Change in sea surface temperature anomalies in the last month; courtesy NOAA
This naturally occurring oceanic cycle that produces warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean began in earnest early in 2015 and strengthened throughout the year to comparable intensity levels of the strong El Nino episodes of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 although the warmest region relative-to-normal set up in somewhat different locations. El Nino has had widespread consequences around the world and will continue to do so in the near future. By later this year, colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures are quite likely to appear in the tropical Pacific Ocean as predicted by multiple computer forecast models and this flip to La Nina will also have extensive consequences around the world.
Rapidly changing SST anomalies
The latest sea surface temperature anomalies show noticeable changes from just one month ago across the tropical Pacific Ocean (above). Specifically, while the sea surface temperatures in that region are still above-normal, they are noticeably less so than just four weeks ago. This trend should continue over the next few months as sea surface temperatures drop off rapidly in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean.
The collapse of El Nino in the tropical Pacific Ocean has begun and it will be rather dramatic. The current strong El Nino event reached its peak intensity level in December 2015 and all indications suggest it will completely flip to La Nina conditions by later this year. One of the important consequences of the current strong El Nino event in the equatorial Pacific Ocean was a spike in global temperatures. However, if recent history is any guide, expect global temperatures to drop sharply after La Nina conditions become well-established in the tropical Pacific Ocean – likely during 2017 and perhaps beyond. –Paul Dorian, Vencore Weather, 5 February 2016
UPDATED to include missing content that didn’t get sent in the first posting, due to a weak Internet connection during my flight,