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posted on 09 November 2015

9 November 2015 Weather and Climate Report - Waiting for El Nino

Written by Sig Silber

We are in a situation now where nothing much is happening. But yet there is a feeling that things might change soon. At this point El Nino has not really kicked in in terms of impacts. It is almost as if the Northern Pacific and the Equator are not talking to each other. That is likely to change fairly soon but that thought has been the working hypothesis for some time and has not really shown up in our weather except marginally so we wait.

weather.caption

 

This is the Regular Edition of my weekly Weather and Climate Update Report. Additional information can be found here on Page II of the Global Economic Intersection Weather and Climate Report.

Let's take a look.

NOAA has now updated their graphic, which was not yet posted last Monday when I went to press, where they show the updated Outlook for November issued on October 31 compared to the three-months: Nov-Dec-Jan which was issued on October 15, 2015.

N and NDJ Issues on Oct 31, 2015

Last week I drew the implications that one can make about months two and three in a three-month forecast when you know the details about month one and the three-month average and the limitations of comparing a map showing the three-month average created on October 15 as well as the updated map for November issued on October 31. That discussion is in my article from last week. At all times, one can refer to prior articles by going to this directory.

Also the directory and links to Pages II and III of my report are at the end of this article each week but you can get there by clicking on Page II (full report including climate information) or Page III (Global Warming Information) now.

Not Let us Focus on the Current (Right Now to 5 Days Out) Weather Situation.

A more complete version of this report with daily forecasts is available in Part II. This is a summary of that more extensive report. This link Worldwide Weather: Current and Three-Month Outlooks: 15 Month Outlooks will take you directly to that set of information but in some Internet Browsers it may just take you to the top of Page II where there is a TABLE OF CONTENTS and you may have to wait for a few seconds for your Browser to redirect to the selected section with that Page or if that process is very slow you can simply click a second time within the TABLE OF CONTENTS to get to that specific part of the webpage.

First, here is a national animation of weather front and precipitation forecasts with four 6-hour projections of the conditions that will apply covering the next 24 hours and a second day of two 12-hour projections the second of which is the forecast for 48 hours out and to the extent it applies for 12 hours, this animation is intended to provide coverage out to 60 hours. Beyond 60 hours, additional maps are available at the link provided above.

current highs and lows

The explanation for the coding used in these maps, i.e. the full legend, can be found here although it includes some symbols that are no longer shown in the graphic; because they are implemented by color coding.

The map below is the mid-atmosphere 7-Day chart rather than the surface highs and lows and weather features. In some cases it provides a clearer less confusing picture as it shows only the major pressure gradients. One can see a mild trough in the west and a mild ridge in the east.

7 Day 500 MB Geopotential Forecast

Because "Thickness Lines" are shown by those green lines on this graphic it is a good place to define "Thickness" and its uses. You can find a full uk.sci.weather style explanation (thorough) at that link or just remember that Thickness measures the virtual temperature plus moisture content) of the lower atmosphere and is very useful especially in the winter at identifying areas prone to snow and in the summer areas which are going to be hot and humid. Here is a U.S. style explanation of  "Thickness"  by Jeff Haby who is a valuable source at Haby Hints for anyone who wants an explanation of a meteorological term. The thickness lines do not yet indicate winter conditions which might be thickness levels below 540 for most areas. This suggests that for the next two weeks, snow is not likely to be prevalent in CONUS other than on mountain tops. The above uk.sci.weather link is is an explanation for the U.K. The levels for CONUS might be slightly different. Obviously these thickness lines do not tell you about mountain peaks. The particular definition of "thickness" on this graphic may not be the best way to define the snow line and this is discussed in the link provided but it is I believe the older method and gives a first approximation which can be further refined as per the discussion in the link.

The following table is useful but designed for Europe. I was not able to find the corresponding information for the U.S. but it would not be drastically different. In the U.S., the last zero is dropped off the Thickness Level so where it says 5640 that would show as 564 in the U.S. Also remember the temperatures shown are in Centigrade. So 580 would correspond to about 80F in full sunshine during the summer. That is why I say the 582 and 576 thickness levels are a bit unusual for November. On the other hand the 540 thickness line is still north of CONUS and thus we are not yet into lake effect snow. Although this is an imprecise tool, it is useful for a first look at the situation.

Thickness Table

More information on this table is available here.

The level of storm activity in the Western Pacific has declined right now. Notice the Northern Pacific is like a giant anticyclone with clockwise motion so that which gets sent west due to El Nino is to some extent returned to North America but at higher latitudes. Right now the Pacific Jet is projected to become more intense.

Western Pacific Tropical Activity

Looking at the graphic below, the cyclones generated by the warm ocean water west of Central America can provide Monsoon-like impacts for short periods if those cyclones stay close enough to the Mexican coastline. So that is what is being watched now and there seems to be an endless sequence of the storms forming. Each of these El Nino related tropical storms off the coast of Mexico has the potential, if they are close enough to shore, to introduce moisture into the circulation that enters CONUS and that was the case this summer and continues in early Fall but it is sporadic. For Mexico, an El Nino is a drought event.

.Eastern Pacific Tropical Storms

The graphic below is harder to look at but provides more detail on the water vapor in place which is a good proxy for where precipitation can occur. It covers a much larger area within CONUS so you can see where the moisture currently is and is going. This graphic is very good at pointing out the divisions between cloudy and not cloudy areas. As I am looking at this graphic Monday evening, I see a dry Southern Tier of CONUS which extends up to the Great Lakes. This graphic updates automatically so it most likely will look different by the time you look at it.

 Water Vapor Imagery

Below is an analysis of projected tropical hazards and benefits over an approximately two-week period. There are two views. One is more focused on the Pacific and one that includes the Indian Ocean and covers Asia more completely. Both graphics auto-update weekly but each updates on a different day of the week so when you look at them both carefully you might see some differences due to the exact day when they were updated. More information can be found here. The discussion at that link updates on Fridays.

Looking at the first graphic (and as I am looking at it, it is the most recently updated as it updates on Fridays) what stands out to me, at the time of publication on a Monday evening, is the continued presence of precipitable water in place in the Southeast of CONUS plus the potential for cyclone development in the West Indies through a period that ends on Tuesday i.e. tomorrow. Since it is a period of time that is discussed, it does not mean the condition shown will be there for every day in that period. So it can no longer be there without concluding the forecast was incorrect since it was there at one point during that forecast period. Notice in the second week of the forecast (which is the forecast for most of the current week as I write), the wet area in the Gulf of Mexico is no longer part of the forecast but another area of moderate potential for the development of tropical cyclones is again off the west coast of Central America. When looking at a lot of graphics, the dates for which the graphic applies and the dates when issued become very important in making sense out of the information. It is easy to draw incorrect conclusions by not considering or getting confused by the different timeframes. As I am writing this article on Monday I noticed this warning and it coincides with the Hazards outlook for high precipitation potential in the Gulf of Mexico in the November 7- Nov 10 period of time. We will see if this unfortunately works out as currently forecast. I suspect it is a false alarm as I look at the current information today. Here is a current update from Little Rock Arkansas.

Tropical Hazards

This graphic below covers a larger part of the world but on a Monday evening is less up to date for the Americas than the above graphic. So on Monday evenings when I finalize my article I only use this graphic to assess the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. With this graphic which will update tomorrow i.e. on Tuesday, at the time of publication Monday evening, you see more activity over by Asia including some changes taking place with less dry conditions in Indonesia and the Philippines. Because of the update schedule on a Tuesday, when I prepare my article on a Monday, I pay the most attention to the Week 2 forecast in this graphic. By the time you read it, it most likely will have been updated and the Week 1 forecast will be most relevant. So my comments are time sensitive and may be incorrect when this graphic updates tomorrow.

Tropical Hazards

Below is a view which highlights the surface Highs and the Lows re air pressure on Day 3. I usually only show the 6 day graphic on Page I of my report (they both are always on Page II of my report) but because of the volatility of the situation in the Pacific this time of the year, I am again showing both this week. Notice the strong Aleutian Low which now is located in the Gulf of Alaska where it has more potential to influence the Northwest of CONUS.

Day 3 highs and lows

Here is the Day 6 forecast  In recent weeks the projected location and strength of the Aleutian Low has varied a bit. On some days, the forecast is showing a split low with each of the two lows weaker than a combined single Low and this is not characteristic of El Nino. Right now the Aleutian Low is projected on Day 6 to be 996Hpa which is unremarkable (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low). But the Aleutian Low is currently forecast on Day 6 to be in the Gulf of Alaska but not as strong as the forecast for Day 3. The shifting position of the Low makes a big difference. As shown, the Day 6 forecast allows for the RRR to "protect" the West Coast from Pacific storms but not as strongly as last week due to the repositioning of the Aleutian Low. A longer discussion of the climate of Beringia and the role of the Aleutian Low is in Part II of this Report 2. Medium Frequency Cycles such as ENSO and IOD.

Day 6 Weather Forecast

We now need to monitor the Jet Stream to see if it is shifting to the South. Currently the Jet Stream has created a trough off the West Coast which will bring a storm through the Southwest early in the week and then move it to the east. More on that later.

Current Jet Stream

And the forecast out five days.  Here we see a true split stream. Of course this is a forecast and changes daily or perhaps even more frequently.

Jet Stream Five Days Out

To see how the pattern is projected to evolve, please click here. The activity is projected to become quite meridional which allows troughs to bring precipitation down to lower latitudes. In addition to the shaded areas which show an interpretation of the Jet Stream, one can also see the wind vectors (arrows) at the 300 Mb level.

And when we look at Sea Surface anomalies we see a lot of them not just along the Equator related to El Nino. But you no longer see the withdrawal of the warm anomaly away from the coast of South America. This is a change from last week and suggests an intensification of the El Nino.

Daily SST Anomaly

The two graphics below show first the changes over the four weeks (ending September 16) as compared to the above graphic which shows the current SST anomalies and then the changes over the four weeks ending on October 28. Looking at both of these change in anomaly graphics is helpful in putting the current situation shown above into perspective.

First the four weeks ending on September 16.

Sept 21, 2015 four week change in SST Anomalies

And now the four weeks ending on November 4.

Nov 9, 2015 Change in Weekly SST Departures

You can see a deamplifying of the pattern and the situation along the Equator in the Eastern Pacific looks like cooling rather than warming. So I question the reported increase in the ONI but realize that there may be conflicts in the data that is being reported which I discuss later. The water off of Mexico is less warm than recently which is important. Something is going on south of the Equator over at about 160W which probably is very important but I do not know enough to know why. It might explain why this El Nino is not impacting CONUS in the way that has been forecast. The entire Northern Pacific seems to have changed a lot. It is a lot less PDO+. I am not sure I still see the IOD in the Indian Ocean. The waters off of the West Coast of Africa are less warm than the prior analysis. Remember these are four-week averages and graphic above the two four-week average of the changes in the anomalies is the daily readings of the anomalies which auto-updates. You can get a better feel there for the current impacts. It is difficult to relate the actuals to the four-week changes but it paints a picture. Remember the observed values in the first graphic are expressed as anomalies which is the change from climatology (normal) so we are talking in these two bottom two graphics about the change in the change. It is kind of like the first derivative of the "anomalies" which to confuse things NOAA interchanges the word "anomaly" and "departures" which are the same thing.

6 - 14 Day Outlooks

Now let us focus on the 6 - 14 Day Forecast for which I generally only show the 8 - 14 Day Maps. The 6 - 10 Day maps are available in Part II of this report.

To put the forecasts which NOAA tends to call Outlooks into perspective, I am going to show the three-month NDJ and single month of November forecasts and then discuss the 8 - 14 day Maps and the 6 - 14 Day NOAA Discussion within that framework. Some of these graphics are repeats of graphics that I presented earlier as part of the discussion of the NOAA Update of the November Outlook.

First Temperature

Here is the Three-Month Temperature Outlook issued on October 15,  2015:

NDJ Temperature Outlook Issued on Oct 15, 2015

Here is the updated November Temperature Outlook issued on October 31 just a few days ago.

.

November 2015 Temperature Issued on October 31, 2015

Below is the current 8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook Map which will auto-update and thus be current when you view it. It covers the week following the current week. Today's 6 - 14 Day Outlook is just nine days of the month and the map shown below of the 8 to 14 day Outlook only shows seven days. The 6 - 10 Day Map is available on Page II of this report. As I view this map on November 9 (it updates each day), it appears that mid to late November will be very consistent with the recently issued full-month November Outlook.

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook

Now Precipitation 

Here is the three-month Precipitation Outlook issued on October 15, 2015:

NDj Precipitation Outlook Issued Oct 15, 2015

And here is the updated single month of November Precipitation Outlook issued on October 31 which is just a few days ago.

.

November Precipitaton Outlook Issued on October 31, 2015

Below is the current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook Map which will auto-update and thus be current when you view it. It covers the week following the current week. Today's 6 - 14 Day Outlook is just nine days of the month and the map shown covers seven days of the nine. The 6 - 10 Day Map (the two maps overlap) is available on Page II of this report. As I view this map on November 9 (it updates each day) it appears that mid to late November will be generally wetter than the Outlook for November especially along the West Coast. But unlike the Temperature Outlook which has been very stable, the Precipitation Outlook has changed dramatically almost from day to day.

Current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook

Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today November 9, 2015. It covers the full nine day period not just the seven days shown in the 8-14 Day Map.

6-10 DAY OUTLOOK FOR NOV 15 - 19 2015  

TODAY'S ENSEMBLE MEAN MODEL SOLUTIONS EXHIBIT GOOD OVERALL AGREEMENT TODAY IN THEIR PREDICTION OF A FAST, LOW-AMPLITUDE CIRCULATION PATTERN TYPICAL OF AUTUMN ACROSS THE NORTH AMERICA DOMAIN, FOR THE UPCOMING 6-10 DAY PERIOD. LOW AMPLITUDE, QUASI-ZONAL FLOW PATTERNS ARE USUALLY CHARACTERIZED BY RAPIDLY MOVING SHORT-WAVE TROUGHS EMBEDDED WITHIN A MEAN WESTERLY CURRENT. THE TIMING OF THESE DISCRETE SHORT-WAVES IS OFTEN VERY DIFFICULT TO PREDICT. THE 0Z CANADIAN ENSEMBLE MEAN, THE GFS SUPER-ENSEMBLE MEAN, AND THE 0Z GFS ENSEMBLE MEAN ALL FORECAST A QUASI-ZONAL PATTERN ACROSS THE CONUS, WITH A MIDDLE-TROPOSPHERIC TROUGH ANTICIPATED OVER ALASKA. THE 0Z ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEAN AND THE 6Z GFS ENSEMBLE MEAN DIFFER SOMEWHAT BY THEIR PREDICTION OF A BROAD, WEAK TROUGH OVER THE WESTERN CONUS AND A WEAK RIDGE OVER THE SOUTHEAST. THE 0Z DETERMINISTIC ECMWF DEPICTS A MORE AMPLIFIED VERSION OF ITS ENSEMBLE MEAN. THE 0Z AND 6Z DETERMINISTIC GFS SOLUTIONS FORECAST A REVERSAL OF FEATURES ACROSS THE CONUS, WITH A WESTERN RIDGE AND EASTERN TROUGH. THIS COULD BE RELATED TO THE TIMING OF EMBEDDED SHORT-WAVES AS NOTED EARLIER.

THE DEEP TROUGH OVER ALASKA STRONGLY FAVORS BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR MOST OF THE STATE. THE EXPECTATION OF A TROUGH MOVING ACROSS THE PACIFIC COAST STATES AND INTO THE INTERIOR WEST SUPPORTS NEAR- TO BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES ACROSS MOST OF THIS REGION. ABOVE AVERAGE 500-HPA HEIGHTS AND WEST-SOUTHWEST FLOW ALOFT FAVORS ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR MOST OF THE CONTIGUOUS U.S. EAST OF THE ROCKIES, EXCEPT OVER PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHEAST WHERE HEIGHTS (AND MEAN SURFACE TEMPERATURES) ARE PREDICTED TO BE NEAR AVERAGE.

IN GENERAL, ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION IS FAVORED AHEAD OF APPROACHING 500-HPA TROUGHS, AND BELOW-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION IS FAVORED ON THE REAR-SIDE OF PREDICTED TROUGHS. THE AREA OF FAVORED BELOW-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION OVER THE APPALACHIANS AND ATLANTIC COAST STATES FROM THE CAROLINAS TO MAINE IS DUE TO AN EXPECTED WEAK 500-HPA RIDGE.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD: NEAR AVERAGE, 3 OUT OF 5, DUE TO GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG ENSEMBLE MEANS, BUT DIMINISHED BY THE DIFFERING FORECASTS OF THE DETERMINISTIC 0Z AND 6Z GFS RUNS FROM THE OTHER MODELS, AND BY TIMING ISSUES INHERENT WITH FORECASTING ZONAL FLOW.

8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR NOV 17 - 23 2015 

THE VARIOUS ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS ARE IN FAIRLY GOOD AGREEMENT TODAY ON THE MEAN CIRCULATION FEATURES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA DURING THE WEEK 2 FORECAST PERIOD. MOST OF THESE ENSEMBLE MEAN RUNS DEPICT A BROAD, WEAK TROUGH OVER THE WESTERN CONUS AND A RELATIVELY FLAT RIDGE ACROSS THE EASTERN CONUS. THE 0Z ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEAN AND THE DETERMINISTIC 00Z GFS FORECAST A SOMEWHAT STRONGER WESTERN TROUGH AND SOUTHEAST RIDGE. THE DETERMINISTIC 6Z GFS, HOWEVER, IS CLEARLY THE OUTLIER TODAY, FORECASTING A WESTERN RIDGE AND EASTERN TROUGH. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE DETERMINISTIC 6Z GFS, TODAY'S MODEL SOLUTIONS DEPICT A TROUGH EXTENDING SOUTHWARD ACROSS MOST OF ALASKA. THE DETERMINISTIC 6Z GFS SOLUTION DEPICTS THE TROUGH DIGGING OVER EASTERN SIBERIA INSTEAD OF ALASKA, WITH BROAD SOUTHWESTERLY FLOW ALOFT ANTICIPATED ACROSS WESTERN, NORTHERN AND CENTRAL ALASKA.

THE SURFACE TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION OUTLOOKS FOR WEEK 2 SHOW SOME CHANGES FROM THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD. THE 500-HPA TROUGH PREDICTED IN THE WEST IS EXPECTED TO MAKE SOUTHEASTWARD PROGRESS, RESULTING IN THE EXPANSION OF BOTH ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION AND BELOW-NORMAL TEMPERATURES. RESIDUAL BELOW-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION IN BOTH THE SOUTHWEST AND NORTHEAST DURING THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD IS FORECAST TO GIVE WAY TO WETTER OVERALL CONDITIONS.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 8-14 DAY PERIOD IS: NEAR AVERAGE, 3 OUT OF 5, DUE TO THE OUTLYING DETERMINISTIC 6Z GFS SOLUTION, AND THE EXPECTATION OF LOW-AMPLITUDE FLOW.

Analogs to Current Conditions

Now let us take a detailed look at the "Analogs" which NOAA provides related to the 5 day period centered on 3 days ago and the 7 day period centered on 4 days ago. "Analog" means that the weather pattern then resembles the recent weather pattern and was used in some way to predict the 6 - 14 day Outlook.

Here are today's analogs in chronological order although this information is also available with the analog dates listed by the level of correlation. I find the chronological order easier for me to work with. There is a second set of analogs associated with the outlook but I have not been analyzing this second set of information. This first set applies to the 5 and 7 day observed pattern prior to today. The second set which I am not using relates to the forecast outlook 6 - 10 days out to similar patterns that have occurred in the past during the dates covered by the 6 - 10 Day Outlook. That may also be useful information but they put this set of analogs in the discussion with the other set available by a link so I am assuming that this set of analogs is the most meaningful.

Analog

Centered

Day

ENSO

Phase

PDO AMO

Other Comments

Nov 15, 1958 El Nino + - Minor Modoki Type II
Nov 16, 1990 Neutral - -  
Nov 18, 1990 Neutral - -  
Nov 20, 1993 Neutral + -  
Nov 7, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Nov 17, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Nov 11, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Nov 22, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Nov 8, 2003 Neutral + +  

 

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the tight spread among the analogs from November 7 to November 22 which is just two weeks which is unusually tight and suggestive of a good forecast. There are this time just five El Nino Analogs (all Modokis) and zero La Nina Analogs and four ENSO Neutral Analogs so unlike last week, this does suggest that El Nino (of a Modokish nature) is a major factor in our weather over the next 6 - 14 Days. The phases of the ocean cycles are very consistent with McCabe Condition B which is a wet pattern focused more on the East (and Northwest) rather than the Plains States and thus is somewhat consistent with the 6 - 14 Day Outlook. Both the Atlantic and the Pacific are influencing our weather about equally. The seminal work on the impact of the PDO and AMO on U.S. climate can be found here. Water Planners might usefully pay attention to the low-frequency cycles such as the AMO and the PDO as the media tends to focus on the current and short-term forecasts to the exclusion of what we can reasonably anticipate over multi-decadal periods of time.

 McCabe Maps modified to include the subtitles

You may have to squint but the drought probabilities are shown on the map and also indicated by the color coding with shades of red indicating higher than 25% of the years are drought years (25% or less of average precipitation for that area) and shades of blue indicating less than 25% of the years are drought years. Thus drought is defined as the condition that occurs 25% of the time and this ties in nicely with each of the four pairs of two phases of the AMO and PDO.

Historical Anomaly Analysis

When I see the same dates showing up often I find it interesting to consult this list.

With respect to relating analog dates to ENSO Events, the following table might be useful. In most cases this table will allow the reader to draw appropriate conclusions from NOAA supplied analogs. If the analogs are not associated with an El Nino or La Nina they probably are not significant. Remember, an analog is indicating a similarity to a weather pattern in the past. So if the analogs are not associated with a prior El Nino or prior La Nina the computer models are not likely to generate a forecast that is consistent with an El Nino or a La Nina.

  El Ninos La Ninas
  Start Finish Max ONI PDO AMO Start Finish Max ONI PDO AMO
            DJF 1950 J FM 1951 -1.4 - N
T   JJA 1951  DJF 1952 0.9 - +          
   DJF 1953  DJF 1954 0.8 - + AMJ 1954  AMJ 1956 -1.6 - +
M MAM 1957   JJA 1958 1.7 + -          
M SON 1958  JFM 1959 0.6 + -          
M   JJA 1963  JFM 1964 1.2 - - AMJ 1964  DJF 1965 -0.8 - -
M  MJJ 1965 MAM 1966 1.8 - - NDJ 1967 MAM 1968 -0.8 - -
M OND 1968   MJJ 1969 1.0 - -          
T  JAS 1969   DJF 1970 0.8 N -  JJA 1970  DJF 1972 -1.3 - -
T AMJ 1972  FMA 1973 2.0 - - MJJ 1973 JJA 1974 -1.9 - -
            SON 1974 FMA 1976 -1.6 - -
T ASO 1976  JFM 1977 0.8 + -          
M ASO 1977  DJF 1978 0.8 N -          
M SON 1979  JFM 1980 0.6 + -          
T MAM 1982  MJJ 1983 2.1 + - SON 1984 MJJ 1985 -1.1 + -
M ASO 1986  JFM 1988 1.6 + - AMJ 1988 AMJ 1989 -1.8 - -
M MJJ 1991    JJA 1992 1.6 + -          
M SON 1994   FMA 1995 1.0 - - JAS 1995 FMA 1996 -1.0 + +
T AMJ 1997   AMJ 1998 2.3 + + JJA 1998 FMA 2001 -1.6 - +
M MJJ 2002   JFM 2003 1.3 + N          
M  JJA 2004 MAM 2005 0.7 + +          
M ASO 2006   DJF 2007 1.0 - + JAS 2007  MJJ 2008 -1.4 - +
M JJA 2009 MAM 2010 1.3 - + JJA 2010 MAM 2011 -1.4 + +
            JAS 2011 FMA 2012 -0.9 - +
T MAM 2015 NA 1.0 + N          

 

Progress of the Warm Event

Let us start with the SOI.

Below is the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) reported by Queensland, Australia. The first column is the tentative daily reading, the second is the 30 day moving/running average and the third is the 90 day moving/running average.

Date Current Reading 30-Day Average 90 Day Average
3 Nov  -9.1 -17.21 -17.85
4 Nov -11.6 -16.69 -17.69
5 Nov -13.8 -16.47 -17.62
6 Nov -10.2 -16.32 -17.56
7 Nov - 6.5 -15.99 -17.58
8 Nov  -8.2 -15.49 -17.62
9 Nov - 1.5 -14.73 -17.59

 

The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, on November 9 is reported at  -14.73  which is clearly a reading associated with an El Nino but significantly less negative (El Nino-ish) than last week. The 90-day average also is solidly in El Nino territory at  -17.59 which is less El Nino-ish than last week. The SOI is clearly indicative of an El Nino Event in progress. The SOI appears to have plateaued but at a high (negative) level. But this past week there have been no extreme values. This can be important as some studies show that the change in the level of SOI is at least as important as the actual level in terms of predicting precipitation.

Low-Level Wind Anomalies

Here are the low-level wind anomalies. The area from 180W to 160W was of interest and quite intense but appears to have played out. There then was an area of interest at 160W which has also been quite intense and also seems to have played out.

Low Level Wlind Anomalies

In the below graphic, you can see how the convection pattern (really cloud tops has since May shifted to the East from a Date Line (180) Modoki pattern to a 170W to 120W Traditional/Canonical El Nino Pattern. But recently the signs of an El Nino are getting quite faint and shifting back to the west. You can see the lack of convection over at 120W which is Indonesia but the convection has withdrawn to the West not moved to the East as would be the case with a normal El Nino. That may still happen. In the 1997/1998 El Nino, that did not happen until 1998 which is why the Fall of 1997 was not wet for CONUS.

When I hear that with this El Nino the atmosphere is strongly coupled with the ocean, I really wonder what those meteorological agencies are smoking. For sure the SOI is behaving like it would be expected to behave in a strong El Nino. The Easterlies in the Pacific along the Equator are suppressed. So if this is all that is meant, that part has fallen into place. But the Walker Circulation may not be consistent with a standard El Nino. That is my point. 

The interconnection with the Indian Ocean seems to be unusual to say the least. The convection in the Pacific has moved away from Indonesia which is an El Nino impact but until now has been remaining where one would expect it to be if this was a Modoki. The November 4 Update, which is what I am looking at on Monday November 9, suggests that the area of anomalies in convection is strongest over by the Date Line but suddenly the wet-side of that anomaly has shrunk and the dry side has expanded to the east. That may be temporary but it is dramatic.

OLR Anomalies Along the Equator

Let us now take a look at the progress of Kelvin Waves which are the key to the situation. Since February there have been three successive "genuine" downwelling Kelvin Waves without really an upwelling Kelvin Wave of any consequence to counter their impact. The first wave which started in February was the most effective at getting this El Nino started. The second wave reinforced to some extent but not much and this third (and I had believed would be the last) downwelling Kelvin Wave has created an El Nino that will have a major peak coming soon and an extended life but at a diminished strength. We now see a fourth "possible" Kelvin wave and it shows up marginally in the TAO/TRITON graphic which is discussed later in this report. But we also now see less extreme anomalies at 80W and more importantly from 155W through 110W. and also a slight retreat to the east of the western extreme of this pattern.

I can not tell for sure if earlier problems with TAO/TRITON have compromised this graphic but we should know the answer to that next week.

Kelvin Waves Auto-updates

We are now going to change the way we look at a three dimensional view of the Equator and move from the surface view to the view from the surface down. When I examine the current situation as compared to the 1997/1998 El Nino which I described graphically recently, the current El Nino has developed more rapidly. This El Nino is a couple of months further along in its evolution than the 1997/1998 El Nino and will end earlier in the winter than the 1997/1998 El Nino. Also the 1997/1998 had a slightly larger amount of warm subsurface water in the Eastern Pacific and that water takes time to surface, create convection, and thus cool. Something happens to allow the Easterlies to resume their strength and that in turn moves this water back towards the Western Pacific Warm Pool. This El Nino appears to be fading slowly from west to east. The real decline will be from east to west so that may be starting but has not progressed to any large extent as yet.

Current Sub-Surface Conditions


One question on my mind with respect to this graphic relates to the operational problems with TAO/TRITON discussed below.  I do not know the source of the data for this graphic and it has been changing very slowly so that has me wondering.


Subsurface Heat Anomalies

Top Graphic (Anomalies)

The above graphic showing the current situation has an upper and lower graphic.  The bottom graphic shows the absolute values, the upper graphic shows anomalies compared to what one might expect at this time of the year in the various areas both 130E to 90W Longitude and from the surface down to 450 meters.

The top graphic is still the most useful of the two and shows where 2C (anomaly) water is impacting the area in which the ONI is measured i.e. 170W to 120W. The 2C anomaly now extends to 170W which is very impressive. The 3C anomaly now extends to 160W so I am viewing the 3C anomaly as now encompassing almost 80% of the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area for the ONI. It explains how NOAA is coming up with such high ONI estimates. The 4C anomaly is again close to intersecting the surface. 

It is important to differentiate between anomalies and actual temperature. The warm anomaly shown in the upper graphic is not covered by colder water as it might appear to be in the upper graphic but is shown as a warm anomaly because normally water at those depths is colder than it currently is. That is why this warm anomaly does not simply rise to the surface as warm water would normally do but it is preventing cooler water from entering the area as one would expect as summer transitions to Fall. That is why it takes time for this warm anomaly to dissipate.  

Bottom Graphic (Absolute Values which highlights the Thermocline)

The bottom half of the graphic may soon become more useful in terms of tracking the progress of this Warm Event as it converts to ENSO Neutral and then La Nina. It shows the thermocline between warm and cool water which pretty much looks like this as shown here during a Warm Event. You can see that the cooler water is not yet fully making it to the surface to the east along the coast of Ecuador. We now will pay more attention to the 28C Isotherm as west of that temperature is where convection is more easy to occur. Right now that Isotherm intersects the surface near 130W which has been the case for some time but it appears to have moved a bit to the west which is consistent with the El Nino beginning to decline in intensity.

TAO/TRITON GRAPHIC

Before starting this discussion I need to mention that I had for a number of weeks observed what seemed to me to be oddities in the data reported by the TAO/TRITON system so I inquired about that to PMEL which is the NOAA operation which works with JAMSTEC to operate that network and prior to publishing last Monday I received the following message from Mike McPhaden Ph.D a Senior Scientist at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL).

The analyses of TAO/TRITON data you see on the PMEL website are quick look plots based on near real time data provided by operators of the array. The gridding procedures are very simple and meant to capture large scale features. 

Something I notice with recent TAO/TRITON analyses, especially evident if you look at the depth longitude plots along the equator, is that there are a lot of temperature data drop outs in the central pacific right where the SST anomalies appear diminished. The TAO moorings in this area have not been serviced recently and apparently are going off line.

It is true that there is significant week to week variability that could explain differences between the monthly ONI and 5-day TAO/TRITON analyses, but in this instance the more complete data coverage in the SST product on which the ONI is based tells me you should give more weight to the ONI for monitoring the evolution of the event.

This is not a totally satisfactory resolution of the matter to me but I must say that NOAA was very responsive and it is important to remember that they are partnered with JAMSTEC but JAMSTEC is responsible for the operation of some or all of the the array of buoys. The TAO/TRITON system has been superseded to some extent by the ARGO float system which is a global system but so far I have not been able to find a suitable ARGO graphic that auto-updates. Also ARGO really performs a different more complex function and is not really a replacement for TAO/TRITON especially for monitoring ENSO. Not sure how I will handle this other than hoping the TAO/TRITON system starts working better. I will check into it some more as I wonder if the recent storm activity in the Pacific is partly related to the operational issues.

Never-the-less I believe there is value in the analysis that I do using the TAO/TRITON information so I will for the time being continue to do that analysis but please keep in mind that the reliability of the data is in question right now.

However a visual look at the graphic suggests to me that the required maintenance was performed and the system is now working normally. I have no way to determine the percentage functionality i.e. the percentage of data that normally is sent out which was sent and received and I saw no need to contact PMEL for this information as to me it appears to be usable and that is the reason I present it.

Taking a close look at the TAO/TRITON graphic but first let us compare the situation as reported on October 4

Oct 4, 2015 TAO/TRITON

to the most recent graphic shown below. Remember each graphic has two parts the top part is the average values, the bottom part is those values expressed as an anomaly compared to the expected values for that date. Generally I am mainly discussing the bottom of the pairs of graphics namely the anomalies.

 Current SST and wind anomalies

Location Bar for Nino 3.4 Area Above
-----------------------------------------------  A      B      C      D      E      ----------------

 

With the current graphic, there is again a lot of resemblance to the situation on October 4. I now clearly see the new (possible) Kelvin Wave over at 170W. The 2C anomaly on Oct 4 was showing all the way over to 170W. Now it extends even further to the west but then is lower until you reach 150W. This graphic changes quite a bit from day to day so my commentary can be out of date as quickly as tomorrow. The 3C anomaly extends to 140W (in this graphic but to 160W in a previous graphic) but is right on the Equator and does not extend to the +5 and -5 degrees of latitude in the ONI Measurement Area.  The Easterlies are diminished but now show as Easterlies everywhere which is different than recently when the anomalies were so strong that west of 150W they showed as having been converted into westerlies. That could be an indication that the conditions for maintaining this El Nino are slowly changing.

But of course I still do not have full confidence in this TAO/TRITON Graphic.  

I calculate the ONI each week using a method that I have devised. To refine my calculation, I have divided the 170W to 120W ONI measuring area into five subregions (which I have designated A through E -  from west to east) with a location bar shown under the TAO/TRITON Graphic). I use a rough estimation approach to integrate what I see below and record that in the table I have constructed. Then I take the average of the anomalies I estimated for each of the five subregions. So as of Monday November 9 in the afternoon working from the November 8 TAO/TRITON report, this is what I calculated.

Calculation of ONI from TAO/TRITON Graphic
Anomaly Segment Estimated Anomaly
A. 170W to 160W 2.1
B. 160W to 150W 1.6
C. 150W to 140W 2.2
D. 140W to 130W 2.9
E. 130W to 120W 2.8
Total 11.6
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (11.6)/5 = 2.3

 

My estimate of the Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding has increased to 2.3.  NOAA has today reported the weekly ONI as being 2.8 WOW!. I am told that is the same reading as was obtained for this same week during the 1997/1998 Super El Nino. I have already discussed the issues with the TAO/TRITON graphic which could cause me to underestimate the ONI but the NOAA/ESRL/PSD graphic shown earlier is showing a reduction the SST anomaly along the Equator in the Eastern Pacific which raises questions in my mind about these reported increases in the ONI.

Nino 4.0 is now reported as being 1.7 which probably reflects the passage of the new and fourth Kelvin Wave. The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which is now reported as being 2.1 which is lower than last week. One issue remains the extent to which warm water off of Ecuador and Peru impacts CONUS weather. I think it has very little impact and that is what we are seeing right now. There is warm water north of the Equator which has been generating tropical storms along the west coast of Central America which have impacted CONUS. That warm water may or may not be related to this El Nino. The other issue is that most El Ninos decay from east to west so it will be observed most clearly first in Nino 1+2 and we are now probably seeing that process starting.

This is summarized in the following NOAA Tables and I am showing both the table for five weeks ago and the updated table. 

Oct 5, 2015 NINO Departures

And here are the values this week.

Nov 9, 2015 NINO SST Departures.

One can in the bottom chart on the right see the significant decline in the Nino 1+2 measurement area. This is confirmed in a graphic that I present later. I think it is quite possible that this El Nino has now peaked and has begun its decline. But NOAA is still reporting increases in the ONI value.

One wonders about these calculations as they appear to not be related to the "adjusted" version of the NOAA forecast model which was discussed recently. So it is not clear to me how this El Nino will be officially recorded. August-September-October  has been recorded as having an ONI of 1.7. In the above graphic eyeballing it you might conclude that the three months were observed as being 2.0, 2.3 and 2.4. So the impact of adjusting these observed values to what is considered "adjusted" is not obvious to me. If 2.0, 2.3, and 2.4 when averaged and adjusted come to 1.7 how should we interpret the unadjusted value of 2.8? To me it is meaningless but I dutifully report it.

Although I discussed the Kelvin Waves earlier, now seems to be the best place to show the evolution of the subsurface temperatures.

Nov 9 Kelvin Wave History


I do not see much change week to week and it is hard to know if that is reality or the issues with TAO/TRITON. I am not sure of the source of the data for this graphic. A couple of things are interesting however. The cool anomaly in the west under the warm anomaly is slowly creeping east and now is beyond 170W. In the east at around 100W it looks like the warm anomaly is gradually splitting into two pieces. That might be very significant.


SST Surface Anomaly Hovmoeller

Here is another way of looking at it: Unlike the Upper Ocean Heat Anomaly Hovmoeller (I call it the Kelvin Wave Hovmoeller) which takes an average down to 300 meters, this just measures the surface temperature anomaly. It is the surface that interacts with the atmosphere. A major advantage of the Hovmoeller method of displaying information is that it shows the history so I do not need to show a sequence of snap shots of the conditions at different points in time. As you can see the warm water rising off the South American Coast had (or at least the value of the anomaly when calculated) worked its way all the way over to beyond 170W so it fully contributes to the increasing ONI but the western edge of the warm anomaly is showing some signs of stalling and drifting to the east. So far the various graphics many of which are looking at the same information from a different perspective are not indicating to me that the "possible" new Kelvin Wave is capable of intensifying this El Nino, but the new Kelvin Wave,.even if not very strong, may extend its life a bit. We may be seeing a significant decline in the warm anomaly between 90W and 80W and perhaps even all the way over to 100W. On the other hand, one can see how NOAA may be calculating a higher ONI due mostly to this fourth Kelvin Wave which may not have been very strong but added to an already formed El Nino might be enough to boost the ONI calculation a bit especially in the western end of the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area. One might also see some indication of a warm anomaly around 120W but it is hard to tell if that is really warm water rising or simply the calendar adjustment of normal temperatures for that part of the Pacific.

Nevertheless this Hovmoeller provides a good way to visually see the evolution of this El Nino and later track its demise.

SST Anomalies Hovmoeller

El Nino in the News

Are there clues from the situation in Siberia? Read this It probably has to do with the positioning of the Aleutian Low. The AO and NAO turning negative towards the end of an El Nino in the Spring would not be unusual.

Recent Impacts of Weather Mostly El Nino but possibly Also PDO and AMO Impacts.

First the Temperature and Precipitation Departures from four months ago (Ending Date June 13)

June 15, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures.

Then the same graphic one month later (Ending Date July 11)

July 13, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Preciptiation Departures

And then the same graphic (Ending Date August 8). 

August 10 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

And now the view from September 5 which is one month later. 

Sept 5, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

And again four weeks later (Ending Date October 3, 2015)

Oct 3, 2015 30 day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

And again four weeks later (Ending Date October 31, 2015)

30 day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

This provides a six-month sequence of snapshots of the four-week departures from normal as this El Nino has progressed.

You can see these graphics as well as I can and it is difficult to describe the changes that have taken place over six periods of time because of the large number of changes. Currently we see:

  • A general pattern of fairly extreme warm anomalies in most of CONUS especially the West.
  • What suddenly looks like an El Nino pattern in the Southwest and Mexico re wetter than climatology. It is the first sign of it. We also see the impact of the storm that impacted South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

And one more:

30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures as of November 7

Strangely it looks generally warmer and bit wetter but the warmer is fairly unusual for El Nino especially in the Southwest. But this is a 30 day average.

View from Australia

El Nino

Australia POAMA ENSO model run

I do not see much change from the graphic released two weeks ago. Here is the discussion just released:

Six months of El Niño—event still going strong

Issued on 11 November 2015

It is now six months since the 2015 El Niño became established in the Pacific. During this time, oceanic and atmospheric indicators have been persistently strong, comparable to the events of 1997–98 and 1982–83.  International climate models suggest the peak in El Niño sea surface temperatures is likely to occur before the end of the year, then gradually ease in the first quarter of 2016.

Sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific are now around 2.4 °C above average, the largest anomaly for this event so far. Other indicators of El Niño, such as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), cloudiness near the Date Line, and trade winds, still reflect strong El Niño conditions, despite some weakening in the SOI over the past fortnight.

The positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event persists. This event has been in place for over three months. International climate models expect the positive IOD to break down during November and early December. More broadly, Indian Ocean temperatures remain very warm: the October sea surface temperatures anomaly for the southern hemisphere Indian Ocean was the highest positive anomaly for any month on record.

El Niño is usually associated with below-average spring rainfall over eastern Australia, and increased spring daytime temperatures south of the tropics. A positive IOD typically reinforces the drying pattern, particularly in the southeast. During summer, El Niño's influence on rainfall decreases, while warmer daytime and night-time temperatures continue to be more likely across the south and east.

Next update expected on 24 November 2015

 IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole)

IOD POAMA Model Run

Again I do not see much change from the graphic released two weeks ago except that the IOD index looks to be high again in May which is a small change from the prior forecast..It comes with only a very short discussion and here is the key part of that discussion:

The positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event persists, with the weekly index value to 8 November positive at +0.88 °C.

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Indian Ocean are warmer than average over much of the basin, while waters around the Indonesian archipelago and to Australia's north are cooler than average. Compared to two weeks ago, both warm and cool anomalies have eased back slightly towards more neutral values.

For October as a whole, the sea surface temperature anomaly for the southern hemisphere Indian Ocean was the warmest on record for any month. The October anomaly of +0.65 °C (base period 1981–2010) surpassed the previous two records by 0.13 °C and 0.19 °C respectively (the previous two records were September 2015 +0.52 °C and November 2011 +0.46 °C).

Positive IOD events are often associated with lower rainfall in parts of central and southeastern Australia (see About the Indian Ocean Dipole). Positive IOD events are more likely to occur during El Niño, which also is typically associated with a reduction in winter–spring rainfall in eastern Australia.

All surveyed international climate models indicate this event is likely to begin to decay in late spring. IOD events typically decay by early summer.

The interrelationship between the IOD and El Nino is complicated and not fully understood.

Putting it all Together.

We are in El Nino conditions now. For CONUS so far there are few if any impacts of this intense El Nino other than those related to the Pacific Cyclones which have been intense and which have in the past month had an impact on the Southwest and possibly indirectly on the flooding in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. So this raises real questions about how we measure an El Nino and how we do regression analysis on historical El Ninos to predict CONUS weather.

The El Nino I believe has peaked in intensity and has begun its decline. The actual impacts on CONUS are not clear. We started in the Spring by having wetter conditions than usual in the Southwest but that has tapered off quite a bit although that is starting to change. The El Nino is probably influencing the IOD to tend towards being positive thus providing a double whammy for parts of Asia and Australia. Indonesia and the Philippines have been hit by drought. 

The length and intensity of this El Nino is still not clear mostly in terms of whether or not it will extend into the early part of 2016. There does not seem to be an obvious match to any prior El Nino in the modern era which to me means there is no model to use to predict impacts. That is a complicated subject which is probably best dealt with on a post mortem basis. 

We may or may not have a Pacific Climate Shift as the PDO+ may be simply related to the Warm Event and quite frankly at this point appears to be and may be moving back to PDO Negative. But for now we do have PDO+. The AMO being an overturning may be more predictable so the Neutral status moving towards AMO- is probably fairly reliable but not necessarily proceeding in a straight line as indeed the storm track for hurricanes in the Atlantic is suddenly unusually warm. 

So in terms of long-term forecasting, none of this is very difficult to figure out actually if you are looking at say a five-year or longer forecast. The research on Ocean Cycles is fairly conclusive and widely available to those who seek it out. I have provided a lot of information on this in prior weeks and all of that information is preserved in Part II of my report in the Section on Low Frequency Cycles 3. Low Frequency Cycles such as PDO, AMO, IOBD, EATS.  It includes decade by decade predictions through 2050. Predicting a particular year is far harder.

We are beginning to speculate on the winter of 2016/2017 which it now seems increasingly likely will be a La Nina. One thing that is fairly certain for the U.S.is that compared to this winter the following winter is projected to be:

  • warmer in the south and less warm in the north and
  • more dry in the south and less dry in the north

The below is the CPC/IRI forecast (which has not been updated since three weeks ago but should be updated soon - I realize that Universities have a different sense of time than others) and you can see the rapid shift away from El Nino that is now predicted starting in AMJ and really showing up in MJJ 2016 i.e. late Spring early Summer 2016..

Oct 19, 2015 CPC-IRI ENSO Probabilities.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR PART II OF THIS REPORT  The links below may take you directly to the set of information that you have selected but in some Internet Browsers it may first take you to the top of Page II where there is a TABLE OF CONTENTS and take a few extra seconds to get you to the specific section selected. If you do not feel like waiting, you can click a second time within the TABLE OF CONTENTS to get to the specific part of the webpage that interests you. 

A. Worldwide Weather: Current and Three-Month Outlooks: 15 Month Outlooks  (Usefully bookmarked as it provides automatically updated current weather conditions and forecasts at all times. It does not replace local forecasts but does provide U.S. national and regional forecasts and, with less detail, international forecasts)

B. Factors Impacting the Outlook

1. Very High Frequency (short-term) Cycles PNA, AO,NAO (but the AO and NAO may also have a low frequency component.)

2. Medium Frequency Cycles such as ENSO and IOD

3. Low Frequency Cycles such as PDO, AMO, IOBD, EATS.

C. Computer Models and Methodologies

D. Reserved for a Future Topic  (Possibly Predictable Economic Impacts)

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR PART III OF THIS REPORT - GLOBAL WARMING WHICH SOME CALL CLIMATE CHANGE. The links below may take you directly to the set of information that you have selected but in some Internet Browsers it may first take you to the top of Page III where there is a TABLE OF CONTENTS and take a few extra seconds to get you to the specific section selected. If you do not feel like waiting, you can click a second time within the TABLE OF CONTENTS to get to the specific part of the webpage that interests you.

D1. Introduction

D2. Climate Impacts of Global Warming

D3. Economic Impacts of Global Warming

D,4. Reports from Around the World on Impacts of Global Warming

Click here for a list of Sig Silber's Weather Posts

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