October 2015 ENSO Update – Comparisons with the Other Satellite-Era Multiyear El Niño

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale

This post provides an update of many of the ENSO-related variables we presented as part of last year’s 2014-15 El Niño Series.  For the posts this year, we’ve used the evolution years of different El Niños as references to the goings-on this year.  This month we’re including the 1997/98 El Niño because it was the strongest El Niño in our short instrument temperature record.  For the other reference, we’re using 1987, which is the second year of the 1986/87/88 El Niño.  Next month, we’ll compare this year to the El Niños of 1982/83 and 1997/98.

Figure 00 compares NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies for the evolutions of the 1986/87/88 and the 2014/15/16 El Niño. Sea surface temperature anomalies for the NINO3.4 region did reach El Niño conditions in the latter part of 2014 so it’s reasonable to compare the two events.

00 Multi-Year El Nino

Figure 00

We can see that 1987 (the second year of the 1986/87/88 El Niño) began with noticeably higher NINO3.4 temperature anomalies than in 2015.  However, the 1986/87/88 El Niño started to decay before the usual end-of-year peak in 1987, while the El Niño this year continues to evolve.

Note: Depending on the sea surface temperature dataset, the 2014/15 El Niño registers on NOAA’s Oceanic NINO Index as an “official” El Niño.  See the comparison in Table 1.  With NOAA’s ERSST.v3b data, 2014/15 was an “official” El Niño, but with the new NOAA ERSST.v4 “pause buster” data, 2014/15 was not an “official” El Niño. It did, however, reach El Niño conditions even with the ERSST.v4 data.

Table 1

Table 1

We discussed the differences in the new and former versions of NOAA’s ONI index in the post here.


There are a couple of notable things this month. First, NINO3.4 region sea surface temperature anomalies, which NOAA uses as its primary metric for determining the strength of an El Niño, are still running neck-and-neck with the 1997/98 El Niño.  See the weekly comparison here.   Considering the volume of warmer-than-normal water below the surface of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, we definitely should not expect the El Niño to decay anytime soon.  See the NOAA animation of subsurface temperature anomalies through October 25 here. In fact, we should expect the NINO3.4 region anomalies to continue to rise.

Second, there appears to have been yet another westerly wind burst in the western tropical Pacific recently.  As a result, the El Niño should continue to strengthen.


This post provides an update on the progress of the evolution of the 2015/16 El Niño with monthly data through the end of September 2015, and for the weekly data through late-October. The post is similar in layout to the updates that were part of the 2014/15 El Niño series of posts here. The remainder of the post includes 13 illustrations so it might take a few moments to load on your browser.  Please click on the illustrations to enlarge them.

Included are updates of the weekly (and monthly) sea surface temperature anomalies for the four most-often-used NINO regions. Also included are a couple of graphs of the monthly BOM Southern-Oscillation Index (SOI) and the NOAA Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI).

For the comparison graphs we’re using the El Niño evolution years of 1997 and 1987 (a very strong El Niño and the second year of a multiyear El Niño) as references for 2015.

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 1997 and 1987.

I’ve excluded the comparisons of the maps and cross sections (2014 and 2015) from the GODAS website this month.  We already know the 2015 El Niño conditions are stronger than those of 2014.  Next month I’ll include the animations again so that we can watch the evolutions of conditions in both 2014 and 2015.


Note: The weekly NINO region sea surface temperature anomaly data for Figure 1 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)

As of the week centered on October 21, 2015, the sea surface temperature anomalies for the often-referenced NINO3.4 region are closing in on the values reached at the peak of the 1997/98 El Niño.  But they’re falling well behind the 1997/98 El Niño in the NINO3 and NINO1+2 regions.

01 Weekly NINO Time Series

Figure 1

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


Using monthly sea surface temperature anomalies for the four NINO regions, Figure 2 compares the goings on this year with the 1997/98 and the second year of the 1986/87/88 events.  All of the NINO regions this year are warmer than during the same times in 1987…the second year of the 1986/87/88 El Niño. The NINO1+2 and NINO3 regions are now lagging well behind the 1997/98 El Niño.

02 Monthly NINO Region Evolution

Figure 2

In other words, the 1997/98 El Niño was a stronger East Pacific El Niño than the 2015/16 El Niño.

The monthly Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data are available from the KNMI Climate Explorer.


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”.

According to the most recent Multivariate ENSO Index update discussion, strong El Niño conditions exist, but they haven’t yet reached “super” El Niño conditions:

Compared to last month, the updated (August-Spetember) MEI has increased by 0.16 standard deviations to +2.53, or the 2nd highest ranking, surpassed only in 1997 at this time of year. This new peak value of the current event ranks third highest overall at any time of year since 1950, closing in on 1982-83 and 1997-98 with ‘Super El Niño’ values around +3 standard deviations.

There’s something else to consider about the MEI.  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.

The Multivariate ENSO Index update discussion and data for August/September were posted back on October 3rd.  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 1997 and 1987.

03 MEI Time Series

Figure 3

# # #

04 MEI Evolution

Figure 4

Like the sea surface temperature-only based ENSO indices, the MEI started out higher in 1987 than in 2015, but decayed early.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  The 1987 values of the TAO Project subsurface data have to be taken with a grain of salt. The deployment of the TOA project buoys started in the late 1980s and was not compete until the early 1990s.  Also keep in mind that these values are the output of a reanalysis, not observations-only-based data.

The NOAA Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) Project website includes the outputs of a reanalysis for two temperature-related datasets for the waters below 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. Notice also that the eastern and western data are divided at 155W, which means the “western” data extend quite a ways past the dateline into the eastern equatorial Pacific.

In the following three illustrations, we’re comparing reanalysis outputs for the evolution of the 2015/16 “season” so far (through month-to-date October 2015) with the outputs for the evolutions of the 1997/98 and 2014/15 El Niños. The Warm Water Volume outputs are the top graphs and the depth-averaged temperature outputs 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 anomalies show the Western Equatorial Pacific began 2015 with noticeably less warm water than during the opening months of 1997, but higher than in 1987. Both western equatorial datasets now, though, are higher than in both 1987 and 1997, but note that the values this year are now negative and have been for a number of months.  They simply aren’t as “cool” as they were in 1987 and 1997.

05 TAO WWV and T300 West

Figure 5

Both warm water volume and depth-averaged temperature anomalies in the Eastern equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 155W-80W) continue to lag behind the values of 1997, but are greater than the 1987 values.  See Figure 6.

06 TAO WWV and T300 East

Figure 6

The total of the TAO project eastern and western equatorial subsurface temperature-related reanalysis outputs, Figure 7, are as one would expect looking at the subsets. Warm water volume and depth-averaged temperature anomalies in 2015 are higher than they were in 1987, but comparable to where they were in 1997.

07 TAO WWV and T300 Total

Figure 7


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 the 2014/15 El Niño 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.  The September 2015 Southern Oscillation Index value is -17-7, which is a much greater negative value than the threshold of El Niño conditions. (The BOM threshold for El Niño conditions is an SOI value of -8.0.)   Figure 8 presents a time-series graph of the SOI data.  Note that the horizontal red line is the present monthly value, not a trend line.

08 SOI Time Series

Figure 8

The graphs in Figure 9 compare the evolution of the SOI values this year to those in 1997 and 1987…the development year of the 1997/98 El Niño and the second year of the 1986/87/88 El Niño. The top graph shows the raw data. Because the SOI data are so volatile, I’ve smoothed them with 3-month filters in the bottom graph. Referring to the smoothed data, the Southern Oscillation Index has recently surpassed the values in 1987 and 1997.  We can also see the early decay of El Niño conditions in 1987.

09 SOI Evolution

Figure 9

Also see the BOM Recent (preliminary) Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) values webpage. The current 30-day running average is a very high negative value, as is the 90-day average.


NOTE:  The NOAA GODAS website has not yet added 2015 to their drop-down menu for Hovmoller diagrams. For the following illustrations, I’ve used the Hovmolller diagrams available for the past 12 months, deleted the 2014 data and aligned the 2015 data with the other 2 years.

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). 2015 is in the center, 1997 on the left and 1987 to the right.  (Sorry about the different sizes of the Hovmollers, but somewhere along the line NOAA GODAS changed them, but they are scaled, color-coded, the same.)

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.

Figure 10

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 early in 1997 and 2015, were caused by downwelling Kelvin waves, which push down on the thermocline (the 20 deg C isotherm).  We can just see the end of a strong downwelling Kelvin wave at the beginning of 1987 and a couple of weaker ones that followed that year.  You’ll note how, in 1997 and 2015, the anomalies grew in strength as the Kelvin waves migrated east. That does not mean the Kelvin waves are getting stronger as they 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 El Niño conditions were much stronger in 1997 than they were in 1987 and so far in 2015.

Figure 11 presents the 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; 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.)

Figure 11

Figure 11

The two westerly wind bursts shown in red in the western equatorial Pacific in 1997 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.) Same thing with the three westerly wind bursts early in 2015, January through March:  they initiated the Kelvin wave this year. Throughout 1997, there was a series of westerly wind bursts in the western equatorial Pacific. There were comparatively few westerly wind bursts in 1987, according to this GODAS reanalysis, and those that did occur were not as strong as we’ve seen in 1997 and 2015. So far in 2015 we’ve had a good number of westerly wind bursts. The most recent one happened in October 2015 and should help to strengthen the El Niño this year.

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 necessarily a reversal.

Figure 12

Figure 12

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 at the GODAS website.

Figure 13

Figure 13

Notice how warm the eastern equatorial Pacific got during the evolution of the 1997/98 El Niño. While the sea surface temperatures this year have reached well above threshold of a strong El Niño, they’ve still well behind those of the 1997/98 El Niño…especially east of 120W (to about 90W), where sea surface temperature anomalies were more than 4.0 deg C at this time.

That is, as noted earlier, the 1997/98 was a stronger East Pacific El Niño than the one taking place in 2015.


NOTE:  Next month I will start to present the animations of the GODAS maps and cross sections again to capture the goings-on in 2014 and 2015.


For additional introductory discussions of El Niño processes see:

Also see the entire 2014-15 El Niño series.  We discussed a wide-range of topics in those posts.


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.

Last year, I lowered the price of Who Turned on the Heat? from U.S.$8.00 to U.S.$5.00.  And the book sold well.  It continues to do so this year.

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? as a result of the 2014-15 and this year’s El Nino series.

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October 30, 2015 6:47 am

This is a bit off topic, but could I recommend not using both red and orange as colors to draw lines with on the same graph with two or three lines unless you really, really, really have to.
Many thanks for the update.

Donld Mitchell
Reply to  ShrNfr
October 30, 2015 7:08 am

This is probably further off topic, but for those of us who are at least partially colorblind, colors can become completely indistinguishable with only a few colors on the chart. i am only red/green color blind, but I have a cousin who is totally color blind, so for him shades of grey are about his only clue. If someone could come up with a way that the charts could be enabled to cause a line to blink when its legend is selected, this would be of great assistance to me. To illustrate the problem, I simply avoid those few web sites that use black text on a dark red background or dark red text on a black background because I not only have difficulty reading the text, but often will not notice it at all.

Reply to  Donld Mitchell
October 30, 2015 7:25 am

Roughly 10% of the male population has some color blindness. Another factor in this for authors and blog site managers is that when someone prints an article on a regular laser printer, there is only grey, and the grey scale mapping of colors can destroy important graphical information.

Reply to  Donld Mitchell
October 30, 2015 8:07 am

Why not just number the lines ???

Reply to  Donld Mitchell
October 30, 2015 8:32 am

Color-blindness seems to be a relatively common but a career-severe scourge: Being totally color-blind, I had no trouble working for the NWS when I first entered in the early1970s, but it became extremely difficult and even dangerous to hang-on until retirement in our modern computer-enhanced age. One thing I quickly noticed is that “off-the-shelf” products by such people as Microsoft, Apple and HP, provide redundancy in their products with differences in shading. Without this redundancy, I had to slow-down my work by blinking or blanking-out values. Growing up, at home, was never a problem; both my parents were color-blind, making it difficult for them to get a driver’s license in the old days. Both my siblings are color-blind.

Reply to  Donld Mitchell
October 30, 2015 9:26 am

Using hatch marks and patterns along with the colors allows the color blind to judge graphics by the hatched grids and patterns.
Starting with a role in Finance, I needed to frequently present graphs to management. There always seemed to be at least one manager or co-worker that was color blind. Ignoring color blind attendants is wrong, and downright a bad idea when one’s boss is color blind.
Hatch marks and some patterns muddy up, darken or camouflage many graphs obscuring their definition and clarity. Another boss taught me to never produce a graph without the data table backing it up on the same page, somewhere. Lord help me if he got a graph of mine without the hard data.
I was always sure my next boss would be truly blind, meaning that I would need to add a braille version.

Reply to  Donld Mitchell
October 30, 2015 8:09 pm

One can also use a different geometric shape for the markers on a graph: filled circle, square, diamond; hollow circle, square, diamond, etc.
I wish more people would follow the common sense guide lines as set forth in what I consider the bible for doing presentation graphs:
“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”
by Edward Tufte
Not only does he show how to properly graph data, he also shows hilarious examples of how not to do it taken from actual published graphs. (I wonder how the hockey stick graph would have faired in Tufte’s book had the graph been published before the book was.)

Reply to  ShrNfr
October 30, 2015 5:45 pm

You may find this interesting – Why is this El-Nino different to the rest? during El-Nino TLT data should be reading above those of the GISS/NOAA they are not and are unlikely to ginen this El-Nino only has a few more months to go. SST’s appear to have peaked TLT data wont be far behind. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=419608861565026&id=253660441493203&comment_id=419608991565013&ref=notif&notif_t=like

October 30, 2015 7:19 am

Bob, I know you follow a template on every update, but always extremely well presented and all you ever wanted (or needed) to know about El Niño’s.
Wonder if you nickname shouldn’t be “El Niño”?

Reply to  rbabcock
October 30, 2015 3:27 pm

Bob “El Niño” Tisdale = BENT. lol
Terrific, well presented and informative work Mr Tisdale. Thanks yet again.

October 30, 2015 7:51 am

I was going to write something along the lines of so we’re all gonna die!!!, but on further review of the material you present, it seems like the better quip might be “Wait … what?”
In other words, there is a big ENSO event developing. It doesn’t yet look likely to be the record-setter compared to the (really “out of the blue”) record setting 1997–1998 event. Likewise, for those of us who’ve lived in California, Oregon or Washington state, the 1982–83 event was huge compared to the very wet and stormy 1997–98 event. Yet, by comparison (on the charts at least) the 1982–83 event looked like a pussycat.
So, who knows? While Bob Tisdale’s analysis is smart and correct, almost no one has commented on the other elephant standing in the living room, namely, the absolutely remarkable pool of water sitting from Central America all the way up to British Columbia … right off the Pacific Coast.
We think we know that the ENSO “Niño” events cause cross-Pacific atmospheric circulation pattern changes that in turn enhance the probability of developing “Pineapple Expresses”, or tropical atmospheric water-vapor “rivers” which precipitate much higher rainfall than normal in the affected American western state regions. At least that’s the thinking as to causality for the incredibly wet winters in 1982–83 and 1997–98.
But I’m not privy to the data that could be used to plot the Eastern Pacific surface water temperature anomalies at the time. Since “on the graph” the 1982–83 event looks to be such a pussycat, yet turned out to be one of the most significant flood winters in memory, was it too accompanied by a great pool of anomalously warm East Pacific water off the California-to-Washington coast?
Because a large pool of anomalously warm water, the size of half a continent … stores a lot of energy. Energy that is either tapped and sapped by unusually clear skies and infrared thermal loss, or, through pick-up as surface evaporation by passing cyclonic weather systems, and dumped rather unceremoniously as rain, snow and ice on the Sierras and throughout the more arid Nevada-to-Idaho range(s).
It would be much appreciated if the data (if it exists) for the larger area Eastern Pacific region could be shown in infographic form.

Reply to  GoatGuy
October 30, 2015 11:45 am

See what Joe Bastardi has to say about that over at weatherbell.com. The current ocean temperature distribution is similar to 1957/58 where California got a about a 50% increase in rain over normal but the east coast got hammered with snow and cold. In 1997/98, where there was no warm pool close to the temperature zones off the west coast of North America and the east coast was mostly warm and wet.

Reply to  Sean
October 30, 2015 1:17 pm

I wonder what was happening with the circum-polar vortex and the jet stream back then. Also arctic ice.

Reply to  Sean
October 30, 2015 3:46 pm

The winter of 1955/56 was a huge flood event in Northern California. I am not sure how far north the flood struck.
The huge rain in the 1990s was in the 1996/97 winter, the flood striking in early 1997 when comet Hale Bopp was falling in the northwest in the evening sky. I distinctly remember that as the night the rains finally stopped, I had walked out onto a north facing back porch. Stretching my arms wide for no particular reason, i quietly said “if this keeps up we will be flooded”. And at that moment after 30+ days of ceaseless rain the clouds parted, the rain ceased, and comet Hale Bopp was falling to the northwest through the opening that the clouds made. I know how strange this will sound to all of you, but let me add how strange that event was to me at that moment in time. An inexplicable moment in time.
If the rain had not stopped at that time, then the Sacramento Valley would have been in great danger as the earthen dam on the Feather River was in danger of over topping. The flood gates had already been wide open for several weeks at that point. There were multiple lakes formed in the valley at that point. Sacramento and everything in between would have been wiped out.

Reply to  Sean
November 1, 2015 9:34 pm

After much digging around, and trying to find someone who had the ability to remember past events, I have finally managed to piece together the conflicting story lines. Sean, you correctly state that the winter of 1997/98 was a large rain event. I am also right in that the winter of 1996/97 also was a huge rain event that ended as I described above. Here is a link that explains that flood…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floods_in_California#New_Year.27s_Day_1997:_Northern_California_flood
I predicted the flood of 1996/97 would happen in January of 1996. It was a moment of prophetic revelation. Around the middle of January of 1996 as I got up one morning to start my day, a message/understanding came out of a certain place within me {this had happened before} that gave me an understanding that the next winter would produce a large flood event. Knowing that because of the region of my mind that this message came from always lead to a certainty of the message being correct, I started telling others about the upcoming flood for the following winter. I told dozens of people for months afterwards about what was going to happen in the winter of 1996/97. The end of this story is exactly as I described above where I walked out onto the back porch initially to smoke a cigarette, as my landlady did not want me to smoke inside the house I had rented from her, and I am one who keeps my word. Keep in mind that back in 1996, I knew almost nothing as compared to what I now know regarding the climate of our planet. I did not go around forecasting weather events back then. That message/understanding that entered into my mainstream thoughts came completely unbidden.

Reply to  Sean
November 3, 2015 11:45 am

One last thought. Note how the El Nino of 1997/98 led to a heavy above average rainfall mainly in the southern half of the state. Whereas, the La Nina and nearness to the solar minimum led to a huge rain event in the northern half of California. The heavy floods of 1955/56, and 1964/65 in the northern half of California and further north to the Canadian border struck during a La Nina year and close to the solar minimum.

October 30, 2015 8:26 am

Thanks very much Bob, for the update.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
October 30, 2015 9:43 am

I agree. Great work Bob; thanks for doing all the work required to produce these updates.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
October 30, 2015 8:49 pm

This is very impressive, Bob, thanks.

October 30, 2015 9:10 am

GoatGuy said:

So, who knows? While Bob Tisdale’s analysis is smart and correct, almost no one has commented on the other elephant standing in the living room, namely, the absolutely remarkable pool of water sitting from Central America all the way up to British Columbia … right off the Pacific Coast.

Because a large pool of anomalously warm water, the size of half a continent … stores a lot of energy. Energy that is either tapped and sapped by unusually clear skies and infrared thermal loss, or, through pick-up as surface evaporation by passing cyclonic weather systems, and dumped rather unceremoniously as rain, snow and ice on the Sierras and throughout the more arid Nevada-to-Idaho range(s).

Careful…don’t confuse water temperature ‘anomalies’ with actual water temperature. Yes, there are positive water temperature anomalies of 1-2 deg up the west coast *but* the actual water temperatures are still quite cool compared with tropical waters and when warm, moist air travels over cooler water, the cooler water, even though it may be a few degrees ‘above normal’, still does more to condense water from water vapor than evaporate water to water vapor.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  GromitDog
October 30, 2015 9:57 am

The photo via Nat. Geog. link here shows the fog. The article claims Redwoods – “the planet’s tallest and longest-lived trees may be harmed by declining fog cover on California’s coast, …
I wonder how things have changed in the last 5 years. Maybe the editor missed the irony in that “longest-lived” term. [Full disclosure: I quit NG about 5 years ago after being a quarter-century subscriber.]

John F. Hultquist
October 30, 2015 9:22 am

Thanks Bob. Always interesting.
Various places get strengthened weather when El Niño gets going. Washington State “expects” less precipitation (the 15 Oct CPC show elevated T. and EC-Below Precip) [also summarized here: WA Climatologist
Meanwhile, this weekend, a stream of moisture-laden air is aimed at the State bringing much rain and a bit of snow to the mountains – to be followed by below “normal” cool temperature.
…. and they wonder why folks don’t believe their climate model outputs.

October 30, 2015 9:23 am

So what you’re really saying is that this El Nino is more like a Jet Jaguar than a Godzilla?

Hey, it’s Friday…

Ian W
October 30, 2015 9:30 am

Second, there appears to have been yet another westerly wind burst in the western tropical Pacific recently. As a result, the El Niño should continue to strengthen.

Bob, looking at http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-177.40,3.76,399 there is no sign of a Westerly wind burst in the western tropical pacific. Perhaps it would be better to use real time information on winds rather than proxies like SOI.

Reply to  Ian W
October 30, 2015 9:37 am

Cool wind Earth graphic!
Is that for a specific date? Day, week, month average?

Ian W
Reply to  ATheoK
October 30, 2015 10:39 am

It is continually updated from several sources. If you click on ‘Earth’ then you bring up/put down a menu that allows you to alter what you want to see. Try looking at the 250Mb level and the jet streams, or look at sea wave heights, temperature anomalies and currents.
Why would people use the SOI to guess at a wind? If you click anywhere on the globe you will get an instantaneous reading of the items you have selected.

October 30, 2015 9:34 am

Thanks Bob! Good summation.
Looking over those hovmollers, 2015’s El Nino is far weaker than 1997/8. Unless there are some more substantial wind bursts the 2015 El Nino is struggling. While not as weak at 1987/8 it looks to be lacking super strength.
You’re the Master on this topic. I’m looking forward to next month’s update.

October 30, 2015 10:02 am

It’s my understanding that El Nino threshold is the ocean temperature of certain region of the Pacific. Since there is a significant and controversial ocean temperature adjustment recently, could you clarify in your threshold graph whether the temperature is the newly adjusted one for that may make the new El Nino appear stronger than it really is.

bit chilly
Reply to  John
October 30, 2015 12:12 pm

nice question 🙂

October 30, 2015 12:53 pm
Reply to  ren
October 30, 2015 6:53 pm

That is a great view of ongoing conditions.

Kevin Hearle
October 30, 2015 1:29 pm

Great post as ever Bob, the site http://earth.nullschool.net/ is fantastic, everyone with an interest in climate/ weather should have it as an icon on their computer. Currently it is showing easterlies across the entire Tropical Pacific. Down in the roaring forties in NZ it is a must have addition to the daily forecasts. Our TV weather forecasts shows similar (but less detailed) wind action diagrams a must have when the winds can get up to 100km/hr as fronts march across NZ from the West.

October 30, 2015 2:03 pm
October 30, 2015 4:10 pm

Bob and Anthony: Thanks. As always valuable stuff.
Unlike NOAA, you guys tell what the data is, where it comes from and what has been done with it.

Gary Pearse
October 30, 2015 4:55 pm

So can we trust the data nowadays? Did NOAA add any heat to the pause-busting adjustments? This being a skeptic is feeling more and more like paranoia – the El Nino seems to be ramping up for Paris, too. With Hillary and other cab ministers hiding their emails, lying about Bengazi attack, tax thugs targeting Republican organizations, EPA getting policy notes from Sierra Club, etc., NOAA, NCEI, NASA have been emboldened to jack the temperature record around, erase the pause and other choice maneuvers with apparent impunity, why wouldn’t they double the temperature along the Pacific equator for the last ditch Paris wake?

Reply to  Gary Pearse
October 30, 2015 7:03 pm

Here is something that I have noticed over the last 6 days that does make sense. Starting on the 25th of this month Tropical Tidbits daily ssta picture began showing a cooling in region 1+2, and the cooling has continued right up to today. In opposition to that, Weatherzone has showed an increase in ssta for region 1+2 over the same time span. One of them is showing the right picture, but which one?

Reply to  goldminor
October 30, 2015 11:01 pm

In the first sentence above I should have said “…the last 6 days that {does not} make sense…”.

Ted Getzel
October 30, 2015 6:14 pm

I look forward to your updates, thanks.

October 30, 2015 7:41 pm

The headings in red for figure 2 all say “2015/16 Through Sept 2015.” But the red line stops at the beginning of month 9 in each chart. So, if I’m reading the charts right, shouldn’t they say “To Sept” instead of “Through Sept”? Some of the charts after figure 2 have a similar issue.

October 30, 2015 7:45 pm

It looks like this El Niño is at or near its peak now. This is also the case with my own ANN forecast which is based on tidal and electromagnetic solar variations. I expect the drop in the MEI index to start soon. This drop is going to continue well into next years La Niña.
BTW: For all you ENSO-holics out there, have you seen this guy’s weekly surfing and ENSO forecast.
This is this week’s analysis of ENSO and surfing conditions.
ENSO discussion starts at 12 min into the video
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN-OTmrXr8U&w=560&h=315%5D

October 31, 2015 6:11 am

Bob, I use the SOI from here https://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/30daysoivalues/ which is better than BOM
When I have time, I am trying some analysis. It seems that the daily and moving monthly SOI figures have a regular pattern which seems to reoccur every 28 days. I had a look at tide data and it is possible that the SOI data could correlate with the height of tides at Darwin.
Could be wrong but comparing October to September there seems to be a signs of a turn around. Maybe the next week or so should be telling if the daily SOI fails to become more negative.

October 31, 2015 2:03 pm

Here is an up-to-the-moment glimpse of the bilge , in which we are currently awash.
The commentors though seem not to be fooled.

October 31, 2015 8:59 pm

Thank you, Bob.
Your continuing work shows a very clear image of the most influential natural phenomenon in this planet, moving vast amounts of heat across the Pacific Ocean that influence the whole Earth.
Your MEI discussion is very much appreciated.

Joe Bastardi
October 31, 2015 9:22 pm


James at 48
November 3, 2015 9:36 am

My hope springs eternal and most indicators seems to show this one being better than any of the duds from the past 15 years. Probably not another 1998 one but probably enough to put a dent in the $!!@#! drought.

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