lows coming in from the NW (another one today) are also giving precip. What’s excellent about this is the ground will be a lot more moist once fall hits, and the first freeze. That will give a wonderful substrate for sticking snow.

    • matthewrmarler, sorry, I provide a detailed explanation of the zonal wind stress Hovmoller in the ENSO updates. Forgot to include one here. Here’s the explanation:
      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; 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 anomalies and they’re associated with El Niños, which are the anomalous state of the tropical Pacific. (A La Niña is simply an exaggerated normal state.)

  8. Thanks, Bob. This El Niño is close to breaking the “pause” in global temperatures, this must be the reason for so much attention on it.
    But, if something as natural and CO2-independent is recognized to have a global effect, then the “anthropogenic” side of the debate receives another blow. How long before it’s out?

  9. I just saw a report on the KSBW news that “The Blob” has returned and is even a little warmer than before. We’ll see how that interacts with El Niño.

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