Quicky October 2016 ENSO Update

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale

Weekly NINO3.4 Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies from NOAA Are Approaching the Threshold of a Moderately Strong La Niña.  Australia’s Southern Oscillation Index from BOM is in La Niña values.  And NOAA’s Multivariate ENSO Index is Still in ENSO Neutral Territory.


NOAA’s weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the NINO3.4 regions (based on the original Reynolds OI.v2 data) are furnished on Mondays. The most recent update for the week centered on October 6, 2016 shows the sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-1250W), which NOAA uses to define a La Niña and its strength, is at -0.9 deg C, well below the -0.5 deg C threshold of La Niña conditions and approaching the -1.0 deg C threshold of a moderately strong La Nina.


Figure 1

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 anomalies for the NOAA/CPC data are referenced to the WMO-preferred base years of 1981-2010.

The top graph in Figure 1 includes the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific, which is bordered by the coordinates of 5S-5N, 170W-120W.  The sea surface temperature anomalies for the NINO3.4 region are commonly used (especially by NOAA) as an indicator of the strength, timing and duration of El Niño and La Niña events.  And for the bottom graph, the evolutions of the sea surface temperature anomalies in 2015 and 2016 are compared to 1997/98, for comparison to the transition from another very strong El Niño.


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 temperature-based indices.  The September Southern Oscillation Index value is +13.5, which well above the threshold of La Niña conditions. (The BOM threshold for La Niña conditions is an SOI value of +7.0. See the BOM webpage here.)


Figure 2

The top graph in Figure 2 presents a time-series graph of the SOI data. Note that the horizontal red blue line is the present monthly value, not a trend line. The bottom graph in Figure 2 compares the evolution of the SOI values in 2015/16 to those in 1997/98.

Also see the BOM Recent (preliminary) Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) values webpage. The current 90-day average is cycling just above the +7.0 threshold of La Niña conditions.

Regardless of the SOI being in La Niña conditions, the BOM is still in a La Niña Watch.   This may be caused by the BOM using the outdated base years of 1961-1990 for sea surface temperature anomaly-based indices.


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 plethora of atmospheric variables…thus “multivariate”.

According to the most recent Multivariate ENSO Index update discussion, the tropical Pacific is still in ENSO Neutral conditions:

Compared to last month, the updated (August-September) MEI has dropped further to -.10 (down by 1.1 in last three months), which translates into ENSO-neutral rankings.

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 on October 8th.  The top graph in Figure 3 presents a graph of the MEI time series starting in Dec/Jan 1979.  And the bottom graph of Figure 3 compares the evolution in 2015/16 to the reference El Niño of 1997/98.


Figure 3


I published On Global Warming and the Illusion of Control (25MB .pdf) back in November.  The introductory post is here. It’s free. Chapter 3.7 includes detailed discussions of El Niño events and their aftereffects…though not as detailed as in Who Turned on the Heat?

My ebook Who Turned on the Heat? – The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit: El Niño-Southern Oscillation (23MB .pdf) 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.  It too is free. See the introductory post here. 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.


73 thoughts on “Quicky October 2016 ENSO Update

  1. its pretty soggy where I live, and cold for spring
    for the deep soil moisture buildup and a cooler summer Hooray!
    it can rain all it wants;-)

    • The past few years hottober (as I call it) has started with a full week of 28C+ temps. That is, for my part of Aus, pretty standard fare. This year we got a day and a half of it.

  2. Here in central Victoria we are drowning under constant rain and drizzle. It’s the wettest winter and spring on record, with cool cloudy and windy days the norm.

    A strong La Nina combined with a negative IOD means a long coolish, but very wet summer. The land is already saturated, dams are spilling, rivers in flood and rainwater tanks brimming.

    It won’t take much to repeat the huge floods of 2010/2011 which kept the north of the state underwater for months.

  3. I thought La Nina was cancelled? By the wizards at NOAA? In New England, we need a great winter after last year’s debacle – we usually do well in La Nina’s.

  4. According to the La Nina graphs, we are officially in a La Nina now. I live in the very cold north so we are bracing for a nasty winter.

  5. Some are predicting an extremely cold winter for Europe. And in some parts of south western Australia (including Perth), we had the coldest September on record (120 years).

    • If a major European or North American city gets “coldest month on record” it will be interesting to see the spin doctors blame it on warming

    • Many are expecting a cold winter in Western Canada as well. Already we have significant snowfall. About a full month earlier than normal.

  6. Bob

    I spend a lot of time looking at data and trying to make sense of it. I do look at all four Nino regions on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. When I say that I mean I analyze the monthly data by itself. However, when I look at the weekly and daily data it is a combination of monthly data from the start in 1854 to 2014. Thereafter, I use either the weekly or daily data. That practice improves resolution when I attempt a projection.

    For what I present here I think one region is enough and that will be region 3.4.

    I use a number of sine waves to represent the data. The correlation coefficient is shown on the figure and it is quite good.


    There are a number of cycles that I use. The next figure makes clear where I made the transition to daily data.


    The next figure comes from a spreadsheet and covers the daily data starting in 2014. This figure also includes the latest monthly data that was only used in the analysis prior to 2014.


    Presently, this figure suggests that the region has bottomed and may be on the way up. We shall see. I am getting similar results for the other regions. It would seem that it bottomed in region 1.2 before region 3.4 as the indication of a rising trend is a little clearer. It is early in this trend. Again, we shall see.

    The cyclic analysis is required, to the best of its capability, to match the measured data. If the trend starts turning toward a La Nina it will try to pick that up and still match the measured data.

    The other thing I did, more for my own education, was to combine region 3.4 with the SOI. I modified things slightly so instead of looking at a mirror image I used the inverse of the SOI so I could see how things work together.


    The SOI is the 30 day averaged and the region data are daily. This figure helped me to better understand the relationship. I tried using the daily SOI data but it is just too noisy.

  7. Nice post.

    Shouldn’t this: “The top graph in Figure 2 presents a time-series graph of the SOI data. Note that the horizontal red line is the present monthly value, not a trend line. ” be

    “the horizontal BLUE line is the present monthly value.” ??

  8. To put some numbers on the turn around of rainfall mentioned by Peter Wiseman above, in central Victoria we had for all of last year (2015) 24 inches of rain (I will use inches instead of mm for US Readers) most of which (17 inches) fell in the first six months. with only 7 inches in a dry second half which continued into the dry first half of 2016-a typical El Nino pattern.

    I am aware of this because we constructed a small dam in June last year but it was only half full from run off and limited rainfall at end of May 2016.

    However in the nine months to the end of September of 2016 we have had 35 inches -with more received but not yet recorded in October- which is our second wettest month after May

    The rainfall started to fall heavily in June of 2016, with most of that 35 inches occurring in the four months June to end of September.
    The dam referred to above now has water spilling out the overflow channel like a running creek and was full after only two months rain and runoff by the end of July.

    Not only has the rainfall increased, but whereas last year October,the second month of the southern Spring, as Phil B says was hot with a week 28 c to 30 c +, this year we have had about 1 such day.

    Predictably “climate change ” that explain it all phrase has been relied on to “explain” both the heat and dry and now the cool and wet, whereas it would seem that it was the roughly regular pattern of El Nino and La Nina showing up- with La Nina apparently starting about June 2016.

    • Thomho,

      Most of us in America who read this blog can handle Standard International, metric (if we must), conventional and Imperial units. I, for one, prefer a pint in the UK and the Commonwealth countries to a pint here in the US.

      • “I, for one, prefer a pint in the UK and the Commonwealth countries to a pint here in the US.”

        Have to agree with you there Jim. There’s always home brew.

    • Obviously you suffered from Global Warming in the first part of the year and were devastated by Climate Change in the latter part. It’s your own fault for breathing!

  9. Bob, in earlier posts of the last two days, I’ve divined that activist government agencies who keep the data records (Colonel Sanders looking after our chickens) are anxious to Karlize data unfavorable to the cause. My expectation was fulfilled by RSS sneaking an elevator into the satellite (!!!!) data in yesterday’s post on WUWT. Monckton’s and your efforts at updating the dreaded PAUSE resulted in a Karlization Event in June 2015 – done boldly because Karl was retiring anyway.

    This developing La Nina is a similar fishbone stuck in the Team’s craw and we WILL see it recalculated. They WILL NOT tolerate re-emergence of the PAUSE. They are certainly casting about in the data variety for this phenomenon to find a “rational” for changing the method and scuttling the La Nina – they don’t want to let go of the hottest year ever.

    Already, sea ice data is a mess. Watch what comes out of the ‘fixing’ of this metric. They have hyped the disappearance of Arctic Ice for years – they don’t like being wrong too long. The lack of landfall of hurricane Matthew has the CAGW folks talking about a redefinition of landfall after all the hype and disappointment of the recent ‘cane. Eleven years without this “severe weather from climate change” poster boy, won’t be tolerated much longer. Let me divine that Matthew WILL BE recorded as a landfall – probably the few feet of storm surge that came ashore will qualify it. The Saffir-Simpson Scale it self could also get a modernizing face lift.

    • As long as you’re in a divining mood, consider satellite sea level:

      Two items:

      A new sea level satellite, Jason3,
      Launched in January won’t be verified until December.

      CU’s Sea Level Research Group recently published a paper with the title:
      “Is the detection of accelerated sea level rise imminent?”

      So you might divine that sometime in the next few months accelerated sea level rise will indeed be found in newly corrected and verified satellite data.

  10. Well, it looks like if the sea surface temperature at El Niño regions continues cooling we will have a strong La Niña, but if it doesn’t we won’t. Does this sum up the situation?

    As far as I know ENSO does not show much cyclical correlation to anything except perhaps a little to the QBO. So nobody has any idea in which direction is going to move in the future, or when the next El Niño will take place. It is interesting to follow it, because it tells us what is happening, but it won’t tell us much about what it is going to happen.

  11. It is just lovely to see the most recent set of ‘predictions’ making complete dicks out of their CAGWarnist authors. Most gratifying. Of course there is a 97% chance of even more crazy and outrageous scare campaigns to compensate for the awful, paused reality but then again its always great to have something to give you a laugh each day.

    Here in Tassie its mid October and we have snow down to 500 m. Again. Oh Gaia, you cruel old bitch. LOL.

  12. A few weeks ago there was a blurb on my news feeds (can’t remember source) claiming La Nina fizzled. I have no idea what was the basis other than “wishful” thinking of Green freaks.

  13. BTW – late fall of ’98 at my location (coastal lower latitudes of NorCal – e.g. upper 30s North) presented us with a notable low elevation snow event followed immediately by a terrible freeze.

  14. Coldest thanksgiving in 85 years here in Calgary, snow on the ground and the pond on my property has ice on it.

    • That settles it then.

      Or maybe not. Why not take a glance at a global surface temperature estimate for this date?

      Yes indeed. Calgary and surrounding areas are anomalously cold for the time of year. But look at the temperature anomaly in the Arctic. Look at it across swathes of Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia.

      This is a ‘global’ not local or regional phenomenon.

      • The problem is that the higher temperatures of the polar circle in the winter does not warm in Canada, and on the contrary. One has to reflect on cause of the anomaly pressure over the polar circles.

      • How are those temperatures measured in the Arctic? Or, for that matter, the Antarctic? Where are the reporting stations? Or are these modeled temperatures, or, possibly, infilled?

      • Please. Your own map shows Europe and Russia are cold, all the way from France to the Pacific. The only real “warming” is in the extreme north, which is hardly alarming.

        North America is pretty much a wash, as is South America. Australia is cooling. Only Africa and southern Asia are much warmer than usual.

        By the way, why start in 1979 and end in 2000? Cherry pick much?

      • @DWR54

        October 11, 2016 at 9:58 am: Thanks for the map. The arctic ‘warmth’, measured by a very small number of stations, is the result of a wavy jet stream. This is a symptom of a cooling phase, as more temperate lands get the displaced frigid air. While the ‘warmer’ stuff rises and cools to space as it flows equator-wards to share the coolth.
        Even that air falsely coloured red, is in fact frigid. Hope you have plenty of firewood etc.. Snowing here in NZ. Not unprecedented, but not warmageddon either.

      • DRW54

        Look at the Global Climate Network Temperature Stations, and their spatial coverage.

        Is it just coincidence, or is there something else at play, but where it is ‘hot’ on that map (the poles, central Africa, Middle East, and miscellaneous oceanic areas) there is very little measured data.

        Where there is plenty of measured data, it is ‘cold’ for this time of year.

        funny that!!

      • It would look quite different if based on the most current 30-year climatology. What’s up with still using 1979-2000?

      • You need to remember the northern areas look much larger than they actually are, on your map. In fact Greenland is much, much smaller than Australia.

        The entire Arctic Sea is only a little larger than all of Europe. Although it doesn’t look it, the red area over the Arctic Sea on your map is roughly a third to a half of the square miles of the blue area over Eurasia.

  15. The 3-month (~ 13 week) running value in BoM for ENSO3.4 is still well short of even NOAA’s La Nina base. It’s currently sitting at -0.38. NOAA require -0.50 for La Nina conditions to be declared. (I think BoM sets the bar at 0.80.)

    Sorry, but there’s no imminent prospect of global cooling. 2016 will likely be the warmest calendar year on record in all data sets.

    • @DWR54

      October 11, 2016 at 9:49 am: Wish you were watching the real harbingers eg Ole humlum’s climate4you deepwater flow charts and other sea data; solar activity too.

    • That might be so, but if La Nina conditions develop in late 2016/early 2017, the pause will then reappear but will then be more than 20 years in duration.

      If there is no long lasting step change coincident with the 2015/16 strong El Nino (as there was such a long lasting step change in temperatures coincident with the super El Nino of 1997/98) then 2016 will merely be a short lived spike in the satellite temperature data set and have no significance other than to confirm that ENSO conditions control the peaks in observed temperture, and not per se CO2.

      It is too early to judge the consequence of the 2015/16 strong El Nino before the current ENSO cycle completes.

      • Richard, if La Nina conditions develop as you say and the pause does not reappear, what will you think then?

      • Personally, I do not like making any predictions; it is a mugs game since we do not know or understand enough.

        I am not predicting that La Nina conditions will occur, or if they do then this will be a strong La Nina.

        However what is known is that the satellite data is very sensitive to oceanic conditions. We also know that La Nina results in oceanic cooling in the area covered by the ENSO index. That is what the ENSO index is.

        Based on that we know that if La Nina conditions do occur, the satellite data will pick this up and will show cooling temperatures.

        Thereafter it is just a mathematical conscript. The pause will reappear should the satellite data set show La Nina cooling (beyond a de minimis nature). Perhaps this will not appear in the satellite data set until very late this year or early 2017, but when it does (and this is based upon a La Nina occurring), the pause will be not less than 20 years in duration, ie., going back to 1997, may be back to 1995 9depending upon the strength of the La Nina).

        Of course the reappearance of the pause may be short lived. After all another El Nino may subsequently develop and this may well eradicate the pause just like the 2015/16 El Nino did. It will depend upon strength and how it develops.

        However, one thing is all but certain, since this is just a mathematical conscript, if La Nina conditions well and truly develop later this year/early next year, unless this be an extremely weak La Nina bordering on a La Nada, the pause will make a reappearance (whether this be short lived or otherwise).

      • Thanks, but I was hoping for a source more credible than NOAA lol. Looks to me like the Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent is carrying a lot of anomalously cold water and set to cool the surface waters even more over the next few months, so half of those models are probably already proven false.

  16. If, as DR54 asserts, the arctic is anomalously ‘hot’ at the moment, how can it be refreezing at the fastest rate since 1987?

  17. Great post on JoNovas site, showing Oz BOMs projection from August predicting above average temperatures all over Australia for September. Beside it is Oz BOMs actual for September showing average to mainly well below average temepratures all over Australia.

    But we can say with absolute confidence what will happen 20,50,100 years out, pretend that we can control it, and spend vast amounts of money on futile projects (that mostly dont work anyway). Its a mad world.

    • It’s not the scientists who are expressing anything remotely like “absolute” confidence Yerpos. That is a straw man argument and is the preserve of others who post here.

  18. Even a cursory glance at SST anomaly maps revealed a distinct cooling in the 3.4 centered around Oct 1. Man’s understanding of Oceanic change is very early, and very

  19. This may be viewed as an extrapolation of what Bob Tisdale presents us here.

    Below you see the plots for five ENSO indices JMA ENSO, MEI, Nino3.4, ONI and SOI during the periods
    – jan1997 – aug 1998
    – jan 2015 – aug 2016

    All plots are relative to their january start to completely offset the difference between the periods, and therefore begin all at zero.

    Moreover, since the indices have different value ranges, they were scaled to fit (but of course, the two periods are scaled the same way for all indices). SOI is inverted (La Niña has positive values here).

    The scaling was made such that for each of the five indices, the real value at the peak in 1997/98 has been scaled to 1.0. So we not only avoid to compare apples with oranges, but also to compare apples of too different size:

    You can easyily observe that all five indices show, for 2015/16, a level below their level of 1997/98.
    In dark bold you see the respective mean of all index values for the two periods.

    Some might argue about this method and complain that ENSO phenomena aren’t bound to a fixed period. This is correct, especially for BOM’s SOI which for example had a very late peak in 1998.

    But calculating and comparing the averages of all index values above zero, or of those values superseding a given level, shows the same result.

    Finally, one could draw the plots of various temperature series ( troposphere, radiosondes, surface) for the same periods, and constructed in a similar manner.

    Here also you would observe that apart from UAH6.0beta5 which acts here as the exception confirming the rule, all temperature records show, relatively to their january, 2015/16 clearly below 1997/98.

    And the temperature level differences between the two periods are even higher (for UAH as well) when ENSO’s main activity corner, the Tropics, is considered (here for the troposphere only):

  20. I think this winter could be very interesting. El nino more modeki, not quite as much heat to the troposphere as 98, la nina winds more intense? If the left over warm water and weak circumpolar vortex interact, we may some craziness in the arctic.

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