El Niño Looks Increasingly Likely

By Tom Yulsman | April 10, 2014 8:50 am
El Niño

An animation of weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the past 12 weeks shows the development of warmer than normal waters in the eastern Pacific and near the
International Date Line. (Source: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center)

The odds that an El Niño will develop by summer appear to be getting stronger.

In a report released yesterday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology raised the odds of an El Niño developing by summer (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) to greater than 70 percent. And in his monthly analysis, Klaus Wolter of NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory noted that the evolution of conditions over the past four months suggest that a strong El Niño may well be on the way. He found nine cases that look similar to what has been occurring in the equatorial Pacific:

Of the 9 cases selected in this fashion, three remained either neutral (1960) or dropped back to La Niña status within a year (1961, 1984). The other SIX cases look like a roll-call of historic El Niño events since 1950: 1957-58,’65-66, ’72-73, ’82-83, ’86-88, and ’97-98. Not only does this confirm the increased odds of an El Niño in 2014 (first pointed out four months ago on this wepage), it also translates into higher odds for a moderate-to-strong El Niño.

Characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, El Niño tends to bring wetter than normal conditions across the southern United States in winter, drought in the West Pacific, and increased risk of bushfires in Australia. More precipitation is possible in parts of the West, including now-parched California. But there are no guarantees, of course.

The animation at the top of the post depicts the evolution of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific over the past 12 weeks. It shows warmer than normal temperatures developing in the eastern Pacific and near the International Date Line. Conditions are still neutral. But models used to predict how conditions will evolve show that sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are likely to cross the El Niño threshold by the summer, according to the Australian report:

Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Climate, Environment, select, Top Posts
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Are we talking weather or climate? Tell me before the results appear.

    • craig

      oversimplified, but applicable to your inquiry.

      Weather: described as specific conditions at specific locations in terms of hours, days, weeks, and perhaps months.

      Climate: defined by average patterns and trends of weather over a larger geographic scale and in terms of months, years, and beyond.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Lee Jenkinson

    @ Uncle Al: “In addition to long-term climate change, there are shorter term climate
    variations. This so-called climate variability can be represented by
    periodic or intermittent changes related to El Niño, La Niña, volcanic
    eruptions, or other changes in the Earth system.” (Quoted from the NASA page)
    So this would be a periodic climate variation affecting the weather in various parts of the world.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      Nobody is certain about anything that does not involve the Carbon Tax on Everything shriving wallets of their sinful monies in the here and now against threatened damnation a century hence. Sacrificing virgins has never been unpopular or uncreative. The challenge is convincing the virgins lest they undignify the ceremony.

      Enjoy the show.

      • Kyle

        A denier. As a denier, you can be relied upon to get most everything wrong. In this case, you claim or imply strong negative economic effects although all projections do not and distant dangers although they are here already. And deniers reliably reveal their science denying motivation – carbon pricing.

        Deniers want those who purchase and benefit from fossil fuels to continue to free ride by evading the external costs associated with the emissions. Deniers want non-carbon energy sources to continue to be disadvantaged by FF’s free riding. Deniers want this utterly distorted market to remain distorted because, generally, deniers want to personally continue to be freeloaders. For their own childishly selfish reasons, they deny the dangers to the human race and the entire biosphere. They’re lower than slugs.

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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